The former Treasury minister James Sassoon is a beneficiary of a Bahamas trust fund that has sheltered a family fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars from tax since 1957.
The Conservative peer, who has used debates in the House of Lords to defend tax avoidance, has emerged as one of many high-profile clients of Appleby, the law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers.
Established by his grandmother, Doris Herschorn, the trust has invested and distributed money to the peer, who is a relative of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, his father and half a dozen family members for more than half a century. It controlled a Bahamas investment vehicle called Orchard Ltd, which in 2008 held funds worth almost $250m.
The revelation raises questions about why peers are specifically entitled by the Lords code of conduct to keep family trusts secret, when they have to declare most other significant financial interests on the official register.
Tamasin Cave of the campaign group Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: “This is why we have disclosure rules: to ensure that MPs and peers act in the public interest and not for private gain.
“The exclusion of family trusts from these rules is an anomaly that needs to be addressed. As with any other outside interest, the public should have a right to know if an MP or peer financially benefits from or manages a trust. The financial affairs of legislators are a matter of public interest.”
My emphasis. A reasonable question for any MP, I think.