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Political Parties: Loans and Donations

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 31 October 2018

7. If she will make it her policy to publish information on loans and donations given to Northern Ireland political parties since 2014. (907324)

The publication by the Electoral Commission of donations and loans data for the Northern Ireland parties from 1 July 2017 is a positive step that should be welcomed by the whole House. The decision to publish data from July 2017 was taken on the basis of consultation and broad support from the majority of political parties in Northern Ireland.

How can it be right that the very party that would come under investigation if donations dating back to 2014 were published essentially gets a veto? We know that the leave campaign is now under investigation for donations during the referendum. Surely Northern Ireland deserves that kind of transparency, too. Why are this Government ignoring the recommendations of the Electoral Commission?

I am sorry that the hon. Lady seeks to make political capital out of this. The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), wrote to all the political parties in January 2017 regarding transparency and a date. With the exception of one party, they all agreed on the way forward. As for any other issues, I am sorry that the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) cannot accept the broad view of the majority of parties in Northern Ireland.

Does the Minister agree that the loophole that allows millions of pounds of donations, including money from America, to be channelled to Sinn Féin through the Irish Republic drives a coach and horses through the UK’s financing rules that seek to prevent foreign influence on elections in the UK? This loophole needs to be closed for Northern Ireland to be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

I appreciate that this is a long-standing issue and a matter of concern. What I will say is that we have just introduced measures for transparency. It is important that we have some data as we move forward. Then, as with many other things, there is no reason why there cannot be a review. When that review takes place, there will be consultation with the Northern Ireland parties and the Electoral Commission.