Political parties 'should get more taxpayer funding'


Sir Christopher Kelly says the cost to the taxpayer is "a little more than the cost of a 1st class stamp"

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Political parties should get an extra £23m of taxpayers' money to reduce reliance on "big money" donations, an independent inquiry has said.

The Committee for Standards in Public Life also recommended a £10,000 annual cap on individual donations from 2015.

Union members should have to "opt in" to fees paid to Labour if donations are to be counted individually, it says.

Chairman Sir Christopher Kelly urged parties to adopt the ideas but parties were lukewarm about more state funding.

All three main parties will have to agree on the proposals if they are to go forward.

Sir Christopher admitted the proposals would make "uncomfortable reading" for some but said leaders must "show courage" and work together to "clean up this part of politics".

The first proposal is for a cap of £10,000-a-year on donations from any individual or organisation - including trade unions - to any political party with at least two MPs or two representatives at the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.

Start Quote

This cannot be healthy for democracy”

End Quote Sir Christopher Kelly Committee chairman

At present there are no limits on donations, but the name of anyone who gives more than £7,500 to a party is made public.

Sir Christopher dismissed the Conservatives' preferred annual cap - of £50,000 rather than £10,000 - as it amounted to twice the average salary and over a five-year Parliament added up to £250,000, which must be considered "big money".

He said trade union affiliation fees could be counted as a collection of small individual payments - but only if members were required to "opt in" to the fees, rather than opting out as at present and if other conditions were met to "ensure that undue influence cannot be exerted".

"All three main parties now depend on large donations from a very small number of rich individuals or organisations for the funds necessary for their survival," Sir Christopher said.

"This cannot be healthy for democracy."

The report notes that both the Conservatives and Labour would be hit by the proposals - while the Lib Dems, whose income is far lower, would be likely to benefit.

50p per voter

It recommends increased state funding - worth £3 for every Westminster election vote received for parties who have at least two MPs or representatives in the devolved assemblies - ruling out UKIP, the BNP, and others. There would also be funding worth £1.50 a vote in the devolved and European elections.


  • Conservatives: £32.2m
  • Labour: £25.8m
  • Lib Dems: £20.5m
  • SNP: £1.5m
  • Sinn Fein: £515,826
  • Plaid Cymru: £496,182
  • DUP: £504,648

Based on 2010 election results, if parties received £3 per vote

Sir Christopher said it amounted to 50p, per voter, per year and said people would understand that that was necessary to take "big money" out of politics.

The report says the increased taxpayer support, and proposals to allow Gift Aid-style tax relief on donations of up to £1,000 and party membership fees, will not replace all the money lost by parties through the cap - but is aimed at getting parties to "broaden the basis of their support" and get more people involved in politics.

Separately, current limits on campaign spending in the run-up to elections should be cut by 15% the committee says. Currently parties can spend up to £30,000 per seat in the run-up to a general election - or £19.5m overall, if all 650 Westminster seats are contested.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said: "The government believes that the case cannot be made for greater state funding of political parties at a time when budgets are being squeezed and economic recovery remains the highest priority."

'Not a priority'

Sir Christopher responded that he was not suggesting changes be made immediately - but at the start of the next Parliament in 2015.

He said he hoped that "knee-jerk reactions" would be superceded by close reading of the proposals in their entirety.

Start Quote

A party like UKIP, which obtained nearly a million votes in the last general election ... should be included”

End Quote Stuart Wheeler UKIP Treasurer

Labour said it would "study in detail" the report's proposals but said "in the current economic environment" that increased state funding for parties was "not a priority". Shadow minister Michael Dugher also said the party had "concerns" regarding trade union affiliation fees.

For the Conservatives, party co-chairman Baroness Warsi told the BBC she "broadly welcomes the report" but expressed concern about increased state funding for parties: "I'm not convinced, even in better economic circumstances ... that that is a wise way for us to be spending taxpayers' money."

Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said any move "to limit undue influence on the political process by private individuals, businesses and the trade unions can only be a good thing".

He said: "While it is clear now is not the time for more public money to be spent on politicians, that shouldn't stop us taking immediate action to reform political funding."

But UK Independence Party Treasurer Stuart Wheeler, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said there was a danger a "political cartel" would be created - particularly if parties like UKIP were excluded from the taxpayer-funded support.

"It is essential that parties should be defined in such a way that a party like UKIP, which obtained nearly a million votes in the last general election, and which came second, beating both Labour and the LibDems in the European election in 2009, should be included."

The report says it expects the financial impact of the recommendations to "be reasonably even-handed between the largest two parties" although it cannot be sure - and recommended further work before it was brought in.

UK political parties spent £31.1m at the 2010 general election.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This must be a bad joke.

    The Gov. relives me of most of my hard earned as it is.
    Cuts my local services, health, transport, schools, children's amenities and on and on, and all of them live on a different planet that has zero understanding of reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    @79 quite right, what world are these fools living in? dont they know we have had enough of being squeezed yet they want more from us. No one should vote for any of the 3 main parties at the next election, its time to get our house in order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    At last! Someone talking sense. We are getting as bad as the US for big business controlling govournment decisions. It is ludicrous that political parties should consider whether or not to impose these recommendations; that's like asking worker to vote on pay cuts.
    A non-political body should look into fareplay of the proposals and if found valid, then there should be a referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    From reading many of the comments its clear some people can't tell the difference between 'the government' and 'political parties' . Its no wonder politicians can pull the wool over the electorates eyes when so many potential voters haven't a clue how the system is meant to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    So on the basis of this article, the Cons would receive most money - based on share of the vote. So the party in power would almost always get more - No Thank you. I have no wish for my taxes to be used to keep Dave the Dim and Co in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The current funding of parties is undemocratic. As such taxpayer money should be used to fund politics, not parties.
    New parties must be allowed to compete (UKIP, BNP); impossible if funding only goes to parties with existing MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    "Further, if lobbying is allowed which results in taxpayers disadvantage then we should get our money back, from whichever party is responsible"

    We know that politicians are magicians (they can make 2+2= anything they want), so how would we measure if the decision was good or bad - it's subjective.
    Not saying you are wrong or right, just implementation could be difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Any party that cannot persuade its supporters to contribute financially does not deserve to survive. Yes donations may influence policy, but in the end the voters decide whether or not a party can form the government. I never want to see my taxes going to fund political parties, not even if I agree with their policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    They do not get it, there is a recession on at the moment, the EU has just been granted a 2% budget increase, we waste money of wind power, we charge extra for electicity and gas, where does this madness end? VAT up duties up and now they have the gall to ask for more money for self promotion. 3rd world here we come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    If we have 23 million spare I can think of 23 million better uses for it. The arrogance of these people if breathtaking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Don't waste my tax money politicians. We get enough problems with politicians fiddling expenses, these proposals give them more scope to fiddle by giving access to our hard earned tax money to political parties. Politicians are cutting our services and making public staff redundant, yet they expect us to give them more money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It is imperative to remove the influence of corporate money in politics and break up the very cozy relationship between government and big business. However, taxpayers funding political parties is not the way to do it. The parties are part of the problem. A modest amount of public money should be distributed among MPs to mount local campaigns. Let them convince us to vote for them as individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    A quick add up shows this debate has raised about 150 quid so far.
    Not sure what do about those who have given a - vote, or have not yet voted, or refuse to vote at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    50p per voter? in 2009 there were 61.9m ppl in britian times that by 50p = and i know the country has grown lots since then this is just a ligit way to rip of the ppl again. try taxing them higher on there second homes because that sounds like a luxury to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Here we go again ... drip feed softening of public resistance to publicly funded political machines. Its just plain morally wrong, for any political party in a democracy to get tax payers to support it outside of basic electoral costs.

    I don't want my tax money going to support politicians who I would never vote for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I go along with most of this, although I would not allow extra money for election campaigns, all that money spent on lying to us? No, I don't think so. I would cut the max donation to 1K and yes, union members should opt in. Further, if lobbying is allowed which results in taxpayers disadvantage then we should get our money back, from whichever party is responsible. If they don't agree, then why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Can we please fire Sir Christopher Kelly? I presume we are paying for him.
    The last thing on earth we need to do is to fund Political Parties. We need to get rid of politicians, not fund them.
    Damn place is full of jobsworths as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Why should I pay for a service that I am not receiving. If this comes into force would | be eligable for a refund under the consumer credit act. Joking aside why should I pay if I dont want to. I do not wish to be a party member and it is those people who should pay. Why don't they scrap their big fancy offices in London! That should save them a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Just cap the amount any part can spend, and keep it reasonable..

    why shouldn`t UKIP and other parties get a lump sum

    NO Way the taxpayer to fund any spending

    I see the straw for the camel`s back fast approaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    How much is a knighthood these days?


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