The Daily Telegraph

Curbs on funding to stop foreign meddling in elections


THE Government will today announce a crackdown on Russian and foreign meddling in British elections by tightening the rules on campaign spending.

Chloe Smith, the constituti­on minister, will set out plans to prevent spending by sources who have no “genuine and legitimate interest” in British democracy during regulated campaignin­g periods.

Speaking at an event organised by the Policy Exchange think tank, Ms Smith will announce changes that will effectivel­y ban overseas campaigner­s who are ineligible to vote or stand in UK elections from influencin­g them.

While overseas donations to political parties are already tightly policed, it is possible for people from overseas to spend up to £20,000 campaignin­g in England during an election campaign – the threshold for registerin­g as a thirdparty campaigner with the Electoral Commission. However, under changes due to be announced today, ministers will introduce new restrictio­ns, which will essentiall­y prohibit this from happening.

Meanwhile, the Government will also tighten the rules for UK campaigner­s by introducin­g a new threshold above which third parties, such as individual­s or organisati­ons, must register with the Electoral Commission.

The changes will result in the threshold for registrati­on in England halving from £20,000 to £10,000, in line with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with those registered subject to strict controls on spending and donations.

Ms Smith will also announce that the Government is strengthen­ing its “digital imprints” policy, so that all paid-for digital political advertisin­g – including outside of elections – will require an explainer setting out who funded it.

It comes amid growing concern over the “evolving threat” posed by hostile states such as Russia and China, or proxies acting on their behalf, in attempting to influence the outcome of elections in the UK and other western democracie­s.

Ms Smith will say that while the UK’S enemies “favour control, corruption and conformity”, the Government will seek to strengthen the electoral system in order to “keep the UK’S democracy modern, secure, transparen­t and fair”.

She will say: “By providing these clear rules and a shared understand­ing of those rules … we will ensure that voters can make an informed choice and benefit from a level playing field”.

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