Exclusive MP DENIES CASH FOR ACCESS ALLEGATION

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By Peter Devine Deputy Editor

A STOCKPORT MP has been accused of flogging off access to a government Minister for £500 a time.

The Stockport Mail can reveal that Mr Andrew Stunell, the MP for Hazel Grove, offered many hard up businesses across Stockport, the opportunity to wine and dine with Business Secretary Vince Cable, at the Alma Lodge Hotel.

The exclusive invite from Mr Stunell’s Commons office, fails to mention the event was a Lib-Dem party fundraiser.

While Mr Stunell, who is also the Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has said he did nothing wrong, he has been accused by Reddish Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, of sailing close to the wind in breaking Parliamentary rules governing raising cash for party funds through access to ministers.

Mr Gwynne, the Shadow Health Minister, said: “It comes to something when the Liberal-Democrats have to sell access to Stockport businesses to have the ear of the Business Secretary What’s really worrying is this is nothing to do with boosting the local economy in Stockport.”

“I think the invite is misleading because why doesn’t it state it’s a Lib-Dem fundraiser. Why use the House of Commons at all. I am not sure it is wise of them to so blatantly offer access to a senior government minister in this way, given all the concerns over lobbying and cash for access.”

The invite, which was circulated to some businesses in Stockport, and seen by the Mail, states: “This is a special invitation to business people in Stockport and surrounding area. The Secretary of State is keen to understand the issues and concerns of local business people from around the country.”

The letter explains that just 20 business people would get the opportunity to privately dine on July 2, with Mr Cable, where they would be given the opportunity to meet him, air views, opinions and ‘engage in meaningful discussion on business and other related issues’.

Hazel Grove councillor William Wragg, who saw a copy of the invite said: “How does Mr Stunell expect to understand the pressures of local small businesses, when his company and that of the Minister, is only accessible to those who can afford the £500 fee?”

Mr Stunell, who admitted in a recent circular to Lib-Dem members that the party didn’t have access to the sort of donors both Labour and the Tories were able to call on, told the Mail that his party had a longstanding relationship with local businesses, which had involved helping them access finance and export opportunities at the highest level.
He explained: “Most companies do not declare themselves to be supporters of particular parties.  However invitees were invited because they are sympathetic to the work in support of businesses I have been doing locally, and to the wider policies of free trade and investment for regional growth being vigorously pursued by the Liberal Democrats nationally.
“I do numerous events with colleagues where there is no charge, and all businesses are welcome to contact me at any time.”

Christian Mancier, the Stockport president at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Trade, which represent many firms in the borough, said he was aware of the invitation, but refused to comment further.

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