David Cameron defended his late father and Blairmore Holdings as he addressed MPs for the first time since the leak of the Panama Papers. The prime minister was dragged into the scandal when it was revealed he had shares in the offshore investment fund founded by his father, Ian Cameron.
His shares in the company were controversial because Blairmore was incorporated in Panama and had its headquarters in the Bahamas, which is considered a tax haven. He took the unprecedented step of publishing his tax return late after admitting he sold shares in the company for £31,500 ($45,000) back in 2010.
That failed to quell the demand for clarity on his finances. leading to Cameron making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday (11 April). As George Osborne, Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson all published details of their tax arrangements, Cameron said "people who are or wish to be responsible for the finances of the country" should publish their returns but warned against "abandoning completely" taxpayer confidentiality.
He said the move would be a "very big step" and not take place without "long and thoughtful debate" before adding it was "not the I approach I would recommend". Tackling the Blairmore fund, he said it was registered with the Inland Revenue from the beginning, was audited and was not a family trust but a commercial investment fund "for any investor to buy units in".
He said stories about he father, who died in 2010, were "deeply hurtful" and called claims about him "profoundly untrue". "I was angry about the way my father's memory was being traduced," Cameron said. "I know he was a hard working man and a wonderful dad and I'm proud of everything he did to build a business and provide for his family."
Outlining his and his wife's share sale, Cameron said: "I sold all my shares in my portfolio that year  because I did not want any issues about conflicts of interest. I did not want anyone to be able to suggest that as prime minister I had any other agendas or vested interests. Selling all my shares was the simplest and clearest way I could do that."
He said the decision to base Blairmore offshore "made sense" because it traded dollar-denominated securities. He said corporations like the BBC, The Guardian and "one council picked entirely at random – Islington [where Corbyn is MP]" have these sorts of oversees investments. It was, he said, an "entirely standard practice and is not to avoid tax".
Speaking the day Number 10 announced it will fast-track proposals to criminalise corporations who fail to stop their staff facilitating tax evasion, Cameron said "it is right to tighten laws and change the culture around investment to further outlaw tax evasion and to discourage aggressive tax avoidance. But as we do so we should differentiate between schemes designed to artificially reduce tax and those are encouraging investment."
Aspiration and wealth creation "are not dirty words", Cameron concluded, before taking a swipe at the opposition bench. "It is that strong economy creating jobs and rewarding aspiration that is the true focus of this government and something that would never be safe under the party opposite."
Jeremy Corbyn, who published his tax return while the session was underway, said the prime minster's statement was a "masterclass in the arts of distraction " and his actions suggested there was "was one rule for the rich and one for the rest".
Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP and mayor of London, also published details of his tax return, revealing he earned more in 2014/215 than David Cameron, Chancellor Geroge Osborne, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell put together.