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Westminster Accounts: Labour calls for ‘urgent investigation’ into Conservative donor after Sky News report | Politics News

Labour is calling for an “urgent investigation” into the relationship between IX Wireless and the Conservative Party following a report by Sky News.

Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour Party, has written to her Conservative counterpart Greg Hands demanding the Tories launch an inquiry “to slay the many-headed hydra of Conservative sleaze”.

In light of Sky News’ Westminster Accounts coverage, the parliamentary expenses’ watchdog – IPSA – began scrutinising a group of Tory MPs and how they were receiving money.

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Sky’s investigation found nearly two dozen MPs received political donations from IX Wireless to help them with campaigning – weeks after they joined the Conservative Northern Research Group (NRG) and authorised thousands of pounds of taxpayer-funded expenses to be spent on its work.

This raises questions about whether MPs authorised public funding to be spent on the NRG because they knew they would be rewarded with a campaign donation.

MPs can use public money for staffing, building costs and research – with expenditure tightly controlled. Political donations come with far fewer restrictions and, importantly, can be used to fund re-election campaigns.

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In her letter, Ms Dodds said: “It is deeply concerning that public money may not have been used appropriately with Tory MPs potentially only subscribing to the NRG because they knew they’d get a campaign donation if they did so. All members of the Tories’ Northern Research Group involved must come clean about their use of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”

One Tory MP who received the money told Sky News they signed up to the NRG, putting public money towards it, because they knew they would get a donation.

“There was a deadline. That’s why so many did at the same time. You knew there’d be money at the end of it,” they said.

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What are MPs doing with your cash?

Ms Dodds went on: “I am also concerned about the seemingly murky relationship between IX Wireless and the Conservative Party which must be urgently investigated.

“You will know that this is not the first time that this company has faced public scrutiny for its relationship to Conservative MPs.

“In 2021, I raised concerns following tens of thousands of pounds donated to MPs by the company and earlier this year it was reported that Conservative MPs had dropped objections to phone masts following donations by the company.”

She added: “You do not need me to remind you of Rishi Sunak’s promise of ‘professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels’ on the steps of No 10. What has transpired since he became prime minister has instead been a slew of sleaze related to his cabinet ministers, backbenchers and party donors.

“I must therefore ask if you will launch an urgent investigation into the murky relationship between IX Wireless and the Conservative Party and, if irregularities are identified, ensure that any and all donations are paid back in full.

“Only by doing so can you begin to slay the many-headed hydra of Conservative sleaze and begin to restore public trust in politics.”

Westminster Accounts at a glance: use the table below to see how much money has gone to parties, MPs and APPGs in the form of donations and earnings since the 2019 election – and the individuals or organisations behind the funding.

Read more:
Westminster Accounts – the story so far
Johnson’s pay accounts for 85% of all outside earnings declared by MPs this year
How APPGs have received more than £20m in funding from external organisations since 2019

Former Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry, who founded the NRG, organised the donations to the group’s MPs from IX Wireless – a broadband company based in Blackburn.

Sir Jake denied a link between the donations and the use of public money for the NRG.

In 2021 and 2022, 24 MPs received money from IX Wireless; 22 of those MPs have previously diverted public money to the NRG.

Sir Jake said: “It is completely wrong when businesses want to go out and support northern MPs who are transforming the business community for them, for those businesses then to be trashed in the media for doing something completely legal and straightforward.

“There is no connection between your membership and receiving political donations.”

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An IX Wireless spokesperson said: “As a North West-headquartered company we want to ensure the region truly benefits from the government’s Levelling Up agenda. This includes ensuring all areas across the North see an increase in their standard of living so that each area can reach its full productivity potential.

“To do this, we have backed the Northern Research Group, which aims to ensure that the voices of people across the region are heard by the government while also boosting employment, productivity and growth.

“Our support of the NRG is on public record. The funds to the NRG will help support MPs to focus central government for more spending across the North, boost infrastructure such as improved roads and rail, and support northern institutions.

“The funds will also support MPs, many who were new to the role, with training and support.

“As a northern company that is delivering gigabit-capable broadband services to the communities across the region, we want to see the interests of those same communities represented at a national level via the NRG.”

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