On 15 August 2017, UK 2020 Limited, the thinktank founded and chaired by former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, filed its second set of accounts at Companies House (registered company number: 09245454). Conservative MP Mr Paterson, who’s now sole director, signed off the accounts on 8 June 2017. Made up to 31 March 2017, note 4 there, “Future activities,” states: “The company was dormant from 1 April 2017.”
Two weeks after filing the accounts, meanwhile, the apparently dormant thinktank published its latest report, “Timebomb: How the university cartel is failing students.” Its findings were first reported on 3 September 2017, in The Sunday Times newspaper and on the BBC News website. Two days later, UK 2020 formally launched the report in the House of Commons Thames Pavilion, according to the thinktank’s Twitter feed (@_uk2020).
The 157-page report was produced “over recent months,” says lead author Richard Tice in his preface. Is UK 2020 the first dormant thinktank to prepare and publish a weighty report?
At date of publication neither Mr Paterson at parliament nor UK 2020 itself responded to requests for comment.
The company that owns English football club Hull City Tigers, Allamhouse Limited, is as well known for its record of political donations, mostly to Labour. The firmitself is owned by the Allam family. Dr Assem Allam is chairman of Hull City; his son Ehab Allam vice-chairman. There‘s an unexplained discrepancy of almost £32k between two independent public sources for political donations made by Allamhouse Limitedfor the five years 2012-2016. Further, the identified recipients of the donations differ between the two independent public sources. The football club apparently remains for sale, meanwhile,after relegation from the Premier League last season, 2016-17.
The firm’s last accounts were made up to 31 December 2016, Companies House records show (registered company number: 07042898). And at that year-end Allamhouse Limited hadmade seven political donations, all cash and total value £750.0k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Also, subsidiary Allam Marine Limited (registered company number: 02708090) made two political donations in 2012, both cash and total value £106.9k. Thus the overall sum at the Electoral Commission is £856.9k.
Political donations above £2k must be disclosed by a company in the directors’ report within the annual report. Here the accounting reference date is 31 December, according to Companies House records.For each year 2012-2016 except 2015, political donations are disclosed in the annual report of Allamhouse Limited. But here the total value is £825.0k – almost £32k (i.e. £31.9k) less than the Electoral Commission total, £856.9k (Table 1). (No political donations are disclosed in the 2011 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited. And none are listed during 2011 in the Electoral Commission online database, either)
Table 1. Political donations by Allamhouse Limited 2012-2016 (GBP 000)
Six issues about the Hull City owners‘political donations arise from comparison of disclosures in the directors’ reports and Electoral Commission records.
FIRST ISSUE: The 2012 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited discloses a cash donation to Labour of £100k. Electoral Commission records show that in 2012 the party actually received that sum from subsidiary Allam Marine Limited. Yet later that year, Allam Marine Limited also gave Labour £6.9k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Why did the 2012 directors’ report of Allamhouse Limited fail to disclose the secondcash donation to Labour? (No political donations are disclosed in the 2012 directors’ report of Allam Marine Limited.)
SECOND ISSUE: The 2013 directors’ report shows two cash donations: £110k to Labour and £15k to the Conservative Middle Eastern Council (CMEC). Neither – nor any donation – is shownduring 2013 in the Electoral Commission online database.Why?
THIRD ISSUE: The 2014 directors’ report discloses cash donations to Labour of total value £500k. The number of cash donations isn’t specified. During 2014 in the Electoral Commission online database there’s only a single donation to Labour – of £110k. Perhaps this donation is that disclosed in the 2013 directors’ report? (see SECOND ISSUE) Similarly, in 2014 CMEC accepted a cash donation of £15k from the company, the Electoral Commission online database shows. Again, perhaps this donation is that disclosed in the 2013 directors’ report?
FOURTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. Nevertheless in 2015 Labour accepted two cash donations from the firm: £200k and £300k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. Perhaps these donations are those disclosed in the 2014 directors’ report, total value £500k? (see THIRD ISSUE)
FIFTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. Yet during 2015 in the Electoral Commission online database CMEC accepted a cash donation of £15k from the company. Why the non-disclosure in the directors’ report?
SIXTH ISSUE: The 2015 directors’ report discloses no political donations. But during 2015 in the Electoral Commission online database the Conservatives (Haltemprice and Howden) accepted a cash donation of £10k from the company. Haltemprice and Howden is the constituency of David Davis MP, Brexit Secretary.It‘s also where Dr Allam lives. Why the non-disclosure in the directors’ report?
For 2016, however, there’s no discrepancy in amount between the two independent public sources: both say£100k. This political donation is vaguely described as “to the Labour Party Leadership campaign” in the 2016 directors’ report. While Owen Smith MP, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn MP as Labour leader in the summer of 2016, is shown as recipient at the Electoral Commission.
Hull City press officer, Luke Cash, hasn’t responded to requests for comment. I‘ve emailed him at the football club three times, beginning in June 2017.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to James Douglas at the Electoral Commission for adviceon its data.
Lord Lee of Trafford (Lib Dem) is a celebrated private investor, who, among many other things, has for a long time written a column in the FT newspaper about investing. One of the former MP’s declared non-financial interests is his role as a trustee of charity The Lee And Bakirgian Family Trust (registered charity number: 1046940). Here I reveal a problem with the latest accounts for the north west charity, made up to 30 September 2016.
Income that year, £30 236, is above the statutory threshold for external scrutiny of the accounts, £25k. Yet there was no external scrutiny of the accounts. That is, there’s no evidence of an independent examination.
In July 2017, I twice requested a comment from the public contact for the charity, Simon Ellis at accountants Jackson Stephen LLP, Warrington (email). I didn’t receive a response.
On 18 August 2017, a spokesperson for regulator the Charity Commission told me in a written statement: “The Commission will be contacting the trustees to request they re-submit their accounts in the correct format so that we can be satisfied the accounts we hold are accurate and in line with charity law.”
There‘s an unexplained discrepancy of almost £100k between two independent public sources for political donations made by shoe repair and key-cutting business Timpson Ltd for the eight years 2009-2016. Further, there’s incomplete disclosure of recipient in one of the sources, the company annual reports and accounts. These all show the Conservatives as recipient, failing to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient. The MP, who was a government minister until losing his seat in the 2017 general election, is a related party of the family business. Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
The firm’s last accounts were made up to 1 October 2016, Companies House records show (registered company number: 00675216). And at that year-end Timpson Ltd hadmade 13 political donations, all non-cash and total value £730.4k, according to the Electoral Commission online database. The recipient was the same each time: Edward Timpson MP.
Conservative Mr Timpson lost his seat, Crewe and Nantwich, to Labour by just 48 votes at the last general election in June 2017, having first been elected in May 2008 in a by-election. His last role in government was as Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families at the Department for Education July 2016-June 2017.
Beginning in 2009, Timpson Ltdmade at least one donation to the MP each of the eight years, Electoral Commission records show.
Political donations above £2k must be disclosed by a company in the directors’ report within the annual report. For each year 2009-2016, political donations were disclosed in the annual report. And the recipient was the same each time: the “Conservative Party”. But here the total value was £633.0k – almost £100k (i.e. £97.4k) less than the Electoral Commission total, £730.4k (Table 1). (The 2009 directors’ report states that the firm made no political donations in 2008.)
Table 1. Political donations by Timpson Ltd 2009-2016 (GBP 000)
There’s something else about the company annual reports and accounts: they all fail to identify explicitly Edward Timpson MP as recipient of the political donations. It’s merely the Conservatives. This incomplete disclosure is disappointing because Edward, as hislast name suggests, is a member of the eponymousfamily who own and runthe ubiquitous high-street retailer. He’s a son of director Sir John Timpson, who’s company chair; and brother of director James Timpson, who succeeded his father as chief executive in 2011. Both Sir John and James are high-profile business figures.
But the incomplete disclosure doesn’t stop there. The company annual reports and accounts all fail to disclose the donations to the MP as related party transactions. Edward is a related party of Timpson Ltd because he‘s a close family member of Sir John and James (see International Accounting Standard 24 Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24): http://www.iasplus.com/en-gb/standards/ias/ias24). Thus the political donations are related party transactions – undisclosed related party transactions.
Prior to this year’s general election, Timpson Ltd didn’t respond to requests for comment. I wrote twice to the family business in May 2017 via its website. On each occasion I received nothing but an immediate automated acknowledgement of receipt (email). The retailer became responsive after the general election, however. On 21 July 2017, I contacted it for the third time via the website. In her response for Timpson Ltd three days later (email), Christine Hickman enclosed “a reply that should have been sent to you.” It said: “Further to your enquiry our independent external auditors have confirmed that the disclosures we have made in our statutory accounts are in compliance with the Large and Medium-sized Companies and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2008. We have made enquiries of the Electoral Commission and are awaiting a response.”
I thanked Ms Hickman for the email by reply the same day (24 July 2017), adding I‘d await her further response. At date of publication I‘ve heard nothing.
The Daily Mail persists in publishing full-page ads for a fake limited company, despite my complaints to the newspaper.
Health Broadcast Ltd is the advertiser. There’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
I first came across Health Broadcast Ltd ads in the Mail on 11 March 2017, in an ad for “detox foot patches”: Daily Mail 11 Mar 2017 p.100. When I rang the freephone number shown, no one could explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “Health Broadcast” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
On the same day, I complained to the Mail’s readers’ editor (email). I received an anonymous response a few days later, thanking me for contacting the newspaper. He/she had “alerted our advertising department and asked them to investigate as a matter of urgency.” I wrote back the same day saying I expected to hear from the Mail in due course.
But I didn’t hear anything.
On 27 May 2017, meanwhile, Health Broadcast Ltd had another full-page ad in the paper; this time for a “pain-relieving gel”: Daily Mail 27 May 2017 p.104. I therefore complained again to the readers’ editor, on 1 June 2017, pointing out this was the second time I’d done so. I finished by asking: why does the Daily Mail persist in betraying its readers for the sake of the advertiser?
I received another anonymous response from the “readers’ editor’s office” the next day. It said: “We have passed your latest email on to our advertising department and asked them to look into it. We will revert to you when we can shed further light on the situation.”
Yet, again, I heard nothing.
On 8 July 2017, I then saw the ad for the “pain-relieving gel” again: Daily Mail 8 July 2017. But Health Broadcast Ltd had changed its trading address to prestigious Mayfair in central London – 43 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5AP. This is the address of Hatton & Berkeley Global Limited (registered company number: 10145165), a professional business services firm. Its services include virtual offices in London; 43 Berkeley Square is its Berkeley Square virtual office address. (www.hattonandberkeley-virtualoffice.com)
On 12 July 2017, I called the phone number in the latest ad, which remained the same after the change in trading address. Again, my call was answered as “Health Broadcast” only. And again, the call handler seemingly couldn’t explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t registered at Companies House. But he could supply an email address for the alleged limited company: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At date of publication I haven’t received a response to emails asking why Health Broadcast Ltd isn’t on the Companies House register.
Also, at date of publication there isn’t a company website at domain healthbroadcastltd.com. Without a website, there’s almost no publicly available information about the alleged limited company. Matthew Ward at UpsilonDM Limited (registered company number: 07207377) is registrant of the domain, according to Whois records. Filings at Companies House show Mr Ward is sole director of UpsilonDM Limited, which has a registered office address in Whitley Bay in North East England.
The Health Broadcast Ltd full-page ads continue in the Daily Mail – the most recent I saw was on 14 August 2017: Daily Mail 14 Aug 2017 p.68. Here I say nothing about the validity (or not) of the health claims in the ads. Rather, I ask only: why is the newspaper persisting in publishing ads for a fake limited company?