Treasury Minister David Gauke resorted to a time-honoured parliamentary device to discredit Michael Meacher's accusation of government subservience to corporate interests over tax avoidance.
Meacher was indulging in "wild conspiracy theories," declared the former solicitor previously employed in the financial services group at the international law firm Macfarlanes, which is renowned for its expertise in tax and structuring.
All good parliamentary knockabout, of course, but Gauke could have dispensed with the conspiracy rhetoric.
The minister could have disarmed Meacher totally by telling him that David Cameron's reference to the "moral repugnance" of tax avoidance was not just words and the government would indeed close down tax avoidance havens in UK-controlled overseas territories and Crown dependencies, as Meacher suggested.
He didn't, because he is a man in denial. He simply refuses to accept either the scale of corporate tax avoidance or the failure of HMRC top mandarins to deal with it adequately.
While justifying the tendency of top civil servants to cultivate friendly contacts with tax-dodging companies and to sign off sweetheart settlements, he also affects a faux-impotent "what can you do with these wily business types?" demeanour.
As Meacher has pointed out, it's not a case of the government being outsmarted by City slickers so much as being in bed with them to fine-tune their endeavours.
Gauke pointed the finger at the previous new Labour government for cutting the number of tax inspectors from 94,000 to 65,000. He's right to do so.
The Morning Star attacked both the decision and the triumphalist manner it was announced in Parliament to cheers and guffaws from sycophantic back-bench new Labourites as though putting tens of thousands of workers on the scrap heap was a huge step forward.
Neither Gauke nor his Tory and Liberal Democrat colleagues can make such a claim. They were cheerleaders for the jobs slaughter.
Both sides of the House of Commons have united to demean generally low-paid civil servants as lotus-eating parasites and to treat corporate tax-dodgers with kid gloves.
Meacher has documented former new Labour chancellor and prime minister Gordon Brown's role in tweaking tax rules to allow Philip Green's wife in Monaco to escape a £300m tax bill that could have been payable on her £1.2bn dividend and to assist private equity firms to pay tax at a lower rate than their cleaners.
At the same time, he has detailed the mutual transferability of top HMRC personnel and City directors with reputations for pursuing the most aggressive tax avoidance schemes under governments of whatever shade.
Anyone who presents the issue of tax avoidance into a simple "Tory bad, Labour good" formulation is off beam.
The entire parliamentary elite has been in hock to the City and has collaborated with corporate efforts to minimise its financial contribution to society.
Ed Miliband cannot hide Labour's shameful government collusion with tax dodging by the rich and powerful. Even less can he justify it or, worse still, keep his head down.
The Labour leader should take his cue from the fighting lead shown by the Oldham West and Royton MP and pledge to close down these boltholes of the wealthy.
This would be a political winner, as well as providing a substantial boost to Treasury revenues, eroding the already threadbare case for the cuts agenda as being necessary to tackle government debt and the spending deficit.
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