Peter Hain, still New Labour’s secretary for work and pensions as Socialist Worker went to press, should take advice from the adverts his department runs on benefit fraud. They have the slogan “No Ifs, No Buts”.
Hain is under a lot of pressure over donations to his campaign last year to become Labour’s deputy leader.
Hain’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is running a campaign against alleged benefit fraud. People on incapacity and disability benefits are being sent long questionnaires that they must fill out or lose their benefits.
The government’s policy of forcing people off benefits through investigations and bureaucracy is topped up with the tax credit system that means a quarter of families in Britain are caught up in complicated means tested benefits.
If they “forget” to declare income, it’s called benefit fraud – an offence for which the DWP prosecuted some 28,800 people in 2006-7.
Hain’s defence over the donations is that he forgot to declare £103,000.
Hain came fifth out of six in the deputy leadership race. But it now appears that he spent £185,000 on his campaign – more than any other candidate.
Hain is already facing an investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner and possibly the police for his failure to register more than £103,000 in donations.
Some of this came via the Progressive Policies Forum think-tank. It doesn’t seem to have done anything other than collect money for Hain.
Steve Morgan, who was Hain’s campaign manager, has described the role of the Progressive Policies Forum in raising money for Hain as “revolting”. Morgan himself gave £5,000 to it.
Morgan is a lobbyist. His company, Morgan Allen Moore, has removed its client list from its website.
Despite the scandal a number of trade unions have supported Hain. Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the CWU union, said, “Peter Hain is an excellent minister who has helped to deliver important policy changes which positively improve the lives of working people.”
It isn’t entirely clear when or how Hain has helped workers. For instance, the DWP is currently cutting 40,000 civil service workers’ jobs.
The GMB union believes that it donated between £15,000 and £20,000 of Hain’s forgotten donations. Hain has now declared a £10,000 GMB donation and nearly £5,000 payment in kind.
Bizarrely, the BBC’s Newsnight has claimed that this payment was responsible for Hain intervening in last year’s dispute at the Remploy company for disabled workers.
However, it omitted to mention that Hain’s intervention was to close factories and start sacking disabled workers.
It seems that when it comes to union money there is no influence to be gained from giving donations to Labour politicians.
Wealthy backed campaign
Willie Nagel gave £5,000 and made a loan of £25,000 to Peter Hain’s campaign. Nagel is a prominent diamond broker.
Eleven years ago he sent £20,000 to then prime minister John Major’s Tory constituency association.
He was later invited to go on a trade mission to Israel and Jordan with Major.
Nagel attempted to interest Major in an unmanned aircraft developed by Israel, even though there was an embargo on sales of Israeli military equipment at the time.
Isaac Kaye gave a total of £14,600 to Hain’s campaign. Kaye’s company was embroiled in a police investigation into a suspected £400 million fraud against the NHS.
Earlier he had been caught up in a “gifts for influence” scandal in South Africa – where he was a supporter of the pro-apartheid National Party.
In February 2007 Hain was photographed presenting Mike Cuddy, the managing director of Cuddy Group, with the NQA 18001 Award for Occupational Health & Safety.
NQA 18001 is “awarded” for writing down your company’s approach to occupational health and safety.
The Cuddy Group gave £1,500 to Hain’s campaign.