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Miliband and Maude lock horns over party funding

By Alex Stevenson

Ed Miliband has hit out at the Conservatives' "whitewash" inquiry into the cash-for-access scandal, amid turbulent Commons exchanges with Francis Maude.

The Cabinet Office minister, giving a statement on party funding, hit out at Labour's "shameful" role in blocking reform as he traded blows with Mr Miliband.

MPs on both sides of the Commons had to be repeatedly rebuked by Commons Speaker John Bercow as the Tories and Labour blamed each other for the current impasse.

"Anything short of an independent inquiry will leave a permanent stain on this government and this prime minister," Mr Miliband declared, to raucous cheers from the opposition benches.

Mr Maude responded by pointing out Labour had failed to change the party funding problem in 13 years of government.

"He should come here and say sorry for blocking the reform that was there to be had," he replied.

Referring to the trade unions, he added: "Their donors don't just buy policy - they elect the leader."

Mr Miliband criticised David Cameron's decision to only release the details of dinners with those who had made "significant" donations to the Conservative party of over £49,000.

"Only this prime minister would think a donation of £49,000, twice the average salary, is not significant," he said.

The Labour leader also attacked Mr Cameron for not coming to parliament to explain the position himself.

"It shows utter contempt for this House that the prime minister can make a statement to the media just three hours ago but refuses to come here to face members of parliament," he said. "I think we all know why - he has got something to hide."

But Mr Maude refused to accept that the Conservatives were in the wrong, focusing the majority of his remarks - to the frustration of the Speaker - on the activities of the Labour party.

"Cash can buy policy, but not on this side of the House," he added.

"Don't let him come here and lecture us about cash for policy. They're past masters at it."

The Conservatives are prepared to accept a cap on donations of over £50,000, but only if Labour abandons funding from the trade unions which provide it with 90% of its income.

Mr Miliband pointed out that the donors attending the post-election dinner Mr Cameron admitted had taken place in Downing Street had provided £18 million to the Conservative party.

He observed, to intense laughter from the benches behind him: "I bet they did alright in the Budget, Mr Speaker."

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