David Cameron reveals Tory donors dinners list

 

The Conservative Party today published a list of major party donors who have attended dinners with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

And the Prime Minister pledged to publish a quarterly register of any future meals at official residences with people who have given more than £50,000 to the Tories.

The announcement came as Mr Cameron was put under huge pressure over claims by former Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas that individuals could secure meetings with ministers and influence policy formation in return for a "premier league" donation.

Mr Cruddas quit on Saturday after the Sunday Times published secret recordings in which he urged undercover reporters to give more than £250,000 in return for direct face time with senior ministers.

Mr Cameron yesterday denounced his comments as "completely unacceptable" and announced an internal party inquiry to ensure there would be no repeat.

And senior Tory Francis Maude this morning appeared to hope that this had drawn a line under the affair, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was "a bit of a nonsense".

But it was later announced that Mr Maude would give an oral statement to the House of Commons this afternoon to update MPs on reform of political party funding.

And Mr Cameron broke into a scheduled speech on dementia care in London to address the Cruddas affair head-on.

He confirmed that he had held a post-election "thankyou" dinner for supporters, including some major donors, in 10 Downing Street in July 2010, followed by three private dinners in the flat above Number 11 where he lives with wife Samantha.

He denied that any of those invited had been recommended by Mr Cruddas, describing most of them as people he had known for many years. Neither had Mr Cruddas - himself a big donor to the Tories - ever attended a Downing Street dinner.

"In the two years I have been Prime Minister, there have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to a dinner in my flat. In addition, there was a further post-election dinner which included donors in Downing Street itself shortly after the general election," said Mr Cameron.

"None of these dinners were fundraising dinners and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer. I have known most of those attending for many years."

It was publicly known that the Conservatives held regular dinners with the PM and other ministers for the "Leader's Group" of donors who give more than £50,000, said Mr Cameron. From now on, the party will publish a register of attendees at these events.

Mr Cameron dismissed Mr Cruddas's promise that major donors' concerns would be fed into a Downing Street "policy committee".

No such committee exists, and members of the Number 10 Policy Unit had never met anyone as a result of a request from the former co-treasurer, he said.

Mr Cameron added: "To avoid any perception of undue influence, from now on we will put in place new procedures in which if any ministerial contact with a party donor prompts a request for policy advice, the minister will refer this to his or her private office, who can seek guidance from the permanent secretary."

The internal Conservative inquiry into the Cruddas affair will be led by Tory peer and prominent lawyer Lord Gold, said the Prime Minister. It had earlier been reported that Tory co-chairman Lord Feldman would lead the probe.

Labour former Cabinet minister Jack Straw said that today's announcement was "symptomatic of the pandemonium that has broken out in the Conservative Party and in the higher reaches of the Government." He told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I think that we will still need an independent inquiry."

The Prime Minister renewed calls for Labour to agree on a cap of £50,000 on donations to parties, but insisted that this limit must apply not only to individuals and companies but also to unions - something Labour has always resisted.

Labour leader Ed Miliband will respond to Mr Maude's statement in the Commons this afternoon, and said he had contacted Downing Street to say that it was Mr Cameron - and not his Cabinet Office minister - who should address MPs.

The Conservative Party said that a post-election "thank-you dinner" was held at 10 Downing Street on July 14 2010, attended by Anthony Bamford of JCB, hedge fund tycoon Michael Hintze, Tory peer Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Lansdowne Partners chief executive Sir Paul Ruddock, City financier Mike Farmer and Michael Freeman, as well as their spouses. Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan, who is not listed by the Electoral Commission as a donor to the Tories, also attended.

On February 28 last year, property tycoon and major donor David Rowland, who had previously been appointed party treasurer but quit before taking up the post, attended a dinner in the flat, along with party co-chairman Lord Feldman.

On November 2 last year, Mr Cameron held a "social dinner for strong and long-term supporters of the party, with whom the PM has a strong relationship", including banker and Tory donor Henry Angest, Mr Farmer and oil company boss Ian Taylor.

And on February 27 this year, he held a social dinner with former treasurer and major donor Michael Spencer and his partner.

An aide to the Prime Minister said he would not be releasing retrospective records of party dinners at Chequers as it would be difficult to provide an accurate record, but added that there had been no "donor only" meals at the grace and favour estate.

News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose own meetings with politicians have come under intense scrutiny as a result of the News of the World hacking scandal, called for an independent inquiry into the "cash for access" affair.

Writing on Twitter today, Mr Murdoch said: "Of course there must be a full independent inquiry on both sides. In great detail, and with consequences. Trust must be established. Without trust, democracy, and order will go."

According to the Electoral Commission register, JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford has donated more than £75,000 personally to the Tories over the past decade, while his company gave more than £250,000.

Michael Hintze is listed as donating some £1.3 million over the same period, Lord (John) Sainsbury has given more than £400,000 over the past five years and Paul Ruddock has given over £570,000 since 2003, the register says.

Michael Farmer is recorded as having donated £3.3 million since 2001 and Michael and Clara Freeman are listed as giving nearly £500,000 over the past five years.

Donations registered under the name of David Rowland since 2009 total more than £4 million.

Michael Spencer has given nearly £280,000 personally, including providing travel for senior party figures.

PA

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