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Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on the prohibition of foreign donations in the application of Schedule 15 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, to permitted participants to a referendum in Northern Ireland where an order is in force under section 70(1) of that Act to allow foreign donations to political parties participating in the same referendum; what discussions he has had with Northern Ireland political parties and others about them; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The effect of any order made under section 70(1) of the Act on the foreign funding of a referendum campaign in Northern Ireland was extensively debated during the passage of the Bill. There have been no separate discussions between my Department and Northern Ireland political parties and others about this aspect of the special provision for Northern Ireland parties. During the consideration of the Bill in another place, we received two letters on this matter from Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.
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Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to bring into force those elements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 not already brought into force; and in particular when he proposes to bring into force (a) section 4, (b) section 10, (c) section 12, (d) section 13, (e) section 141 and (f) section 144. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: We intend to commence a substantial part of the Act, including section 4 and Parts II, IV to VII and IX, on 16 February 2001. We propose to consult the Electoral Commission before coming to a final view on the timing of commencement of the Commission's general functions set out in sections 5 to 13 of the Act. Subject to the Commission's views, our provisional intention is to bring sections 10, 12 and 13 into force on 16 February, 1 April and 1 July 2001 respectively. We also propose to consult the Commission and the main political parties before a decision is taken on the commencement of the amendments made to the Representation of the People Acts by Part VIII and sections 141 and 144 of Part X. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary indicated at Second Reading, 10 January 2000, Official Report, column 44, that the reduction in the qualifying period for registration as an overseas elector (provided for by section 141) would not be brought into force until after the next election.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to lay before the House a draft order under section 70(1) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000; what consultations he plans to have with (a) Northern Ireland political parties and (b) other political parties prior to the draft order being laid; what representations he has received regarding the terms of the draft order; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: We intend to lay before the House a draft order under section 70(1) of the Act shortly after the Christmas recess with a view to it coming into force, subject to parliamentary approval, on 16 February 2001, that is at the same time as Part IV of the Act is brought into force. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland met with the six main Northern Ireland parties in February to discuss the special provision for Northern Ireland parties in what is now section 70 and plans to do so again in advance of the draft order being laid. This provision was the subject of extensive debates both in this House and in another place during the passage of the Bill. Outside those debates we have received no recent representations about the terms of the draft order.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how it is proposed that (a) political parties and (b) the Electoral Commission will verify to the standard required by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that donations from
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individuals are from individuals registered on UK electoral registers at the time the donation is made; what discussions he has had with electoral administrators regarding the practicality of the proposed procedures; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien [pursuant to his reply, 6 November 2000, c. 111W]: I placed in the Library a paper by the Improvement and Development Agency setting out the proposed arrangements for giving both political parties and the Electoral Commission on-line access to all electoral registers in order to facilitate the checks which will need to be undertaken to comply with Part IV of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. In the period between 16 February 2001, when Part IV comes into force, and the roll-out of the proposed arrangements for on-line access, registered parties will need to make appropriate interim arrangements to check donors against the relevant local electoral register which will be supplied to parties free of charge. Both the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives have been actively involved in the consideration of the interim and permanent arrangements for providing parties and the Commission with ready access to electoral registers.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on members of staff of the Electoral Commission who are members of political parties having access to confidential financial information relating to other political parties; if the Electoral Commission will disclose to political parties that members of its staff with access to confidential financial information about those parties are members of another political party; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Electoral Commission was established on Royal Assent of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Commission is wholly independent of the Home Office and, more generally, of the Government of the day. Questions relating to the way the Commission carries out its statutory functions should accordingly be directed to the Chairman of the Commission once he has been appointed and, in the interim, to the Commission's Chief Executive, Roger Creedon. The Commission's address is:
Mr. Mike O'Brien: We considered one interim solution put forward by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA). This would have involved registration officers sending their registers (together with the monthly updates under rolling registration) to a contractor who would create and maintain a central electronic register. A second contractor would then have
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provided access to the data to political parties and the Electoral Commission via a secure intranet or internet route. The key difference between this approach and the proposed permanent solution is that under the permanent arrangement access would be to the locally held registers, obviating the need to send copies to a central point and thereby ensuring the data are always up to date. The estimated cost of this interim solution was £440,000 a considerable sum for a solution with only a limited shelf-life.
This proposed interim solution would have been a considerable IT project in its own right with all the attendant risk. In particular, there was no certainty that the necessary contractual arrangements could be made, the technical issues resolved and the data supplied in time to enable the arrangement to run from February.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish an impact assessment survey of proposals to require vetting of volunteer leaders and workers with youth organisations by the Criminal Records Bureau. 
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the annual cost to youth organisations which will arise from charges for vetting volunteer leaders and workers by the Criminal Records Bureau. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: We are currently refining our estimates of both the likely volume of demand from the voluntary sector and for the services to be offered by the Criminal Records Bureau, and the cost of providing these services. These factors will be taken into account in setting the fees to be charged by the Bureau, which will be announced as soon as possible.
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