Cash For Access: Donors Who Dined At Cameron's Country Home And Downing Street Revealed

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CASH FOR ACCESS CHEQUERS
PA

The Conservative Party has published a list of significant donors who have visited the prime minister's country residence of Chequers in Buckinghamshire.

The latest twist in the fast-moving cash-for-access row came shortly after the party produced a list of wealthy Tory donors who had been entertained in Cameron's private flat upstairs in Downing Street.

One of the Conservative Party donors who has sat down to eat with prime minister in Buckinghamshire was property tycoon David Rowland, who has also dined in Downing Street. Another was Fares Fares who had lunch with Cameron in November 2010.

The move comes one day after the Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after being filmed by The Sunday Times apparently offering access to the prime minister, and crucially influence over policy, in return for donations of £250,000 a year.

Downing Street also provided a list of current or former Conservative Party treasurers who have had lunch at Chequers including current chairman Lord Feldman and the wealthy former Tory party deputy chairman and generous donor Lord Ashcroft.

Another who attended a meal at Chequers in February 2011 was Howard Leigh, who is the chairman of the party's special "Leader's Group" which includes people who have given over £50,000 to the Tories.

As has Michael Spencer a Tory party donor and former party treasurer.

Downing Street said Chequers was used to host an October 2011 charity fundraiser in aid of Mencap and three smaller charities in aid of disabled children which was attended by a large number of people, including donors to both the Labour party and the Conservative party.

"This list of names is based on records held by Chequers. It is complete to the best of our knowledge," a statement said.

Earlier on Monday afternoon a No.10 spokesperson warned that drawing up a list for Chequers could have been more difficult than for Downing Street.

"With Chequers they only record what government has paid for. If they release a list, it could contain mistakes and which they need to keep changing every day," they said.

The spokesperson also said "it took Blair about two years before he agreed to disclose government paid-for dinners at Chequers".

The PM's Buckinghamshire residence, donated to the country and held in a Trust, is often used to entertain foreign leaders, particularly at weekends and during holiday periods.

Most of the overheads are paid for by the Trust, with the government topping up depending on how many times Cameron uses the residence.

However if the residence is being used only for party political purposes - at it clearly has done in the past by successive governments - then either the prime minister or their party pays this top-up fee for food and other overheads.

Number 10 insisted there had never been a "purely donor" dinner at Chequers since Cameron had been prime minister, and that any of the events would have been more often a "hybrid" of people.

They also insisted that Cameron did not use Chequers for any "overt political fundraising" activities.

"That is not what goes on," said the spokeswoman, speaking at a briefing for journalists following Francis Maude's statement to the Commons on reforming party funding in the wake of the Peter Cruddas affair.

Cameron has been criticised for not going to the Commons to answer Ed Miliband - and for sending Maude, a Cabinet Office minister, in his place.

"The PM has got a full diary with a lot to do today," said Cameron's spokeswoman. "We took a decision that his work was best-done keeping to his diary. "

Labour leader Ed Miliband is not satisfied with an internal Tory party review into the row and has demanded a independent inquiry.

He told the Commons on Monday afternoon that "inquiry into the Conservative Party, by the Conservative Party, for the Conservative Party" was not good enough.

"This scandal speaks to the conduct and character of the prime minister and government, anything short of an independent inquiry will leave stain on this government and this prime minister," he said.

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