Ministers' interests: blind trusts, bank bonuses and beekeeping

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 4 February 2011 in Diary
The register of ministers’ interests was released this afternoon by the Cabinet Office.

The register of ministers’ interests was released this afternoon by the Cabinet Office. The most immediately striking thing about the list is the number of ministers who have ‘blind trusts’ — 16 in all, including Chris Huhne, Andrew Mitchell, Ken Clarke and Frances Maude.

A blind trust is a way of organising assets so that the beneficiary (in this case the minister) gives up knowledge and control of them, thus avoiding a conflict of interest but maintaining any income. No surprise then that eight of these blind trust holders appear on the list of Cabinet millionaires. Labour came in for severe criticism of their use of blind trusts - could the same happen to coalition?

A few other salient points from the list:

Both Nick Clegg and Theresa Villiers are in receipt of MEPs pensions, which on reaching retirement age is worth an annual £14,736 for every five year term of office.

Nick Clegg’s father runs a ‘small private bank’, the United Trust Bank Ltd.

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, minister of state at BIS, also has a potentially embarrassing bank-related interest — he has shares in HSBC Holdings plc which are ‘almost entirely performance-related’ (sounds remarkably like a bonus to me). To nip any potential story in the bud the register pre-emptively announces that ‘shares will be donated immediately on receipt to Bishop Radford Trust’.

George Osborne and FCO minister Lord Howell each declare their relationship by marriage (Osborne is married to Howell’s daughter), and Osborne also confirms that he has shares in the family wallpaper business, run by his father.

David Cameron and Vince Cable might not have much else in common at the moment, but they seem to share an interest in beekeeping — Cameron is President of the Oxfordshire Beekeepers’ Association while Dr Cable is a patron of the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association.

Richard Benyon, Parliamentary under-secretary at Defra, records that his ‘parents, children and siblings are beneficiaries of family trusts with residential, agricultural and commercial properties including a landfill and an inert waste recycling site. Mr Benyon’s brother is employed by one of the trusts’. Read our full profile of Richard Benyon here.

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