UKs main political parties owe 60 million pounds

London, Nov 28 | Updated: Nov 29 2006, 09:31am hrs
The Labour Party had outstanding loans of 23.4 million pounds at the end of September while the Conservatives owed 35.3 million pounds, the Electoral Commission said on Tuesday.

Publication of the figures was made compulsory this year following a row over the alleged offering of honours for cash. The Liberal Democrats had loans of just 1.1 million pounds.

Electoral Commission chief executive Peter Wardle said that while the parties had made progress in complying with rules, there were still problems in the area of donations. I am concerned that some are still struggling to report donations on time a statutory requirement for the last five years, he added.

It is unacceptable that the Labour Party has failed to report a significant amount of donations to the national party on time, he said in a statement. The disclosure for the first time of the loan figures come amid a police investigation into whether individuals were rewarded with honours by both main parties in return for cash.

According to the new law, from September 11, 2006 all loans, mortgages and credit facilities of 5,000 pounds and above have to be declared. Previously only donations had to be made public, a situation which had prompted some critics of the system to say free handouts to political parties were been disguised as loans to avoid their publication.

Responding to Wardles criticism on donations, the Labour Party said it agreed the failings were unacceptable.