§ Mr. McCabe
To ask the President of the Council what arrangements have been agreed for financial assistance to opposition parties. 
§ Mrs. Beckett
The Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended in October 1998 that financial assistance to opposition parties (known as "Short money") should be reviewed with a view to increasing it substantially, perhaps by as much as three times. Such assistance has been provided to opposition parties since 1975 to enable them more effectively to perform their parliamentary duties. It is claimed in respect of parties' parliamentary business and is largely spent on research assistance for opposition spokesmen, assistance in the opposition parties' Whips' offices and staff for the Leader of the Opposition.
It has now been agreed that basic Short money will be increased by a factor of 2.7. This means that the opposition parties will receive £10,732.69 for every seat won and £ 21.44 for every 200 votes cast in their favour at the last general election. The travel fund for party spokesmen will be increased in line with inflation. The Neill Committee also recommended a specific allocation for the Leader of the Opposition's Office and this has now been set at £500,000 a year.
The maximum sums each party will receive in the 1999-2000 financial year are set out as follows:
£ Conservative 3,377,973.27 Liberal Democrat 1,085,009.82 Scottish Nationalist Party 134,643.44 Plaid Cymru 61,859.17 Ulster Unionist 138,749.97 Democratic Unionist 33,871.20 SDLP 54,111.99