The Conservative MP Richard Bacon, a fellow member of the public accounts committee, said that if Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs, had been a politician, “he would have been forced to resign by now”. Other MPs claimed that Hartnett was “out of control” and that there were no effective checks and balances on him in Whitehall or Westminster.
Who are we talking about? The man who, on our behalf, as an employee of the taxpayer:
[…] agreed to allow Vodafone to escape a minimum of £1 billion in tax. Freedom of Information requests revealed that he had enjoyed 107 lunches over two years with corporations, the “big four” accountancy firms, and banks, including Goldman Sachs.
His latest shenanigans? This:
Despite assuring members of the treasury select committee that he did not deal with Goldman’s tax affairs, Hartnett had to admit to the Public Accounts committee that he had confirmed a deal that allowed the bankers to escape the interest and penalties on unpaid tax that ordinary citizens and businesses must pay if they fall foul of the Revenue.
Fortunately, he can’t talk about it because he owes his corporate friends an oath of confidentiality:
MPs have told O’Donnell that the secrecy around the Revenue’s deals with corporations needs to be broken. Hartnett refuses to answer journalists’ questions about his arrangements with Vodafone and Goldman, saying that taxpayers’ affairs must be confidential.
This latter point is important – but just as important is the need for Parliament to have oversight. Epecially if a civil servant is indeed “out of control”, and especially in the light of what HMRC’s own lawyer observed:
[…] In another internal document leaked to the Commons, Anthony Inglese, the Revenue’s chief lawyer, says of the Goldman deal that although “he would always want to assist” Hartnett, he would not do so if the tax commissioner’s behaviour was “unconscionable”.
Good Lord – how awful this is. This is not the England of old – that tolerant and diverse land. This is a territory riven apart by the easily corrupt practices of people whose hubris knows no limits whatsoever – and whose own sense of permanent privilege gives them the power and right to do and undo the law at their every whim.
Systemic, corporate and individual wrapped up in one.
What the hell is going on at the top of London’s political pyramid?