Donors' secret No. 10 dinners: How Dave and Sam's meals with millionaires forced Tory treasurer to quit

Peter Cruddas offered access to PM in return for cash
He suggested donors who agreed to give 250,000 a year would have their ideas 'fed in' to Downing Street
Undercover reporters told they could dine with Mr Cameron, George Osborne and senior ministers
'Bigger donors' visited David and wife Samantha's apartment, he claimed
Mr Miliband called revelations 'disturbing'
Mr Cameron said Cruddas's comments were 'unacceptable'

By Jason Groves

PUBLISHED: 22:13, 25 March 2012 | UPDATED: 11:57, 26 March 2012

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David Cameron confirmed today he has had dinner with 'significant' Conservative Party donors at his flat in Downing Street on three occasions since becoming Prime Minister, as well as at a post-election dinner in No 10 in 2010.

The Prime Minister said he will publish details of the meetings later today, and will order the party to publish details of all meals with donors on a quarterly basis.

But he 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. 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.

Scroll down to hear David Cameron's reaction

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Close relationship: Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas, left, boasted that he could give donors private access to David Cameron, right

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.'


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Government sources were forced to admit the existence of the intimate dinners after Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed boasting that he could provide direct access to the Prime Minister for ‘Premier League’ donors.

But a source said it was ‘simply untrue’ to suggest donors were able to buy access or influence, adding: ‘This was never in exchange for anything. 'The PM is entitled to meet with people even if they happen to have given money to the party.’ But the revelation threatened to bring the ‘cash for access’ scandal to the very heart of Downing Street.

Mr Cruddas, a multi-millionaire who was forced to quit as soon as the revelations became public, suggested major donors who agreed to give 250,000 a year would have their concerns and ideas ‘fed in’ directly to the Downing Street policy unit.
Enlarge PM's words
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He told undercover reporters posing as wealthy foreign businessmen that they could expect to attend dinners with Mr Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and senior ministers if they donated enough cash.[/img]

'Business deals': Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed telling undercover reporters he could arrange private meetings with senior Conservatives

'Business deals': Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed telling undercover reporters he could arrange private meetings with senior Conservatives He went on: ‘Some of our bigger donors have been for dinner in No 10 Downing Street, in the Prime Minister’s private apartment, with Samantha.’ Tory donors invited for dinner are believed to have included billionaire City businessman Michael Spencer, himself a former party treasurer.

Government sources last night said no donation had been offered or accepted, and claimed that Mr Cruddas was acting as a rogue operator whose boasts broke party rules. But the revelation that the Prime Minister has hosted private dinners for donors could leave him open to accusations that he has breached his own ministerial code, which requires ministers to avoid any activity that could be perceived as improper.

In another ominous twist, the Metropolitan Police were last night asked to investigate suggestions that Mr Cruddas or others may have accepted donations from wealthy foreigners – which is illegal under British electoral law. Mr Cameron described Mr Cruddas’s comments as ‘completely unacceptable’, adding: ‘This is not the way that we raise money in the Conservative Party, it shouldn’t have happened.’

The Prime Minister said he was ordering an internal inquiry into the affair. Sources initially suggested it would be led by the party’s co-chairman Lord Feldman, who recruited Mr Cruddas and was effectively his line manager. But the idea was dropped after critics questioned whether Lord Feldman, Mr Cameron’s former tennis partner and closest friend in politics, was sufficiently independent. Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband

Appalled: Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the revelations were 'not an isolated incident' while Labour leader Ed Miliband called the news 'disturbing' Labour called for an independent inquiry and will today press Mr Cameron to make a full Commons statement on the affair.
Pugh: Cash-for-access scandal

Ed Miliband said: ‘These are very disturbing revelations. The Conservative Party has been seeking cash in exchange for access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor and indeed influence over policy making. ‘It’s no way to run a Government or a political party and these allegations can’t be swept under the carpet. There needs to be a proper independent investigation into whether influence was sought, what influence was gained and what impact it had.’

Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, last night warned that the revelations were ‘not an isolated incident’.

He added: ‘As long as we have a system in which the main political parties are reliant on very large donations from very rich individuals – or organisations, in the case of the Labour Party – then events of this kind are almost bound to happen. ‘It is a cancer which needs to be addressed.’ Downing Street last night said it was fast-tracking cross-party talks on reform of party funding. A source said: ‘Clearly the current set-up is not ideal.’

The revelations are deeply embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who pledged two years ago to crack down on the shadowy world of lobbying. The existence of secret dinners with donors also undermines the Coalition’s much-vaunted transparency drive, which allows the public to see who ministers have met in their official capacity.
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