Davis embroiled in row over £20,000 donation

Labour MP writes to Electoral Commission over payment to senior Tory's leadership campaign

A senior member of David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet has been dragged into a fresh row over political funding after a Labour MP asked the elections watchdog to investigate a £20,000 contribution to his campaign team.

David Davis faces the prospect of an Electoral Commission inquiry over a substantial donation that passed through several hands and was declared by four people, including Derek Conway.

The boss of a property company last night confirmed that a £20,000 donation to the Tories in the summer of 2005 was "essentially" a contribution to Mr Davis's campaign to succeed Michael Howard as leader.

But the donation, from Regent Square Estates Ltd did not appear in Mr Davis's declaration to the Electoral Commission, which records the money collected and spent by Britain's politicians. Instead, it was registered as two separate £10,000 donations under the names of two of his closest lieutenants, Andrew Mitchell and Nick Herbert.

Mr Mitchell and MPs who ran Mr Davis's unsuccessful leadership bid later declared to parliamentary authorities that Regent Square had made a contribution to their research costs. Mr Davis and Mr Conway, a long-term ally, made similar declarations in the register of MPs' interests.

The affair threatens to further damage the reputation of the leading political parties, already reeling from a string of controversies over political funding.

Last November it emerged that property developer David Abrahams donated more than £660,000 to the Labour Party under other people's names, in breach of the law on party donations, prompting the resignation of Labour general secretary Peter Watt.

Later the same month, Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, was dragged into the furore when she admitted accepting a £5,000 donation to her deputy leadership campaign from Mr Abrahams' secretary, insisting she did not know where the money came from. Then Douglas Alexander, the former transport secretary, become embroiled when it emerged that objections to a £60m business park backed by Mr Abrahams had been removed. Last month, Peter Hain was forced to resign as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after police launched an investigation into his failure to declare over £100,000 of donations to his deputy leadership campaign.

Within the past two weeks Conservative MP Derek Conway was suspended for misusing his staffing allowance when employing his two sons. Last week Sir George Young, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, revealed an upsurge in complaints about MPs, thought to have been prompted by the series of unsavoury revelations.

A spokesman for Mr Davis last night confirmed that the money had been spent on a employing a researcher to handle a flood of inquiries about his "putative" leadership bid. But he said that the shadow Home Secretary did not have to declare it as the campaign had not officially begun until September, when the Tories finally decided on the rules of the contest.

The spokesman said: "The [Electoral Commission] rules aren't clear. The leadership campaign began in September – that's when a candidate was required to take responsibility for all donations received and payments made by them.

"That is what happened. These obligations are true for every candidate."

The Tory leadership race effectively began on 6 May 2005, when Michael Howard announced his resignation following the Tories' third successive election defeat. But his official departure was delayed by internal wrangling over the process for electing his successor.

Mr Davis, who was the leading candidate for several weeks, eventually held his official campaign launch on 29 September.

However, all the candidates in the race had been engaged in a lengthy "phoney war", pulling tens of thousands of pounds into their war chests during the run-up to the official launches. Mr Davis raised almost £140,000 from wealthy individuals and businesses in July alone.

Labour MP John Mann said the confusion raised issues similar to those sparked by the fall of Mr Hain, who resigned from the Cabinet last month over his late declaration of more than £100,000-worth of donations to his unsuccessful deputy leadership bid. Mr Mann has now asked the Electoral Commission to investigate.

Mr Mitchell denied that the campaign team had broken any rules over the disclosure of donations and spending. He said he had ensured Mr Davis had been "punctilious" in his financial disclosures. "Everything that we did was absolutely squeaky clean. It was not only checked, but double-checked. This donation was probably given to me to support the extra work my office was having to do with the campaign. I told Conway to put it on the register because he provided a pass for the chap who was being paid for. The guy was working and reporting to me because of the extra work I was having to do on the leadership campaign."

Mr Conway last night refused to comment. Mr Herbert was unavailable.

Money problems: Politicians with questions to answer

26 November 2007: Property developer David Abrahams donates £660,000 to the Labour Party under other people's names, in breach of the law on party donations. Peter Watt admits he knew of the arrangement, and resigns as Labour's General Secretary.

27 November 2007: Harriet Harman admits she accepted a £5,000 donation to her deputy leadership campaign from Janet Kidd, Mr Abrahams' secretary, insisting she did not know where the money came from.

30 November 2007: Douglas Alexander, the former Transport secretary, becomes embroiled in the scandal when objections to a £60m business park backed by Mr Abrahams were removed.

24 January 2008: Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain resigns after police investigate his failure to declare £100,000 of donations to his deputy leadership campaign.

31 January 2008: Conservative MP Derek Conway suspended for misusing his staffing allowance when employing his two sons.

9 February 2008: A £20,000 donation to shadow Home Secretary David Davis's 2005 leadership campaign is referred to the Electoral Commission.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
All British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game