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Osborne and Hain - donation declarations

It is important for people to know who any substantial funders of politicians are. Such declarations of interest should be public. However, there has to be a sensible approach to techical issues.

George Osborne declared his funding to the Electoral Commission, but not the parliamentary commissioner for standards. I don't see this as anything other than a technical breach.

Peter Hain, however, failed to declare his funding sources to anyone. At the same time an attempt to conceal the sources was made. It is this attempt to conceal the sources of funding that causes me most concern.

The reason for declaring funding sources is to identify whether or not politicians are offering "cash for questions" type deals. If we don't know who the paymaster is then we don't know which tunes to look out for.

There has, however, to be a sensible and coherent approach to declarations. I need to declare things to Birmingham City Council, The Electoral Commission, The Liberal Democrats and the Parliamentary Commissioner for standards.

The rules are different, the cycles are different and it is easy by mistake to declare to one and not another. For example dormant companies are declared to local authorities, but only trading companies to the Parliamentary Commissioner.

In a sense we need a politicians funding register so the funding streams anyone active in politics (and potentially as a candidate as well) can be identified without a massive bureaucratic overload.

For a period of time I had to declare when I refused a dinner worth £25 or over. Because it was too much hassle to find out which were worth so much I simply declared everything through the BCC Deputy Leader's Office. Potentially this is a solution although declaring when one turns down an offer of something does seem a bit unnecessary.

This area of multiple declarations does need to be looked at in detail. Hiding a substantial funding stream cannot be acceptable and I don't think Peter Hain will stick this one out.

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