To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing measures to prevent (a) regulated donees from accepting donations or loans from people who are (i) not domiciled in the UK and (ii) non-resident for tax purposes and (b) regulated donees and non-party campaigners from accepting donations or loans from people who are not tax compliant.
24 November 2021
There is a long-standing principle – as originally recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1998 – that permissible donors are those on the UK electoral register. If one can vote for a party, then one should be able to donate to it. Foreign donations are banned.
Election law already allows for registered British expatriates to vote in UK Parliamentary elections, and also to make donations (up to 15 years from leaving the UK). The Election Bill makes no change to that principle, merely it removes the arbitrary 15 year period.
Since the adoption of universal suffrage, taxation has never been the basis for enfranchisement in our democracy. Some British citizens who work abroad, and who can already vote under the current ‘15 year rule’, only pay tax in the overseas country in which they work. Equally, other British expatriates will currently pay tax on their pensions, property and investments in the UK, but still not have a right to vote.
Within the UK, those who do not pay income tax, such as those earning less than the tax-free personal allowance, rightly remain entitled to vote. Similarly, full-time students are legally exempt from paying council tax, but rightly still have the right to vote in local elections for the local authority which sets that council tax.
I also refer the Hon. Member to the answer of 1 July 2019, Official Report, UIN 268969, on the flaws with provisions in the last Labour Government's Political Parties and Elections Act 2009.
The Elections Bill does provide for separate measures to prevent backdoor foreign spending.