Our democracy is admired around the world for its values that have been upheld for generations. I recognise the importance of ensuring that those values are robustly defended.
The Elections Act puts British citizens’ participation at the heart of democracy and supports voters in making free and informed choices at elections. Measures include addressing postal vote harvesting, introducing digital imprints, as well as requiring identification at polling stations – a requirement in Northern Ireland since 2003.
I understand concerns about civil society organisations being prevented from adding their voice to the debate but let me assure you that this would not be the case. I recognise the important role CSOs play in providing valuable information on a variety of policies. The Act instead aims to make elections fairer and more transparent by requiring greater transparency from campaigners.
The legislation will, for instance, require third party campaigns to give notice to the Electoral Commission at a lower level of expenditure than is currently required. It also introduces provisions to require campaign spending, which is part of a joint plan between a registered party and a third party or parties, to be counted as part of the spending limits of all parties involved.
I believe that joint campaigning has an important role to play in our electoral system, but it should be transparently and fairly regulated particularly when it could be regarded as intending to achieve a common purpose.