On Tuesday 12 December, the House of Lords debated a statutory instrument (SI) removing the 15-year limit on voting rights for UK citizens living abroad. The government estimates that as a result of the change between 3.2-3.4 million British nationals living overseas could become eligible to vote, (and therefore donate to candidates and political parties) and form unincorporated associations (UAs) with two or more registered overseas electors. This would allow overseas voters whether individually or through such associations to spend potentially significant amounts of money on UK election campaigns. As highlighted by MPs and Peers when they debated this SI, and in a regret motion tabled by Labour in the Lords that passed as an amendment to the SI, this change could “dangerously weaken” restrictions on overseas political donations and allow foreign money into our democracy.
Our briefing to peers ahead of the debate sets out the risks involved and calls for the current gap in criminal enforcement of electoral finance laws to be closed.
The briefing can be downloaded below.