Limit donations to £100,000, say Labour MPs

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Labour MPs demanded the Government introduce a limit of £100,000 on donations to political parties, joining the storm over three gifts of £2m each from individual backers.

Labour MPs demanded the Government introduce a limit of £100,000 on donations to political parties, joining the storm over three gifts of £2m each from individual backers.

In a Commons motion, the MPs congratulated Tony Blair for attracting the support of successful entrepreneurs and disaffected Tories but fired a warning shot over Labour's reliance on big donors. Last week, Labour revealed £2m gifts from the publisher Lord Hamlyn, the philanthropist Christopher Ondaatje and the Science minister Lord Sainsbury of Turville.

The MPs said: "However pure the motivation of the present donors, there is always a danger that parties reliant on millionaire funding will feel beholden to their donors, nervous of offending them and anxious not to jeopardise the chance of further donations."

The MPs called on the Government to end "millionaire funding" and put politics on a level playing field by proposing soon after the general election the limit of £100,000 on individual donations.

Martin Linton, the Labour MP for Battersea, who tabled yesterday's motion, said: "I think we're quite right to accept the donations and I have nothing but admiration for the three people who gave the party money, but in the longer term I would like to see us move away from a system where parties can be funded by wealthy individuals."

Mr Linton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, which is expected to launch an inquiry into political funding after the election, added: "It's not just a question of whom the individuals are, but of the effect it has on politics. For the health of our democracy, we should be relying on a large number of small donations, not a small number of large donations."

Michael Ancram, chairman of the Conservatives, said the party would accept a £15m cap on spending by each party at the general election. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, passed in the last session of Parliament sets a £20m ceiling, but a lower limit will be set for a spring poll because the Act does not take effect until 16 February.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, is consulting the parties over the reduced limit and a £15m ceiling now looks likely. Labour seems able to raise that amount because of last week's £6m boost, but there are signs that the Tories are struggling to match Labour. In the House of Lords last month, Lord Ashcroft, the Tory treasurer, voted for a £13m limit.

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