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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 11:45 GMT
Party donations under fire
Andrew Mackinlay
Andrew Mackinlay criticised big donations
A senior Labour MP has called for big donors to political parties to be excluded from receiving peerages.

Walsall North MP David Winnick urged the Committee on Standards in Public Life to consider a limit on the amount of money any one individual can give to a political party.

We have a vital election approaching and it's important that campaign is dominated by the issues, rather than the current political froth

John Edmonds

His views were echoed by other Labour MPs, including backbencher Andrew Mackinlay and former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle.

It follows the announcement that the Labour Party received two further donations of 2 million -from government minister Lord Sainsbury and philanthropist Christopher Ondaatje.

A similar donation by publisher Lord Hamlyn was made public earlier this week.

"I am somewhat uneasy to say the least about very large donations coming from one individual," Mr Winnick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I think the Committee on Standards in Public Life should look again at whether there should be a cap on how much one individual and his immediate family can contribute.

"I'm not happy that people can donate such very large sums."

Mr Winnick, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, also called on the committee to investigate the possibility of a five or 10 year ban on peerages for big political donors.

David Winnick
Winnick expressed unease
"If, as these people always say, they donate without the slightest wish for any advantage well I'm sure they wouldn't complain," he said.

Thurrock MP Andrew Mackinlay backed proposals to disqualify donors from being given peerages.

"There should be a ceiling on all large individual and corporate donations, all donors to political parties should be disqualified from being nominated for membership of the House of Lords by any party leader.

"Disqualification should exist for at least five years following the last donation."

Peter Kilfoyle expressed unease about his party accepting substantial donations from individuals.

Questions raised

"It will raise questions as to how much weight will be added to their voice in the highest councils of the party when they are able to contribute such huge amounts to election funds."

Liberal Democrat chairman Malcolm Bruce renewed his party's call for state funding for political parties saying that failure to do so would lead to more "sleaze and the spectre of democracy for sale to the highest bidders".

"Political donations must be open to scrutiny to avoid the suspicion of buying influence," he said.

Mr Bruce also suggested that 11 people who had given more than 5,000 to Labour had been ennobled since the party came to power.

Broadbase funding

The Labour Party insisted it was not reliant on a small number of large donors with 40% of its funding coming from individual members and small donations, while only 20% came from "donations of this sort".

"What is important is that a political party has as broad a base as it is able to have," said a spokesman.

But John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, said it was time for the names of all donors to political parties in the past 12 months to be published.

"We have a vital election approaching and it's important that campaign is dominated by the issues, rather than the current political froth," he said.

"There is no reason why both parties should not agree to such a move."

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour discloses 4m donations
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour's 11 ennobled donors
02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour's mystery 2m donor named
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