Labour's Ed Balls has increased the pressure on George Osborne in the HSBC tax evasion row, calling on the chancellor to answer key questions.
Labour are attempting to up the ante on Osborne, who has barely been seen over the course of the eight-day-long political row. HSBC’s Swiss branch is accused of helping customers evade tax.
In the letter, Balls writes: “It has now been over a week since the full story about tax evasion and HSBC became public. There are a number of questions which you have failed to answer over the last eight days and which cannot continue to be brushed under the carpet.”
He goes on to ask: “Why has there only been one prosecution out of 1,100 names? Was the ‘selective prosecution policy’ a decision made by Ministers? When were you first made aware of these files, what action did you take and did you discuss it with the Prime Minister? Why did you and David Cameron appoint Lord Green as a Conservative peer and minister months after the government received these files?
“Did you and David Cameron discuss tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green, or did you turn a blind eye? Did you discuss allegations of money laundering at HSBC during Lord Green’s time at HSBC which led to the bank being fined $1.9bn? Why did you sign a deal with the Swiss authorities in 2012, which prevents the UK from actively obtaining similar information in the future?”
Lord Green, the former HSBC chief executive and chairman, served as a trade minister under the coalition government. He recently stood down from chairing the lobbying group The City UK’s advisory board.
Earlier this week, a video emerged online of Osborne advising television viewers how to avoid inheritance tax, as an MP in 2003.