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Party Funding

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

5. How many investigations the Electoral Commission has carried out into political party funding in the last 12 months. (229208)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it has carried out formal investigations into three cases relating to political party funding in the past 12 months.

My hon. Friend will know that the Government intend to rush through new rules on what is known as “triggering” before the Electoral Commission has issued its guidance on the matter. Does he agree that that is a recipe for confusion, which will fatally undermine the confidence in any new rules?

My hon. Friend is on to an important point. If the House passes the measure in the Political Parties and Elections Bill that introduces a new triggering mechanism, the Electoral Commission will consult as soon as possible after the parliamentary process and before Royal Assent. It will then issue its guidelines on the new triggering mechanism as soon as it can. Of course, the guidelines will not be definitive because the law on the triggering mechanism will stand to be decided by the courts, and because the matter falls under the Representation of the People Acts, it will be for the police, not the commission, to decide whether or not to prosecute.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is illegal either to receive or to solicit in any way foreign donations for political parties? In view of the allegations made about the shadow Chancellor, would it not be appropriate for the Electoral Commission to investigate accordingly?

Order. The shadow Chancellor is not in the Chamber. Did the hon. Gentleman approach the shadow Chancellor to say that he was going to ask this question?

Well, he should have. The hon. Gentleman knows the courtesies of the House—he has been here long enough. I instruct the hon. Member for Gosport (Sir Peter Viggers) not to answer.

During Second Reading of the Bill on Monday, it was noted that the Electoral Commission remains opposed to the provisions dealing with new political donor notification. Does that remain the case?

Mr. Speaker, you will know that the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission does not get involved in individual cases, but the commission has made a statement that no facts have been reported to it that would cause it to make any inquiry.