MPs to end need for double reporting

AFTER months of uncertainty and lurid headlines about politicians on the make, the arrangements for declaring political donations are set to be simplified.

Graham Dines

People in Politics

AFTER months of uncertainty and lurid headlines about politicians on the make, the arrangements for declaring political donations are set to be simplified. In future MPs will not need to “double-report” gifts to both the Commons Register of Members' Interests and the Electoral Commission.

The ludicrous rules which lead to the vilification of MPs who have properly registered flight upgrades, newspaper article payments, and corporate hospitality but overlooked informing the Electoral Commission are to be torn up and the Commission will harvest the data from the Register.

Under the current arrangements, any donation to an MP valued at over £1,000 must be notified to the Register of Members' Interests within four weeks, and also to the Electoral Commission within 30 days.

Failure to comply with the regulator's reporting rules is strictly a breach of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA).

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The move will not lessen the proper scrutiny of MPs. Indeed, the rules on expenses are likely to be tightened up, especially when it comes to how many houses and mortgages the taxpayer should subsidise.

But it will mean, for example, Tory Leader David Cameron's lapse in failing to declare to the Commission a non-cash gift of £7,285 - a helicopter flight - from his step father-in-law Viscount William Astor will no longer lead to a rebuke. He had properly entered the donation on the MPs' Register, but not to the regulatory authority.

However, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg would still be rebuked for delays in declaring more than £14,000 in donations. He did not notify the Electoral Commission of six cash gifts which he received between December 2006 and last November.

It is the second time the MP has been named and shamed by the Commission in little over a week, after it emerged that he had forgotten to declare two other donations totalling £15,000 from December last year.

DAVID Cameron is proud of the way he has changed the age profile of the Conservatives and the Tories are streets ahead of Labour and the Liberal Democrats in adapting campaigning to the internet and digital age.

But the newly launched Tory Facebook entry with its cutting edge video may come back to haunt Cameron. It is played to the Jimmy Cliff reggae classic “You Can Get It If You Really Want” which I'm told is “a Jamaican exploration of marijuana, gun crime and gang violence.”

Incidentally, by my reckoning, and excluding work colleagues and relatives, I have 16 Conservative friends on Facebook, three Labour and four Liberal Democrats.

THE rebranding of the region's rail network has given us trains in a smart new livery after years of the dull sea green of Anglia and the multicoloured hues of the strangely named One. Although they've been in use for a few months, the corporate colours of National Express were unveiled officially at a glittering ceremony at Liverpool Street last week.

Four hours later, we were back to reality. The train I caught back from London was propelled by a hired-in freight loco decked out in the dirty maroon and straw yellow colours of EWS. Such is life on our wonderful privatised railways.

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