Speaker halts question on donation row

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A Labour MP was today blocked by Speaker Michael Martin from raising allegations that shadow chancellor George Osborne sought a donation for the Tories from Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

David Winnick (Walsall N) tried to raise the issue during question time but Mr Martin ruled that as he had not notified Mr Osborne, the question could not be answered.

Mr Winnick asked Sir Peter Viggers, who answers on behalf of the Electoral Commission, to confirm it was "illegal either to receive or solicit in any way foreign donations for political parties.

"And in view of the allegations which have been made about the shadow chancellor, wouldn't it be appropriate for the Electoral Commission to investigate accordingly?"

Before Sir Peter could respond, Mr Martin intervened, demanding: "The shadow chancellor isn't in the chamber. Did you approach him to say you were going to make this statement or ask this question?"

Mr Winnick replied: "No, of course not."

Mr Martin said: "Well you should. You've been here long enough to know the courtesies of the House."

It is a convention - not always observed - that MPs normally inform a colleague if they are planning to attack their behaviour in the chamber.

The Prime Minister yesterday called on the authorities to investigate the allegations levelled against Mr Osborne, who has dismissed claims by banking heir Nathaniel Rothschild that he had solicited a £50,000 gift from Mr Deripaska.