Revealed: Ex-Conservative minister Lord Blencathra paid to lobby for island tax haven

 

A former Conservative minister with close links to the Government is sitting as a peer in the House of Lords while simultaneously lobbying on behalf of a Caribbean tax haven.

Lord Blencathra, a former MP and Tory chief whip, is being paid by the Cayman Islands government to represent the interests of its financial services industry – despite also being able to vote on legislation affecting the territory.

Inquiries by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent have established that Lord Blencathra has lobbied on behalf of the Caymans while claiming thousands of pounds in House of Lords attendance allowances.

At present there are no clear rules stopping members of the House of Lords effectively acting as paid lobbyists for companies or other governments despite widespread criticisms from transparency campaigners.

In the past few months, Lord Blencathra has:

* Lobbied the Chancellor George Osborne to reduce the burden of air passenger transport taxes on the Caymans.

* Facilitated an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caymans for three senior MPs with an interest in the islands over the Easter recess, including the chairman of the influential Conservative backbench 1922 Committee.

* Followed an Early Day Motion in the Commons calling for the Caymans to be closed down as a tax haven by trying to introduce the MP responsible, the former Treasury Select Committee member John Cryer, to members of a Cayman Islands delegation in London. (The meeting never took place.)

Lord Blencathra, who was ennobled in 2011 after standing down as an MP in the 2010 general election, has claimed up to £5,500 a month in attendance allowances in the House of Lords.

Even after the Government's proposed lobbying reforms take effect, Lord Blencathra would not have to declare his role as a lobbyist for the islands in the new register of lobbyists. Last night Labour called for there to be a ban on peers working as lobbyists. He has not raised the Cayman Islands in any public interventions in the Lords and said he had been scrupulous in avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

"I have been meticulous in ensuring that I have no conflict of interest between that role and my duties in the Lords," he said in a statement. "You cannot point to one single incident, speech, vote or question where I have sought to advance the Cayman Islands in the Lords." Asked if his activities were compatible with the House of Lords code of conduct, Lord Blencathra said: "You have confused lobbying Parliament, which I do not do, with lobbying the Government which I do."

On the register of Lords' interests Lord Blencathra, formerly David Maclean, declares that he is director of Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom. But as he himself admitted during a recent visit to the island, the role is effectively one of a lobbyist and he was hired not for his knowledge of the British Overseas Territory but for his political understanding and connections. He told the islands' media: "I've been appointed as I have 27 years' experience as an MP, 10 to 12 years experience in a British government and I'm still a parliamentarian in a different colour of the corridor in Westminster." He added: "I don't pretend to be an expert on Cayman but I've not been employed to do that job. My role is to make sure I can feed that advice in to government ministers, to the Civil Service ... on behalf of the Cayman Islands government."

The premier of the Cayman Islands William Mckeeva Bush said of his appointment: "I am delighted a politician with David's experience will ensure our interests are protected at a time when tax-neutral jurisdictions are the subject of such malicious and ill-informed attacks."

George Osborne has come under pressure to crack down on tax havens like the Caymans – where many UK companies are based for tax purposes. The Caymans, with a population of around 50,000, is home to 70 per cent of hedge fund registrations worldwide.

Since his appointment Lord Blencathra has contacted Mr Cryer, after he submitted an Early Day Motion calling for the Caymans to be closed as a tax haven. Mr Cryer said: "I just got this email from Lord Blencathra asking if I would meet with a delegation from the Caymans who were in London. I had no idea at the time that he was being paid to lobby for them. It is outrageous for him, as a parliamentarian, to be doing that. Members of the House of Lords should not be representing foreign governments. If those governments want to lobby people they should be doing it themselves."

The peer approached the International Bar Association to discuss its task force on human rights and illicit financial flows before the task force had launched. He said he did so "to offer assistance". And he sent a letter to the Labour MP Angela Eagle after she raised a question about his appointment.

Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett said: "It can't be right for a member of the legislature, responsible for setting tax policy, to be employed by a well-known tax haven." Labour MP Thomas Docherty added: "David Maclean should not be paid by the Crown as a sitting member of the House of Lords and by the Cayman Islands – he shouldn't be wearing both hats at the same time."

Lord Blencathra insisted in a statement: "That is what all representatives do – we make points to the British Government, the EU, the media, MPs, the public on behalf of the member governments. There are over 150 ambassadors and representatives in London doing that all the time. I have seen no suggestion in any other quarter that making representations on behalf of a loyal British Territory is inappropriate."

Profile: Lord Blencathra

David Maclean (as he then was) was the former Tory Chief Whip who led an unsuccessful rearguard action to prevent the Freedom of Information Act from being applied to MPs.

If he had pulled it off, the expenses scandal would never have come to light – which is why his expenses were subjected to special scrutiny. They included £20,000 claimed for doing up the farmhouse which he said he was forced to designate as his second home, which he then sold for £750,000; and £3,300 for a quad bike that he used to get around his large rural constituency, Penrith and The Border.

Despite the publicity, his political career might have survived but for the multiple sclerosis that forced him to quit the Commons at the 2010 election.

Earlier, he had a reputation as a waspish minister who, remarkably, turned down the chance to join the Cabinet. His former Tory colleague, Matthew Parris, once suggested that in medieval times, Maclean would have made a good Minister for Exterminating Witches.

A tenant farmer's son, born in Cromarty in 1953, he took up Tory politics at Aberdeen University, and narrowly won a by-election in Penrith in 1983.

When Margaret Thatcher fell in 1990, the Tory right, including Maclean, backed John Major to succeed her, but unlike many other Thatcherites, Maclean remained loyal to him through all his political troubles. The offer of a Cabinet job was Major's way of saying thank you.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone