Cameron faces demands for inquiry over donations

 

David Cameron faced demands today for an independent inquiry into explosive claims that access to the Prime Minister could be secured by making large donations to the Conservative Party.

The Prime Minister was plunged into a damaging row over party funding after Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas urged reporters posing as wealth fund executives to give more than £250,000 in return for direct face time with senior ministers.

Mr Cruddas resigned within hours of his claims being exposed by The Sunday Times and denied that party donors could in fact improperly influence ministers.

Mr Cameron insisted that was “not the way” the Conservative Party raised money and promised an internal inquiry to ensure it would not happen again.

But Labour called for a full independent inquiry into the “incredibly serious” allegations of cash for access.

Danny Alexander, the Prime Minister's Liberal Democrat Cabinet colleague, described the claims as “utterly disgraceful”.

The row led to renewed calls for reform of party funding. Sleaze watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly warned that the incident could not be seen as “an isolated event” and urged the parties to come through on their commitments to the “big donor culture”.

Mr Cruddas, who became the Tories' principal treasurer only at the beginning of March, was secretly filmed claiming that “things will open up” for anybody willing to donate £250,000 a year.

Speaking to undercover reporters who were posing as wealth fund executives, he claimed: “It will be awesome for your business.”

He said that “premier league” donors - those giving £250,000 a year - could lobby Mr Cameron directly and their views were “fed in” to the Downing Street policy unit. He said there was no point in “scratching around” with donations of £10,000.

According to The Sunday Times, he believed that any prospective donations from the reporters would come from Liechtenstein and would be ineligible under election law.

They are said to have discussed the creation of a British subsidiary and the possibility of using UK employees to make the donation.

Major donors are invited to private dinners and other events with Mr Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague, he said.

Mr Cameron said today: “What happened is completely unacceptable. This is not the way that we raise money in the Conservative Party, it shouldn't have happened.

“It's quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can't happen again.”

Former foreign secretary David Miliband described the disclosures as “grotesque” and said they showed the Tories had not changed.

“The revelations today go to the heart of the Tory Party claim that you can trust the Tory Party because they have got rid of their bad old ways - from what we know they haven't,” he said.

Shadow minister Michael Dugher wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that he disclose which Tory donors had visited Downing Street, Chequers or Dorneywood since May 2010 and what policy representations they had made, particularly on the top rate of income tax that was cut in Wednesday's Budget.

“Today you said that you would ensure there was 'a proper party inquiry' into these matters,” he wrote to Mr Cameron.

“However, given the seriousness of the allegations about how Government is conducted, it is not appropriate for the Conservative Party to investigate itself. We need a full, independent inquiry.”

Sir Christopher, chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, said politicians should not be allowed to “duck” the issue of party funding any longer.

“It would be wrong to regard this as an isolated event. Events like it are inevitable as long as the main political parties are dependent for their existence on large donations from rich individuals or, in the case of the Labour Party, a small number of trade unions.

“The parties collectively need urgently to address the damage this does to confidence in the integrity of the political process.”

Asked about funding reform, Mr Cameron was non-committal, stressing that he had already addressed issues within the Conservative Party.

“We've reformed party funding. I took over a party with £20 million of debt. It's now virtually debt-free,” he said.

“We've massively broadened our supporter base. We have very strict rules, very strict compliance, and I'm going to make sure that the rules are properly complied with in every case.”

But Mr Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and second most powerful Lib Dem in the Government, said the three main parties would be making a renewed effort on funding reform within the next few weeks.

“What I would say is this makes the case for reforming the system of party funding in this country even stronger.

“No political party has been without its problems in relation to party funding. Over the next few weeks the three parties will be getting round the table following on from an initiative by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, to discuss how we can change the way party funding works to try and get the big money out of politics.”

In a statement released in the early hours of this morning, Mr Cruddas said he regretted “any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster”.

“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians,” he said.

“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.

“Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.”

Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon told Sky News that Mr Cruddas had been “blustering and boasting and that was clearly wrong”.

The Tory MP added: “Let me be very clear about this - we rely on lots of individual donations, but you can't buy favours with those donations and you certainly can't dictate policy with those donations.”

The Labour leader insisted the allegations could not be "swept under the carpet" and said an independent investigation must establish "what influence was sought, what influence was gained, and what impact it had".

"The Prime Minister came into office promising that he would be transparent, and he would ensure that the right systems would be put in place around Conservative Party funding," he said.

"Now we discover very disturbing revelations about the way that access was sought, the way that access was bought or apparently at least offered, and that's why we need a proper investigation into what happened.

"It can't be an internal Conservative investigation sweeping it under the carpet and in a way keeping it from the public. We need to know what happened.

"These are so serious these allegations because it's about the way that policy is made, we've just had a Budget in which the tax rate has been cut at the top of the income scale.

"We need to know what access was paid for, if access was paid for, and what contributions were made and the interaction between the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Conservative Party donors."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine