Exclusive: Lord Paul to end his non-domiciled tax status

Bold move by Labour peer will put pressure back on his Tory critics.

In an exclusive interview with the New Statesman, the Labour peer and long-time party donor Lord Paul of Marylebone says he is to end his controversial "non-dom" tax status. He says:

On the issue of taxation position of peers, of course it goes without saying that I'll be fully complying with the change of law which the government is bringing forward. I strongly support the government proposals in relation to the taxation status of peers and MPs and the membership of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

On the subject of the police investigation into his House of Lords expenses, Lord Paul reveals:

I am delighted to announce today that the Metropolitan Police Service have informed me that it has decided after due consideration that it will no longer be proceeding with any investigation or inquiry in relation to my House of Lords expenses. I very much welcome the police decision.

So will he be ending his non-dom status from the next tax year? "That's right," he says.

Asked about his views on the Tories and their attempt to involve him in the non-dom row about Lord Ashcroft, he says:

I think they have been caught with their pants down, and what better than try to reflect on others? First of all, I am a born domicile. I am born in India. He was the only one who was asked to pay full taxes. Nobody asked me. I have always been open about my non-domiciled status. There are lots of non-doms in the House of Lords, but I don't know of any case where they were asked to pay full tax, apart from Lord Ashcroft.

He adds:

I am not buying MPs, seats or the party. I have no interest in being a minister. I'm too old for it anyway. The Tories seem to be confused. And don't forget I was appointed a peer by John Major, not by the Labour government of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown.

Asked how much his decision will cost him, in terms of tax contributions to the Exchequer, the Labour donor reveals:

Definitely not millions of pounds, or hundreds of thousands.

Lord Paul also clarifies the speculation over the nature of his donations, saying:

I have never given a personal donation to the Labour Party.

He adds, with regard to the controversy over his appointment to the Privy Council in 2009:

My contribution to this country is perhaps bigger than a lot of people who are privy councillors. I don't think it is a monopoly for ex-ministers and ministers to be members of the Privy Council. I bought steel companies in Britain and brought them to health and made the industry fashionable again in the 1980s. We have 3,500 employees in this country right now.

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.