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Political Parties: Donations and Loans

Volume 638: debated on Wednesday 28 March 2018

4. What steps the Government are taking to ensure the transparency of donations and loans to political parties. (904621)

Donations and loans to political parties are subject to transparency rules, as set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Government remain committed to such transparency, recently passing legislation to extend the requirements to donations and loans in Northern Ireland for the first time.

In the light of recent revelations, how much of the hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to the Tory party by Russians will be returned?

The rules on donations are very clear in terms of permissibility and impermissibility: British citizens are entitled to donate to UK political parties and foreign donors are not.

Will my hon. Friend reissue the requirements that all political parties have to honour on donations, so that no one can fall foul of the rules?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s reminder that we all simply have to abide by the law of this country.

Earlier this month, the House approved regulations requiring the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland, but that was limited to events taking place after 1 July last year. Given the recent disclosures and in particular the allegations about dark money going from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Conservatives, to the Democratic Unionist party, will the Minister consider bringing forward a new order to require the Electoral Commission to disclose information relating to the period from 2015?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been clear that, although she does not have any plans to provide for publication of the pre-2017 data, we will look to review the broader framework once those arrangements have bedded in. What I would say is that she and her predecessor took those decisions because the majority of parties in Northern Ireland agreed at the time that it was the right thing to do, and, indeed, the Labour Front Bench team, before it was against it, was for it.

Last month, access to members of the British Cabinet was auctioned off for around £55,000 per Minister—although the Secretary of State for International Trade was worth only £2,000. The Minister’s job in the Cabinet Office is to ensure “propriety, ethics and transparency” in government; does she agree that auctioning off access to Ministers undermines confidence in democracy by giving the impression of a Government for sale? Will she take steps immediately to secure transparency and propriety in all such matters in future?

As I said in answer to a previous question, all donations are registered in accordance with the law. I appreciate that in recent days some points have been raised; indeed, some were raised in the Chamber yesterday, after your decision to grant an emergency debate, Mr Speaker. There are a lot of allegations in the air at the moment, but what the Government have to do is deal with the law as it stands and allow the correct bodies to carry out their investigations.