William Hague: Tax transparency should mean a more mature debate

Posted On: 
12th April 2016

Greater transparency on tax should be accompanied by a "greater maturity" in discussing the issue, William Hague has said.

The former Conservative leader warned the country could not expect everyone to be “perfect or normal” as senior politicians publish their tax returns.

The comments come as the row on tax rumbles on, David Cameron took the unprecedented step of publishing a summary of his tax return last week following the release of the so-called Panama papers.

Boris Johnson paid nearly £1 million tax in four years

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George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have all responded to pressure and all published their information. 

Today, Mr Hague told the BBC’s Today programme "we live in an age of greater transparency" and "the answer is not to fight that age, it has arrived and it will come all the more".

"The consequence of greater transparency in tax, in medical records whatever else it may be among leaders is that there has to be a maturity in the public debate about those things and a recognition that the circumstances and habits of people who are effective leaders will vary greatly.

"And that those personal circumstances are not necessarily a good guide to how good they will be as a prime minister, a chancellor or anything else," he said.

He said Parliament would be “one-dimensional” if all members had the the “simplest possible” finances.

He pointed out that William Pitt the Younger, on whom Lord Hague has written a biography, had “chaotic” personal finances but was “brilliant at handling the nation's finances".

"We've had leaders who had tax returns like [Winston] Churchill that would have been more difficult to defend in public than Prime Minister David Cameron's tax returns - but Churchill was the greatest leader of modern times," he added.

"So we're going to have to bear those things in mind and not expect everybody to be perfect or everybody to be normal.