Statements by Mark Adams and Peter Facey regarding “Cash for Cameron” scandal
[Check against delivery]
On Sunday 25th March, the Sunday Times published a story, based on information received from me, concerning political donations to the Conservative Party and access to the Prime Minister. As I believe these to be very serious allegations, including of potential criminality, I referred this matter to the Metropolitan Police on Sunday evening and to the Electoral Commission yesterday morning. I am now able to give further details of the nature of the crimes I believe may have been committed.
Firstly I believe that the law on donations to political parties have been broken. Specifically Section 61(b) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 which states that:
(1)A person commits an offence if he—
(a)knowingly enters into, or
(b)knowingly does any act in furtherance of,
any arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate, whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise, the making of donations to a registered party by any person or body other than a permissible donor.
Secondly I believe what was said on tape to the Sunday Times may contravene Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 "encouragement to commit an offence". Thirdly it is possible that a criminal conspiracy was entered into, if as suggested there were discussions between Sarah Southern and Peter Cruddas about how to avoid the donation regulations.
These are clearly matters that must be investigated by the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police and I will therefore not be commenting on the investigation in more detail.
The reports do however raise broader issues. Although I believe that the allegations against the Conservative Party are graver than those faced by any party in the past, it is clear that all political parties have questions to answer on party funding. Those of us outside the political system are now demanding real change.
I am a proud member of the campaign group Unlock Democracy, who are campaigning for reform of the law on party funding. I wholeheartedly support their campaign and will be inviting their Director, Peter Facey, to say a few words in a moment.
Now is the time for action. All political parties must get round the table immediately and agree a fundamental reform, before public confidence in our political system slips any further.
Thank you Mark for that warm introduction.
My name is Peter Facey and I am the Director of Unlock Democracy and we have campaigned for party funding reform since 2003.
Unlock Democracy believe that it is absolutely right that these allegations are properly investigated by the Electoral Commission and the Police if necessary. There is no point having specific pieces of legislation and laws if they can then be bypassed by the same politicians who passed them.
However it should not take the threat of a formal investigation for the parties to reach a consensus and break the deadlock on party funding. During these economically hard times, when all households are being asked to share the pain, political parties themselves need to show the public that they are willing to get their own houses in order.
We have already been promised that there will be another round of talks between the parties on party funding reform; however that is not enough. What we need now is for political leaders to show real leadership, put political differences aside and agree a new set of funding criteria.
Thanks to the recent recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which was set up by John Major in 1994 to, in part, look into this very issue, we already have the framework for an agreement. These talks need not reinvent the wheel.
We too believe there should be an annual cap on donations which is to be phased over an electoral cycle, to allow the parties to cope with the transition. The national spending limits during an election should be lowered so that parties do not bankrupt themselves trying to outspend their rivals in marginal seats. Finally the way in which Trade Unions collect and pay affiliation fees needs to be reformed. The Union Unison already operates a system whereby individuals explicitly choose to put money into a Labour affiliate fund, this could be the basis of a new system that is based on increased transparency and consent.
These are three reforms that can easily be agreed. Regarding the issue of party funding, despite the amount of money we are talking about being significantly less than the cost of the upcoming Police Commissioner elections, we readily agree now is not the time to be giving political parties yet more state funding. The public will never like spending more money funding political parties, especially in times of austerity. They will not even countenance it however until parties have come at least half way and implement the measures discussed today. However there is no such thing as a free lunch and we may have to revisit this area in the upcoming years.