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Plans to change political party funding to be published

Sir Christopher Kelly

Sir Christopher Kelly’s report on funding politics depends on all-party agreement for success

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New proposals on controlling the funding of political parties are being published, after the government pledged to remove “big money from politics”.

It has been reported they could include a £10,000 cap on individual donations.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life proposals could also include giving state funding to parties worth £3 for every vote they receive.

But Deputy PM Nick Clegg has already stressed taxpayers will not be asked to pay more to fund political parties.

The report is the latest in a long line of attempts to curb party funding, which grew in urgency in the wake of the cash-for-honours affair.

The committee’s chairman, Sir Christopher Kelly, has said he hopes his body’s independence from any political party will make the report’s findings more acceptable to voters.

But any finding depends on agreement from all the main political parties – something which has always proved impossible to achieve in the past.

Labour, with its heavy dependence on the trade unions for funding, resists curbs on unions donating on behalf of individual members.

The Conservatives, who rely more on large individual donors, are against further restrictions on what they can give.

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.

‘Hard-pressed taxpayers’

The deputy prime minister’s comments in the House of Commons earlier this month may limit the chances of success this time if – as some reports suggest – Sir Christopher proposes a huge increase in state funding of political parties, worth up to £100m over a five-year Parliament.

Under this proposal, cash would be shared out according to the number of votes each party receives in a general election to compensate them for a huge loss of income as a result of introducing new caps on individual donations.

But Mr Clegg said it was “immensely important for us to clear this up, because it has affected all political parties negatively, but it would not be right to ask our hard-pressed taxpayers to pay more to political parties at a time when they are having to deal with so many cuts and savings elsewhere”.

The last major attempt to reform party funding began in 2006, at the time of the cash-for-honours affairs.

Former Permanent Secretary Sir Hayden Phillips was asked to find as much of a consensus as possible on a future system for funding.

He recommended a £50,000 limit on cash donations to parties, but after five sessions of talks with Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, the process broke down without agreement.

The Cabinet Office – which would introduce any change – has set a deadline of December 2014 for legislation.

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