- Boris Johnson’s Tories have taken more than £ 60million from the property sector over the past decade.
- This represents more than a fifth of all reportable donations received by the party, the highest ratio of any UK party.
- Activists say financial dependence puts ministers “under pressure to provide exclusive access.”
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has an “unhealthy financial dependence” on donations from the real estate sector, activists warned, as they revealed new figures indicating the extent of support for the party.
The Transparency International UK study found that between January 2010 and March 2020, £ 60.8million was paid to custodians by individuals and businesses in the property industry.
This figure represents more than a fifth of the reportable donations received by the Tories, the highest ratio of any political party in the UK.
Much of that money came from a small number of people, with one in ten pounds of donations reported to Conservative Party headquarters between 2015 and 2019 from just ten donors.
Duncan Hames, former Liberal Democrat MP and policy director of Transparency International UK, told Insider: “While it’s no secret that political parties receive a large chunk of their funding from a relatively small number of people. Donors, the extent to which the Conservative Party depends financially on those with significant real estate interests is a serious concern.
“Unhealthy financial dependence on those with vested interests in a sector puts pressure on ministers to provide exclusive access, which creates a real risk that decisions will be biased in their favor. Breaking this dependence is essential to eliminate the risk of undue influence and free the government to explore bolder solutions to deal with the housing crisis. “
Ties between the Conservative Party and the real estate industry are not limited to donations, with hundreds of meetings reported between ministers and lobby groups on real estate issues.
Transparency International UK’s analysis of government reports on ministerial meetings found that there were 669 meetings to discuss housing issues between January 2017 and March 2020.
Individual Conservative MPs also have strong ties to the industry. Insider reported last month that former Welsh Minister Alun Cairns met with a Singaporean firm that owned a £ 500million real estate empire leased to the UK government. Since leaving his ministerial post he has accepted a £ 30,000 a year job with the company.
Opposition Labor Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: “It’s no wonder the Tories are resisting greater transparency on real estate ownership, as party coffers are teeming with so much money from big overseas real estate moguls.
“This is yet another example of how transparency rules for lobbying ministers are not suited to their purpose. We need to know who is pressuring ministers, what they expect from the government and what is discussed when they meet.
“We need urgent reform. It cannot be true that this is one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone.”
Duncan Hames said: “Access to and potential influence over British politics remains woefully opaque. We know more about those who seek to shape planning decisions in rural Ireland than about the private interests attempting to shaping decisions and housing policy in Whitehall.
“Time and time again, we see departments failing to follow their own transparency rules when the limited statutory registry of consultant lobbyists paints only a tiny part of the picture. A major overhaul of UK lobbying rules is needed to increase transparency and ensure there are fewer corners to hide irregularities. “
The group proposes to end the influence of big donors in politics by introducing a limit of £ 10,000 on donations from individuals and businesses per donor per year.
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the Party receives – they are entirely separate.
“Donations to the Conservative Party are appropriately and transparently reported to the Election Commission, published by it, and fully comply with the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer funding for political campaigns, which means less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.
“The Conservative Party is delivering on its clear commitments to deliver more housing, with the supply of new housing reaching its highest level in 30 years. Working with the housing industry is a critical part of building new homes and building new homes. regeneration of brownfields. “