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.

HOW PARTIES WOULD BENEFIT

  • 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
    +1

    Comment number 187.

    Our political parties are unashamedly disconnected from the electorate at all levels.
    So no taxpayers money for them.
    There is already a left wing 'political cartel', comprising all the major parties.
    Simplest way round the donations issue is to pool them all- divide up on a votes cast nationally basis for fairness. If you don't like it, don't give.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 186.

    Those who seek power (i.e.political office) should not do so with compulsory financial help from the taxpayer, the majority of whom would invariably not support the candidate concerned anyway! Taxpayers' money provides extremely generous funding to those elected members of the political classes already. To have to fund the unelected parts of this Club as well is adding insult to injury.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 185.

    No way should we be financing political partys they should donate part of there wages to the party no funds from taxpayer they already get freebees for everything

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 184.

    149. Confuciousfred

    Bit of a problem for the WHEN party.

    Sir Chris says you need two MPs before you can get the £3 per vote.

    He's done this because he wants to look after his big buddies in the Westminster bubble and doesn't want the minnows bursting it.

    The bigger you are the more room and more time you get at the trough.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 183.

    One thing that should happen is an equably funded system and the removal of all political parties paymasters. Please do not tell me that the donations are without self interest

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 182.

    @mayna

    I don't believe that is the case. If everyone got a say on every subject, everyone would vote for tax cuts and increased spending (or, at least, would not be able to agree where cuts would fall), and we'd be in an even worse situation than we are in now. The only way to avoid this is to vote for a complete platform.

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 181.

    Why should wealthy organisations hold more influence in Gov than the electorate? Ban all donations, fund political parties through state funds which are divided equally. Want to support a political party? Volunteer your time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 180.

    Why not have a phone in number.

    "Text IDIOT to 1066"

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 179.

    Poilitians in jail for embezzling exspences
    Tax on the up to pay for the so called debt we are in.
    Jobs being lost due to slow economy
    Pay cuts for those that are working and bigger pension contributions
    Billions being spent on wars
    Our taxes pay for the politians.
    Now they want us to pay for their parties also. umm glad I am emigrating.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 178.

    174.LawInnaSuit
    "Political parties are vital for democracy, and should be motivated only to gain the most votes possible."

    votes has nothing to do with democracy, DOING what the majority want is.
    Unfortunately, the only true way of doing that is to ask the population on every question. For the politician to make no choice but simply act as the majority dictate.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 177.

    MPs should fund their own parties and not expect tax payers to do so. People who complain about the unions funding Labour should understand that the union member does NOT have to pay a political levy in their union dues but the torys get their money from rich people or companies where the employees or share holders do not get that choice, so baroness warsi get of your high horse

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 176.

    I believe most people would be happy to see most of em go from their roles, mass redundancy in the public and private sector thanks to the gov relaxing the redundancy laws for companies. Well bout time they tasted their own medicine. On the grounds of incompetence most should loose their jobs yet alone the greed, corruption, hidden agenda's, wars, lies, economic crisis..........

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 175.

    UKIP would get any funding even though it drew the 4th largest share of the vote (900,000) last GE, which would equate to £2,700,000.

    And Sinn Fein will get £515,000 even though its MP's have never sat in the Parliament they are elected to (but do take there wages and full allowance packages).

    The whole idea stink to high ehll

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 174.

    Political parties are vital for democracy, and should be motivated only to gain the most votes possible. By skewing policies towards those who can provide financial backing, those people/unions/businesses obviously benefit more. As unpalatable as it may seem, state backing is the only way to break this influence of the wealthy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 173.

    I am literally astounded. People are taking this proposal seriously. In a healthy democracy all politicians should be viewed as potential scoundrels and be forced to earn the respect of the people. With an unbiased media their deeds would be made public and people may wish to vote and donate or withold. We pay their salaries that is more than enough.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 172.

    This is just an establishment stitch-up to channel taxpayers' money into the establishment political parties. We already have a rigged voting system to keep other parties out - now they want rigged party funding as well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 171.

    i agree with public funding, i think each party should be given a set amount per candidate put forward, and it should be made illegal to donate to the party, that way voting can be about the parties' viewpoints and competence, rather than about which party spends the most money on smear campaigns

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 170.

    Perhaps Mr Kelly needs to understand that democracy requires a level playing field, so no political party should be paid out of the public purse. He would do better to consider the idea of banning organisations or companies from donating to politicians; and that only private individual donations are permissable.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 169.

    As much as I hate paying politicians more than I have to, for an effective democracy, fair elections are a requirement and as such they should be state funded. In fact, to ensure everyone has just one vote, they should be only state funded and all other funding should be banned.
    If you can't manage your party's budget as well as the other parties then you certainly can't manage the country's.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 168.

    Don't they actually get enough of taxpayers money? How about using the estimated 8 billion of taxpayers money they are giving away to corrupt governments in the third World , no they should fund themselves through existing donors because all they will do is waste it, why should we foot the bill?

 

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