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Column 197The debate has been prompted by a desire to have taxpayers' money funding the Labour party. The Labour party's submission to the Select Committee on Home Affairs gives the game away. It is a lengthy wish list for cash from the taxpayer and it reads rather like a plaintive version of the Labour party manifesto. In its own words, the Labour party is here today to
"argue for the introduction of forms of State aid"
for political parties. If Labour wants a party, let it pay for it and not the taxpayer.
We learnt during last year's general election campaign that the Labour party has descended from the days of Gaitskell and Attlee to being the party of "nudge nudge, wink wink" and the party of rumour and innuendo-- indeed, the party of the sly innuendo. Today's speech by the right hon. Member for Derby, South was a travesty and a disgrace. It pitched, weaved and evaded, while all the time seeking to undermine some of our most hallowed institutions. The right hon. Lady will not be allowed to get away with it. The Labour party always denigrates what is good about Britain. The Government stand for the integrity of the existing system. I will not allow the Labour party to undermine public confidence in the integrity of our system. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to throw out the motion.
Several hon. Members rose --
Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North) : I have never heard such synthetic anger as that demonstrated by the Secretary of State for Employment. He had nothing to say and no information to give us. We still do not know in whose pockets the Tories are. The right hon. Gentleman threw no light on the sources of Tory party funds. I can only hope that, when it is the turn of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), the chairman of the Conservative party, a little more information will be given to the House. The debate is about the secretive and sleazy way in which the Tory party is funded. It is about the unique way in which honours fall on company chairmen who give to the Tory party. It is also about the very curious case of Mr. Asil Nadir and the help that he has received from Conservative Members.
No answer was given by the Secretary of State. Indeed, he demonstrated to us, once again, that the Tories are afraid to reveal the sources of the funds that pour into their coffers. Can the Secretary of State tell us why the Tories published their accounts until 1979, since when those accounts have not been published? It is interesting that that change came about.
Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield) rose --
Mr. Hoyle : If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall tell him what information is now given to us. We understand the expenditure and what Tory central office receives. In 1992, central office received £20.7 million. When we asked about that and about company donations, the Tory party told us to look at company accounts. I repeat : in 1992, the Tories received £20.7 million. When the records were checked by Companies house, only £2.9
Column 198million was shown in company accounts. That means that there is a deficit of £17.8 million. We want to know where that £17.8 million came from.
Mr. Tim Smith : The hon. Gentleman has made the suggestion about the accounts of the Conservative party that was made by a member of the Select Committee last week : that no accounts had been published between 1979 and 1983. They were published, and I undertook to send copies to the Select Committee.
Mr. Hoyle : I gave way to the hon. Gentleman because I expected him to tell me where the difference of £17.8 million came from. I shall give way again to him. I am told that he is a treasurer of the Conservative party. I give way to him now so that he can stand up and tell us where the £17.8 million came from. Does the hon. Gentleman care to do that? I am waiting. I do not think that we shall get the information from the horse's mouth. We certainly did not get it from the Secretary of State.
Matters are worse than that. According to Business Age, £71 million has been donated in this way since 1985. [Laughter.] I hear Conservative Members laughing. I am quite prepared to sit down and to let one of them get up and tell us where the money came from. No. That has finished it now. The lager louts have finished for today. Mr. Ashby rose
Mr. Hoyle : That is a very useful piece of information, which has added to my knowledge. Does the hon. Gentleman now care to tell us, taking just 1992, where the almost £18 million that is unaccounted for came from? We know that the funding--
Mr. Hoyle : It may be boring, but it is nevertheless true. In fact, it is not boring to my colleagues, because we should like a little light shone on the matter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can help us.
Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North) : As a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, I have to tell my hon. Friend that he is being very unfair to as on the Conservative Board of Finance and who represented 84 constituencies. He said :
"Over £67 million of expenditure was recorded by the Conservative Party in my fours years on the Committee, but no one had to account for a penny of it to the Conservative Board of Finance nor to any other elected body."
Conservative Members do not know the answers ; nor does anyone else.
Mr. Hoyle : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Perhaps only two people know where the funding came from. One is Lord McAlpine, whom the unfortunate President of the Board of Trade apparently saw on his visit to Venice. I join the Secretary of State for Employment in hoping that the right hon. Gentleman has
Column 199a speedy and full recovery and is soon back in the House. However, the President of the Board of Trade visited Lord McAlpine, and Lord McAlpine is one of the men who knows.
The other person is perhaps someone to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) referred--Sir Brian Wyldbore-Smith. He is apparently a director of the Conservative Board of Finance--a curious name, but a curious job, too. Apparently, Sir Brian used private addresses to receive cheques--they were not sent directly to central office. They were made out to him personally, eventually passed on and often paid into an offshore account in Jersey, a tax haven.
They eventually landed at central office with Lord McAlpine, whose office, I understand, was always kept locked except when he was in it, so that the secrets could not be given to the rank and file or to members of the Cabinet. Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien) is right to say that Conservative Members do not know where the funding came from.
I fully expected the Secretary of State to tell us about foreign backers, as that is what part of the debate is about. Why did we not hear about the foreign business people who poured money into the Conservative party's coffers? Why did we not hear a bit about what came from all the trips made to Hong Kong, the 16 occasions when Tory fund raisers went there with Ministers?
Perhaps the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield can tell us a little more about Li Ki-Shing, the Hong Kong-based billionaire. He is one of the richest people in Hong Kong, and was the Chinese Government's representative at the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank, which we all know recently took over the Midland bank. Perhaps the £1 million that he is reported to have given was payment for allowing the takeover to go through- - [Interruption.] Is anyone denying that he gave £1 million? I am prepared to give way. Are you telling me that he did not give £1 million or that you do not know? You have your opportunity--
Let us consider Greek shipping millionaires, because they are interesting people. John Latsis is reported to have given £2 million to the Tory party by 1991. He had previously given £500,000. If Conservative Members do not believe it, why do they not intervene to say so?
What about the curious case of the Sultan of Brunei, who was very close to the previous Prime Minister and her family? What about the Fayed brothers, who took over the House of Fraser? There was great difficulty in getting the Department of Trade and Industry's report of the inquiry into the case published. They are still company directors, but we do not share the Tories' amusement about that. The DTI inspector said that the Fayed brothers had dishonestly represented their origins, their wealth, their business interests and their resources to the Secretary of
Column 200State, the Office of Fair Trading, the House of Fraser directors and shareholders and their advisers. However, because of previous contributions, they are still acting as company directors. I shall mention Asil Nadir a little later. We are told that he had no right to expect an honour or a peerage for his donations to the Tory party. I think that he was treated very unfairly, because the facts are that industrialists who give money to the Tory party are far more likely to receive an honour than non-donors.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) mentioned United Biscuits and the £1 million given to the Tory party in order to gain an honour for Sir Hector Laing. Is he also aware that a factory closed in my constituency which, had it received that £1 million in investment, would not have had to close, with the loss of 1,000 very much needed jobs?
Mr. Hoyle : I could not agree more with my hon. Friend--it would have been a much better use of the money donated to the Tory party. Let us consider the facts. One hundred of 199 donations brought honours to directors or chairmen of companies which had given to the Tory party.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Is it not strange that seven Conservative Members made representations, written and oral, to the Attorney-General--in one case, the hon. Member saw him in the Division Lobby? We know who three of the seven are ; why do the remaining four not explain why they made representations when there could have been no constituency interest? Is it because Mr. Nadir was involved in Tory party finance, or is it something even more sinister?
Mr. Hoyle : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I had intended to ask that question a little later. We need an explanation of why those names are being withheld from the House. What have they to hide? Why is the Attorney-General not prepared to make them public? The Secretary of State has not explained, so we can only hope that the chairman of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, will not only tell us why the names have been withheld but give us the names themselves. Let us have a little openness in the debate.
Before I gave way to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North who made a good intervention, I was saying that 100 out of the 199 honours awarded were given to people in charge of companies that had donated to the Conservative party. The interesting aspect of that is that only 6 per cent. of the companies concerned disclosed the donations.
Mr. Burns : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair, so would he care to tell the House how many contributors to the Labour party between 1964 and 1970, and between 1974 and March 1976, were friends of the then Prime Minister and received honours in honours lists ?
Mr. Hoyle : Yes, that question is not even worth replying to. [Interruption.] Now Conservative Members are shouting ; now they have come to life. When we asked them to tell us who contributed the missing £17.9 million in one year alone--1992--they were struck silent. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) intends to answer that question, I hope that he will intervene, but I shall not give way to frivolous interventions. I am giving the hon. Gentleman every opportunity to answer the question. He could tell us now. He does not know ? He does not, but he does not deny the fact either.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South was right to name a few of the companies.
Mr. Donald Anderson : While we are on the subject of illegality and donations, is my hon. Friend aware that Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, of the Kingfisher Group, was given an honour in this year's honours list at a time when his subsidiary B and Q was leading the fight by illegally trading on Sundays ?
Mr. Hoyle : That is a rather telling point. It may account for the Government's total opposition to the Bill on Sunday trading introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). We are talking about huge donations. We have been told that United Biscuits gave £1 million, and we know the honours that were received. And what about Hanson ?
Mr. Hoyle rose -- [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I was watching the debate on the monitor before I came into the Chair, so I know that the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) has been enjoying himself today. I am having great difficulty in hearing the debate, and if I am to control the debate, I wish to hear it. If hon. Members on both sides would control themselves, that would be of advantage to the debate.
Mr. Hoyle : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you rightly said, we have been watching the antics of the Conservative lager louts all the afternoon, except when they were struck dumb when we asked where the money came from.
Mr. Hoyle : Yes, Hector Laing received his knighthood as the hon. Gentleman said, but-- [Laughter.] When hon. Members have had their little joke, perhaps they will listen. When Sir Hector Laing gave £1 million, he received his peerage from a Conservative Government. Not only that, but his successor Sir Robert Clarke also received his knighthood from a Conservative Government.
Now let us deal with the curious case of Lord Hanson. Hanson gave £852,000, and not one person but two people received peerages--Lords Hanson and White. At the time of the takeover bid for ICI, was it not rather curious how reluctant the Conservative Government were to take action?
Mr. Newton : I am especially interested in the way in which the hon. Gentleman has sought to get away from the subject of United Biscuits. He has started talking about Lord Hanson, who received a knighthood in the lavender list. [Laughter.]
The Leader of the House might have mentioned the fact that Lord White received a peerage although he spends most of his time overseas, in the United States. That was a good pay-off. So it was not surprising that, when one of our leading companies was threatened, there was not much action by the Government to defend it.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : My hon. Friend mentioned United Biscuits and the substantial contribution that it has made to the Conservative party. Is he aware that United Biscuits pressed for the abolition of the Potato Marketing Board, with a view to securing a substantial reduction in the price of potatoes? United Biscuits did that because it is one of Britain's largest users of potatoes, in its processing plants.
The general view in the potato industry is that there is a direct link between the abolition of the Potato Marketing Board and the contribution to the Conservative party. [Laughter.] That is the general view in the farming industry. Let Conservative Members deny it.
Mr. Hoyle : I am amazed at the hilarity shown by Conservative Members when my hon. Friend made that telling point. Do they no longer want farmers' votes? Are the contributions from United Biscuits more important to the Conservative party than farmers' votes?
I could carry on with a long list--[ Hon. Members :-- "More."] If I had time, I could go on to Taylor Woodrow and P and O, and Sir Jeffrey--now Lord--Sterling, and many more. But I shall not bore you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I hope that the answer to many of the questions that I have asked will be given by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, the chairman of the Conservative party. Asil Nadir believes--with much justification in my view--that he has been extremely badly treated by the Conservative party. The Conservatives now admit that he gave £400,000, and Mr. Nadir claims to have given an awful lot more. Some of that £400,000 was given after it was alleged that he stole money from Polly Peck. [ Hon. Members :-- "Alleged."] Of course, alleged.
If any of us wanted to buy a television set in a pub, he would probably look twice at it before buying, and if it turned out to be stolen, he would be charged with receiving stolen goods. Yet the Conservatives will not give the money back. They say that they may if it is demanded of them, yet they know that that money was not shown in Polly Peck's financial returns.
Column 203it had come from an illegal source. That was most interesting, and I wonder whether my hon. Friend knows whether there is any record of the Conservative party ever having given back a donation.
Mr. Hoyle : No, not that we know of, but then, of course, the Conservatives are not very good at publishing records of any kind. Let us consider Mr. Asil Nadir and his friends in the Conservative party. We know that he is charged with theft and fraud to the value of £30 million. We also know that he jumped bail of £3.5 million. I wrote to the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), to tell him that I intended to raise certain points. I am sorry that he is not here today. It is rumoured that, quite apart from the loan of a Volvo, he dined with Mr. Nadir on the Saturday before Mr. Nadir left the country on the following Tuesday. I would have been very interested to learn from the hon. Member for East Hampshire what they discussed over that dinner.
I find it very surprising that the newspapers state that the hon. Member for East Hampshire has complained that Polly Peck was undermined by MI6. Having served on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry which examined the supergun affair, I am not too surprised about that claim. However, it is astonishing that the person who is rumoured to have made that accusation is still a Minister responsible for security in Northern Ireland. That is rather amazing. I agree that the names of the other people involved should be known. One of those who spoke and wrote on behalf of Mr. Nadir unfortunately cannot be with us today the President of the Board of Trade. I would have liked to hear why the President of the Board of Trade had lunch with Mr. Morgan, who handles Mr. Nadir's PR. Mr. Morgan denies that they talked about Mr. Nadir, but the President of the Board of Trade said they did. What was there to hide when Mr. Morgan had to deny that they spoke about Mr. Nadir?
I would have liked to ask the President of the Board of Trade why it has been decided not to strike Mr. Nadir off as being unfit to hold company office. I would also have liked to ask the President of the Board of Trade why, even though the Serious Fraud Office had been informed that Mr. Nadir might leave the country, he was able to fly away on a small plane without let or hindrance.
There are many questions which should be answered in relation to that matter. However, I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House --[ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I am prepared to sit down now if we are going to hear about the missing millions. The Conservative party has brought all this on itself. The Conservatives received secret funds and donations, not only from companies in this country, which are not recorded, but from people outside this country who do not have a right to vote here. I believe that that practice should be stopped.
Why does not the Conservative party take up the offer that we have made-- something with which hon. Members representing other parties would agree-- and publish everything so that we know the source of all the donations? We would then know who is pulling the Conservative party's strings, and why, and how much those people are paying for the privilege of doing just that.
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Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield) : Frankly, that was a fair old ramble through the undergrowth. With respect to the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), he asked me a number of questions, but he ended up providing the answers to them himself. When he referred to Lord Hanson and Lord Laing, he raised the issue of two people who were actually first honoured by Labour Governments. That seems to be the entire answer to the point that he was making.
As the House will know, for the past 12 months I have been the chairman of the Conservative party organisation. In addition, as the House will know, I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee for almost two hours last week. I will therefore seek to be brief in setting out my position.
Let me start by dealing with the allegation in The Guardian this morning to which reference has already been made and which has received a great deal of publicity. It was alleged that the Conservative party received millions of pounds in cash from the Saudi Arabian royal family and that the donation followed a meeting in London between a Cabinet Minister and prominent Saudis with close links to the Saudi Government and royal family.
That allegation was picked up by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett). In the article she is quoted as saying that she would raise the matter in today's debate. She did not raise it until I raised it with her.
That allegation and charge has been proved to be-- [Interruption.] Okay, that charge has now been countered and it is said that it is totally untrue. I want to quote the statement made by the Saudi ambassador to the United States. He said :
"All the allegations in The Guardian's article are untrue and wholly without foundation. No such meeting took place. The allegations are baseless and harmful fabrications and, in view of the serious nature of these allegations, His Royal Highness the Ambassador is taking legal advice as to the appropriate course of action to allow him to obtain a full retraction and an apology." That is the position and I believe that it would now be right for the right hon. Member for Derby, South to dissociate herself from the matter.
Mrs. Beckett : There is no need for the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) to bellow. There is nothing that I need to withdraw. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) wanted to know why I did not raise the matter in my speech. I had intended to do that, but before I reached that point, the right hon. Gentleman had already intervened. What I said in the press, what is certainly true and what I have no need to withdraw is that very serious allegations had been made and I said that I would raise them or see that they were raised in the debate so that there could be an opportunity for those allegations to be refuted or confirmed. What is there to withdraw in that?
Sir Norman Fowler : The right hon. Lady really cannot be as naive as that--if she is, she should not be the deputy leader of the Labour party. She is giving credence to that kind of rumour and allegation. In investing in and putting her name to the matter, she knows perfectly well what she is doing and she should have dissociated herself from it.
Mr. Soley : The right hon. Gentleman is missing something that the Government have missed throughout the debate. The point is that the Government could disprove all of this by publishing the accounts. The issue arises from the fact that a number of people, including those in the Saudi embassy, have said that this took place. We cannot know whether that is true, but we do know that the Government make a distinction between Governments giving money and the money given by individuals. In the Saudi case, individuals may have been directly involved in that money because of the peculiar monarchic situation in Saudi Arabia. That is why the only way out of the trap is for the Government to publish the figures.
Sir Norman Fowler : Again, that is exactly the kind of smear and rumour that we have heard all afternoon. I challenge the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) to make those comments outside the House. He knows that he would not then have the privilege that he has inside this place.
Mr. Soley rose--