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 107.

    Good grief!

    No way! They take enough money from us now for frivolous, frittering schemes and just to give away to sometimes dubious causes. No. If they're going to take taxpayer's money to keep afloat then take it from these giveaways.

    We should pass legislation that says when standards of living are NOT improving they get nothing. Payment by results. Don't reward failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I agree with the t proposal for a cap of £10,000 pa, not not the tax payer bit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    If we can't afford to eat and keep ourselves warm this winter why should we taxpayers be forced to donate funds to political parties. It is a nonsense. Outrageous suggestion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Funding political parties with tax payers money!!
    Not while I have got my breath

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    "If every vote was worth X many £/pence...currently do"

    why? they need our X to get into power but they do not care, vote for party A, B or C and it makes little difference. All that would happen is they provide a manifesto of what you wish to get your X - then ignore it like now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    This change seems reasonable. I'd rather this than the absurd situation they have in the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    How about donations being made go into a pool independently managed and performance related funding. See how the party in power has performed over the 5 years and then give them a percentage according to their manifesto pledges, the other parites get a % based on the number of votes. This will remove any donors controlling politcians and not use taxpayers money to achieve this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @97 well said, a step towards the original democratic model

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    "Why should taxpayers fund political parties?"

    Because otherwise funds would have to come from donations. In which case those with the most money would have most influence.
    Is that what you want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    If your politcal party is good and appeals to the masses then you should have no problems raising cash. But if your party is deemed to be a bunch of liars and professional politicans then you will have problems
    Limit all single donations to £1,000 per person, per year.
    The public should not "bail out" political parties which no one supports or believes.
    Politcal parties change and adept or die

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    If MP's could serve for one term only (ie volumtary for the benefit of the country) then public funds should be used to help the best people to be found and elected. As being an MP is now a career job which is extremenly well paid, if salary and office costs are considered then I don't see why, they can't make their own donations. Why should poor taxpayers have to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Comment number 73.
    Desiderius Erasmus

    "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."

    It's the old 'frog in a pan of boiling water' analogy, and we're the frogs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Why should we the tax payer fund polictical parties? Easy.

    If every vote was worth X many £/pence they'd have to listen to us much more than they currently do - as things stand they listen more to their financial backers than the likes of you & me......

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Much as some of the large donations made to political parties are distasteful I object to the taxpayer paying for them :-

    1) Even if it's only 50 p they need to "deserve" my contribution.

    2) How do you allocate funds between the parties - share of poll at the last general election / seats in the commons / fixed % ?

    3) Parties may listen even less if their funding more guaranteed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    People need to 'get real'. Politics is our system of government and has to be financed. Just because we don't like politics or trust politicians doesn't mean it will go away; to be replaced by what?
    Better to introduce fairer funding ie taxpayer, however unpalettable, based around the issues not the parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    "all of them live on a different planet that has zero understanding of reality."

    On that I MUST disagree, they know perfectly well that you (& I) are sheep to be fleeced for every penny we have & there is nothing you or I can do about it. :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Totally redictulous. Why should tax payers fund political parties. if we fund them then there should accountability and criminal actions against thos who fail

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    67. This move would prevent crass insults to democracy like the Labour leader election. The M.P.'s voted for David Milliband, so did the Labour party members, then a dozen union bosses cast their block votes for Ed, so Ed was "democratically" elected.

    You may like to research how Cameron was elected to his post of leader of the Conservatives.


  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Typical politicians mindset.

    Whats mine is mine and whats thine is mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    If we are going to pay party donations straight from tax, where is the money going to come from? Will a hospital or school close? Will we be told that taxes have to rise? If businesses do not pay it, will we see a price reduction in their goods or services, because we are already contributing through their tills.


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