Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cameron and Tories face official sleaze investigation...

David Cameron is among 22 senior Tory MPs and Lords facing an official inquiry into claims of widespread abuse of rules over giving dinners in Parliament for cash donations to the Conservative Party.

This story first emerged three weeks ago when the Sunday Times revealed that David Cameron and other senior Conservatives have been hosting events in Parliament which are offered as enticements to donors to become members of exclusive high subscription “Patrons Clubs”.

This would appear to be in direct contravention to Parliamentary rules.

And today, The Guardian has splashed on the news that
Sir Philip Mawer, the parliamentary standards commissioner has begun an investigation following formal complaints about events held at the Commons dining rooms and prestigious rooms in Lords over the last three months.

The Guardian's David Hencke, writes:
"His office confirmed that Sir Philip would not open an investigation unless it had raised a matter of substance."
As well as David Cameron, other senior Tories facing official complaints include Michael Howard, George Osbourne, Alan Duncan, and Oliver Letwin and a host of backbenchers.

The Guardian explains that one example of Patrons' Clubs is the platinum membership of Chester Conservatives which, for a £500 subscription promises "chances to meet leading party figures in a select environment, plus dinner at the House of Commons with a senior Conservative MP".

Chester, currently a Labour seat with a majority of 915, is one of the marginals David Cameron would have to win to form a Government at the next election.

Two Labour backbenchers, Kevan Jones (Durham North) and John Mann (Bassetlaw)allege that two rules are being broken by the Tories.

One rule states:
"The private dining rooms are not to be used for direct financial or material gain by a sponsor, political party, or any other person or outside organisation."
Another rule says:
"The private dining rooms may not be used as an inducement to recruit new members of outside organisations or non-parliamentary associations."
UPDATE: Tory chairman Francis Maude has admitted that the issues was a "grey area". Speaking on BBC Radio4's World at One Mr Maude denied that the party was making money out of their patrons' clubs having dinners in the House of Commons.

So that's OK then...

9 comments:

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

Hope you had a nice Christmas Phil.

A vital report into the funding of political parties has just been delayed due to difficulties in reaching an agreement on curbing big donations - even though a cross-party committee of MPs has backed the case for limits on the power of political paymasters, including individuals, trade unions and the corporate sector.

Former Whitehall mandarin Sir Hayden Phillips announced that his report into the funding of political parties has been held up for at least a month due to difficulties in reaching an agreement on the proposals while the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee made the case for a limit on all large donations.

Surely therefore it is regrettable that a divided Labour Party, paralysed by their forthcoming contest for their Leader and Deputy Leader, is wrecking the opportunity to clean up politics good and proper!

Chris P said...

This story was actually broken by the Guardian themselves as far as I can recall ... ON JULY 11 ... almost 6 months ago ... in the Parliamentary Diary. Happy Christmas!

fairdealphil said...

Geoffrey: we had a peaceful family Christmas thanks - and I hope you and yours did too..

Thanks for your comment which I read with interest...but what has it got to do with my post which was today's big story: Cameron and the Tories facing an official investigation into alleged abuse of Parliamentary privileges to raise money for election campaigning in marginal seats...?

In contrast to your lot, the Labour Party has a long history of financial transparency.

Are you aware for instance, that Labour has published annual accounts ever since the beginning of our party. They make clear the role that the trade unions have played in providing substantial financial support to the party throughout its history.

We are both open and proud about trade union funding.

Our party grew out of the trade union movement and exploitation of workers. And as a lifelong trade unionist myself, long may the link continue...

In contrast, the story of Conservative Party finances is one of secrecy and evasion, both past and present.

Even today, all the Conservative Party’s financial records in its archive - dating back to 1912 -are completely closed for access.

If you really want to clean up politics as you say, Geoffrey, ask Cameron to release the historic information so we can see where the Tory money came from.

The Conservatives have never revealed the foreign sources from which they are reported to have received millions of pounds in the 1990s and do not appear to have ever returned the donation from the fugitive from justice Asil Nadir.

Perhaps you could clarify that one for us Geoffrey?

One of the largest single donations to the Conservative Party in the last quarter was £300,000 from the Midlands Industrial Council.

The MIC has recently been forced to name its members but they clearly still prefer to donate anonymously.

A number of wealthy Conservative donors - such as Lord Ashcroft, Lord Laidlaw and Robert Edmiston -have rarely recorded donations in their own name, but have instead done so through companies that they control.

The Conservative Party has also admitted that at least one of the recent loans was from a foreign source, but has refused to reveal it.

Geoffrey: If we are to achieve a way forward that maintains public confidence the Conservative Party needs to make a step change in honesty about its past and current sources of income.

Yes, the Tory Party are coyly suggesting a cap on donations but they are resisting spending limits.

Certainly, Labour has brought in legislation to make party funding more open and transparent - and more clearly needs to be done - as evidenced by today's big story on the investigation into Cameron and the Tories...

fairdealphil said...

Chris P: Thanks for putting the record straight. I'd missed it in the Guardian six months ago - but few will have missed their follow-up on the front page today!!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm - money for dinner in parliament or money for positions in the British legislature? I know which one stinks more to me

fairdealphil said...

anon:

and i'll wait for the outcome of both investigations before rushing to judgement as i'm sure you will too.

Unfairdeal said...

No comments about Tony Blair blagging yet another free holiday, then Phil? Where's the "fair deal" in that then?

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

BREAKING NEWS: THREE MORE FORMER LIB DEM CANDIDATES FROM THE 2005 GENERAL ELECTION HAVE TODAY JOINED THE CONSERVATIVES. THATS ON TOP OF THE THREE EX-PPCs WHO HAVE ALREADY SIGNED UP.

fairdealphil said...

geoffrey:

re lib-dem to tory defections...

we might both agree that in fact there are very few real lib-dems anyway - whatever it means to be a libdem.

libdems tend to be disaffected conservative or labour voters...