Regular readers know I’m the Shadow Fire and Communities Minister. Recess Week gave me the opportunity to visit fire stations up and down the country. I was privileged to meet many brave public servants and I’m delighted to report that Cara the Dog was a hit everywhere.
From Bolton West to West Ham, it’s clear our public services are under insupportable pressure. People are anxious and worried about the future. Time and again I’m told that the NHS is really struggling.
West Ham knows better than most that times are tough. The economic recovery is the slowest in over a century. The next couple of years won’t be easy, but we dread another Tory Government, where there’s one rule for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else.
Like you, I’m sickened by stories involving HSBC’s Swiss arm which may have colluded in the extraordinary efforts of rich clients to avoid paying their tax. Government was given this information in 2010 and identified 1,100 Brits who may have evaded tax. Five years later, only one tax evader has been prosecuted. Imagine the media outcry, if they’d been on benefits!
I’ve worked hard and paid tax all my life. It’s just what you do. Civilised societies are built on the idea of a common good, with common rules, shared and respected by all. We all use the same roads and railways; we’re all protected by our Armed Forces, the Police, the Fire and Rescue Service. When people are sick, even those with private healthcare, they often turn to the NHS. One section of society thinks they are above paying their share of tax. They leave a £34 billion hole in our nation’s finances.
Labour will act where the Tories have failed. Ed Miliband will continue to stand up to the rich and powerful in our society. Our first Finance Bill will tackle tax avoidance. We’ll close loopholes that cost our country billions; we’ll increase transparency and toughen penalties.
We will ensure fairness in our society, especially in these toughest of times.