Eleven Conservative Shadow Ministers benefited from secret donations, including Grant Shapps

Hey ho, here’s the story from The Times:

The scale of secret cash links between senior Conservatives and wealthy backers was revealed yesterday after George Osborne was told that he should have declared how his office was being funded. The Shadow Chancellor was the subject of a parliamentary investigation after it emerged that he failed to register almost £500,000 in donations. Donors had given the money to the Conservative Party but asked that it be used to bankroll Mr Osborne.

Ten other Shadow Cabinet ministers have also been benefiting from money channelled from Tory headquarters, the final report of the investigation said. In at least two cases the funding was from figures involved directly in the minister’s policy areas.

The office of Grant Shapps, the Tory housing spokesman, is funded by donations from a number of mortgage brokers and Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, was bankrolled by a healthcare firm, the documents showed. Theresa Villiers, who has the transport brief but was previously Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary, benefited from donations by a number of investment bankers.

The Conservatives had sought official advice on whether the donations had to be logged with the Electoral Commission and the Register of MPs’ Interests and “acted in good faith” in interpreting the guidance given, concluded John Lyon. It was “a story of misunderstandings, of discussions held at cross-purposes, of the misinterpretation of conversations and e-mails”.

Mr Osborne and other senior Conservatives thought — incorrectly — that because the money was used to support politicians’ frontbench duties and not as MPs it did not have to be declared in the Commons register.

Lord Harris of Peckham, Sir John Beckwith, Serena Rothschild, Jeremy Isaac and Julian Schild were among those included on an internal “donors’ wishes” list that led to the investigation into Mr Osborne. Mr Lyon said that all similar donations should be registered and he set a four-week deadline for entries to be corrected.

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  • Where, oh where, is the LDV caption:- ‘Multi Millionnaire MP benefits from public money doing up his 2nd home’?

  • Letters from a Tory: “nothing fraudulent or corrupt…”
    Mark Pack: “conflict of interest…”

    Well I guess Tories would describe conflicts of interest as perfectly acceptable, wouldn’t they.

    It is after all a fundamental principle of their habitual method of political operation – ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ – and as beneficiaries of such a system of favours, be it Daddy’s millions or secret societies, they wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

  • This is scandalous. It goes to show that the Tories in Government would be the party of business interests. If we thought that consumers were getting a hard time now… Can you imagine for example a Tory Government beefing up legislation on Corporate Social Responsibility?

  • Obviously touching a nerve here Mark. Keep up the good work!

  • I heard that it was £123,456 the Shappster received.

  • “However he concluded that it would not be “fair and reasonable” to criticise Osborne over the failure, as party chiefs had sought official advice on the issue and “acted in good faith” in interpreting it.

    It was “a story of misunderstandings, of discussions held at cross purposes, of the misinterpretation of conversations and emails”, he said.”

    It is interesting that you fail to mention this part of the Guardian report on the Commissioner’s findings … they tried to comply with the law; they sought advice that they followed; the Commissioner decided that the advice was wrong …

  • How is the C & N canvassing going? LD landslide to look forward to then?

  • Mark, you are absolutely right on this issue. If there is nothing to hide tehn these monies should be declared.

    The Commissioner has obviously decided that given the possible muisunderstandings that he would overlook the fact that they hadn’t been declared provided that the Tories now declare them, then we will see all the details fairly soon.

    But there is no question that these amounts should not be declared.

    All parties and MPs need to get the whole party finance and MPs expenses and allowances properly resolved – the current mess and sight of Mr Speaker trying to sweep things under a carpet – MPs snipping at each other across party lines and MPs not being totally open about donations creates an impression that all politicians are corrupt which is bad for all parties and those who believe in the democratic process.

  • All criticisms are “fair and reasonable” when they point to the issues of openness, honesty and transparency, especially where it concerns potential candidates for political office.

    On that score it doesn’t fill me with confidence that any putative future Conservative regime will ‘act in good faith’ when interpreting advice it has sought when the interpretation was favourable and yet turns out to be wrong.

    That’s like getting the intelligence services to write a report on whether your enemy is a threat to you.

    Oh yeah, we’ve been there and done that with the full backing of the these tories.

  • Jennifer Oaklands 17th May '08 - 4:39pm

    Funding to Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps’ office was used to fund research into a series of reports into homelessness – see http://www.shapps.com/reports and the creation of the Homelessness Foundation launched at Crisis, with Shelter, Big Issue founder John Bird, etc. this week according to reports on the Welwyn Hatfield Forum.

    It might be that estate agents and developers have a long term interest in ending homelessness in order to create more business, but I don’t see how that creates much of a conflict in all honesty.

  • There may or may not be a conflict – so why keep it secret unless you feel that you or the donor’s don’t want it disclosed in which case that is in danger of creating the very conflict….

    Or at the least you make it look as though there is a secret connection and a potential vested interest…

    IMHO disclosure is the best answer allround then there can be no claim of hidden commitments etc…

  • Forgive me if I don’t have a lot of faith in the Conservative Party’s commitment to solving homelessness: the last Tory government introduced the Right to Buy for council tenants; prevented local councils from using the proceeds of sales to build more social housing (a policy continued by New Labour); and introduced housing benefit which is effectively a subsidy from public funds to private landlords in order to make up the shortfall in social housing. Not a conflict of interest, perhaps, but a well-calculated strategy to enrich those who are natural supporters of the Conservative Party at public expense.

  • Matloob Ahmed 17th May '08 - 11:31pm

    This shows that cash for honour and such scandals go on within the two main political parties in the uk. If its not cash given for peerage its for personal benifits to the donator. Appaling this alongside many are the reasons why the lib dems are indeed the best political party.

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