A COUNTY MP has broken his silence over a front page story in the Hereford Times outlining his position as managing director of an offshore financial company by stating that the article was "not news".

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, was heavily criticised by opposition political groups after this newspaper reported how the most recent register of interests released by parliament showed he was Managing Director of Bermuda-based Emerging Asset Management Ltd.

The papers also showed that, from September 1 of last year, he was appointed a director of two fund platforms in the Caymans, and two in Bermuda.

From January he stated that he will be paid 24,000 US dollars a year, or approximately £4,800 a quarter.

He also received a bonus of £6,400. These payments were in addition to the £74,962 basic salary Mr Wiggin receives as an MP.

On its website, Emerging Asset Management states it provides new and established, small to medium sized fund managers with an innovative turnkey solution on how to start a hedge fund and launch new funds in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Delaware in the USA.

Opposition groups called into question the ‘morality’ in elected politicians being involved in arrangements for people to legally not pay tax. They also said MPs should not have outside interests that bring in income and should focus their time on being a full-time MP.

But in a response this week – which can be seen in full on page 50 – Mr Wiggin said islands like Bermuda and Cayman are ‘no longer the opaque havens that they once were’.

He said: “This government, alongside the EU, has insisted on much stricter transparency regulations meaning that hiding money offshore, or not paying tax when it is repatriated, is impossible.

“The beneficiaries of funds based in Bermuda or Cayman are the almost 30 million UK pension holders whose money rests in them, and all tax due is paid on repatriation.

“This newspaper’s front page story was not news. I fully disclose my earnings and my outside interests, and have done ever since I first began working for EAM.”

EAM, he said, has no British, or even EU clients, so there is no potential loss to HMRC.

He added: “My earnings are diligently recorded and fully taxed. The way to avoid tax is to use an ISA, which I encourage all of my constituents to take advantage of.

“It is not possible or sensible to hide money from HMRC through offshore funds, contrary to the rhetoric of the Green Party and Labour Party.”

Mr Wiggin’s statement came in the same week that the North Herefordshire Labour Party announced it had called on Jeremy Corbyn to raise the matter of Mr Wiggin’s outside interests in parliament.

Roger Page, the acting chairman of North Herefordshire Labour Party, said: “There has been much debate in parliament about cracking down on tax avoidance and closing loopholes.

“Whilst avoidance is not illegal it is, in our view, immoral, in particular given the extreme cuts in public services, council budgets, the police, fire service and not least strains on the NHS. For our MP to have outside paid interests in the minimisation of tax liability is not in his constituents’ interests.”

Mr Page added: “In view of the public interest we are calling on the leader of the opposition to challenge the government on its statements on tax avoidance when at least one of its MPs seems to be involved in, in a professional capacity.

“We would suggest in the interests of his constituents our MP rids himself of these interests and concentrates entirely on his constituency and his duties in parliament.”