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Barking MP defends family firm’s tax bill on day she grills companies

PUBLISHED: 11:26 13 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:44 15 November 2012

Shareholder: Margaret Hodge has shares in the British steel trading company Stemcor founded by her father

Shareholder: Margaret Hodge has shares in the British steel trading company Stemcor founded by her father

PA Wire/Press Association Images

An MP who heads a parliamentary spending watchdog defended herself yesterday after it emerged a company she has shares in paid just 0.25 per cent in UK tax.

Margaret Hodge stood by the steel trading company that her father founded, Stemcor, which paid £157,000 in UK levies on global profits of £65million last year.

The chairman of the Commons public accounts committee spoke out on the day she quizzed multi-national companies like Starbucks about tax avoidance.

The Labour MP for Barking said: “My committee has been doing a lot of high-profile work on tax avoidance recently so it’s only natural that people should ask these questions.

“All I can say to you is that I condemn tax avoidance of any kind by anyone. I have always believed that the rich, whether individuals or corporations, should pay their fair share of tax.

“I have been repeatedly assured that my family’s company does not engage in tax avoidance of any kind.

“If it were to be proved otherwise, I would have been misled. I would feel extremely angry and let down.

“But I simply cannot believe that they would mislead me in that way, so I am confident that they are doing the right thing.”

She spoke in defence of Stemcor after a national newspaper questioned her holdings in the steel company launched by her father Hans Oppenheimer, and which is now run by her brother Ralph Oppenheimer.

Stemcor confirmed it had “reduced” tax payments of £157,000 last year because it made a loss in the UK.

But the trading company insisted it complied with international tax regulations and stressed it had paid £27m in UK corporation tax in the last five years, which is equivalent to a third of its UK profits.

A spokesman said: “Last year we made £65m pre-tax global profit on £6.3billion global turnover. However, the profits were made outside the UK and the majority of those profits have been taxed at a higher rate in those countries than the current UK corporation tax rate.

“In the UK, we incurred a loss in 2011 due to difficult trading conditions, which squeezed margins and reduced our tax payments compared to prior years. As required by tax rules, Stemcor pays tax where profits are made.”

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