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Liberal Democrat bid to curb "big money" politics blocked by Labour and Tories

March 9, 2009 7:39 PM

Hinckley and Bosworth Liberal Democrats have expressed their anger after Labour and the Conservatives failed to support a bid to end big political donations.

A bid by Liberal Democrat MPs to limit the amount that a donor can give to a political party over the course of a year to £50,000 was voted down during a report stage debate on the Political Parties and Elections Bill.

Michael Mullaney Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Bosworth said "the central issue MPs needed to decide was whether there should be a cap on the size of the donation a person could make.

"The conclusion that all the parties reached in the abortive cross-party talks under Sir Hayden Philips was that the perception people have that donations were being given with strings could only be challenged by having a cap on the size of donation."

David Howarth MP who proposed the motion argued that the point of a donation cap was "to undermine the perception and the reality that big money buys access to political power." He said the sentiment behind the new clause was that "we have to do something to reduce the gap between us as representatives and the people whom we represent." The current system, he said, meant that parties were forced to "turn their attention to those who give big donations, and therefore away from the ordinary people of the electorate, which is profoundly dangerous".

The Liberal Democrat proposal was opposed by both the Government and the Conservatives. Of the opposition from the Conservatives, David Howarth said it was "profoundly disappointing to hear the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen simply say that the time is not ripe - according to them, the time never seems to be ripe." He accused Justice Secretary Jack Straw of rowing back immensely from where people had imagined the Labour party to be: "The idea that transparency is all that we need in the regulation of donations is extraordinary, and it does not meet the obvious objection that if we know the system is corrupt, it is still corrupt."