CCHQ has just released the names of individuals who have lent the Tories £16m. A pdf of the full Francis Maude statement can be read here.
Here are four highlights:
- "Like all the main political parties, the Conservative Party has entered into loan arrangements to fund the considerable cost of campaigning. In the run up to and during the last General Election, the Party’s Finance Committee, Board and Party Leader were kept informed of the Party’s financial position. The existence and extent of the loans has always been declared in our annual report and accounts."
- "We have been contacting lenders to seek their permission for us to make their names public. Today we are publishing a complete list of the individuals and organisations with whom we have loan arrangements, together with the amounts. We are also writing to the Electoral Commission to confirm that we will share with them any relevant information or material. In the last few weeks a number of lenders have turned their loans into donations, and their names will appear in the relevant returns to the Electoral Commission. We have also repaid around £5 million to lenders who did not wish their names to be disclosed."
- "Since David Cameron became Leader of the Party, we have seen a large increase in donations and more than 20,000 people have joined the Party. When we report our first quarter’s donations to the Electoral Commission by the end of April we shall be reporting a total of nearly £8 million."
- The top four lenders: Lord Ashcroft, Deputy Chairman & former Treasurer (£3.6m); Johan Eliasch, Deputy Treasurer (£2.6m); Michael Hintze (£2.5m); and Lord Laidlaw (£3.5m).
BBC News 24 is reporting that (within the repaid loans) there were a small number of foreign lenders. Although perfectly legal - as the loans were made on commercial terms - this will be politically sensitive and will frustrate Tory attempts to draw a line under the affair.
16.42 update: In an interview on '24' Francis Maude has just been repeatedly pressed on these foreign loans and whether they were on truly commercial terms. Mr Maude effectively conceded that the party had received some foreign loans but that the lawyers Clifford Chance had inspected the contracts and were satisfied that they met Electoral Commission rules. FM paid tribute to the people who had financially supported the Conservative Party - in an environment where, he said, Labour were "vindictive" to those who supported Tory causes. He insisted that the Tories had been more transparent than Labour and were the only party to have proposed comprehensive reforms of political funding. He noted that the Labour party had received £12m from the unions and that the Labour government had just spent £3m of taxpayers' money on a union modernisation project.