Laws on sleaze delayed

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LEGISLATION TO implement the Neill committee's recommendations on party funding is likely to be delayed for at least a year despite promises by Tony Blair to clean up British politics.

The Government will tomorrow challenge William Hague, leader of the Conservative Party, voluntarily to accept disclosure of party donations and a cap on election spending, which are among the recommendations expected in tomorrow's long-awaited report.

Margaret McDonagh, theLabour Party's new general secretary, said: "Labour will sign up immediately and enter into voluntary agreement with the other political parties."

A shortage of parliamentary time and the complexity of the Neill report, which is expected to include 100 recommendations, are being blamed by ministers for the delay in legislation to clean up politics in the wake of allegations of "Tory sleaze" and Labour lobbying scandals.

But the report's narrow definition of "foreign" will come as a surprise. It is expected to recommend that cash gifts should be allowed from people living abroad who have the right to vote in Britain.

Such a definition would outlaw only two of the Tories' nine donations from overseas.

The report is expected to recommend a pounds 20m ceiling on how much parties may spend on election campaigns - whether to the House of Commons, European Parliament, assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or for Mayor of London.

Parties will be asked to disclose donations and sponsorship worth more than pounds 5,000 from companies, or more than pounds 1,000 from individuals, as well as all their sponsorship and fund-raising activities at their annual conferences.