Labour takes the lid off party funding mystery

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The Independent Online
The Labour Party had 17 donations of more than pounds 5,000 last year, the annual report of its national executive committee reveals today.

Some were from trade unions, but a handful came from individuals, including a number of well-known "Labour luvvies". Only one is a woman.

Paul Hamlyn, the publisher, is on the list, along with Philip Jeffrey, multi-millionaire founder of the Fads DIY chain and former owner of the New Statesman, and Geoffrey Robinson MP, the title's current owner.

Two private citizens, Jane Sheridan and Dr Toumin, make up the five individual donors who gave more than pounds 5,000 in 1995.This is the first time the party has followed up its insistence that big-time donors will be publicly identified, a practice that it has urged the Tories to follow, and one which the party promises to make a legal requirement if it forms the next government.

"We are taking a very strong and open stance about funding," said a party spokesman. "We want it to be transparent. We want people to know where our money comes from, and the public want to know."

The NEC report, which will be submitted to the party's annual conference, lists the party's 17 most generous friends. Several are trade unions - the engineering union AEEU, the public service union UNISON, the shopworkers' union Usdaw, the general union GMB, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the postmen's union CWU, whose members have just been told by Tony Blair to end their strikes. A trade union consortium, Trade Unions for Labour, and a trade union charitable trust, TU Fund Managers Ltd, also appear.

Three companies figure on the list: Pearson plc, the publishing and leisure conglomerate, owners of the Financial Times which told its readers to vote Labour at the last election; GLC Ltd, a futures and foreign exchange commodity firm in the City, and Tate & Lyle plc, the sugar manufacturers who were once among the staunchest supporters of the Conservative Party.

The figures relate to the calendar year 1995, and do not give details of subsequent donations. Paul Hamlyn, founder of the Octopus publishing group which he sold to Reed for pounds 530 million, is known to have given pounds 500,000 in June this year.

Last week, the Conservatives announced that they had paid off the party's pounds 15.4 million overdraft. Donations last year were up by 47 per cent at nearly pounds 19 million. Three quarters of the sum was given by private individuals, but the Tories refuse to name any of them. Nor would it say how much of the cash came from abroad. Labour bans foreign donations.

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