MPs fear scandal if party funding rules are not altered fast

Tim Wallace
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THE GOVERNMENT must quickly implement new rules on political party funding, or risk a fresh scandal developing, a committee of MPs warned yesterday.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee demanded quick action that would not favour any party over others – but acknowledged deep divisions remain even among its own members on the best course of action for the government to take.

A lack of immediate public interest should not stop the government acting as “the suspicion that donors are able to exert improper influence continues to taint the public view of party politics,” the report claimed.

It pointed to November’s publication by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) – which advocated a cap of £10,000 per year on donations from any one individual or organisation, a 15 per cent cut to the limit on campaign spending before an election, and £23m per year of public support to parties with representatives in parliament – as a catalyst for reform.

However, the CPSL report sought to present all its reforms as a package, to be taken as a whole – and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg rejected the idea of public funding before the package was announced.

As a result, the Committee acknowledged that serious disagreements remain, but urged the government to seek cross-party support for any final measures before the summer, stating “public confidence in politics risks being undermined if some future scandal intervenes before a solution is in place”.

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