G8 tax pledges must be followed through

The Bishop of Derby and Christian development agencies are urging G8 governments to follow through on the promises they made this week to tackle tax evasion.

The Right Reverend Alastair Redfern said the Government deserved "huge credit" for using its presidency of the G8 to prioritise trade, tax and transparency.

The Lough Erne Declaration signed by G8 leaders in Northern Ireland this week includes provision for the automatic exchange of tax information and for companies to report on all payments and profits where they operate.

Beneficial ownership registers will be set up in France, Italy, the UK and the US to establish who benefits from 'shell' companies, which are used for tax avoidance by concealing the real beneficiaries of companies.

Bishop Redfern said these were "significant" steps forward that would help developing countries access more information and retain more of the money owed to them so that it can be used on their own development, including areas like hunger and child malnutrition.

"The summit outcomes fall short of what many had hoped and campaigned for, but there has been progress nonetheless that needs to be celebrated," he said.

Exposed, a Christian coalition fighting corruption, also welcomed the Lough Erne Declaration but said concrete action needed to be taken to ensure the promises are followed up.

Joel Edwards, International Co-ordinator of Exposed, said: "We need to keep the pressure on nations in the G8 and also ask the wider group of G20 nations to take up this challenge."

However, the IF campaign to end global hunger said G8 resolve had already failed the first test after a UK parliamentary committee quashed a key piece of legislation it says would have made the task of collecting taxes easier for developing countries.

The Finance Bill committee voted against an amendment that would have required UK-based multinationals to report their use of tax avoidance schemes likely to have an impact on developing countries.

IF campaign spokesperson Melanie Ward said: "It seems like Treasury Ministers haven't got the memo. The government is saying one thing while doing another. The PM must urgently intervene and bring some coherence to his government's policies."