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Party funding debate

The motion that Francis Maude moved: "That this House notes with concern the corrosion of public trust in democracy following the recent succession of scandals over the funding of the governing political party; regrets that a comprehensive package of proposals to reform electoral law was not achieved by the inter-party talks owing to the refusal of the Secretary of State for Justice and the Labour representative, Mr Peter Watt, to accept a comprehensive cap on donations; observes the unhealthy increase in back-door state funding through the £6 million of funds allocated to special advisers and the funding of over 3,000 press and communications officers across Whitehall and its quangos; asserts that the Communications Allowance is an unhealthy extension of taxpayer funding for party propaganda that advantages the governing party; and calls for a comprehensive package of reforms to restore public trust and to support a vibrant local democracy and voluntary activism, which must include an across-the-board cap and annually a genuine individual choice for union members on whether they wish to donate to their favoured political party."

And some key contributions from the Tory benches:

Francis_maude Francis Maude (in ending his speech):
"There must be not a penny more of additional state funding for parties without comprehensive reform that addresses the concerns that the public have about party funding. This has been a sorry tale of lawbreaking at the highest levels by one of Britain’s major parties. For the second time in two years, the police are investigating a Labour Prime Minister. I hope the Minister will provide some genuine answers and will also provide the public with some hope that long-term comprehensive reform can eventually be delivered. Given the way that his Government have stumbled from incompetence to chaos to lawbreaking, we may have to wait some time."

Andrew Tyrie: "Under the current Prime Minister, we have not seen any evidence of real commitment to reform. Perhaps I should contrast that with what happened when I was initially involved in the negotiations two years ago. Then, it was quite clear that Tony Blair was prepared to undertake fundamental reform. He knew how dangerous it was for Labour to become too dependent on the unions for cash. That is probably why he got Lord Levy in at the beginning, more than a decade ago, to find some big donors to counterbalance union influence. It may have ended in tears, but it worked for Tony Blair for a time. He always knew that if he had to do without the unions, he could, and the union bosses knew that too."

Jonathan Djanogly: "The 2005 British election survey revealed that 54.3 per cent. of trade unionists voted for parties other than Labour. That is why there should be a specific opt-in to making political fund contributions."

David_ruffley David Ruffley on Peter Hain: "If the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions cannot understand the electoral law on a matter relating to his own campaign, what confidence can the British public have in his grasp of something infinitely more complicated in his Department, such as the social security system, the Pension Service or the Child Support Agency, for which he is personally responsible? I imagine that benefit fraudsters throughout Britain are having a laugh at his palpable failure to adhere to strict legal rules. When their pension credit is miscalculated yet again, pensioners will not be so amused by the Secretary of State’s behaviour, and single parents struggling with the Child Support Agency are unlikely to have their confidence in that organisation boosted by what is happening at the top."

More from Hansard here.


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