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5.30 pm

That is my main concern. I do not share the concerns of the hon. Member for East Londonderry. I do not want terrorist parties on either side of the argument in Northern Ireland to flourish, but I recognise that a significant amount of the funding of some of those parties, on both sides of the divide, comes not from foreign sources but from rampant protection rackets in the Province. There are other sources of money flowing into the political body of Northern Ireland, and they ought to be of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

What concerns me and leads me to support the deletion of clause 63 is the fact that the clause may create a loophole that could lead to a complete bypassing of all the good work in the rest of the Bill.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) expressed his concern about single interest parties, which might prosper in Northern Ireland and Glasgow. He could see no way in which special interest parties--he had in mind pro-life parties--could be prevented from using Northern Ireland as a stepping stone to funding their activities in the United Kingdom, using money from overseas sources, and the Minister could offer him no reassurance on that point.

I do not associate myself with the arguments of the hon. Member for East Londonderry.

Mr. William Ross: The hon. Gentleman seems to think that all the amendments in my name relate to the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Greenock and

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Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), but most of them relate to restricting the time for which the legislation can be permitted to run to one year or to a maximum of three years.

Mr. Stunell: I accept that the wording of the hon. Gentleman's amendments would, as the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) indicated, have apparently unintended effects, but my point is that I do not identify with the arguments that the hon. Member for East Londonderry used to support those amendments.

The Government should accept the point made in Committee that the clause is unsatisfactory. Their amendment does not correct that point.

Mr. Tipping: The hon. Gentleman took the time of the House last night to ask for a solution on federal parties. We discussed that, and he knows that the Government are minded to try to find a way forward. I also indicated in Committee and in the House last night that we could not introduce amendments to construct a fire wall between Northern Ireland and the mainland until the federal issue had been resolved. There is no lack of initiative or desire for progress on our part; there is a fundamental difficulty that prevents that progress.

Mr. Stunell: I appreciate the Minister's remarks, and I thank him for recalling what he said last night, which was appreciated and understood. However, the Government amendment leads my colleagues and I to support the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for North Dorset.

Mr. Hogg: In rising to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) in speaking to his amendment, I shall address five matters, albeit fairly briefly.

The first point is one that I have made many times in the House, but I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I repeat myself. It concerns the order-making powers. The powers that we are giving to the Secretary of State are substantial. They enable the Secretary of State to enlarge the category of permissible donors so as to extend it, for example, to foreign donors, if that is what is decided. That is a large power to give to the Secretary of Secretary.

We are also enabling the Secretary of State to disapply the information-supplying requirements in the Bill. That, too, is a wide power. The Bill provides for the powers to be exercisable not under the affirmative procedure, but under the negative procedure. In other words, no action will be taken on the orders unless they are prayed against and debated.

I regard the use of secondary legislation on a matter of such importance as being profoundly unsatisfactory. On any view of the matter, the powers that we are giving to the Secretary of State are extensive. They change the ordinary requirements of law. Although I am not arguing that the affirmative procedure is a perfect instrument-- I think it is a very blunt instrument because, for example, it is not amendable--it is at least better than the negative procedure.

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On a matter of such importance, I hope that those on the Treasury Bench will consider using the affirmative procedure, rather than the negative procedure.

Mr. Mike O'Brien indicated assent.

Mr. Hogg: The Parliamentary Under-Secretary is nodding. I take that as encouragement, and I hope that he will address the matter that I put to him.

I am glad to see the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) in his place. My second point goes to the Disqualifications Bill, which the House debated some time ago. I address the point now because I regretted that he was not aware of the significance of what he was saying, in the context of that Bill. He argued eloquently against foreign donations, but the Disqualifications Bill, which I am pretty sure he supported, although I spoke and voted against it, enables Members of the Dail to serve in this House. A Member of the Dail who happened to be serving in this House would be bound to be supported by foreign donations. That is absolutely certain.

If the hon. Gentleman is against foreign donations--a case that he argued extremely eloquently--he surely could not in all good conscience support the idea of Members of the Irish Dail sitting in this place. One proposition follows the other, inevitably.

The third point is, admittedly, somewhat technical, but this is the occasion for technical debates. It relates to the partisan point that I made. In clause 63(1)(a) at line 18, the reference is to "a Northern Ireland party". I am well aware that Government amendment No. 24 uses the word "each". That is a step forward, and I do not for a moment dissent from that proposition.

I am not accusing the Government of being partisan in this sense, but as the Bill is drafted, there is no doubt that the legislation would enable a partisan order to be made. I am glad that the word "each" is used.

I sympathised with my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) when he queried whether the word "each" is sufficient to meet the intended purpose. I am not sure about that. I hope that further consideration will be given to the matter, although I welcome the step.

I am sorry to press the point a little further. Line 24 refers again to "a Northern Ireland party". That is in the context of the power given to the Secretary of State to lift the requirement with regard to the provision of information.

If it is right to substitute the word "each" for "a" in line 18, for the self-same reasons it must be right to substitute the word "each" for "a" in line 24. I know better than most people how difficult it is to read the amendment paper, and I may have missed an amendment making that substitution in line 24. However, the Under-Secretary will forgive me if I cannot find it. Clearly, I should be able to find it because, according to his logic, it ought to be there. If I am wrong, I apologise; if I am right, perhaps he will undertake to make the necessary substitution in another place.

My penultimate point is about discrimination. To mix metaphors, if I interpreted the Under-Secretary's body language correctly, I am pushing at an open door. I made the point earlier in an intervention on the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), and to my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry.

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The definition of a Northern Ireland party is critical to clause 63. The provision defines a Northern Ireland party as one that has representatives in this House or in the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, that discriminates against democratic organisations that have no elected representatives in this House or the Assembly but are represented in, for example, the European Parliament or in local government. Some even have the bad fortune not to be represented in an elected body, but are none the less democratic.

Why should clause 63 discriminate in principle between parties that have elected representatives and those that do not? I was not sure what the nods and winks across the Chamber from the Treasury Bench were telling me. Perhaps there is an amendment on the amendment paper--

Mr. Tipping: Perhaps I can clarify the matter. There is no amendment on the amendment paper, but we intend to table an amendment that will have the scope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman desires and that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) advocated.

Mr. Hogg: It would be churlish not to welcome that intervention. However, I am sorry that the amendment has not been tabled already because the Bill has been before the House for some time. [Interruption.] Ministers should not shake their heads; the Bill has indeed been before the House for some time.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out in an intervention on the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell), we cannot table the amendment now because we need to resolve issues that relate to federal parties such as the Liberal Democrats. When we have done that, we hope to table an amendment in another place.


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