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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 00:24 GMT
Party cash bill passes Commons

An electoral commission responsible will oversee spending
Reforms outlawing foreign donations to political parties and drawing up rules for referendum campaigns has cleared the House of Commons.

The Political Parties and Referendums Bill - which also caps election campaign spending for the first time and requires the names of large donors to be disclosed - was given an unopposed third reading.

The measure, based on recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, otherwise known as the Neill Committee, is designed as a comprehensive to wipe out sleaze in party funding.

It establishes public funding for umbrella organisations campaigning on either side of referendum issues and referendum spending limits are also imposed.

Clearing up politics

The bill also sets up an electoral commission responsible for registering political parties and overseeing their donations and spending.

Ministers say the bill will boost the reputation of the political system by increasing transparency and openness in party funding.

Junior Home Office minister Mike O'Brien told MPs the bill would improve "confidence in our political institutions in this country".

Shadow leader of the House Sir George Young said: "The bill has a key role to play in cleaning up British politics by setting out a framework with clear rules, with an independent umpire and with greater transparency."

Throughout debate on the legislation there had been "commendable restraintfrom party point-scoring on past transgressions".

Andrew Stunell, for Liberal Democrats, called it "an important and significant bill which will have far-reaching consequences".

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