Smoking: Party to publish donor spending

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The Independent Online
Labour's treasurer has 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 yesterday that she would look at the possibility of giving its members a fuller break-down.

Although annual accounts are published at each year's conference, they do not explain how individual donations have been used.

Tony Blair used his opening statement at yesterday's meeting to express his regret that the issue of Mr Ecclestone's pounds 1m donation to Labour and the subsequent decision to exempt Formula One from a tobacco sponsorship ban had not been better handled.

However, he rebutted criticism from Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, over the affair. He told her he would have preferred her to raise her concerns privately rather than in public. Later a party spokesman said that Ms Abbott had missed the Parliamentary Labour Party's debate on the issue but had criticised the leadership on a radio programme on the same day.

However, Ms Abbott said she had not been aware that the Prime Minister had criticised her.

Later the Conservatives tried to make new capital out of the row at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, complaining that the latest pounds 1m donation to Labour had come from a company which paid its workers pounds 2.98.

Mr Blair said he would not take criticism from a party which was refusing to publish the names of its donors at all.

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