Demands for 'cash for access' probe
David Cameron is facing demands for an independent inquiry into "cash for access" allegations after he confirmed he had hosted private meals at Downing Street and Chequers for wealthy individuals who had between them donated millions of pounds to the Conservative Party.
The Tories released a list of 12 donors who were invited with their wives and partners to four dinners in Downing Street since Mr Cameron's election in 2010. A second list of five donors invited for informal lunches at the PM's country residence Chequers was released later.
Mr Cameron had come under intense pressure after former Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught on film telling undercover reporters that "premier league" gifts could secure meetings with ministers and influence policy.
He denied Mr Cruddas's claims that big donors' concerns were fed into a policy committee at Downing Street, and insisted that none of those who dined with him had been recommended by the former treasurer - who quit his post on Saturday, hours after the Sunday Times revealed his comments.
"None of these dinners were fundraising dinners and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer. I have known most of those attending for many years," said the PM.
He announced that eminent lawyer and Tory peer Lord Gold would conduct a party inquiry into the affair. And he said that the party would in future release quarterly registers of significant donors invited to eat with him at official residences, as well as lists of those attending "Leader's Group" dinners for donors who give more than £50,000.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband dismissed the Gold inquiry as "a whitewash" and called for an independent probe by the PM's official adviser on ministerial interests Sir Alex Allan.
"This scandal speaks to the conduct and character of this Prime Minister and his Government," said Mr Miliband.
"Anything short of an independent inquiry will leave a permanent stain on the reputation of this Government and this Prime Minister."
The 12 dinner-party guests at Downing Street had between them given almost £18 million to the Conservatives since Mr Cameron became leader, he said.