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Company Profits (Reporting)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

12. What discussions he has had with his international counterparts on steps to increase transparency in the reporting of company profits. (49977)

I, personally, have not had any recent discussions with my international counterparts on the matter, but the Government are committed to greater transparency through corporate reporting. Internationally, the Treasury is leading the Government’s efforts with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s task force on tax and development, which is exploring the issues of country-by-country reporting on tax and profits.

In the light of his answer, the Minister will be aware of the OECD’s recognition that poor countries lose more money each year to corporate tax-dodging than they receive in aid, and Christian Aid estimates that to amount to $160 billion. May I ask him to have a conversation with the Secretary of State? The right hon. Gentleman said in opposition:

“New accounting standards are needed to force multinational companies to declare publicly the profits they make and the taxes they pay in every country in which they operate. That way anomalies will be quickly spotted.”

Can I reasonably assume that, in the light of his commitment to the issue, the Government will raise it at the G20 in November?

I think that the Government—both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Chancellor—actually have a very good record on the issue. We are contributing to the OECD taskforce, because it is about ensuring not just that UK companies report their profits as they need to, but that we improve corporate performance throughout the world.

What guarantees can the Government give for those companies that report their profitability transparently that, at the next Budget, the Treasury will not come along and, completely out of the blue, wallop them with a great windfall tax, as it just has with the offshore oil and gas industry?

That was a very good attempt by the hon. Lady, who is obviously trying to champion her constituency, and that is exactly right, but I am sure she will attend the next Treasury questions.