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IG Index chairman Stuart Wheeler
"I have never raised the subject with any MP"
 real 28k

Fraser Kemp MP
"It seems an amazing conincidence"
 real 28k

Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
Tories defend betting tax proposal
IG Index chairman Stuart Wheeler
Stuart Wheeler's company would gain from Conservative amendments
A row has broken out over Tory proposals for a tax cut which would benefit a company owned by the party's biggest donor.

Three Tory MPs have asked the government to cut tax paid by spread betting firms, such as IG Index whose chairman Stuart Wheeler gave 5 million to the Tories in January.

One Labour MP described the amendments as "disgraceful" and demanded an investigation by the Commons Treasury committee.

Conservative MP Richard Ottaway
Richard Ottaway - tabled amendment
But a Conservative party spokesman said they were among hundreds the party was tabling to reduce the tax burden on business.

The MPs - Richard Ottaway, Howard Flight and James Clappison - tabled changes to the Finance Bill on Thursday to cut tax on financial spread betting by 1% and on sporting spread betting by 2%.

IG Index, the UK's largest spread betting firm, would save 1m a year if they were passed, according to Sunday's Observer newspaper.

It came after the MPs met the Spread Betting Association, which represents five companies including IG Index, although there is no suggestion that Mr Wheeler himself was involved in lobbying to lower taxes.

'Disgraceful'

Labour MP James Plaskitt said that, as a member of the Treasury select committee, he would be asking it to investigate the "disgraceful" behaviour.

"It is the same old Tories. It shows they have learned nothing in opposition and that they still can't be trusted," he said.

He added that the Budget's proposal to scrap betting duty and replace it with a tax on bookmakers' profits had been widely welcomed.

Legitimate

A Tory party spokesman denied there was anything wrong with the amendments.

"These were perfectly legitimate amendments to table and all the necessary declarations of interest were made," he said.

"It is part of our argument that business taxes should be cut and certainly was not done at the request of Stuart Wheeler."

The 5 million donation to the Conservatives was the largest ever to a UK political party from a private donor - Mr Wheeler said at the time it came without any policy strings attached.

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Budget points to imminent election
18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Stuart Wheeler: 5 million man
21 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Tory 5m donor sparks influence row
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