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Cash-for-access row: Politics live blog

Rolling coverage of the cash-for-access row and today's other political developments

1.36pm: Michael Fallon, the Conservative deputy chairman, told BBC News that David Cameron's decision to publish the names of major donors who have had dinner with him at Number 10 shows his commitment to transparency. I've taken the quote from PoliticsHome.

What's happening is that each time we are looking to see if we can make more information available to those who are calling for it. There's more transparency now. I think there has been quite a lot of public interest in this, and I think it's useful to actually clear the air because it shows, in fact, there were only three dinners involving donors in the last two years.

1.25pm: Clarification: Not all those named on the list released by Tory HQ (see 12.54pm) are major donors. The list features all the guests who attended the events where some attendees were major donors.

1.00pm: Here is some more from Tory HQ on the four Number 10 events. (See 12.54pm.)

The first dinner, on 14 July 2010, was a post-election thank you dinner. It took place in the Number 10 rooms rather than in the Camerons' flat because the flat was being refurbished.

The second dinner, on 28 February 2011, was for David Rowland and his partner. A few months earlier Rowland was forced out of his post as Tory treasurer, and this dinner may have been Cameron's way of repairing relations with him.

The third dinner, on 2 November 2011, was a social dinner for strong supporters "with whom the PM has a strong relationship".

And the fourth, on 27 February 2012, was a social dinner for Michael Spencer and his partner.

12.54pm: Here is the full list of the people who attended the four Number 10 events mentioned by Cameron that Tory HQ have put out.

14 July 2010 – No 10

Anthony & Carole Bamford
Michael & Dorothy Hintze
Murdoch & Elsa Maclennan
Lord John & Lady Sainsbury
Andrew Feldman
Jill and Paul Ruddock
Mike and Jenny Farmer
Michael and Clara Freeman

28 February 2011 - flat
David Rowland and his wife. Andrew Feldman also attended.

2 November 2011 - flat
Henry and Dorothy Angest
Michael Farmer and wife
Ian Taylor and wife

27 February 2012 - flat
Michael Spencer and partner

The Tories are defining significant or major donors as anyone who gives more than £50,000 a year, ie members of the Leader's Group (see 10.32am).

UPDATE AT 1.25PM: Tory HQ says that not all the people on this list are major donors. The list features all the guests who attended the events where some attendees were major donors. I've amended the post above to make that clear.

12.44pm: Here's some Twitter reaction to the Cameron statement.

From the Labour party

Michael Fallon not doing a great job arguing Lord Gold's inquiry independent. Lord Gold is a Conservative peer investigating Tory Party

From the Tory Trade Union Reform Campaign

Ed Miliband needs to match Cameron by publishing register of all meetings, dinners and beer & sandwiches with union funders.

From Bloomberg's Rob Hutton

PM forgets to call press questions at Alzheimer's event.

12.41pm: The Tories have now released the names of four donors who were entertained at the Number 10- flat.

They were: Michael Spencer; David Rowland; Ian Taylor and Henry Angest.

The BBC has more details.

12.32pm: The Q&A is over. Cameron did not take any questions on cash-for-access.

Cameron is generally quite good in a crisis. With his back against the wall, he responds quickly - even if a blatant U-turn is required. Yesterday Downing street said Cameron would not be naming the Tory donors who have dined at Number 10. Today, without any qualms, Cameron is doing exactly that.

This certainly takes some of the sting out of the scandal, although it won't defuse it entirely. Now much will depend on what Labour can do to keep the controversy on the boil.

12.26pm: Cameron's speech is over. He is taking questions now, but he is taking questions about dementia, not cash-for-access, at the moment.

12.07pm: This is what David Cameron had to say about cash-for-access.

What Peter Cruddas said was completely unacceptable and wrong ...

We have a robust and sensible system for raising money in the Conservative party. All donations to the party centrally above £7,500 are declared to the Electoral Commission and must comply with electoral law. No donation is accepted before going through very thorough compliance procedures ...

There has been much speculation about dinners in my flat in Number 10 Downing Street. The position is this; in the two years I have been prime minister there have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to my flat. In addition, there was a further post-election dinner which included donors in Downing Street itself shortly after the general election. We will be publishing full details of all these todays.

None of these dinners were fundraising dinners. None of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer. I have known most of those attending for many years.

Let me add that Peter Cruddas has never recommended anyone to come to dinner in my flat, nor has he been to dinner there himself.

I already publish details of my external meetings as prime minister - the first prime minister to do so - and I also publish all meetings that I have with media editors and proprietors. From now on the Conservative party will published details every quarter of any meals attended by any major donors, whether they take place at Downing Street, Chequers or any official residence.

The Conservative party is funded by private citizens. I inherited a party that was tens of millions of pounds in debt and dependent on a tiny number of big donors. Since I have been leader we have significantly broadened the Conservative party's funding base and many more significant donors ...

From now on, the Conservative party will in addition publish a register of those major donors who actually attend these fundraising dinners.

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

Clearly there is still an urgent need for party funding reform in this country. I have consistently argued this over the last six years. No party is immune from these problems. Indeed, the leader of the Labour party has himself encountered some controversy in recent days. That is why the government has invited Labour to restart the cross-party talks on reforming the current rules.

But today I make this offer once again to the Labour party. I'm ready to impose a cap on individual political donations of £50,000 without any further need for state funding. But to be fair this must apply equally to trade unions as well as to private citizens or businesses.

12.05pm: Cameron is now delivering his dementia speech. I'll take a look at that later. First, I will post more quotes from his statement about the cash-for-access row.

11.58am: Cameron says what Peter Cruddas said was wrong.

No donation is accepted by the Conservative party unless all compliance procedures are met with, he says.

Lord Gold, a lawyer and a Conservative peer, will head the internal inquiry into cash-for-access.

• Cameron has held three diners in his Number 10 flat with significant donors to the Conservative party, he says. There was also one post-election dinner at which some of the guests were donors. Details of these donors will be published.

• The names of those attending Conservative fundraising dinners will be published.

• Cameron has renewed his offer to work with Labour to impose a cap on individual donations to political parties.

11.57am: Cameron is speaking about cash-for-access now.

11.42am: Here are the key points from the Number 10 lobby briefing.

• Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will announce details of how he plans to revive talks on the reform of party funding in a Commons statement at 3.30pm.
Number 10 said the government was still committed to proceeding "on a cross-party basis".

• Number 10 said that its transparency was "unmatched" because it publishes lists of the people that the prime minister meets on official business.

• Downing Street will publish further details of ministerial meetings within the next few days.
The government is committed to publishing details of all ministerial meetings and the next list will cover July to September last year. Asked why the list had been delayed, the prime minister's spokeswoman said the government had never said when it would release this information. The last list was published in December, she said. And it took time to compile the information.

• Downing Street confirmed that the list of ministerial meetings being published would only cover official meetings, and not any private meetings that have taken place at Chequers or Number 10. Asked what would determine whether a meeting was deemed an offical one, the spokewoman said an official meeting would be one where official business was discussed and notes were taken by an official.

There was also one important statement that was not about cash-for-access.

• The government is still opposed to a third runway at Heathrow.

11.37am: Just back from the lobby.

• David Cameron will make a statement about the cash-for-access affair at the end of his speech (ie, at about 12ish). I'm told he will give details about the internal Tory inquiry into the affair.

• Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will make a statement in the Commons at 3.30pm about party funding.

I'll post more from the lobby in a moment.

10.51am: You can read all today's Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in today's paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, here are four cash-for-access articles that are particularly interesting.

• Iain Martin in the Telegraph says there were warnings this would happen.

In recent weeks, I have heard mutterings that Downing Street has been operating a recklessly ill-judged open-door policy. Earlier this month, someone whose work brings him into regular contact with Number 10 told me that he was worried: "If you've got enough cash and you want to get through the front door to talk about planning or whatever bothers you, then you can get in." The cumulative impression is toxic for the Tories, particularly after a budget in which the Chancellor announced the removal of the 50p tax band.

• Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent says David Cameron should now embrace the committee on standards in public life proposals in full.

After yesterday's embarrassment, though, maybe Cameron needs to be the one to claim political credit for reforming the system. He reacted more quickly than Gordon Brown to the MP' expenses scandal and the public rewarded him for it. Now he has a chance to do the same on party funding. His best hope of putting the Cruddas horrors behind him is to back Kelly in full, and ask us each for a paltry 50p a year to do so. It's cheap at the price.

• Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail profiles Peter Cruddas.

It is not just Mr Cruddas's language, and habit of boasting about his political and royal connections, which has disturbed many senior Tories.

It is that he has left them vulnerable to attack once again. One senior Tory said: 'Cruddas was a likeable bloke but completely out of his depth. He was absolutely reckless in promising policy changes which he could not deliver.

'It's a disaster to have lost a second Tory treasurer so soon after the last one. The last thing we need are questions flying again over our treasurers.'

• The Sun in its leader complains about wealthy people having undue influence over British politics. (Yes, I know, you have to laugh ....)

THE MPs expenses scandal proved politicians cannot be trusted to be honest and open about money.

So the revelation that Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas offered rich potential donors access to David Cameron will only confirm the public's belief that Westminster is awash with charlatans and shysters.

This is not some paltry wrangle over party funding. Allowing wealthy individuals or groups to lobby our leading politicians by waving a chequebook undermines democracy.

I'm off to the Number 10 lobby briefing now. I'll post again after 11.30am.

10.38am: It's good to see that someone's having fun with the cash-for-access story.

10.32am: The Conservative party has eight different clubs for donors, ranging from one for those giving £50,000 a year (the Leader's Group) to one for those giving £50 a month (Party Patrons). We've got a full list of them here.

On BBC News this morning Sir Christopher Kelly (pictured), the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, said that these clubs should not offer access to politicians.

The truth is that, although all this controversy currently is about the Conservative party, in one form or another all the parties run donors clubs where quite publicly they're offering access in return for large donations, and that must be wrong.

10.28am: The Press Association have posted an obituary of Lord Newton by Chris Moncrieff.

Here it is.

Lord Newton of Braintree, a former leader of the House of Commons, was said to be the only person, apart from the couple themselves, who was aware of the affair between Edwina Currie and John Major.
It was a secret which he honoured. If word had ever got out, it is almost certain that Mr Major would never have become prime minister.
Mrs Currie and Mr Major - as he then was - needed one, just one, trustworthy person to be aware of their relationship in the event of a crisis in the Commons when they had to be brought back to the House for a vote.
Despite harbouring this explosive secret alone for so many years, until Mrs Currie revealed it in a book, Lord Newton steered clear of all the sleaze which dominated and tarnished John Major's administration.
Indeed, he was once jocularly dubbed "a mud-free Tory who could rise clean to the top".
Tony Newton entered the House of Commons in 1974 as MP for Braintree, a seat he represented until 1997 when he became Lord Newton of Braintree.
He was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, and spent 14 years at the Conservative Central Office research department.
His stay there was interrupted by an unsuccessful attempt in 1970 to capture the Labour stronghold of Sheffield Brightside.
After his election in 1974, he became junior social security minister in 1982 and was promoted to minister for social security and the disabled in 1984 before switching to health minister in 1986.
He was appointed social security secretary in 1989, and quickly gained a reputation as a doughty fighter for a department whose budget demands inevitably brought it into regular behind-the-scenes conflict with the Treasury.
Previously, as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr Newton co-ordinated Mrs Thatcher's inner-city policies. Ultimately, in 1992, he became lord president of the council and leader of the House of Commons.
His first marriage, by which he had two daughters, ended in divorce. He remarried in 1986.

10.21am: Earlier Francis Maude said that no country in the world would expect the prime minister to name the guests he or she invites for dinner on a private basis. (See 9.25am.) But they probably would in Sweden, according to Dan Shearer on Twitter.

10.19am: Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, has been commenting on the cash-for-access affair for Labour. These are the main points he has been making. I've taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

• Dugher said David Cameron should be "more forthcoming" about his meetings with Tory donors in his private flat.

• He said there had to be an independent inquiry into the affair.

It's just not acceptable or credible for, in any way at all, the Conservative party to investigate themselves. It's really doing a News International - you remember with phone hacking last summer, News International said leave it with us, we'll have a look at it and come back to you - well that's not good enough. We need an independent inquiry.

• He said that Labour was will to re-open talks about party funding reform, but that the party would want to retain the current system of union funding where union members have to opt out if they do not want to pay the political levy.

10.00am: The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published an analysis of David Cameron's plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. It says that a 40pm minimum unit price would raise up to £850m for the drinks industry and that it would be better to force prices up by raising alcohol duty, so that the revenue benefits the Treasury.

(If this is the case, can anyone explain why the drinks industry are so opposed to a minimum unit price?)

9.48am: Lord Levy (pictured), the Labour fundraiser, told the Today programme that when he was raising money for the party, anyone giving £250,000 would have probably ended up having dinner with Tony Blair. But they would not have been invited to Number 10 or Chequers, he said.

I would have said you'd have expected to have met [Blair] for dinner, but at a private home and that would have been a social dinner ... No dinners would take place at Number 10 or at Chequers and that is a key difference.

He also said that when he was raising money for Labour offering donors the opportunity to influence policy was "absolutely banned".

I've taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

9.41am: Rupert Murdoch (pictured), that great beacon of propriety in public life, has been pronouncing on the cash-for-access scandal on Twitter. Here are his thoughts.

Great Sunday Times scoop. What was Cameron thinking? No-one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story.

Cameron should have just followed history and flogged some seats in the Lords, if they still have value! precedents of centuries .

Of course there must be a full independent inquiry on both sides. In great detail, and with consequences. Trust must be established.

Without trust, democracy, and order will go.

9.36am: Lord Newton, the former Tory social security secretary and leader of the Commons, has died. Here's what the Press Association have filed.

Former Commons leader Lord Newton of Braintree has died at the age of 74, his family announced today.
Tony Newton became Tory MP for Braintree, Essex, in 1974, holding on to the seat for 23 years before being made a peer.
He began his Government career in the Whips' office and held a number of ministerial roles under Margaret Thatcher.
They included a stint as health minister, an area in which he retained a keen interest over his political career, contributing to debates in the Upper Chamber over the controversial Health and Social Care Bill in recent weeks.
In 1989 he was made social security secretary and three years later was appointed Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons.
He died yesterday afternoon in Colchester Hospital following a long illness.
He is survived by wife Patricia, two daughters, Polly and Jessica, three stepchildren, Robin, Emma and Sukie, and four grandchildren.
In a statement, his family said: "In spite of his worsening health, he was determined to carry on contributing to public life right up until the last few days.
"He was a remarkable man and we will miss him very much."

9.25am: Here's more from the Francis Maude interview on the Today programme. I've taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

• Maude said there was "nothing remotely improper" about political parties having clubs for donors offering access to politicians.

We've always been very open about that. There's so secret about it. You would join the Leader's Group, and the Leader's Group have periodic dinners with the prime minister and other leader figures. There's nothing remotely improper about that, or new, and all parties do that.

• He rejected claims that donors could buy influence.
"The idea that Conservative donors can by themselves influence policy is absurd," he said. "It's just not true." Anyone could suggest ideas to the government, he said.

• He said it was unreasonable to expect David Cameron to identify all his dinner guests. "Nobody has ever suggested that in any country in the world," he said. Events for donors, like those organised by the Leader's Group, were quite different from events in Cameron's private life "where he and his wife have friends to supper."

• He dismissed the idea that donors could buy dinner in Cameron's private flat as "nonsense".

9.00am: Oh dear. With the Conservative cash-for-access row all over the papers, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, was given the job of appearing on the Today programme in the 8.10 slot to hold back the deluge - and he failed dismally. He could not give Evan Davis a good answer to his question about why David Cameron would not publish the names of all Tory donors he has entertained in his Number 10 flat and at one stage he appeared to dismiss the issue as "nonsense". I'll post more from the interview shortly. At 8.30am there's normally a routine strategy meeting at Downing Street. They certainly need a strategy today, because at the moment it feels as if they are on the run.

I'll be following all the developments in this story through the day. Here are the issues to follow closely.

An inquiry: Labour want a full, independent inquiry. The Tories have launched an internal inquiry, but they have already had to accept that it won't be led by Lord Feldman, the Conservative co-chairman. My guess - and it's only a guess - is that they will appoint an independent-(ish) figure to take charge. Perhaps someone is ringing around pro-Tory QCs already.

A Commons statement?: Ed Miliband wants Cameron to make a statement in the Commons. You would not normally expect a Commons statement, on an issue like this, but John Bercow, the Speaker, seems to enjoy making life difficult for ministers and it is conceivable that he could grant an urgent question on this.

A police inquiry?: Mark Adams, the whistleblower who triggered the Sunday Times investigation, confirmed this morning that he has asked the police to investigate because he thought yesterday's revelations suggested that in the past the Tories have flouted the law banning political donations from foreigners. Given what happened to the cash-for-honours investigation, the police reaction to this can probably involves the words "hole" and "head". But they have said they are assessing the allegation.

Party funding talks: In response to yesterday's allegations, these are being revived. But the parties have already spend six years trying to reach a deal on this without making progress.

I will also be keeping an eye on other political developments today - Cameron is giving a speech on demential at 11.45am which he will use announce that funding for demential research will be doubled, reaching £66m by 2015 - but mostly I will be focusing on cash-for-access. I'll post a lunchtime summary at around 1pm and another in the afternoon.

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