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Solicitor General under pressure over blind trust disclosure

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As students of equity & trusts will of course know, the arrangement allows Robert Buckland QC’s financial affairs to remain secret

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A top government lawyer is under pressure to disclose his personal investments after it emerged that he was one of 12 wealthy Conservative ministers using blind trusts.

Robert Buckland QC — who is the solicitor general for England and Wales — uses the special trust to prevent his political position influencing his investment portfolio.

According to The Sun — which named Buckland over the weekend — investments within a blind trust can be kept completely private as financial control is handed to a third party.

With Prime Minister David Cameron eventually admitting last week that he profited from his father’s offshore trust, there have been calls for more transparency in relation to politicians’ financial dealings.

This isn’t the first time that Buckland’s financial arrangements have hit national headlines.

Earlier this year it emerged that the top barrister — who is a door tenant at London’s 23 Essex Street Chambers — placed money in the Invicta Film Partnership No 25.

According to The Sunday Times (£), the scheme offers tax incentives for those looking to invest in low budget UK films. Buckland, at the time, denied attempting to “avoid tax”, claiming he was assured by an “accredited financial adviser” that schemes such as Invicta were completely above board.

Buckland — who has been a member of the investment scheme since 2005 — was called to the bar in 1991, and went on to practise both criminal and planning law in Wales, before making the switch to politics.

When he was appointed to the senior government legal role back in 2014, there was controversy after it emerged that Buckland had been the subject of a Bar Standards Board (BSB) disciplinary hearing while in practice.

In 2008 the future solicitor general headed up an investigation into a racially-motivated attack at a school at which he was a governor. Despite having no legal grounds to do so, Buckland sought to obtain documents relating to the incident that were held by a barrister representing one of the pupils involved.

At a BSB hearing in 2011 Buckland was found guilty of professional misconduct but no sanctions were imposed. With the tribunal finding wiped from his record prior to his solicitor general appointment, Buckland was under no obligation to disclose it. In spite of this, outspoken Labour MP Emily Thornberry — a former barrister herself — described Buckland’s appointment as “an insult to lawyers”.

Buckland did not respond to Legal Cheek‘s request for comment.

8 Comments

Anonymous

Its actually called a secret trust.?

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Jim

No it’s not. A secret trust is one where property is left in a will to a person wit the intention that he hold it on truste. That person may be identified as a trustee (half-secret) or not (fully secret) but the terms of the trust are not disclosed on the face of the will. A blind trust is one where a person hands over management of assets to a trustee (generally on trust for their own benefit) with no control or knowledge of how those assets will be managed. Often used by politically exposed persons to prevent conflicts of interest.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

No, a secret trust is something completely different (as is a half-secret trust).
“Blind trust” has two distinct meanings, this is the more common one in popular usage and entirely standard (the other meaning referred to a rather dodgy kind of disc trust once used offshore – not so much in recent years – basically containing no named beneficiaries at all so of doubtful validity)

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Willie

A perfect reply! Thanks for taking the trbolue.

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Mungo

“Robert Buckland QC — who is the solicitor general for England and Wales — uses the special trust to prevent his political position influencing his investment portfolio.”

Fair doos. You can do right for doing wrong sometimes can you?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

A top government lawyer and a top barrister? Does that make him top of the tops?

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Anonymous

A top government anything would hardly make it a top elsewhere in the real world

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Not Amused

In the search for balance, could we just remember that schemes like Invicta were actively promoted by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown?

I appreciate that there is a whole ‘witch hunt’ thing going on with tax right now. But it just seems to me that we ought to at least recognise that. These things are always a question of balance and anyone flicking through their TV set will find rubbish programming with the words “Supported by the government of [insert country here]” at the end. There’s nothing obviously wrong with film or tv schemes that incentivise investment by offering tax incentives – it’s not a necessarily bad way of supporting the arts.

What happened in our case was Gordon Brown made a complete hash of it. People pretended to make films rather than … errrr … making films. So then he U-turned and everything collapsed.

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