Why Romford MP is allowed to keep names of donors secret
- Credit: Ken Mears
A Romford MP has been allowed to keep the names of his donors secret by setting up two clubs, we can reveal today.
Andrew Rosindell has declared donations worth almost £70,000 from two organisations, whose own donors are anonymous.
The Electoral Commission said it had investigated one of the clubs and found the donations were “permissible”. It would not say when they were investigated.
It did not look into the other club, but its donations were logged under the same rules.
“Andrew Rosindell MP is confident that all rules and guidance have been followed correctly,” his office said.
Rules published by the Electoral Commission state that MPs must declare any donations they receive over £500. Normally that means the names of individuals who donate to MPs are published, but by putting the money through associations, donors to Mr Rosindell avoid being named.
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According to the Electoral Commission, since his election in 2001, Mr Rosindell has declared donations totalling £68,905.76 from two clubs.
One is the Romford Conservative Support Club. The other is called The Westminster Club.
When declaring the donations, Mr Rosindell has described them as “unincorporated associations”.
An unincorporated association must have more than one member and be UK-based, but is not required to register with Companies House, the Charity Commission or the Financial Conduct Authority, meaning details of its leadership and finances are not required to be made public.
The Electoral Commission says an unincorporated association should, in general, have “a separate existence from its members” and “an identifiable membership".
If it does not, MPs should “check the permissibility of all individuals who have donated more than £500”.
Neither of the clubs Mr Rosindell received donations from has an online presence or a publicly-advertised address, telephone number or email.
This newspaper asked Mr Rosindell's office if they could put us in touch with the clubs’ organisers, or provide information on how Havering residents could join them.
His office said he “cannot provide information about individuals and organisations... but any donations given would have been correctly declared at the time”.
The Westminster Club
Mr Rosindell said The Westminster Club “existed 20 years ago, but is no longer functioning and has not done so for a considerable time”.
He last declared a donation from The Westminster Club – £5,600 – in 2011, but withheld its address from the public record.
The Recorder asked whether the Electoral Commission had ever looked into Mr Rosindell’s £27,763.53 in donations from The Westminster Club.
A spokesperson said the most recent donation was “beyond the time limit of seven years in the statute of limitations for most legal actions. It is therefore unlikely that it would be proportionate for us to take action at this stage”.
Romford Conservative Support Club
But the Electoral Commission has looked into donations worth £41,142.23 from the Romford Conservative Support Club and declared them “permissible”.
The most recent – a cash donation of £3,217 – was in June 2020.
When Mr Rosindell declared it, he gave the club’s address as Margaret Thatcher House, Western Road, Romford – the address of his own constituency office.
He told the Recorder that the club had been formed in 2001 “by volunteers to raise funds to support the political and constituency work of the MP and the Conservative Party".
“Funds are raised through the organisation of special events, including an annual dinner, where party members and supporters purchase tickets.”
The Iman Foundation
Donation records show that in 2011, the club held a fundraising auction.
It received a donation, in the form of an auction lot valued at £2,975, from the Iman Foundation – another unincorporated association, run by the exiled first-cousin of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
The foundation described itself as a “non-partisan” organisation which aimed to “strengthen international understanding”.
It also paid £1,692 to sponsor a party in 2011 for Mr Rosindell’s supporters and approximately £1,300 to send him to Beirut.
The Recorder asked Mr Rosindell how the Iman Foundation came to donate to the Romford Conservative Support Club, but he did not comment.
The Electoral Commission database shows no donations from the Romford Conservative Support Club between 2013 and 2020.
When Mr Rosindell registered a £5,804.34 “cash” donation in 2013, he told the Electoral Commission that the club’s address was Margaret Thatcher House.
However, he told Parliament that it was in Heath Drive, Romford.
On previous declarations, he had given the address as properties in Aspen Grove and Parkway.
Mr Rosindell’s office did not comment on the 2013 discrepancy but said addresses other than Margaret Thatcher House “would have been the private addresses of officers of the club at that time”.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “It is the legal responsibility of the recipient to ensure they are satisfied that any donation they accept is from a permissible source.
“Where there is evidence that a donation from an impermissible source has been accepted, we would consider it in line with our enforcement policy and consider what action, if any, is appropriate.”