My Lords, I firmly believe that there should be full openness and transparency regarding donations and loans to all the political parties in Northern Ireland, just as there is in the rest of the United Kingdom. As many noble Lords will be aware, the Secretary of State sought the view of all the Northern Ireland political parties on this matter in January 2017. As I emphasised in February 2018, there was clear support for full transparency. However, only one party—the Alliance Party—took the rather unusual position that the implementation of the new rules should be backdated to January 2014.
I acknowledge that the earlier date was referred to in the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, but in my view retrospective legislation is acceptable only in exceptional circumstances. It is not fair to reveal the identities of those who made donations assuming that the law at the time would always apply. It is strange that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, is intent on reopening issues that have been fully considered in the House and elsewhere, rather than concentrating on providing an effective framework for the future. The treatment of foreign donations to Northern Ireland political parties, for example, is an important and unresolved issue. The Electoral Commission is in full receipt of all the facts regarding donations before 2014, so although I support full transparency, I believe that the date of 2014 is a fair way to treat this.