The tax row surrounding Lord Ashcroft gets ever deeper. Now Harriet Harman has added her strident tones by demanding that either Ashcroft or the man who supported his peerage, William Hague, should resign.
In response Hague pointed out that those who live in glass houses should not cast stones and pointed out that Lord Paul was also in the same sort of tax position as well as having had to stand down as deputy speaker of the Lords because of financial impropriety. Lord Paul has also hinted that there may well be up to 100 peers across the Lords that are of non-dom tax status.
There is now the inevitable witch-hunt about who knew what and when as well as who did or did not pay tax. The Westminster brigade are now hell-bent on using these Lords as brick-bats with which to cudgel each other. Just more political posturing. But for me they all miss the real points.
Most people, given the opportunity of wealth, will adopt a favourable tax status (Lewis Hamilton fled to Switzerland I gather). Doing so is legal. These successful people will also have much to bring to the political table, so are consulted and possibly appointed to the Lords to bring in much needed expertise. The problem is that they then get to not only sway opinion but also to vote on matters that may affect tax for the rest of us but not for them.
Conversely, if we ask for their expertise why should they be forced to take a pay drop by paying tax they would not otherwise pay as well as providing free advice and expertise?
Maybe what we need is a sort of ‘non-executive’ peer. They get appointed but, unless they provide accounts and positive proof of paying tax, they cannot vote or hold ministerial positions, they can just offer advice. That way we get the expertise without the moral hazard so to speak.