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(CNS Business): Lord Blencathra, the director of Cayman Islands London Office, has been criticised in the UK for lobbying on behalf of Cayman’s financial services industry while, as a member of the House of Lords, he is able to vote on legislation affecting the territory. "It can't be right for a member of the legislature, responsible for setting tax policy, to be employed by a well-known tax haven," Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett told the Independent yesterday. However, the British peer maintained that he had been meticulous in ensuring that there was no conflict of interest between his role as lobbyist and his duties in the Lords. "You cannot point to one single incident, speech, vote or question where I have sought to advance the Cayman Islands in the Lords," he told the UK press.
The Ministry of Finance (Financial Services) has three staff members in its London Office, including Lord Blencathra, and its expenses, including salaries, for the 2011/12 financial year is CI$817,763. This does not cover the Department of Tourism staff and operations at the office, which fall under a separate budget.
Lord Blencathra, a former member of the UK Parliament who still maintains close ties and connections to his former colleagues, was appointed as director in November 2011. According to the ministry, his primary role is lobbying the UK Government on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government. At the same time the British peer has claimed up to £5,500 a month in attendance allowances in the House of Lords.
Asked by The Independent if his activities were compatible with the House of Lords code of conduct, Lord Blencathra said, "You have confused lobbying Parliament, which I do not do, with lobbying the Government which I do." The Independent also noted that, despite widespread criticisms from transparency campaigners, there are no clear rules preventing members of the House of Lords acting as paid lobbyists for companies or other governments.
Speaking at a press conference in the Cayman Islands recently, Lord Blencathra explained that his goal was to promote the quality of the financial services industry. He noted that that all of the initiatives that have been written about in the international press, from those impacting fund management to solvency issues, could, if interpreted strictly, pose a threat to this jurisdiction and may limit the ability of Cayman-based firms to compete and sell their products in Europe. He warned that in Europe in particular there were plans for the introduction of various regulations that could threaten it and it was in that arena where there was work for him to do. The peer said he could open some doors to get Cayman’s voice heard on the technical matters relating to such initiatives.
Listing the activities of Lord Blencathra on behalf of Cayman over the past few months, the Independent said he had lobbied the Chancellor George Osborne to reduce the burden of air passenger transport taxes on the Cayman Islands; facilitated an all-expenses-paid trip to Cayman for three senior MPs (although the paper failed to note that this was paid for by the Cayman government).
The Independent said that, following an Early Day Motion in the Commons calling for the Cayman Islands to be closed down as a tax haven, Lord Blencathra had tried to introduce the MP responsible, the former Treasury Select Committee member John Cryer, to members of a Cayman Islands delegation in London.
Cryer told the paper, "I just got this email from Lord Blencathra asking if I would meet with a delegation from the Caymans who were in London. I had no idea at the time that he was being paid to lobby for them. It is outrageous for him, as a parliamentarian, to be doing that. Members of the House of Lords should not be representing foreign governments. If those governments want to lobby people they should be doing it themselves."
The Independent said he had also approached the International Bar Association to discuss its task force on human rights and illicit financial flows before the task force had launched, and that he sent a letter to the Labour MP Angela Eagle after she raised a question about his appointment.
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