Friday 19 March 2010

Hague lied

We have reached the point in the clumsy and damaging Ashcroft cover-up where the Shadow Foreign Secretary may as well now change his name by deed poll to "the beleagured William Hague".

The newspapers note how his attempt to close down the Ashcroft cover-up have surely raised more questions than they answer.

What now seems crystal clear that William Hague either lied or misled (if you prefer the more parliamentary language) in his interview on the Today programme yesterday morning.

As The Guardian reports:

Hague claimed on the Today programme that the documents showed that Ashcroft never faced demands to change his tax status in the negotiations over his peerage.

"A very key point that comes out of these documents is that the agreement that was made implementing the undertaking that he gave did not mention domicile," he said. "It was not about his tax domicile."

But the documents make clear that the cross-party political honours committee, which refused and then approved the peerage, did want Ashcroft to become a full UK taxpayer. Ashcroft maintained his non-dom status by drawing up an undertaking to become resident in the UK which was then accepted.

Say it ain't so, William.

As The Times reports on how 'Tory wheeling and dealing let Ashcroft break non-don pact' that it was the Tory chief whip (apparently acting on behalf of both his leader and Lord Ashcroft) who stubbornly sought to resist the scrutiny committee's very clear insistence that the condition was very much about his tax status.

the committee spelt out to Sir Hayden what this meant: notifying the Inland Revenue on his arrival and filling out Form P86 (Arrival in the UK) and IR DOM1 (Domicile) ...

The committee secretary wrote back nine days later to say that they were “somewhat concerned” that Lord Ashcroft was declining to fill in DOM1. In their view the undertaking given by him did involve domicile, as well as residence. Sir Hayden tried this out on Mr Arbuthnot, only to meet even more dogged resistance.

Despite the obfuscations in the extraordinary Sir Humphrey like performance of Sir Hayden Phillips, apparently wanting mainly to get the problem of his desk, the agreement struck was that Ashcroft should complete the full domicile form at the end of the financial year after entering the Lords, and that the good chaps and chapesses of the Establishment would now rely on his Lordship's honour and word in that undertaking.

As The Times reports:

"Phillips discovered that the Inland Revenue did not expect a new resident’s IR DOM1 form to be completed until the end of the financial year. This meant, in his view, that the issue of the IR DOM1 form could legitimately be deferred until after Lord Ashcroft had become a peer. Critically, that would also be the point at which Sir Hayden had discharged his duty and was no longer responsible for the matter.

... By agreeing to the deal, the committee let Lord Ashcroft cloak himself in ermine and entrusted the signing of DOM1 to his personal honour".

In the case of Lord A, that is something honoured rather more frequently in the breach, unfortunately.

Hague's chief whip knew. He was the chief go-between and instigator.

Yet Hague didn't know? Even if it was with a nod and a wink and the thinnest veneer of "deniability", he knew alright.

Hague misled everybody in 2000 with his statement about Ashcroft paying "millions a year in tax", which he withdrew as a mistake only yesterday. And he misled everybody again yesterday in saying the whole affair had nothing to do with tax, which is clearly nonsense, as the documents he was talking about prove very clearly.

We still do not have the full story. But the beleagured William Hague's new account stretches all credulity, as many of his own colleagues will admit.

The Guardian again:

One senior frontbencher said: "We have handled this whole thing appallingly. We really should have come clean about this a long time ago."

One former shadow minister said it was difficult to believe Arbuthnot had not informed Hague about Ashcroft's tax status. "If William Hague did not know, then he is either a fool or a knave."


Anonymous said...

I must admit, it stretches incredulity that Labour should get all worked up about a politician 'lying' - this is not to defend Hague from what he may or may not have done, but to point out that there is an (ever-present) case of Pot Kettle Black here, for which reason the narrative is unlikely to gain much traction beyond titillating SW1 and its acolytes. For most people it will just reinforce that most instinctive of responses, practiced by just about everyone I know: 'they're all the bloody same, them lot'.

Oldrightie said...

At least hundreds of thousands haven't died because of lies on Iraq and Afghanistan. As for William Hague, how is it that Bliar knew all there was to know and did nothing about blocking Ashcroft's peerage? As for Lord Ashcroft, the greatest financial donor to charity as opposed to political causes in The UK.

Unknown said...

It's. Not. Working.

Robert said...

Blair told the Truth well the Truth as he had worked it out