Lib Dems and Tories give will cash to Treasury

Joan Edwards Miss Edwards drew up her will in 2001

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A £520,000 bequest shared between the Tories and Lib Dems will be handed to the Treasury, amid claims it was meant to be left to the nation.

Retired nurse Joan Edwards left the money to "whichever government is in office" and it was divided up as a donation between the coalition parties.

But after some criticism, both parties said they would give up the cash.

David Cameron said it was the "right decision" having seen the wording of Miss Edwards's will.

He said it was his understanding that the executors of the will had decided the money should go to the parties of government - but the words in the will suggested it was meant to benefit the nation.

The money would go to the Treasury to "pay down the national debt", he said which would "meet the spirit" of what Miss Edwards intended.

"We accepted the money in good faith... but having been able to look at the wording of the will and consider the matter, I think this is the right decision," the prime minister said.

Miss Edwards, who died last year aged 90, was a surprise name on a list of party donors released on Tuesday by the Electoral Commission.

The Bristol woman's £520,000 bequest made her the biggest donor to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in the second quarter of the year, dwarfing the usual contributions by City financiers and other big money donors.

'Decent thing'

Lib Dem and Conservative sources said the donation had come "out of the blue" and that Ms Edwards' will had specified the money should go to "whoever was in government".

Joan Seville, friend of the late Joan Edwards: "Joan wouldn't open up... she was a private person"

The parties said they had been guided by the will's executors in deciding to divide it up according to the number of MPs and ministers of each party - the Tories received £420,576 while the Lib Dems received £99,423.

But when the full wording of the will emerged, the coalition partners faced calls from all sides for them to hand the money to the Treasury, amid claims it had not been intended for party political purposes.

Miss Edwards' will specified the money should go to "whichever government is in office at the date of my death for the government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit".

Labour former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said the parties "must hand back" the cash, while Labour backbencher Ian Austin urged them to "do the decent thing".

'Poor judgement'

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy wrote on Twitter: "Unless tomorrow's explanation of this is much clearer & more credible, this looks dodgy as hell by Tories & Libs".

Start Quote

As with all other donations to the Exchequer, the money will be used to reduce the national debt”

End Quote Conservative Party spokesman

Conservative Zac Goldsmith also joined in the criticism, saying no one could believe "this lady wanted her money squandered on electioneering" while his fellow Tory MP Conor Burns wrote on Twitter that it had been "poor judgement" to accept the money.

However Davis Wood, the solicitors handling Miss Edwards's estate, said that when the will was drafted in 2001, they had checked with her "the unusual nature of her proposed bequest".

"It was confirmed by Miss Edwards at the time of her instructions that her estate was to be left to whichever political party formed the government at the date of her death," they said.

Joan Seville, 85, who had known Miss Edwards for more than 40 years, told the BBC she was a former midwife, a very private person and a church-goer.

'Correct recipient'

But Mrs Seville said she did not think Miss Edwards was a particularly political person, although she did believe it was important that women voted.

About 16 people from her church and one neighbour attended her funeral last year. Ms Seville said Miss Edwards' only family had been her mother, who lived with her until she died some years ago.

She "wouldn't have dreamed" that Miss Edwards would have had such a large will.

It is understood that the solicitors handling Miss Edward's estate had contacted HM Treasury solicitors and the office of the Attorney General, Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, seeking advice, before finalising the bequest.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the Treasury Solicitor had replied on Mr Grieve's behalf suggesting "further steps the executors might wish to take to identify the correct recipient of the bequest" but did not advise on who should receive the money.

The Attorney General's office told the BBC that the will had not been dealt with by Mr Grieve himself.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Dear messrs Cameron and Clegg, I want to give you £500,000 "to use as you think best". Will you (a) support food banks (b) support our armed forces (c) give it to the banks (d) use it for an election campaign?

    I'm sure you'll decide the right thing to do as you are so in touch with the electorate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    It appears that Ms Edwards left the money to the Government in place when she died. Not to the Political Party or Parties in power at that point.

    They remain two completely separate things. Should the Clegg and Cameron choose to use this for Party Political purposes, as they appear to be doing by splitting the money, then I believe they will be acting entirely incorrectly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    While it is always easy to blame the political parties involved - particularly if you don't like them, they had no say in the matter. It is up to the executors to interpret the will of the individual who made her own decision. The fact that half the voting population (as well as that great arbiter of moral virtue The Daily Mail) think it was a poor decision is irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I take the lady's words to mean that the money be spent BY the government, to the benefit of the people of the UK & NOT that it goes into Party coffers.

  • Comment number 167.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    No doubt Tory coffers are swelled by donations from G4S, Serco, Atos etc etc.

    Why else would these useless companies get government contracts ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    They are all as bad as each other.

    If parties were state-funded they would not be in hock to big businesses and rich individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Typical Cameron - already bloated by his inherited wealth, he seeks to pocket as much money as he can for his party while at the same time that same party machine screws hard-working people who've worked all their lives and paid their taxes. Most would call it corruption....

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    A will is just that - a statement of intent. The wording if the Mail is correct, apparently says that it should go to 'whichever government is in office', and the government is not a political party.
    If one is to assume that government money belongs to the party holding office, then all our taxes can be put into election coffers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    "Government" does not mean "Party". The Conservatives & Liberal Democrats have shown their complete detachment from the public mood by grabbing the Miss Edwards's bequest to the nation. Surely they should have realised an investment, a unit or somesuch in the NHS in Miss Edwards's memory & for the unsung & poorly rewarded nurses should have been their first response. I despair at their stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I hope the lady deliberately made the bequeth vague.
    As their actions clearly demonstrate their values.
    Leaving a will is a charitable act, it is evident that this government does not know the meaning of the word ....although they make it more necessary every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    What normal person ... was either an idiot or mental, she was probably a toff
    Wow, slagging off a dead person you've never met and know next to nothing about.


  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    "To use as they see fit". This to me is not to pay their expenses but to use for OUR good. As RNLI who save anyone in difficulties & Hospices gets no Gov money, then this would be the logical thing to do. Also other non Gov funded project NOt "overseas aid" I expect though MPs will have more expensive holidays under the guise of "Business" also drink/eat even more wine/food at Parliamant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    It would be nice to see the money placed directly into the renovation of a few of the worst NHS elderly care homes, or additional training carers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Frankly I am surprised anyone sees this as outside normal political behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Was it "parties" or "government"? Maybe someone could put up a copy of the actual will so that we could read it for ourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    "the will said the money should go to "whichever government is in office... to use as they think fit"."

    Obviously the Cameron and Clegg think the best way to use this money is to trouser it for their own personal gain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Government means the whole of parliament, including Lords and Commons. The opposition is just as much a part of government as the current parties in power.

    For the two minority parties, Tory and Lib Dem, to take all of this £520,000 for themselves seems very out of order.

    Doubtless the money will be put to immoral uses. Lowering poor peoples wages, or enforcing bedroom tax for the disabled?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    From a person who was prepared to seize power in 2010 despite being not being voted in and has no mandate to rule, is driving the nation into the abyss whilst seeing himself alright, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he seized this money too. I can understand why this view may be unpopular with some people, but that's what has happened and is happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    112. Mark_from_Manchester
    I wonder how much Labour would be complaining if they had a share in this money too?
    Agreed - unaccountable funding of political parties has to stop, whether it is a union bung or a hedge-fund bung. Then we'd know who we were voting for


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