Cabinet office under pressure over Ashcroft tax promise

has been given a 35-day deadline [from 1 Feb] to disclose full
details of the undertaking
gave to become a UK resident for tax purposes when he became a Tory
peer ten years ago.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has ruled there is a legitimate
public interest in the issue. He was ruling on an appeal by Labour MP Gordon
Prentice after he was refused information on Lord Ashcroft thorugh a Freedom of
Information request.

Graham added the public is also entitled to know whether Ashcroft had

His ruling said that since the ennoblement of the billionaire Tory donor and
former party treasurer there had been speculation he had not satisfied the
undertaking he gave, adding: “Statements by senior politicians concerning Lord
Ashcroft’s undertaking have been evasive and obfuscatory and have served to
compound this speculation.

“Lord Ashcroft could have ended the speculation about his residency by making
a public statement to that effect. He has chosen not to do this.” In the
commissioner’s view there is a legitimate interest for the public to know more
about Lord Ashcroft’s undertaking.

Graham said public interest in transparency in the honours system outweighed
the Cabinet Office claim that disclosure would be unwarranted and prejudicial to
Ashcroft’s rights.

But he had initially been turned down for a peerage on the ground that he was
a tax exile.

The Cabinet Office has said it is considering the ruling and would respond in
due course. The Tories’ only comment was that the party supports the government
amendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill prohibiting anyone not a UK tax
resident from sitting in the Lords.

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