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Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 01:15 GMT
Ashcroft's millions boost Tories

Michael Ashcroft Mr Ashcroft gave financial donations of 750,000

The Conservative Party's controversial treasurer Michael Ashcroft provided it with more than 1m in the past year, accounts have revealed.

The Belize-based businessman gave cash donations totalling 750,000, the party's accounts for the year ending 31 March, 1999, show.

As well as the money, Mr Ashcroft provided 410,000 of donations in kind - sponsorship, the use of aircraft, market research, personnel, direct mailing and other items.

In addition, he made interest-free loans, of which the maximum outstanding at any one time was 2m.

William Hague William Hague: Michael Ashcroft is 'broadening funding base'
By the year's end, 250,000 of those loans remained outstanding.

That sum was later converted into another donation, although that will not show up until the next set of annual accounts.

The extent of Mr Ashcroft's financial backing for the party is greater than had been thought.

Mr Aschcroft, who became treasurer in the summer of 1998, had previously indicated he was funding the party to the tune of around 1m a year.

'Political revival'

The accounts showed the Tories returning to a much healthier financial position after the big deficit generated by the unsuccessful 1997 general election campaign.

Party chairman Michael Ancram said: "Income and expenditure is now roughly in balance and we expect to break even during the financial year ended 31 March, 2000."

He added: "Our political revival is reflected in our improved financial position."

Earlier this month, Mr Hague denied he had allowed the party to become over reliant on the generosity of its treasurer.

"He is broadening the funding of the party," he said.

"He is making sure that the Conservative Party receives many more smaller donations from large numbers of people and is not dependent on a few wealthy individuals."

Cost-cutting initiative

But despite that broadening, the value of total donations actually declined by 3.3m, from 9.7m in 1998 to 6.4m in 1999.

The party's healthier financial position was attributable to a huge cost-cutting programme which reduced expenditure from 24.1m in 1998 to 11.4m in 1999.

Cabinet Office Minister Ian McCartney claimed the accounts showed the Conservatives remained largely reliant on a small group of very wealthy donors.

He said: "The Labour Party does not and would never allow one person to hold the roles of treasurer, chief finance officer, principal donor and principal fundraiser.

"In the Tory Party, Michael Ashcroft holds all four roles."

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Hague: No pressure on Ashcroft
09 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Ashcroft approached Murdoch over libel
21 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
Ashcroft sues over allegations
02 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Aschroft donation 'is foreign' - Times

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