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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Tory peer 'remains in tax exile'
Irvine Laidlaw
Lord Laidlaw is said to be Scotland's second richest man
A leading Conservative Party donor is still a tax exile three years after agreeing to become a UK resident to gain a peerage, BBC News has learned.

When Lord Laidlaw was proposed for a working peerage in 2004 he agreed to a Lords' Appointments Commission request to renounce his tax exile status.

The commission will "name and shame" him in a forthcoming review, but has no formal power to revoke his peerage.

He told the commission he had retained tax-exile status for personal reasons.

In a letter written to the commission three weeks ago, Lord Laidlaw also said he still intended to become a UK tax payer.

Major donor

Last year, he was named as Scotland's second richest person, with a fortune of 730m from conference and media enterprises.

BBC business editor Robert Peston
The letter, which was read to me, cites a variety of personal reasons
Robert Peston,
BBC business editor

Lord Laidlaw was also one of four major donors to the Conservative Party questioned by police investigating "cash for peerages" claims, along with IM group head Robert Edmiston, Lord Ashcroft and Swede Johan Eliasch.

The peer has said he intends to give away his vast personal fortune during the next few decades to help society's most disadvantaged people.

He sold his events business, the Institute of International Research, for more than 700m in 2005.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was unaware of the situation.

"That's the first that I have heard of this. It's a matter for him and the Lords Appointment Commission and we should leave it at that," he said.

"They are in correspondence with him and they are trying to resolve it." He said the status of his donations, not his personal circumstances, was "the issue of greatest public interest" and repeated that they were "properly registered".

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