s56 of the Act sets out the requirements, and whilst this section may appear to relate to parties, not individuals, Schedule 7, part II, (8) of the act explains that s56 – s60 also apply to individuals.
So, under the letter of the Law, Gordon Brown, by not having returned the cheque, and having a record of doing so, was deemed to have accepted the donation. Is this just being pedantic? Well consider the situation in a long running election campaign. A cheque is received by a party that they have doubts about, but they may need the money…They decide to hedge their bets. The cheque could be placed in a draw and only banked if things become desperate and they decide to take the risk. In the event that the monies are not needed, the cheque could simply be torn up. No record exists as to when this happened, and it can always be argued that it was torn up immediately. The requirement in Law for the payment to be returned, and a record kept, prevents this from happening.
5) For the purposes of this Part a donation received by a registered party shall be taken to have been accepted by the party unless— (a) the steps mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2) are taken in relation to the donation within the period of 30 days mentioned in that subsection; and
(b) a record can be produced of the receipt of the donation and—
(i) of the return of the donation, or the equivalent amount, as mentioned in subsection (2)(a), or (ii) of the required steps being taken in relation to the donation as mentioned in subsection (2)(b), as the case may be.
And subsection (2) states
(2) If a registered party receives a donation which it is prohibited from accepting by virtue of section 54(1), or which it is decided that the party should for any other reason refuse, then—
(a) unless the donation falls within section 54(1)(b), the donation, or a payment of an equivalent amount, must be sent back to the person who made the donation or any person appearing to be acting on his behalf,
(b) if the donation falls within that provision, the required steps (as defined by section 57(1)) must be taken in relation to the donation,
At the very least, Brown cannot make the same claim that Harman has been making – that she has not broken the letter or the spirit of the Law!