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Committee on Standards in Public Life (13th Report)

Volume 536: debated on Wednesday 23 November 2011

The Government are grateful for the Committee on Standards in Public Life report which was published yesterday, and will study it carefully.

Some key principles can be drawn from the report. Properly funded, vibrant political parties are vital to a healthy democracy and a key part of the UK’s constitutional framework. The amount any one individual, organisation or institution can give in political donations should be limited. Fairness between parties with different types of funding is crucial. So too is fairness for the taxpayer. Like the Committee, the Government accept that the state has some role to play in ensuring these principles apply in reality.

The Government believe that the case cannot be made for greater state funding of political parties at a time when budgets are being squeezed and economic recovery remains the highest priority. But there is a case for looking carefully at whether existing levels of support could be used more effectively.

We remain committed to limiting donations and reforming party funding. So the Government accept in principle the Committee’s recommendation that donations to political parties should be capped. But the level of a cap will need to be considered with reference to other elements of a reform package, in particular the impact on the ability of parties to continue to raise sufficient funds and the absence of any additional support from the state.

We are also of the view that the report is right to recognise a new party funding settlement must include genuine reform in respect of trade union donations.

Reform remains a priority and is best achieved as far as possible by consensus. To that end we plan to continue cross-party discussions based on the principles identified by the Committee and the Government’s reform commitments.