Blair's latest sleaze scandal and the biotech peers (16/3/2006)

In the latest sleaze row involving Tony Blair proposing peerages for undisclosed financial supporters of Blair's Labour Party (see below), we've seen no comment as yet on the evidence that financially supporting Blair's Party may not only buy you a peerage but even access to government!

Lord (David) Sainsbury of Turville has been Science Minister in Tony Blair's government since 1998. He is also a member of the cabinet biotechnology committee, Sci-Bio, responsible for national policy on GM crops and foods, and as such is a key adviser to Blair on GM technology. He is also a major donor to Blair's Labour Party. He gave Labour its biggest ever single donation in September 1997. On October 3 1997 he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later Minister for Science!

Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC in 2003, 'In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.' Seddon said it was causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now 'in the pockets of the powerful and the rich'.

Then there's the man tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor - Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association.

Like the Sainsbury-Blair relationship, the Blair-Drayson relationship has also been mired in allegations of corruption and cronyism with Paul Drayson being given a peerage in highly controversial circumstances that led to accusations that Blair was "compromising the peerage system".

The controversy began when Drayson, previously an admirer of Mrs Thatcher, made a substantial donation to Labour while the Ministry of Defence was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson.

Controversially, the Blair government awarded Drayson's biotech company, PowderJect, the smallpox vaccine contract without any competition. The contract was worth GBP32million and Drayson is thought to have made around GBP20m for PowderJect from this deal.

After selling his company for a very considerable profit, Lord Drayson described himself as "a very successful guy through my own hard work". He was then made a minister by Blair in the Ministry of Defence.


Angry treasurer Dromey calls for probe by sleaze watchdogs
By Oonagh Blackman Political Editor
The Mirror, 16 March 2006

LABOUR treasurer Jack Dromey last night called in sleaze watchdogs from the Electoral Commission after revealing he was not told about secret loans made to the party.

Labour sources claimed the total number of undeclared loans could be at least GBP10million and possibly as high as GBP19million.

Angry Mr Dromey said he was launching his own inquiry into the loans which were received from wealthy individual supporters in the run-up to last year's General Election.

He made it clear he wanted answers from Prime Minister Tony Blair because Number 10 must have known about the money.

He accused chiefs of not "sufficiently respecting" Labour Party institutions and was furious that he and other elected officials were kept in the dark.

But party sources last night insisted it had "fully complied" with Electoral Commission rules on fund-raising.

In an extraordinary outburst, Mr Dromey who is married to Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman, demanded the party be "purer than pure."

He said: "I strongly believe in high standards in public life. It was the Labour Party that campaigned in opposition for action to ensure there was the necessary transparency as part of the clean-up of politics.

"I have, therefore, commenced an inquiry into the securing of loans in secret by the Labour Party in 2005.

"The Labour Party needs to put its house in order to restore public and party members' confidence. There are wider public-interest issues, however, for all political parties that require to be investigated properly by the Independent Electoral Commission."

Commercial loans from political donors do not have to be declared to the commission.

At least three wealthy businessmen have given about GBP3.5 million to Labour fuelling claims of sleaze.

They are now at the centre of a "cash-for-honours" row.

Property tycoon Sir David Garrard contributed GBP2.4million to one of Mr Blair's flagship city academy schools and made a loan to Labour before the last election.

A spokeswoman for Sir David yesterday confirmed he has written to the PM asking for his name to be removed from the list of nominees for peerages.

Last week Priory clinics boss Dr Chai Patel went public saying he regretted giving a GBP100,000 donation and GBP1.5 million "commercial loan" after learning his peerage is being blocked.

Mr Blair nominated him for a seat in the Lords only months after the loan was made. Financier Barry Townsley has also had his nomination blocked.

Tories last night leapt on Mr Dromey's dramatic intervention claiming money was being siphoned into secret accounts.

Tory MP Nigel Evans said: "This is quite alarming, I have never heard anything like it. We need a proper inquiry into this."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "The day-to-day management of the Labour Party finances are a matter for the general secretary.

"We can confir

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