Donations: Political Parties

Electoral Commission Committee – in the House of Commons on 10th March 2022.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

What recent assessment the commission has made of the due diligence requirements for donations to political parties from individuals and companies with links to the Russian Government.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester

Voters deserve to know that elections in the UK are free and fair and that laws are in place to safeguard them from unlawful influence. The law sets out what constitutes a permissible donor, including qualifying foreign donors from whom parties and hon. Members can accept donations. It requires the recipient to take reasonable steps to confirm the identity of the donor and check permissibility, and charges the commission with publishing the larger donations to parties so that voters can see them. The commission has recommended introducing new duties on parties to enhance due diligence and risk assessment of donations based on existing money laundering regulations, which would protect parties and build confidence among voters that sources of party funding are thoroughly scrutinised.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman will have seen reports at the weekend surrounding concerns with regard to the awarding of a particular peerage, something on which there has been, as yet, no credible denial. Does he agree that, when we see such stories, we realise that we need a stronger not a weaker Electoral Commission? For that reason, the Government should not be proceeding with the measures in the Elections Bill.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester

If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me, I will not be drawn on specific cases from the commission. The commission has said, however, that it would like to see enhanced due diligence to require political parties to assess and manage the risk of unlawful foreign funding and would support the adoption of a “know your donor” culture when making decisions on donations. It will also check and audit some of the donations that are made known to it to make sure that they comply. I am sure that, if he has concerns about individual donations, he will let the commission know of them.