The number of engineering firms making political donations doubled as a proportion of the donors in the past six financial years.
The findings are revealed in a survey of 350 leading companies by pensions and investment research consultancy Pirc. Across all sectors, the total number of firms making donations halved over the same period. Firms classed as diversified industrials were the second most numerous donors.
Most engineering donations went to the Conservative party. GKN, Glynwed, IMI and Siebe together donated £810,700 to the Conservatives between 1991 and 1997, without seeking shareholder authorisation.
Companies are required to disclose political donations in their annual report, but do not have to ask shareholders for permission.
In 1991-92 only 8.4% of companies making donations were from the general engineering sector. By 1996-97 this increased to 16.7%. Diversified industrials rose from 7.4% in 1991-92 to 9.5% in 1996-97. Companies in the automotive engineering sector accounted for only around 2.4% of the total in 1996.
The report says the dramatic reduction in donations ‘reflects a recognition that such donations…are hard to justify as being in the company’s interest’, and because claims that any particular party is more competent at economic management have been ‘undermined by convergence in policy across the political spectrum’.
Among companies that did seek shareholder authorisation were Morgan Crucible and Rolls-Royce. They have not given money since 1994 and 1995 respectively.
Pirc surveyed the FTSE-350 companies, mainly by inspecting annual reports.