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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK

UK Politics

Clampdown on party funding

The government aims to "clean up" party funding

Plans to make it illegal for British political parties to accept money from foreign donors are to be outlined on Tuesday afternoon.

Home Secretary Jack Straw will make a Commons statement on a draft bill amid ongoing controversy over the business dealings of Conservative treasurer Michael Ashcroft, who is the largest donor to the party.

But the ban is not expected to hit Mr Ashcroft, who lives in Florida and is a dual national of the UK and Belize, as the definition of a "permissible source" to make donations will include anyone who is eligible to vote in the UK.

Names and amounts

[ image: Michael Ashcroft: Likely to be unaffected by the ban]
Michael Ashcroft: Likely to be unaffected by the ban
The draft bill will be the government's first response to last year's report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life on party funding.

The bill is expected to ban foreign donors, order parties to publish names of donors and the amounts they donate regarding contributions of more than £5,000.

It may also establish an electoral commission to oversee the complicated rules on candidates' election expenditure and cap political party spending in the year leading up to an election to £20m.

The committee made 100 recommendations and critics believe the government's bill may not include all of them, particularly those in relation to referendums.

The Neill report recommended that both sides in a referendum be given equal funding and that the government of the day remain neutral.

'Cleaning up politics'

The bill follows from Labour's 1997 general election manifesto which promised that the party would "clean up politics, decentralise political power throughout the UK and put the funding of political parties on a proper and accountable basis".

[ image:  ]
Labour has rejected claims that the bill and its timing are part of a vendetta against Mr Ashcroft.

Mr Straw has insisted that the new rules are "not directed at individuals".

But government backbenchers are already seeking changes to the bill, arguing it does not go far enough.

Labour MP Martin Linton said he wanted tighter rules so that people spending fewer than 90 days a year in Britain, so-called tax exiles, were banned from donating.

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