The Mates Affair: Tory party 'has received pounds 71m in secret donations' (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

THE CONSERVATIVE Party has received at least pounds 71m in secret donations over the last eight years, according to allegations contained in a Commons motion tabled last night.

The claims coincide with Labour's demand that the pounds 1m it said had been given to the Tories by the businessman Octav Botnar, former chief of Nissan UK, should be returned to the Inland Revenue in view of the warrant for his arrest in connection with a pounds 97m tax swindle.

An Early Day Motion tabled by Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath, concerns what today's issue of Business Age magazine claims is the first comprehensive list of secret donors to the Conservative Party.

The motion calls on John Major to instigate an immediate independent inquiry and open all party accounts to public scrutiny. It 'notes with alarm . . . that at least pounds 71m worth of undeclared donations have been made to the Tory party over the last eight years and that these sums are tabled in rank order indicating favours bought and influence gained'.

It notes 'the degree of involvement made by Conservatives Abroad (the party's expatriate fund-raising body), many of whom are based in tax havens and have contributed an estimated pounds 30m in order to preserve tax breaks unique to the UK which have cost the country up to pounds 49bn in revenue over the last 14 years,' and that Business Age 'believes that persons such as Mohammed al-Fayed, Michael Ashcroft, Wafic Said and Gerald Ronson have used such donations to gain influence with government departments such as the DTI'.

The Tory majority on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has set its face against calling Lord McAlpine, the former party treasurer, to give evidence into party political financing. There is only a vague commitment to call on an accountant to explain how companies consult shareholders on party financing.

In stormy exchanges at Prime Minister's questions, John Smith, the Labour leader, said Botnar had given pounds 1m to the Tories while Nissan UK was involved in the country's biggest tax fraud. 'Will you invite the Conservative Party to repay that sum to the Inland Revenue?' he demanded.

Mr Major said he had no idea whether the party had received the money, but that any 'tainted money' would be paid back. Mr Smith said afterwards: 'It is not good enough to say he has no idea. As First Lord of the Treasury he has direct responsibility to the taxpayer.'


In response to allegations made in Parliament and reported in yesterday's Independent under the headline 'Tory Party has received pounds 71m in secret donations', Gerald Ronson has denied that he has at any time made any donation to either the Conservative Party or to Conservatives Abroad.