Tonight members of the House of Lords defeated the government by passing an amendment to the National Security Bill that will require political parties to do proper checks on whether donations might come from foreign powers.
The motion to approve the amendment moved by Lord Carlile of Berriew passed by 219 votes to 172, with Labour and Lib Dem peers joining with their crossbench counterparts and a single Tory rebel, to inflict a heavy defeat on the government.
In the debate ahead of the vote, Lord Carlile said: “One of the noblest things that this noble, unelected house does is actually to protect democracy from itself – and that is what this amendment is intended to do.”
This is the second time the government has lost a vote on this issue in the House of Lords, having lost a previous vote in early March on a similar amendment, also proposed by Lord Carlile. The bill will now return to the Commons for another round of ‘ping-pong’, unless the government accepts the amendment.
Dr Susan Hawley, Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption, said:
“The Lords are effectively giving the government one final chance to take action to secure the integrity of our political system. No one can doubt that this is a real issue – only this week it was revealed that two Chinese nationals had been excluded from the UK for seeking to make illegal donations to UK political parties on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
“Rather than further delay this important piece of national security legislation, the government should accept Lord Carlile’s modest amendment or produce their own version that can satisfy the deeply-held concerns of parliamentarians from all parties and independent expert bodies.”
Spotlight on Corruption is currently consulting with the Royal United Services Institute and experts in electoral law to devise a draft policy that parties could adopt to meet the requirements set out in the amendment.