Questions that needed to be asked
Thursday 22nd August 2013, 2:30PM BST.
It is unusual for an article about a charity to stray into controversial waters. Over the years, this newspaper has published many articles on Christian Aid’s work, all supportive.
On this occasion, however, the visit of a representative from the charity’s parent organisation gave us the opportunity to be more challenging.
The approach has been overdue since the well-publicised joint report with the Tax Justice Network in 2011 and subsequent calls by Christian Aid for a ‘clampdown on UK-linked tax havens’, including Guernsey.
The 2011 report placed both Guernsey and Jersey in the spotlight as ‘most secretive’ finance centres. It is an impression that the States of Guernsey has since worked hard to dispel with David Cameron and various world economic organisations. As such, there is a clear news value and the newspaper asked Martin Nicholls about the charity’s position.
The questions focused on the apparent contradiction that much of the money raised and donated to Christian Aid will have been generated by the island’s dominant industry while the charity is working closely with a pressure group that opposes offshore finance.
It is always uncomfortable for those at the coalface of large organisations to be held accountable for decisions made at head office but, as a local newspaper, we place matters in a local context. Having asked Mr Nicholls a difficult question, we gave him more than half of the article in which to respond.
As part of that, he acknowledged that some people might misunderstand and perceive an inconsistency in collecting in the Channel Islands. He did not, however, back away from calls for greater transparency and less tax abuse, nor from the charity’s controversial links with a group such as Tax Justice Network.
While Christian Aid says it is not campaigning directly against the Channel Islands, its latest report, Invested Interests: The UK’s Overseas Territories’ Hidden Role in Developing Countries, outlines a ‘tax scandal’ which encompasses and names both Guernsey and Jersey.
We would be very happy to hear from readers their views on this issue and whether they believe our questions were justified.