Thank goodness for the Lib Dems

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I have to say that without the Lib Dem Treasury team the world would be a worse place right now. Yesterday Matthew Oakeshott (a member of the House of Lords) said in that House:

Documents leaked to the Liberal Democrats, which appear to detail systematic tax avoidance on a grand scale by Barclays, were injuncted last week.

The Sunday Times and the Guardian had already made them front-page news and these documents are widely available on the internet from sites such as Twitter, wikileaks.org, docstoc.com and gabbr.com. Yet the Guardian had to remove them from its website and cannot tell its readers where to find them.

Oakeshott could reveal that the leaked documents were available because of the parliamentary privilege of freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights 1689.

And as a result he could, quite rightly make a fool of the judge who injuncted the Guardian and deliver a boost for honesty, transparency and accountability all at the same time.

This works. As the Guardian notes today:

Two out of three US banks have terminated their involvement in a wide-ranging tax-avoidance scheme operated by Barclays.

The banks had taken loans from Barclays amounting to $11bn (£7.6bn), which they were due to hold for another year. But sources at Bank of America and BB&T confirmed yesterday that transactions under Project Knight have been terminated prematurely and the loans repaid.

Never ever tell me that the glare of publicity does not change corporate behaviour. It most certainly does. Which is exactly why we need country-by-country reporting.