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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Panama - Top Flight Tax Avoidance

The data leak that is the Panama Papers has identified a range of tax avoiders, many of whom reside in the UK, and some who are associated with the Conservative Party. One of these, now a peer of the realm, is Howard Flight, whose occasionally unfortunate views have not prevented his becoming a celebrated figure in the party and distinguished elder statesman. But who is Flight, and why does his name cause some unease among Tories?
Flight, now Baron Flight of Worcester in the county of Worcestershire, suffered from the bout of discipline and transparency that followed the Tories’ loss of Tatton - which should have been one of its safest seats - in 1997 after one Mostyn Neil Hamilton was trounced by Martin Bell, the contest signifying all that was bad about Tory Sleaze. It wouldn’t happen again. Under Michael Howard, 2005 saw two candidates forcibly deselected.

First of these was Adrian Hilton in Slough, for calling “Shagger” Major’s signing of the Maastricht Treaty “an act of treason”, and then came Flight in South Downs and Arundel, for letting the cat out of the bag and telling that, if the Tories won that year’s General Election, cuts would follow. Both constituency associations were threatened with disbandment. In Slough it actually happened. Flight’s capitulated and binned him.

By 2010, Flight had been miraculously rehabilitated, only to open mouth and insert boot once again when he told the Evening Standard that restricting child benefit for high end taxpayers was not a good idea, saying “We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible”.

The idea that the lower orders should not be encouraged to breed went down like the proverbial cup of cold sick with Young Dave, who demanded, and got, an apology from Flight, together with unequivocal withdrawal of his remarks. But that, together with his earlier faux pas, showed the measure of the man. He suffered from an excess of candour, and an equal excess of snobbish dismissiveness.

This did not stop Flight from being given a regular column at Conservative Home, and nor did it count against him with columnists such as Ed “Case” West of the Telegraph, or indeed James “Saviour of Western civilisationwho gave his praise to The Great Man in the Spectator. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog claimed that thebreeding” comments were historically all the fault of the left.

They were all ready and willing to defend Flight, but now he’s been exposed as yet another in the long line of Tory tax avoiders, there is silence. Will he still be welcome at ConHome? He’ll no doubt be wandering round from his Westminster home to Parliament to claim his expenses on occasion. And taking advantage of all those services provided on the backs of those who actually pony up the taxes.

It’s interesting what the right-leaning commentariat looks up to. But not a surprise.


Anonymous said...


Guess what......BBC TV News channel has just done a piece on the Panama Papers.

The main people it mentioned were - well, I never - North Korean, Syrian government, deposed Egyptian and other assorted Western media propaganda targets. No Brits, not even the single Yank.

Now I have no problem with them being mentioned. EVERYBODY should be named.

But when you get this kind of laughable "editing" from the national broadcaster it's impossible to avoid the conclusion someone in the BBC editing department is in sync with Langley and Vauxhall Cross. I wonder who the editor was?

AndyC said...

I think the presumption should be that an individual using off-shore means of hiding their assets is doing it to EVADE tax unless they can show otherwise. Stop pussy-footing; these individuals have a lot to hide with their evasion, they should not be given the benefit of the doubt. These non contributing people expect their property in this country to be protected from crime / fire etc and their business affairs to be protected by the rule of law, but they evade paying for that protection.

Anonymous said...

You left out a "Delingpole"

Anonymous said...


Is worth reading.

"For the purposes of UK tax law, most tax havens are the same. There is no magic effective in UK tax terms that can only be performed in Panama. Moreover, Panama is not next door. It is not a British tax haven with the comforting familiarity such brings. It does not enjoy an especial reputation for trust and solidity.

People think of these things when they are choosing where to put their money. They are big disadvantages for Panama.

So there has to be a reason why you go there.

What Panama has offered – its USPs in the competitive world of tax havenry – is an especially strict form of secrecy, a type of opacity of ownership, and (if the reports of backdating are correct) a class of wealth management professionals some of whom have especially compromised ethics.

You go to Panama, in short, because, despite its profound disadvantages, you value these things."

Apologies for the longish quote.