Lord Fink: I took 'vanilla' tax avoidance measures

Posted On: 
12th February 2015

Ed Miliband today claimed victory in the row with Tory donor Lord Fink after the peer admitted to engaging in "vanilla" tax avoidance. 

The Labour leader today repeated his assertion that Lord Fink had engaged in "tax avoidance activities" and challenged David Cameron to set out his response to the allegations.

Lord Howard: Ed Miliband's Fink comments were defamatory

Tristram Hunt: Miliband will not apologise to Lord Fink

But Lord Fink himself accused Mr Miliband of a "major climbdown" after the Labour leader claimed he had not described the peer as "dodgy".

"Yesterday a Conservative donor, Lord Fink, challenged me to stand by what I said in the House of Commons that he was engaging in tax avoidance activities - I do. 

"David Cameron must explain why he appointed Treasurer of the Conservative Party someone who boasts about engaging tax avoidance and thinks it is something everyone does," he said.

At yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Miliband also referred to a “dodgy prime minister surrounded by dodgy donors”.

Today, he clarified that the phrase "dodgy donors" was a general criticism of the Tories, and not a personal attack on Lord Fink.

Lord Fink, a former Conservative treasurer,
responded: “Yesterday I challenged Ed Miliband to repeat the accusations he made in the Commons – that I used an HSBC bank account to avoid tax and that I was a ‘dodgy donor’. This is a major climbdown by a man who is willing to smear without getting his facts straight.”

Lord Fink has also given an
interview to the Evening Standardin which he said he did not object to being associated with tax avoidance, but only the “dodgy” comments.

"If he simply uses the words ‘Lord Fink did ordinary tax avoidance’ then no, I couldn’t sue him. But if he made the statement ‘dodgy’ about my bank account, that was potentially libellous. That was the issue I took exception to," he told the paper.

He said that his affairs were at the “vanilla” end of tax avoidance, adding: “The expression tax avoidance is so wide that everyone does tax avoidance at some level."

Mr Miliband described the issue as a “defining moment in David Cameron's leadership" and challenged him to say whether he agreed with Lord Fink's claim that "everyone does tax avoidance”.

In another development, aides to Mr Miliband 
told the BBC he views the confrontation with Lord Fink as a "Milly Dowler moment" - a reference to his standing up to Rupert Murdoch during the phone hacking scandal. 

However, the Daily Telegraph reports that the lawyer who represented the Dowler family described the comparison as "unfortunate".