Tory MP advises clients on tax … gets caught in ‘tax avoidance’ scheme

  • Geoffrey Cox invested in scheme under investigation by HMRC
  • Part time MP also moonlights as £600-per-hour QC
  • Clients include legal firms specialising in tax for rich clients

money

A Tory MP has claimed he is “not going to comment on his private tax affairs” after being caught using an alleged tax avoidance scheme. HMRC is ordering Geoffrey Cox to cough up an unknown amount after he invested in Phoenix Film Partners LLP, a scheme run by tax loophole merchant Patrick McKenna.

And with McKenna set for a legal showdown with the taxman over a number of similar ruses later this year, it turns out that Cox could be ideally positioned to advise on the case.  Spending a significant proportion of his time moonlighting as a £600-per-hour QC, Cox is more than familiar with the First Tier Tax Tribunal — including getting a telecoms firm out of a £250 million VAT ruling.

Here is a selection of his clients from his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests:

£12,000 from Khan Partnership LLP, who boast about the insider knowledge they have via ex-HMRC staff:

“Our Tax, Duties and Regulatory Team include members who have formerly held senior positions within HMRC and other Government departments. We can therefore help achieve client commercial objectives with our experience of the internal policy and decision making process of these agencies.”

£12,500 from Travers Thorp Alberga, a practice based in the, errr, Cayman Islands who advise that “confidentiality protection” laws in the jurisdiction can trump tax information exchange treaties.

£81,600 from Aegis Tax LLP:

“We know that investigations by government agencies such as HMRC or the SFO can have serious consequences for any business or individual. The authorities are now increasingly assertive in their use of powers and can, on occasion, seem to be hostile and intransigent towards businesses or individuals who appear on their radar.”

Quite.

‘Inbetweeners’ school to host Boris’ back-to-Westminster selection

The Inbetweeners (and Boris)

With Boris Johnson set to face a vote of Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative members in his bid to get back to the Commons this evening, the venue for the selection meeting is Ruislip High School — aka known as the filming location for ‘Rudge Park Comprehensive’ from TV comedy The Inbetweeners.

Despite the expectation management and a newspaper poll which seems to have been gamed by his opponents, the London mayor is red hot favourite to triumph this evening. So in a no-way-tenuous attempt to shoe-horn Inbetweeners animated GIFs onto Scrapbookperhaps we can learn something about the selection from Will, Simon, Jay and Neil.

With Heathrow and HS2 on the doorstep of the constituency, transport is sure to come up. Here’s what Boris thinks about those bendy buses he abolished:

What no Tory members will be asking about at the hustings:

What Number 10 will think about South Ruislip membership if they select Boris:

It’s a 6pm kick off.

#IndyRef Polls done entirely after Sunday shock give tiny ‘No’ lead

Scottish flag

With the Sunday Times’ YouGov poll (51% yes, 49% no) sending the Westminster establishment into a panic, politicos looked to later research to judge whether it was an outlier — and to see what effect the survey itself had on pubic opinion.

We now have two polls whose fieldwork was conducted entirely since news of the shock YouGov result broke, both with members of the public surveyed from Tuesday to Thursday:

It’s a dead heat.

Benefit fraud Tory quits job that saved him from community service

Cllr Lawless: Community Payback

A Conservative councillor convicted of a £5,000 benefit fraud has left his job with Royal Mail — just weeks after he used it as an excuse not to perform community service. Back in August, The appropriately named Cllr Peter Lawless was ordered to pay £400 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge, but got away without being forced to conduct unpaid work on the grounds that it would interfere with his job.

The Windsor councillor had claimed he couldn’t afford his rent, but conveniently forgot to mention £34,000 in councillors’ allowances and a lump sum payment from his employer.

Well, we know that Tories don’t like being forced to wear orange.

Tory HQ spinners slapped down by OBR for ‘fake’ Twitter quote

The Office for Budget Responsibility have taken the unprecedented step of slapping down Tory HQ spinners on Twitter:

Apparently they can’t tell the difference between an actual quote and copy from the Daily Mail.

UPDATE:

Lobbying Tsar left previous role after ‘performance concerns’

  • Cabinet Office finally pick Lobbying Tsar candidate after delay
  • Candidate left dental regulator amid concerns about her performance
  • Left two other roles in mysterious circumstances

Alison White

The government’s preferred candidate to run its controversial Lobbying Register left a senior role with another regulator after just months, with members of its ruling body complaining they had ‘lost confidence’ in her.

Alison White, who is facing an appointment hearing with a committee of MPs tomorrow, spent just five months as chief executive of the dental regulator, the General Dental Council in 2010. A report later commissioned by the Department of Health amid allegations that the body was failing to discharge its statutory functions stated:

“Some Council members expressed particular concern about the CE’s [chief executive's] role in the first half of 2010 and what they considered to be a lack of information being provided to the Council by Alison White. These concerns appear to have caused a loss of confidence in the executive management team on the part of some Council members.”

It also concludes …

“Some Council members told us that they had had concerns about the quality of the papers that were presented to the Council and committees during the period when Alison White was interim CE”

Due to face the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee at 10am tomorrow morning, White could also come under pressure to explain the mysterious circumstances in which she departed at least two other executive roles.

She was the chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) for just six months to January 2008. While the organisation refused to comment on the record about her departure, sources told the trade press that “discussions had taken place between Alison White and the NPA over her role”.

After a five month gap she joined the West Midlands arm of the former quango Business Link — but left left after little more than a year, taking a sudden, unexplained “absence from work”, with the Birmingham Post alluding to “rumours … circulating in the business world”.

As previously reported on Scrapbook, the Cabinet Office have already been forced to re-advertise the role — presumably because the first tranche of applicants were crap.

With the Lobbying Act seen as a joke within the industry, a regulator with a serious credibility gap could yet turn into a serious embarrassment.

Did Andrew Marr catch Cameron lying on Crosby’s tobacco lobbying?

Lynton Crosby tobacco lobbying

David Cameron has displayed either skilful brinkmanship or a way with weasel words, depending on your point of view, in evading the question of the government’s interaction with tobacco-lobbyist-cum-Tory-spinmeister Lynton Crosby on plain cigarette packs.

The revelation, in this weekend’s Observer, that Crosby had lobbied Lord Marland by email on 1 November 2012 has had critics scurrying to Hansard to find evidence of contradiction in the PM’s previous statements. But perhaps most problematic claim by Cameron was issued not within the Commons chamber but in a BBC interview on 21 July 2013.

Dropping the present tense — which seemed to restrict the period covered by the denials to Crosby’s current tenure with the Conservatives — the PM told Andrew Marr:

“Let me be clear. He [Crosby] has not intervened in any way on this or, indeed, on other issues.

“The whole thing from start to finish has been something of a media invention. He hasn’t intervened.

That Crosby’s role with the Tories was announced on 18 November 2012 (17 days after his message to Marland) might provide a bit of wriggle room — were it not for the fact that the pair are “close friends” and it was known in Westminster that Crosby had been in talks with the Tories for months.

The Indy had even reported in early October that one of the final sticking points was Crosby’s demand that his firm also be given the party’s polling contract.

And it gets worse. In the same interview, Cameron explains his vacillation on plain packaging:

“We need more evidence. We need greater legal certainty.”

Scrapbook wonders whether there is a better way to undermine such certainty than to commission opinions from former Court of Appeal judges questioning the legality of plan packs on intellectual property grounds

… like the, errr, one that was paid for by Big Tobacco and sent to Lord Marland by Lynton Crosby on 1 November 2012.

Clegg facing demolition in Sheffield

Nick Clegg's office in Sheffield

Those who can’t wait to see Nick Clegg booted out of his (Whitehall) office next May could be getting an early sneak preview — but only if a Sheffield planning application gets the go ahead.

Proposals for the “Demolition of existing buildings and erection of building to form 4 self contained apartments” at the site of the deputy prime minister’s constituency office have been filed with the city council.

The building has previously featured on Scrapbook as the venue of a questionable money merry-go-round featuring taxpayers’ cash. Rather than renting directly from the owners, Clegg sublets from his local party — who don’t own the building themselves either and who failed to reveal what they’re paying to help IPSA-mandated surveyors establish what the true “market rent” is.

He’ll need to find somewhere else to print leaflets suggesting that government policies are nothing to do with him.

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