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Political Party Funding

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2011

I consider reform of party funding to be very important in and of itself, and we made a clear commitment to it in the coalition agreement. I look forward to the contribution of the Committee on Standards in Public Life to the debate when it publishes its report shortly. It is immensely important for us to clear this up, because it has affected all political parties negatively, but it would not be right to ask our hard-pressed taxpayers to pay more to political parties at a time when they are having to deal with so many cuts and savings elsewhere. I should like to proceed with as much cross-party consensus as possible, and I am keen to work towards that aim, but I repeat that no one should doubt the determination of this coalition Government to deliver reform in this area.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that interesting answer. Does he agree that it is time for the Labour party to be honest about the privileged influence that some of its larger donors have had on legislation that is debated in the House, and will the Liberal Democrats join the Conservatives—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Questions to Ministers should be about the responsibility of office-holders for public policies. It is no good the hon. Gentleman nodding at me; his question was out of order, and it is about time that he learned that fact.

The Deputy Prime Minister has previously endorsed the long-held convention that issues of party funding should—as he has just said—be resolved by cross-party agreement when that is possible. He has told us that the Committee on Standards in Public Life will report shortly: in fact, it will report next week. Is he concerned about the objections from the chairman of the Conservative party to the £10,000 cap proposed in the draft report, and is he worried about the possibility of a situation similar to that which arose in 2007 when the Conservatives walked away from the opportunity to secure a cross-party agreement? [Interruption.]

Order. It would help if there were not so much noise from Whips on the Treasury Bench, so that the Chair could hear what was being said. Questions must be orderly. The Deputy Prime Minister will answer that which is orderly, and not that which is not.

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman’s question was written by the GMB, because I hear that Opposition Front Benchers have got into the habit of asking their union paymasters what questions they should ask and what amendments they should table. If that happened in any other political party, Labour Members would say that it was an absolute scandal. We know that the trade unions can speak for themselves; it is time that we knew whether the Labour party can think for itself.