IT is an indication of the anxiety felt by Barclays Bank over revelations of its secret tax avoidance schemes that it should have gone to a London court in the small hours of the morning to get an injunction against publication on the Guardian newspaper website of seven documents leaked by a whistleblower. The Guardian solicitor was wakened at 2am and asked by the judge to argue its case over the telephone; the judge then gave Barclays Bank the injunction it wanted, but the Guardian intends to appeal against the decision.

Even the heavily redacted excerpts from the documents published in the newspaper are enough to show a complex tax avoidance scheme operated by a special unit of 110 people and involving a circuit of Cayman companies, US partnerships and Luxembourg subsidiaries. The documents, leaked in the first place to Vince Cable MP, the LibDem's financial expert, are damning enough but the anonymous whistleblower also provided a commentary pointing out that the British tax authorities with limited investigative resources have no chance of outwitting the high-powered team assembled by Barclays. It is, of course, true that tax avoidance is not illegal. But at a time that UK banks are negotiating for substantial support from the government it seems very wrong that they may also be doing their utmost to avoid paying tax which would help to make such support possible. Every day the need for tougher international regulation of banks becomes stronger.