Archive for March 24th, 2014

Media backlash for CI lord

| 24/03/2014 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier has arrived in the UK against a backdrop of more bad publicity for the Cayman Islands and its head of the UK office, who is one of the people on the Cayman Islands Government's (CIG) agenda to meet while in the UK. Although the contract between CIG and Lord Blencathra’s company has been in the public domain for more than one year, in light of the recent findings by the House of Lords banning peers from lobbying, the contract has now found its way into the British press. The contract demonstrates that the Tory lord was required to lobby on this jurisdiction’s behalf as part of his $14,000 per month contract.

Lord Blencathra has denied lobbying the House of Lords, only government. During the investigation into his role he told the House of Lords Committee that his “compliance with the law or Lords Rules takes precedence over anything which was in my contract." He added, "I made clear that I would not be lobbying Parliament or MPs. Indeed, even that initial contract made no mention of lobbying. That was firmly understood between us."

However, his controversial appointment was justified in Cayman exactly because he could lobby relevant government ministers on Cayman's behalf.The top job in the UK office had for obvious reasons been historically held by a Caymanian. When the former premier, McKeeva Bush, broke the tradition by hiring Blencathra, he made it clear it was because of his influence in the corridors of power at Westminster as well as Whitehall.

According to an official release from the premier’s office on Friday, Alden McLaughlin will be meeting with Lord Blencathra this week “regarding the budget and various Cayman Islands Government projects”, officials said.

Despite the recent findings by the House of Lords following an investigation into Blencathra’s role as the director of the Cayman Islands’ UK office, he still appears to be employed by CIG and there was no indication that his future with the CIG would be on the line in this planned meeting.

CNS has made several requests to government and Blencathra’s media representatives in London to clarify the situation regarding Blencathra, since the House of Lords committee instituted the new regulations banning lords from lobbying ministers. The government and his PR firm have, however, remained silent. McLaughlin was scheduled to do a video interview with CNS Business earlier this month in which this question would have been put to him again but he cancelled the interview.

McLaughlin will now be meeting with the Tory peer, who, despite being paid more than $14,000 per month from public funds, is stirring up significant controversy for Cayman at a time when there had been high hopes that the islands' image abroad was improving. Various efforts by both the previous minority government and the PPM administration to repair the relationship with the UK and to move very quickly on the G8 agenda of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, automatic exchange of information and improving overall transparency had placed Cayman in a more favourable light.

However, media coverage in the UK Monday points to Blencathra’s role as promoting a tax haven.

Labour MP Paul Flynn, who had made the original complaint with the Lords, is now calling for further enquiries, as he said he did not see how Lord Blencathra could reconcile his defence that he had never lobbied for Cayman given the contract he signed.

“I will be contacting the Lords authorities and asking them to look again at this. It is intolerable that he is acting as both a legislator and lobbying on behalf of a country that makes income from the tax avoidance industry.”

The contract was originally revealed by CNS following a freedom of information request in 2012.

See UK press articles below:

Peers-contract-with-caribbean-tax-haven
Revealed-conservative-peer–contract-for-tax-haven-
Lord-blencathra-lobbying-contract–show-government-chasing-wrong-target

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