'Undemocratic' Tory Cuts To Opposition Funding Could Be Shot Down By John Bercow-Chaired Committee, Claim Labour

Commons Speaker John Bercow
Commons Speaker John Bercow
PA/PA Wire

Tory plans to cut public funding of opposition parties could fall at the first hurdle as they do not have a majority on the committee needed to approve the changes, claim Labour.

The Chancellor today revealed the amount of public funds available to opposition parties – so-called ‘Short Money’ – is to be cut by 19 per cent.

The money is designed to help parties carry out their work in Parliament, and is paid every year.

But any changes to Short Money need to be approved by the Members Estimate Committee, which the Tories do not have a majority on, claimed a Labour source.

However, a spokesman for the Committee said it "is not empowered to make changes of this kind. Those changes would require a resolution of the House."

The Chairman of the Committee is Speaker of the House John Bercow, who despite being elected as Conservative is no fan of David Cameron and his allies.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, also spoke out against the planned cuts.

She said: “The decision to cut public funding for opposition parties by 19% is bad news for democracy. The UK already spends just a tenth of the European average on funding parties.

"Short Money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the government of the day to account. This cut could therefore be deeply damaging for accountability.”

Changes to the Short Money were revealed in today’s Spending Review, with the Government claiming that “since 2010, there has been no contribution by political parties to tackling the deficit”.

The cost of Short money has risen from £6.9million in 2010/11 to £9.3million in 2015/16.

Allocation is calculated on the basis of the number of seats a party wins and the number of votes it receives.

Labour receives about £6.2million a year, with the SNP getting in the region of £1.2m

and the Lib Dems about £540,000 a year.

A Labour Party spokesperson compared the impact of the plan to the measures in the Trade Union Bill, and said: “This is another anti-democratic move by the Tories. Having already attacked the rights of working people they're now coming forward with partisan moves to hit their opposition and give themselves another unfair advantage.

“If the Tories were really serious about cutting the cost of politics they would start with the bill for Tory Special Advisers which has rocketed under David Cameron.”

The cost of Special Advisers, paid for by the public, has soared by 35 per cent since 2011/12.

In 2013/14, the last year for which figures are available, the cost of Special Advisers stood at £8.4 million – which included pay, severance, and pension.

This was up from £6.21million in 2011/12

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