I am making this statement in advance of the release by the Cabinet Office of limited information about the award of my peerage and of the undertakings I gave at the time. While I value my privacy, I do not want my affairs to distract from the general election campaign. I have therefore decided to release a copy of the letter which I wrote to William Hague, and to expand on what actually happened.
As the letter shows, the undertakings I gave were confirmed in a memorandum to William Hague dated 23rd March 2000. These were to "take up permanent residence in the UK again" by the end of that year. The other commitment in the memorandum was to resign as Belize's permanent representative to the UN, which I did a week later.
In subsequent dialogue with the Government, it was officially confirmed that the interpretation in the first undertaking of the words "permanent residence" was to be that of "a long term resident" of the UK. I agreed to this and finally took up my seat in the House of Lords in October 2000. Throughout the last ten years, I have been declaring all my UK income to HM Revenue.
My precise tax status therefore is that of a “non-dom". Two of Labour's biggest donors - Lord Paul (recently made a privy councillor by the Prime Minister) and Sir Ronald Cohen, both long-term residents of the UK, are also "non-doms".
As for the future, while the non-dom status will continue for many people in business or public life, David Cameron has said that anyone sitting in the legislature - Lords or Commons - must be treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. I agree with this change and expect to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years to come.
A Conservative Party spokesman has reacted by saying: "David Cameron has said that he respects people's privacy but he is pleased Lord Ashcroft has made this decision. It is clear therefore that Lord Ashcroft has the same status as several Labour donors including Lord Paul - recently appointed to the Privy Council on the recommendation of Gordon Brown's Government."
It will be interesting to see how people react to this news. The demonisation of Lord Ashcroft will no doubt continue in some parts of the media, egged on by partisan Labour politicians. It's no doubt water off a duck's back. The Independent on Saturday carried a long feature about the amount of money given to marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft, but it rather backfired as the figures show that only 18% of the money spent in the marginals was donated by Lord Ashcroft, with 82% raised by local candidates and Conservative Associations themselves.
Declaration of interest: Lord Ashcroft is a minority shareholder in my two companies, Biteback Media & Biteback Publishing