HC Deb 06 February 2001 vol 362 cc875-98 8.24 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. George Howarth)

I beg to move, That the draft Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Disapplication of Part IV for Northern Ireland Parties, etc.) Order 2001, which was laid before this House on 25th January, be approved.

I am grateful for the opportunity offered by this debate to explain why the Government believe that the order is necessary.

During the debates on the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill, clause 70(1), which permitted the Secretary of State to exempt the Northern Ireland parties from part IV of the legislation, was covered at some length.

In some parts of the House, the strength of feeling about those exemptions was made clear, so I want to explain why we think they are still necessary if all the parties in Northern Ireland are to function on a fair and equal footing with their counterparts elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

In the course of my speech, I hope to demonstrate that the only way to ensure fairness and equality for political parties in Northern Ireland is to recognise and allow for the special circumstances in which politics has to operate there.

First, I briefly remind the House of the purpose of the order. The order exempts political parties in Northern Ireland from registering the source of their donations and exempts them from the specified list of permissible donors set out in the Act. The exemptions are to last for four years but can be revoked before that time, although they may also be renewed after the four-year period.

Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

The four-year period is an upper limit. Given that we really want to move on from these provisions as quickly as possible, will the Minister consider reducing the time to two years?

Mr. Howarth

Later in my speech, I intend to address the circumstances in which we might need to consider a review of the legislation. As matters stand, a review could be triggered by events rather than at a particular point in time. I shall reflect on the hon. Gentleman's comments and if we see some merit in the argument, we could return to it when the order is debated in another place.

The order is based on the recommendations of the Neill report. After taking evidence in Northern Ireland the Neill committee made two specific recommendations. The first of these was that the Government should consider in the context of the development of the peace process whether it would be expedient to introduce a short term and reviewable exemption from the reporting requirements in respect of donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland.

That recommendation reflected the widespread concern expressed to the committee that the publication of names and other details of donors could and, in some cases, probably would lead to intimidation. The recommendation has been accepted because we have no intention of endangering people's security, nor of inadvertently discouraging them from donating to political parties.

The second recommendation acknowledged the importance of the Good Friday agreement and of our relations with the Republic of Ireland. As a consequence, the committee recommended that in relation to donors to political parties in Northern Ireland, the definition of a permissible source should also include a citizen of the Republic of Ireland resident in the Republic subject to compliance with the Republic's Electoral Act 1997.

Again, we accept that recommendation. It is a matter of some regret, however, that it did not prove possible to draft the definition of a permissible source in quite the way that the Neill committee envisaged.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I appreciate that the Minister said that it was not possible to define the phrase, "permissible source", but can he tell us what definition is used in the Republic's electoral law? Which circumstances govern such subscriptions there?

Mr. Howarth

At the moment, the Republic of Ireland has no equivalent legislation. I intend to comment further on that matter as I develop my speech, and I shall then cover the point that the hon. Gentleman makes.

The Electoral Commission—a United Kingdom-based organisation, which will have the responsibility for policing the arrangements—could not reasonably be expected to verify whether those in the Republic of Ireland who made donations were in compliance with the Republic's law, even as it stands.

A consequence of accepting the second recommendation—that donations from the Republic of Ireland were to be permitted—was that there was no way of preventing donations from elsewhere in the world being routed to Northern Ireland via the Republic.

Although we recognise that we are making an exception to our own policy on party funding, I hope that the House will understand, and perhaps agree, that we should not make provisions that would be impossible to police. It must be recognised that if anonymity is needed and donations from the Republic of Ireland are to be allowed, the amount of checking that can be completed in an entirely separate jurisdiction is very limited.

To return to the point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) at moment ago, I am aware that the Irish Government are examining the arrangements regarding foreign donations to political parties. That is clearly a matter for that Government, and it would not be appropriate for me to express a view one way or another on what they should do. However, I recognise that such a change in law in the Republic of Ireland would have implications, depending on how it was framed, for the exemptions listed in the order. I therefore acknowledge that, in those circumstances, it would be proper to review the exemptions, and I am happy to assure the House that we would do so in the light of any changes in Irish law.

To ensure that the exemptions were considered necessary, I undertook a round of consultations with many of the political parties in February 2000. To be fair, that round of meetings revealed that there was a range of views among the Northern Ireland parties about the matter. On the whole, however, a majority of the parties at that time expressed fear for the safety of those who were named as donors—whether individuals or businesses—and thought that anonymity should be permitted. There was also a general recognition of the role of the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland's political life, which is, of course, entirely consistent with the Good Friday agreement.

As the House will probably remember, because of the concerns expressed about the exemptions—not least by the official Opposition—we promised that there would be a second round of consultations before the order was presented to the House. To fulfil that commitment, I invited all the Northern Ireland parties to a second round of meetings, which took place in January this year. During that round of meetings, it became apparent to me that the consensus for the exemptions has, to some extent, broken down. Nevertheless, even those parties which thought that complete anonymity was not warranted still sought an assurance that names could be given on a confidential basis to the Electoral Commission.

I hope that the House will understand that it is no reflection on the Electoral Commission when I say that no such assurance of complete confidentiality can be given. In any case, some of the parties have already indicated to me that a list compiled on a confidential basis, not to be published and available only to the commission, would still be enough to frighten away their donors on the grounds that there may be a leak and inadvertent disclosure.

As a Government, we have a responsibility to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can make contributions to political parties without fear of reprisals or intimidation of any kind. We also have a responsibility to ensure that democratic parties are allowed to flourish. In my view, the only way that we can achieve this is by allowing complete anonymity for four years, so that the democratic process in Northern Ireland is not vulnerable in any way to those who would intimidate or inflict violence on others.

Similarly, there are sound reasons for allowing contributions from the Republic of Ireland. The truth is, however, that we do not have any realistic or reliable way of checking whether such money originated outside the Republic of Ireland. So, while we regret that these exemptions are necessary—I say that in all sincerity—there is a need to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can be allowed to show their support for their chosen political parties without having any reason to fear for their own safety. Even those Northern Ireland parties that wished for full transparency acknowledged the need for some protection for certain groups of people.

For the reasons I have just given, we will obviously, as I said earlier, keep the need for the exemptions under review. If the political situation changes in the Republic of Ireland or the fears for the security of donors recedes, we will come back to the House and revoke the order. On the other hand, if, after four years, the Government's view is that the exemptions are still needed, we will seek to renew them for a suitable period and will come to the House with an affirmative order as we have done tonight.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Although we respect the way in which the Minister is moving the order, many of us think that, at heart, it is a miserable measure. Does he not accept that the conduct of politics is not only about political parties but, not least in the context of Northern Ireland, about cross-community organisations? Will he confirm that, if the order is passed and there is subsequently a referendum on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein will be able to take money from abroad, but a cross-community organisation that is manifestly and indisputably committed to peaceful means will not be able to do so?

Mr. Howarth

I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman seeks to make. If he cares to elaborate on it, I shall try to give him a considered answer. If he is implying that the measures are designed purely to facilitate Sinn Fein, he is quite wrong.

Mr. Bercow

I intended to be clear; I am sorry if I was not. My point was that it is entirely conceivable that an organisation that was not a political party could and would have a view about the yes or no answer to a question in a referendum but, unlike a political party, it would not be able to receive funds from outside the country.

Mr. Howarth

The exemption in the order is designed entirely to cover political parties. It has no bearing on the conduct of a referendum. Other parts of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 deal with referendums and, if the hon. Gentleman has any concerns about them, I suggest that he takes them up with the Home Office. We are dealing exclusively with the funding of political parties, and the two relevant issues that flow from the Neill committee report.

Mr. Öpik

I had assumed that a non-political organisation could get funds for a referendum or something else from wherever it can secure them. Will the Minister clarify whether that is the case?

Mr. Howarth

In general terms, it is the case. The point that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) made related to the fact that referendums are covered by the Act and he wanted to clarify whether there was a difference between a referendum and the provisions in the order. If that is the clarification that he sought, I am happy to confirm that there is a difference. Although a referendum would be funded on a different basis, that would apply across the United Kingdom. My case is that the funding of political parties is subject to different pressures in Northern Ireland.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I want to press the Minister on that issue. The order is on political parties, elections and referendums, but referendums do not always affect the whole of the UK; some have been held in Northern Ireland specifically on Northern Ireland issues. Does the fine print in the order mean that cross-party groupings and non-party groupings can get money from anywhere and that it is only political parties that are restricted on donations?

Mr. Howarth

If the hon. Gentleman reads the order, he will see that the headings refer to Northern Ireland parties, the disapplication of schedule 7, which covers political parties, the registration of the meaning of a registered political party and the registration of donations by regulated donees in Great Britain. It does not mention referendums that are held only in Northern Ireland or UK-wide.

Referendums would be affected only if a political party chose to campaign on them. The considerations that relate to any other means of fund-raising would apply in those circumstances because they are disapplied from the Act. There may be circumstances in which resources that were donated to a political party could be used for campaigning in a referendum, but presumably that would not be the purpose for which those general campaigning funds had been raised.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

Perhaps I can help the Minister. When challenged on this matter during the Bill's passage in another place, Lord Bassam said: I fully accept that the situation as it stands will mean that a Northern Ireland party would be able to use foreign donations in any future referendum … Another consequence … which I do not seek to hide is that a Northern Ireland party could use foreign funds in a referendum but any other permitted participant could not. I do not pretend that the position is ideal."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 November 2000; Vol. 619, c. 768.]

Mr. Howarth

I am in no way disagreeing with my noble Friend. I said that in those circumstances it would be possible for political parties to campaign in a referendum as described. However, the Act sets expenditure limits on campaigning generally in referendums. Unlimited expenditure of any kind would be penalised.

I feel bound to draw one further factor to the attention of the House. At least one party, the Social Democratic and Labour party, which is represented in the House tonight, has been fund-raising in anticipation of the exemptions. I also understand that some of its prospective donors have promised funding on the basis that the Northern Ireland parties would be exempted and not identified. In view of the fact that we signalled that the order would be introduced, it was not unreasonable for the party to do that. However, if we were to backtrack on that commitment, it would represent a breach of good faith. In those circumstances, we are honour bound to meet that commitment. Having made those important points, I commend the order to the House.

8.45 pm
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

We strongly and passionately oppose the motion, for reasons that I and others outlined during the passage of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill through both Houses of Parliament.

The Minister's speech was uncharacteristically confusing, and I did not think that his heart was entirely in it. I hope that he will forgive me if I am a little critical.

Mr. George Howarth

To dispel any misgivings that the right hon. Gentleman might have, I can assure him that, whatever my speech conveyed, my heart was properly in it. I have given the measure careful consideration and I believe that, in the circumstances, it is exactly the right thing to do.

Mr. MacKay

I am grateful to the Minister. I shall be happy for him to intervene again, but perhaps I could first make a little progress.

Our first fundamental objection concerns the fact that it has been decided, rightly, that political parties in our country should no longer accept overseas donations. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) became Leader of the Opposition, one of his early decisions, before the Neill committee reached its conclusions, was that the Conservative party would not in future accept overseas donations. There was no real dispute about that during the Bill's passage. Our concern is that Northern Ireland is being treated differently.

I passionately believe in the Union of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. As a unionist—and I emphasise the small "u"—I believe that, wherever possible, Northern Ireland should be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of our country. It is fundamentally wrong that political parties in Northern Ireland are able to obtain funds from abroad when parties based on the mainland are not.

I am particularly concerned that the measure is largely, but not exclusively, a sop to political parties that are still close to violence and inextricably linked to paramilitaries. I willingly acknowledge to the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) that I am obviously excluding his party. I acknowledge also that, as the Minister said, the hon. Gentleman and his party are anxious to obtain money from abroad. I think it fundamentally wrong for any party to do so, and it is particularly sad that the majority of parties that will try to do so have past and present paramilitary links. That is the first fundamental reason for our opposition to the motion.

Secondly, there is a red herring in the debate. The Minister says that even if we banned donations from abroad in Northern Ireland, the security situation means that there could be threats to donors, so their names would not be revealed and we would not know whether the donations were from abroad. We fully accept that, in the present climate in Northern Ireland, it would be wrong to publish the names of donors, whether individual or corporate. There is nothing between us on that point, and I do not think that any Member would think that publication was wise at the moment. The Minister and I hope that the situation will change, and that such precautions will not be necessary in future if the peace process that we support reaches a logical and happy conclusion.

I beg to differ on one point. I notice that the Minister was particularly cautious in his reference to the Electoral Commission, when he said that he hoped that it would not be insulted by what he had to say. On the commission's behalf, I would have accepted those remarks, had they come from some Ministers, as an insult, but I did not in this case. However, the commission is a neutral, secure body, and if the commissioners alone were given the names of donors, they would be able to establish whether or not they were foreign. It is therefore an excuse and a red herring to use legitimate concerns about publicising donors' names in this instance. There would be no problem in giving them to the Electoral Commission alone, and we should do that.

There is another separate and serious aspect of the Act and the order. I think that we have established that the Minister was incorrect when he started to suggest that the order had nothing to do with referendums. As I illustrated in my intervention, it clearly does; I quoted his ministerial colleague in another place, Lord Bassam of Brighton, at some length. That is another of our serious complaints about the order.

It is conceivable that there will be a border poll in the future. It might even be advantageous at some time to have a further border poll. As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) mentioned, it is outrageous that a political party—for instance, Sinn Fein—can obtain money from abroad to campaign in such a referendum, yet a cross-community group supporting the peace process and the Union would not be allowed to do so. That is far from a level playing field; indeed, it is unfair and unreasonable.

The Minister will know—it could be that the note coming from the officials' Box is confirming this—that the situation is straightforward, and that political parties can obtain money from abroad but groups campaigning in a referendum that are not political parties cannot. These are groups with which he and I would probably want to associate. In anybody's book, that is deeply unfair and wrong.

The Minister said that this does not really matter, because there are severe limits on how much each political party can raise from abroad in a referendum campaign. I remind the House that there are rather generous limits, with which I do not quibble. Each political party is allowed to raise £500,000 for each referendum campaign. That is not a trivial amount. In the case of Sinn Fein, much of it might come from abroad. That gives it a distinctly unfair advantage.

In general, I have the greatest reservations about referendums. I believe in our parliamentary democracy wherever possible. We should use this elected Parliament to make decisions. If the electorate does not like the decisions that we make, it has an opportunity every four or five years to put others in our place who might make more favourable decisions. However, I acknowledge that occasionally there is need for a referendum. One of the obvious examples, going back over the past 60 or 70 years, was the border poll to which I referred earlier.

If we are to have referendums, it is vital that there be a level playing field. The last referendum to take place throughout the United Kingdom was conducted in 1975. The Minister and I were perhaps on the same side of the argument. I campaigned for a yes vote—[Interruption.] Apparently, he did not. I nevertheless welcome the Minister's conversion.

I still believe that Britain's future is within the European Community, but I had great reservations about the funding that turned out to be available to the two different campaigns. That is why limits must be set and why, wherever possible, there should be equality of campaigning so that the British people can make a decision in any referendum that is based on equal spending and equal advocacy by both sides. On reflection, 26 years later, that did not happen in 1975, which is regrettable. I think that I would have won and the Minister would have lost—as in fact happened—even if the funding had been different. However, the matter was rather distasteful, and it appears more distasteful as the years go by. We therefore learned a lesson from the 1975 referendum, and we should ensure that the same thing never happens again.

I hope that I have expressed clearly my serious concerns about specific referendums in Northern Ireland, of which the most obvious is about the border poll that will probably take place in the near future. I should now like to move on to the wider issue of referendums elsewhere in the United Kingdom and I shall explain, Madam Deputy Speaker, why I am not trespassing out of order. The most obvious referendum to come up Europe-wide—that is a wonderful Freudian slip, but I mean United Kingdom-wide—in the foreseeable future will be on whether or not we should join the single currency. Again, I suspect that the Minister and I would be on opposite sides of the argument, which is a pity. However, it is essential that we have a level playing field.

I should like to look at the situation in Northern Ireland. Political parties registered in Northern Ireland would be able to obtain £500,000 abroad and add that to the referendum campaign throughout the UK. The Minister will say that they are not allowed to pass that money on to political parties on the mainland, but they will have to. They can take advertising space and publish leaflets. It is quite easy to spend £500,000 on a referendum campaign on a single currency. That would however be wrong, and it would influence unduly what happened in the campaign.

I shall give a spurious example which, I hope, is not sensitive in the context of Northern Ireland politics. The Conservative party in Northern Ireland is a registered party in the Province, and it could spend £500,000 on billboards and advertising, quite separately from the separately registered Conservative party on the mainland. It could spend that money on the same campaign as the Conservative party, but it would pay for different advertisements in different places. We could easily take a logical step further and divide the Conservative party in Northern Ireland into individual constituencies, so that there are separate Conservative parties registered for Strangford, South Down and Belfast, South. Each party could then accept £500,000 from people who were against entry to the single currency. We could direct that money to them and they would spend it on the referendum.

I believe that the Minister would think that wrong and unfair and that it would act against his desire to join the single currency. Lest there be any doubt, may I add that the Conservative party would have no intention of doing what I have just said? I am simply saying that that option would be available to us; it drives a coach and horses through the order, which is highly dangerous.

Mr. Öpik

I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as highly dangerous. He has just answered his own point: he is being theoretical and building a castle in the air, but has also pointed out the real fact that no responsible party in the Chamber would undertake such action. I accept his concerns—although we have different views—since parties could indeed do that. Surely, as he said, wherever possible Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK should be the same. On this occasion, however, there are mitigating circumstances that, perhaps, would lead to the need to have a temporary difference. Would the right hon. Gentleman not accept even a partial justification on that basis?

Mr. MacKay

No, I do not accept that. The only exception is the fact that, in the rest of the United Kingdom, the names of donors who give more than a certain sum have to be published, whereas that is not the case in Northern Ireland, for legitimate security reasons. Northern Ireland should be treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom only in respect of security issues.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik). I said that I had deliberately used a sensitive example that would not offend people in the House and in Northern Ireland—the example of my own party in Northern Ireland. I went on to say, quite reasonably, that we would not abuse the order in that way.

However, political parties in Northern Ireland may feel strongly about a certain issue. For example—the hon. Member for South Down will correct me if I am wrong—the Social Democratic and Labour party is closely and legitimately linked to the Labour party, takes the Whip in the House and is strongly in favour of joining the single currency. Under the order, there is no reason for the SDLP not to accept large donations from abroad for the euro referendum and to pay for a great many pro-euro advertisements in the campaign on the mainland.

There would be nothing wrong with the hon. Member for South Down doing that. We know that his party is a democratic, non-violent party which has substantial support in the Province and always acts with due propriety. It would not be doing anything illegal or out of order if the measure were passed tonight.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire is wrong if he thinks that that is just wild theory, with no chance of being realised. The House must always make sure that the laws that it passes are tight, exact and well defined; otherwise, they can be abused. That in turn brings the House into disrepute and causes serious problems later. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire may be relaxed about the order being so open to abuse, but that is not a prospect that the Liberal Democrats, with an honourable history over many years, have ever countenanced in the past.

Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. So that we do not become obsessed with hypothetical models, will he confirm that the order would last for four years? If his concern is about a referendum, is he conceding that there will be a referendum within four years? If so, he obviously knows which party will be in power.

Mr. MacKay

The hon. Gentleman's seat is one of our leading target seats in the west midlands, as he knows full well. I believe and expect that there will be a new Member for Hall Green in the next Parliament, but I do not want to trespass on the hon. Gentleman's personal grief.

I say to the hon. Member for Hall Green, as I said to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, that we must legislate for every possibility—even the horrendous possibility of the re-election of a Labour Government, and the re-election of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe). Much as I hope and expect that that will not happen, I would be unwise and not fulfilling my parliamentary and legislative duty if I did not take it into account. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that.

To return to the serious arguments against the order, I conclude and summarise by saying that the order is wrong because it treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, without good cause. The order is wrong because it prays in aid the security situation and the non-publishing of donors' names, although the electoral commissioners could scrutinise any money coming from abroad. The order is wrong because it will allow abuse and an uneven playing field for referendums in Northern Ireland and possibly elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

The right hon. Gentleman makes some powerful points. If the Electoral Commission is to scrutinise contributions in camera, what happens when there has been a breach of the law? What sanctions will be imposed, and will any subsequent litigation also be dealt with in camera?

Mr. MacKay

I have no doubt that the Electoral Commission will take the same action and impose the same sanctions as it would in relation to a party that is registered elsewhere in the United Kingdom and which is found to be taking money from abroad. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary nodding.

The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) is a lawyer, so I shall not try to second-guess him on whether subsequent court action or appeals should be heard in camera. Off the top of my head, my answer is that they should not be. I would trust the commission, which is an independent body. Indeed, I think that it has the confidence of all political parties. Once again, the Under-Secretary nods. If it finds abuse in Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom, the commission should act accordingly. If the political party and donor in question think that they have been wrongly treated, perhaps because the donation did not come from abroad, the decision can be tested in the courts. That is fine and proper. It is up to the donor and party to decide whether to pursue the case. The more I reflect on the hon. Gentleman's question, however, the less I think that the court case should be heard in camera.

For all the reasons that I have given, I believe that the order is profoundly wrong, and I hope that the House will reject it.

9.6 pm

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

I rise to speak on behalf of my party in support of the order. I should like to return to the practical reality of political life in Northern Ireland and move away from the castles in the air to which the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) referred.

In the SDLP's submission to the Neill committee, we stated our firm belief in the principle of openness, transparency and accountability in the funding of political parties in the context of a normal and modern democratic society. We asked the committee to be sensitive to the practical difficulties of applying such principles in what is still a deeply divided, sectarian and troubled society. That is where Northern Ireland is today. It is different from Great Britain—a difference that is addressed through its exemption from the requirements of section 65 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

In past years, the SDLP party headquarters has been bombed five times. Our members have been physically intimidated and abused, and their property has been damaged and destroyed. Only two weeks ago, the constituency headquarters of my colleague Alban Maginness, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Belfast, North, were bombed. That context creates fear. We cannot say that it does not exist and that Northern Ireland is the same as Great Britain. It is not the same, and that is the problem that we are trying to address in order to sustain a proper democratic process. Of course, members of other Northern Ireland parties have suffered equally, and Members of Parliament have previously paid the ultimate price of political violence by having their lives taken from them.

We have resisted violence over the years and have tried to create a normal political society. We have been tested in every possible way by sectarianism and violence. Now, every morning in news bulletins, we hear about pipe bombing. That is where we are at. In that context, we asked the Neill committee and the Government to exempt Northern Ireland parties for a trial period of four years to ascertain whether we could achieve some normality and subsequently be covered by the whole Act.

I am a wee bit surprised by the comments and attitudes of the Conservative and Unionist party spokesperson, the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), because the Ulster Unionist party agreed with us on the matter and made similar requests to the Neill committee. Jack Allen, the central treasurer, said in paragraph 6667: Over a number of years, because of the political situation in Northern Ireland, people did not want to be identified with political parties … because of the risk factor in Northern Ireland. That statement was supported by the late president of the Ulster Unionist party, Josias Cunningham, when he referred to foreign donations in paragraph 6676.

Funding from the Republic of Ireland cannot be banned because such a ban would contravene section 2(1) of the Ireland Act 1949, which states: notwithstanding that the Republic of Ireland is not part of His Majesty's dominions, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purposes of any law … in any part of the United Kingdom". That is the answer to jibes about such funding.

The exemptions in the order were originally proposed by the Neill report, which states: The Government should consider in the context of the development of the peace process whether it would be expedient to introduce a short term and reviewable exemption from the reporting requirements in respect of donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland. I stress that that is a proposal from the Neill committee, not from the Government. Nothing could be more specific than that recommendation from the report on standards. The proposal is reflected in the order.

During the drafting and in the debates, we lobbied jointly with the Ulster Unionist party until the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 was passed and the two exemptions for recorded donations and foreign fund-raising were made. There was consensus throughout the discussions between us and the top officials at the centre of the Ulster Unionist party. Our chair and central treasurer received a letter, which stated: As you know, business people and individuals are already wary of making donations to political parties and are likely to be even more sensitive if their donations are to be recorded"— recorded, not publicised. The letter continues: I am afraid that reassuring people and organisations that their donations will be recorded but not published will make no difference. That is a statement from the Ulster Unionist party in a letter to us. I have not quoted it out of context. The last phrase of the letter asks us to feel free to refer to it in our discussions with anybody, so I am not betraying any confidence by using those quotations.

Something subsequently happened. The leader of the Ulster Unionist party insinuated or even said that the Under-Secretary had misled the House. However, I have the submission to us from the Ulster Unionist party in writing; it is there for the public to see. The Under-Secretary did not mislead the House.

Furthermore, the SDLP, with the approval of the Electoral Commission, supported the Bill on the basis that the Northern Ireland parties would be exempt from recording donations. As a result of the Act and with the guidance already received from the Electoral Commission, we have informed potential donors in good faith that there will be no requirement to declare their donations at least for the four-year exemption period.

We believe that our future will be based on normalising politics in Northern Ireland, and we look forward to a normality of the kind enjoyed by Members of the House here in Great Britain, but not, as yet, by us. We look forward to a normality in which people will be free publicly to express their support for a political party, to put their party posters up in the windows of their homes and businesses without fear of intimidation, and to donate openly to political parties without fear of threats to themselves or their families.

I pray and hope that that day will come, but it is not here yet. Meanwhile, we must be conscious of the potential threat to individual personal security if donations are disclosed or written down in any way. I ask all hon. Members, who are democratically elected and proven to subscribe to the democratic process, to trust us. We shall not usurp any powers, or do any wrong.

Hon. Members may be worried about the wrongdoers doing wrong, but they will continue to do wrong anyway. They will have the advantage of doing wrong and not being caught. If a paramilitary organisation wants to get funds from Timbuktu, it will get funds from Timbuktu irrespective of any legislation passed by this House. However, the democratic political parties, which form a bulwark against such activities, must be given the ability to sustain themselves until the day arrives when we have normal politics in Northern Ireland. I support the order.

9.16 pm
Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

I would very much like to see normalisation in Northern Ireland, as would the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay). Indeed, I think that we all would. We are making good progress, but we are not there yet.

In some of our debates on Northern Ireland, it almost feels as though we are so focused on the issues and so willing to accommodate Northern Ireland in its efforts to achieve normality that we sometimes fashion individual bits of policy round the needs of individual parties, or perhaps even round individuals in Northern Ireland. Is that not a great model for Parliament, in which politics fits itself round the needs of a community in transition rather than expecting the community to fit round the needs of the policy-makers? In that context, it is reasonable, on a judgment call, to make this exemption. My party has consistently felt, throughout the debates on this issue in the House and elsewhere, that we probably need to make the exemption, as long as it is temporary.

We have been told by the Minister and by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) that individual donors could be at personal risk. The hon. Member for South Down cited some examples that I found very persuasive. There have been real examples of intimidation of a nature that we do not tend to experience on the mainland of the United Kingdom, which alter the political environment for providing donations and support to particular parties.

For now it is, therefore, probably defensible to protect the anonymity of the individuals making such donations. However, four years seems to be too long a time for such an exemption. A two-year exemption would make much more sense, not least because having to re-justify it sooner would provide a driver and a focus for the Government. It would still be an exemption, and the right hon. Member for Bracknell rightly described it as one that should, preferably, not exist at all.

As I understand it, under a two-year exemption the political processes of the House would require the Minister to ensure that the order was laid again in the upper House, because it would be hard to rescind it in two years' time and it could not be modified. Will the Minister consider re-laying the order in a format that incorporates a two-year upper limit when it goes to another place? That might involve a little more administrative messing about than he would have wanted, but a 24-month exemption just makes more sense. To that extent, I agree with the implication in the comments of the right hon. Member for Bracknell that we should get out of these arrangements as quickly as possible with regard to Northern Ireland.

However, I disagree that the measure is a sop to party politicians who are involved with paramilitary organisations. The hon. Member for South Down, who spoke for the SDLP, can hardly be described as public enemy No. 1. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Bracknell did exclude the SDLP—[Interruption.] I am acting as a messenger for the right hon. Gentleman, who rightly points out that he went to great trouble to do so. [Interruption.] If he wants to say more, he will have to intervene because I do not get paid to speak for the official Opposition.

The right hon. Gentleman seemed to miss the fact that the SDLP is obviously one of the key organisations that need the exemption now. He acknowledged that the SDLP was not culpable in a paramilitary sense, but perhaps did not acknowledge that it is typical of a party political organisation that clearly thinks that there is a political imperative for the exemption in the short term. That is a persuasive argument and we must respect the people on the front line of Northern Ireland politics who say that they need the exemption.

The right hon. Gentleman also said that, wherever possible, Northern Ireland should be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the UK. The crucial words are "wherever possible". Northern Ireland has done a good job of catching up, but is not there yet. He also regards it as outrageous that political parties could take money from abroad and said that it is fundamentally wrong for political parties to obtain money from abroad. Not that long ago, his own party did exactly that. Northern Ireland is only about five years behind the rest of the UK, which is not bad. We must recognise that the normalisation of Northern Irish politics will happen, but it must be given the space to allow that.

Incidentally, it is equally outrageous that political parties on the mainland are willing to accept enormous private donations—£5 million, for example. That implies that, on occasion, the wealth of donors to political parties represented in the Chamber can have an impact on the ability of those parties to campaign effectively. The Liberal Democrats have long talked about state funding and I would like to think that the implication of comments in the debate is that other parties now seriously recognise its benefits. We could remove the cheque book's influence on the quality of debate and the strength of campaigning here on the mainland.

Whatever hon. Members feel about the situation, the problem will go away because some time in early summer, when the Liberal Democrats form the next Government, we shall return to it and make sure that everything is put right. Until then, let us continue apace with the normalisation of Northern Irish politics and acknowledge, in all seriousness, that we have room to differ. In fairness, the right hon. Member for Bracknell and his party have been consistent throughout the debate. This is a judgment call, not a matter of principle, and I tend to side with the Minister and the hon. Member for South Down. The right hon. Gentleman and his party simply take a different view.

Time will probably tell who is right, but, for now, we are prepared to live with the risk. I remind the Minister again that, although we agree that the order should be approved, two years would be better than four. I say to the right hon. Member for Bracknell that we still think two years better than none.

9.23 pm
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik), especially if we have to wait until the next Liberal Government come to power for improvements to be made. There are problems. I understand the points made by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), but we have not given enough credit to people in Northern Ireland who have carried on democratic politics despite all the fierce opposition that has been directed towards them.

I have lost colleagues—one I replaced as Member of Parliament for Belfast, South and the other, who represented Belfast, South in the Assembly, was one of the brightest young lawyers on his way up in the United Kingdom—and seen other members of our party brutalised and killed. I understand something of the terror, but the harsh reality is that we are discussing not that but how Northern Ireland has constantly been made somewhat different from the rest of the United Kingdom. Some Members of the House, who have continually made us different, have the audacity to say, "But Northern Ireland is different."

If the order is passed, registered parties in Northern Ireland will not have to adhere to a specified list of permissible donors, make quarterly reports with respect to donations or make weekly donations reports during election periods. An individual donor will not have to make a report to the commission if he or she has made an aggregate donation of more than £5,000 in any given calendar year, and the commission will not have to keep a register of donations reported to it.

I understand why the secretary, chairman and treasurer of the Ulster Unionist party may say that they are concerned about even reported donations to the commission, given that the Parades Commission released names submitted to it to a Sinn Fein representative. That, however, does not strike me as a final answer.

Our main concern relates to foreign funding. I know that in earlier years, for a considerable time, the SDLP was a major beneficiary of the National Democratic Institute, which trained and funded the party for election and other purposes. The order, however, does no service to the people of Northern Ireland. It fails to provide transparency in the financing of Northern Ireland political parties.

In recommendation 24 of its fifth report, the Neill committee said: Political parties should in principle be banned from receiving foreign donations". The order permits foreign funding for Northern Ireland. It is true that the committee said in recommendation 29: In relation to political parties in Northern Ireland"— the Minister referred to this— the definition of a permissible source should also include a citizen of the Republic of Ireland resident in the Republic subject to compliance with the Republic's Electoral Act". I should like to know what that really means, and why we are being asked to sign a blank cheque.

The Neill committee incorporated a Northern Ireland exception in its fifth report. That exception was not to benefit the Ulster Unionist party or any other unionist party, but to benefit Northern Ireland nationalist parties. We know that nationalist parties in Wales and, in particular, Scotland may well have benefited from exceptions, but no exception was made for them. What is before us might be called a Northern Ireland nationalist party order—or, to be more exact, a Sinn Fein rather than an SDLP order.

The order will go beyond the Neill committee's recommendation of an exception for Northern Ireland parties. It will permit financing by any country, not just the Republic of Ireland. That was not recommended by the committee.

Republicanism is international—Irish republicanism, that is. It goes beyond Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, it is abroad that the romantic message of "mother Ireland" sells best. Men like Martin Galvin find those in the United States easy prey: they have not witnessed the misery and brutality of the Provisional IRA campaign in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom for the past 30 years. Galvin has now declared his support for the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA.

Lest we forget what those groups are doing in Europe, I remind the House of a recent report in the Swedish paper Aftonbladet that the IRA was raising funds through a restaurant it was running in Stockholm. That money could easily be used for the Armalite or the ballot box, such is the fluidity of the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Ulster Unionists have an exceptional problem because our people regularly say that we do not do enough. However, they would not allow us to be funded by the types of sources used by Sinn Fein-IRA. Those sources include not only foreign donations, but the proceeds of criminal acts in the community.

What about records and transparency? Disapplying chapters I to III of part IV of the 2000 Act to Northern Ireland will result in all the provisions on donations not being applied. The term "permissible donors" will mean nothing. All sources will be permissible; indeed, the concept of permissibility will not even exist. Unlike in the rest of the United Kingdom, if a party in Northern Ireland cannot identify the source of a donation, there will be no issue. Anonymous donations will continue to be permitted in Northern Ireland.

Hon. Members have suggested that, because of the terror, business men do not want to be identified. When I was a young assistant, we were building an extension to a church. A certain business man said to my senior, "We see that you've made a start. We'll give you a £100 contribution." That was almost 50 years ago, when £100 was a fair sum. The church was extended and the hall was built. However, regardless of how closely one searches the records, one will find no mention of a £100 donation from that business man. I think that, sometimes, people who are interested only in making money for themselves, not in supporting democracy, say that they do not want to be seen to be supporting a political party.

Unlike in the rest of the United Kingdom, no improperly obtained funds will be subject to forfeiture in Northern Ireland because there would be no concept of improperly obtained funds. In Northern Ireland, funding sources will not need to be voluntary, as is implied in the term "donor", and racketeering will continue to be a legitimate form of funding for paramilitary-linked parties. The order will ensure that the evasion of restrictions constituting an offence will not apply to Northern Ireland. Then again, as there will be no restrictions, there will be no restrictions for one to evade.

Northern Ireland parties will not need to concern themselves with reporting on donations weekly, quarterly or otherwise and regardless of whether they are made in an election period. Although disapplying part IV will reduce administration for Northern Ireland parties and might be perceived as beneficial, there is clearly no benefit in comparison with what is being lost by not subscribing to the rules and regulations that will apply to the other United Kingdom parties. It is essential that, sooner rather than later, Northern Ireland political parties, like political parties elsewhere in the United Kingdom, are subject to the rules on funding sources.

Only Sinn Fein and other paramilitary parties will really benefit from a non-regulated system and a lack of transparency. It is they—not the Ulster Unionist party and other constitutional parties in Northern Ireland—who have something to hide.

At the beginning of the debate, hon. Members had exchanges with the Minister on referendums. It is strange that there is confusion even about those. We cannot have referendums without the involvement of political parties, but, in Northern Ireland, political parties will not be restricted. Conversely, the order seems to provide that cross-community groups could be restricted. Additionally, if referendums were to follow the precedent set by the 1973 border poll and the United Kingdom European referendum, the sums provided to one side could entirely skew the result. Not for one moment am I suggesting that Ulster Unionist people will vote to withdraw from the Union. However, the weight of funding available for publicity could have an adverse effect on turnout. That is why it is important for us to consider the matter again.

The Belfast agreement, with its concept of the principle of consent, provides for the possibility of such a referendum on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. I shall be brief, as other hon. Members want to speak and I do not want to curtail the time available for the Minister's response. However, as I said, we do not believe that extravagant campaigning by republicans and nationalists in any future referendum on Northern Ireland's constitution would persuade Unionists to be anything other than Unionists, but there could be an adverse effect on turnout.

A further anomaly is that those organisations set up especially to campaign in a referendum under the Belfast agreement would be banned from receiving foreign funding. If we read the legislation aright, those parties are dealt with in a different part of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Minister seems to have missed that.

Campaigning organisations have been dealt with, and I noticed that the hon. Member for South Down was a little puzzled when his party was referred to as the sister party of the Labour party. I do not understand that, as he and his party leader have regularly proclaimed that both parties belong to the socialist federation.

Mr. McGrady

The hon. Gentleman must have misinterpreted my facial expression to reach that conclusion. I am sorry to have misled him in that way. I agree that there is a good relationship in the socialist international between my party and the Labour parties of these isles.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I appreciate that clarification. I did not have my glasses on, so I put the hon. Gentleman's response down to a facial aberration. However, he merely confirms what the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) suggested—that it is possible for the SDLP to get money and use it to promote the Labour party's position in Great Britain. I hope that a miracle will happen, and that a Conservative party in Northern Ireland will get £500,000. I should be especially glad to take the crumbs from the table if that happened in Belfast, South.

Finally, I turn to the matter raised by the hon. Member for South Down. I do not challenge his quotations, but he said that he had noticed a change in the submission made by the Ulster Unionists. In evidence to the Neill committee, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Allen—my party's former president and current treasurer, respectively—said that we would be reluctant to have a public register for security reasons. However, we can still argue for transparency coupled with security. A register could still be maintained by the electoral officer or the Electoral Commission, so that the security of donors would not be compromised for transparency. It is important that the books are clearly open, so that no one could be hoodwinked in a general election.

9.38 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

I recognise that the Minister wants an opportunity to respond, and I simply wish to put on record my party's position on this matter.

First, I thank the Minister for the courtesy that he has extended to my party in our meetings on this matter and other electoral issues. He has kept us abreast of the Government's thinking and he knows our views. We have been on common ground for the most part, but there is a degree of difference in regard to this motion that we must set out.

It was interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) talk about amounts of money that might be put into a Northern Ireland context. Most hon. Members from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties would probably roll around on their Benches with laughter if they knew just how little political parties survive on in Northern Ireland. It is a pittance compared with the funds available to parties on the mainland. Therefore, a level playing field becomes all the more important, because the position is easily distorted when a party or group is capable of bringing in resources from outside Northern Ireland.

That is why funding from outside Northern Ireland becomes particularly important. It has distorted the position to the detriment of the SDLP, although it would not admit it. Substantial funds from outside Northern Ireland have assisted Sinn Fein-IRA in bettering the SDLP in almost every by-election in recent times, and increasing substantially its share of the votes in every general election as well. Such distortion is a result of the influence of those outside the territory of Northern Ireland. That is wrong. For that reason, and a number of others, we are opposed to foreign donations.

I agree with the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), who has left the Chamber, that Northern Ireland is different from other parts of the United Kingdom with regard to the dangers of people being identified with a political party. If people are seen to donate money to a Unionist party, they might believe—correctly or not—that there is a danger of being targeted by a republican organisation. Equally, if a firm is seen to donate to a nationalist party, it might see itself as open to being targeted by what are described as loyalist paramilitaries. This will ensure that firms do not easily give money to political parties.

I find it laughable that the hon. Member for South Down raised the issue. There is a recent instance in which a firm identified itself with a democratic political viewpoint and the SDLP hounded it. The Ulster Unionist party has had a discussion within its ranks about matters relating to the Belfast agreement. A firm—McCann Erickson—provided a viewpoint which was consistent with those whose views are against the Belfast agreement, and did so publicly. It was hounded by the SDLP. When I was Minister for Regional Development, I received questions from SDLP Members wanting to know how much McCann Erickson was getting in Government contracts. The clear implication was that if a firm was against the views of the SDLP or the First Minister, it should not receive contracts from Departments in Northern Ireland. More than that, the SDLP went to Mr. Hennessy, the controller of New York, and got him to apply pressure on McCann Erickson, threatening the job of the person who had been prepared to put his head above the parapet.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that his illustration of what happens in Northern Ireland is true of businesses throughout the kingdom, and that it is regularly said in company reports that no charitable or political donations have been given during the year?

Mr. Robinson

Yes, indeed. There is clearly a difficulty with firms putting their heads above the parapet and identifying themselves, albeit by subscription, with political parties. That is a reality with which we have to live.

There is an element of the Bill that is too important for us to allow it to be overcome. Our submission to the Minister and the body that considered it was that we should allow firms to have their donations recorded and the Electoral Commission should be told the nature of those donations to each of the political parties, but there should be no publication of that list. That would have ensured that the political parties were acting in the best interests of the electorate, and that people in the United Kingdom would have the safety of knowing that the matter was properly scrutinised.

I think that the issue of what happens when a matter is brought to court was rather bogus. Almost daily, the courts in Northern Ireland decline to allow the names of individuals and groups to be published. The case would be against the political party, not against the organisation which subscribed to it. That could easily be kept out of the public arena. It could be overcome by the Minister, while allowing Northern Ireland to stay as far in step with the rest of the United Kingdom as possible, given the special circumstances.

I regret not being able to speak for a longer time; I realise that the Minister is keen to respond to the debate. It is important, however, to record our opposition. We are opposed to permission being given for nationalists—we should be clear about that—to receive foreign donations. We oppose the refusal for publication to be withheld; the Electoral Commission should receive details of all donations to political parties in Northern Ireland.

9.45 pm
Mr. George Howarth

The debate has been genuinely useful. Differing opinions have been expressed—indeed, every possible variation of opinion on the matter has been expressed during this short debate. It is both useful and important that those voices are heard.

I shall deal with two or three of the points that have arisen. The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said, in effect, that the order was a sop to Sinn Fein. He may think that. He may even doubt the sincerity of Sinn Fein; he is entitled to do so—as, no doubt, will others. I can only tell him that in the two consultations on the issue that I have held with Sinn Fein during the past 12 months, its publicly stated position, repeated to me, is that the party is content with complete transparency and that it does not seek exemptions for Northern Ireland.

I realise that there will be scepticism in some parts of the House as to whether Sinn Fein's private position is the same as that stated publicly. However, if I was planning to give a sop to Sinn Fein, it would be somewhat surreal to offer something for which the party had never asked. I should certainly receive no credit from Sinn Fein for doing that, so such speculation is bizarre.

I do not doubt that Sinn Fein, along with every other party in Northern Ireland, will benefit from the exemptions. That is unquestionably the case. My major concern is that the SDLP, both in representations to the Neill committee and to me during two rounds of consultations, has made it absolutely clear that there are legitimate grounds for the exercise of an exclusion for four years.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) has been entirely consistent. Last month, he repeated what he told me 12 months ago. His party has concerns, although its members believe that they could be addressed in a different way.

We should listen carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), who made an important contribution. It is not for me, for the right hon. Member for Bracknell or for any Member to say that the requirements would pose a particular problem for the SDLP. It is right, however, that we listen to the SDLP. Its position has been perfectly consistent. From the beginning, the SDLP has pointed out that, in an ideal world, the party would want complete transparency with no exemptions, but that, in its particular circumstances in Northern Ireland, such exemptions are right and proper. My hon. Friend put that case fully and well.

I have been persuaded not by Sinn Fein but by my hon. Friend and by a party that is represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly—the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition. It, too, feels that the matter is important and that if the exemptions did not apply, the party would be damaged.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) has made it clear that there was some movement in his party's view on the issue. In no way do I condemn his party for that; any party is entitled to change its point of view over time, and I accept that his party had genuine reasons for doing so. The hon. Gentleman is a serious politician and he takes such matters seriously. I hope that he will accept that our intentions are not to favour nationalists or anyone else. The order was drafted and the exemptions exist because we have a concern for all of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

I shall make a brief point in response to the comments of the hon. Member for Belfast, East. He believes that foreign funding can be separated from registration. He has repeatedly told me that on behalf of his party. Frankly, the difficulty is that if there is not a register, it is impossible to track whether or not foreign donations are being made to any political party—one piece of information depends on having the other, and it is not possible to separate the two. The hon. Gentleman would concede that that is the case. However, he says that he would like the Electoral Commission to hold that information, but not to publish it. That is his party's stated position. In no way do I wish to impugn the commission's integrity, but I have to say in all honesty that there can never be any guarantee that the information will not leak out in some way or another.

I shall give the hon. Gentleman a perfectly reasonable example. If there were reason to believe that a donation was made improperly and the commission felt that it had to investigate the matter, the very act of launching an investigation could prejudice the secrecy of the register. The hon. Gentleman well knows that, in Northern Ireland, a rumour has only to start in Coleraine in the morning and he will probably hear about it in Belfast in the afternoon. Such is the nature of all political information. If an investigation were under way, there could be no guarantee that the information could be kept entirely confidential.

On referendums, I simply say that such matters are set out in schedule 14 to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Of course, political parties could be involved in referendums, but equally, as I said earlier, they are subject to strict limits. I will not trade reminiscences with the right hon. Member for Bracknell about where we were respectively during a referendum in 1975, but when he was campaigning for a yes vote, I was the leader of the Huyton no vote campaign, which consisted of me, as the secretary of the Huyton young socialists, the Huyton Communist party and two Conservatives, who ran a ballroom dancing academy. What else we had in common, I do not know.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 304, Noes 123.

Division No. 107] [9.54 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Ainger, Nick Cummings, John
Allen, Graham Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Dalyell, Tam
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Atherton, Ms Candy Darvill, Keith
Austin, John Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Banks, Tony Davidson, Ian
Barron, Kevin Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Battle, John Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Bayley, Hugh Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J Dawson, Hilton
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Dean, Mrs Janet
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Dismore, Andrew
Benton, Joe Dobbin, Jim
Best, Harold Doran, Frank
Betts, Clive Drew, David
Blackman, Liz Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blears, Ms Hazel Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Borrow, David Edwards, Huw
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Ennis, Jeff
Bradshaw, Ben Etherington, Bill
Brand, Dr Peter Fearn, Ronnie
Brinton, Mrs Helen Field, Rt Hon Frank
Browne, Desmond Fitzpatrick, Jim
Buck, Ms Karen Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Burden, Richard Flint, Caroline
Burnett, John Flynn, Paul
Burstow, Paul Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Butler, Mrs Christine Foster, Don (Bath)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Foulkes, George
Cann, Jamie Gapes, Mike
Caplin, Ivor George, Andrew (St Ives)
Caton, Martin George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Cawsey, Ian Gerrard, Neil
Chaytor, David Gibson, Dr Ian
Clapham, Michael Gidley, Sandra
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Godsiff, Roger
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Goggins, Paul
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Golding, Mrs Llin
Clelland, David Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Coaker, Vernon Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Coffey, Ms Ann Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cohen, Harry Grocott, Bruce
Coleman, Iain Hain, Peter
Colman, Tony Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Connarty, Michael Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Corbett, Robin Hancock, Mike
Corbyn, Jeremy Hanson, David
Corston, Jean Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Cousins, Jim Healey, John
Cox, Tom Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Cranston, Ross Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Crausby, David Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hepburn, Stephen Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Heppell, John Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Morley, Elliot
Hill, Keith Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Hinchliffe, David Mudie, George
Hodge, Ms Margaret Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hope, Phil Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hopkins, Kelvin O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Hara, Eddie
Howells, Dr Kim Olner, Bill
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Öpik, Lembit
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Organ, Mrs Diana
Humble, Mrs Joan Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hurst, Alan Palmer, Dr Nick
Hutton, John Pearson, Ian
Iddon, Dr Brian Pickthall, Colin
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Pike, Peter L
Jamieson, David Plaskitt, James
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Pope, Greg
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pound, Stephen
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Prescott, Rt Hon John
Joyce, Eric Prosser, Gwyn
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Purchase, Ken
Keeble, Ms Sally Quinn, Lawrie
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Rammell, Bill
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Rapson, Syd
Kemp, Fraser Raynsford, Nick
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Rendel, David
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob Rogers, Allan
Lepper, David Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Leslie, Christopher Rooney, Terry
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Roy, Frank
Livsey, Richard Ruane, Chris
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Ruddock, Joan
Llwyd, Elfyn Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Lock, David Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Love, Andrew Salter, Martin
McAvoy, Thomas Sanders, Adrian
McCabe, Steve Sarwar, Mohammad
McCafferty, Ms Chris Savidge, Malcolm
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
McDonnell, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McFall, John Shipley, Ms Debra
MoGrady, Eddie Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McIsaac, Shona Skinner, Dennis
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McNulty, Tony Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mallaber, Judy Snape, Peter
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Soley, Clive
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Spellar, John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Squire, Ms Rachel
Martlew, Eric Steinberg, Gerry
Maxton, John Stevenson, George
Meale, Alan Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Merron, Gillian Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stoate, Dr Howard
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Miller, Andrew Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mitchell, Austin Stunell, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) White, Brian
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Temple-Morris, Peter Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Timms, Stephen Willis, Phil
Tipping, Paddy Wills, Michael
Todd, Mark Winnick, David
Tonge, Dr Jenny Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Touhig, Don Wood, Mike
Trickett, Jon Woodward, Shaun
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Woolas, Phil
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Turner, Neil (Wigan) Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Vaz, Keith Tellers for the Ayes:
Vis, Dr Rudi Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Ward, Ms Claire Mr. Jim Dowd.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Horam, John
Amess, David Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Baldry, Tony Jenkin, Bernard
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Key, Robert
Bercow, John King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Beresford, Sir Paul Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Blunt, Crispin Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Body, Sir Richard Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Boswell, Tim Lansley, Andrew
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Leigh, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Brady, Graham Lidington, David
Brazier, Julian Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Loughton, Tim
Burns, Simon Luff, Peter
Cash, William Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) McCrea, Dr William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Maclean, Rt Hon David
Collins, Tim McLoughlin, Patrick
Cran, James Malins, Humfrey
Curry, Rt Hon David Maples, John
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Mates, Michael
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Day, Stephen Moss, Malcolm
Duncan Smith, Iain O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Evans, Nigel Ottaway, Richard
Fabricant, Michael Page, Richard
Fallon, Michael Paice, James
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Paisley, Rev Ian
Fox, Dr Liam Pickles, Eric
Fraser, Christopher Randall, John
Gale, Roger Redwood, Rt Hon John
Garnier, Edward Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gibb, Nick Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Gill, Christopher Ruffley, David
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl St Aubyn, Nick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Sayeed, Jonathan
Green, Damian Shepherd, Richard
Greenway, John Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Grieve, Dominic Soames, Nicholas
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hammond, Philip Spicer, Sir Michael
Hawkins, Nick Spring, Richard
Hayes, John Steen, Anthony
Heald, Oliver Streeter, Gary
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Swayne, Desmond
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter Whittingdale, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Sir Teddy Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Townend, John Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Tredinnick, David Yeo, Tim
Trend, Michael Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Waterson, Nigel Mr. Keith Simpson and
Whitney, Sir Raymond Mr. James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.