Labour returns Ecclestone's pounds 1m

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The Independent Online
Labour has handed back a pounds 1m donation from the Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, it was announced last night. Now the party must wait to see whether the cheque, which was at the centre of a row over the sport's exemption from a ban on tobacco sponsorship, will be accepted.

Labour's director of finance, David Pitt-Watson, and general secretary, Tom Sawyer, personally handed the money to Mr Ecclestone on Tuesday.

Sir Patrick Neill, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, ordered the party to give back the money after it approached him to ask if it would be appropriate to accept a further large sum.

Mr Ecclestone has said he does not want the money back, and it has been suggested that it might be donated to a cancer charity. He did not give any indication when he received it of what he intended to do, a Labour official said. "If he keeps the money, that is his decision. If he doesn't, we will look at a charitable agency or agencies to which it can go," the official said.

In a separate development yesterday Labour's treasurer promised to consider publishing details of how donations are spent after criticism from left- wingers over the Bernie Ecclestone row. Margaret Prosser told a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee that she would consider giving its members a fuller break-down. Although accounts are published at each year's conference, they do not explain how individual donations have been used.

In his opening statement at yesterday's meeting, Tony Blair expressed regret that the issue had not been better handled.

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