Westminster Accounts launches to give public insights into money in politics

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Sky News and Tortoise Media have launched Westminster Accounts, a first-of-its-kind searchable database that makes it easy for the public to examine the millions of pounds pouring into British politics.

Commissioned by Sky News, data experts at Tortoise Media have systematically collected and analysed many thousands of donations and payment records from MPs, political parties, and all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs). 

The resulting database is an extensive record of the financial interests in Westminster.

The partnership between the two news organisations and the ground-breaking Westminster Accounts database, is part of one of the largest investigations in Sky News’ history.

John Ryley, Head of Sky News, said: “This pioneering project from Sky News and Tortoise will give the public a better understanding of how politics is funded in this country.

“The Westminster Accounts tool is available to everyone and is a big step in making the workings of parliament more transparent and understandable for the public at large.”

James Harding, Founder and Editor of Tortoise Media, said: “Until now, it’s been impossible to make sense of the relationship between money and politics.

“Parliament might be transparent in theory, but, by default or design, the jumble of declarations, registers and accounts has made it very hard to understand who gives, who gets, how much and for what. 

“The Westminster Accounts makes all that information accessible for all of us.”

Every day this week additional exclusive journalism gathered using the tool will be revealed each day on Sky News by Deputy Political Editor Sam Coates, and on Tortoise’s podcasts and Sensemaker newsletters.

Westminster Accounts is an information tool that was built to be an easy-to-use, public record of finances in UK politics, with the aim of improving transparency and trust in politics.

Though much of the money flowing into the accounts of the people, groups, organisations and parties in politics must be disclosed to the public, the way the information is reported and displayed prevents it from being widely scrutinised. 

With records spread across different websites, often split into complicated files, and regularly published with duplicate entries and errors, examining the financial interest of one MP is laborious and easy to misinterpret.

Westminster Accounts strips away the complexity, empowering users with the tools to explore what an MP is receiving and from whom in seconds, the broadcaster said. 

The database offers users a simple, interactive visual breakdown, whether that income is from a second job, from declared paid-for trips abroad or other sources.

The database covers the entirety of the current parliament – from its start on 19 December 2019 to the most recent disclosures, and makes use of the following datasets:

  • From the Register of Members’ Financial Interests: Earnings from secondary employment, cash donations, gifts (including all gifted international travel), and other benefits for all sitting and former members of the current parliament.
  • From the Register of All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Cash donations, gifts and other benefits for all APPGs that have operated at any point during the current parliament, as well as membership lists for each group. Users can take the journey from MP to APPG to political party, linking the flow of cash and gifts that fuels our political system. Or simply search by organisation or individual to see a list of how much they have donated or gifted to MPs, APPGs and parties.
  • From the Electoral Commission: Cash donations, gifts and other benefits received by all political parties currently represented in the House of Commons

You can find a more detailed methodology here

Tortoise Media’s team of expert data journalists have been meticulous with handling data, which has been sourced from publicly available information.

The data will be updated dynamically as and when the original data source is refreshed up until the next General Election. For example, the Register of Members’ Financial Interests is every two weeks.