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Hague on Ashcroft

Nick Robinson | 10:13 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

People have to ask what all the fuss was about.

William Hague and Lord AshcroftSo said William Hague this morning when for the first time in 10 years he chose to answer fully rather than avoid questions about the friend, ally and multi million pound Tory donor who he put in the House of Lords.

Mr Hague insisted that Cabinet documents leaked to the BBC which outline the negotiations that led to that peerage proved that there was "no secret Tory deal" and that the hurdle that Ashcroft had to cross to become a peer was "always about him becoming resident" - not, in other words, about his tax status.

The fuss is, and will continue to be, about the funding of British politics and not the precise tax status of members of the House of Lords.

Ashcroft has boasted that he might be this country's largest political donor. He has said that his heart is in Belize along, of course, with many of his millions. It was, therefore, inevitable that questions would always be asked about him and his role.

What's more David Cameron has called for an end to the perception that political donations can buy honours, favours or position and he's argued for transparency.

Only now - under pressure from Freedom of Information - are we seeing a steady flow of information which has been held behind closed doors for so long.

For 10 years William Hague has known that Lord Ashcroft had no intention of becoming a full UK taxpayer merely to satisfy the demands of his political enemies.

This despite the fact that, as Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hague had written to Tony Blair in 1999 to say that:

"Mr Ashcroft is...committed to becoming resident by the next financial year in order properly to fulfil his responsibilities in the House of Lords. This decision will cost him (and benefit the Treasury) tens of millions a year in tax yet he considers it worthwhile."

This morning Mr Hague conceded that promise to pay tens of millions more in tax should, perhaps, not have been made and might well not have been met.

How then could the former Tory leader and his successor, David Cameron, claim that they only finally learnt that Ashcroft was a "non-dom" in the past few months?

Simple - they never demanded the answer about his current tax status since they regarded it as a private matter and were satisfied that, despite claims to the contrary, Ashcroft had done all that had been asked of him.

It's clear that Hague deeply resented the fact that his friend was initially blocked for elevation to the Lords.

Today's documents confirm that in order to secure a peerage Ashcroft promised to become a "permanent resident". In negotiations spanning from May to June 2000 he persuaded officials from the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet Office that he did not need to become a full UK taxpayer.

He could, instead, become a "long term resident" paying tax here on his UK but not his worldwide earnings. Hague was told all of this.

It's also clear that some, perhaps all, members of the Scrutiny Committee wanted Ashcroft to go further - by becoming a full UK taxpayer - the course implied in Hague's letter to Blair.

Ever since Ashcroft has told people in private that his tax status is none of their business; pointed out "non-doms" sit on Labour's benches in the Lords; he's given assurances that he's met the undertakings asked of him; and insisted that he would not give in to pressure from his enemies and what he describes as "the left wing media".

The result has been that in public the Tories have looked evasive and secretive about their principal funder - in other words "the fuss" Mr Hague dismissed this morning which has threatened to undermine David Cameron's four year mission to "decontaminate" the Tory brand.

The Tory leader's allies say that he deserves credit for reducing his party's dependence on Ashcroft and for, eventually, insisting that he reveal his tax status. They now demand that Labour reveals who are its "non-dom" donors and why Gordon Brown made Lord Paul - a "non-dom" - a Privy Councillor.

The moral of the story is that rather like MPs when it came to their expenses, Messrs Hague, Ashcroft and Cameron did not foresee the impact of Freedom of Information and the fact that it forces out into the public domain things that politicians would prefer never saw the light of day.

Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    In other words, the Tories have lied about Ashcroft's tax status just as blatantly as Gordon Brown lied to the Chilcot inquiry about defence funding.

    Perhaps the Tories are going to point out that they are merely offering a "clarification" of what they said earlier, which seems to be the current political speak for "correction of the blatant lie I told now that I have been found out.

    Tories, Labour, both as bad as each other, and not to be trusted as far as you could spit across a duck house into a moat.

  • Comment number 2.

    How about the Prime Minister making mistakes to the Iraq enquiry and the House. Is this his only mistake or the first of many? Will the BBC find out not if they take the line of least resistance. Expenses ring any bells. The Cabinet Office leak a document to the BBC!!!!!! How was an arrested for receiving Home Office information and now the PMs office has a leak!!!!!! This is a fit up to take the spotlight off the deviousness of the PM. The BBC should be ashamed at swallowing this. Parliament and the press should hold the executive to account not do their bidding.

  • Comment number 3.

    Are you trying to keep this bubbling away till the election? It will be interesting to see if you can keep Whelan et al simmering nicely too.

  • Comment number 4.

    So how many posts on Ashcroft now? Still i suppose nothing else interesting has happened has it?

    cough...Chilcott...cough...Brown...cough

    Nothing to see here, move along...

  • Comment number 5.

    "In other words, the Tories have lied about Ashcroft's tax status just as blatantly as Gordon Brown lied to the Chilcot inquiry about defence funding."
    I think you're exaggerating here. Certainly they have misled (themselves?) but I don't recall ever being clear enough on his tax status to have siad a lie either way... quite unlike Brown on defence funding.

    At any rate, I'll be voting Lib Dem!

  • Comment number 6.

    The tories looked 'evasive and secretive' ... whereas newlabour look like a model of probity, right?

    So why three inquiries onto Iraq? Why a prime minister having to apologise to the last inquiry for misleading them about cuts in spending? So why a prime minister compounding this error inparliament by refering to 'one or two occasions' when it was four real cuts in defence spending?

    It's all nonsense and will only be settled by an election.

    Call one.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick Robinson's judgement must be questioned. We are told that Gordon Brown cut the forces budget, in real terms, in four of the ten years he was chancellor. We know that the forces did not have the necessary equipment to perform their mission, so the Generals' opinions that this underfunding cost lives appears justified.

    So there must be editorial questions asked whether another labour spin about Ashcroft is "news" (Remember Nick, the Cabinet Office is run by a Labour Minister so this can hardly be news to them)

    So Nick, an honest answer please, Soldiers' lives or Labour spin. Which is news?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    And they wonder why the masses are disenchanted with the Westminster village.......just goes to demonstrate that they are all as bad as each other...again!!

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    I am confused!! Lord Ashcroft pays tax on earnings made in the UK. Why should he pay UK tax on earnings made in Belize. That would be double taxation. After all these taxes paid in Belize go into the exchequer there. Would someone please explain what all the fuss is about. Or am I being a bit thick?

  • Comment number 12.

    "People have to ask what all the fuss was about."

    Yes Nick!

    I am rather more concerned about a malevolent Trade Union attempting to influence government policy by tugging the purse strings.

    It's obviously illegal to bribe MPs individually, but does this not amount to cash-for-policies?

    Does Unite's attempt to get overseas unions to join the battle against BA give 'flying pickets' a whole new meaning? As for enlisting foreign trade unionists to take action against British travellers, does this not smack of treason?

    Also, there is the question of Trade Unions receiving vast sums of taxpayers money through Labour's Union Modernisation Fund, then donating large sums to the Labour party.

    By the way, if Unite is a modernised union, we have truly travelled back in time to the 1970s. This stinks and should be investigated. Perhaps we should send for DCI Gene Hunt?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Am eagerly awaiting 'Brown on Paul'

    Expect to wait a long time for some reason.

  • Comment number 15.

    I feel sorry for Hague and Cameron, if they have not lied then they have shown themselves to have been duped by Ashcroft. Not the sort of material for Ministerial positions. If there are other non-doms in the Lords then OUT THEM and get shot of them regardless of their "good works" (if any). No matter what we have to pay our taxes without gaining honours but by just being honourable. There does not seem to be much of the latter in either the Lords or Commons right now.

  • Comment number 16.

    Yawn! Anything to divert away from Chilcot and Unit, it seems Nick!

    Chase the facts about Labour non-doms. Dig into their affairs as ruthlessly as you are Ashcroft.

    Follow the money in the Whelan/Unite affair. Nearly half the Commons owned by Unite, getting salaries, expenses AND union funding! Senior Downing St official paid for, free election campaign for Labour. Where's the money for their striking members?

    Investigate the facts that our PM and former Chancellor misled the Chilcot enquiry. How could he not know the financial facts?! He held the nation's purse strings!

    Impartial reporting? Ha! My foot! This is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 17.

    So Ashcroft really is a non story.

    He gave a commitment, agreed with the Cabinet Office (run by Labour Ministers), to pay UK tax on his UK earnings; this allowed him to qualify for a peerage (under Labour's revised rules).

    In other words, he did what was required but nevertheless preferred to keep his personal circumstances and finances private. As do the rest of us. Hence his refusal to comment.

    Labour have tried to use his right to keep his personal affairs private as a stick to attack him mercilessly. Labour have accused him of behaving in an underhand way, despite the Cabinet Office (run by Labour Ministers) having approved his arrangements.

    Why? Simply because he threatened Labour's interests because he was a major donor to the opposing party.

    So, forget about democracy and the rule of law then: if a perfectly respectable, wealthy individal chooses to donate money to the Tories (rather than Labour), in circumstances agreed by the Labour run Cabinet Office, Labour's approach is to smear and dissemble against that individual purely because they are backing the opposing party.

    Great sense of British fair play then? No, just smears against someone Labour doesn't like because he dares to back the other side.

    I feel really proud that I voted for them the first two times. NOT.

    Now compare this non story re Ashcroft with Labour's funding arrangements: I had no idea until yesterday that virtually half the Labour MP's, not to mention Cabinet Ministers, were paid up - and paid for - members of the Unite Union.

    Labour need to go; they are nasty, corrupt and corrupting. They stop at nothing to smear the innocent where they perceive their interests may be threatened.

    I cannot describe my contempt for their behaviour, and the way they've run this once great country. I regret voting for them. I will also feel that regret for the next 20 years as I pay higher taxes for my own stupidity.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is another example of the BBC being used as the NU Labour lap dogs.

    It is a non story, unlike the lack of investigation into Gordon Brown lying to the country about defence spending.

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick, you are appearing to be as deluded as Brown and the Labour party. Get a grip and do some serious reporting as that is what we pay your wages to do. Ashcroft on and on and on is going to drive all away from your site who are not either members of Unite or the Labour party. Ashcroft gave his own money ! The Labour government gave my money to Unite (modernisation grant) and Unite gave it to the Labour PARTY!The police should be involved if taxpayers money is fraudulently aquired shouldn't they?

  • Comment number 20.

    I am not sure if the Tories actually lied about Ashcroft's tax status, the documents seem to show that Lord Ashcroft promised to become a resident (which I understand that he has) and Labour thought that he planned to become a "dom"

    Hague does appear to have over sold the contribution Lord Ashcroft would make (but I am sure that Brown would agree it is hard to make predictions on future tax income!) but from what I understand of tax law even by becoming a resident the UK tax that Lord Ashcroft has to pay has gone up. Although being a non-dom still allows him to avoid paying UK tax on off-shore earnings.

    Seems to me that Labour dropped the ball on this - if they wanted Ashcroft to pay full UK tax they should have asked him to drop his non-dom status rather than agree to him becoming a resident. Politically it seems a bit sleazy but Ashcroft did all that was asked of him.

    At least Ashcroft doesn't rub salt in the wounds as apparently he doesn't claim expenses like Lord Paul does.

  • Comment number 21.

    On the Today Programme today it was obvious that Nick Robinson was desperate to keep this dead story running, so that he didn't have to look at the serious political issues, like Gordon Brown not being honest about defence spending cuts.

  • Comment number 22.

    Actually, the moral would appear to be that, if you don't want your shady dealings exposed, don't deal shadily in the first place.

    Both Tories and Labour have used this issue to try and score points off each other, when both are guilty of the same thing.
    They still don't seem to get it: we (the British public) are not concerned over such things as Ashcroft's tax status; of course it's his own private business. As is where and how he makes his money, and chooses to reside. What we're concerned about is that someone who lives abroad and doesn't pay full UK taxes shouldn't really be allowed to influence UK politics (especially financially), or receive a peerage by way of thanks, a peerage that said person wouldn't be able to fulfil to the best of their abilities due to their non-resident status.

    It's morally wrong that someone who doesn't live here full time can influence policies that affect everyone else who does, and if there are any negative results of said policies, that person doesn't suffer the consequences.

    If Ashcroft is so desperately keen to enter the political arena, let him donate to the country where he lives, and where "his heart resides" i.e. Belize. Frankly, I distrust anyone who wants to donate millions to a country that isn't his first love.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hmmm. Another BBC Tory attack eh? I wonder just what does the Labour Party have to do before it merits a bad headline? Ashcroft has been dealt with, where are the investigations into Lord Paul and his pension scheme for Newsnight? Where is the investigation into the Union Moderisation Fund? The will be none because the BBC do not get given leaked paper on these matters. BBC Bias again. Disgusting.

  • Comment number 24.

    Another attempt by the BBC and Labour to keep the Labour Party's dirty washing hidden.

  • Comment number 25.

    The Ashcroft story is immensely boring and relates to the arcane elements of tax. The Today story this morning did not get to the crux of the issue.

    He clearly needed to be physically resident enough here in the UK to contribute to the Upper House and so he promised as required. His domicile - which affects things like inheritance tax - relates to where his heart is and clearly this has been Belize.

    There is a matter of important policy therefore which doesn't seem probed enough. Surely policy makers (in the Upper House in this case) should not merely be resident here in order to attend? They also need to have their hearts in the UK if they are to pass judgment on the way that we others in the UK conduct our affairs.

    Any party that puts foreigners in the House of Lords (and someone with an overseas domicile is, quite bluntly, a foreigner for this purpose) is playing very dangerously. Money clearly however speaks louder than words.

  • Comment number 26.

    No, really, the moral of this story is that commentators do not understand the tax system. I know nothing of Lord Ashrcroft's tax affairs. However, it does not seem to me that he has in anyway misled anyone or been dishonest.

    Previously he was not resident in the UK for tax purposes. He agreed that he should become a long term resident here in order to take up his seat in the House of Lords.

    He said nothing about ceasing to be non-UK domiciled. If the authorities wanted him to become UK domiciled, they should have said so. If they didn't know there was a difference, then that's their incompetence.

    Taking up UK resident status would have affected his tax status, and he would have paid more tax as a result. It's therefore possible - though I do not know, though neither does anyone else - that this would have lead to the increase that Hague suggested.

    He should not have suggested that, if he was not in a position to know.

    The rules have recently changed, and now it is possible to be non-Uk domiciled and yet elect not to be treated as such for tax purposes. This is what Lord Ashcroft has presumably done.

    Depending on how his tax affairs are structured, this may make absolutely no difference to his tax bill. Double tax relief, careful use of offshore structures, and other perfectly legal tax shelters may mean he pays no more tax than before.

  • Comment number 27.

    #5, a:

    "Certainly they have misled (themselves?) but I don't recall ever being clear enough on his tax status to have siad a lie either way... quite unlike Brown on defence funding.

    It's true that the Tories were quite careful with their wording over this one so that they couldn't be caught out with something quite as blatant as Gordon's lies to Chilcot, but I think the intention to mislead was still there.

    To be fair, though, it's probably also true that lying about defence funding was a more serious matter as well. So maybe you're right that Labour's lies are worse than Tory lies.

    But that's probably only because the Tories aren't in power. We'll no doubt see the full extent of their mendacity if they form the next government.

  • Comment number 28.

    It is crazy that the beeb continue to run this pro labour stance,why on earth we have a blog on this and not on Mr Browns blatant lies to chilcot and parliment really does begger belief !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I suspect the voting public are not terribly interested in the tax affairs of Lord Ashcroft and his donations to the Tories despite the BBC and the Labour Party trying to push it to the top of the news agenda for the best part of the last two weeks. Everytime Ashcroft's name is mentioned, I automatically think, 'Lord Paul'. This attempt to differentiate the two on the grounds of 1.Undertakings, the technicalities of which most people don't understand & 2.Positions of power/influence,(isn't Lord Paul a member of the Privy Council?), just doesn't wash with me.
    I also find it incredibly amusing when Labour put Lord Mandelson up for press interviews impugning the integrity of Hague,Cameron & Ashcroft. This morning I heard him in one tv interview lecturing the Tories on honesty in politics. What chutzpah!
    Having very briefly flirted with the UNITE/Labour Party/BA debacle, you are now back on Labour's hobby horse. What a surprise!

  • Comment number 30.

    This post is entitled "Hague on Ashcroft". It could be more accurately entitled "Hague Avoids the Question on Ashcroft".

    William Hague is avoiding the commons committee investigation because he would have to answer questions on the latest attempt to censor the BBC on the Ashcroft affair.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ashcrofts-lawyers-silence-panorama-1923210.html

  • Comment number 31.

    Surely not ANOTHER blog/BBC story about Ashcroft. Let's have a little balance please.

    Where's the blog/story about the Unions and the fact that they bank-roll Gordon Brown & Labour at the time Brown is claiming to be preparing to reduce public sector spend (ha, ha)?

    Surely this is of far greater national importance - given the state of Sterling and the warnings from the EU and IMF over the UK's credit rating.

    Whichever Government wins the election the current level of public spending is simply unsustainable in the coming decade of austerity.

  • Comment number 32.

    So I guess we can conclude that Hague is a liar for saying that Ashcorft would become a UK tax paying citizen?

    Or Ashcroft if a liar for saying he would start paying taxes?

    Or Cameron is a liar for saying he doesn't know anything about it?

    Or maybe they are all being economical with the truth.

    "Today's documents confirm that in order to secure a peerage Ashcroft promised to become a "permanent resident". "

    Thanks Nick - Makes you glad we have the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Comment number 33.

    It's very strange that the impartial BBC seems to devote so much time to the Opposition, whilst not investigating (or commenting on) the Government of the day.

    Yesterday's admission by Brown that he made a 'mistake' (ie what he told Chilcot was wrong) seems to be a huge story.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7066405.ece

    Also, there's the other question of cash-for-policies regarding trade unions.

    And also the matter of unions receiving trouser-loads of taxpayers money through the 'Union Modernisation Fund', then making donations to the Labour party.

  • Comment number 34.

    Speaking of politicians and public servants not foreseeing the impact of the FOI Act and in particular the expenses scandal, here are some interesting stats.

    http://www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/news/2257506/government-refusal-foi-requests


    From Information World Review 08 Feb 2010

    "The Government’s response rates to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests has deteriorated significantly since the Act was introduced five years ago."

    Legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell recently published a Freedom of Information Manual report which found that the cabinet office withheld as much as 51% of formal information requests. The FOI to obtain information on MPs expenses was first submitted in January 2005 and it took more than four years before the information was disclosed.

    It also found that HMRC and OFT refused 45%, MoJ refused 44% and HM Treasury refused up to 32% of FOIA requests. In all, 6,334 requests for information were withheld in the last 12 months.

    The author said: “Government departments still have a deeply rooted ‘need to know’ culture and are struggling to come to terms with the ‘right to know’ principle enshrined in the FOIA.”

    “Public sector bodies are increasingly refusing to disclose information or dragging their feet over dealing with requests as a way of managing their reputations. There is a feeling within some public sector bodies that information on their poor performance which is disclosed is too often used as a stick to beat them with, which is reinforcing this reluctance.”
    "Part of the problem is that there are no penalties if public sector bodies withhold information unjustifiably or fail to disclose information within the 20-day deadline."

    The FOI Act looks to be heading into the 'Good idea at the time' file.

  • Comment number 35.

    The moral of the story is Mandy's department leaked the details.

    This is a 10year old story where BOTH labour and the Tory leaders new exactly what was agreed.

    The only reasion that this is an issue is because it looks bad for the tories and makes labour look whiter than white! EXECPT it dosn't!

  • Comment number 36.

    Are we still on about this guy ???? Labour have to learn that continually referring to this guy only highlights more their own dodgy dealings, trying to play the we are cleaner than them game is going to massively backfire on them.

    They were the party who were going to clean up politics !!! yeah right on comrade...

  • Comment number 37.

    Glad to see we are maintaining our unbiased reporting here on the licence funded channel.

    As I said earlier, you have been found out and as such you have lost the game.

  • Comment number 38.

    Is the moral of the story that cover-ups are always more damaging than the truth?

    Or is it that the right PR and a bit of cooperation from an insatiable media can turn almost anything into the greatest scandal since Eve listened to the snake?

  • Comment number 39.

    Nick, why do you try to keep the Ashcroft pot boiling?? We're not interested and we all know that Non-Doms fund all political parties. You are simply allowing yourself to be a mouthpiece for the Downing Street spin-doctors when you give Ashcroft more prominence than Unite's position within Government, and Gordon Brown's misleading evidence at the Chilcott enquiry.

  • Comment number 40.

    What really worries me is the absolute lack of judgment shown by Hague et al in the decisions they have made along the way of the last 10 years in dealing with Ashcroft's status. That above all leads me to doubt I would ever vote for them. Equally true of Labour on other issues so I guess I will voting Green after all.

  • Comment number 41.

    "Cabinet documents leaked to the BBC"

    Does this mean the BBC and Robinson receiving a visit from the Met? Arrests?

    How long is this funding tit-for-tat argument going to drag on?
    Both sides have their albatross, there's bilge slopping around the feet on both sides... neither has a defensible position. Vote them out.

  • Comment number 42.

    In real terms this kind of obviously bias reporting will have an effect on how people view the BBC (it has for me).
    And you, Nick, and the BBC may become associated with the outgoing administration. I'm fairly certain (having viewed the comments on this page) most people, irrespective of where their political allegiance lies, will be happy to see you go. But what’s upsetting is the loss of a 'reliable' news source which is meant to be impartial.

    I therefore am forced to think there are only two possible motivations for your behaviour;
    1. You are on the Labour (or Union) payroll.
    2. You are on the Conservative payroll

    I think its number 2. There is no possible way anyone could believe you think you're helping Labour!

  • Comment number 43.

    Question - Brown and Inquiry
    Answer - Ashcroft
    Question - Unite and the Government
    Answer - Ashcroft
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc
    Etc

    boring isn't it!

  • Comment number 44.

    This issue has run its course. The BBC are trying to create news rather than report it.

  • Comment number 45.

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  • Comment number 50.

    Amazing. There's the PM finally unravelling on military underfunding, and you dredge this one up again. No one lied, nothing unprecedented, and furthermore, his tax staus was approved by the incumbant administration. Probably to set a trap.
    Has anyone had a look at non-dom Lord Paul?
    He funds Labour far more than Lord A, has a hideous industrial record - driving co's out of business to pre pack them back again, draining the company pension fund, as he did in Hull, leaving pensioners out of pocket....oh, and gets made a Privy Counsellor, without qualification by his Lord Mandy.
    Wow, you're some newshound Nick.

  • Comment number 51.

    How can an organisation be over 90% out on their projections. This is just not possible. There needs to be questions asked about the January figures. Did they find money in a pocket of a jacket that they have not had on for some time. Did a distant relative die and leave some money. Please do explain how such an over estimation occurred.

    "The borrowing figure for January was also revised sharply downwards, to £43m from £4.3bn."

  • Comment number 52.

    Nick,where is your impartiality?.Please move on and get the facts on Unite and Whelan geting our money through devious means and giving it to the Labour party.

  • Comment number 53.

    So let me get this right.

    We know that Gordon Brown did not tell the truth to the Chilcott enquiry and to parliament. Therefore, Nick decides to go into great detail criticising the Tories for telling the truth over Ashcroft.

    And I'm paying for this!

    Nick, I'm actually a Lib-Dem voter, but the BBC anti-Tory bias sickens even me.

  • Comment number 54.

    Lets keep things simple.

    Lord Ashcroft keeps the majority of his money offshore in places like Belize so that he pays little or no tax on it - that's why Belize is a tax haven. They do not charge taxes. That's also why Belize is one of the poorest countries in the world!

    Then agents of Lord Ashcroft set up companies in Belize and in the UK.

    Then these companies set about transferring money to the UK by way of share deals that attract no capital gains tax or income tax in the UK.

    Then one of these companies gives a pile of money to the Conservative party - no UK tax paid and presumably no Belize tax paid either.

    All tracks carefully concealed and records destroyed so the Electoral Commission cannot say from the records whether the money actually came from Lord Ashcroft.

    Yet it's "common knowledge" in the Conservative party that Lord Ashcroft gave it the money. But the Electoral Commission cannot prove it beyond hearsay.

    Who's being duplicitous here?

    Nudge nudge, wink wink, nose tapping.

    David Cameron overseeing clarity in politics?

    Let's see the FULL report from the Electoral Commission.

  • Comment number 55.

    I heard Mr Hague on the Today programme this morning. He was sustaining a nonsensical piece of deception about Lord Ashcroft. The gist of it was that these is some wiggle room between being resident and being domiciled for tax purposes, and people had got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

    But you can't really blame _them_, given how ambiguous Hague and Ashcroft are being.

    Three problems: first, why obfuscate for years? Second: why say it'll cost him tens of millions in tax, when it didn't, and third, why bother with all that sophistry – if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, guess what – it's a duck.

    They have to get their party sorted out. How can they expect votes with these shenanigans? And I still don't know why those three MPs walked out of the committee last week. Why throw petrol on the fire? What are they hiding?

  • Comment number 56.

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  • Comment number 58.

    Can we have Laura Kuenssberg back please - at least she did some useful blogs last summer instead of this continual drivel by NR. I cant recall the last time he blogged anything substantial.

  • Comment number 59.

    Nicolaaas!

    Dont normally get drawn into this debate on bias.... but WOW, this is beginning to get uncomfortable now.

    There are so, so many stories out there - OK lets not pick the Union, Paul, Chilcot - anything that looks negative to Labour, but pick up something interesting, or relevant or important to me as a struggling tax payer..... I may give up reading this blog - you are going to far now.

  • Comment number 60.

    People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

  • Comment number 61.

    Nick. Seeing as we are in a democracy, let me add my voice to various others here.

    There is no particular interest in the tax staus of Lord Ashcroft. William Hague was convincing this morning that there was no lying or cover-up of his status, and, rather more importantly, that No 10 Downing Street were aware of the commitments Ashcroft did and did not make.

    Can we please put this matter to bed now - unless in the interest of political balance, you are going to launch a barrage of interviews of Brown/Mandelson/(Blair if you can find him). I would suggest some of the following questions:
    1) How many Labour peers are non-domiciled
    2) Do Labour intend to answer this question BEFORE the election?
    3) Does Labour have a fundamental problem with political parties receiving money from non-doms? If so, how long has this been their attitude?
    4) Do they intend to give back all the money that they have received from non-doms over the last 10 years?
    5) As the government were informed about Ashcroft's status before he was made a peer, why are Labour spin-doctors making such a big fuss about it now? - or were they too incompetent to decipher the carefully-spun letter from Hague to the Cabinet office regarding Ashcrofts status?

    As I say, unless you're prepared to pursure these questions with Labour, with the same vigour that the Ashcroft questions have been pursued, can't we just move on from Ashcroft.

    Ultimately, regardless of how parties are funded, they should be judged on policies.

    What I want to know, is which party has the most credible plan to remove the deficit - or am I the only one who thinks that a 'plan' to continue borrowing more than a billion pounds per week for the forseeable future is madness? Am I the only one who thinks that recessions come around roughly once every 10 years - expect the next one in 2017 - how is the country going to respond to that one, if we're still running up the Governement debt to pay for the last one? Do the political parties have tacit plans to let inflation rip to wipe out the true value of the deficit? Or are Labour and the Tories committed to keeping the inflation target at 2% throughout the next Parliament by using interest rates to control it?

  • Comment number 62.

    Bloody foreigners! Coming in here, not paying tax, taking our jobs ...

    Oh, wait a mo, he's alright, he's a spanking good ol' Conservative worth billions. Well that's fine.

    Not like that Lord Paul bloke, he supports the other side, and, you know, have you heard, he's not even ...

    Hypocrits!

  • Comment number 63.

    The Houses of Par-liar-ment (Can you see what I did there?): It's how they can get away with calling themselves Right Honourable Members.
    The lying liars.

  • Comment number 64.

    Why not put a cap on the maximum individual donation to a political party, say £2500? Or even less?

    If it means that politicians would have to take an interest in the electorate again and interact with them more regularly, I can't see how this would be a bad thing.

    It would be bad, of course, for the organisations (unions, corporations etc) who buy influence for themselves, but to be honest I couldn't really care less about them.

    Politicians are there to serve and represent the public. Let unions go back to worrying about the workers and let corporations go back to worrying about their companies. Politics is for the people.

  • Comment number 65.

    Was anything done wrong the answers is no. Let’s move on and look at some real problems.

  • Comment number 66.

    I turned on Radio 4 at 8.10 fully expecting Mandleson to be on the grill about Brown's admission of lying to the Chilcot inquiry. But no, hold on. Its a story from 10 years ago, with questionning to a forensic level of detail about what did you know when about Ashcroft.
    Unbelievable! Hook, line & sinker - Robinson & the Beeb being managed yet again by the Master of Spin, the Lord from Hartlepool.

  • Comment number 67.

    Instead of trying to get WIlliam Hague on the spike over this non-story, why isn't the BBC and Nick Robinson in particular roasting Grodon Brown over his blatent lies to the Chilcott Inquiry?

  • Comment number 68.

    Any chance of a blogpost on Brown's admission on defence spending Nick?

  • Comment number 69.

    #29 Megan
    I quite agree with you. As far as I'm concerned 'Lord' Ashcroft is just as dodgy as 'Lord' Paul.

  • Comment number 70.

    "Voice_of_Reason wrote:
    So I guess we can conclude that Hague is a liar for saying that Ashcorft would become a UK tax paying citizen?

    Or Ashcroft if a liar for saying he would start paying taxes?

    Or Cameron is a liar for saying he doesn't know anything about it?

    Or maybe they are all being economical with the truth."

    Or more likely that people in Government don't know the difference in tax status between a "Resident" and a "Domicile"

    Lord Ashcroft agreed to become a "Resident" for tax purposes there is no indication that he agreed to be a "Domicile".

    "Today's documents confirm that in order to secure a peerage Ashcroft promised to become a "permanent resident". "

    Thanks Nick - Makes you glad we have the Freedom of Information Act."

    So obviously this would be a story if Lord Ashcroft failed to fufill the promise to be a resident. He was never asked to become a domicile and he never gave any indication that he would become a domicile - so why is it such a big issue that he is a domicile? It isn't like he is the only Lord who is a domicile - or the only domicile who donates money to a political party.

  • Comment number 71.

    So this is the main political story of the day is it? News that Number 10 knew about Lord Ashcroft's tax status at the same time as William Hague?

    Oddly you don't seem bothered that Gordon Brown mislead the Chilcot Inquiry and then the House of Commons at PMQs on 10 March by stating very definitely that "the defence budget has been rising every year. He might have had a complaint if we were cutting the defence budget every year, but it is rising every year."

    Now this was not an off-the-cuff remark, it was a prepared response to the Chilcot Inquiry and one Gordon Brown was happy to use as one of his prepared answers at PMQs. So was Gordon Brown's research inadequate? Was he careless as to the accuracy of his claims? Did he deliberately mislead (some might say lie) in order to protect his position in front the Chilcot Inquiry, knowing that it was unlikely that the truth would come out that day? Questions that are surely a) interesting and b) relevant to understanding the man that is Gordon Brown. Yet you seem unconcerned with this story, preferring to keep on with the Lord Ashcroft story.

    Not a word about UNITE's partial ownership of the Labour party either, why?

    A suspicious person might be forgiven for thinking that the BBC were trying to protect Gordon Brown and his Labour government by highlighting allegations about Conservatives; surely that cannot be true!

  • Comment number 72.

    Lets see if I understand this correctly. According to the Lab line the Tories have lied about Ashcroft but the Ashcroft deal was agreed by the Lab govt. So they are now trying to beat up the Tories about something which Lab agreed was an entirely justifiable position for Ashcroft.

    This is simply reporting on primary school playground fight but possibly without the intelligence displayed by primary school kids.

    Nick as others have said this is a dead dog, all you are doing is giving right wing conspiracy theorists ammuntion that you or possibly the entire bbc (always difficult to tell with conspiracy theorists) are simply spouting Lab press office verbiage.

    Now if you want to talk about the influence of money in politics and bring in a balanced discussion of Ashcroft, Unite, Lord Paul, the Ecclestone affair and maybe a historic context such as cash for peerages

  • Comment number 73.

    They've only looked 'secretive and evasive' to the public because the BBC and other broadcasters have painted it that way.

    Oh and I think you'll find DC's attempt to decontaminate the Tory brand had already been undermined by idiots exploiting expenses.

    As previous posters have mentioned you don't seem half as bothered that Unite own the Labour Party outright and are therefore the defacto government anyway.

    You also are giving a pretty low level of coverage to the fact that the supposed financial genius of the last decade, Gordon 'I saved the world' Brown either got his facts wrong (not good) or purposefully misled (even worse) the Chilcott enquiry.

    Where the recommend button gone? Oh know, you've quietly killed that element of democratic impartiality too haven't you. Can't have people supporting each other's opinion? What would Unite say?

  • Comment number 74.

    A friend of mine refers to the BBC as the Blair and Brown Corporation - sadly, I have started to feel this is the case. Coverage for a long time has been uneven, but I thought it was to be expected as the incumbent party always seems to have a slight advantage, but in the last couple of years, it has descended to ridiculous levels.

    I may wrong, but I do not believe that Unions pay tax on their income and gains in the UK, unlike Lord Ashcroft.

  • Comment number 75.

    Dear oh dear.

    No matter how the Tory spin doctors try and spin this one:

    *Lord Ascroft BUT Unions control Labour (err hundreds of thousands of peopel democratically electing to support a party is different from one multi millionaire pulling the strings)

    * Lord Ashcrof but Brown lied to Chilcott (err no he didn't because he clarified it whe he could have easily sat on it till after the election., in anycase spending went up)

    * Lord Ashcroft but Lord Paul (err on diffrence, Lord Paul didn't say he would pay tax here and specifically sign an agreement to that effect)

    * Lord Ashcroft but Brown is a Scottish one eyed so and so followed by abuse ( well my Dad is bigger than your Dad).

    Oh when are the Tories going to get a grip on how they are funded? Their front bench I have counted more than 10 Millionaires. Mow if that is not an interest group in itself, I do not know what is.

    You the Tory Party must convince floating voters like me, to vote for you, and not treat me like an idiot. At the moment, I have not seen anything as to why I should not vote Labour and but Stability ahead of Change!

    Sorry Tories, you are losing it, and you seem more and more desperate.

  • Comment number 76.

    Cab we entrust government to a party whose leader espouses the virtues of transparency whilst allowing those principles to be so blatantly flouted?

    How can we expect people like this to take on the banking lobby?

  • Comment number 77.

    * Monday 1st March AM. Story Breaks about Lord Ashcroft.

    * Wednesday 17th March AM. Story continues after 18 days consistent hammering from Nick Robinson and the BBC, with yet another exclusive for them today with copies of papers 'obtained'...

    During these 18 days many other questions should have be examined and explored by the impartial NR, surely? Err what about the clear mistake (lying) by Gordon Brown in the Chilcot enquiry and the battles with the Generals (If anybody thinks GB didn't know the actual information about defence spending over 13 years they need to seek medication)? What about the dubious relationship with Unite Union and the Labour Party and then the ensuing British Airways problems? The £4m a year that the tax man gives to Unite for 'Modernisation' and then the £3.65m a year they give back to the Labour Party in """Donations"""

    Having this sort of openly biased reporting is lets just say...very unfortunate for this country.

    The BBC should be ashamed of itself!

  • Comment number 78.

    The real issue isn't a party-political one.
    Politicians on all sides have lost the trust of the nation and still do not seem to have "got it". Regardless of which offical or politician of whatever stripe did or did not see or agree to Ashcroft's Non-Dom status the public certainly thought and expected that he would become a full UK taxpayer as the price of his ennoblement. That other members of the upper house are also Non-Doms is irrelevant - they are equally at fault. Just as the American War of Independence was fought on a slogan of "No Taxation with Representation" so now the British public are seeking "No Representation without Taxation". No one of either stripe should be in a position of legislation unless they are a full UK resident taxpayer, with no shilly-shallying. Those of all parties who are not should immediately become so or be divested of their peerages.

  • Comment number 79.

    This is so pathetic it is almost beyond belief - almost for this site that is.

    Troops have died because they had insufficient or the wrong equipment. Gordon Brown has had to admit that he lied when he said he funded all of their requests and there was a realtime increase in the Military Budget.

    Yes he lied and what is this post about? Lord Ashcroft!!!!!! Again!!!!!

    Not Brown, not UNITE who collected c £3m over 3 years in political donations yet gave Brown £11m???? Oh, and £4m of that £11m appears to have come from a government grant to UNITE of $4m towards 'modernisation'

    This stinks

    We are being seriously manipulated into voting a certain way.

    It stinks!



  • Comment number 80.

    How come the BBC wasn't biased yesterday? Regular Conservative contributors to these forums have cited articles by BBC staff to support their views in the past few days after lambasting the BBC for bias.

    What a load of tosh!

  • Comment number 81.

    There are two issues here. One is the discussion around Lord Ashcroft and the argeybargey about that is one thing. The other is the efficacy of the use of material leaked from the Cabinet Office in what is very clearly a party political move designed to increase the debate around Lord Ashcroft. How did this material come into the public domain? This is an interesting and important question. If it is now the case that senior civil servants in the Cabinet Office are providing material to the party of government for party political gain then we have reached a new and worrying low in our ability to rely on and trust in an impartial civil service.

  • Comment number 82.

    Yet again the BBC is trying to lead the political news.
    Yesterday Gordon Brown had to apologise to parliament that he made false statements at the chilcott enquiry.
    Did this appear as headline news from the BBC. No.
    Did it Blog here by Nick Robinson. No
    Why did other broadcasters headline this news and not the BBC?
    So here we go again the BBC Today running with a story on Ashcroft and a Blog as well.
    Come on BBC stop trying to dictate the news stories and stop this political biased. We pay your fees and wages so you should be impartial.

  • Comment number 83.

    Same old Tories

  • Comment number 84.

    The moral is ... move on its yesterdays news , lets get the country back on its feet

  • Comment number 85.

    I used to think you were a good reporter, but you seem obsessed by Ashcroft, but dont want to talk about Labours guilty secrets.

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    So:
    * Brown new all about this though he claimed not to
    * Labour Peers are being ignored by the BBC, as they prefer to attack the opposition
    * The BBC seems to be getting more and more biased in favour of the Labour party as the election drwas near

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Could people stop referring to it as a tax status? It's a flipping common law point that happens to result in different tax rules.

    If BBC commentators don't understand what they're talking about, it'd be good if they'd refrain from commenting until they've learnt it. If they do know then they shouldn't try to be misleading.

    Domicile is not something that can be picked up and put down at will - unless you're either very carefree about where you spend your life or willing to lie with the intention of fraud...

  • Comment number 90.

    Nick, how many times has Ashcroft (as a tory donor) sought support from overseas groups, in an attempt to hold the British public to ransom, and bring an iconic British company to its knees.
    It seems to me that what Nulabour's parent company, Unite is doing, is close to treason.

  • Comment number 91.

    Everybody seems to be missing the point (including Nick Robinson). The "story" being peddled is that the Tories have been keeping the information that Lord Ashcroft is a non-dom to themselves. Nick Robinson alleges that:

    "For 10 years William Hague has known that Lord Ashcroft had no intention of becoming a full UK taxpayer merely to satisfy the demands of his political enemies"

    In reality, two points are clear:

    (a)The negotiations in 2000 were about residence and not domicile (two very distinct statuses). As I understand it, the Scrutiny Committee wanted to ensure that Ashcroft had a real connection with this country and that the test for this was not that he should pay tax in the UK on his worldwide income (i.e. there was no requirement that he lose his non-dom status) but that he should be resident here.

    (b)Much more importantly, how can William Hague be "keeping something to himself" that the present government were fully informed of at the time!

    We have had weeks of simulated outrage from the Government when, in reality, they have always been fully aware of the outcome of the negotiations with Lord Ashcroft and of the fact that he was fully complying with the residency requirements imposed on him.

    This from a government that has made its own non-dom donor, Lord Paul, a Privy Counsellor with no discernible precedent.

  • Comment number 92.

    Nick: Now which is more important? Regurgitating the Ashcroft non-story ad nausem or highlighting Brown lying to Chilcot? Since the latter put our soldiers' lives at risk - and indeed lost many of those soldiers's their lives - I would suggest that to most thinking people there is no contest. So why does the BBC take the opposite view? Could it be that the Conservaties, if they win power, may impose a long overdue axe of the said BBC's funding?

  • Comment number 93.

    " Freedom of Information and the fact that it forces out into the public domain things that politicians would prefer never saw the light of day."
    Lots of things are made public and you choose to make an issue out of some of them. In this instance someone with access to Downing Street who assumed, rightly, that you were sitting in your office without a thought in your head, gave you some papers. You chose to make a song and dance about them and blow them out of all proportion.

  • Comment number 94.

    Oh my gosh Nick, why are you still trying to flog a dead horse?

    If there's something that smells worse than yesterday's nappies then that's Labours "Union Modernisation Fund". If there was ever a more devious way of getting the tax payer to fund the Labour Party then that would have to be it.

    Thanks to the BBC, whenever Gordon Brown shrieks "Lord Ashcroft" all the Tories now need to respond with is "Unite" and "Lord Paul". As I've said many times before, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

  • Comment number 95.

    Money has no influence in politics? You have to wonder how politicians can make such statements when absolutely every policy has the interest of the wealthy written all over them. Let's take bailing out the banks or better the lack of governmental oversight of the banks..can't imagine why closer tabs weren't kept on their gambling away depositiors money on loans that any sensible person would see has destined for failure and without anything that would back the loans. Couldn't be that the contributions of the banks kept the regulators restricted in their investigations? The process is corrupt and they will not admit it so it is up to the people to look at the current status of the political process and decide if they want to be continually subjected to supporting the adventures of the wealthy and underwriting with their taxes their misdeeds or do they wish to require a higher level of ethics from the elected.

  • Comment number 96.

    Nick heard you on the today programme
    You said that the man on the street is concerned about Ashcroft
    No we are not.I am more concerned about "PM" Brown blatantly telling lies
    Poor old Evan sounded totally embarassed for asking Hague the same old question over and over.
    Were the documents leaked to you ? - If so who is your mole ?
    Simple question - no need to be evasive now !!

  • Comment number 97.

    We English should quietly rage against the mainstream Party machines, who
    act like an undemocratic cartel, corralling the aspirations of the
    people living in England into their dogmatic political straight-jackets.

    These mainstream Party machines also try to snuff out any alternative
    political views, their own political outlook must dominate the media,
    despite decades of, at best, mixed results in England.

    Now, thanks to the FoI Act, the Party funding stone has been lifted and just when you thought that the reputation of the mainstream political parties could not be further tarnished, well think again.

    Why any voter living in our England would now still vote for these mainstream parties and therefore perpetuate this stagnant political system, is simply beyond me.

  • Comment number 98.

    Even Mandy has changed his tune, saying the Tories were liberal with the truth, which is a way of saying oh sorry you were telling the truth as it was. He got done twice didnt he for not telling the truth.

  • Comment number 99.

    Nick

    You say "The fuss is, and will continue to be, about the funding of British politics and not the precise tax status of members of the House of Lords."
    Couple of genuine questions to which I would ask you to provide answers.
    If what you say is right, how is Ashcroft's position any different than that of Lord Paul? Why was Ashcroft asked to give an undertaking? Why wasn't Paul?

  • Comment number 100.

    Yes the unions funding the Labour party is the real disgrace, just think they could for years have been trying to persuade the so called party of the working classes to introduce social democratic policys and use their shady network of MP's to protect workers rights through legislation, heck I bet the minimum wage was part of a union ploy the rotten beggars.

    Follow the money Nick, has Unite attempted to introduce socialist democracy to Labour politics? Have they got volunteer union activists (excuse me my disgust at that thought made me throw up in may mouth a little) campaigning for them in marginal seats? We should be told, it's an outrage. They should have non domiciled billionaires pouring money into marginal seat campaigns like the Tories, while the biggest selling national newspaper owned by a foreign billionaire backs them to the hilt for nothing more than the break up of the state broadcaster, and various party activists endlessly clog up political blogs with comment alleging bias at any story that doesn't call the incumbent pm a complete buffoon, it's the British way.

 

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