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Tory co-treasurer claims access to Cameron can be bought


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Labour calls for independent inquiry into 'incredibly serious' Tory donor claims

Labour has written letter to Prime Minister demanding disclosure of donors who have visited Downing Street, Chequers or Dorneywood and the policy representations they made, following Tory co-treasure's claims that access to Cameron can be bought.

By Patrick Hennessy

1:14PM BST 25 March 2012

The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9165600/Labour-calls-for-independent-inquiry-into-incredibly-serious-Tory-donor-claims.html

The letter, from Shadow minister Michael Dugher, follows an admission by co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, filmed by undercover Sunday Times reporters, that access to David Cameron and other 'Premier League' Tory politicians costs between £2000,000 and £250,000.

The Prime Minister, interviewed as he prepared to run a mile for Sport Relief this morning, criticised Cruddas for what he said were "completely unacceptable' claims, said he was right to resign and promised a party inquiry.

Asked if there would be funding reforms, however, Mr Cameron replied that he had already addressed funding issues in his party before turning his back on the interviewer and racing off.

"We've reformed party funding," he said. "I took over a party with £20 million of debt. It's now virtually debt-free.

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"We've massively broadened our supporter base. We have very strict rules, very strict compliance, and I'm going to make sure that the rules are properly complied with in every case."

Labour said that a party inquiry wasn't good enough and demanded a full independent inquiry to get to the bottom of what it called "serious allegations."called for a full independent inquiry into the "incredibly serious" allegations of influence for donations.

"Today you said that you would ensure there was 'a proper party inquiry' into these matters," he wrote to Mr Cameron.

"However, given the seriousness of the allegations about how Government is conducted, it is not appropriate for the Conservative Party to investigate itself. We need a full, independent inquiry.

"Therefore I ask that you now request the Independent Adviser on Standards in Public Life to launch an inquiry into this matter, to answer these and any other related questions he sees fit."

The letter went on to demand that he disclose which Tory donors had visited Downing Street, Chequers or Dorneywood since May 2010 and what policy representations they had made, particularly on the top rate of income tax that was cut in Wednesday's Budget.

Tory peer Lord Fink will replace Peter Cruddas as the party's principal treasurer, following his resignation, it was announced earlier today.

Hedge fund millionaire Lord Fink previously held the role until earlier this month, when it was taken over by Mr Cruddas.

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said Mr Cruddas's comments were "utterly disgraceful" and made the case for reform of party funding - an issue that came under scrutiny when Tony Blair's government was embroiled in allegations that honours were awarded in return for cash for the Labour Party.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband said: "The idea that policy is for sale is grotesque."

The Labour MP claimed the disclosures showed that the Tories had not changed.

Peter Cruddas, who runs an online trading company, allegedly told potential donors that gifts of more than £200,000 would get them into the party's "premier league."

This would be enough to get donors invitations to dinners with the Prime Minister and George Osborne, the Chancellor, it was alleged. Mr Cruddas was apparently filmed making the offer to undercover reporters.

He was filmed apparently telling reporters posing as businessmen that making a large donation would be "awesome for your business" and that "things will open up for you".

A Conservative spokesman insisted no donation resulting from any such offers had ever been accepted and said the party always abided by electoral law.

In a statement Mr Cruddas said: "I only took up the post of principal Treasurer of the Party at the beginning of the month and was keen to meet anyone potentially interested in donating.

"As a result, and without consulting any politicians or senior officials in the party, I had an initial conversation. No further action was taken by the party.

“However, I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation. Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.

Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the number ten policy unit. But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect.”

The claims threaten to restart the row over party political funding, which have currently hit an impasse after years of negotiations.

Expert said there was now a greater chance of some form of state funding for political parties to come in.

Mr Cruddas, who is the founder of Currency Management Consultants, was appointed co-treasurer by the Tories in June 2011.

In secretly filmed footage Mr Cruddas is heard apparently discussing what access different size donations might get at various levels of the party.

"Two hundred grand to 250 is Premier League… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners," he allegedly says.

"You do really pick up a lot of information and when you see the Prime Minister, you're seeing David Cameron, not the Prime Minister.

"But within that room everything is confidential - you can ask him practically any question you want.

"If you're unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at number 10 - we feed all feedback to the policy committee."

Reports claimed Mr Cruddas offered access even though he knew the "money" would come from a fund in based in Liechtenstein that was not allowed to make donations under UK electoral law.

A Tory spokesman said: "No donation was ever accepted or even formally considered by the Conservative Party. All donations to the Conservative Party have to comply with the requirements of electoral law. These are strictly enforced by our compliance department.

“Unlike the Labour Party, where union donations are traded for party policies, donations to the Conservative Party do not buy party or government policy. “We will urgently investigate any evidence to the contrary.”

Reports claimed meetings with Mr Cameron and other senior Tory figures were available at both 10 Downing street and Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire.

Mr Cruddas was said to have alleged that attendance at dinners with Mr Cameron earns the Conservative party some £5million a year. Mr Cruddas is said to have amassed a £750million fortune through spread betting, is a member of the party's ruling board as well as being a co-treasurer.

Mr Cameron said in 2010 that political lobbying was the "next big scandal" waiting to happen in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal uncovered by The Telegraph the previous year.

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Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2012/mar/25/cash-for-policy-deep-offence

The chief mystery in the latest cash-for-access scandal is how Peter Cruddas was ever appointed Tory treasurer and doorkeeper to Downing Street influence for a donation of a mere £1.2m. For a rich City dealer and one-time Monaco resident, he was an accident waiting to happen. David Cameron and George Osborne should have demanded £10m at least.

Once again the poison of ambition has impregnated British party funding and claimed another victim. At first sight, the idea of paying £250,000 to join a "premier league" of donors who may kiss the hem of power might seem unobjectionable. As in the case of access to Prince Andrew, if some people will pay large sums to rub shoulders with celebrity, so be it. It is simpler than supertax. The sums involved pale against those now tormenting US presidential politics and clearly corrupting the processes of Congress.

What is out of order is when rubbing shoulders becomes twisting arms. The evidence revealed in the Sunday Times on 25 March was that Cruddas not only acknowledged this crossover but positively boasted about it.

Cruddas told undercover reporters: "If you are unhappy about something … we'll listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10." The implication of being able to buy influence over policy was clear.

Nor was that all. It is illegal for foreign companies to give to British political parties, because of past abuse. Yet when the reporters said their money came from Liechtenstein, Cruddas proffered his "compliance unit" to disguise the source of the donations by routing them through a UK company or "registered" UK citizens. A device was being openly canvassed to get money illegally into Tory coffers.

Before the last election Cameron could not have been more explicit. "Secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics … with money buying power, power fishing for money, and a cosy club at the top making decisions in their own interest."

He promised to sort it out. He appears not to have done so. We read of private suppers in the Camerons' flat, dinners at Downing Street and visits to Chequers, all sold for six-figure sums on the semi-open market, and with the "policy committee" come-on attached.

It is hard to believe Cameron and Osborne were unaware of what was going on, even if they were not privy to Cruddas's earthy style.

The Conservative party is nowadays a wholly centralised organisation under the direct authority of the leader and his chief strategist, in this case Osborne.

These men were hosting events at which "plates" cost tens of thousands of pounds. They cannot be so naive as to think that total strangers paying to dine with them did so for nothing but adoration and the love of a good meal. The gap is easily bridged between a sip of champagne and a whisper in the ear.

This government has proved alarmingly susceptible to lobbying and "bought favours". This weekend's strange raising from the dead of the Heathrow third runway option stemmed from the furious activity of BAA and its lobbyists, who were determined to reverse successive coalition pledges to kill it.

Cameron's veto, against diplomatic advice, of a new EU treaty, and opposition to a Tobin tax, was mentioned in the Sunday Times as the outcome of bought pressure, whether or not the pressure was needed. The vexed NHS reform has been afflicted by blizzards of lobbying.

Links between Tory donors and special interests behind the forthcoming planning policy document have been extensively reported. Lobbyists on the "practitioner committee" were even left to draft the document. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been given to the party by developer interests pressing for an end to protection of the English countryside. Contacts between these interests and senior ministers in recent months have dwarfed any with the Murdoch press.

The Cruddas affair will add to pressure on parliament to get a grip on the system of donations to political parties, as recommended in last year's Phillips report.

The sale of honours, subject of constant scandal and inquiry, continues unabated under the coalition. But revelations of cash for access and thus cash for policy are more serious – a deep offence against democracy.

The casualness of the political parties, all of which have had mishaps with dodgy donors, suggests a continued desire to play fast and loose with ethics in the hope of forcing public opinion to replace private donors with state aid.

Opponents of this say parties should support themselves from members' subscriptions rather than from taxpayers or rich donors – and cut their cloth to match. Either way, a means must be found of disengaging party donations from political lobbying.

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Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP: "The problem is that policy is being run by two public schoolboys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunchboxes. What's worse, they don't care, either."

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Cash for access: David Cameron admits dinners with 'significant' Tory party donors

David Cameron has admitted he had dinner with ''significant'' Conservative Party donors at his flat in Downing Street on three occasions and a post-election dinner in No 10 since becoming Prime Minister.

The Telegraph

1:30PM BST 26 Mar 2012

The Prime Minister admitted he has held a series of meeting with the high profile donors since he won the general election in 2010.

Downing Street admitted they included Tory treasurer Michael Spencer and his partner, David Rowland - who gave more than £2m to the party in 2010 - and his wife, Ian Taylor and his wife and Henry and Dorothy Angest.

On a fourth occasion, the PM added, donors were present at a post-election celebration in Downing Street. The dinners have not been paid for by the taxpayer and on occasion Mr Cameron cooks.

But Mr Cameron insisted that most of the guests at the dinners were long-standing acquaintances and former Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas had never recommended that a donor should be invited.

The Conservative Party also released a list of dinners at No 10 attended by significant donors, including the "thank-you dinner" following the general election on July 14 2010.

Those who attended were Anthony Bamford of JCB, hedge fund tycoon Michael Hintze, Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan, Tory peer Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Lansdowne Partners chief executive Sir Paul Ruddock, City financier Mike Farmer and Michael Freeman.

On February 28 last year, property tycoon and major donor David Rowland, who had previously been appointed party treasurer but quit before taking up the post, attended a dinner in the flat, along with party co-chairman Lord Feldman.

On November 2 last year, Mr Cameron held a "social dinner for strong and long-term supporters of the party, with whom the PM has a strong relationship", including banker and Tory donor Henry Angest, Mr Farmer and oil company boss Ian Taylor.

And on February 27 this year, he held a social dinner with former treasurer and major donor Michael Spencer and his partner.

In a short statement ahead of a speech in London, Mr Cameron said he was ordering the Conservative party to publish details of all meals with donors on a quarterly basis.

Mr Cruddas was forced to resign his post on Saturday after the Sunday Times published secret recordings in which he told undercover reporters that they could secure meetings with senior ministers by giving the party money.

Mr Cameron announced that Conservative peer and senior lawyer Lord Gold will lead a party inquiry into the Cruddas affair. He also stressed that no members of the No 10 policy unit had met individuals at the request of Mr Cruddas.

Pressure had been mounting on the Prime Minister to publish details of his private meetings with donors since the "cash-for-access" story broke at the weekend.

He decided to use opening comments before a speech on dementia care in London to make a statement on the affair.

"In the two years I have been Prime Minister, there have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to a dinner in my flat," Mr Cameron said.

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

He added: "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 ever to do so - and I also publish all meetings that I have with media editors and proprietors.

"From now on, the Conservative Party will publish details every quarter of any meals attended by any major donors, whether they take place at Downing Street, Chequers, or any other official residence."

He said it was publicly known that the Conservatives ran a "Leader's Group" for those who donated more than £50,000.

"From now on, the Conservative Party will in addition publish a register of the major donors who actually attend those fundraising meetings," he added.

Mr Cameron said he had broadened the Tories' funding base since becoming leader, but there was still an "urgent need" for wider reform in British politics.

"I am 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 private individuals or businesses."

Mr Cameron announced new procedures to be followed by ministers if they are approached by donors on policy issues.

Mr Cruddas said major donors would be able to feed ideas into the "policy committee" at Downing Street.

But Mr Cameron said that no such committee existed, and no one from the No 10 Policy Unit had ever met anyone as a result of a request from the former co-treasurer.

He added: "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 will refer this to his or her private office, who can seek guidance from the permanent secretary."

Downing Street said it would not be releasing retrospective records of party dinners at Chequers as it would be difficult to provide an accurate record.

It said there had been no "donor only" meals at the grace and favour estate. It will release details of events with significant donors in the future.

No 10 denied there was anything wrong with the Prime Minister meeting activists who happen to have donated money to the Conservatives and pointed out his mother is a party donor.

It said that while No 10 was a Government building, Chequers was held in trust. Cross-party talks are expected to start this week about party funding, led by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, for the Conservatives.

A spokeswoman said: "We don't want to go ahead without cross-party agreement."

Labour leader Ed Miliband is to respond to the Commons statement being made by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude later.

Sources said Mr Miliband had contacted Mr Cameron's office this morning, insisting that the Prime Minister should be leading in the House for the Government.

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Cash for access: full list of Downing Street dinner attendees

David Cameron has admitted he had dinner with ''significant'' Conservative Party donors at his flat in Downing Street on three occasions and a post-election dinner in No 10 since becoming Prime Minister.

The Telegraph

1:45PM BST 26 Mar 2012

Here are the details of dinners at official residences that were attended by individuals who had donated more than £50,000:

:: July 14, 2010 - 10 Downing Street. Described as a ''thank-you dinner'' inside Number 10 itself, while flat was being refurbished.

Anthony and Carole Bamford

Michael and Dorothy Hintze

Murdoch and Elsa MacLennan

Andrew Feldman

Jill and Paul Ruddock

Mike and Jenny Farmer

Michael and Clara Freeman

:: February 28, 2011 - Downing Street flat.

David Rowland and his wife.

Andrew Feldman also attended.

:: November 2, 2011 - Downing Street flat. Described as a ''social dinner for strong and long term supporters of the party, with whom the PM has a strong relationship''.

Henry and Dorothy Angest

Michael Farmer and wife

Ian Taylor and wife

:: February 27, 2012 - Downing Street flat. Said to have been a ''social dinner''.

Michael Spencer and partner.

Source: Conservative Party

Edited by Douglas Caddy
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Nicolas Watt, The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/mar/26/david-cameron-private-dinners-tory-donors

David Cameron was forced to admit that he had hosted wealthy Tory donors who have given a total of £23m to his party at a series of private dinners and lunches in Downing Street and at Chequers, the prime minister's official country residence, since the general election.

In a chaotic day, which saw Downing Street embark on a series of U-turns, the Conservative party announced that the controversial donor Lord Ashcroft headed a list of millionaire supporters invited to Chequers over the past two years.

Hours earlier the Tories admitted that the prime minister hosted a "thank you dinner" in Downing Street in July 2010 for six donors and their wives, plus the Tory co-chair Lord Feldman of Elstree, who have donated a total of £18m to the party. The Chequers donors have given the party a further £5m.

George Osborne, who vowed to play no role in party fundraising after he became entangled in the so-called "Yachtgate" affair in 2008, was dragged into the row when his office admitted that he has hosted donors at his official Dorneywood country residence.

Treasury sources said that Howard Leigh, Lord Feldman and Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, were invited as part of larger social groups. No events at Dorneywood were organised specifically for donors.

Nick Clegg rallied to the help of Cameron last night by saying that cross-party talks on party funding reforms, one of his responsibilities, should be launched this week. In a statement issued from the nuclear security summit in Seoul, he said: "Controversy about how political parties are funded has affected all parties at one time or another. The system doesn't work. We need to fix it and fix it fast, and that's why I want to see cross-party talks start this week."

The release of the Chequers, No 10 and Dorneywood guest lists were designed to draw a line under the party funding row which Downing Street has struggled to contain after the Sunday Times revealed that the Tory treasurer, Peter Cruddas, was touting access to Cameron. Cruddas resigned on Saturday night after the Sunday Times released a video of him in which he told undercover reporters that a donation of £200,000 or £250,000 would give "premier league" access to the prime minister and other leading figures.

Downing Street hoped it had closed the issue down when it announced on Sunday that Lord Feldman would take charge of an internal party inquiry to discover how Cruddas had suggested there was a tariff for meeting the prime minister.

But the Downing Street fightback stumbled on when Feldman was withdrawn from the inquiry after it emerged that he had appointed Cruddas as treasurer. Cameron announced that Lord Gold, a Tory lawyer, would take charge of the inquiry.

Officials initially indicated that the prime minister had hosted a few private dinners in Downing Street for donors who were friends and that no details would be released. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who is the lead Tory negotiator on party funding, said on the Today programme early yesterday it was "nonsense" to be be obsessed with the private dinners which were attended by the likes of Michael Spencer, the former Tory treasurer, who is a personal friend of Cameron's.

"The fact that that happens does not mean that what you get as a donor to the party is the ability to be invited to Downing Street as a guest of the prime minister," Maude said.

But as Labour made clear they would demand the prime minister answer questions in parliament, Downing Street embarked on its first U-turn of the day. Cameron opened a speech on dementia in London by announcing that he would publish a list of all donors invited to dinners in Downing Street.

The list revealed that, far from inviting friends round for a private dinner, he had hosted six donors plus their wives to a dinner in the main part of 10 Downing Street. He also invited Feldman, Tory co-chair, who is also a donor and Murdo MacLennan, the chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group, who is not a donor.

There were also a further three dinners in the prime minister's flat above No 11. Rowland and Spencer were invited with their wives on, respectively, 28 February 2011 and February 2012. Cameron said: "None of these dinners were fundraising dinners and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer. I have known most of those attending for many years."

On Radio 4's The World at One, Jack Straw, the former Labour foreign secretary, said of the U-turn: "This is symptomatic of pandemonium that has broken out inside the Conservative party at the highest reaches of government.

"Why on earth could they not have said this on Saturday night?"

As Maude prepared to address MPs at 3.30pm, Downing Street officials said they would not release details of dinners or lunches attended by donors at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence.

Sources said it would be too difficult to find the names because a full list is only kept of guests whose meals are paid by the government. Meals for donors are paid by the Conservative party.

Within 30 minutes, however, the Tories changed tack and announced that a list would be released. This showed that Ashcroft and his wife were invited to lunch on 6 June 2010, a month after the general election. Spencer and his partner were invited on 31 May 2010. Rowland and his wife were invited in August 2010, the month he stood down as treasurer.

Ed Miliband dismissed the internal Tory inquiry. "It is completely inadequate, given the scale of these allegations, for an investigation into what happened to be conducted by the Conservative party.

"A Conservative peer, appointed by the prime minister, an inquiry into the Conservative party, by the Conservative party and for the Conservative party – it is a whitewash and everyone knows it," the Labour leader said.

"This scandal speaks to the conduct and character of this prime minister and his government," he said. "Anything short of an independent inquiry will leave a permanent stain on the reputation of this government and this prime minister."

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Cash for access: David Cameron facing questions over donations from firm owned by Palestinian billionaire

David Cameron faced fresh questions about political donations last night after it emerged that a British subsidiary of a company owned by a Palestinian billionaire had given £173,500 to the Conservative Party.

The Telegraph

By Cal Flyn and Gordon Rayner

10:00PM BST 27 Mar 2012

Between Oct 2009 and May last year the Tories accepted five separate donations from CC Property, whose sole income is from rent paid to it by another Tory donor, Consolidated Contractors International (UK).

Both companies are owned by Said Khoury, a construction magnate based in Athens.

A director of the companies disclosed yesterday that he had met David Cameron, while another director is a close friend of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son and one-time heir Saif al-Islam.

Electoral law states that political parties can only be funded by people registered to vote in this country, or by British companies.

Jack Straw, the former home secretary, has written to the Electoral Commission calling for an investigation into allegations that the Conservative Party is prepared to accept donations from companies based overseas.

How should political parties be funded?

Taxpayers should fund all parties

Private funding should be capped at £10,000 and state funding increased

Private funding should be capped at £50,000

Private donations should not be capped but should all be declared

Parties should be forced to check the eligibility of donors contributing more than £500 and should have to declare loans above £1,500

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It comes after a newspaper sting at the weekend showed Peter Cruddas, the Tory party co-treasurer, who has since resigned, encouraging potential foreign donors to "set up a company, employ some people to work here" as a way to circumvent those rules.

Mr Straw said "The principle is very clear and in addition to this, new laws I introduced in 2009 ensured that you can't use front organisations to disguise the original source of the donation."

Mr Khoury, who is worth an estimated £4 billion, is the ultimate owner of CC Property Company and Consolidated Contractors International (UK).

CCI (UK) is also a Tory donor, having given £8,500 in August last year.

Antoine Mattar, a British accountant, is a director of both UK companies.

He told The Daily Telegraph he had been introduced to David Cameron, but it was at a party “for four or five hundred people” at The Carlton Club in London, an elite gentlemen’s club for Conservative supporters.

He denied that the company was created to funnel foreign money into the Tory party or that Mr Khoury gained access to Conservative ministers.

He said: "We have the same philosophy as [the Conservative Party]. We don't ask for anything in return."

He said Mr Khoury had never met Mr Cameron, "and if you asked him, he wouldn't know who the [british] prime minister is”.

Mr Mattar admitted that CC Property’s only income came from CCI (UK), the British arm of Mr Khoury’s construction group, which shares the same Knightsbridge address.

But he insisted: “The money is not coming in from overseas – the money that comes out from our company here is nothing to do with who the ultimate owner is.”

Asked if CC Property had any other activities than renting space to CCI, he said: “We’re in the process of buying other property.”

Another director of both companies is Marwan Salloum, a Lebanese solicitor who was photographed on holiday with Saif Gaddafi in 2010, before the Libyan uprising. He was photographed sailing on a yacht off the Brazilian coast with Gaddafi and several bikini-clad women.

As well as donating money to the Conservative Party, CC Property gave £17,076 to the Conservative Middle East Council last October.

Meanwhile CCI (UK) actively lobbies MPs and has flown MPs from both main parties to countries where it has commercial interests.

Bob Spink, the former Tory and UKIP MP, took three trips to Kazakhstan, between 2002 and 2004, partly funded by Consolidated Contractors International, which donated £3,000 towards his travel costs.

John Mann, Labour MP and Secretary of British Kazakhstan All-Party Parliamentary Group, joined Mr Spink on the two of those visits and Linda Gilroy, former Labour MP, also went on two of the same trips.

Both Fraser Kemp, the former Labour MP and Tim Loughton, a Tory, were given flights worth £1408 to and from Tajikistan in 2009.

All of the donations and foreign trips were cleared by the Electoral Commission, which polices political donations.

Michael Dugher, the shadow minister without portfolio, said: “Day by day the questions for David Cameron over cash for access seem to be mounting.”

A Conservative party spokesman said “All donations to the Conservative Party comply fully with Electoral Commission rules. There is no question of individuals either influencing policy or gaining an unfair advantage by virtue of their financial contributions to the Conservative Party."

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Cash for access: Peter Cruddas 'bankrolled Chequers event'

Peter Cruddas, the disgraced former Tory party treasurer, claimed to have direct access to Prime Minister David Cameron on at least 13 occasions – even bankrolling a dinner at Chequers, it was reported today.

The Telegraph

8:49AM BST 01 Apr 2012

Mr Cruddas was forced to resign last week after he was secretly filmed by undercover reporters from The Sunday Times boasting that he could provide access to Mr Cameron and other ministers and influence over policy for "premier league" donors giving £250,000 to the party.

In the wake of the disclosures the Conservatives released details of party donors attending dinners and lunches held at the Prime Minister's official residences at No 10 and Chequers.

Today, The Sunday Times – publishing further details from its investigation – said that Mr Cruddas described having direct access to Mr Cameron on at least 13 occasions, including a dinner in London's Belgrave Square on the Prime Minister's birthday.

He was also said to have claimed he served a "ruby murray" – curry – to Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, when she was his dinner companion at a charity event at Chequers, which he sponsored.

Although the event, on October 15 last year, was mentioned on the list released by the Conservatives, no reference was made to Mr Cruddas's involvement.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said: "Over last weekend there was speculation about dinners in the Prime Minister's flat in Downing Street.

"In response to this, the Conservative Party published details of occasions when significant donors had lunch or dinner in official residences used by the Prime Minister, ie Downing Street and Chequers.

"The Conservative Party never claimed that it was publishing details of every occasion the Prime Minister had met with a donor and explicitly did not publish details of the Chequers charity opera event in aid of Mencap and other smaller charities.

"This was attended by a large number of people, including donors to both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. It is a long-standing event, organised by a fund-raising committee and it raised £1 million for the charities."

Shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said Mr Cameron now needed to "comes clean" about the full scale of his meetings with wealthy Tory donors.

"He needs to establish an independent inquiry immediately so people can have confidence that this matter will be resolved," he said.

"This drip, drip of revelations cannot be allowed to continue. We need a full list of all donors met by David Cameron, not just those the Conservatives themselves class as 'significant'."

Details of Mr Cruddas's involvement have emerged as David Cameron faces questions over meetings with a fund-raising group at Downing Street.

The Prime Minister, the party's chairman Lord Feldman and another senior Tory met to discuss the leadership of the Conservative Foundation, which allows people to leave tax-free legacies to the party.

The Downing Street gathering on January 11 last year has been revealed by Lord Hesketh, who was sacked as chairman of the foundation at the same meeting. "It was in a ground floor office," said the peer, who previously served as Conservative party treasurer and as a Tory minister in the 1980s and 1990s.

A Conservative Party spokesman acknowledged the meeting had taken place, but denied that fund-raising had been discussed. The sole purpose of the meeting was to discuss Lord Hesketh's successor as chairman of the foundation, the spokesman said.

"No meeting of the Conservative Foundation has ever been held at Downing Street," he said. "All board meeting of the foundation are held either in the private offices of board members or at Conservative Party Headquarters."

A Tory source added: "This was not a meeting of the Conservative Foundation – it was a meeting to discuss Lord Hesketh's replacement."

Nevertheless, the meeting could be judged as a breach of the Ministerial Code, which states: "Facilities provided to ministers at government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties should not be used for Party or constituency work."

The Conservative Foundation was set up in 2005 and launched by Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major. The foundation's website describes it as "an integral part of the Conservative family".

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