Brown backs Hain over donations

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared his support for Peter Hain in parliament on Wednesday, a day after describing his cabinet colleague’s failure to properly declare political donations as “an incompetence”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain is shown on Downing Street in this file picture.REUTERS/Toby Melville

Brown told a packed House of Commons that Hain retained his confidence after being accused of labelling the Work and Pensions Secretary as a “dead man walking”.

Hain, who is also Welsh Secretary, earlier faced a further call for his resignation when he took questions on Wales from fellow MPs for the first time since the row began over his failure to declare political donations.

“Given his growing lack of credibility ... wouldn’t the best prospect for jobs in Wales be for him to quit his two jobs today,” asked Conservative backbench MP Nigel Evans.

The Conservative front bench has so far resisted calling for Hain’s resignation over his failure to declare more than 100,000 pounds of donations to his failed campaign to become Labour deputy leader last year, saying it was waiting for the outcome of two separate investigations into the affair.

Brown robustly backed Hain during his own weekly Commons questions session, saying he was doing a good job.

“Since he became Secretary for Work and Pensions there have been hundreds of contracts signed with local employers to get thousands of people back to work, and that is why I have confidence in what he is doing,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Brown described Hain’s failure to declare donations as no more than a mistake and “an incompetence”.

Brown told ITV’s News at Ten that the matter was now in the hands of the Commons Standards Committee and the Electoral Commission.

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

“Peter Hain has confessed to his mistakes and he has apologised in the most profuse terms for what has gone wrong.

“It was a mistake that was made, it was an incompetence that he has readily admitted to.”

Editing by Steve Addison