Hands 'forces' Labour to obey law

Local party files accounts after pressure from MP

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Hammersmith and Fulham MP, Greg Hands, is claiming that pressure by him has forced the local Labour party to abide by the law and file their accounts with the Electoral Commission. He first raised this issue with the chairman of the Commission, Sam Younger, back in June and it was confirmed in the House of Commons on Monday that the accounts had been received.

Mr Hands had urged the Electoral Commission to take action after discovering that at least three local Labour parties had failed to file 2005 accounts with the watchdog, despite admitting incomes over the £25,000 threshold. It has been suggested by the Conservatives that the disparity between the number of accounts filed by Labour and the other parties suggests the problem could be far more widespread, probably effecting hundreds of constituency Labour parties.

According to the watchdog's register of accounts, 308 Conservative accounting units (local branches) filed their accounts for 2005 and 93 Liberal Democrat units did so. Only 38 Labour units had followed suit by the deadline of March 31 this year, with no Scottish units declaring and only two doing so in Wales.

Following an investigation into their finances, Greg Hands discovered that while the Labour party in Hammersmith and Fulham registered donations totalling £31,101, it failed to file accounts. A further 11 local parties registered donations of more than £15,000, but only two of those filed accounts.

Responding to a question from Greg in Parliament on Monday, Peter Viggers MP, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, stated: “The accounts that Hammersmith and Fulham Labour party submitted for 2005 were received on 12 July 2006, and they are in a satisfactory form. My hon. Friend makes a fair point, as a considerable number of accounting units have not reported on time.”

Following the exchange, Greg said: "I am pleased that my campaign has forced the local Labour party in Hammersmith and Fulham to clean up its act. But the reason that there is such an apparent disparity between Labour and Conservative associations is that the constituency Labour parties aren't filing accounts. A lot of them may have income and expenditure under the reporting threshold - but there are clear examples of those who are breaking the law."

October 18, 2006