Cameron gets cheesy with India, but takes a moment to bash tax avoiders

The prime minister has attempted to bowl India over with claims about how good its relationship with the UK can be.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

PM David Cameron is on a three-day jaunt to India – not the first one of his premiership – plugging UK industry to investors over there. In a rather schmaltzy bit of rhetoric, he said that India and the UK could have ‘one of the great partnerships of the 21st Century’. 

He was speaking at a Q&A at Unilever’s HQ in Mumbai, and said: ‘Britain wants to be your partner of choice. We’ve only just started on the sort of partnership that we could build. As far as I’m concerned, the sky is the limit.’ During his speech, he revealed a new £1m cash pile to fund a feasibility study into building a ‘business corridor’ that would link Mumbai and Bangalore, using British expertise.

He said: ‘I’m really excited about this project. It’s an ambitious vision that could truly be a partnership for the next generation.'

‘It would unleash India’s potential along the 1,000 kilometres from Mumbai to Bangalore, transforming lives and putting British businesses in prime position to secure valuable commercial deals.’

He also revealed plans to introduce a 'same day' visa processing scheme which would allow investors to get a visa to work in the UK within one day. 

Downing Street said this morning that Cameron’s latest trip constitutes the largest trade delegation taken on a trip abroad by any UK prime minister in history. The delegation is representing, mainly, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and London Underground. 

Still, despite being there to represent big business and try to attract foreign investment, Cameron also took the opportunity to direct some abuse at the tax-avoiding habits of some in the big-business world. 

He said: ‘There has been a problem in this debate in the past in that people have said: ‘Well of course there is a difference between tax evasion, which is illegal and should be pursued by the full force of the law, and then there is tax avoidance which is perfectly legal and OK’.

‘The problem with that is that there are some forms of tax avoidance which have become so aggressive that I think there are moral questions we have to answer about whether we want to encourage or allow that sort of behaviour.’

Putting the morality back into taxation sounds like a crowd pleaser, but the PM should be careful – it will prove a lot harder to do than it looks…

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