9-Misc: UK Science Minister faces inquiry over GBP 2.5m gift toparty
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TITLE: Sainsbury faces inquiry over GBP 2.5m gift to party
SOURCE: The Times, UK, by Melissa Kite
DATE: Apr 2, 2003
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COMMENT by NLP Wessex, UK:
As reported below Lord Sainsbury has just written a cheque to the Labour
Party for GBP 2.5 million to keep it afloat. He is the government's most
prominent backer of GM technology in agriculture.
Lord Sainsbury's personal, political and financial interests span
biotechnology, food retailing, and driving UK government policy in
relation to technology and trade. He is simultaneously (http://
- the multi-billionaire Science Minister in charge of promoting
biotechnology at the UK's Department of Trade and Industry
- a member of the cabinet biotechnology committee responsible for
national policy on GM crops and foods
- a major personal investor in GM agricultural biotechnology
- a leading member of the UK supermarket giant 'Sainsbury' family (former
chairman and major shareholder of J Sainsbury plc - personal and
immediate family annual share dividend estimated at GBP 36 million in 1998)
- a multi-million pound donor to the Labour Party (giving Labour its
biggest single donation in September 1997 and much more since) and made a
life peer by Tony Blair 3 October 1997
Money may not buy you happiness but can it buy you influence?
NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX
Sainsbury faces inquiry over GBP 2.5m gift to party
LORD SAINSBURY of Turville faces being called before an inquiry into the
extent of his multimillion-pound donations to Labour.
The billionaire Minister for Science was accused by politicians on all
sides yesterday of colluding in a form of political corruption after
Labour announced that he had made a GBP 2.5 million donation.
The gift is believed to be the largest single donation in the party's
history and takes his contributions to Labour since 1999 to GBP 8.5 million.
Lord Sainsbury, a junior minister at the Department of Trade and Industry
since 1998 and a peer since 1997, is among a list of possible witnesses
at the forthcoming inquiry by the Electoral Commission, which is to make
recommendations to Parliament on future arrangements for party funding.
It will launch its investigation in May.
But sources close to the commission, which has the power to recommend
action on single big donations, said it was likely that major donors such
as Lord Sainsbury would be called.
Theresa May, the Conservative Party chairman, told BBC Radio 4's Today
programme: "The fact that Lord Sainsbury is a government minister - he
was appointed by the Prime Minister and, indeed, he is in a ministerial
position where he's making decisions which could have commercial
consequences - I think raises real questions about this particular donation.
"Politics is better in this country if political parties are funded by
large numbers of people rather than relying on large donations from a
smaller number of people."
Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, claimed
such donations were causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from
the grassroots that the party was now "in the pockets of the powerful and
He told the Today programme: "In any other country I think a government
minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a
political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the
"This was a criticism of the Conservatives when they were in government
and increasingly people are looking in at the political parties and
saying, 'Why don't they have more members?' " The Labour Party should
instead raise funds by appealing for members while political donations
should be capped and banned altogether for ministers, Mr Seddon added.
In a statement yesterday, Lord Sainsbury said: "In our democracy
political parties have to raise funds to campaign and put their policies
to the electorate, and as a proud supporter of the Labour Party I am
happy to be in a position where I can make a contribution to its ongoing
David Triesman, the party's general secretary, said: "As a member of
Labour's audit committee, Mark Seddon should be aware that the largest
area of growth in the party's income last year was indeed from individual
members and supporters making small contributions.
"The Labour Party has the broadest base of funding of any party, with the
largest proportion of our income coming from small donations."
A Labour spokesman said there was no particular significance in the
timing of the donation. The party has a GBP 6 million overdraft and a GBP
4.5 million mortgage on its London headquarters.
Lord Sainsbury has made other large charitable donations, reflecting his
interests in technical education, mental health and Third World
development through his charitable trust, the Gatsby Foundation.
Should Labour give this money back?
E-mail your views to email@example.com