Parliamentary Candidates (Expenditure)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th January 2008.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 2:30 pm, 29th January 2008

The truth is that controls of any kind can be evaded, which is a criminal offence, or avoided, which may be just within the law but is not within the spirit of the law. It is incumbent on all parties to ensure that we do not go down the same route that some taxpayers—one fully understands why—go down. It is equally important, as the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs pointed out, that account is taken of the different parties' different circumstances. That used to be the Conservatives' approach, but I regret to say that they have abandoned it.

It also needs to be put on record yet again that the Conservative party made major changes and tightened controls on trade unions' political funds throughout the 1980s. Although we did not like those changes, we came to accept them in the mid-1990s. When Neill reported in 1998, he not only said that he had no proposals to change them but quoted the Conservative party's official evidence to him:

"The question of trade union funding of parties is not a matter of direct concern to the Conservative Party. We recognise the historic ties that bind the trade union movement with the Labour Party...The Conservative Party does not believe that it is illegitimate for the trade union movement to provide support for political parties."

Moreover—

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