Lib Dems seek state funds

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THE Liberal Democrats yesterday protested at receiving only one- quarter of the state cash given to the Tories for their parliamentary work and demanded the same core funding.

The party's chief whip, Paul Tyler, said his party had to scrutinise the work of every government department, just like the Conservatives, yet this was "barely possible with such limited resources". This financial year the Conservatives are receiving pounds 1.6m of public money to support their opposition work in parliament; the Liberal Democrats are getting just pounds 400,000.

Mr Tyler, giving evidence to the Neill committee on standards in public life, which is investigating funding of parties, said extra funds should be given to any party which sought to shadow the work of all government departments. But he conceded that there should be a top up on the core funding to reflect the electoral support the opposition parties won at the previous general election. The Liberal Democrats, with 46 MPs, have only around one-quarter as many as the Tories, with 162.

Meanwhile, Tory Euro-MP Anne McIntosh warned of the danger of weakening democracy if there was state funding of political parties, which she said would be "counterproductive to the aim of broadening the financial base of political parties".