Clegg and Farron on party funding: yes to action now, no to more taxpayer contributions

by Stephen Tall on November 23, 2011

Sir Christopher Kelly’s report for Parliament’s Committee on Standards in Public Life was published yesterday, Political Party Finance – Ending the big donor culture: you can read it and the evidence considered by the inquiry here.

Here are the main proposals:

  • 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. Trade union affiliation fees could be counted as a collection of small individual payments, but only if members are required to “opt in” to the fees
  • Increased state funding for political parties worth £3 for every Westminster election vote received for parties who have at least two MPs or representatives in the devolved assemblies. This would rule out taxpayer funding for UKIP, the BNP, and other fringe parties. There would also be funding worth £1.50 a vote in the devolved and European elections. Recognising the current economic climate of austerity, the Kelly Report recommends this would not start until the beginning of the next Parliament, in 2015.

    Here’s how the BBC estimates the current Westminster parties would benefit from this proposal based on the 2015 general election:

      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
  • Allowing Gift Aid-style tax relief on donations of up to £1,000 and party membership fees. Though this would by no means replace all the money lost by parties through the cap it is designed to enable parties to broaden the basis of their support.
  • Cutting the current limits on campaign spending in the run-up to elections by 15%. 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.
  • This was Nick Clegg’s initial reaction to the Kelly Report:

    “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.”

    And here’s what party president Tim Farron had to say:

    “Money currently plays far too big a role in politics and the Liberal Democrats have long called for major reform in party funding. Any move to limit undue influence on the political process by private individuals, businesses and the Trade Unions can only be a good thing.

    “There has been much talk of political reform over the years, but nothing has happened. Parties dependent on money from the unions and big business have always have worked to block reform, determined to protect the secrecy of their paymasters.

    “The Kelly report goes a long way to open the murky world of party funding. 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, hopefully by consensus.”

    What do LibDemVoice readers think of the proposals…?