Speaking to the Liberal Democrat federal conference in Liverpool today, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced a £900m attack on tax avoidance and evasion.
The additional investment is expected to raise an extra £7bn each year by 2014/15 from those who currently avoid paying their fair share of tax.
HMRC will use the extra funding for:
- A more robust criminal deterrent against tax evasion
- The creation of a new dedicated team of investigators to crackdown on offshore evasion
- The creation of bespoke cyber crime teams and online specialists
- More investment in freight and detection technology to prevent alcohol and tobacco smuggling
In his speech, Danny Alexander reminded representatives that Liberals and Liberal Democrats have seldom taken the easy road.
"In this great City of Liverpool, " he said, "when Chris Rennard and campaigners led the long march to take power from Labour, they did so not because it was easy, but because it was right.
"When Charles Kennedy was a lone voice in Parliament against the war in Iraq. When he was shouted down by hundreds of MPs, he did it not because it was easy, but because it was right.
"In May this year our party faced the toughest decision of its life. We chose to reject the ease of opposition to govern this country in coalition with the Conservatives. Taking responsibility for Britain’s future at one of the most difficult times in our economic history. Not because it would be easy, but because we knew it was right.
"Conference, I have never been so proud to be a Liberal Democrat, and I am proud of the agreement we negotiated. One party at war with itself has been replaced with two parties working together in the interests of our nation.
"Of course we have disagreements – and we give as a good as we get. But we get on a great deal better than the last lot did, and as a result we will achieve a great deal more. Already, Liberal Democrats in government are delivering on our manifesto commitments.
"We have increased capital gains tax, we have introduced a substantial bank levy, we have restored the earnings link to pensions, and next year 900,000 low income workers won’t pay a penny of income tax: a major step towards our manifesto pledge to make the first £10,000 you earn tax free.
"These measures make our country substantially and permanently fairer. Labour had 13 years to make these changes – they chose not to. We made them in 13 weeks. We will take no lectures on fairness from them.
"Gordon Brown was very generous with other people’s money. He ran the British economy like the drunk in the pub who says ‘lend me a tenner and I’ll buy you a drink.’
"Labour were irresponsible. They ignored the warnings, years in advance, of the impending financial crisis. Vince Cable warned them that the bankers’ greed and the bubble it was fuelling, threatened our economy. They lived in denial.
"They were reckless. They allowed Britain to build up the largest budget deficit in Europe with no plan for tackling it. Shamefully, they made expensive promises to communities across the country, weeks before the election when they knew full well there was no money left.
"Until Labour apologises for that cynical attempt to bribe the British people with bouncing cheques it will never be fit to govern this country again. Until they apologise for their disastrous economic legacy and until they set out, in detail, how they would tackle the deficit, the people of Britain will know that Labour cannot be trusted with the economy. Meanwhile, we have to clean up their mess.
"Since the election our long term interest rates have fallen - helping jobs and growth. There is not a choice between balancing the books and economic growth. The two go together.
"Labour allowed political convenience to trump economic necessity once too often – we will not make that mistake.
"I didn’t come into politics to cut public spending. But it has to be done. I know we, Liberal Democrats, have the courage to see the task through. Not because it is easy, but because it is right.
"The size of the cuts we have to make is unavoidable, but we do have a choice about how those reductions are made.
"So I want to set out the principles – the Liberal Democrat principles - on which I will base our decisions in the spending review: tackling waste, investing in growth (which Vince will speak about on Wednesday), fairness [and] radical reform of public services.
"Government has a duty to spend your money carefully. As if borrowed from a friend. So we will be ruthless in rooting out wasteful or unnecessary spending. Before we ask frontline services to face tough choices, we are ensuring that we have rooted every penny of savings from the back office."