SNP hits out at ministers joining accountancy firms

Jacqui Smith: Former home secretary joined KPMG. Picture: Getty
Jacqui Smith: Former home secretary joined KPMG. Picture: Getty
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THE SNP last night hit out at the number of former Westminster ministers and senior civil servants moving to highly paid jobs with three of the so-called “big four” accountancy firms.

Stewart Hosie, the party’s Treasury spokesman, raised his concerns following reports that more than a dozen ministers and mandarins had left government for positions at KPMG, Deloitte and PwC over the past decade.

The extent of the appointments between government and leading financial firms was highlighted following the revelation that Dave Hartnett, formerly the UK’s chief tax collector, has got a job with Deloitte.

That appointment has caused controversy, because Mr Hartnett was head of HM Revenue and Customs when Starbucks and Vodaphone did “sweetheart deals” that enabled them to avoid billions in tax payments.

Mr Hartnett is to advise foreign governments on the effectiveness of their tax systems. He will not work with British companies or HMRC.

Yesterday, an analysis of publicly available data showed that 17 people have left government since 2003 to work with KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, the three firms which, along with Ernst & Young, make up the big four.

The most prominent names include former home secretaries Charles Clark and Jacqui Smith who took up consulting roles with KPMG.

Recently, Paul Kirby returned to KPMG after heading the Number 10 policy unit. Neil Sherlock, the former adviser to Nick Clegg, has moved to PwC as head of reputational strategy.

Last week, PwC recruited Alan Milburn, the former Labour health minister, to advise on changes to the NHS.

Last night, MP Mr Hosie said: “The number of former ministers and senior government officials moving to the big four accountancy firms, particularly from Revenue and Customs, is concerning given the symbolic relationship between government and these companies, which were at the centre of recent tax avoidance.

“The findings show the companies themselves have spent more than £1m paying for staff to work within the main three political parties, fuelling claims of a “revolving door” between politics and tax planning. There must be transparency in all these appointments and in any connections between political parties and the big four firms.”

The moves have also angered MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the House of Commons public accounts committee.

On Mr Hartnett’s case, she said: “I think it is shocking, really shocking. I think it is crazy that he’s taken the job. There must be better ways of making an honest buck.” She also criticised the “familiar elite” for showing an “arrogance” and lack of understanding that overrode any sense of conflict of interest.

She said: “They just don’t get it. It is a real arrogance and it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.”

Yesterday a spokesman for KPMG said: “Of course, some people have joined us from government or public bodies. Just as some people have gone back to public positions.”

On Mr Hartnett’s appointment, a spokesman for Deloitte said: “Dave Hartnett will work as a consultant to Deloitte advising foreign governments and tax administrations, primarily in the developing world. He has significant experience in advising such countries on the development of effective tax regimes necessary to ensure their continued economic growth.  He will not work with UK companies or with HMRC.”