Donations are `a plus mark' in handing out honours

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DONATIONS to political parties should be regarded as a "bonus rather than a minus" when honours are being handed out, the head of the committee which scrutinises the awards said yesterday.

Lord Pym, a former Conservative Cabinet minister, said the fact that someone had given money proved their commitment.

He told the Neill committee on political funding that other achievements were also important in deciding who should receive political honours. While political donations were a factor they were not the only one, he stressed.

The Political Honours Scrutiny Committee considers honours awarded for political services, which account for about 50 of the 1,000 handed out each year.

"If someone gives their money to a party, that is a bonus rather than a minus because they are supporting what they believe in with their own money. I would regard it as a plus rather than a minus point that people put their money where their mouth is," he said.

He confirmed that his committee had turned down candidates for honours, but he did not believe that people had ever been put forward for political honours solely on the grounds of political donations.

There was speculation that the scrutiny committee might never have been told the names of donors to Labour's blind trusts after the party's fundraiser, Lord Levy, told the committee he did not pass on that information. However, a party spokesman said later that the Chief Whip, Nick Brown, had passed the names to the committee.

Lord Levy said he believed the blind trusts should be wound up, but defended their use before the last election. They had been effective in keeping donors' names secret from beneficiaries, he said.