UK government gives up bequest
David Cameron has said it is “right” for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats give up a £520,000 bequest from a former nurse amid confusion over whether she actually meant the money to go to the government.
The British Prime Minister said the wording of Joan Edwards’ will make clear her intention was for the money to “benefit the nation” rather than political parties.
The legacy, disclosed along with other donations on Tuesday, sparked a bizarre row after a copy of the document emerged.
Tory and Lib Dem officials previously said they split the money as it was earmarked for “whichever party was in government”.
But the text obtained by the Daily Mail showed Miss Edwards - who died in September aged 90 - identified the beneficiary as “whichever government is in office at the date of my death”.
As the backlash gathered pace, both coalition partners declared they would hand the funds to the Treasury as a gesture of good faith.
However, shortly afterwards the executors of Miss Edwards’ will, Bristol solicitors Davis Wood, released a statement insisting that she had intended the cash to go to political parties.
“The will was drafted by a solicitor at Davis Wood in 2001,” the law firm said. “At the time of the instructions received from the late Miss Edwards, the solicitor specifically checked with Miss Edwards about the unusual nature of her proposed bequest and it was confirmed by Miss Edwards at the time of her instruction that her estate was to be left to whichever political party formed the government at the date of her death.”
Speaking during a visit to the Commonwealth Games site in Glasgow, Tory leader Mr Cameron said: “It is a slightly confusing situation, the facts as I understand them are these, the executors of the will decided it was right to pay the money to the parties of government, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
“But I think when you look at the wording of the will it seems to us the intention was more to benefit the nation, so what the Conservative Party has done with our part of the donation is give it to the Treasury so it can help to pay down the national debt, which I think meets the spirit of what this very generous lady meant.”
It is unclear whether the parties were aware of the will’s ambiguous wording when they agreed to accept the money earlier this year.
Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg personally approved the forfeiting of the party’s £100,000 share yesterday.
Lucy Sanders, 46, a former neighbour of Miss Edwards in Fishponds, Bristol, said: “I suppose people would term her ‘old fashioned’. She led a very quiet and frugal life. She was just a charming, lovely lady.”