Cabinet Office written question – answered at on 26 October 2023.

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Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that UK elections are not affected by political interference by (a) China and (b) other countries.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

It is, and always will be, an absolute priority for this government to protect our democratic and electoral processes against foreign interference.

Last year, the Prime Minister established the Defending Democracy Taskforce to protect the democratic integrity of the UK from threats of foreign influence. Its mission is to reduce the risk to the UK’s democratic processes, institutions and society, and ensure that these are secure and resilient to threats of foreign interference.

In addition, the National Security Act 2023 creates a new offence of foreign interference. This will make it an offence to illegitimately influence the UK’s democratic processes and elected officials on behalf of a foreign power. The offence will also significantly increase sentences for electoral offences if they are carried out on behalf of a foreign power. Related measures in the Online Safety Bill will require digital platforms to proactively take action against a wide range of state-sponsored disinformation and state-linked online interference, including digitally manipulated content, where this has the aim of interfering with UK elections.

The Elections Act 2022 strengthened three important components of the political finance framework: fairness, transparency and controls against foreign spending. Since its introduction, the Government has restricted foreign campaign spending at elections and introduced a new requirement on political parties to declare their assets and liabilities over £500 upon registration. Foreign donations (and channelling foreign money) are already illegal. The Act also ensures greater transparency on digital campaigning, through the introduction of digital imprints.

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