'MONARCH makes money off the backs of poorest in society'. That headline could have been written at any time in history and in almost any nation.

The fact that it is still being written in Britain in 2017 is something that should concern anyone who wants to live in a fair, democratic society.

Leaked documents among the so-called Paradise Papers, an expose on how the superrich evade and avoid tax, show The Duchy of Lancaster, which handles the Queen’s private wealth, has been a small-scale investor in BrightHouse – the controversial rent-to-own chain criticised for exploiting thousands of poor families and vulnerable people.

Loading article content

Along with the BrightHouse investment, the Paradise Papers reveal that about £10m of the Queen’s private money was invested offshore.

There is nothing to suggest that any of the investments were illegal but it does not seem right for the Queen’s finances to hide behind a cloak of secrecy instead of being set out in the royal household’s annual statements for us all to see.

Five years ago, David Cameron promised to clamp down on offshore tax havens and then went cold on the idea. This year’s Tory election manifesto quietly ditched the party’s fleeting dalliance with corporate ethics.

Theresa May said yesterday that individuals and businesses should “pay the tax that is due”, but she would not commit to introducing a public ownership register for offshore companies and trusts or opening a public inquiry into tax avoidance.

If Mrs May is serious about building that “fairer society for all” she envisioned after June’s poll, then she should revive Cameron’s idea but, unlike her predecessor, have the guts to see it through.