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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 13:52 GMT
Labour MP calls for funding re-think
Clive Soley
Clive Soley: State funding would resolve problems
A leading Labour MP has called for state funding of political parties to be considered following the debate over Lord Hamlyn's 2m donation.

Clive Soley, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said he was not yet fully convinced of the case for state funding but he had "begun to move in that direction".

Mr Soley was among senior party figures who publicly urged an end to the speculation surrounding Lord Hamlyn's identity.


There is a case for it, we ought to look at it

Clive Soley on state funding for political parties
In a BBC interview, he backed the way Labour officials had handled the saga but said a change in the way UK political parties were funded should at least be examined.

Labour's Lord Gavron, a friend and business partner of Lord Hamlyn, went even further and fully endorsed the introduction of state funding for political parties.

Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party, has said it "would put an end to the culture of sleaze surrounding donations".

But the Conservatives have rejected the proposal, saying it would reduce public involvement in political parties.

Asked whether he supported state funding, Mr Soley told Radio 4's Today programme: "Certainly I've begun to move in that direction".

'Anxieties'

He said he had "anxieties" about it and would not want to sign up to it immediately, mainly because it could be unpopular.

"But I must say it happens in most other democratic countries in Europe, for example.

"It certainly would resolve a lot of the problems that parties have in an age where people increasingly give less on a voluntary basis and yet parties are vital to our healthy democracy.

"So there is a case for it, we ought to look at it."

Andrew Lansley
Andrew Lansley opposes further state funding of political parties
Shadow cabinet office minister Andrew Lansley said the Tories did not support full state funding of political parties.

"Such a move would diminish public involvement in those parties, both through fundraising and in expressing support via donations.

"Further state funding also runs the risk of entrenching existing support for political parties, rather than allowing the flexibility for parties to grow and change according to public support."

The Conservatives had supported proposals to introduce tax relief on small personal donations but, Mr Lansley said, it was rejected by Labour.

'Begging bowl'

Lord Gavron told Today: "I think it is a curious situation to have to go around with a begging bowl.

"I think it would be much better if there was state funding."

People were unwilling to give money voluntarily because they were wary of the publicity it could generate, Lord Gavron said.

That was the reason Lord Hamlyn had initially asked for his 2m donation to Labour to remain anonymous, he went on.

But once media speculation grew it was only the fact the millionaire publisher was "extremely ill", and not because of a "screw up" on Labour's part, that delayed his identity being made public.

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See also:

03 Jan 01 | UK Politics
'Labour blameless' in donor saga
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour's mystery 2m donor named
02 Jan 01 | UK
Lord Hamlyn: Labour's donor
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour moves to end cash row
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Pressure over Labour's 2m gift
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour's 11 ennobled donors
27 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Political donations shake-up
21 Apr 98 | Party fundraising
Party fundraising background
15 Apr 98 | Politics
Party funding in the spotlight
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