During a tense and at times, heated, session before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Norman said: 'It is our general rule that we do not reveal the names and identities of individual contributors either here or outside this country.'
Despite his robust display and repeated attempts to turn the spotlight on Labour and its funding from the unions, Sir Norman will have done little to assuage mounting pressure on the party to disclose fully the source of its financing, or disquiet within his own ranks about the continuing need for secrecy. Labour has called for a full debate on the issue next week.
Asked whether the British public did not have the right to know who was making donations, Sir Norman replied: 'That is the policy we adhere to and will continue to adhere to.'
As far as British companies were concerned, he said it was the responsibility of company directors and auditors to ensure that donations were disclosed. 'We've no intention of publishing that information ourselves.'
Asil Nadir's contribution had come to light because the party had supplied information to Polly Peck receivers, who made it public. To that extent, he emphasised, Mr Nadir was the exception rather than the rule.
After denying that foreign governments were among donors, Sir Norman refused to comment on whether the party had received money from the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Brunei, or the wealthy foreign businessmen, John Latsis, Sir Y-K Pao and Li Ka-Shing.
Sir Norman denied that Nadir had donated pounds 1.5m as the fugitive tycoon had claimed. However, after it was pointed out that Major General Sir Brian Wyldbore- Smith, the party's former director of fund- raising, had been quoted as saying he was 'very often not aware' of a donor's identity, Sir Norman said he would check Sir Brian's remarks with him.
The party chairman emphasised that donations were not accepted if there were strings attached, if the money was made
illegally, if they came from foreign governments or if their source remained
The idea, he said, that there was a connection between chairmen of public companies making donations and receiving peerages or knighthoods, was dismissed as a 'scurrilous rumour'.
Influence, he claimed, could not be bought from the Conservative Party.
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