Cash for Honours
Cash for Honours (also Cash for Peerages, Loans for Honours or Loans for Peerages) is the name given by some in the media to a political scandal in the
United Kingdomin 2006 and 2007 concerning the connection between political donations and the award of life peerages. A loophole in electoral law in the United Kingdom means that although anyone donating even small sums of money to a political party has to declare this as a matter of public record, those loaning money at commercial rates of interest did not have to make a public declaration.
In March 2006, several men nominated for life peerages by then Prime Minister,
Tony Blair, were rejected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. It was later revealed they had loaned large amounts of money to the governing Labour Party, [cite news|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/12/27/npeers27.xml |title=Cronyism inquiry holds up new peers|work= Daily Telegraph|date=27 December 2005] at the suggestion of Labour fundraiser Lord Levy. Suspicion was aroused by some that the peerages were a " quid pro quo" for the loans, and the incident was referred to the Metropolitan Policeby Scottish National PartyMP Angus MacNeilas a breach of the law against selling honours. [cite news|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2095914,00.html |title=Criminal probe into 'cash-for peerages' controversy|work= The Times|date=21 March 2006] During the investigation various members of the Labour Party (including Tony Blair), the Conservatives and the Liberal Democratswere questioned, and Labour's Lord Levy was arrested and later released on bail. The investigation continued to have political impact throughout, as a range of stories continued to leak from the police investigation and damaged the government and Labour Party.
Following the unveiling of the scandal the Labour party had to repay the loans and was said to be in financial difficulty. [cite news | url=http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2132567.ece | title= Labour 'bankrupted' by secret loans | date=4 February 2007 | publisher=
The Independent] The police investigation was long and involved. It expanded to encompass potential charges of perverting the course of justice, apparently relating to suspected attempts to present evidence to the police in a particular way. At one point the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, obtained an injunction against the BBC, preventing them from reporting a story they claimed was in the public interest while he argued that the story was sub judice. This raised the possibility of a conflict of interest, the Attorney General being a political appointee. Tony Blair was interviewed three times as Prime Minister, though only as a witness and not under caution.
After a long review of the police file, it was reported on 20 July 2007 that the
Crown Prosecution Servicewould not bring any charges against any of the individuals involved. Their decision stated that while peerages "may" have been given in exchange for loans, it could not find direct evidence that that had been agreed in advance; this direct evidence of an agreement in advance is what would be required for a successful prosecution. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6907594.stm No charges on 'cash for honours'] Notwithstanding the lack of any charges, some considered that the investigation had severely undermined Tony Blair's position, and possibly hastened his resignation as Prime Minister. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2007/07/no_charges.html No Charges]
Historically, hereditary peerages were awarded to members of the landowning
aristocracyand royal favourites. In the late 19th century, peerages began to be awarded to industrialists with increasing frequency. Well-substantiated allegations that titles were sold during David Lloyd George's Prime Ministership led to the passing of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. In the second half of the 20th century the granting of hereditary peerages, other than to members of the Royal Family, virtually ceased, giving way to life peerages, which have been granted since the passing of the Life Peerages Act 1958. They are given to a wide range of individuals on the recommendation of the leaders of the major British political parties, including opposition parties.
In May 1998, the then Chairman of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee, former Conservative Cabinet Minister Lord Pym, told a House of Commons Select Committee that the committee considered a political donation a point in a nominee's favour as it indicated involvement in public life, and that the nominee had "put their money where his mouth is". The House of Lords Appointments Commission was established in 2000 to check the suitability of those nominated for an honour.
In the summer of 2005, a list of 28 people nominated for working peerages was prepared. The list contained 11 Labour nominees, 8 Conservatives, 5
Liberal Democrats, 3 members of the Democratic Unionist Partyand one member of the Ulster Unionist Party. The Green Party of England and Walesultimately declined to nominate. The list was referred to the Appointments Commission in the usual way. Publication of the list was delayed and stories began to appear in the press stating that the Commission had concerns about some of those nominated on grounds of their large donations to political parties. [cite news|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-1862176,00.html |title=Sleaze row as election donors get peerages|work= The Times|date=8 November 2005] In February 2006, stockbroker Barry Townsley, who had donated £6,000 (and loaned £1 m on commercial terms) [cite news | url = http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/16/nloans16.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/16/ixnewstop.html | title = Labour's treasurer 'kept party in dark over loan deals' | work = The Daily Telegraph| date = 16 March 2006 ] to the Labour Party and contributed £1.5 m to a City Academy under a government scheme, withdrew his acceptance on the grounds of press intrusion into his private life.
Townsley, who was the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, was followed by property millionaire Sir David Garrard, who withdrew his name in March 2006. Sir Gulam Noon, the British-Indian food company millionaire, was also nominated by the Labour Party after having made donations and loaned money (he also had his nomination rejected by the Appointments Commission). Sir Gulam told the Times newspaper a "senior party man" told him "there was no reason why I should declare this loan because it was refundable". "I was told by this same person that because there was interest on the loan it was a commercial matter and would not come under the same party funding rules as a donation." [cite news|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2094522,00.html |title=Labour official told me to keep quiet|work=
The Times|date=20 March 2006]
The list of working peers, minus the withdrawn and queried names, was published on 10 April 2006. [ [http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/page9311.asp Downing Street press release] , April 10, 2006]
On 8 March 2006, Dr Chai Patel (Director of the Priory healthcare group) who had donated £10,000 to the Labour Party complained that he was being rejected by the Commission. He said "It is a fact that I have donated, but what is being implicated is that I would be rewarded with a peerage. I have never asked for any favour for the money that I have donated. My children suggested that if I had not given this money, I would not be seen in this light. But I happen to support this Government. I gave money to the party because I happen to believe in what it stands for. I can't change what has happened." Patel stated that he had asked a
Queen's Counselfor advice on whether his human rights were being abused by the Commission.
On 29 March 2006, Patel withdrew his name from the list of nominees for a peerage. He said that at no time did he have any expectation of a reward nor had he been offered anything in return, yet on a BBC 'Today' programme he expressed the view that he wanted to serve in the Upper House (the Lords) as he felt that his life experience ensured that he could make a valuable contribution there. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4858212.stm|title=Chai Patel withdraws name from peerage list |work=
BBC|date=29 March 2006] He has also stated in a letter to the House of Lords Appointments Commission that "I feel that, given my accumulated experience and deep sense of public service, as well as being able to devote the time to undertake the responsibility effectively, I would be able to make a contribution to the parliamentary process."
1997 Labour Party commitments
The 1997 General Election Labour Party
manifestowas entitled "new Labour because Britain deserves better". In the section headed "We will clean up politics", the text pointed to the debasing of democracy through Conservative MPs who had taken cash for asking questions in the House of Commons. A pledge was made to the "reform of party funding to end sleaze" with the commitment to a law to require all parties to declare the source of all donations above a minimum figure, which Labour already did voluntarily. Foreign funding would be banned. These commitments were delivered in 2000 with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
It also described the need to reform the House of Lords which would end the right by law of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. This commitment was delivered in 1999 with the
House of Lords Act 1999. In relation to the system of appointment of life peers Labour’s stated objective was to ensure that over time party appointees as life peers would more accurately reflect the proportion of votes cast at the previous general election, a commitment that has since been altered so that the two main parties in the House of Lords should instead have approximately equal strength.
On 12 March 2006, the "Sunday Times" reported that shortly before being told that he would receive a peerage, Patel had been asked to change a donation to the Labour Party he was planning to make into an unsecured loan. On 26 March 2006, "
The Independent" confirmed that it was Lord Levy who had asked Patel to switch using this unsecured loan approach. [cite news | url=http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article353692.ece | title= Money talks: Twelve angry men and one shame-faced Prime Minister | date=26 March 2006 | publisher= The Independent] He agreed and loaned £1.5 m to the party, telling them that he would be prepared to change the loan into a donation at some point in the future. Over the next few days stories were printed which stated that the Labour Party had borrowed £3.5 million from private individuals during 2005, the year of a general election. It was subsequently revealed that a total of £13.95 million had been loaned by wealthy individuals to support Labour's election campaign. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4815552.stm | title = Labour was secretly loaned £14 m | publisher = BBC| date = 17 March 2006 ] The figures released mean the bulk of the £17.94 m the party spent on its general election campaign was paid for by loans from individuals. The terms of the loans were confidential.
Loans made on commercial terms, at between 1% and 3% above the banking
base rateas was the case here, are not subject to reporting requirements to the Electoral Commission. [cite news | url = http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2101193,00.html | title = Your secret loan can stay secret, Labour Party donors were told | publisher = The Times| date = 24 March 2006 ] However the Treasurerof the Party, Jack Dromey, stated publicly that neither he nor Labour's elected National Executive Committeechairman Sir Jeremy Beecham had knowledge of or involvement in the loans and had only become aware when he read about it in the newspapers. Dromey stated that he was regularly consulted about conventional bank loans. As well as announcing his own investigation he called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the issue of political parties taking out loans from non-commercial sources. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4810670.stm | title = Labour loans to be investigated | publisher = BBC| date = 15 March 2006 ]
Tribune magazine reported that Dromey had intended to reveal his inquiry exclusively in the Labour-oriented magazine later that week, but having heard that
Tony Blairintended to announce an inquiry the following day, toured television studios on the evening of 15 March 2006 announcing his inquiry ( [http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/special-reports-storypage.jsp?id=1960 video] ). Dromey feared he would be blamed for the debts by an inquiry organised by 10 Downing Street(Tribune 2006/3/24 p5). Dromey's announcement created much media interest to which Blair had to respond to at his monthly press conference the next day. Blair said he wanted to shake up of the honours system and improve the rules covering party funding. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4813156.stm | title = Labour 'to name future lenders' | publisher = BBC| date = 16 March 2006 ]
The affair centred on two aspects of Labour's political fund raising activities. First, to what degree was there a tacit or implied relationship between the large scale donors and their subsequent recognition via the honours system? Second, the rules on party funding (applicable to all political parties in the UK) require that anyone donating £5,000 or more must be named - but loans of any amount do not have to be declared provided they are made on commercial terms. This loophole raises accusations of undue secrecy and potentially calls into question the probity of those involved in procurement and handling of such large and anonymous sums, particularly when the elected party treasurer was unaware of the existence of the loans.
Lord Levy, a close friend of Tony Blair (who was the Prime Minister's personal envoy to the Middle East, as well as occasional tennis partner), had raised funds for Labour and was identified in the press as a key figure in arranging the loans and on 17 March 2006 it was announced that the
Public Administration Select Committeeof the House of Commons had invited him to give evidence on political financing. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4816692.stm | title = Lord Levy: Labour's fundraiser | publisher = BBC| date = 17 March 2006 ] Committee Chairman Tony Wright said:
:"With continuing speculation about whether the system of scrutiny is sufficiently robust and as part of our wider inquiry into current standards of probity in public life, we will be hearing from those charged with scrutinising nominations to ensure that there are robust safeguards against honours for sale."
Another issue was repayment: the Labour Party owed about £14 m before the election. The interest on the loans amounted to £900,000 a year and some of the loans had to be repaid within months, either through further borrowing or gifts. In these circumstances, one unanswered question concerned why Lord Levy asked for loans rather than gifts.
It was disclosed on 25 March 2006 that the only persons privy to details of the loans were Tony Blair, Lord Levy and
Matt Carter. [cite news | url=http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article353512.ece | title=Developer's tower block approved after £200,000 donation to Labour | publisher= The Independent| date = 25 March 2006]
On March 25, 2006 it was revealed that
Scotland Yardhad requested that parliament halt the Public Administration Select Committeehearing with four of the peerage nominees, Sir David Garrard, Sir Gulam Noon, and Chai Patel, Barry Townsley as it could prejudice the criminal investigation. The assistant commissioner, John Yatesasked for the parliamentary investigation to be postponed. [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1739302,00.html Scotland Yard asks MPs to delay their inquiry while it questions donors] , The Guardian, David Hencke, March 25, 2006]
The Guardian revealed that many of the people who had made loans to the Labour party had been major donors to charities with which
Lord Levyhad been involved, namely, the Community Service Volunteers, Jewish Careand the NSPCC. Sir David Garrard, Andrew Rosenfeld, and Barry Townsleyare patrons of Jewish Care; Richard Caring, proprietor of the Ivyin London, had raised £10 m for the NSPCC, and Sir David Garrard, Dr. Chai Patel, Andrew Rosenfeld, Richard Caring, and Derek Tullettare all connected to the Community Service Volunteers.
In July 2006 it came to public attention that Lord Levy had allegedly told Sir Gulam Noon, a businessman nominated for a peerage, not to tell the Lords vetting committee about his loan to the Labour party. On 20 April 2005 Noon had agreed to lend Labour £250,000 on commercial terms. He paid the funds on 28 April. He had originally offered to make a donation of between £50,000 and £75,000 but Levy wanted £1 m. They then negotiated a loan, rather than a donation.
A letter sent to Sir Gulam at this time by Labour said that his £250,000 loan was not "reportable" under relevant legislation.
On 3 October 2006, Sir Gulam was informed by a Labour official that the prime minister was nominating him for a peerage. On 4 October 2006, Sir Gulam received the nomination forms for joining the House of Lords. These asked him to list his contributions to Labour. Sir Gulam gave the papers to his accountant, who put down the £250,000 on the form along with just over £220,000 of straight donations he had made since 2000.
On 5 October 2006 Lord Levy told Sir Gulam that he should not have included the £250,000 on the papers sent to the Lords Appointments Commission, because it was not a donation, and was therefore not legally required to be disclosed. Sir Gulam retrieved the papers from Downing Street and submitted a revised document that made no mention of the £250,000.
In March 2006, the Lords Appointments Commission found out about the loan. Its chairman, Lord Stevenson, then wrote to the prime minister asking that Sir Gulam's nomination for a peerage be withdrawn. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5167140.stm| title =Levy's advice to donor revealed
BBC| date = 10 July 2006 ]
Full list of Labour Party contributions
On 20 March 2006 the Labour Party issued the full list of 12 lenders together with the sums involved: [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4826680.stm | title =Labour reveals secret loans list
BBC| date = 20 March 2006 ]
Rod Aldridge- £1 million - former Executive Chairman of Capita:: Richard Caring- £2 million - owner of The Ivy, London:: Gordon Crawford- £500,000 - Chairman of London Bridge Software:: Sir Christopher Evans- £1 million - Founder of Merlin Biosciences::Sir David Garrard - £2.3 million:: Nigel Morris- £1 million - co-Founder of Capital Oneand Director of The Economist Group::Sir Gulam Noon - £250,000 - Chairman of Noon Products Ltd::Dr Chai Patel - £1.5 million:: Andrew Rosenfeld- £1 million - Chairman of Minerva plc:: David Sainsbury, Baron Sainsbury of Turville- £2 m - Government Minister:: Barry Townsley- £1 million - Chairman of Insinger Townsley:: Derek Tullett- £400,000 -
One of the lenders, Lord Sainsbury of Turville was, until November 2006, a
government minister. Initially Lord Sainsbury of Turville incorrectly announced that he had reported the loan to the Department of Trade and Industry's Permanent Secretary. He later apologised for unintentionally misleading the public by confusing disclosures about a donation of £2 m with the loan for the same amount which in fact he had not reported. He faces an investigation by Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, for a possible breach of the ministerial code. [cite news | url = http://news.ft.com/cms/s/9b260140-c2ae-11da-ac03-0000779e2340.html | title = Sainsbury faces inquiry about £2 m loan | publisher = Financial Times| date = 3 April 2006 ]
Conservative Party loans
On 31 March 2006 the Conservative Party published a list of 13 wealthy individuals and companies to whom it owed a total of £15.95 million: [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4864542.stm| title =Conservative lenders unveiled
BBC| date = 31 March 2006 ]
Henry Angest- £550,000 - Chairman and Chief Executive of the Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC:: Michael Ashcroft, Baron Ashcroft- £3.6 m:: Cringle Corporation- £450,000::Dame Vivien Duffield - £250,000:: Johan Eliasch- £2.6 m:: Graham Facks-Martin- £50,000:: Michael Hintze- £2.5 m - owner of CQS Management:: Irvine Laidlaw, Baron Laidlaw- £3.5 m::Alan Lewis - £100,000::Raymond Richards (deceased) - £1 m:: Victoria, Lady de Rothschild- £1 m:: Leonard Steinberg, Baron Steinberg- £250,000:: Charles Wigoder- £100,000 - Chief Executive of Telecom Plus
The identity of 10 backers it had repaid - including a number of foreign nationals - was not revealed. These loans had totalled £5 million. Some of these lenders were concerned not to reveal their identity fearing that it might compromise their existing business arrangements with the government. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4841748.stm| title = Tory lenders 'feared reprisals'
BBC| date = 24 March 2006 ] Their details, including one foreign backer, will be provided "in confidence" to the Electoral Commission. [cite news | url = http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2116017,00.html| title =Backers repaid to stay secret will be named by Tories | publisher = The Times| date = 3 April 2006 ] Initially the party had sought to not disclose to anyone the names of two lenders who requested confidentiality. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4867094.stm| title =Tories to maintain lender secrecy | publisher = BBC| date = 1 April 2006 ]
The party had an outstanding £16 million bank loan and £4.7 million was owed to local Conservative Party associations.
The Electoral Commission welcomed the decision to publish the list - but said it had written to the party asking for more details on the loan terms.
Corrupt procurement and award of honours is legislated against by the
Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925and the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889[cite news|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2094231,00.html |title=This dishonourable affair|work= The Times|date=20 March 2006] and the Metropolitan Policeinvestigated three complaints they received under these Acts. The police are also investigating whether false declarations were made to the Electoral Commission, which is an offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. [cite news | url = http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article485495.ece | title = Labour figures 'in the frame' over peerages-for-loans scandal | publisher = The Independent| date = 17 May 2006 ] On 27 March they gave MPs more details of its inquiry into the complaints [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4856190.stm | title = In full: Police letter on loans | publisher = BBC| date = 29 March 2006 ] and the Public Administration Select Committeeagreed to postpone its hearing on this issue in order not to prejudice possible police action. [cite news|url=http://politics.guardian.co.uk/funding/story/0,,1741263,00.html|title=MPs postpone loans inquiry|publisher= The Guardian|date=28 March 2006] The criminal inquiry and the Electoral Commission investigation both stretch back to 2001. [cite news| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4929458.stm|title=Cash for peerages probe widened |publisher= BBC|date=22 April 2006]
6 April 2006 - Electoral Commission announced that its own investigation was to be suspended until the police completed their inquiries. The Electoral Commission was not satisfied that election funding laws had not been breached. [cite news| url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4883672.stm|title=Commission suspends loans probe |publisher=
BBC|date=6 April 2006]
Metropolitan Police investigation
13 April 2006 - The Metropolitan Police arrested former government adviser Desmond Smith under the
Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act. Smith, headteacherof All Saints Catholic School and Technology College, was a council member of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which helped the government recruit sponsors for the City Academy programme. [cite news| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4906504.stm|title=Headteacher held in honours probe |publisher= BBC|date=13 April 2006] Lord Levy was the President of The Council of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.
12 July 2006 - Lord Levy was arrested by the
Metropolitan Policein connection with the enquiry.
20 September 2006 - Businessman Christopher Evans was arrested by police in connection with the enquiry.
22 November 2006 - The police questioned a serving
Cabinetminister, for the first time, as a witness in the investigation, Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt. [cite news| url=http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1735012006|title=Hewitt becomes first Cabinet member questioned over cash for honours |publisher= The Scotsman|date=23 November 2006]
14 December 2006 - Police questioned Prime Minister
Tony Blairat Downing Streetas a witness; he was not arrested or interviewed under caution.
15 December 2006 - Police questioned
Jack McConnell, the First Minister of Scotland. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6292033.stm "Honours police quizzed McConnell"] , BBC News Scotland, 23 January 2007]
January 2007 - Police questioned,
under caution, John McTernan, the Director of Political Operations at 10 Downing Streetseconded to the Scottish Labour Partyto run its campaign for the Scottish Parliament general election of 3 May, 2007. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6293191.stm "Honours probe quiz for No 10 aide"] , BBC News Scotland, 24 January 2007] [ [http://election.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=782&id=80932007 "Blair aide sent to stem SNP tide"] , " The Scotsman", 16 January 2007] [ [http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=123682007 "Now Holyrood election chief quizzed in peerages inquiry"] , " The Scotsman", 24 January 2007]
19 January 2007 - Ruth Turner, Director of Government Relations at
10 Downing Street, was arrested by police under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Actand also on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. She was later released on bail. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6279729.stm|title=Honours police arrest Blair aide|publisher= BBC|date=19 January 2007] She was the first salaried Government official to be arrested in the inquiry, which followed a search of 10 Downing Street's computer systems by an independent IT expert. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6360573,00.html|title=Email 'mole' led to aide's arrest|publisher= The Guardian|date=January 21, 2007]
26 January 2007 - Prime Minister
Tony Blairwas questioned in Downing Streetfor a second time—once again, as a witness and not under caution. At the request of police the 45 minute interview was not publicly revealed until 1 February 2007, for what they described as "operational reasons". A Metropolitan Policespokesperson stated that Blair was only being "interviewed as a witness" but declined to state whether the interview related to alleged breaches of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Actor alleged perversion of the course of justice. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6320399.stm|title=Blair interviewed again by police|publisher= BBC|date=February 1, 2007] However, on June 25, 2007 Channel 4 news reported that the police had originally asked for an interview under caution, and that Blair had said that this would require him to resign as Prime Minister. The police had then re-considered and interviewed him as a witness, rather than suspect. [cite news|url=http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/the+times+blair+nearly+resigned/577652|title=The times Blair nearly resigned|publisher= Channel4|date=26 June, 2007]
30 January 2007 - Lord Levy was arrested again on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, while still on bail from the previous arrest. He was subsequently bailed. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6314881.stm|title=Honours Police arrest Lord Levy|publisher=
7 February 2007 - The
Crown Prosecution Serviceconfirmed that head teacher Des Smithwill not face any charges. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6335169.stm|title=Honours probe teacher not charged|date=7 February 2007|publisher= BBC]
20 February 2007 - On reporting to a police station under her
bailterms, Ruth Turner was interviewed for a second time and re-bailed. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6381961.stm|title=Police question Blair aide again|date=21 February 2007|publisher= BBC]
2 March 2007 - The Attorney General,
Lord Goldsmithobtained an injunction to prevent the BBC from broadcasting a story about the investigation, relating to an email that the BBC had seen. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6414113.stm Attorney General halts BBC probe] , BBC News, March 2, 2007]
5 March, 2007 - After a request to the Attorney General, the BBC was allowed to reveal that the email was sent by Number 10 aide Ruth Turner to Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, and concerned Labour's chief fundraiser Lord Levy [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6419275.stm|title=Honours gag e-mail was about Levy] The BBC were still not allowed to reveal the contents of the email.
6 March, 2007 - After both the police and the attorney general failed to obtain an injunction, "
The Guardian" newspaper revealed that the police had shifted their focus from whether there was an effort to sell peerages to whether there has been a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. It emerged that Turner and Levy had a meeting in 2006, an account of which was passed by her lawyers to the police, and the police were seeking clarification of whether Levy had asked Turner to "shape" the evidence she gave to Scotland Yard. [cite web|url=http://politics.guardian.co.uk/funding/story/0,,2027366,00.html|title=Cash for honours: key document names Levy] On the same day, the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper revealed that Ruth Turner had not actually sent the email, because she feared it would be damaging if it fell into the wrong hands. [cite web|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/06/nemail06.xml|title=No 10 denies leaking cash-for-honours email] Later in the day the BBC got the injunction against them lifted, and confirmed that their story was similar in substance to that published in the Guardian. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6423225.stm|title=Blair aide's 'concern over Levy']
20 April, 2007 The police sent their file on the investigation to the
Crown Prosecution Service.
5 June, 2007 Lord Levy and Ruth Turner were re-bailed in connection with the inquiry. [cite web|url=http://politics.guardian.co.uk/funding/story/0,,2095918,00.html|title=Levy and Turner re-bailed in honours inquiry]
26 June, 2007 On the day before Tony Blair left office The Telegraph [cite web|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/28/nblair428.xml|title=Actress Questioned on Cash for Honours] reports that American actress
Courtney Coventrywas flown into the UK at taxpayers expense to give evidence in the Cash for Honours investigation.
28 June, 2007 The day after Tony Blair left office as Prime Minister it was reported that the police had interviewed him a third time some time in early June, and again not under caution. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6249300.stm|title=Blair questioned again by police] [cite web|url=http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23402199-details/Blair+quizzed+again+in+cash-for-honours+probe/article.do|title= Blair quizzed again in cash-for-honours probe]
23 October, 2007 PASC questioned Assistant Commissioner Yates regarding the expenditure of the Metropolitan Police Commission during the Cash for Honours Investigation and the lack of subsequent charges. [cite web|url=http://politics.guardian.co.uk/cashforhonours/story/0,,2197982,00.html|title= Detective reveals how Downing Street hindered cash for honours inquiry]
Crown Prosecution Service assessment
The Metropolitan Police team, investigating the affair and led by Assistant Commissioner
John Yateshanded its main file on the cash for peerages inquiry to the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS) on Friday 20 April. Under English law, it is up to the CPS to decide whether to bring charges against any of the 136 people interviewed. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6576653.stm Police hand honours file to CPS] , BBC, 20 April 2007]
On 4 June 2007 the CPS asked the police to undertake further enquiries, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6718417.stm 'More inquiries' in honours probe] ,
BBC, 4 June 2007] following reports that the police were pressing for Tony Blair to be called as a prosecution witness in any trial.cite news | url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/03/nhons03.xml | title=Honours police want Blair as a witness | publisher= Daily Telegraph| date=2007-06-03 | accessdate=2007-06-04 ]
On 7 July, 2007 the CPS confirmed that they had all the information they needed from the police to decide whether to bring any charges, and it was confirmed that the new Attorney General,
Baroness Scotland, would take no role in the case, to avoid the appearance of political influence. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6277820.stm|title=Honours inquiry file 'complete'] [cite web|url=http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news?articleid=3012982|title=Honours inquiry nearing climax]
On 20 July 2007 the BBC reported that the CPS would bring no charges. The CPS stated, in its reasoning for this decision, that "If one person makes an offer, etc, in the hope or expectation of being granted an honour, or in the belief that it might put him/her in a more favourable position when nominations are subsequently being considered, that does not of itself constitute an offence. Conversely, if one person grants, etc, an honour to another in recognition of (in effect, as a reward for) the fact that that other has made a gift, etc, that does not of itself constitute an offence. For a case to proceed, the prosecution must have a realistic prospect of being able to prove that the two people agreed that the gift, etc, was in exchange for an honour." and that "There is no direct evidence of any such agreement between any two people subject of this investigation" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/20_07_2007_document.pdf Summary of the CPS's decision] BBC News website, 20 July 2007]
Connection with education funding
Desmond Smith was the subject of a "Sunday Times" investigation, which led to his resignation from the
Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. [cite news| url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1986324,00.html|title=Champagne, then talk of a knighthood |publisher=Sunday Times|date=15 January 2006] At that time a Downing Street spokesman said "It's nonsense to suggest that honours are awarded for giving money to an academy.". [cite news| url=http://education.guardian.co.uk/newschools/story/0,,1687374,00.html|title=City academies adviser resigns after cash-for-honours accusation |publisher= The Guardian|date=16 January 2006] This was later contradicted when it was confirmed that the 'citations' explaining the case for putting Sir David Garrard and Barry Townsley in the House of Lords 'prominently' featured their role in helping academy schools. Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister wanted their political support in the Lords for the controversial policy, adding that the Prime Minister felt that anyone who gave their time, commitment and money to establish an academy - to help children in previously failing schools - 'had a strong claim to be considered for an honour'. 'What we wanted was people with expertise in academies as working peers, taking the Labour whip, who could actively contribute with a massive amount of knowledge to the debate on education in the House of Lords.' [cite news| url=http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1754881,00.html | title=No 10 admits link between school donors and peerages |publisher= The Observer|date=16 April 2006]
Garrard gave £2.4 m for an academy in
Bexley, south London. Townsley gave £1.5 m for another in west London.
There was widespread support for an enquiry and some calls to revise the process of party political funding.
Speaking at his monthly news briefing on 16 March 2006,
Tony Blairconfirmed his knowledge of the loans but denied any connection between the large loans from three private individuals and whether they were subsequently nominated for honours. Blair said all three men were known party donors and would have made excellent Labour "working peers". He suggested that further changes to the honours system might be needed. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4813156.stm | title = Labour 'to name future lenders' | publisher = BBC| date = 16 March 2006 ]
When questioned, the PM said he did not think Dromey had revealed details of his lack of involvement in the handling of the private loans in order to undermine or implicate either the PM or
10 Downing Street. Dromey's very public expression of concern - he toured various television channels to be interviewed on the matter - raised suspicion among some supporters of Blair that his actions were deliberately designed to embarrass the Prime Minister and consequently benefit Prime Minister in-waiting Chancellor Gordon Brown. Dromey denied this, saying he had been forced to go public when his persistent questioning failed to satisfactorily resolve the matter.
Also on 16 March 2006 the then
Home Secretarystated "The treasurer should know about all the fundraising issues that arise." [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4811994.stm | title = Clarke denies Labour loans rift | publisher = BBC| date = 16 March 2006 ]
However, he later called into question Dromey's competence, saying he had "serious questions about Jack Dromey's capacity" as Labour treasurer and the fact Dromey did not know about the loans meant "you have to wonder how well he was doing his work" finally adding, "I don't know why Jack behaved as he did." He rejected as "nonsense" a suggestion that the treasurer had spoken publicly about the loans to speed up the transition of power from Blair to Chancellor Gordon Brown. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4830018.stm | title = Clarke targets Labour treasurer | publisher =
BBC| date = 21 March 2006 ]
ir Jeremy Beecham
Sir Jeremy Beecham, chairman of Labour's governing body, the NEC, accused Charles Clarke of speaking out of turn and defended party treasurer Jack Dromey. He said the treasurer "shouldn't be criticised" and had "acted perfectly properly". It was "absolutely clear that the reasons that NEC officers, including the elected party treasurer, did not know about the loans had nothing to do with any failings on their part". He added: "Jack Dromey has always carried out his responsibilities with great diligence and retained the absolute confidence of the NEC in ensuring that this issue is dealt with." In an interview on
BBC2's " Newsnight" he said Clarke had not read the situation correctly. "I don't know how closely Charles has been involved in all this. He's not been on the National Executive for a number of years. I wouldn't have said it in Charles Clarke's position." [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4831528.stm | title = Clarke accused in £14 m loans row | publisher = BBC| date = 22 March 2006 ]
In a measure aimed to avoid any conflict of interest, Dromey's wife
Harriet Harman— a minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs— relinquished her responsibilities for overseeing electoral reform and House of Lords reform.
Writing of Dromey's reaction in "
The Times" of 17 March 2006, left-wing Labour MP Diane Abbottsaid: [cite news|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2089809,00.html |title=Diane Abbott: You're right: it's far from all right, Jack|work= The Times|date=17 March 2006] :"But perhaps Mr Dromey is furious because he has seen things that have not yet been made public. Perhaps facts have finally been revealed to him about new Labour’s inner circle and their adventures in influence-peddling and in the world of the super-rich that he really did not know before. And the enormity of what he has discovered may have made him determined that whoever else may be swept away in the ensuing scandal, it will not be him."
Former cabinet minister and Blair critic
Clare Shortdescribed the issue with characteristic bluntness::"What we're getting is a bubble of these clever people who've captured the state, don't need a party, don't need any members, don't have turbulent people having opinions, who then get money from rich people and run our state without consulting anyone else." [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4824278.stm | title = How bad is loans row for Blair? | publisher = BBC| date=20 March, 2006]
The Labour Party chairman
Ian McCartneydefended the loans with the BBC quoting him as saying: [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4819184.stm | title = Loans defended by Labour chairman | publisher = BBC| date = 18 March, 2006 ] :"Bear in mind too that we fought the 2005 election in the face of a very heavily funded Conservative campaign – a large part of which was reportedly funded by loans, and targeted at individual Labour MPs."
On 31 March 2006 McCartney said the Conservative Party still looked like they had "something to hide" by not revealing the identity of their foreign lenders. "We need to know who these people are, where they reside, where they pay tax, how much they lent and on what terms. "It is not up to the Tories to claim that they did not breach the law. That's the job of the Electoral Commission. "By failing to provide these details the Conservatives and David Cameron are fuelling suspicion that they have even more to hide." [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4865468.stm | title = Tories reveal £16 m lenders list | publisher =
BBC| date = 31 March, 2006 ]
John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, told the BBC that he was "not happy" he found out about the millions loaned to the Labour Party by reading it in the papers but insisted the loans would later appear in the party's audited accounts. He refused to give a guarantee that Labour had not given peerages for loans, saying "I am bound to say not all the information possibly is out yet and we are still looking at it."
Prescott said he favoured a change to state funding but also said he would not rule out the suggestion that private loans should be capped: [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4821702.stm | title = Prescott in the dark about loans | publisher =
BBC| date = 19 March, 2006 ] "There's a kind of unhealthy approach to political financing in this country. What we need to do is have a healthy debate."
Prescott himself became involved in accusations of
influence peddlingwhen newspapers suggested he had made planning decisions in favour of Minerva plc, a company chaired at various times by two of the lenders involved, Sir David Garrard and Andrew Rosenfeld. He told BBC One's " The Politics Show" he did not "know anything" about the firm or secret loans to the party. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4846090.stm | title = Prescott denies Labour loans link | publisher = BBC| date = 26 March, 2006 ]
He said he had received the planning requirements for a skyscraper in London and the Park Place shopping centre in
Croydonbut felt the decision could be made locally. "I passed it over to Croydon and City of London Corporation. They made the decision, not me. It's quite untrue to say there was a deal or I made the decision."
Of Garrard and Rosenfeld he said, "I don't think I have ever met them. I don't know who the companies are and I certainly don't know if they were giving money to the Labour Party. I am not a great one for circulating among businessmen. I just do my damn job and therefore I resent it when these implications are made. I have not made any money from politics for God's sake. But I am here doing what I can best in public service. My reputation is important to me. My politics is important to me."
"I make my mistakes from time to time and we have to be answerable to you guys but not when it's a lie," he added.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Amendments to the Electoral Administration Act to make it a legal requirement that loans to political parties are made public in a similar way to donations were to be urgently considered by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, then
Lord Chancelloraccording to reports in March 2006. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4823680.stm | title = Secret party loans to be banned | publisher = BBC| date = 20 March, 2006 ]
"We've got to stop this perception that parties can somehow be bought by big donations either from very rich people, or trade unions, or businesses."
The Conservative Party admitted that it has engaged in similar borrowing (but did not reveal any links to nominations for peerages). Such loans have been reported in party accounts though the annual accounts are not yet published for the period covering the 2005 general election.
David Cameron's proposals are::Ban on all loans unless from financial institutions on fully commercial terms:£50,000 cap on donations:Tax relief on donations up to £3,000:State funding of £1.20 per vote won at general elections for parties with MPs, plus annual payment equal to 60p per vote:New commission to handle honours:General election party funds limited to £15 m
These proposals would also reduce the number of MPs from 646 to fewer than 600. [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4827142.stm | title = Tories will not name key backers | publisher =
BBC| date=20 March, 2006]
Conservative Party chairman
Francis Maudesaid he "regretted" accepting loans from abroad but insisted it had not broken the law. He said it had to pay back £5m to lenders who wanted to remain anonymous including a number of foreign nationals.
"These loans represent a very small part of our financial backing - I wish we had not done so but we have and we have now set the record clear we have repaid those loans and the matter is perfectly clear," Mr Maude told
BBC Radio 5 Live. "It would clearly have been better if we had not as things turn out but that's the way it is." He insisted the Tories had done nothing wrong and that Labour had been "much less transparent about this whole process than we have."
He said he was "very proud" of the people who lent money to the Tories and insisted they had not supported the party out of "self-interest" because, he argued, it had not stood much of a chance of gaining power in recent years.
ir Menzies Campbell
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said that his party had not nominated anyone for a peerage who had loaned it large sums. He said the Lib Dems received loans from three people in the period before the 2005 General Election and had declared their names and the sums lent. He urged transparency on funding, and suggested a £50,000 cap on donations by individuals and a reduction in maximum permitted party election spending from £20 m to £15 m: [cite news | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4824340.stm | title = Sir Menzies urges loans openness | publisher =
BBC| date = 20 March, 2006 ]
:"There should be no secret loans of any kind, and if the lord chancellor is proposing that in legislation currently before Parliament, that's something we will most certainly support."
The expression "cash for peerages" has a long history. Titles have constantly been granted to court favorites and allies. James I was more overt; he created the title of
baronetand sold them for £1,500 each to raise money for his war in Ireland.
In the 1920s
David Lloyd Georgewas involved in a barely concealed "cash for patronage" scandal managed by Maundy Gregory, which resulted in the 1925 Act which barred it (purchase of peerages had not previously been illegal), and in 1976 Harold Wilson's resignation honours list was similarly embroiled in what became infamously known as the "Lavender List" (supposedly hand-written on lavender paper by Marcia Williams). This, though widely deemed to include some unsuitable and unsalubrious nominees, rewarded Wilson's friends and carried no suggestion of overt reward for money — given or loaned. Lord Kagan, ennobled in the Lavender List, was convicted of fraudin 1980 — for some years he had been funding Harold Wilson's Leader's office. Sir Eric Miller, knighted in the Lavender List, committed suicide in 1977 while under investigation for fraud; he too had helped fund Harold Wilson's Leader's office.
In the 1960s, Roy Thomson had some justifiable claim to a peerage as a Canadian and later British publisher. As even his company history observes, "Roy had noted that all proprietors of newspapers seemed to become members of the House of Lords. He had also noted this was emphatically ‘a good thing’" and he showed himself ready to do whatever was required to achieve this goal, believing at first that it could be a simple open purchase but moving on to explicit lobbying of prime ministers. He contributed money to charitable bodies which were deemed to improve his chances. Eventually, having bought "
The Scotsman", "The Sunday Times" and later The Times, he became sufficiently important to Harold Wilsonthat he was "raised to the peerage" as Baron Thomson of Fleet.
As recently as 2004 the issue of large donations to a political party being linked to the award of a peerage arose when Paul Drayson donated £555,000 to the Labour Party. His company, Powderject (now part of Novartis), had also received a valuable government contract to make vaccines. [cite news|url=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=315315&in_page_id=1770 |title=Has Labour sleaze reached a new low?|work=
Daily Mail|date=24 August 2004]
*Reform of the House of Lords
David Abrahams (Labour party donor)
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2580264,00.html 'Loans for Honours' Affair: Media demand explanation about Tony Blair’s second police interview - Greg Hurst, The Times, February 02, 2007]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4828094.stm Guide to peers and House of Lords]
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