The Electoral Commission confirmed to me yesterday that it wrote to Mr Hain, at the beginning of his campaign, outlining his obligations and his duties relating to the declaration of donations. The letter explained to him that he was legally responsible for his campaign, and it was his responsibility to ensure that all donations were declared within 30 days of receipt. Forms were provided for him or his team to do just that. All these forms had to be signed by him personally. Indeed, we know he received the forms, because he did declare some donations on May 31.
So Peter Hain has no excuses for his “incompetence” (copyright G Brown 2008). He had been duly warned about his legal responsibilities but he chose to ignore them.
Iain says he couldn’t get a copy of the letter, and so doesn’t know what it said. However, I do know what the Electoral Commission wrote to both Liberal Democrat leadership candidates personally at the start of our own leadership election campaign. The letters were solely about the laws around accepting and declaring donations:
… When you accept donations, loans or credit arrangements totalling more than £1,000 for a single source, you should report them to the Electoral Commission within 30 days of acceptance … [Electoral Commission] staff will be very happy to help your campaign team with any advice they need on how the law works and what you need to do.