Labour berates quango largesse

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The Independent Online
Ministers have given seats on quangos to businessmen linked to companies that have donated pounds 4m to Tory party funds, Labour claimed yesterday. Derek Foster, its public-services spokesman, said the eight biggest quangos in England and Scotland all have board members with close links to Tory donor companies.

Between them, the organisations handle pounds 12.8bn of public money every year. Mr Foster accused the Conservatives of handing out "fat-cat posts".

"This is a massive jobs-for-the-boys scandal. Honest taxpayers deserve better than the sleaze-ridden links between quangos and Conservative-donating firms," he said.

Among the quango board members named by Labour yesterday was the chairman of the Funding Agency for Schools, Sir Christopher Benson. Sir Christopher joined Sun Alliance as a director in 1988 and became its chairman in 1993. Between 1979 and 1989 Sun Alliance gave pounds 706,082 to the Conservatives.

Anthony Close, a board member of the Further Education Funding Council until July, 1995, was head of personnel at Trusthouse Forte between 1983 and 1993. Between 1979 and 1995, Forte gave pounds 855,700 to the Conservatives. The Housing Corporation's chairman, Sir Brian Pearse, is also chairman of Lucas Industries. Since 1979, Lucas has donated pounds 354,000 to the Tories.

Yesterday Mr Foster asked the Public Services minister, Roger Freeman, why such links were still allowed to exist after the setting up of Lord Nolan's commission on standards in public life. Mr Freeman said quango appointments were made on merit. "What you insinuate is that anyone who has any connection with the Conservative Party is not someone to be considered on the basis of merit. That is a logical inconsistency," he said.

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