Flying free: Donations to ministers include flights on private jets.
As the debate about ministerial influence continues following the fall-out from the Liam Fox and Adam Werritty relationship, the Bureau has analysed Electoral Commission records to see which ministers are getting what from whom.
We have taken a closer look at funding going into both the private and constituency offices of each cabinet minister since the 2010 general election. The research shows that only four cabinet ministers, including the former defence secretary, have received donations into their private offices. Apart from Dr Liam Fox, these include William Hague, George Osborne and Michael Gove. Six Cabinet Ministers received donations to their constituency offices.
The remaining 15 Cabinet Ministers have not received any donations to either their private or constituency offices since the election. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has never registered a private office donation, while Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander has no record of private or constituency office donations.
Donations into a minister’s private office can be used for ‘political purposes’, including campaign literature, media materials, an additional researcher or travel.
Constituency offices provide accounts which are published by the Electoral Commission but they are under no obligation to provide detail and so existing records are vague. Donations from private donors and companies can therefore provide MPs with valuable, and flexible extra funding.
Michael Gove – Education Secretary
The Education Minister has received the most in donations since the election, collecting £30,500. Gove has also attracted funding from eight new donors.
William Hague – Foreign Secretary
The Foreign Secretary has received over £188,000 since 2001.
Since the election he has received one donation in-kind from Scottish grain merchant Malcolm Scott, a long-time supporter of the Tories. Hague was given a seat on Scott’s private jet to and from Edinburgh. The flight was valued at £4,200. The Foreign Secretary received £105,000 in cash from Scott in 2009.
David Cameron has also used Scott’s private jet, declared in the Prime Minister’s Registered Interests.
George Osborne – Chancellor
On December 20 2010, Osborne was hosted by Mayor Bloomberg in New York. The trip, costing £2,600, was sponsored by New York City Hall. Osborne used the visit to promote British banking, meeting the bosses of several of the most powerful Wall Street firms.
Osborne’s constituency Tatton, in Cheshire, also received £35,290 since the election.
The largest donor was Prima Hotels, which gave £7,000. Other prominent donations included £3,500 from Conservative Councillor Yvonne Wrinch and her husband Ronald, a chartered accountant, and £3,000 from Emerson Developments, one of the largest privately owned property development companies in the UK. Emerson’s substantial portfolio incorporates leisure, residential and commercial developments in the UK, the Algarve, Portugal and Orlando, Florida.
Liam Fox – ex-Defence Secretary
Before the Adam Werritty scandal, former Defence secretary Dr Liam Fox was one of the most popular Cabinet members with donors.
In May 2011 Fox registered an in-kind donation from Michael Hintze’s hedge fund CQS. The donation, which was valued at £10,439, paid for a flight from Washington DC to Farnborough.
Read more about Hintze’s donations to the Tories here.
David Cameron – Prime Minister
Witney, Cameron’s constituency, received £20,208 during the past year. The Oxfordshire borough benefited from four non-cash sponsorship donations amounting to £10,208, over 50% of which came from Lord and Lady Chadlington.
Lord Peter Chadlington is director of more than 20 companies, including Public Relations firms Grayling and Huntsworth, and Halifax building society.
Jeremy Hunt – Culture Secretary
The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has received £12,550 into his constituency, South West Surrey. This includes £5,000 from Andrew Law, chief investment officer of the $9bn Caxton Associates Hedge Fund, headquartered in New York.
Records of donations to Hunt’s private office show that between 2005 and 2009 the Minister received 81% of donations from Hotcourses Ltd, a company he co-founded and co-directed.
Vince Cable – Business Secretary
Vince Cable’s constituency, Twickenham, in South West London, has received £33,133 since May 2010. Over 80% stems from the Business Secretary and Richmond-Upon-Thames Lib Dem Council Group. Twickenham also received a £1,000 donation from Betterworld, a firm run by Henry Tinsley, former chairman of chocolate company Green & Blacks.
Tinsely has donated large amounts to Labour and the Liberal Democrats since 2007 ‘to help counter the wave of money given to Conservative candidates by Lord Ashcroft and others’.
Chris Huhne – Energy and Climate Change Secretary
The Liberal Democrat borough of Eastleigh, Hampshire, received £27,689 between May 2010 and October 2011.
Forty-one percent of the funding stemmed from Huhne himself, whilst 46% came from the Eastleigh Lib Dem Council Group. However, Eastleigh’s most interesting donor is Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT since 2007. Sir Michael is also Chairman of EasyJet, and a director of Barclays, McGraw Hill and the Financial Reporting Council. He donated £2,000 to Eastleigh in June 2010.