Pressure on Tories to reveal '£18m' of loans

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Indy Politics

A row has erupted over a plan by the Government to force the Conservative Party to disclose the multimillion-pound loans it received before last year's general election.

Tory sources admitted that their pre-election loans could exceed the £13.9m that was lent to Labour by 12 people whose names were disclosed yesterday. It is believed that the Tories may have been lent up to £18m, including £3.5m by Lord Ashcroft, their former treasurer and current deputy chairman.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, said yesterday that emergency legislation would be rushed through in weeks to close the loophole exposed by the "loans for peerages" scandal engulfing Tony Blair.

Last-minute amendments will be tabled to the Electoral Administration Bill, which has almost completed its parliamentary passage, to put loans to parties on the same footing as donations. Parties must already disclose donations over £5,000.

In an unusual move, Lord Falconer said talks would be held with other parties on whether the law should be retrospective. The Tories oppose the idea. "We are happy to disclose future loans but we think it's unfair on the people who made them to make it retrospective," said one source. The Tories insisted all their loans were made within the rules.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "Following Labour's decision ... to publish the full list of names ... we call on David Cameron to match his words on openness with actions by publishing details of all the Tories' loans."