William Hague got Lord Ashcroft a peerage on the basis that he would become resident in this country for tax purposes in the year 2000. But in the ten years since William Hague, paid thousands of pounds for his speaking skills, has never asked Ashcroft if he had ever become resident in Britain for tax purposes?
Hague has been quizzed on this dozens of times in those 10 years. His answer has always been the same; “I have no reason to think he has not complied with the commitments that he gave.”
Disingenuous or what? Perhaps he did not want to ask the question, because he knew he would not like the answer he would get? It is not as if he did not have the opportunity for a quiet word. Despite not being part of the Tory foreign affairs team, it appears that Ashcroft, at his own expense, has flown William Hague to meetings with foreign officials no fewer than 5 times in the last few years. Apparently not even Hague’s wife, Ffion, accompanied him on these trips, so why, in the privacy of Ashcroft’s luxury yacht moored off Cuba last March or on Ashcroft’s private jet flying to China in 2006, did Hague not just ask Ashcroft the simple question, are you resident in the UK for tax purposes?
The former head of the Civil Service, Lord Turnbull has stated quite clearly that it was Mr Hague’s responsibility, as Lord Ashcroft’s “sponsor”, to ensure that the billionaire Tory donor fulfilled the undertakings he gave in return for his peerage. In a letter to Tony Blair, William Hague promised that Ashcroft would become permanently resident in the UK.
William Hague has always been good at promoting his own squeaky clean image and avoiding controversy. Even during the MPs expenses scandal last year, he avoided criticism despite receiving thousands of pounds of untaxed subsidy on his luxury home in London.
We residents of Richmond expect better from our MP. In former times, an MP would already have done the honourable thing and resigned. Unfortunately, in these cynical days, I expect that we will continue to see the unedifying spectacle of William Hague ducking and diving to avoid his responsibilities.