Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cash for Peerages, A private prosecution?

One thing that is clear from the Cash for honours affair is that those who suspect wrong doing are not happy. Guido has set up an online pledge to see how many people he can get together to back a private prosecution. I have signed it, see here.

This mainly centers on a rather obvious breech of the The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and in particular the loans made. Part IV of the act, section 50 says as follows:

Donations for purposes of Part IV.

50. - (1) The following provisions have effect for the purposes of this Part.

(2) "Donation", in relation to a registered party, means (subject to section 52)-

(a) any gift to the party of money or other property;

(b) any sponsorship provided in relation to the party (as defined by section 51);

(c) any subscription or other fee paid for affiliation to, or membership of, the party;

(d) any money spent (otherwise than by or on behalf of the party) in paying any expenses incurred directly or indirectly by the party;

(e) any money lent to the party otherwise than on commercial terms;

(f) the provision otherwise than on commercial terms of any property, services or facilities for the use or benefit of the party (including the services of any person).
Note (e) in bold. In principle a prosecution would turn on whether loans made, for Lordships, were or were not on commercial terms. There are statements in the public domain that indicate some certainly were not on what any sensible person would regard as commercial terms, and indeed it is arguable that were the Labour party in a position to borrow on commercial terms it would have done so. So if the loans were not commercial we get to section 61 which is here:

61. - (1) A person commits an offence if he-

(a) knowingly enters into, or

(b) knowingly does any act in furtherance of, any arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate, whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise, the making of donations to a registered party by any person or body other than a permissible donor.

(2) A person commits an offence if-

(a) he knowingly gives the treasurer of a registered party any information relating to-

(i) the amount of any donation made to the party, or

(ii) the person or body making such a donation,

which is false in a material particular; or

(b) with intent to deceive, he withholds from the treasurer of a registered party any material information relating to a matter within paragraph (a)(i) or (ii).
Now, we know that Jack Dromey the Labour party treasurer claims he was blissfully unaware of theses loans. If they were indeed not commercial then clearly there is an offence here as well.
though (b) would give some trouble as there is a need to show intent.

Now, it has to be said that the CPS did look at the issue of loans but dismissed them thus, at paragraph 30 of their statement:

30. In relation to possible breaches of the 2000 Act, we are satisfied that we
cannot exclude the possibility that any loans made – all of which were made
following receipt by the Labour Party of legal advice - can properly be
characterised as commercial.

Which seems a bit dismissive and rather odd. After all legal opinions vary,. look at Lord Goldsmith on the Iraq war. However what they seem to be saying is Labour's lawyers say it's OK so it is.

So, if you think we have been short changed, please read Guido here and sign the pledge here.


Anonymous said...

Apart from as has been said many times before Matt Carter was the registered Treasurer for the purposes of the Act not Jack Dromey.

Benedict White said...

Anonymous, many thanks. So the elected one is irrelevant then?

David Boothroyd said...

The post of 'Treasurer' in the Labour Party, although not entirely an honorary one, is not the officer in day to day charge of party finances. It is of couse fatal to any prosecution since 'Treasurer' in the 2000 legislation is quite clear that it means the registered treasurer.

Benedict White said...

David, if Matt was aware of the full details of the loans then it gets around section 61 only, it does nothing to get around section 50 at all.

Anonymous said...

Benedict, if you've got any money to spare, send it to Cameron, he'll need it. Civil war about to break out in the Tory Party, Labour to call an election, it'll be '97 all over again, but bigger.

Anonymous said...

I'll sign it, providing the Tory party open up their books from the 1980s and 90s for a full audit too.