Straw ‘supports’ party spending cap

Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons, has said he is in favour of placing greater limits on the amount of money that political parties can spend.

Although he believes the existing mechanisms in place to stop parties from overspending are “effective”, Mr Straw still thinks that there is room for improvement.

“The current arrangements are pretty effective in filtering this. Sometimes they may fall down a bit, but we have got to improve those,” he said on BBC One’s Sunday AM.

He added: “But the other point about this is the overall issue of party funding and one of the things I am obviously looking at is whether you should cap the overall level of party funding more than it is capped today.”

Mr Straw said that while limits on party spending were necessary, as currently caps are only in place during election periods, a degree of state funding was needed because at the same time as spending by all parties had doubled during the last quarter of a century, the number of party memberships had more than halved.

But he emphasised the importance of greater consistency with regards to party spending.

“I think there is a strong argument to have caps on spending both nationally and locally the whole time, so that you do not make an arbitrary distinction between elections and the non-election period,” he said.

Mr Straw’s remarks come while Hayden Philips is conducting a review into the way in which parties are funded after the cash-for-peerages scandal earlier this year, in which it was rumoured wealthy donors were considered for elevation to the House of Lords.

Today the former foreign secretary denied any suggestion of impropriety, saying: “There was no cash-for-peerages, certainly on the evidence that I have seen.

“I am very grateful personally, not that I have ever benefited from this way, to those people who have made a lot of money in business or whatever it is and have then decided to give some to charity and philanthropy.

“Just as it should not be a qualification for getting into the House of Lords, people have given money to a political party, it should certainly not be a disqualification either,” Mr Straw concluded.