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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game