"This could be the first step towards a lasting settlement on party funding"
The Electoral Reform Society has strongly welcomed a vote by Peers in the House of Lords this afternoon to set up a cross-party committee on party funding reform – amidst growing concern that the Trade Union Bill is far too one-sided in its approach to the issue.
Peers voted this afternoon (5pm) by 327 votes to 234 in favour of Baroness Smith of Basildon's motion to create a select committee on the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill which would force union members to 'opt in' to unions' political funds – potentially cutting off up to £6m of Labour's funding every year.
The motion will establish a new committee 'to consider the impact of clauses 10 and 11 of the Trade Union Bill [on unions' Political Funds] in relation to the Committee on Standards in Public Life's report, 'Political Party Finance: ending the big donor culture'' – a major 2011 report on party funding reform.
Peers advocated 'urgent new legislation to balance those provisions [in the Trade Union Bill] with the other recommendations made in the Committee's Report', with the new cross-party select committee set to report by 29 February.
Welcoming the move, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
"This could be the first step towards a lasting settlement on party funding. As things stand, the current Trade Union Bill could take £6m per year off Labour's finances, without reforming party funding across the board. We need to clean up the parties' big donor culture once and for all.
"Our new polling shows that that 77% of the public think that big donors have too much influence over our politics, and 57% believe that a state-funded political system would be fairer than the one we currently have – up from 41% in 2014. We need serious cross-party action on this – not tit-for-tat partisan attacks.
"We strongly welcome Peers' important decision on this Bill and we hope parties engage constructively with this new committee to sort out the mess that is Britain's party funding system."