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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Perhaps I misheard him. I thought I had made it plain that the other parties in Northern Ireland do not favour disclosure, and that it was Sinn Fein that favoured it. Does the noble Lord accept the point?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Of course I accept the point. I understand why Sinn Fein does not favour disclosure--

Noble Lords: Does favour disclosure!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I apologise; does favour disclosure. However, if the Minister does not understand why Sinn Fein favours disclosure, he lives in Cloud-cuckoo-land. Everybody else in the Chamber will know why Sinn Fein wants to see disclosure. If I was slightly mixed up, I apologise. However, the point is that Sinn Fein will not want to stop donations from abroad. As I indicated when I quoted the Ulster Unionists, the other political parties in Northern Ireland are content to have donations from abroad stopped. They have no problem with that. I believe that the SDLP will be a very small player in terms of receiving donations from the United States.

My noble friend suggested that perhaps the Government might consider a half-way house. Why should not donations from people abroad be made public? I do not see any problem with that. They are coming to only one political party. Therefore, why should we not know? We know what happens in the Republic. I have a press cutting here. If I wanted to spend time, I could read out who Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein receive money from. However, the information on Sinn Fein is rather easier to read out: the Friends of Sinn Fein in the USA (Park Road, New York) contributed £3,700 and $117,000. The Friends of Sinn Fein in Australia are also mentioned.

Perhaps between now and Report the Minister could consider the question of disclosure of donations from abroad of over £5,000. That might go some way towards helping us with our difficulty with this. However, I do not think it would go very far.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, at least attempted to address my question regarding the Scottish National Party. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that it was a good attempt but it did not satisfy me. The Minister has always ignored this real point. Why should an Irish American be able to pay money to Sinn Fein/IRA when his next-door neighbour cannot pay any money to his old country party, the SNP? I fail to understand how the Government can justify that. Indeed, they do not attempt to justify it. The "justification" is in the violent nature of Sinn Fein and the deal they are doing to try to get it on side. However, I can see that I shall not make progress tonight, so we shall have to consider what to do on this issue on Report.

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I turn to Amendment No. 63 and to the amendments concerning minor parties. I particularly want to ask the Government about Amendments Nos. 132 and 93. I do not think that the Minister went into great detail on minor parties, which is a pity. We shall shortly deal with the principle, but I should like to deal now with a technical point with regard to those two amendments.

Amendment No. 132 provides that the restrictions on accepting donations will not apply to minor parties; that is, to those that only contest parish council elections. Let us take an unscrupulous and devious politician--none in your Lordships' Chamber of course but there may be some outside--who creates and registers a minor party, pledging with the utmost sincerity to the electoral commission that it will only contest parish elections. Then, using the exemptions in Amendment No. 132, it takes large sums of money from abroad and sources of funding that may be denied to the main political parties.

What is there then to stop that politician, having taken all that foreign cash, from amending that party's registration to allow it to contest national elections? He would be allowed to do so under new subsection (7) of Amendment No. 93, and there would be no reason for the commission to refuse such an application, not only because there would be no record of the foreign donations, but even if there were there would be no grounds under the provisions in those amendments for the electoral commission to refuse to allow registration.

The Minister may say that that is far-fetched; but that is not an impossible scenario. The Minister being entirely an innocent abroad of course will not have seen that. But if I can devise such a scenario without too much trouble, then I suspect that others, less scrupulous than myself, might not only devise it, but might also use it. That could drive a coach and horses through the ban on foreign funding.

If that analysis is correct, then a flaw exists in this provision which I suggest the Government ought to consider before we finish with this Bill. The Minister may tell me I am wrong or that I have misread the amendments and interrelated them wrongly. If so, I shall be happy to accept his assurance. If not, perhaps between now and Report he will consider the issue and we can return to it, if necessary.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not confident that I can give the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, the reassurance in the terms he seeks. However, I shall take away the point and consider it as he asks. My reading of the amendment does not suggest the construction that the noble Lord puts on it. But I want to be certain that that is the case. The noble Lord is being fair in suggesting that we give him an assurance before or on Report.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 57:

    Page 12, line 9, after ("a") insert ("qualifying").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 58:

    Page 12, line 10, at end insert--

("(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) a party (other than a minor party) is a "qualifying registered party" in relation to a relevant election if--
(a) the constituency, local government area or electoral region in which the election is held--
(i) is in England, Scotland or Wales, or
(ii) is the electoral region of Scotland or Wales,
and the party was, on the last day for publication of notice of the election, registered in respect of that part of Great Britain in the Great Britain register maintained by the Commission under section (The new registers), or
(b) the constituency, district electoral area or electoral region in which the election is held--
(i) is in Northern Ireland, or
(ii) is the electoral region of Northern Ireland,
and the party was, on that day, registered in the Northern Ireland register maintained by the Commission under that section.
(1B) For the purposes of subsection (1) a minor party is a "qualifying registered party" in relation to a relevant election if--
(a) the election is a parish or community election; and
(b) the party was, on the last day for publication of notice of the election, registered in the Great Britain register in respect of the part of Great Britain in which the election is held.").

[Amendments Nos. 58A to 58H, as amendments to Amendment No. 58, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 58 agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 59:

    Page 12, line 14, at end insert--

("(ii) where the candidate is the Speaker of the House of Commons seeking re-election, "The Speaker seeking re-election"; or").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend, in moving Amendment No. 59 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 111. I hope to address the Committee at short length on this matter.

As I shall explain at greater length when we come to opposition Amendment No. 60, the purpose of Clause 20 is to bring all organisations which put up candidates at an election within the controls on parties' income and expenditure. To achieve that end it prevents candidates using any description other than that of "Independent", unless they are standing on behalf of a registered party.

Madam Speaker pointed out that the Speaker of the House of Commons has traditionally used the description, "The Speaker seeking re-election". The purpose of Clause 20 would not be undermined by allowing the holder of that office to continue to use such a description. Amendment No. 59 effects that simple modification. Amendment No. 111 makes a consequential amendment to Clause 34.

Although, as the Committee will know well, Madam Speaker has announced her intention to resign her seat later this year and will not therefore need to avail

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herself of the position, we believe that it should be open to her successors to make use of such a description on the ballot paper. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: The amendment is extraordinary because it exemplifies the muddle which the Bill was in when it went through the Commons. It went through all its stages in the other place but no one realised that there was a problem with the re-election of the Speaker. It was not picked up until the Bill came to this House. That shows how rushed and ill-thought-out were some of its arrangements. I do not want to press the point and obviously we support the amendments, but it is surprising that the Government never thought of them previously.

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