Plenary discussion with President Juncker
Today’s discussion has been precipitated by Lux Leaks and the allegations printed last week. Firstly let me thank President Junker for attending but say that with no disrespect, that it is Commissioner Vestager who should be here today discussing this matter.
She is leading the European Commission investigation into tax schemes in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and other EU countries. As a quasi-judicial investigation I believe we should await its outcomes before rushing to judgments or holding a witch hunt.
The ECR was pleased to hear Commissioner Vestager tell the ECON Committee yesterday that she would include the leaked information in her investigation, and that she would widen the scope of the investigation if necessary. Although there has been some confusion today on whether that will actually now happen and we would seek an assurance from the Commission that it will.
The ECR Group has long argued for further action at the national, EU and global level to tackle tax evasion, tax fraud and aggressive tax avoidance. People are frankly not willing to accept companies that go out of their way to avoid paying what they legitimately owe. Global country by country reporting of corporate sales and profits is long overdue.
Although a global problem, the EU can have a meaningful role in this field. In Commissioner Vestager's hearing I specifically asked her about closing the double Irish tax loophole as it may constitute state aid. She confirmed last month that it was firmly on her agenda within the framework of EU competition rules.
However, let us not forget that tax is a Member State issue. For the EU to play a role does not require more EU legislation or centralisation of powers. Nor does it need tax harmonisation. Tax competition is of the utmost importance in the EU that encourages us to remain competitive globally.
The solution lies in better enforcement of existing national and EU systems, and through greater international transparency and cooperation in tax matters at the G8 and G20 level.
I am proud that this was an agenda that the British Prime Minister led during the UK's Presidency of the G8 last year.
If Commissioner Vestager's investigation raises questions that need to be answered then they must be answered here in this Chamber. They cannot be avoided.
Clearly this investigation needs to have the trust of the public. They need to know that whatever the commission concludes is the result of an independent, thorough and proper inquiry.
We should base our actions and debates not on leaks and not on part of the picture, but on a full and independent assessment by our competition authority that reveals all of the facts. The ECR calls on Commissioner Vestager to deliver her investigation as quickly as feasible, but also asks for reassurance today on the independence, the scope and procedure for keeping this Parliament informed of its outcome.