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HMRC publishes names of tax evaders

“Naming and shaming” exercise.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has published a list of names and addresses of deliberate tax defaulters on its website for the first time, as part of its plan to combat tax evasion.

The list, which includes nine individuals, has been criticised for concentrating on small businesses and individuals who owe just £1.45m in unpaid tax and fines. Chaman Lal, owner of Gatemain Contractors in Rochester, was also included in the list.

Welcoming the move, Margaret Hodge, who chairs the House of Commons public accounts committee, said: “What people are angry about is big corporations which have aggressively avoided tax. That’s where the big bucks are. I think HMRC needs to go further in that respect.”

Hodge urged the tax authorities should consider “naming and shaming” tax dodgers, but said it was striking that it dealt only with small companies.

Phil Berwick, a director at law firm Pinsent Masons told the Financial Times (FT): “HMRC has chosen to shame people at the lower end of the tax evasion spectrum because they think there are a lot of people in a similar financial position who are not paying tax and they want to flush those people out.

“The list includes a wide range of trades and people based all over the country. HMRC wants people to look at the list and think ‘it could be me’ and come forward of their own accord.”

Ronnie Ludwig, a partner in accountancy firm Saffery Champness, told the FT: “There are many companies and individuals earning a lot more money than these people. The question we need to ask is whether the Revenue is operating a level playing field.

“Someone with a ‘million-pound problem’ is likely to take specialist advice and will be advised to make a disclosure to avoid being pub­licly named and shamed.”

Treasury minister David Gauke said: “The publication of these names sends a clear signal that cheating on tax is wrong and reassures people who pay their taxes – the vast majority – that there are consequences for those who refuse to tell HMRC about their full ­liability.”

HMRC will closely watch financial affairs of tax evaders for up to five years to ensure they do not reoffend as part of its scheme.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.