Andy McSmith's Diary: Lord Ashcroft moans about missing the boat on tax exemption

 

Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire peer who made his fortune in Belize and elsewhere and who almost single-handedly kept the Conservative Party financially afloat during the lean years after Labour’s 1997 landslide, seems to be very cross that there is no escape from the House of Lords.

He was put up for a peerage in 1999 by William Hague but the political honours scrutiny committee at first blocked his nomination, then laid down the condition he should make the UK his home. This was understood by others to imply that he should become a UK taxpayer, but having refused to discuss his tax arrangement for 10 years, Ashcroft finally revealed, just before the 2010 election, that he was a non-dom, paying UK tax on only part of his income.

That same year the new government passed a law, which included a Section 41, which laid down that any MP or peer would in future be deemed to be a UK resident for tax purposes, regardless of where they made or kept their money. MPs who wanted to stash their cash abroad could always escape this clause by quitting Parliament, but a peer is a peer for life. So peers were given a one-off chance to resign, which a handful did.

What Lord Ashcroft seems to have missed is that it was only a one-off opportunity, and those still in the Lords are fated to be treated by HMRC as UK taxpayers for as long as they live. His latest, cross sounding written question demanded:  “Are there any proposals to allows members of the House of Lords to be exempted from Section 41 if they take permanent leave of absence and do not attend the House of Lords thereafter; and, if not, why not?”

The reply from the minister responsible can be summarised in one word – “No”.

Are Mail readers stifling opinion in Bahrain?

Here at home, the Daily Mail is leading a vehement campaign to protect press freedom from what they perceive to be the threat posed by Parliament. Meanwhile, in Bahrain there is no free press. There have been street protest for months about the absence of freedom. Now, the Gulf Daily News, which calls itself the Voice of Bahrain, has claimed triumphantly that world opinion  is turning against the protesters, because - they report - “Comments posted on the website of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper … were overwhelmingly in favour of the police.”

You hear the craziest things in Cambridge

Attracting a lot of ‘likes’, this extraordinary message is on the Overheard at Cambridge Facebook page: "In Sainsburys, I ended up in the queue for the self-checkouts behind the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rowan Williams (pointing to my neck): Is that a Lord of the Rings pendant?

Me: Yes, it's a replica of the One Ring.

Rowan Williams: Ah, I thought so. More of a Game of Thrones man, myself.

Mind. Blown."

Tweeters take Helm to task

The war between the Political Editor of The Observer and the writer or writers of an anonymous Twitter account called Tory Education News gets nastier. It cranked up after The Observer alleged last month that two special advisers working the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, are among the contributors to the feed.

This has so infuriated whoever writes Tory Education News that they have posted no fewer than 35 personal attacks on Toby Helm, The Observer’s Political Editor, in 35 days. He has been called a ‘Labour stooge’, a ‘laughing stock’ and a “halfwit”. He is further accused of having supported the creation of the euro, a charge that appears to date back to the late 1990s, when he was Brussels correspondent for The Telegraph, and Gove’s abrasive special adviser, Dominic Cummings, was running the anti-euro campaign.

Late on Monday night, an anonymous @toryeducation writer was busy again, tweeting: “@tobyhelm Your colleagues say you sent your kids to private school. They being unfair?”

Helm says: “That is factually 100 per cent wrong. All my children went to state primary schools and they are all at the same state Academy school.”

If it is ever proved, as The Observer alleged, that this stuff is being posted by highly paid government employees, it will blow up like the scandal that ended the career of Gordon Brown’s adviser, Damian McBride.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Data Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of this mu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness