Thursday, 24 January 2008

Now why would the Labour government want to change this law?

Apparently "Gordon Brown has triggered a new party funding row by backing plans that will politicise Britain's charity think-tanks and open the way for them to be used as fronts for secret political donations, The Daily Telegraph can reveal. The proposed changes, due to be unveiled by the charities watchdog, will mean that charities - which receive hundreds of millions of pounds of tax breaks every year - will for the first time be able to devote most of their energies and time to campaigning on contentious political issues.

The Tories warned that charities could become "fronts for political fundraising" by the backdoor, with millionaire and other donors giving covert, tax deductible donations to them in the hope of currying favour with the political parties and politicians who support their work.

The planned changes, which will be published in draft form today and considered by the board of the Charity Commission next week, come after Ed Miliband, the Cabinet Minister responsible for charities, said that guidance on when charities can lobby politically was unclear and confusing.

News of the planned changes will fuel the wider dispute over secret political donations after it emerged that the campaign team of Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, had siphoned £50,000 of the £100,000 undeclared funds via a think-tank to his campaign to become Labour's deputy leader in the summer.

There are suspicions that the loosening of rules barring charities from political activities has been pushed through to get Mr Brown off the hook of a controversy involving his own favourite think-tank, the Smith Institute.

The institute is being investigated by the Charity Commission, amid claims that it was being run as a personal ideas factory for Mr Brown when he was Chancellor.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "It is necessary that there is clarification of the guidelines which will mean that charities can get involved more in political campaigning - such as campaigning to change laws."

A spokesman for the Charity Commission added: "We aren't changing the law governing political campaigning by charities; we're just rewriting our guidance to improve its clarity and give charities who want to campaign greater confidence in doing so.""

Beyond sleaze isn't it?

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