Hillier is a new entry this year
Meg Hillier is the new chairwoman of the UK's Public
Accounts Committee [PAC], having been elected to take over the
post from firebrand tax campaigner Margaret Hodge. Hillier was
a PAC member under Hodge's chairwomanship before stepping into
her shoes in June last year.
Although Hillier has not been a particularly loud voice in
the media since her ascension to the role, the indications are
that she intends to continue Hodge's tough line on
multinational tax avoidance. She sat on the PAC during Hodge's
tenure, and was present for many of the grillings of companies,
tax advisers and revenue officials.
In the now-infamous 2012 hearing where representatives of
Google, Amazon and Starbucks were attacked by Hodge, Hillier
asked 21 questions, quizzing Starbucks's COO Troy Alstead on
his company's half-a-billion-pound R&D spending –
"Can you just remind us what the figure is that you spend on
research and development to decide how to make a caramel
macchiato or a frappuccino?" – and questioning
Google's economic activity.
Hillier studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at
Oxford University – the course which is responsible
for Prime Minister David Cameron and three more government
ministers; former heads of state of Australia, Ghana, Pakistan,
Peru, Sri Lanka and Thailand; media mogul Rupert Murdoch; and
Nobel Peace Prize winner (and now Myanmar politician) Aung San
She has also previously worked as the shadow secretary of
state for energy and climate change.
A particular area of focus for the PAC under Hillier is
likely to be the UK revenue authority, HMRC, which has faced
several dressing-downs by the Committee in the past, under
In a statement released in December 2015 on the importance
of tackling tax fraud, Hillier said: "HMRC clearly needs to
think harder about how it tackles tax evasion, the hidden
economy and criminal attacks. The Committee will be examining
HMRC's work in this area throughout this Parliament."
"Time and time again we hear that government departments
don't have the data or information that they need to plan or
evaluate their activities properly, despite them being
responsible for setting up these projects or programmes in the
first place," she adds. "HMRC is no different in this respect.
HMRC needs to use the powers and sanctions it has to make a
public example of those who break the rules."
The strength of this statement suggests Hillier could be set
to continue using the PAC as the headline-grabbing vessel it
was transformed into under Hodge. Like it or not, businesses
operating in the UK will need to be aware of Hillier's tough
stance or may well find themselves on the receiving end of some
pointed questions from the parliamentarian and her committee