Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Honours 'have always been sold'
Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006 11:07

A former Labour minister has criticised the police probe into the loans for peerages row as "absurd", saying the sale of honours has always gone on and always will. Frank Field said although political parties selling peerages was a "nuisance", the public had tolerated it for 200 years and most would not consider Scotland Yard's investigations a "sensible deployment of police resources".

The Metropolitan police are investigating claims that Labour and the Conservatives offered wealthy businessmen honours in return for secret loans. Both parties deny any wrongdoing and no charges have yet been brought. Last week, assistant commissioner John Yates told MPs he had uncovered "significant and valuable material" in his probe, and expected to provide the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with a file in January.

His comments were welcomed by the Scottish National Party (SNP) as proof of the seriousness of the investigation – the SNP's complaint earlier this year, which prompted the probe, had been dismissed by critics as political opportunism. However, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Field, a former social security minister, said the selling of honours "needs to be seen in context".

"It has always gone on and probably always will. Most people know that for the best part of two centuries that honours were appropriated by money," he told the newspaper. 'In the 18th century honours and cash for political parties were in effect the constitution. It is a different relationship now. But of course it is still going on today. "If the voters were pushed, or had a say, I am sure they would not agree that this is a sensible deployment of police resources. The amount of police effort being expended on this is ridiculous."

Mr Field said allegations about parties selling honours were a "publicity stunt" but the police took it seriously "and they should not have done so". A recent analysis by Conservative organisation the Bow Group found large Labour donors were 1,600 times more likely to receive an honour than non-donors. All in all, people giving more than £50,000 to the party had a 50-50 chance of getting an honour.

[Unfortunately for Field and Labour it may well have gone on for years but is in fact illegal. This is a last desperate throw of the dice, 'yes of course we're guilty but who cares'. Blair is guilty and deserves to be prosecuted for his crimes. JOE]

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