David Cameron has been condemned for handing a peerage to a former Facebook executive who presided over the company’s UK operations when it was accused of “disingenuous and immoral” tax avoidance.
Joanna Shields, who is now the Prime Minister’s digital adviser as well as the chair of Tech City UK, Britain’s tech start-up hub, was in charge of Facebook in the UK between 2009 and 2013.
In October 2012, an analysis of the social media giant’s British operations found that it had paid just £238,000 in corporation tax the previous year despite having UK sales revenues of £175m. It achieved this by diverting most of its sales via Ireland, where tax rates are lower.
Ms Shields, who was born in the United States but lives in Britain, was among 12 new Conservative peers announced yesterday. Her selection was immediately criticised by Labour’s John Mann, a member of the Treasury Select Committee. “It undermines democracy to put party donors, tax avoiders and defeated politicians into the House of Lords,” he said.
A spokesman for Ms Shields said she was “unavailable for interviews about her appointment to the House of Lords”.
Seven of the new Tory peers are women, the best known being Karren Brady, the vice-chairman of West Ham United who currently advises the Coalition on small business. Lord Sugar, her co-star on the TV series The Apprentice, is a Labour peer.