Electoral Commission fines two Labour linked pressure groups over illegal donations

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Two prominent pressure groups linked with the Labour party have been fined by the Electoral Commission after accepting multiple donations from a donor who was not on the electoral register at the time as is required under electoral law.
 
Between December 2011 and April 2013, Progress Ltd accepted six donations totalling £390,000 and Movement for Change accepted eleven donations totalling £344,939.60 from Lord David Sainsbury, who was registered before and after this time period.

The groups voluntarily reported that Lord Sainsbury was not on the register in May of last year.  After a six month investigation, the Electoral Commission ruled that despite both groups acting in good faith, these donations were impermissible.  Both fines have been paid in full with Progress paying £6,000 and Movement for Change paying £5,500.

Commenting on the Electoral Commission’s ruling, Peter Horne, Director of Party and Election Finance, said:

“These organisations failed to check a donor was on the electoral register and have been fined because of it. The fines reflect the lengthy amount of time it took both organisations to realise their mistake. We do not think this was a deliberate attempt to evade the rules and both organisations have now put in place new procedures intended to prevent this happening again.”

The Committee also took into consideration the fact that both organisations did not take any more donations from Sainsbury after they became aware he was not officially registered when setting the fines.

A statement published on MfC and Progress’ websites about the issue read: “Throughout their existence, Progress and Movement for Change have been committed to openness and transparency with regard to our funding and have supported and fully complied with the legislation introduced by the last Labour government requiring the registering of donations with the Electoral Commission.

“We are grateful that the Electoral Commission has acknowledged that ‘both organisations had acted in good faith throughout’ and accepts that this was not ‘a deliberate attempt to evade the rules’.  The Electoral Commission did not seek forfeiture of the donations.”

Progress counts several high profile Labour MPs on its board; including vice chairs, Tristram Hunt, Julie Elliott, Lucy Powell and Jenny Chapman; all of whom are shadow ministers.  Deputy Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar was also on the board as a vice chair for a period of time.

High profile Labour MP’s are also on the elected National Committee of Movement for Change.  Stella Creasy, shadow minister for crime prevention is one of its vice chairs.  Kezia Dugdale MSP, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth Unemployment has been on the National Committee since 2011 and currently serves as national chair for the group.

Better Together campaign director, Blair McDougall is also linked with the group having been its national director during this time period in addition to running the group founder, David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour party leadership before leaving to lead the anti-independence campaign.