19 Feb 2015

Tax avoidance experts PwC are Labour’s biggest donor

The Labour party received hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of consultancy help from an accountancy firm accused of promoting tax avoidance.

Figures released today from the Electoral Commission showed an increase in donations for all the major parties in the final quarter of last year, as the general election campaigns got underway. Labour received more than £7m.

That included £386,000 worth of staff from PwC, which was accused by the public accounts committee of promoting tax avoidance on an “industrial scale“, a claim disputed by PwC.

The Labour party defended its use of staff from the accountancy giant, claiming other parties had also used its services while in opposition.

A party spokeswoman said: “Given the complexity of government decisions in areas such as tax policy, and that opposition parties do not have significant access to civil servants, the support provided by organisations such as these helps ensure that there is better scrutiny of government policy.

“The secondments provided by these companies are often relatively newly qualified staff. Secondees do not influence opposition policy decisions.”

‘Shrugging its shoulders’

Labour party leader Ed Miliband has spoken out against tax avoidance in the wake of leaks which alleged the Swiss branch of HSBC helped customers aggressively dodge tax.

He has accused the coalition government of “shrugging its shoulders” over tax avoidance, and pledged a review of HMRC if his party wins power.

The Electoral Commission figures also showed donations to the Conservatives went up to more than £8m. Hedge fund operators were among some of the parties’ biggest donors, leading Labour to accuse the Tories of “putting vested first”.

Overall, donations to eight political parties had almost doubled compared to the same period in the previous year, at just over £20m.