What will the political fallout from the peers lobbying scandal be?

An intriguing report in today’s Sunday Times:

PEERS who avoid tax or have criminal convictions – such as Lord Archer and Lord Black – are to be expelled from the House of Lords in the wake of the lords for hire scandal.

The reforms are being drawn up by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, in an attempt to restore the Lords’ battered reputation after last weekend’s revelations in The Sunday Times. He plans to enact the legislation necessary to expel them before the general election…

Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire Tory donor, has repeatedly refused to confirm his tax status, while Lord Laidlaw, the Conservatives’ biggest donor, lives in Monaco and is widely reported to be a tax exile.

Lord Paul, the steel magnate and billionaire Labour donor, and Baroness Gardner, the Australian Conservative peer, are both openly non-domiciled. Lord Foster, the architect who is a cross-bencher, lives in Switzerland. His staff refuse to answer questions about his tax status. ..

A private member’s bill on nondoms and nonresidents, drawn up by Matthew Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer, and going through the Lords, is likely to be used as a template.

“Nondom and nonresident peers can hide their income in tropical tax havens: they must pay up or pack up. Meanwhile, peers convicted of fraud or perjury can stroll out of the prison gates after breakfast and into the division lobby after lunch. Tax-dodgers, bung-takers, fraudsters and perjurers must be cleared out of parliament now,” Oakeshott said.

Until this scandal, the chances of Matthew Oakeshott’s proposals becoming law looked slim. But if Labour co-opts them, then Labour and Liberal Democrat support would be sufficient to get them through both houses of Parliament.

Questions for David Cameron over Lord Ashcroft

It will leave the Conservatives, and David Cameron in particular, in a tricky situation. Until now Cameron has stayed decidedly quiet on the question of why Laidlaw and Ashcroft – and their money – are both still welcome in the Conservative Party, despite apparently having broken the promises they made when appointed to the House of Lords (on which see here regarding Lord Ashcroft and here regarding Lord Laidlaw, about whom the Lords Appointments Commission said it would not have approved his peerage if it had known that he would not honour his promise).

Cameron has faced little pressure over Laidlaw until now, and has tried to brush off Ashcroft’s tax status as not being a matter him – even though by accepting his money and letting him hold senior office in the Conservative Party, Cameron is in effect saying, ‘I don’t think it matters whether or not he got into the House of Lords on the basis of a promise which he then broke.’

Faced with legislation going through Parliament, he is going to have to come off the fence on the issue. Which way will he jump?

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3 Comments

  • Free vote!

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Excellent questions that should be answered by the Tories.
    However here are some other questions for the Liberal Democrats:

    1/ Why has the party not taken action against its own peers who are breaking party rules forbidding the sale of their services as political lobbyists whilst being members of the Lords?

    2/ Why did Lord Goodhart submit legal advice to the party’s Federal Executive stating that to remove the right to be simultaneously a peer and political lobbyist threatened Lib Dem Peers human rights?

    3/ Has Lord Oakshott held any directorships of or benefited from any off-shore tax haven based companies and if so how many?

    4/ Has Lord Razzall, former Lib Dem Treasurer had and if so how many directorships of off-shore tax-haven companies?

    5/ What actions did the current Lib Dem party treasurer Lord Clement Jones carry out on behalf of the Cayman Islands tax haven, when selling his services to them as a political lobbyist whilst a Lib Dem peer, in direct contravention of party rules?

    6/ Why were activists who demanded enforcement of the party’s rules on political lobbying in the Lords threatened with legal action and asked to resign from the Party;s Federal Executive, instead of those breaking the rules?

    7/ When will the party take action against the Lib Dem peers who are breaking the Official Code of Conduct of the Professional Political Lobbyists Association?

    8/ Why do the Liberal Democrats allow professional political lobbyists to be members of its Federal Policy Committee and Federal Conference Committee?

    9/ Why did the Liberal Democrats allow its then spokesperson on health in the Lords to be hired by the European Drinks Federation as a professional political lobbyist?

    10/ How many of those involved in the negotiations over the £2.4 million donation of what courts have now proven to be stolen money to the Liberal Democrats, were either professional political lobbyists, directors or beneficiaries of tax haven off-shore companies?

    11/ How many of those involved with the stolen £2.4 million pounds still hold positions of responsibility in the party ?

    best
    D McCarthy

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