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Page last updated at 07:52 GMT, Monday, 26 March 2012 08:52 UK

Questions over PM's dinners 'a nonsense'


The Minister for the Cabinet Office has said that questions being asked about meetings David Cameron had with party donors are "a bit of a nonsense".

Francis Maude told the Today programme's Evan Davis that "if you made a donation you could expect to join the Leaders Group" which would give you access to the prime minister and other senior members of the party, insisting there is "nothing remotely improper or new" about this.

He was speaking in the wake of the resignation of the Conservative Party's top fundraiser, Peter Cruddas, who was secretly filmed offering access to the prime minister in exchange for £250,000.

Lord Levy, former Labour chief fundraiser, called for a change in the system saying that "this is going to continually happen in one form or another" until reforms are made.

"A party cannot have its policy directorate open," he said, but insisted that he was "not aware of any fundraising dinners which Blair had at either No. 10 or at Chequers."

Politicians will, said Lord Levy, "have to take the bull by the horns to ensure changes take place... it's politics that has suffered."

Francis Maude maintained "we have been more open about this than any government," saying that "all ministerial meetings are disclosed in a way that has never been done before."

"What is being alleged", he said, "is that you can buy influence, you can buy policy, and that's simply not the case."

He denied that David Cameron needed to disclose every single meeting that he has had, claiming that "it is unreasonable". He also differentiated between party-organised events and access to the prime minister's private life.

"We have not got things to hide", he said, and dismissed questions over private dinners the prime minister is alleged to have had with party donors as an "obsession".

However, Mr Maude did agree "the system needs to be reformed".

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