Islington Council is butt of PM’s ‘overseas investments’ jibe in Parliament

Cllr Andy Hull and Prime Minister David Cameron (Pictures; Islington Council and PA)

Cllr Andy Hull and Prime Minister David Cameron (Pictures; Islington Council and PA) - Credit: Archant

Islington councillors were forced to defend the ethics of the Town Hall’s pension pot after the Prime Minister named the council in Parliament as benefiting from overseas investments.

Finance boss Cllr Andy Hull on Tuesday said David Cameron had “tainted” the council’s name by comparing their finances with those of his late father Ian.

Speaking in the wake of the leaked Panama Papers on Thursday, the Prime Minister said: “This investment fund was set up overseas in the first place because it was going to be trading predominantly in dollar securities,” he said.

“So like very many other commercial investment funds, it made sense to be set up inside one of the main centres of dollar trading.”

He added: “There are thousands of these investment funds and many millions of people in Britain own shares, many of whom hold them through investment funds or unit trusts.

“Such funds, including those listed outside the UK, are included in the pension funds of local government, most of Britain’s largest companies and, indeed, even some trade unions.

“Even a quick look shows that the BBC, the Mirror Group, Guardian Newspapers and – to pick one council entirely at random – Islington, all have these sorts of overseas investments.”

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But in a statement published on the Islington Labour website, Cllr Hull said Mr Cameron had “sought to taint Islington Council with the tax-avoidance scandal in which he has mired himself”.

“In defending his family’s own offshore investments, the Prime Minister said Islington Council has money invested overseas,” he said.

“To be clear, all of Islington Council’s own monies are held domestically, either in the bank, lent to other local authorities or lent to the government itself.

“Islington Council’s £1bn pension fund does have overseas investments alongside its UK portfolio – as do all local government pension schemes across the country as part of a prudent approach to diversifying risk.

“The fund, unlike the Prime Minister, is tax-exempt, as are all local government pension scheme funds. Its overseas investments – for instance, in Apple and Toyota – are not hidden in hedge funds in far-flung tax havens.”

He added that the fund’s committee meets in public, its financial statements are publicly available, and all of its investments comply with UK government regulation.

“It pays all the tax that is due,” he continued. “What it does not have is lawyers or fund managers in Panama or the Cayman Islands helping it avoid tax.”