Amendment 8

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:00 pm, 15th July 2019

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, raises an important matter through Amendment 8, one that I know your Lordships take a keen interest in. As he pointed out, the donations and loans order that came into force last year provided complete transparency for donations and loans made to Northern Ireland parties from July 2017. At that point, we said that we would look again at the regime in due course to see if further changes should be made. Our feet have certainly been kept to the fire. I was very impressed with what has happened in and out of the Chamber, as outlined by the noble Lord.

I can confirm that the Government are happy to report to Parliament on the progress that we have made on the issue of donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland from 2014. The Government have no concerns in accepting the noble Lord’s amendment today, and I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, indicates that this is not unreasonable to the people that he has been in touch with. I have also noted the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont.

Amendment 22, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would insert a new clause into the Bill compelling regulations to be made on this issue. I know that this is a matter of concern to the Committee, as I have said. We have debated more than once how we might make progress on this complex issue.

During consideration of the transparency of donations and loans order last year, we made it clear that we intend to work with the Electoral Commission and Northern Ireland parties to establish whether further changes are required to the existing regime. However, we have made no commitment to legislate further on this matter. As always, on this issue it is important to move forward on the basis of consensus in Northern Ireland, and we will be consulting the parties. It is not appropriate to commit to making legislation on this issue before consulting the Northern Ireland parties.

We intend to look at the Northern Ireland donations regime as a whole. I realise that these are difficult and sensitive issues and I repeat that we look to move forward with consensus in Northern Ireland. But we cannot accept the noble Lord’s Amendment 22, and I urge him not to move it.