‘Door open’ to party funding reform before 2015 – Tyler

‘The door to progress on party funding reform in this Parliament is clearly open’, according to Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Tyler.

As the Party’s constitutional affairs spokesman in the Lords, he sparked a mini-debate on Thursday about when the Government would respond to the long-awaited report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Speaking in the chamber, he said, “Can the Minister give us an assurance that unlike under the previous Administration, the most reluctant and recalcitrant participants in this process will not be allowed to delay everything, and will not be given a complete veto on progress?  In particular, may I suggest that we should start with immediate action to stop the arms race in expenditure, both at the constituency level—targeting constituencies as well as national constituencies—and before, as well as during, campaigns?  This could achieve some cross-party agreement, and of course would be very popular with the long-suffering public.”

Labour Peer Lord Grocott, usually an opponent of constitutional reforms, spoke up in support, saying “I feel a little light-headed because I think I may agree with Lord Tyler.  Obviously, to make elections fairer it is not just a question of where competing candidates and parties raise their money from, it is also how much they spend.”

Only Conservative Peer, Lord (Norman) Tebbit dissented, calling for the issue to be dealt with by David Cameron rather than Nick Clegg.

Liberal Democrat Minister, Lord (Tom) McNally responded on behalf of the Government, saying, “I welcome those suggestions from Lord Tyler, which I will pass on to the Deputy Prime Minister…I would have thought that some of the suggestions that my noble friend made could be brought into…general consultation with all political parties.”

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler said:  “When Norman Tebbit is against you, you’re almost certainly on the right track. 

“Some of us are disappointed that more progress cannot be made toward more sustainable, transparent funding of political parties in advance of the next election.

“However, all sides are quite reasonably agreed that substantial additional state funding in the coming years would be inappropriate against a backdrop of severe cuts elsewhere.

“That leaves us with one obvious avenue to pursue in the short term.  Constituency activists all round the country know how much elections can be skewed well before the campaign-proper starts, just by unregulated spending in constituencies over the years and months before the balloon goes up.

“It’s good to hear that door to progress on this is clearly open.”

ENDS

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