by Ray Fleming

EVEN in his worst nightmares Nick Clegg cannot have imagined that one of his first tasks during the two weeks he is nominally in charge at No 10 would be to go along with the prime minister's appointment of Sir Philip Greene to head a Government Efficiency Review. Sir Philip's qualifications as a businessman with a keen eye for saving the pennies is not in doubt but there are certainly questions to be asked about his tax arrangements -- not evasion, of course, but avoidance since his highly profitable companies -- Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton -- are owned by his wife who lives in Monaco and avoids tax on dividends from them. Before and during the May election the Liberal Democrats campaigned against arrangements of this kind; Vince Cable, now the coalition's Business Minister, was particularly vocal in his criticism -- which may explain why, apparently, he was not consulted in advance about David Cameron's choice of Sir Philip Green. After Mr Cameron's long difficulties over the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and one of its principal donors, one might have thought that he would tread more carefully in other comparable situations. But there is a certain arrogance in Mr Cameron's style and in a Cabinet in which he is surrounded by millionaires it is perhaps not surprising that he turns to them so readily. But it is less easy to understand Mr Clegg's willingness to co-operate.


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