|Meg 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 Suu Kyi.
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 Hodge.
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 colleagues.
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