Veiled attack on Labour

Hunter says Britain ‘needs more billionaires’

Sir Tom Hunter, right, and Theo Paphitis: ‘We cannot alienate wealth creators’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter says Britain needs more billionaires after accusing tax-hungry politicians of failing to understand the importance of wealth creators.

Sir Tom, who made his fortune when he sold his Sports Division retail chain in the 1990s, said he tried to “stay out of party politics”.

But in a clear criticism of Labour policy he told a media briefing: “The way to raise more tax is to have more billionaires, not fewer.”

Refusing to name individuals, he said he had heard “a politician” say that the party would raise funds for its spending programme from bonds not debt.

“When I was at school bonds were debt,” he said, speaking during an event in Edinburgh to support early stage companies. While he supported a fair tax system, and higher taxation on those on higher incomes, he defended the need to encourage business through the tax system.

He said: “We cannot alienate the wealth creators. Capital is portable and it will leave.”

He said all politicians still needed to learn how wealth was created and that lower taxation created more revenue.

Theo Paphitis: system is structurally bankrupt (pic: Terry Murden)

Retail tycoon and television dragon Theo Paphitis, who joined Sir Tom on stage at the RBS conference centre, called on the next government to fix the business rates system, saying it was “not fit for purpose”.

Mr Paphitis said the tax system was “structurally bankrupt” and accused politicians of failing to keep up with changes in technology.

Calling for a tax on online transactions to counterbalance the costs faced by bricks and mortar retailers, he said: “The system is not fit for purpose. The physical cake is getting smaller, but the tax take keeps getting bigger, while the online cake gets larger and taxes are lower.”

Mr Paphitis, owner of the Rymans chain of high street stationers, said he understood that governments needed to raise tax from business, but a change was long overdue.

“If my rents are too high I speak to the landlord and he offers a reduction as he doesn’t want an empty unit. But “Mr Rates” just keeps the tax level the same and if I don’t pay he sends in the bailiffs.”

Mr Paphitis and Sir Tom spoke to an audience of 400 finalists in the Scottish Edge pitching final at the Gogarburn headquarters of RBS which supports the programme alongside the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation, the vehicle of entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter.

On Brexit, both took issue with those who simply demand that Brexit is signed off because people are tired of it.

Sir Tom said “There should be a confirmatory referendum now that we know more.

“‘Just get a deal done’ doesn’t sound like a strategy to me. The good deal doers have got stamina.”

Mr Paphitis added: “We should not say we just get it done. We have to do it right. I have done a lot of deals and I have rarely done one during the day. You grind on until you get the right deal.”

The Scottish Edge competition, which Sir Tom has supported since it launched in 2012, has raised £15m for innovators. Every £1 invested is said to be worth £7.40 to the Scottish economy.

See also

High growth firms share £1.25m from Scottish Edge

SNP hits out at ‘reckless’ bid to scrap business rates relief

Quiz warns of more store closures over ‘onerous rents’

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