Political Donations and Donors: Electoral Law

Electoral Commission Committee – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson Scottish National Party, Midlothian 9:34, 26 January 2023

Whether the committee has had recent discussions with the commission on the strength and transparency of electoral law on political (a) donations and (b) donors.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Labour, Lancaster and Fleetwood

The Speaker’s Committee has not held recent discussions on the matters raised. The UK has one of the most transparent political finance regimes in the world. However, the Electoral Commission has highlighted that reforms are needed to modernise and further safeguard our system, and it has made recommendations to ensure that voters can have greater confidence in political finance in the UK. Those include new duties on parties for enhanced due diligence, risk assessment of donations, and changes to the law to ensure that companies have made enough money in the UK to fund any donations.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson Scottish National Party, Midlothian

While I welcome steps to improve transparency in donations to political parties, what more can the Speaker’s Committee do to support improved transparency in donations to, and campaign activity of, non-party campaigners, and on increasing levels of foreign interference?

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Labour, Lancaster and Fleetwood

The commission regulates the spending of organisations campaigning during the regulated period ahead of an election or referendum. It also regulates donations to political parties and candidates. Unless an organisation is engaged in regulated campaign activity, it will fall outside the commission’s area of responsibility. The commission does not have a role in regulating spending on political activity more generally. The National Security Bill includes measures to tackle foreign interference in the UK’s political processes, but could provide additional security by incorporating additional recommendations. That would include strengthening existing controls on donations and loans to political parties and campaigners, such as enhanced due diligence checks based on anti-money laundering regulations. I know the hon. Gentleman is an active and interested member of the Speaker’s Committee, and I am sure that the Electoral Commission would be happy to meet him if he wishes to discuss the matter further.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Does the hon. Lady agree that the Electoral Commission should look at its own strength and transparency before it looks at others?

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Labour, Lancaster and Fleetwood

If the hon. Gentleman would like to raise any particular concerns with the commission, I extend the invitation to him. The commission would be happy to meet him to discuss political donation. The commission has recommended that political parties be required to conduct enhanced due diligence checks, so that voters can have greater confidence in political party finance.