Cameron should ban offshore havens if he's serious about tax
Opinion digest: tax avoidance, Labour's immigration policy and the Tube
IT'S LEGAL TAX SCAMS THAT ARE MORALLY REPUGNANT
SIMON JENKINS ON OFFSHORE HAVENS
Cameron and Osborne thunder about the likes of Jimmy Carr, but seem terrified of confronting the legal schemes that allow tax avoidance, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Revelations in The Times this week suggest that over £5bn a year may be lost to the exchequer in tax avoidance schemes. The single institution most useful to tax avoidance is the offshore haven. Companies from Amazon to Vodafone use them to avoid paying tax in Britain. "There is no moral or legal justification for individuals or companies doing business in Britain to avoid paying tax by buying a nameplate overseas." Tax dodgers protest they are "doing nothing illegal", and this is usually true. But no such excuse is available to politicians, who are the arbiters of legality. "They may excoriate tax avoidance, but they are the only people in a position to stop it."
LABOUR'S COWARDICE ON IMMIGRATION
IAN BIRRELL ON MILIBAND'S APOLOGY
This week Labour entered the immigration debate with apologies, says Ian Birrell in The Independent. The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, has apologised for her party's failure to introduce tougher controls on migrants while in office and today Ed Miliband will admit Labour got it wrong on immigration. The influence of the policy gurus is obvious. The "left leaning party is tilting towards the centre", and the tough talk on immigration aims to blur the image of Ed Miliband as an out-of-touch north London liberal. "These clunking steps are even worse coming from a man who makes such huge play out of his own back story as a child of refugees." Instead of apologising for failing to address people's fears, "Labour should be honest and spell out why the nation needed – and still needs – so many migrants".
Unfortunately, that would require the sort of real political leadership none of the major parties have.
SAVE US FROM THE TUBE'S VOICE OF OFFICIALDOM
ANDREW MARTIN ON THE LONDON UNDERGROUND
Olympic visitors to London who use the Underground are in for a treat, says Andrew Martin in The Evening Standard. They will experience the Dickensian moodiness of the original Metropolitan, or the Edwardian jewel box stations in the West End, or the Sixties functionalism of the Victoria line with the yuppified Jubilee line extension. No system is more diverse – "or more paranoid". The paranoia is revealed in the form of the endless announcements. Hearing about the next station coming up or about significant delays is useful, "but a whole tower of babble has been built on top". There are warnings about thieves, requests to keep stations tidy, advice about Oyster queues. When the Central line became the first to use automated in-train announcements in the early 90s, the voice was nicknamed "Sonia" because she "gets-sonia-nerves". Sonia was a joke back then, "but now she's taken over and is doing nothing at all for the blood pressure of Londoners" ·