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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Can Tories get away with one sided changes to party funding?

The Telegraph reports that reforms proposed in the Trade Union Bill, which will ban public sector bodies from automatically deducting subscription fees from workers' wages, could lead to Labour losing £8 million a year from its funding.

The Labour Party depends on the unions for millions of pounds in donations every year and under the current system all donations are automatically collected as part of the regular membership fee. However, Conservatives have argued that the approach is "outdated" and leaves the taxpayer with a £6.5 million bill every year to help fund union payments.

That may well be the case, however it is clear even to independent observers that this is not about saving the public money but has been politically motivated. I agree with Labour's General Secretary that the measures in the bill are ill considered, unfair and unsustainable. They are an attempt to sneak party funding reform through by the back door to the Tories' own advantage.

If we are to have reform of political party funding then it needs to be carried out across the board and should look at all the parties. Ideally it should be taken forward on a non-partisan basis with everybody having an input. Instead we are getting a one-sided change that benefits only the sitting Government.

The question is whether the Tories will get these changes through the House of Lords. Peers have already sent these clauses to a sub-committee to be looked at more closely. If that inquiry were to extend its scope then we might start to get somewhere with a more equitable reform.
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