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British PM to reveal contacts amid funding furore

posted 26 Mar 2012, 10:38 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Mar 2012, 10:38 ]

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will disclose his own contacts with wealthy donors after a newspaper sting caught a top party fundraiser offering meetings with the premier in return for big contributions.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (MARCH 26, 2012) (ITN) - British Prime Minister David Cameron bowed to pressure on Monday (March 26) to disclose his own contacts with wealthy donors after a newspaper sting caught a top fundraiser for his party offering meetings with the premier in return for big contributions.

Conservative party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after The Sunday Times filmed him telling reporters posing as financiers that, for 250,000 pounds ($400,000), they could dine with Cameron and might possibly influence government policy.

The scandal is potentially deeply damaging for Cameron as it revives worries over the corrosive influence of money on British politics. It also reinforces Cameron's image as a friend of the rich.

After initially resisting Labour calls to disclose which party donors had dined with him at his private apartment above the premier's office at 10 Downing Street, Cameron announced he would publish the names.

"In the two years I have been prime minister, there have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to dinner in my flat," he said, during a speech in London.

"In addition there was a further thank you dinner, which included donors, in Downing Street itself shortly after the general election," Cameron said.

Cameron also promised that the Conservatives would publish details every quarter of any meals with the prime minister attended by any major donor to his party.

The Conservatives said they would launch an internal inquiry, although they resisted Labour calls for an independent inquiry into the affair, drawing scorn from the opposition.

Cruddas told the journalists posing as financiers that their concerns about government policies would be fed into a prime ministerial policy committee.

Cameron said no one in his policy unit had met anybody at Cruddas's request.

"No one in the Number 10 policy unit has met anyone at Peter Cruddas' request. Peter Cruddas spoke about passing request to a policy committee at No. 10 Downing Street. There is no such committee. However, to avoid any perception of undue influence, we will put in place a new procedure in which if any ministerial contact with a party donor prompts a request for policy advice, the minister will refer this to his or her private office who can then seek guidance from permanent secretary," Cameron said.

The prime minister offered to resume talks with other parties on how they fund their political organisations and said he was ready to impose a cap on individual political donations of 50,000 pounds ($80,000).

"I am ready to impose a cap on individual donations of 50,000 pounds without any further need for state funding. But to be fair, this must apply equally to trade unions as well as private businesses. We can do that tomorrow and we can take big money out of British politics once and for all," Cameron said.

Party funding has long been a toxic issue in British politics and has periodically led to scandals affecting both Conservatives and Labour.

The Conservative Party, regarded as business-friendly, relies on large donations from wealthy individuals for much of its funding while the centre-left Labour Party is heavily dependent on trade unions for its funding and would suffer if union contributions were capped at 50,000 pounds.