Parties to be forced to declare loans over £5,000

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Indy Politics

Political parties will be compelled to report details of all loans exceeding £5,000 in the wake of the "cash-for-peerages" row, the Government confirmed today.

Emergency amendments have been tabled to the Electoral Administration Bill - which is going through Parliament - to give effect to the change.

Constitutional Affairs minister Bridget Prentice said the move would ensure loans were governed by "a similar regime of transparency and permissibility" as donations.

In a written statement to MPs, she outlined the main features of the new regime:

* Details of all loans exceeding £5,000 (and thereafter each additional £1,000 from the same lender) must be reported to the Electoral Commission.

* Reports to be made on a quarterly basis - rising to weekly before a General Election.

* A political party may only accept loans from those sources permitted to make donations.

* Details of all loans existing when the provisions come into force must be reported. However, loans existing at that date will not be subject to the permissibility rules.

The measures will be applicable whether or not parties regard the loan as being made on commercial terms.

Ms Prentice said: "The Government considers it important that the new regime should be brought into force as soon as possible and will seek to take steps to ensure that that is the case."

The move comes amid a wide-ranging inquiry into party funding by the former Whitehall mandarin, Sir Hayden Phillips.