Leading article: The virtues of transparency

Share
Related Topics

Last week the Conservative Party chairman, Eric Pickles, suggested that his deputy, Lord Ashcroft, would be "very happy" to give a media interview to clear up the uncertainty over his tax status. But that suggestion has been met with a flat refusal from the Conservative peer.

And silence, it would appear, is contagious. We report today on the refusal of the shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to confirm what took place on a trip in 2007, partly funded by one of Lord Ashcroft's companies, to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where the wealthy peer has business interests.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Lord Ashcroft, but the lack of transparency that continues to surround his tax status is nonetheless worrying. He was awarded a peerage on the specific condition that he would become a UK resident by the end of 2000. Yet, almost 10 years later, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, will only say that Lord Ashcroft is "meeting" that undertaking.

Last week Mr Cameron said that it was "absolutely right" that the Tory candidate for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, should rescind his non-domicile tax status and become a UK resident. So why allow this haze of ambiguity to linger over Lord Ashcroft's tax status? After all, Lord Ashcroft is a considerably more influential figure than Mr Goldsmith, channelling large sums directly into Conservative constituency offices in marginal seats. As for William Hague, his statement in the House of Commons Register of Members' Financial Interests makes it clear that he made the Turks and Caicos trip "in my capacity as shadow Foreign Secretary". There is a clear public interest in the activities of an individual who could be directing British foreign policy in a matter of months.

The row over MPs' expenses has demonstrated that secrecy and money are an unhealthy – and unpopular – mix in politics. If he is sensible Mr Cameron will make a virtue of transparency in the run-up to the next election, starting with the affairs of his shadow Foreign Secretary and his deputy party chairman.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz