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3.44 pm

Mr. David Shaw (Dover): There are three reasons for opposing the Bill: Labour hypocrisy, Labour hypocrisy and Labour hypocrisy. The Bill is mischievous. Before the last election, we heard cant and rubbish from Opposition Members about the Conservative party being financed from Saudi Arabia. They named a Saudi prince, but immediately the election was out of the way the truth came out. They had to withdraw the accusation, libel damages were paid to the prince and it was shown to be yet another Labour lie about Conservative party funding.

The Bill does not disclose what Labour is up to with its own financing. Nowhere in the Bill is there any information about how the Labour party accounts for its trade union moneys, which are still its primary source of finance. I have been through the Labour party accounts--I have them here--and I defy anyone to discover how much the trade unions give the Labour party in total. The accounts are misleading, and cover up the true position.

Labour is still heavily dependent on the trade unions: it is tied to them. It has changed the arrangements, and now has what it calls a constituency plan agreement, the wording of which I have managed to find out. Under such agreements, the constituency Labour party and the union undertake to recognise


Under those agreements, the constituency Labour party and the trade unions are committed


    "to co-operating, with the union at appropriate levels, in line with the union's rules".

Under the new arrangements, the Labour party is absolutely committed at national and local level to working with the trade unions. Trade unions still make donations to the Labour party. They still make tied donations: donations tied to performance. The Labour party still has to deliver to the trade unions.

We have confirmation that donations to the Conservative party are not tied. We have no less an authority than Mohammed Al Fayed himself, who complained that he got absolutely nothing from the

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Conservative party for his £0.25 million. Those who donate to the Labour party actually get something, and there are secret joint committees of the Labour party and the trade unions.

The Labour party is in a serious mess. Its funding is still in difficulty. In its accounts and public statements, it claims to have 400,000 members, but when it came to telephoning its membership, it could reach only 200,000--the other 200,000 were missing. The problem was that the unions have not purchased enough membership cards.

The Labour party goes in for secret funds. The amount of its funds which is interesting is not what is published in the accounts: it is what is in the secret or blind funds. I have identified at least six blind funds, and possibly a seventh. There is the Leader of the Opposition's personal blind fund; the deputy leader of the Labour party's personal blind fund; the shadow Chancellor's personal blind fund; the industrial research trust; the Westminster objectors trust; the Front Bench research fund; and the seventh fund that I have identified, apparently involving the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), is the Labour party's Soho fund. I shall not say anything more about the hon. Gentleman and his connections with Soho.

Let us look at the Labour leader's blind fund. In a statement to the 1996 Labour party conference, the right hon. Gentleman said:


He did not say that he would legislate to make himself declare where his own money came from. Where does his money come from? Is it a blind fund set up by lawyers to evade the rules of Parliament? The answer is that it has certainly been set up to evade the rules of Parliament, but what it has not succeeded in doing is being blind, because the newspapers have already told us who donates. Indeed, the leader of the Labour party plays tennis with those who donate. "Anyone for tennis?" takes on a new meaning--"Anyone to donate to the Labour leader's fund?"

The Labour leader meets those who donate over lunch at Mr. Levy's house in north London. He knows who is donating to his Labour leader's private fund; there is no secrecy there. That is what Sir Gordon Downey was not told. Those who read Lord Rees's letter to The Daily Telegraph, and Lord Richard's statement in column 1712 of the House of Lords Official Report, will find that no mention was made of what happened at Mr. Levy's house, or of the Labour leader's meeting with the donors, in the information that was given to Sir Gordon Downey. It would seem that Sir Gordon was seriously misled by the Labour leader's office--and, by implication, by the Labour leader himself--in that those concerned were not open and honest in the information they gave him.

The fact is that the Prime Minister does not have a similar secret fund. He does not need to have blind funds of a personal nature. The Bill is hypocritical in the extreme. I understand from The Times that the Labour leader's blind fund has been used to pay personal expenses. According to that newspaper--and it has not been denied--it is not used just to pay the Opposition Leader's office expenses.

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Some Opposition Members may ask what is wrong with blind funds. Quite simply, they do not work. The donors rarely remain silent; sooner or later, they seek recognition for their donations--and, as we know, in the Labour party recognition means favours, and getting something back.

The fact is that the Labour leader's blind fund is not just an onshore fund, as has been suggested. Mr. Levy's business connections extend to Switzerland and Guernsey, areas that are not known for ensuring that British income tax is paid at the level at which it might be. That is unattractive, and the Labour leader should clean up his act. We do not need ten-minute Bills; we need honesty and openness from the Labour leader and his office.

The fund has been shrouded in secrecy. That secrecy has partly failed, and is causing serious problems. It is disgraceful that it appears that Sir Gordon Downey may have been misled into giving some indication of approval, when he had not been given all the information about how the fund operated and who the Labour leader met at the tennis and lunch sessions at Mr. Levy's home.

This is very unsatisfactory. The newspapers have made clear how unsatisfactory it is. The fact is that a number of donors have already admitted that they donate to the fund; the fact is that there are overseas connections; the fact is that there have been soundbite cover-ups and a lack of openness from the Labour party. The existence of the fund was first disclosed at the end of November and the beginning of December, yet there has been no honesty or openness from Labour. Come out with the names of all the donors. Admit it. Let the Labour leader live up to the speech that he delivered to the party conference in front of all those journalists, the British public and the Labour party. Stop the secrecy in the Labour party. It is a disgrace, and Labour should be ashamed of it. I oppose the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business), and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Winnick, Mr. Tony Banks, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mr. John Spellar, Mr. Paul Flynn, Mr. Robert Hughes, Mr. Doug Hoyle, Mr. Michael Clapham, Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Mr. Ken Eastham, Mr. Andrew Mackinlay andMrs. Anne Campbell.

Mr. Winnick: Virtually everyone wanted to be on the list of supporters, Madam Speaker, but I had to make priorities. I hope that my other hon. Friends will excuse me.

Political Fundraising

Mr. Winnick accordingly presented a Bill to make provision in respect of the funding of political parties at general elections and other times: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 1 May, and to be printed [Bill 105].

12 Feb 1997 : Column 345

Police Bill [Lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Speaker: I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown).

3.55 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill, in common with all the other measures that I have introduced in the past four years, has one simple but important purpose: to protect the public. It will help the police, together with other law enforcement agencies, to target serious and organised crime even more effectively. It will improve access to criminal records to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, particularly by subjecting anyone who wishes to work with children or who seeks other positions of trust, to a thorough check of criminal record information. The Bill will be of real practical benefit to the police, to other law enforcement agencies and to law-abiding citizens.

Organised crime is nothing new, but it is more sophisticated than ever before. Organised criminals are quick to exploit the opportunities provided by the ease of modern travel and modern communications. They operate across police force boundaries and national boundaries. They use the latest technology. They create large and complex businesses, part legal and part illegal, to launder the proceeds of their crimes. The Government are determined to ensure that the law enforcement agencies have the tools that they need to fight such crime effectively. They must be able to conduct effective surveillance, to obtain reliable intelligence and to target major crime in a co-ordinated way. The Bill will help them to achieve that.

Parts I and II provide for the creation of two national services: the NCIS Service Authority and the National Crime Squad. The arrangements for both services will be firmly rooted in our structure of local policing, with its tripartite system of sharing accountability between local representatives, chief officers of police and central Government. We are not proposing the creation of a national police service or the British equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There will be no "federal crimes" over which the new organisations will have exclusive jurisdiction. The public will continue to report all crimes to their local police forces. Police officers in both bodies will continue to be seconded or recruited from local police forces, and there will be strong local representation on the two new service authorities responsible for maintaining the two services. That approach strikes the right balance between putting in place effective national arrangements to meet the challenge of organised crime and preserving the local policing system that we all value so highly.


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