Labour to get pounds 7,500 sweetener from sugar firm

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The board of Tate and Lyle, the sugar giant, has decided to make a donation to the Labour Party for the first time in its history. The company, traditionally a significant backer of the Tory party and a fierce corporate campaigner against nationalisation, has divided its political contributions among all three main parties.

The company confirmed leaks in Blackpool yesterday that it had reduced its normal annual pounds 25,000 donation to the Conservatives to pounds 15,000 and decided to give pounds 7,500 to Labour and pounds 2,500 to the Liberal Democrats.

Tate and Lyle - which doubled to pounds 50,000 its annual donation to the Tories in the run up to the last general election - said that the board took a strong view that there should be state funding of political parties.

However, Simon Gifford, the company secretary, said yesterday that the board had recognised that in the absence of state funding it had a responsibility to help political parties.

It had taken into consideration the performance of the Government, "the changing stance of the Opposition and the role of the Liberal Democrats and decided this year to support all three", he said.

Mr Gifford said that the replacement of Clause IV - and the ditching of Labour's historic adherence to state control - had been one consideration in judging how far the Labour Party had changed.

Although the company has made modest donations in the past to the third party - it made one to the Social Democrats in the early 1980s - it has never before given to Labour.

The pounds 7,500 donation is one of the first made by a large company to Labour. The only other one so far known was by the publishing and media conglomerate Pearson, which divided its donations up between the three main parties and gave Labour pounds 25,000.