Ministers face pressure to publish pro-Brexit DUP donation details

The pro-Brexit ads in British newspaper Metro which were paid for by an undisclosed donor to the DUP
Richard Wheeler, Press Association

Ministers in the British government have faced fresh pressure to reveal the full details of a controversial pro-Brexit donation, amid claims of "political corruption".

Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw criticised the British government's "disgraceful" decision to "keep secret" information linked to the donation to the DUP, which the party has previously confirmed was worth around £435,000 and spent on pro-Brexit advertising throughout the UK.

MPs on Wednesday backed legislation to lift the veil of anonymity on political donations in Northern Ireland, which applies to donations and loans received on or after July 1 2017.

But the Commons heard the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, still wants the government to put forward further regulations to provide "full transparency" to 2014 - which would include the DUP Brexit donation from the 2016 EU referendum.

The money was given to the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a Great Britain-based group of pro-union business figures, ahead of the EU referendum.

It helped pay for a four-page pro-Brexit wrap around advert in the Metro freesheet newspaper in London and other British cities.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Bradshaw said: "Following the disgraceful decision by the government yesterday to keep secret the source of the donation to the Leave campaign via the DUP, meaning that the public had no idea where this money came from, what more can she and the Electoral Commission do to ensure we have full transparency in our electoral and democratic system?"

Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, could be heard saying: "It's corruption, political corruption."

Bridget Phillipson, the Labour MP who answers questions on behalf of the Electoral Commission in the Commons, replied: "The commission welcomes the existing order which will provide for the first time information about donations and loans received by parties in Northern Ireland.

"But the commission also wants to see transparency of donations going back to 2014, as Parliament envisaged, and would support the government laying a further order to provide for full transparency back to 2014."

Unlike the rest of the UK, the identities of donors in the north have remained secret historically due to concerns about their security.

The new measures are contained within the Transparency of Donations and Loans (Northern Ireland Political Parties) Order 2018, which has been approved by both MPs and peers.

Theresa May's minority government relies on support from the DUP's 10 MPs to push through key legislation.

All 10 DUP MPs joined with 297 Conservatives and one independent MP to approve the order, with Labour and the SNP among those who opposed it.

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