Shapps defends £250,000 donations to Tories amid cash-for access row

Grant Shapps defends £250,000 donations to Tories from group of wealthy backers saying supporting the party is not an ‘immoral act’ amid cash-for access row

  • He hit out amid cash for access row involving party and co-chairman Ben Elliot 
  • Financial Times said group set up to connect supporters with top party figures
  • Members donated up to £250,000, had meetings/calls with PM and Chancellor 
  • Shapps: ‘Supporting political party should not be painted as an immoral act’

A Cabinet minister today defended large donations to the Tories from a group of wealthy supporters, saying supporting political parties should not be portrayed as an ‘immoral act’.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hit out amid a cash for access row involving the party and its co-chairman Ben Elliot. 

On Monday, the Financial Times reported a group known as the Advisory Board had been developed to connect Tory supporters with senior party figures.

The group, which made donations of up to £250,000, have had regular meetings and calls with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, it claimed.

Mr Shapps was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Advisory Board members are able to influence Government policy decisions.

The minister said: ‘I have to say there are a lot of people in this country who believe in this country and want to see it prosper and may have views about the things that will make the country prosper.

‘Supporting a political party should not, in my view, be painted as some sort of immoral act.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hit out amid a cash for access row involving the party and its co-chairman Ben Elliot.

The Financial Times report had quoted Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, as saying the board is ‘like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben’.

The group, which made donations of up to £250,000, have had regular meetings and calls with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured today in Scotland) and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, it claimed.

Further claims were made in the Sunday Times that Mr Elliot (above right) – the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew – helped Mr Amersi meet the Prince of Wales in exchange for payments of thousands of pounds to his company.

‘I think that when people stand up for their beliefs and support a party, whether that is by joining a political party at a local constituency level or indeed donating to a political party, there is nothing inherently bad or wrong about that.

‘As a country, as all countries do, you have to make a decision about how you are going to fund your politics and you either say you are going to tax people to fund your political parties – an idea which I suggest wouldn’t be overwhelmingly supported by the public, and rightly so – or you have to fundraise.

‘And when you fundraise you have to understand it doesn’t give you a say over anything that goes on in Government, but of course you are very welcome to hear about our policies and what we plan to do.’

The Financial Times report had quoted Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, as saying the board is ‘like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben’.

The name was a reference to Conservative co-chairman Mr Elliot, who founded the luxury concierge service Quintessentially.

Further claims were made in the Sunday Times that Mr Elliot – the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew – helped Mr Amersi meet the Prince of Wales in exchange for payments of thousands of pounds to his company.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has called for a list of all donors who have paid to be members of the board to be published, alongside the full complement of Government ministers who have attended any meetings or engagements with members.

Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling said Government policy ‘is in no way influenced by the donations the party receives – they are entirely separate’.

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