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Data from Electoral Commission reveals the extent of political donors being appointed to the House of Lords

Written by Robert Barrington on Friday, 28 November 2014

Transparency International UK research based on the Electoral Commission’s register of donations shows, for the first time, the scale of donations from individuals who were appointed to the House of Lords after having donated large amounts of money to political parties and politicians.


 

In the course of a project on lobbying in the UK, we have been looking at the Electoral Commission’s register of donations.  The data show us some very interesting things about party donations.   One of the areas we have looked at is the scale of donations from individuals who were appointed to the House of Lords after having donated large amounts of money to political parties and politicians.

The findings show that, in total, members of the House of Lords have donated at least £39,392,888.61 to MPs and political parties since 2001. 

The party breakdown for those data is as follows: 

Labour

£21587,363.39

Conservative

£15592,796.01

Liberal Democrat

£1188,235.09

Non-affiliated

£866587.12

UK Independence Party

£145407.00

Independent Social Democrat

£8000.00

Crossbench

£2500.00

Plaid Cymru

£2000.00

Grand Total

£39392,888.61

We believe there is now a long enough time period covered in the Electoral Commission donations register – established in 2001 – to analyse the correlation between individuals who have made political donations and then are later made members of the House of Lords.

For example, a detailed analysis shows that there are 11 recent big donor Peers, those who have each donated more than £100,000 to political parties and MPs and have been appointed since the last General Election. For most of these, a ‘before and after’ comparison of donations is possible. The findings for this group are:

  • These 11 individuals donated £14 million to political parties and MPs before they were appointed as Peers.
  • The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have all received donations from these 11 individuals.
  • Out of those 11 Peers, nine have been members of the House of Lords for over a year, and it is possible to compare the scale of their donations before and after their appointment.
  • Those nine Peers have collectively donated £8.3million between 2001 and the present day, but only £1.2million was donated after they were appointed as Peers.
  • For two of those Peers, there is no record of them donating anything further to political parties after they became members of the House of Lords.

Our researchers believe this is likely to be is an underestimate of the true figure of donations because some donors have also channelled donations through companies, making them difficult to identify in the Electoral Commission data. There are likely to be many other big donor Peers in the House of Lords, but the donations data are not available before 2001.

Of course, this is a snapshot based on the available data and it is not possible to know what donors’ intentions are in the future.  But it reveals the uncomfortable truth that a donor could in theory, within the rules, deliberately set out to gain a seat in Parliament through making hefty donations and cease making them on appointment having achieved what they wanted – apparently with little scrutiny and no censure.

What does this tell us?

  • Most obviously, nobody should be able to buy their way into Parliament.  This is theoretically illegal, but we can see that there is a significant corruption risk at the heart of our legislature. All the major political parties, which are themselves the beneficiaries of the donations, are pretending the problem does not exist.
  • To be crystal clear, we are not accusing any of these individuals of being corrupt.  In many cases individuals have made substantial contributions to public life.  What we are highlighting is  they are operating within a system that is highly vulnerable to corruption that can take place within the existing rules. These statistics will inevitably reinforce the public perception that a Peerage can be bought.
  • All the major political parties agreed before the last general election to take big money out of politics, and they have resolutely failed to achieve this.  We believe the political parties need to come together to end this issue once and for all by prohibiting big donors from being nominated as Peers.
  • Despite being available from the Electoral Commission, there are difficulties in obtaining what should be freely-available data – confusions can arise over similar names and donations made via companies.  The difficulty we have had in obtaining and verifying these data and the ability for individuals to route donations through companies also demonstrates that the current system of disclosure is opaque and incomplete.

In order to reduce the scope for corruption, Transparency International UK believes:

  • There should be a cap of £10,000 from any one individual or organisation to any political party in any one year.
  • If a cap is not placed on donations to political parties, a political party should be prohibited from nominating a person for honours where that person has provided financial or other support of more than a total value of £10,000 in any one year.
  • A person who has been nominated for honours by a political party should be prohibited from providing financial or other support to that party in excess of a total value of £10,000 in any one year.
  • The members of the House of Lords Appointments Commission should be entirely independent of any political party.
  • The House of Lords Appointments Commission should vet the suitability of party political, as well as non-party political, nominees.
  • There should be public disclosure of all nominations and reasons for nominations.
  • Penalties under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act should be increased so that they are equivalent to those under other bribery legislation.

Details of the big eleven donors since 2010 can be found here.

A detailed breakdown of the the donations list can be found here.

 

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Read 4953 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 10:07
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Robert Barrington

Robert is TI-UK's Executive Director. You can view his full bio here, and tweet him @TIukED.

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