Election finance rules should be tightened to reduce the potential of foreign actors using digital campaigning to exert influence in the UK, according to a sleaze watchdog.
The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) has published 47 recommendations following a year-long review into the regulation and enforcement of donations and campaign expenditure in elections.
It comes after concerns over whether the current regulation framework is transparent and proportionate enough for the digital landscape, which has revolutionised the way parties and campaigners engage with voters.
CSPL said the recommendations in the report aim to modernise the current system and “increase the effectiveness of electoral regulation” – more than 20 years since the Electoral Commission was established in 1998.
In the 164-page report, it recommends rules explicitly banning spending on campaign advertising by foreign individuals or organisations, to address the risk of foreign sources using digital campaigning to exert influence in the UK.
It says: “In line with the principle of no foreign interference in UK elections, the Government should legislate to ban foreign organisations or individuals from buying campaign advertising in the UK.”
The committee, which advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across public life in the UK, suggests a series of updates to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Ppera).
Among these is changing it to require parties and non-party campaigners to have appropriate procedures in place to determine the true source of donations.
The committee also recommends amending Ppera to provide specific clarification that to be a permissible donor, an individual must be on a UK electoral register.
It also recommends changing reporting deadlines for parties and non-party campaigners spending over £250,000 at a general election or UK referendum, from six months to four months.