David Cameron Publishes Details Of Private Dinners With Tory Donors

Posted: 26/03/2012 12:13 Updated: 26/03/2012 17:09

David Cameron
The prime minister has denounced the actions of the Conservative party treasurer

David Cameron has published details of dinners in Downing Street in which donors who gave more than £50,000 to the Tory party were present.

The decision is a swift U-turn on a previous insistence that the meetings were a private matter for the prime minister and his family.

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.

Speaking in London on Monday afternoon, Cameron said in future the party would publish quarterly details of any meal attended by a Tory donor.

He said that since the election there had been three dinners in his Downing Street flat in which "significant donors" had been in attendance.

On February 28, 2011, the prime minister ate with millionaire donor David Rowland and his wife, along with the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman.

On November 2, 2011 there was a dinner with Henry Angest, the chairman and chief executive of the Arbuthnot Banking Group. City trader Michael Farmer and his wife were present as was Ian Taylor, the president of the oil trader Vito.

And on February 27, 2012, Cameron had a meal in his Downing Street flat with Michael Spencer, a Tory party donor and former party treasurer, and his partner.

The prime minister also said there had been an additional post-election dinner in which included donors to the party.

The meal, held on July 14, 2010, was inside No.10 Downing Street as the prime minister's private flat was being refurbished.

"None of these dinners were fund raising dinners and none of these were paid for by the taxpayer," he said.

The donors in attendance at the meal were: Anthony Bamford from JCB, hedge fund manager Michael Hintze, Tory peer Lord John Sainsbury, Andrew Feldman, Lansdowne Partners chief executive Paul Ruddock, Mike Farmer and city financier Michael Freeman.

Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch Maclennan also attended the meal although is not believed to be a donor.

There will be a "full party inquiry" into how the Conservatives raise money to fund their campaigns led by Tory peer Lord Gold.

Cruddas urged reporters from The Sunday Times, posing as wealth fund executives, to give more than £250,000 in return for direct face time with senior ministers.

He claimed those making such donors, classed as "premier league" could raise issues with ministers and feed their concerns into a Downing Street "policy committee".

Cruddas resigned within hours of his claims being exposed by newspaper and denied that party donors could in fact improperly influence ministers.

The matter has been reported to the police.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is not satisfied with an internal Tory party review 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.

Miliband also accused Cameron of being "too ashamed" to come to the Commons himself to face MPs over the row and sending Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude instead.

Following Cruddas' resignation Cameron insisted that was "not the way" the Conservative Party raised money.

"It's quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can't happen again," he said.

CASH FOR ACCESS - FULL COVERAGE

  • Full Text - Cruddas' Resignation Statement
  • Profile - Who is Peter Cruddas?
  • Analysis - Has 'The Next Big Scandal" Broken?
  • Rupert Murdoch: 'No One Will Believe Cameron'
  • Party Donor Row To Overshadow Politics For Months
  • The row led to renewed calls for reform of party funding. Sleaze watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly warned that the incident could not be seen as "an isolated event" and urged the parties to come through on their commitments to the "big donor culture".

    Sir Christopher, chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, said politicians should not be allowed to "duck" the issue of party funding any longer.

    "It would be wrong to regard this as an isolated event. Events like it are inevitable as long as the main political parties are dependent for their existence on large donations from rich individuals or, in the case of the Labour Party, a small number of trade unions.

    "The parties collectively need urgently to address the damage this does to confidence in the integrity of the political process."

    Asked about funding reform, Cameron was non-committal, stressing that he had already addressed issues within the Conservative party.

    "We've reformed party funding. I took over a party with £20m of debt. It's now virtually debt-free," he said.

    "We've massively broadened our supporter base. We have very strict rules, very strict compliance, and I'm going to make sure that the rules are properly complied with in every case."

    But Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury and second most powerful Lib Dem in the Government, said the three main parties would be making a renewed effort on funding reform within the next few weeks.

    "What I would say is this makes the case for reforming the system of party funding in this country even stronger.

    "No political party has been without its problems in relation to party funding. Over the next few weeks the three parties will be getting round the table following on from an initiative by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, to discuss how we can change the way party funding works to try and get the big money out of politics."

    In a statement released in the early hours of this morning, Mr Cruddas said he regretted "any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster".

    "Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians," he said.

    "Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation."

    It has emerged that the matter has been reported to police.

    A Metropolitan Police spokesman said yesterday: "Today, Sunday, March 25, an allegation was made at Greenwich police station under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

    "The allegation is currently being assessed. We are not prepared to discuss this any further."

    Click HERE for five other food-based scandals involving politicians.

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    Filed by Ned Simons  |