Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Political Parties' Funding.

16.

asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a system whereby political parties in this country would be funded directly and totally by the State, thus eliminating the need for seeking and accepting private contributions from individuals and organisations, which in some circumstances would tend to limit the freedom of action of a Government or political party; and if he is satisfied with the present arrangements.

The Deputy will be aware that political parties already receive payments from the Central Fund by way of an allowance for expenses paid to the leaders of the parties and that these allowances were increased substantially in 1978 to meet the cost of a transport allowance for the Opposition leaders. Furthermore, funds are made available, through the Vote for the Houses of the Oireachtas, for secretarial assistance for Deputies who are not office-holders.

In view of the many demands on the Exchequer, I would not be prepared to consider proposals along the lines suggested by the Deputy.

In regard to the present scheme for secretarial assistance, I would be prepared, as I have already indicated to the House, to consider any proposals, agreed by the parties, for alternative arrangements.

In the context of the question I am not concerned with secretarial facilities. I do not think that this is a party political issue. Does the Minister feel that a system which ensures that there is adequate funding by political parties directly from the State, with perhaps statutory elimination of funds from private sources, would help to put Governments in a position where they would not be compromised, as might be possible on some occasions, by people who simply pay the piper and sometimes want to call the tune?

My reply has already indicated the nature of the thinking of this matter, but I suggest that that is the sort of issue which might be the subject of informal discussion between the parties.