One in every five pounds donated to the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2020 came from individuals or companies with substantial interests in the housing market, a new report claims.
The research from Transparency International UK — detailing the extent of Boris Johnson’s party’s reliance on the sector — suggests there has been a “worrying dependence” on a small number of wealthy financial backers with “significant property interests”.
The anti-corruption organisation’s report — House of Cards — claims that around 10 per cent of all political party donations over the last decade came from individuals and companies with property interests.
Around 80 per cent of the funds (more than £60 million) went to the Conservatives, it added, with property-related donations accounting for a fifth of the party’s reportable donations.
The report also highlighted that between 2015 and 2019, just 10 donors with major interests in the property market accounted for a tenth of the donations to the Conservative Party coffers.
“While we have seen insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt any direct quid pro quo arrangements of donations or decisions,” the report states, “this dependence creates a real risk of aggregative corruption, whereby the actions of ministers are incentivised by the party’s financial ties to interests groups in this policy area”.
Examining transparency over who is lobbying ministers, the organisation added that the current arrangements were “woefully inadequate”, with ministers known to have held 669 meetings with 894 separate interest groups to discuss housing between January 2017 and March 2020.
Of these, government departments provided “little detail”, “with the topic of discussion for more than 40 per cent described merely as ‘housing’ or planning’,” the report claimed.
In a series of solutions, Transparency International UK suggests introducing an annual £10,000 limit on donations from individuals and companies and introducing a comprehensive statutory register of lobbyists.
Duncan Hames, director of policy at the organisation, said: “While it is no secret that political parties receive much of their funding from a relatively small number of donors, the extent to which the Conservative Party depends financially on those with major property interests is of serious concern.
“An unhealthy reliance on those with vested interests in one sector puts ministers under pressure to provide exclusive access which creates a real risk that decisions are skewed in their favour.
“Breaking this dependence is key to removing the risk of undue influence and freeing government to explore bolder solutions to address the housing crisis.”
Commenting on the report, Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour Party, said: “It’s no wonder the Conservatives are resisting more transparency on property ownership, when party coffers are stuffed full of so much cash from major overseas property tycoons.
“This is yet another example of how the rules around transparency for lobbying ministers aren’t fit for purpose. We need to know who is lobbying ministers, what they want from government and what is discussed when they meet. We need urgent reform.”
However, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Government policy is no way influenced by the donation the party receives — they are entirely separate.
“Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully within the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.
“The Conservative Party is delivering on its manifesto commitments to deliver more homes, with new housing supply having rise to its highest level for 30 years. Working with the housing industry is an essential party of getting new homes built and regenerating brownfield land.”