An organisation which has operated under a strict code of secrecy for years finally agreed yesterday to disclose the identity of the Conservative Party's wealthiest backers in the Midlands. Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks down the list.
The Midlands Industrial Council has published the names of its 22 active members, who all make regular financial contributions to the Conservative Party.
The decision followed weeks of speculation about the role of the organisation, which has been accused by Labour of breaking political party funding rules because it refuses to name individuals who make donations.
Chaired by millionaire philanthropist Bob Edmiston, head of the IM Group in West Bromwich, the MIC exists to lobby the Conservatives about the concerns of the business community and has its power base in the Black Country.
Leading members include Tony Gallagher, the head of house builders Gallagher Estates, reputed to be worth #350 million, and property magnate Roy Richardson, who with his twin brother Don is reportedly worth #350 million.
Sir Anthony Bamford, of the JCB digger empire and one of Britain's wealthiest men, is also a member as is Chris Kelly, the outspoken chairman of West Bromwich road haulage firm Keltruck, and Graham Silk, the former owner of Wolverhampton Business Airport and Blackpool Airport.
Former Coventry Tory MP and industry Minister John Butcher is among the 22 named, along with Kim Jaberi, head of the airline food-supply Karins Group, and Peter Shirley, head of Midland Chilled Foods.
The MIC helps to fund the Conservative Party's national election nerve centre at Coleshill, Warwickshire, to the tune of about #1 million a year.
Members also regularly get the opportunity to meet Shadow Cabinet members to put the case for lower taxes, less regulation for businesses and improved transport infrastructure.
Mr Silk, who sold Wolverhampton and Blackpool airports earlier this year for #15 million, last night described the 22-strong council as "a good bunch of people who have worked hard to build their businesses up". He added: "I haven't really been involved for the past couple of years so I don't want to say too much.
"The council is obviously allied to the Conservative Party, my politics aren't a secret."
Mr Silk said publicity about the MIC had been "blown up a bit", and the organisation was simply a group that existed to lobby for a better deal for Midland businesses.
The organisation has been under mounting pressure to disclose details about its membership since Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears asked the Electoral Commission to investigate whether the group should be more open about its donations to the Tories.
Political parties have been legally required since 2001 to reveal the identities of all backers who contribute more than #5,000.
However, as an unincorporated association, the MIC does not have to publish accounts or disclose the names of its members.
The group's members have close links to senior Tory politicians.
Sir Anthony Bamford recently accompanied David Cameron on a trip to India, where the Tory leader opened a JCB factory.
Mr Cameron also agreed to open the new Midland Chilled Foods factory, owned by MIC member Peter Shirley.
Membership of the group is by invitation only and an annual subscription is payable. MIC secretary David Wall said: "Following two weeks of consultation with members and while we are under no legal obligation to do so, in the interests of transparency, the council has decided to issue a list of members."
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