In general, UK-wide party funding rules apply to Northern Ireland parties. However, the Electoral Commission cannot disclose information that relates to donations or loans to Northern Ireland parties. The Government are committed to making party funding more transparent, while ensuring donor identities are not released retrospectively.
I am most grateful to the Minister of State for that answer. He will know there is cross-party consensus that political funding in Northern Ireland needs to be more transparent and accountable to the public. Will he therefore engage with all the political parties who choose to take their seats here, to ensure we make progress on this very important issue?
Not only will I engage with all political parties that take their seats here, I will also engage with those that do not, because I think this is a very important issue. In the last couple of weeks, with the shadow Minister for the Northern Ireland Office, the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), we took through a statutory instrument that puts in place an extension until September next year. We hope to be in a better position next year, but we must protect those who may be vulnerable should they wish to donate to a political party.
For years this House has allowed the disgraceful situation to continue whereby Sinn Fein has been able to draw down tens of thousands of pounds of representative money without providing representation in this House. Discrimination against true democrats must be stopped. When will the Government grasp the nettle and stop this intolerable abuse and inequality of funding?