Banks, insurers, and lobbyists in the United Kingdom donated 15 million pounds ($18.75 million) to political parties and gave more than 2 million pounds to lawmakers during the pandemic, highlighting the “oversized influence” of the finance sector on the British political system, said a campaign group.

Research by London-based Positive Money found that financial companies and individuals tied to the sector held a “disproportionate “number of meetings with the UK government’s Treasury department in 2020 and 2021.

The group’s report said this led to favorable policies, such as deregulation, and an economy that was “structurally reliant” on the finance sector.

It noted that the main beneficiary of the donations during this period was the Conservative Party, which registered more than 11 million pounds, or 76 percent of such funds.

“Once the scale of big finance’s influence over government is laid bare, it becomes obvious how banks get bailouts and tax cuts, while the rest of us get austerity and tax rises,” said David Barmes, senior economist at Positive Money.

The Guardian newspaper reported the group’s study found 47 members of Parliament had received 2.3 million pounds in fees from the financial sector between January 2020 and December 2021, and that more than half of this sum went to just five Conservative politicians.

Former prime minister Theresa May was said to have been paid 200,000 pounds for speeches at events run by JP Morgan and Amundi Asset Management.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was paid 175,000 pounds for speeches and for his role as a senior adviser to JP Morgan.

Positive Money raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest between British politics and the finance sector.

“Access to public institutions isn’t just the exceptional case of a few bad apples bending the rules-such as (former prime minister) David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of… Greensill Capital-but represents a far wider systemic problem,” the group said.

Political parties in the UK are required to report their quarterly donation and loan returns to the country’s Electoral Commission, giving voters important information on how parties are being funded.

The Electoral Commission is an independent body that oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK, which it said it does through “taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches”.

The Guardian quoted a statement from the Treasury, which is the department responsible for the financial services sector, which said it was “entirely right that ministers and officials meet regularly with representatives from the sector, as is standard with policy engagement”, adding “there is a clear policy in place on declaration and management of interests for those working in government, with steps being taken to avoid any conflict of interest”.

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