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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Labour outguns Tories on donations

Labour attracted nearly four times as much cash in donations than the Conservatives in the first quarter of this year, according to the Electoral Commission.

But that dominance was thanks solely to the unions - the Conservatives received most from businesses and individuals.

Donations from individuals
Conservative: 312,302
Lib Dems: 123,109
Labour: 76,983
The commission's first breakdown of party finances showed that between February 16 - when the records began - and the end of March Labour received 2.4 million and the Tories 638,000.

In the same period the Liberal Democrats received 178,000.

Website

The largest single donation of 585,000 was to Labour by the GMB union, according to lists published on the commission's website.

The Conservative's largest single donation from an individual was 50,000 from an Alan C Farrow, while the largest from an organisation was 40,000 from the United and Cecil Club, a private members' club based in Belgravia in London.

The commission, set up to monitor party funding, said the Conservatives had to return seven impermissible donations totalling 14,000 which came from overseas contributors which are banned under new rules.

Labour had to return one donation of 1,000. It also received 400 cash in the post from an unidentified supporter which was returned to the commission.

The figures are likely to be closely scrutinised after a series of contentious donations to the two biggest parties.

Big money

In January Labour revealed it had accepted a total of 6m from just three donors.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, former Conservative supporter Christopher Ondaatje, and millionaire publisher Paul Hamlyn each gave the party 2m.

And the Tories were given 5m from Stuart Wheeler, multi-millionaire chairman of a spread betting company IG Index.

Sam Younger, chairman of the new Electoral Commission, which will police the rules, said the aim of the regulations was to "establish openness and transparency in the financial affairs of Britain's political parties".

Foreign donations banned

The new legislation requires parties to submit quarterly reports of all donations over 5,000 to main political party offices and over 1,000 to constituency or local party offices.

It also bans foreign donations and those from companies registered outside of the EU.

The commission says it is contacting nine small political parties for not submitting their returns.

Lord Rennard, Liberal Democrat director of campaigns and elections, welcomed the publication of the figures.

But he added: "There has been widespread public concern about what millionaire donors may want in return for their money.

"They may hope to influence a party's policy or the choice of party leaders. This can bring politics and politicians into disrepute."

Lord Rennard said the party had called for a limit on donations of 50,000, which would "prevent any suspicion that donors could exercise undue influence on Parliament and political parties".

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram said the figures showed Labour was beholden to the trade unions.

"Labour has been paid well over #2 million by the unions in six weeks. It is now clear that the Labour Party are as beholden to the trade unions as they have always been.

"It is time for them to come clean with the British people and admit who their paymasters really are: the unions."

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See also:

16 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Political funding law in force
22 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Labour faces funding crisis
29 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Row grows over party funding
21 Dec 99 | UK Politics
'Anti-sleaze' measures unveiled
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