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Cameron Issues Warning On Corporation Tax

(c) Sky News 2013

David Cameron has warned the bosses of some of Britain's biggest companies to think "long and hard" about their tax contributions to the Treasury amid the ongoing row about corporation tax avoidance.

I understand that at a breakfast meeting at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said that the "fair payment" of tax was an issue that would remain high on the political and public agenda.

He hinted that further Government-led initiatives on the subject were being contemplated as part of a push for collective international action during Britain's presidency of the G8 group of wealthy nations later this year.

A Downing Street source said that Mr Cameron's comments on corporation tax were made in response to a question from one of the attendees.

"The Prime Minister was clear that corporation tax is being cut to make the UK even more competitive, and with such a competitive rate, companies need to make sure that they pay it," said the source.

Some of the executives at the talks have complained privately that they are operating on an unlevel playing field following the emergence of ultra-low UK corporation taxes paid by online retailers such as Amazon.

Among those who attended Friday morning's meeting were Marc Bolland, chief executive of Marks & Spencer (Other OTC: MAKSY - news) ; Ian Cheshire, chief executive of Kingfisher; Andy Clarke, Asda chief executive; Mike Coupe, J Sainsbury commercial director; Fiona Kendrick, chief executive of Nestle UK and Ireland; Paul Polman, Unilever (NYSE: UL - news) chief executive; Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group; and Martyn Wates, deputy chief executive of the Co-operative Group.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and Michael Fallon, the Business Minister, also attended the meeting.

Sources familiar with the discussion said it covered a broad array of subjects, including Britain's membership of the European Union; the Funding for Lending Scheme launched last year to stimulate bank lending; the digital single market in Europe; and the importance of apprenticeships.

"On Europe he was clear that he wants Britain to be part of it but said there is a need for clarity now," said one of the people who was at the meeting.

A Downing Street spokesman said the meeting was private and declined to provide details of the discussion.