Andrea Leadsom received £70,000 donation from family firm with parent company controlled in tax haven
Leadsom given £700,000 as Osborne cracks down on avoidance schemes
Andrea Leadsom, a high-flying Treasury minister, received more than £70,000 from a family business, the parent company of which is controlled out of the Virgin Islands tax haven.
The payments, which appear to be within the letter of the rules for political donations, have been criticised because of the contrast with the Treasury’s stated aim of combating tax avoidance by chanelling money through off-shore firms.
Entries in back numbers of the MPs’ Register of Members’ Interest, which have since been removed from the current Register, show that in 2010 and 2011 Ms Leadsom received a series of payments varying from £5,000 to £20,000 from a firm called Gloucester Research, which later changed its name to GR Software and Research.
The money was used to pay the salaries of staff in Ms Leadsom’s Westminster office after her election in 2010 as MP for South Northamptonshire.
Gloucester Research was a London-based firm, which meant that the donations conformed to a strict rule banning political donations from abroad.
But what the Register did not reveal is that Gloucester Research was owned by Pans (UK) Holdings, based in the secretive offshore haven. Both are among a host of companies controlled by Ms Leadsom’s sister’s husband, Peter de Putron. It emerged last week that Guernsey-based Mr de Putron had made donations of £816,000 to the Conservative party, also through GR.
As well as Mr de Putron, Ms Leadsom’s husband Ben Leadsom is a director of GR Software & Research.
The Labour MP Tom Watson said: “These very large donations might be within the rules, but it certainly isn’t right that a Treasury minister has been taking money in this way. Most reasonable people will see this as completely unreasonable.”
A spokesman for Ms Leadsom said: “The donations are made by UK companies, employing hundreds of UK staff, and generating UK profits – they are fully transparent and properly declared.”
A Tory spokesman added: “All donations to the Conservative Party are fully permissible and declared to the Electoral Commission in accordance with the rules.”
The most recent accounts for the company – which are for 2012 – show a blizzard of transfers of money and loans between GR Software and other du Putron companies including his hedge fund DP Management.
It made £14m in profit but managed to get its tax bill down from what would have been £3.4m at the standard corporation tax rate to just £386 thanks to writing off balances of other group companies.
The company, which has an address in Bloomsbury, central London, makes clear that it donated £155,500 to the Conservative party in the year to 31 December 2012, plus £463,750 to the Open Europe think-tank.
The revelations of Ms Leadsom’s financial links come at a time when the Chancellor George Osborne has undertaken to clamp down on “aggressive” tax avoidance. This has included claiming millions of pounds in back tax from the comedian Jimmy Carr, the singer Gary Barlow and two other members of Take That, and other users of controversial tax-avoidance schemes.
On Sunday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, suggested that wealthy individuals and large companies who aggressively avoid paying tax are breaking Christian teaching. “There’s a passage in the Epistle to the Romans that says pay your tax,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.
“People have a duty to make a proper contribution to society, proportionate to their income. Therefore, if they’re doing very well, they should be paying quite a lot. There have to be serious questions about some of these tax avoidance schemes.”
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