Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 02:04 GMT
Inquiry into Dobson's campaign
Frank Dobson: Campaign faces date protection inquiry
The data protection registrar is to investigate the use of Labour membership lists by the campaign team behind Frank Dobson's bid to become London mayor.
Labour has insisted that there was no breach of the data protection rules and that MPs and MEPs had access to the lists.
But the use of the lists has been seen as giving Mr Dobson an unfair advantage over his rivals for the Labour nomination, Ken Livingstone and Glenda Jackson.
"That now means that I have a duty to investigate that so we have to begin by looking in more detail where that information come from, how it was handled, and whether there has in fact been a breach of the 1984 Act."
She said it was unlikely that a criminal offence had taken place.
Instead, her investigation would consider a breach of one of the data protection principles, whether the use of the information was "unfair".
Mrs France said it was also unlikely the investigation would delay Labour's selection of a candidate.
Mr Dobson's campaign manager Nick Raynsford, Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, said the campaign team had "firm legal advice that our use of Labour's membership lists is perfectly lawful".
He said: "We are pleased that the registrar accepts there is no evidence of any breach of the law.
"We will obviously co-operate fully with any investigation."
She said: "I would be absolutely astonished if people who joined the Labour Party didn't think they would get correspondence from people in the Labour Party."
Mr Dobson has called on Labour to allow his rival Mr Livingstone to stand against him in the battle to become candidate for mayor.
He told The Times he wanted to defeat Mr Livingstone in an open contest, and that "it would be better if he ran, from everybody's point of view".
Mr Dobson's remarks follow reports that Labour is determined to block Mr Livingstone when the party's national executive prepares the shortlist for its candidate in a fortnight.
He also questioned the leadership's decision to opt for an electoral college embracing the unions and MPs, rather than a one-member, one-vote system, to choose the candidate.
Raising his objections to Mr Livingstone as candidate, Mr Dobson told the newspaper that former Greater London Council leader wants to win the contest to ultimately become "leader of the opposition" against Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Mr Blair has already expressed his support for Mr Dobson, as has International Development Secretary Clare Short.
Labour's chosen candidate will battle the Conservative candidate Lord Archer and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer in the vote next May.
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