Ashcroft gives up non-dom status to stay in Lords

Jul 7, 2010
Tim Edwards

Architect Lord Foster is among five peers who have opted to quit rather than give up tax-free status

The Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, who bankrolled the Conservative General Election campaign, has given up his non-dom status in order to retain his seat in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, Lord Foster is the most prominent of five peers to have left the Lords in order to avoid becoming resident in the UK for tax purposes. 

The new rules, which ban non-doms – those who avoid paying tax to the UK exchequer on their overseas earnings – from sitting in the Lords, were introduced in April, but peers were given until today to comply.

Lord Foster of Thames Bank, to give him his full title, now spends most of his time in Switzerland – a favoured destination of those who consider the UK tax regime too burdensome. The famous architect's greatest hits include the skyscraper 30 St Mary Axe – aka the Gherkin - in the City of London, and the restored Reichstag in Berlin. He was a crossbencher in the Lords. The other four peers are:

Lady Dunn: a crossbencher who worked in the Hong Kong administration and was deputy chairman of HSBC. She lives in the former British colony

Lord Bagri: a Tory peer and metal magnate, who lives in India

Lord McAlpine: a Tory peer and former Treasurer to the party, although he briefly joined the Referendum Party. He lives in Italy

Lord Laidlaw: a Monaco-based Tory peer. He was the target of a sting by the News of the World in 2008 when he was secretly filmed with prostitutes in Monte Carlo.

More resignations are expected before today's deadline is up, but Belize-based billionaire Lord Ashcroft's decision to remain in the Lords will surprise some.

The controversy over his generous donations to the Conservative Party could be said to have brought the issue of non-doms having undue political influence in the UK to a head, resulting in the passing of the new law, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

Ashcroft promised to become resident for tax purposes in the UK in return for being granted his peerage back in 2000, but admitted in March this year that he was yet to do so.

He suggested he would remain in the House of Lords when the new rules came in, but rumours of a rift with the Conservative leadership following a poorer-than-expected showing in the May General Election had led some to believe he would prefer to remain a non-dom and leave the House of Lords.

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