The row over Lord Ashcroft’s tax status deepend last night as William Hague admitted he had not known about the non-dom tax status of the Tory party’s deputy chairman until some months ago.
If you missed The World Tonight here is the full conversation.
Speakers: William Hague
RL: William Hague I need to ask you just one question about Michael Ashcroft. When did you learn that he had renegotiated the undertaking he gave to you about his tax status from permanent residency in the UK to long term residency in the UK?
WH: Well look David Cameron dealt with these issues yesterday. There were two things that people wanted to know about Michael Ashcroft, what undertaking he gave and what his tax status is now. And it’s high time the BBC now moved on to the real funding issue in Britain which is how come three quarters of the funding of then Labour party comes from trade unions, the huge power of the Unite union and these are now the issues that we need to get onto.
RL: But you gave an undertaking didn’t you, you gave an undertaking to Downing Street and to the scrutiny committee that Michael Ashcroft would become a permanent resident and that that would cost him tens of millions of pounds. It didn’t. When did you learn that that undertaking that you gave was not being adhered to?
WH: Well that undertaking was to be set in stone and defined by the Cabinet Office…
RL: When did you learn that it changed?
WH: …and I knew that the Cabinet office would do that but I wasn’t aware of any of the details of that, I don’t ask people what their tax status is or what they have negotiated with the Cabinet Office…
RL: Michael Ashcroft never told you that the undertaking you had given on his behalf had been renegotiated and that therefore was worthless?
WH: No, I knew the Cabinet Office would set that out and agree it with Michael Ashcroft but I would not of course know the details of that.
RL: So you didn’t know it until he issued his statement on Monday?
WH: Well I knew it in advance of that…
WH: Er, well over the last few months I knew about that and of course I was very keen to support him then in making his position public.
RL: You learnt a few months ago that when you said nearly a decade ago that he would pay tens of millions of pounds in tax as a result of the change of his tax status, that was wrong?
WH: Er, no, I don’t know what it has led to or what it will lead to and nor do you in terms of so you cannot possibly…
RL: So he is still a non-dom?
WH: You cannot possibly make that statement and now I know it’s disappointing for commentators and other political parties that really the fox has been shot on this and they no longer have Michael Ashcroft to complain about…
RL: He’s the deputy chairman of your party and he didn’t tell you that an undertaking you’d given on his behalf was…
WH: …and it is time to ask other parties about the non-doms who have funded those parties to a huge extent and about the trade unions who fund the Labour party in return for policy favours and for public expenditure being spent in that way.
RL: Is there any other peer in the House of Lords who as a condition of being granted a peerage gave an undertaking on his tax status which he then reneged on?
WH: Well has any other peer been asked for a commitment…
RL: It’s not the point is it? he was asked, he gave an undertaking and he broke it?
WH: Well first of all you cannot possibly say he reneged on something he agreed with the Cabinet Office and secondly why haven’t other peers who have been non-doms been asked for any tax commitment?