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Coalition questioned over donation
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been criticised after taking more than half a million pounds donated to the Government in a will and pouring it into their own party political coffers.
Joan Edwards, reported to have died last September at the age of 90, left £520,000 which the coalition said was for whichever party was in government.
But the Daily Mail reported that it had found a copy of the will of the retired nurse, from Bristol, which said all the proceeds of her estate were to be paid to "whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit".
The money was split between the parties of power based on the number of MPs and ministers they have, with the Conservatives getting £420,000, and both put it down as a donation to their party, to be used for political ends.
Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told the newspaper: "I am surprised they were so desperate that they took the money in the first place.
"I am surprised that a political party would want to take this money in circumstances when there is any doubt of the deceased person's intention. If they are in any doubt, they should take legal advice and consider giving the money back to the estate."
Details of the bequest emerged as the Electoral Commission released the latest figures for donations of more than £7,500.
Labour was handed more than £2.4 million by trade unions in the second quarter of the year, but the party still raked in less in sizeable gifts than the Conservatives, by £4,116,006 to £3,136,440. The Lib Dems raised £801,448 from donations over the three months, down from £842,710 in the first quarter while the UK Independence Party (Ukip) was buoyed by its receipts more than doubling to £160,000.
A senior Labour frontbencher said the coalition parties had to give a "clearer and more credible explanation" of behaviour that appeared "dodgy as hell". Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy wrote on Twitter: "Unless....explanation of this is much clearer & more credible this looks dodgy as hell by Tories&Libs." Labour colleague Ian Austin said it was "shocking" and called on the parties to "do the decent thing".
"This is shocking. The lady obviously didn't intend her money to go to political parties, Do the decent thing!" he posted. "Cameron & Clegg tell us sorting deficit top priority. Not when Joan Edwards left £500k for govt to use as 'think fit'."