Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baron Ashcroft: "Unfit" Offshore Status Home to Roost

Grrrr, bloody Blogger's just dumped a comment of mine over at Mr Dale's gloatfest. Very discerning you say Iain? Not at all, sir. I was supporting Iain's thesis in this case ... as he ripped into Lib Dems over the Michael Brown donation of £2.4 million ... to a point. Still never mind that now, Blogger has spoken and it was a sign from on high so let's leave the poor LDs alone for a moment.

At Iain's an anonymous Tory commenter/sock puppet has written: "His (Ashcroft's) only Achilles' heel is his status here"

That's hilarious. I've corrected the spelling and punctuation. But I've left the tautology. The thing about Achilles' heels is that one is enough, innit? And actually Lord Offshore has a pair of them or three and he's shown us them and they're not clean those heels of his. Perhaps he's not been watching where he's been standing?

1. Clearly Ashcroft has spent millions and millions buying a Baronetcy helping the nation's political life only to get ennobled UNDER UTTERLY FALSE PRETENCES.
Being repeatedly thought an unfit person to be a law maker here if he lived in tax aboidance land he promised to move to the UK for tax purposes. According to vague Hague he would pay many millions in personal tax here. But that does not seem to have happened, now does it? Is he even registered to vote from a UK address?

2. Clearly his agent company Bearwood Securities is it? (What's with the zoo Lord Michael? Not out of the bear woods yet mate, but do watch where you step. See first comment) is not showing much signs of doing anything else than funding Tories and I'm not really sure how that can meet the rules as a permissible donor.
If that's good enough then Michael Brown writing a cheque for the Libs here should also be enough.
But it wasn't. And clearly shouldn't be.

3. Clearly Flying Lion are taking the Michael also by misusing the "travel" loophole in PPERA.
When Dave quite unreasonably questions's Gord's integrity he needs to start with more of a self examination.
Tories have not been altogether truthful it seems in venturing the cost of their jet setting to the proper authorities.
This surely indicates a fear that the donations will be clawed back and that by pretending they cost 2/6 they will save 100s of 000s of pounds? Or else it's an attempt at massaging down the 12 month rolling campaign costs figure?


Evan Price said...

There is a considerable difference between an individual giving another money to give to a political party - the intermediary acting as an agent - and someone causing a company they own to give company money to a political party.

In the second case, the company is the donor and has to comply with fairly strict legal requirements for approval of the donation.

The problem with trying to equate the two is that it ignores the reality that the company has a separate legal personality, but that it acts by direction from directors and shareholders. Provided that company law requirements have been followed - there is no difficulty. Everyone has access to the relevant company records at Companies House and can see who the directors etc are - subject to the rules on smaller companies (changed by GB!).

As to the donation by individuals through what could be called 'secret agency' - this is expressly prohibited under the law passed by Labour and it is odd that they seem to get caught out by their own law - again.

For reasons already explained, I don't think that your continued accusation about the Flying Lion stuff is sustained. I suppose you could always employ a lawyer to Judicially review the decision of the Electoral Commission or the Committee for Standards (writing that down does make it sound Stalinist) ...

As to Michael Ashcroft's status - as with anyone, tax status is a matter for him. I accept that he told the appointments body that he would change his status if appointed to the Lords - and for all we know he has done so. He won't say - the Revenue cannot tell anyone (although it could always get lost in the post, I suppose) - to be a donor he would have to satisfy the law and for that, I believe he would need to be registered to vote. Of course, registration for voting and tax status are not the same thing and they never have been ...

Chris Paul said...

I am not suggesting any equivalence Ewan.

But I think :

(1) Ashcroft gained a peerage following millions in donations to Tories and with (i) no other great reason why he should be ennobled, and (ii) on appeal after being rejected at least twice.

He was ennobled ON THE BASIS of a promise that he would come on shore and pay personal tax here, and of course be registered to vote here - that is an absolute requirement, except in the matter of "travel".

There is no visible sign that he has done this (a) at all or (b) in the time frame required. In the interests of transparency all this should be out in the open should it not?

(2) Do bears shit in the woods? Does Bearwood Securities trade in the UK in anything other than a contrived way and in dolling out vast donations? If not, is that good enough? The suggestion which others have been making is that if Michael's UK status is pretty uncertain and the company he is using as an agent is an hilarious joke about bears and woods with little other activity then that stinks like a bear pit.

3. I'm not aware that the Flying Lion stuff has been tested legally in any real way. Tory blogs saying it's fine don't count. A judicial review would be premature without something other than a summary shufty or less, surely?

Perhaps you would at least agree with me that the intended purpose of the loophole on travel i.e. travel relevant to the donor's and the recipients legitimate interests is not the purpose to which it is being put?

And that such spirit-contrary if not letter-contrary use should be closed down?

And that the values put on the travel are just plain silly?

tory boys never grow up said...


I think you are wrong legally - the section of PPERA which talks about donors and agents refers to "persons" and not "individuals" - and legally companies are "persons" - so it is quite possible for them to act as "agents".

In the case of Ashcroft he himself talks about "my donations" - see his recent Telegraph article - yet he has never made a donation to the Conservative Party in his own name - which is a pretty good indication that he thinks Bearwood his is agent. All the capital of Bearwood Securities appears to be provided by Ashcroft companies and there is no indication that it has any business in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter) other than giving to the Tories (is that a business) All of which are further indicators that Bearwood Securities is Ashcroft's agent rather than an independent donor in its own rights.

It is worth looking at the email which was sent to Peter Watts and the other parties and it makes clear that "agents" should not be used for the purpose of either hiding donors identity (which Ashcroft hasn't done to be fair to him) or to make otherwise impermissible donations - the question is not really about Ashcroft's tax status but whether he is on the UK Electoral Register and hence a permissible donor. I am afraid I have never seen any record of Ashcroft ever answering this question. You do need to ask the question as to why he is using Bearwood for his donations?

I agree with you that there is little question about whether Flying Lion is a permissible donor (unless it is also acting as an agent) - but there is still the question about whether the donations where reported at their proper market value - and in the real world private planes do not cost the same as BA tickets!

Chris Paul said...

Thanks TBNGU. On the last matter LA clearly is using FL as an agent - so the same worries about his own status may apply - and the loophole should be closed asap. Unless the government reckkon that having a load of champagne swilling toffs and charlies jetting round the world in the fast lane and trying to hide the true cost is actually a story that helps show them up as aristos that need the attentions of madame guillotine.

Evan Price said...

"the question is not really about Ashcroft's tax status but whether he is on the UK Electoral Register and hence a permissible donor."

I suspect that CCHQ will have checked this ... and possibly the Electoral Commission too ...

As to the company status - companies are legal persons, yes; they have separate legal personality and act by their directors. They could be agents, but provided that they act by their directors and use their own funds to provide donations and provided that they comply with company law in relation to political donations, I suspect that they will not be considered to be mere 'agents', regardless of what Ashcroft says about 'his' donations.

Agents are banned, as I understand it. Companies complying with their own legal and constitutional requirements can make donations as they choose - acting by their directors.

One of the odd features of all of this is that Martin/Abrahams could have set up a general objects company, capitalised it, others could have held the shares in it on trust and the directors could have then dealt with the income as they chose and so long as they complied with the law on company donations and capital reduction.

Where Martin/Abrahams has moved to the impermissible is that he has donated money through an agent, possibly without the agent even being aware (although that seems less likely now), without the principal(Martin/Abrahams) being disclosed. He did it, he says, because he wanted to remain anonymous.

That people in Labour appear to have thought that this was OK is more troubling ... as it directly contravened the law that they passed.

anonymous (3) said...

So that's it then? Another turgid and incomprhensible exchange of comments which proves nothing either way.

You've got to decide what you are Chris. A popular blogger or just a small niche wacko. You obviously don't have the access or inside knowledge to break stories - unlike Guido and Iain Dale - or the intellectual capacity of Dizzy.

Stick to what you know - local spats with LibDem councillors, walking your dogs, running in the woods etc - and don't spend so much of your time trying to be a great national political blogger because you are never going to be one.

Just trying to help.

Chris Paul said...

Guido and Dale aren't breaking stories you muppet. They are pretending, copying MSM outlets without attribution, re-running other bloggers' stories without hat tips and/or generally pontificating and speculating.

Dale in particular is appallingly bad at revisiting his speculations that tuern out wrong.

And Dizzy as intellectual? You are having a laugh. It's opinionated arrogance from all three. Tell us where your blog is and we can see what's what there. Oh go on! Go on! Go on!