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 unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain