Blair targets Tory funds

Lord Nolan to be asked to investigate controversial donations to party coffers

The issue of Conservative Party funding will be referred to the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life if Tony Blair wins the next election.

There has been considerable disquiet and anxiety on both sides of the Commons for many years about the way in which the Tories have raised funds.

Donations have included pounds 50,000 from Tung Chee-hwa, a 59-year-old shipping tycoon chosen by the Chinese Communist Party to head Hong Kong's first post-colonial government; pounds 250,000 from Mohamed Al Fayed before the 1987 general election; and pounds 440,000, later found to have been stolen, from fugitive businessman Asil Nadir.

Ann Taylor, Shadow Leader of the Commons, told The Independent yesterday: "After the election, there will have to be a thorough overhaul of party financing, and it will be for the Nolan Committee to make the initial inquiry."

Last May, Mr Blair asked John Major to widen the remit of the Nolan Committee, "so that the funding of all political parties could be looked at in a proper and impartial manner."

Refusing that request, the Prime Minister told him that the matter had already been investigated by the Commons Home Affairs Committee, and that was that.

But Mr Blair will not leave it at that, if elected. He told Mr Major that if the governing party rejected the demand for impartial investigation, "the inevitable question that everyone will ask is what it has got to hide?"

Lord Nolan is scheduled to finish looking into local government next spring when he will be ready for fresh meat. Senior Labour sources believe that, "once the stone is turned over, all sorts of muck will crawl out."

While the 1994 Home Affairs Committee inquiry was kept on a tight leash by the inbuilt Conservative majority, a minority report by Labour MP Chris Mullin pulled no punches in its description of the sleaze that could be exposed by a thorough public investigation.

Labour refuses all foreign donations, but Sir Norman Fowler, then Conservative Party chairman, told the Home Affairs Committee that he would not want to spurn gifts from people who "may well have business interests in this country [and] perhaps take the view that they want this country to continue as a free enterprise economy and want to support a free enterprise party."

However, the Mullin Report was far more critical. It quoted a former Tory party treasurer, Lord McAlpine, talking of off-shore accounts, and recalled a 1993 Independent report that Octav Botnar, a former head of Nissan UK, had in the early 1980s "channelled large donations to the Conservative Party through an off-shore bank account in Jersey."

The report added: "Botnar began his association with the Conservatives in the 1970s when he was lobbying for an end to the quota system which restricted the volume of Japanese cars that could be imported into the UK ... Mr Botnar is now wanted in the UK on allegations that he was involved in a huge tax fraud."

The Mullin Report also cited Independent reports about donations made through covert companies, used to disguise the destination of the cash, and other bodies that were used to "launder" gifts.

It also touched on the most difficult allegation, of "a relationship between political donations and honours", saying: "Between the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979 and the 1993 New Year's honours, 18 life peerages and 82 knighthoods have been given to industrialists connected with 76 companies which have between them over the same period donated pounds 17.4 million to the Conservative Party and its front organisations.

But Mr Mullin also drew links between donations and privatised companies; donations from British-domiciled foreign businessmen who receive generous tax treatment; and the election-time availability of prime-site advertising billboards, and the Conservative Government's treatment of the tobacco and brewing industries that control them.

After the last election, the Conservatives were reported to have a pounds 19m deficit. They are believed to have about pounds 20m to spend on the next election.

The secrecy of Conservative funding is so great that even members of the party's Board of Finance are kept in the dark about where the money comes from, and where it goes.

In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, Eric Chalker, a member of the Conservative Board of Finance between 1989 and 1993, said that "over pounds 67m of expenditure was recorded by Conservative Central Office in that time, but nobody had to account for one penny of it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture