Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson has hit out at Google over its tax arrangements during a Swindon Chamber of Commerce meeting with members of Swindon Chamber of Commerce.
This week, Google was back before the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee – on which Mr Tomlinson sits – to explain why it paid just £6m in corporation tax, despite generating £3bn a year in revenues.
Addressing a meeting of Swindon Chamber of Commerce this morning (Friday), the MP for Swindon North said multinational firms were paying accountants great sums of money to find loopholes in the tax system.
“Our tax laws run to 11,000 pages,” Mr Tomlinson told chamber members. “And the more complex the system is, the easier it is to find loopholes.
“The trouble with tax avoidance is that the rest of us, who can't afford those accountants, have to pay more.”
Mr Tomlinson gave his views in response to a question from the floor, after sharing a platform with Swindon South MP Robert Buckland.
The lively Q&A session was a chance for both politicians to play off each other – at times like a gentle, besuited comedy act.
The two Conservatives have shared an office and administrative staff since they were elected in 2010 – a unique parliamentary arrangement – but despite sitting on the same side of the House, their personal views differ significantly.
The first question from the floor – almost inevitably – was about Europe. Peter Jones, director of the HR Department, asked which way each MP would vote if there was a referendum on Europe tomorrow.
Mr Buckland said he would stay in: “It is vital for the economy that we avoid trade barriers. But I support the call for a referendum. It will give us a chance to discuss the merits of EU membership.”
But Mr Tomlinson – reminding his colleague that they had never voted the same way in a Free Vote – said: “It there was a referendum tomorrow, I'd vote to leave. They need us more than we need them, and we're currently paying to hamper our own economy.
“But I'm firmly behind David Cameron's renegotiation to get a better deal for the UK.”
Both politicians were quick to praise Swindon businesses and the strength of the local economy.
Mr Tomlinson reminded the audience that Swindon had recorded the fastest growth in start-up businesses than anywhere in the South West, while his colleague remarked that the town had the UK's highest proportion of employees working in the private sector.
The next Swindon Chamber of Commerce business breakfast is on Friday, June 4 when Steve Medd of The Winning (formula) will tell members about Creating Outstanding Human Performance That Drives Accelerated Growth.
That's followed on Wednesday, June 26 by the Corporate Insight Dinner, where John Scott of Chiltern Power Ltd and Stephen Thomas of Npower Renewables will discuss Future Energy Supplies: What Next?
For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk