Letter: Labour's research fund plans

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The Independent Online
Sir: The article by Barrie Clement ("Unions fund Labour by the back door", 18 May) is based on a series of factual inaccuracies.

The Labour Frontbench Research Fund (not "Shadow Cabinet Research Fund") has somewhere in the region of pounds 40,000 in it, not pounds 300,000.

It is not a "blind fund". We make public the contributors to it, and the Labour frontbench members who receive funding will declare that fact in the new Register of member's interests.

It can scarcely be used to "disguise" financial support paid by unions since we declare the names of all contributors. As it happens, the majority of contributions so far have come from individual businessmen or businesses.

Of course there would be grounds to object if 90 per cent of the fund came from one source. But it doesn't. The non-affiliated fund of Unison which used to make contributions to research by the Labour frontbench has not contributed to the fund.

The reason there is no entry in the Register yet by individual MPs is that there have been no payments out from the fund yet. As payments are made they will be entered in the Register. The new Register covers the current year rather than the past year.

The real facts are these: the public funding for the opposition frontbench (the Short money) is insufficient to pay for the research the opposition needs to keep the Government accountable. For decades therefore the opposition has had to supplement this with outside funding.

We have altered the way that the Labour frontbench handles its funding to meet the new Nolan rules. We have set up a central Labour Frontbench Research Fund after extensive discussion with Sir Gordon Downey, the new Parliamentary Commissioner, to make sure that it meets all the new rules.

Because we are anxious to ensure full transparency we have gone beyond what Sir Gordon advised us to do by making public the names of all contributors to the fund. We will meet any new rules proposed by Sir Gordon.


(Glasgow Garscadden, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1