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Political Parties: Finance

Volume 490: debated on Friday 27 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward proposals to change the regulatory system for donating to political parties to encourage smaller donations from a wider range of individuals. (267287)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) on 2 March 2009, Official Report, column 1259W.

There are no such plans. The Government believe it is for political parties to decide how to conduct their fundraising activities within the legislative framework. One potential option to change the legislative framework would be to introduce a cap on the level of permissible donations, and an associated increase in the amount of public funding available to parties. This option was put to the major political parties following the review conducted by Sir Hayden Phillips in 2007. However, the inter-party talks that followed that review did not result in agreement to proceed with the wider package of reforms that Sir Hayden recommended to the party funding legislation.

The Government's White Paper, ‘Party finance and expenditure in the United Kingdom’ (CM7329) considered the issues of donation caps and public funding in considerable detail. The Government believe that any arrangements for increased public funding and associated cap on donations would need to be considered carefully as part of a wider public debate. There would need to be clear support from both the public and political parties before such steps could be taken. It is not clear that such a broad consensus of support currently exists. However, the Government stand ready to continue that debate.