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 331.

    309 coastwalker
    Yawn must be a slow news day
    If you can not see how this effects
    F reedom A ccountability I ntegrity R esponsible governance of our nation,then i suggest your just a crook who supports crooks & no wonder you walk the coast in the hope of not being identified

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    If the money was left to a chairity with a message to "do with it as they see fit", would the charity use it to line their own pockets? Of course not. Only politicians would interpret it that way, being so obsessed with money and getting something for nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Naive will preparation (probably misguided by a lazy Solicitor), indifferent Executor, and the greedy Party machines are all too happy to hoover it up. Not illegal, and maybe not deliberate and certainly not worth getting in a lather over, but, now its in the open, the Parties should re-donate to Age Concern. Ms. Edwards will be spinning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    140.Emperor Wibble
    "the executors ... probably have a better insight into her wishes than you or I."
    Executors are not the paragons you hope they are.
    My Aunt appointed a local firm in Somerset because we all lived hundreds of miles away. Only when local problems needed sorting did we discover we were dealing with a call-centre in Oxford. May as well have been Mumbai!

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    So all politicians are crooks? OK but so are those working in the black economy - estimated to add an undeclared 10% to our GDP - who pay no tax. Think about how many traders & suppliers want cash only. There is no one group holding a monopoly of truth & morality. Society is now about what you can get away with on all sides. My money is going to those who deserve it. The honest & industrious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Let's put whoever you vote for/hate to one side. Not relevant.

    It was NOT up to the executors to follow the terms of the will. It appears they approached the Treasury Solicitor for guidance and did not get it. They should have gone back and said to the TS do you claim this legacy for the Crown? Direct question.

    As a taxpayer was I let down by a lack of an answer on £520K?

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    "I absolutely think that this lady's wishes should be honoured, whatever they were.” Steve Webb Lib Dem ministers.

    Bit of an empty statement, considering that's what the debate is about!

    I absolutely think all the victims of this government's policies deserve it...........whoever they are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    The money should go to the hospital the lady worked at, unless it's been closed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    All this fuss just because Labour aren't in power. Can you really see Ed saying "no, we shouldn't take this, give it to a cats home"? No, neither can I.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Well, they can all buy new expensive shoes and lunches now, which is obviously vital to all of us. In fact, it's my raison d'être...

    I really do grow tired of scum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    If it is vague, surely the bequest is "void through uncertainty" and should fall back into the estate and be distributed to the residual beneficiaries - or failing them the Treasury?

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Labour - the party of protest. No policies, just the capacity to whine and moan about every single little thing.

    And they wonder why people are turning away from politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    298. Divots
    The BBC losing credibility? It raves over Germany's 0.7% growth & France's 0.5% but tries to sweep UK's 0.6% under the carpet as insignificant?
    "Official estimates suggest that the number of people employed on a zero-hours contract – which provides no guaranteed hours of work – has risen from 134,000 in 2006, to 208,000 in the last quarter of 2012"

    Lies...and statistics...

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Pointless to comment, this is a disaster for the cons/libs, They will not keep it, it's political suicide. Next big story is they give it back or spend it on someone good. Yawn zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Annoying how some comments make sense, but are marked down as they agree with Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Hang on! These are politicians! Money grabbers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    As usual the nursery playground manner of debating in politics.

    Lib/Cons did not influence the executor decision as to the meaning of the will, the executors made that decision.

    I suppose it would churlish to point our Lab received the largest donation from what is, in effect, a minority special interest group which is actively involved in influencing policy

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.


    What part of 'absolute discretion to use as they may think' don't you understand?

    If she expressly didn't want it to be used for party political purposes she was free to state that in her will and if she expressly wanted it to go to good causes she was free to bypass government completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Lets face it; if Labour had been in power at the time they would have done exactly the same as the Conservatives/Lib Dems have done, they are just moaning because it wasn't them! If it is not being used as intended then it is up to the executor of the will to speak up and they haven't so everyone else should just keep their noses out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Could I have the permission of some of the posters on this forum to leave some money in my will to my children and the air ambulance? I will let your read it so you can scrutinise it to make sure it meets your approval. I mean its only my money but it seems that the nation has to decide whether my will is ethical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Does anyone remember an HYS on the topic of the Labour party dodging tax on a £1.6M donation last year?

    No, neither can I...


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