The Government are committed to limiting donations and reforming party funding. This is best achieved, as far as possible, by consensus. To this end, I will write to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition later this week, asking them to nominate representatives to take part in preliminary cross-party discussions.
Last year, when Christopher Kelly’s committee published a report containing its ideas for a package of reforms of party funding, all parties made clear that it was inconceivable that any of us would advocate an increase in overall state funding at this time. I will therefore stipulate in my letter to the leaders of the other main parties that such an increase is not on the agenda for now. However, that does not mean we could not make progress on many other areas of party funding reform on what I hope would be a cross-party basis.
11. As Members know, if one of our constituents buys a car in all good faith and it subsequently turns out to have been stolen, he or she must hand it back. Will the Deputy Prime Minister’s examination of political funding explain why his party is insisting on holding on to the £2.5 million that it was given by the convicted criminal Michael Brown? Will the right hon. Gentleman give it back, or, at the very least, spare us the usual sanctimonious holier-than-thou sermon? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] (93691)
They liked that one.
As we have explained before, the Electoral Commission has made crystal clear that, given the knowledge and information available to the Liberal Democrat party at the time—well before my time as leader—the money was received in entirely good faith.
I certainly think that there would be a significant reputational risk if that party were to table amendments and ask parliamentary questions written for it by that donor, as we learnt had been done last year. If that were the practice in any other party, members of the party concerned would be crying foul.