Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee on standards in public life will hold a press conference setting out out proposals including a suggested £10,000 cap on donations, changes to union funding and £20m a year of state funding. It will also suggest that members of the public will be able to give up to £1,000 tax-free to political parties, just as they currently can with charities.
Yet dissent over the issue is reflected within the committee itself, which will produce two separate “notes of dissent” – effectively minority reports – at odds with the main recommendations.
Former minister Margaret Beckett, the Labour member, will argue against a proposal to force union members to choose actively whether to support Labour, rather than as present opting out if they object. When this change was made in Northern Ireland there was a slump in union members paying into their political funds.
Labour is also keen for any final cross-party deal to include a cap on party spending over entire parliaments, not just during the run-up to general elections, as is the case at present.
Meanwhile Oliver Heald MP, a Tory member of the committee, has written a separate note arguing that the £10,000 cap on donations is too low. His party – which receives millions of pounds from wealthy financiers – wants the figure to be £50,000.
Mr Heald has also called for union members to be able to choose which party their fee goes toward; at present almost all such income goes to the Labour party. Tories point out that 20 per cent of union members voted for their party in 2010.
All three parties are wary of cutting a deal that would mean £100m of extra state funding over the length of a parliament, particularly at a time of national austerity.
That figure is based on a suggestion of parties being subsidised to the tune of £3 per vote cast for their candidates.
“We recognise that in an era of very tight public finances, £100m of taxpayers’ money spend on politicians wouldn’t be popular,” said one Labour source.
Incredibly, the Kelly committee began interviewing witnesses some 16 months ago - but even that sustained level of rumination and debate may have failed to square the circle that stumped Sir Hayden Phillips some four years ago.