Geoffrey Cox (British politician)

The Right Honourable
Geoffrey Cox
QC MP
Official parliamentary portrait from June 2017
Attorney General for England and Wales
Advocate General for Northern Ireland
Assumed office
9 July 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by Jeremy Wright
Member of Parliament
for Torridge and West Devon
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by John Burnett
Majority 20,686 (34.7%)
Personal details
Born (1960-04-30) 30 April 1960
Wroughton, Wiltshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Jeanie Cox
Children 3
Alma mater Downing College, Cambridge
Website www.geoffreycox.co.uk

Charles Geoffrey Cox QC MP[1] (born 30 April 1960) is an English politician and barrister. He has been the Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Torridge and West Devon since 2005. On 9 July 2018, he was appointed Attorney General.

Early life

Cox was born in the Wiltshire village of Wroughton on 30 April 1960. He was educated at King's College, Taunton, an independent school in Somerset. He studied law and classics at Downing College, Cambridge.

Called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1982, Cox started practice as a barrister; in 1992, he co-founded Thomas More Chambers, serving as its Head of Chambers. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 2003.[2]

For part of his career as a barrister, Cox was Standing Counsel to the government of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius. His cases include "civil fraud and asset recovery, commercial, human rights, defamation, and judicial review actions". He has frequently appeared as leading counsel in the Supreme Court or the Privy Council, and he is increasingly instructed to lead in commercial actions and arbitrations overseas, appearing in the DIFC, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands.[2]

His criminal cases have included the Jubilee line corruption trial; representing the controversial multi-millionaire Nicholas van Hoogstraten; representing Virendra Rastogi the owner of RBG Resources;[3] and successfully defending Kingsman Darren Fallon of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, who had been accused of war crimes related to the death of Baha Mousa.[4] His practice has also included a wide range of commercial, human rights and constitutional cases both in the UK and overseas.

In 2014, Cox successfully defended the former Premier (and current Leader of the Opposition) of the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, on charges of corruption and misuse of office.[5] In March 2015, Cox successfully defended the deputy Editor of The Sun, Geoff Webster, in a trial of four journalists resulting from Operation Elveden.[6] The jury had to decide at what point the behaviour of those on trial could be considered a criminal rather than a serious disciplinary matter; even the lawyers found this difficult to define.[7] Cox subsequently publicly criticized the vagueness of the law, and its disproportionate use that had led to the prosecution.[6]

Parliamentary career

Cox was first selected to stand for Parliament in 2000 by the Torridge and West Devon Conservatives. In the following 2001 general election, he was narrowly defeated by the Liberal Democrat John Burnett, whose majority fell from 1,957 to 1,194 votes.

After the 2001 election, Cox was reselected. Burnett announced in 2003 that he would not contest the seat again, and at the 2005 general election Cox defeated the new Liberal Democrat candidate, David Walter, gaining a majority of 3,236.

Cox made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 28 June 2005, which was voted by fellow MPs as being one of the four best maiden speeches of the parliament.

Until 2010, Cox was a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Cox was re-elected as MP for Torridge and West Devon at the 2015 general election with a substantially increased majority of 18,403 votes, or 32.5%. He increased that majority by over 2000 votes at the 2017 election to 20,686 or 34.7%, which is the largest majority in Devon and Cornwall.

In February 2016, Cox told the House of Commons that he had concluded, after examining the published renegotiation proposals, that the case for leaving the EU was now overwhelming and that he would vote to do so in the forthcoming referendum.

On 9 July 2018, Cox was appointed to the Cabinet as Her Majesty's Attorney General of England and Wales and Advocate General of Northern Ireland.

Tax avoidance allegations

In September 2014, it was reported that Cox was one of a number of individuals investing in the Phoenix Film Partners LLC scheme run by Ingenious PLC which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had alleged to be a tax avoidance scheme. Ingenious claimed the scheme had been submitted to HMRC for pre-approval and that HMRC had not raised any objections. Cox has said that if the scheme was a tax avoidance scheme, it would have contradicted his instructions to his financial advisers, to whom he specified that he did not wish to be involved in aggressive tax avoidance.[8] The tax status of the scheme is due to be considered at a tribunal later in 2015.

Second career debate

Cox has continued to practise as a Queen's Counsel whilst an MP.[2] According to The Daily Telegraph, based on the declarations in the Register of Members' Interests, Cox's extra-parliamentary work was worth £820,867 in 2014, or 12 times his annual MP salary, whilst the total time on extra-parliamentary work that was registered in 2014 (although the register shows the hours were worked over 3 years) was 1,954 hours.[9] According to the Register as at 2 July 2018, his extra-parliamentary earnings in the 12 months from July 2017 to June 2018 were £487,043; the time expended totalled 1,070 hours, which equates to more than six months' work, assuming a standard 40-hour week.

Cox has previously defended his outside work, pointing out that MPs of all parties have practised as QCs over the years, and that the Attorney General and Solicitor General are normally chosen from their ranks.[10] He has argued that he has always been used to long hours and that the Nolan report concluded that Parliament needed people with current experience of a wide range of professional and other backgrounds.[10]

However, in 2016, the House of Commons Standards Committee—of which he was a member—found that he had committed a serious breach of a House of Commons rule after failing to register £400k of outside earnings (11 payments) for legal work within the permitted 28-day period. The payments were registered late, variously between two and seven months after the deadline; Cox admitted that he had omitted to prioritize the rule in the midst of an intense political and professional schedule. When first registering the payments, in September 2015, Cox apologized to the Registrar for his omission, referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner, and stepped down from the Committee. The Commissioner and the Committee accepted that the payments had not in fact given rise to any conflicts of interest, and that the failure to register the payments within 28 days had thus had no practical effect. However, Alistair Graham, the former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, criticized the lack of punishment and called for a complete reform, while Martin Bell said the Committee on Standards had a long history of inflicting light punishment, which showed that the House was incapable of regulating itself.[11]

On 9 July 2018, Cox gave up all private practice on his appointment as Attorney General.

Personal life

Cox and his wife Jeanie live in west Devon, and are the parents of one daughter and two sons.

References

  1. "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8741.
  2. 1 2 3 "Thomas More Chambers: Geoffrey Cox QC". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  3. "Fraudster tycoon with Mayfair flat is given £5 million legal aid". Evening Standard. 2 March 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  4. Williams, A.T. (18 October 2012). A Very British Killing. Jonathan Cape. p. 200. ISBN 0224096885.
  5. James Whittaker (10 October 2014). "Courtroom theater draws crowds". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Sun journalist's lawyer queries use of 'vague' law". BBC News. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  7. Lisa O'Carroll (20 March 2015). "Acquittal of four senior Sun journalists seen as blow to CPS". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  8. NDJFayeG (17 September 2014). "HMRC probes company in which MP Geoffrey Cox invested". North Devon Journal. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  9. Lyndsey Telford and Luke Heighton (22 February 2015). "The MPs who topped up their salaries with £1,600-an-hour second jobs". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  10. 1 2 Geoffrey Cox (4 June 2013). "Experience of world of work must not be lost in Commons". Western Morning News. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  11. Laura Hughes (4 February 2016). "Tory MP Geoffrey Cox will only have to apologise after failing to declare hundreds of thousands of pounds". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Burnett
Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon
2005–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jeremy Wright
Attorney General for England and Wales
2018–present
Incumbent
Advocate General for Northern Ireland
2018–present
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