A Conservative MP has retreated from a pledge to return £5,000 from a tax-evading donor — after Tory colleagues refused to hand back £20,000 from the same man and another involved in the scheme.
Charlotte Leslie leads The Times’ special election section with a glowing article on her rejecting cash from Hugh Sloane, whose company Sloane Robinson Investment Services was ordered to pay £12 million to HMRC after its tax arrangements were ruled unlawful by a tribunal.
But the article was amended online (£) just after midnight following a hasty U-turn by the Bristol MP, who decided that she would keep the money despite the illegal tax evasion — because there was no criminal prosecution.
Ms Leslie indicated that she would return any donations from someone who had been found guilty of tax evasion. However, last night she issued a statement saying that as “there was no criminal prosecution of Hugh Sloane or of his company for tax evasion”, she would not be taking any action.
The refusal of fellow Tory MPs Angie Bray (marginal Ealing Central and Acton) and Nicola Blackwood (ultra-marginal Oxford West and Abingdon) to hand back £10,000 each from Sloane and his business partner George Robinson was undoubtedly a decisive factor in the volte face. Sloane told The Times that neither he or his company owed outstanding amounts to HMRC.
Charlotte Leslie certainly knows a thing or two about problematic donations. The former SpAd was forced to apologise to the Commons last year after failing to declare thousands of pounds to parliamentary authorities — because she is dyslexic.
Leslie received £10,000 just days after a company whose campaign she had supported in parliament won a favourable ruling worth tens of millions of pounds.