Fashion designer and eco-activist Vivienne Westwood has been ditched by the Green Party over allegations of tax avoidance. Westwood was due to appear as the headline speaker at a number of events in support of the party, but the Young Greens voted to ban her from the tour.
The Greens have set out their opposition to tax avoidance in their manifesto, which includes proposals for a ‘Tax Dodger’s Bill’, which includes a ban on corporate payments into offshore holdings. But following Dame Vivienne’s donation of £300,000 to the Green Party, allegations emerged that her company had paid millions of pounds into a company in Luxembourg, exactly the sort of behaviour which the Greens want to outlaw, the Telegraph has reported.
Her company’s most recent accounts show that £2million was paid to a company in Luxembourg for the right to use her name on her own label. Tax experts have described the transaction as “tax avoidance”, saying that it would have deprived the UK Treasury of around half a million pounds.
But she insists that she has not avoided tax, claiming that she has paid the full rate of tax in both the UK and Luxembourg on both her business dealings and personal income. The Party has agreed to hire an independent auditor to look into her financial affairs to rule on whether her arrangements constitute tax avoidance.
Dame Vivienne was due to speak at a number of events entitled “We are the Revolution,” appearing alongside the Green’s deputy leader Amelia Womack at a number of universities across the country. The first was due to take place at Kingston University in London on Friday night, but the Young Greens voted to exclude her at the eleventh hour.
In a Facebook posting, Kingston University’s Young Greens said: “The Executive of the National Young Greens have since voted that as she has no plans to rectify her situation she will not be allowed to tour representing the Young Greens.
“The Green party are fully committed to their policy on receiving donations from those who do not pay full UK tax and have elected to not be represented by somebody unwilling to do so irrespective of their contribution or profile. For this reason, Vivienne Westwood will not be speaking at tomorrow’s event.”
In a statement, the Green Party said: “Vivienne Westwood has agreed to suspend her involvement in the Young Greens ‘We are the Revolution’ tour because of their concerns that Vivienne Westwood has non-UK companies in her operation.”
They confirmed that they had “engaged an independent tax specialist to assist us” in investigating Dame Vivienne’s tax affairs, adding “We are assured that her companies are not actively avoiding tax. Pending this investigation and confirmation that we are satisfied with her practices, the Green Party look forward to working with Vivienne Westwood on some high profile campaigning events.”
Dame Vivienne, 73, said: “When we pay royalties to our Luxembourg company the tax on them is paid to the Luxembourg government … But overall our group does not save tax on this. Wherever profits occur all taxes on these profits are ultimately paid in the UK as I personally pay 45 per cent tax on any dividend I receive.
“I can confirm that full UK tax has been paid to HMRC on my personal donation to the Green Party. I will continue to ensure that my finances are in line with my personal values. My reputation is so important to me because of what I am trying to do in my activism.”
Meanwhile, the Green Party has come under fire after one of it’s general election candidates joked about Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s brush with cancer at the age of 21, according to the Guido Fawkes’s blog.
Jenny Ross, the green party candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde tweeted “Just found out Farage has only got one ball… some people will do anything to emulate their heros!” The tweet was later deleted, although she has refused to apologise, instead commenting “No surprise Kippers don’t like dark humour”.
Ross has had a long association with the BBC as a presenter and producer, winning the BBC’s New Comedy Award in 1996 before going on to present BBC 2’s The Sunday Show, and devise and co-present BBC Knowledge’s Cultural Weekends, amongst other programmes.
A Green Party spokesman has said “We condemn the language used by Ms Ross. It is neither appropriate or constructive to use this kind of inflammatory language. Our party will fight the vicious rhetoric espoused by Farage but we will not do so by making this kind of offensive remark. We expect an apology from Ms Ross and an internal investigation of her actions is already underway.”
While a source close to Farage has said A source close to Nigel Farage said: “Ms Ross should probably resign her candidacy and donate her deposit to a cancer charity.”