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  1. ITV Report

Tory treasurer resigns after cash-for-access sting

Peter Cruddas is the Conservative Party's co-treasurer. Photo: Sunday Times

Peter Cruddas, the co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, has resigned after being caught in a sting by the Sunday Times allegedly attempting to sell access to the Prime Minister for a party donation of £250,000.

Posing as two overseas financiers offering to buy up distressed government assets, reporters from the Sunday Times this month gained access to Mr Cruddas through a lobbyist.

The reporters were told if they made a six figure donation they would be entering "premier league" of donors who would be able to obtain personal access to Mr Cameron and the Chancellor George Osborne.

This is Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas' resignation statement in full:

I only took up the post of principal treasurer of the party at the beginning of the month and was keen to meet anyone potentially interested in donating.

As a result, and without consulting any politicians or senior officials in the party, I had an initial conversation with Zenith. No further action was taken by the party.

However, I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.

Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.

Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.

Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit. But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect.

A Conservative Party spokesman said Zenith was the name of the company the undercover reporters pretended to represent.

– Peter Cruddas, former Conservative Party co-treasurer

Speaking at a Sports Relief run in Buckinghamshire, David Cameron said that there would be an inquiry to make sure party staff would not make cash-for-access claims again.

The Conservative Party has strenuously denied the allegations. They released a statement to ITV News:

No donation was ever accepted or even formally considered by the Conservative Party.

All donations to the Conservative Party have to comply with the requirements of electoral law. These are strictly enforced by our compliance department.

Unlike the Labour Party, where union donations are traded for party policies, donations to the Conservative Party do not buy party or government policy.

We will urgently investigate any evidence to the contrary.

– Conservative Party spokesperson

The scandal has prompted reaction from both sides of the political divide throughout the day.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has called the revelations in The Sunday Times that the Tory party was allegedly selling access to the Prime Minister "very disturbing."

He has called for an independent investigation.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury says the revelations make the case even stronger for reforming the rules..

No political party has been without its problems in relation to party funding.

Over the next few weeks the three parties will be getting round the table following on from an initiative by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, to discuss how we can change the way party funding works to try and get the big money out of politics.

– Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Senior Labour MP David Miliband says the Conservative party is "going to have to publish the list of policies that have been sent from these dinners to the Number 10 Cameron committee that has been advertised."

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he called called the cash-for-access suggestions "grotesque."

Tory Sport Minister Hugh Robertson said today's story proved that access could not be bought.

"As has clearly been demonstrated, this is unacceptable and the person responsible has resigned," he told Sky News.

He said "the important thing" was that Mr Cruddas had resigned "as soon as he was exposed".

I don't think any politician in any party wants to see this sort of thing going on. It's absolutely not typical of the way I understand the Conservative Party is financed and I'm absolutely delighted he's resigned as a result.

– Hugh Robertson MP

Labour MP Tom Watson told ITV News, "we need to know: who are these donors who had secret dinners with David Cameron? What policies were considered by the 'Downing Street machinery'?"

Shadow minister Michael Dugher has written to the Prime Minister demanding that he disclose which Tory donors had visited Downing Street, Chequers or Dorneywood since May 2010 and what policy representations they had made:

Today you said that you would ensure there was 'a proper party inquiry' into these matters.

However, given the seriousness of the allegations about how Government is conducted, it is not appropriate for the Conservative Party to investigate itself. We need a full, independent inquiry.

Therefore I ask that you now request the Independent Adviser on Standards in Public Life to launch an inquiry into this matter, to answer these and any other related questions he sees fit.

– Michael Dugher MP

The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: "It looks to me as though David Cameron and George Osborne have been thinking they can be above the law, beyond reproach and just listening only to those who can afford to pay."

Sir Christopher Kelly, of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, says he hopes that all parties will now embrace reform of the funding system.

It would be wrong to regard this as an isolated event. Events like it are inevitable as long as the main political parties are dependent for their existence on large donations from rich individuals or, in the case of the Labour Party, a small number of trade unions.

The parties collectively need urgently to address the damage this does to confidence in the integrity of the political process.

– Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life

ITV News' political correspondent Libby Wiener spoke to the Conservative Party's deputy chairman Michael Fallon about Peter Cruddas, the party's now former co-treasurer.

Mr Cruddas today resigned after he was caught allegedly trying to sell access to David Cameron.