Monday, 1 March 2010

Is Lord Ashcroft's un-taxed cash funding Cornwall Conservative campaigns?

So Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft has finally admitted that he doesn't pay proper tax in the UK. He has 'non-dom' status which means that he avoids paying UK tax on the vast majority of his income.

He has said that he will change this status next year - if the law is changed - but has (legally) escaped paying full UK taxes for many years. This seems in contrast to what the Conservatives told us back in 2000 when he became a peer. Then the message was that Lord Ashcroft would be resident in the UK for tax purposes. According to his statement today, that did not happen and is still not the case.

This matters because Lord Ashcroft is also a major funder of the Conservative marginal seats campaign. The Electoral Commission is currently investigating whether this funding has been legal and it would clearly be good for transparency if they reach a conclusion before the General Election.

So the questions to all six Conservative Candidates in Cornwall are these:

  • Have you received any money or donations in kind from Lord Ashcroft or his company Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd since 2000?
  • If so, are you happy to receive money from someone who has not been paying full UK tax?
  • If the Electoral Commission rules that Lord Ashcroft and Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd were not entitled to donate to you, will you guarantee to repay the money received immediately and without quibbling?
I've emailed all six Conservative candidates today with these questions.


Anonymous said...

How strange,you seem to have forgotten Mr Michael Brown,perhaps you could remind your readers about him...

Alex Folkes said...

Of course. Mr Brown was a crook who is rightly punished for his crimes. However, the Electoral Commission investigated fully and found that the Lib Dems completed all that they could be asked to do in terms of checking where the money came from. The Commission found that the Party was entitled to believe that the money was clean.

The difference from Lord Ashcroft is clear. William Hague made a promise about his tax status and this has still not been fulfilled.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that Ashcroft is perfectly entitled to spend his money as he sees fit,he has broken no laws,Mr Brown on the other hand was a time serving criminal,and your party did everything it could to hold onto his money,not suprising as of course so few people actually want to support it with their money

Alex Folkes said...

Except that Lord Ashcroft is not legally entitled to spend money as he sees fit if he does not comply with the laws on party finance which do not permit foreign donations.

You are incorrect to say that Mr Brown was a known 'dodgy donor' when the money was accepted - something that the Electoral Commission has made clear.

It seems clear that Lord Ashcroft and the Conservatives misled us when they said in 2000 that he would be paying full tax in the UK. He appears to be trying to buy votes with dodgy dosh.

Anonymous said...

So do you have any evidence that he is not"legally entitled" to make these donations or that the money is "dodgy dosh"I must admit i havent seen anyone else make such claims so I assume you have some knowledge/evidence to back up those statements,Iwas under the impression all the donations came through a UK company ,thats legal(as long as its trading,do you know something no one else does about the company?)
Lord Ashcroft like Labour supporting non doms pays income tax on his UK earnings,perfectly legal,are you against all non doms making donations?,do any for example make donations to your party?If they do can we assume youll be campaigning for that money to be returned?

Alex Folkes said...

As stated previously, Lord Ashcroft's company - Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd - is under investigation by the Electoral Commission to establish whether it is genuinely trading in the UK. (Afraid I can't link in comments, but today's Independent refers to this in its piece on 'Ashcroft's unanswered questions').

I believe that this investigation needs to be completed as soon as possible and, in any case, before the General Election. If the Commission finds that it was not donating legally then all £10million or so that it has donated to the Conservatives will have to be returned. I think it would be utterly wrong for the Conservatives to win seats with dodgy money -if- it is proved that this money was not legally donated.

If the Commission finds that the Bearwood donations were legal then I will accept that ruling and shut up.

As for non-dom donors in general - I don't think political parties in the UK should be taking money from non-doms. I don't know if the Lib Dems have received any such donations but would urge the Party not to accept them and return any received.

Anonymous said...

Ah,now we get the "if" are clutching at straws..As you are so keen on asking questions about donations,why dont you check with Lib Dems hq whether theyve received any donations fron non doms?

Alex Folkes said...

I'm afraid that you are the one making categoric statements without the ability to back them up. I have always made it clear what is allegation or under investigation and what is fact.

My position on non-dom donors is absolutely clear. Let's get a a bit of clarity from you. Should the Tory Party be accepting money from a non-dom? Should the Tories not come clean about what they knew about Ashcroft's tax status and when? If (stress, if) Ashcroft's company is proved not to have legally given the money it has, should the Tories return it all without quibbling?

Anonymous said...

Come on now Alex,Ashcroft like all non doms pays taxes on his British earnings,therefore hes a taxpayer in the uk,your talk of "proper" taxes and "un taxed cash" is weasal talk and you know it,yes non doms should be allowed to contribute to political parties,(Is it Lib Dem policy that they shouldnt?)why you are so interested in Ashcroft is beyond me,his % contribution to the party is small,I assume you dont like it as he runs an excellent ship and is targetting his money which is likely to mean even less Lib Dem MPs (boo hoo,I want my free hairdryer from the taxpayer, blast ive mislaid all the receipts,oh look julia thats a nice bit of furniture,you should get the taxpayer to get you, ,but ill answer your other questions,if any party receives funding that is illegal that should refund at once,not something your party did with the crook Brown,but never mind,now as i asked are you going to find out if any non doms have ever given money to your party,you are very keen on writing letters to people and questioning them so im sure you can find time,ill look forward to you posting youve done so and i await the reply with interest,as a matter of interest,are you in favour of central government funding for political partys?

Alex Folkes said...

Dear Moat Boy
(I assume that you are happy with that designation as you seem happy to saddle me with all my party's failings)

As I said, I have no idea whether the Lib Dems have received non-dom cash. My personal opinion is that, whilst not illegal per se, I don't think parties should take such money.

There are excellent questions being asked about just how Ashcroft came by non-dom status and Michael Gove himself has said that he should not be so enmeshed with the Tory Party.

I think we should leave it to the Electoral Commission to judge what is legal or not in party funding. They have made their judgement on Brown and I would like them to reach a conclusion on Ashcroft as soon as possible.

I am personally not in favour of any further forms of central funding for political parties.

Anonymous said...

So your distaste for Non doms giving money to poitical partys doesnt actually extend to finding out whether any have donated to your party,suprise,suprise..

philip_kerridge said...

The Lib Dems have admitted to accepting dosh from non dom donors (£354k from Bruno Sangle-Ferriere)but not to placing them in the House of Lords. Like George Young they have been honest accepting these donations. However GY was immediately stamped upon by Cameron who has been economical with the truth about Ashcroft for years. Cameron also jumped on non dom Zac Goldsmith but not Ashcroft. Why? Cameron's economy and duplicity are as scandalous as the the donations. Why does anonymous lack the courage of his lack of conviction?