11/01/2008

Hain In Hot Water Over Donations

Government Minister Peter Hain has been reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for failing to declare £103,156 in gifts to his Labour deputy leader bid.

The watchdog will investigate whether the work and pensions secretary broke the rules on MPs' conduct.

Downing Street said PM Gordon Brown had "full confidence" in Mr Hain, who has said his failure to declare the donations was an innocent mistake.

But Plaid Cymru has called for Mr Hain - former Northern Ireland Secretary and now Welsh secretary - to resign.

The Conservatives have held back from calling for Mr Hain's resignation, pending the outcome of the investigation by standards commissioner John Lyon.

But Tory work and pensions spokesman Chris Grayling said: "If he gets severely criticised by the standards commissioner I think there will be very real doubts about his future."

Mr Lyon will prepare a report for the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which has the power to suspend Mr Hain from Parliament.

The complaint against Mr Hain was lodged by David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth.

He said MPs had to declare donations in the register of members' interests, as well as to the Electoral Commission, within four weeks.

"What happens next is up to the Committee for Standards, and Gordon Brown, but there has to come a point where people say it's not feasible for him to be running two departments when all this has gone on."

In a statement Mr Hain admitted he had failed to declare £103,156 in donations to his failed campaign to become Labour's deputy leader to the Electoral Commission.

He said he had been too busy with his duties as the then Northern Ireland secretary to concentrate on the "day-to-day administration and organisation" of his deputy leadership bid, something he now "regrets".

In his statement, Mr Hain said it had become necessary to raise more cash after the deputy leadership contest finished in June last year, because "unpaid invoices" emerged during the summer and autumn.

But he learned on 29 November last year that these donations had not been declared within the required timescale, and "immediately" informed the Electoral Commission.

The commission has since been kept in touch with progress on establishing which donations were not registered, added Mr Hain.

(BMcC)

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