Monthly Archives: March 2012

More questions for Cameron in ‘cash for access’ controversy

I wrote this page lead article for the Daily Telegraph about a number of major donations to the Conservative Party made by a company owned by a Palestinian billionaire.

These donations are particularly relevant following the ‘cash for access’ scandal, when Sunday Times undercover reporters filmed the former Tory party treasurer Peter Cruddas boasting that he could provide access to the prime minister and influence over policy for “premier league” donors.

British political parties can only be funded by people registered to vote in this country, or by British companies.

Jack Straw has since called for an investigation into foreign donations, telling the Today programme: “The law is in principle very clear, which is that only donations that come from individuals who are on the UK electoral roll or from companies that are registered in the UK are allowed.

“In addition to this, new laws I introduced in 2009 ensured that you can’t use front organisations to disguise the original source of the donation.”

As usual, full text can be found on the Telegraph website here, or after the fold

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Which of the Cabinet have just handed themselves a tax break?

During his response to the Budget today, Ed Miliband challenged members of the cabinet who will benefit from the lowering of the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p to raise their hands.

No-one did. So I did a bit of sleuthing, using the register of MPs’ financial interests and the register of ministers’ interests to see which ministers are likely candidates.

The full blog post, with table of calculations, can be found on the Telegraph website here, while the text of the resulting newspaper article is online here or after the fold.

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Osborne’s new stamp duty tax to hit Cameron’s family bolthole

I wrote this article about how the prime minister’s landed father-in-law will be affected by the new stamp duty rules introduced in the Budget.

In a bid to halt stamp duty avoidance, a charge is to be introduced on all properties held by overseas companies.

The charge is expected to be £15,000 on homes worth £2m to £5m, rising to £140,000 a year for homes worth £20m or more.

Viscount Astor’s beautiful Jura estate, likely to be valued at well over the £2m cut-off, is a favourite holiday spot for Cameron and his wife.

Full text can be found on the Telegraph website here, or after the fold.

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What price freedom (of information)?

I’ve written an article on the threat to the Freedom of Information Act ahead of the conclusion of a Justice Select Committee’s inquiry.

As a reporter, freedom of information laws often offer the best route when investigating matters which are not in the public domain.

Many topics, from expenses to disciplinary procedures, are often kept private and details can be difficult to obtain. Even though FOI requests are not infallible, they are a valuable tool for every journalist, and to me it is unthinkable that the rules could be watered down.

Stories I have found through FOI requests include John Bercow’s chauffered car habit, the BBC boss who was paid off then rehired, and the council that used terror law to catch a carrot thief.

Full text is on the Telegraph website here, or read on.

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