PM: Hain guilty of “an incompetence”

Peter Hain has committed an “incompetence” but has not engaged in “corruption”, the prime minister said yesterday.

Continuing to resist pressure to sack his embattled work and pensions secretary, Gordon Brown said Mr Hain had made mistakes which he had “readily admitted to”.

Mr Hain, who is also secretary of state for Wales, is currently facing two investigations over his failure to declare £103,000 in donations to his failed deputy leadership campaign.

The Electoral Commission is investigating why he failed to report the donations to them until last week, contravening rules which say politicians have 30 days to decide if donations are permissible and 30 days to report them to the commission.

The parliamentary commissioner for standards, John Lyon, has also launched his own investigation into why the money was not listed with the register of members’ interests following a complaint by Tory MP David Davies.

Speaking to ITV1’s News at Ten, Mr Brown said: “It was a mistake that was made. It was an incompetence that he has readily admitted to.

“This now goes before the standards committee in the House of Commons, and before the Electoral Commission.

“And I believe they will understand that this was a failure, that there was no corruption involved, that there was no illegal donation made, and I hope that they will be able to accept his apology.”

Downing Street has insisted the prime minister retains “full confidence” in Mr Hain but a close ally of Mr Brown was accused of showing lukewarm support yesterday.

Ed Balls said it was important for Mr Hain to “answer all questions”.

The Conservatives are demanding to know why around £50,000 was channelled into Mr Hain’s campaign through the Progressive Policies Forum (PPF) thinktank, which does not appear to employ staff or conduct research.

Speaking to the BBC’s World at One, Mr Balls said: “Of course it is important that Peter answers all the questions in the inquiry, we have the kind of scrutiny which you should have, but at the same time I think it is important that we get on with the job of delivering for the British people.”

Meanwhile, the Labour MP John Mann has referred details of 80 Conservative MPs to the Electoral Commission, alleging they may have also failed to properly register donations.