Lords vote to ban tax exiles and non-doms from donating to political parties

by Stephen Tall on June 16, 2009

Today’s Guardian reports on yesterday’s move by the House of Lords to accept an amendment which will ban tax exiles and non-doms from making a donation to British political parties. The amendment was moved by rebel Labour peer Lord (Dale) Campbell-Savours and backed by Lib Dem peers.

Peers last night voted to ban non-residents and so called “non-doms” from donating to political parties, in defiance of the Labour and Conservative frontbenches. A backbench Labour amendment, designed to force the Tory donor Lord Ashcroft to clarify his tax affairs, was passed by 107 votes to 85, a majority of 22.

The amendment to the political parties and elections bill, tabled by the former Labour MP Lord Campbell-Savours, was based on an amendment which was blocked from debate in the Commons. The vote last night means that MPs will be given a chance to debate and vote on the issue.

Here’s an excerpt from Lord (Paul) Tyler’s speech:

If we leave the Bill as it is, without a clear statement that these sorts of donations from foreign sources are not permissible, the Bill will not fulfil the requirements that the Government have placed upon it. Even since the Bill was in Grand Committee, there is greater awareness of the potential corruption of our political system by people with very large chequebooks who can buy their way into influencing a relatively small number of constituencies, the marginal seats. It takes us right the way back to the purchase of seats before the Reform Act 1832. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, unless we stand up for the right of citizens of this country who pay taxes to be the people who decide how our political system works, the House of Commons will not get its opportunity, and the Bill will be weaker for it.

His Lib Dem colleague, Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott also voiced his strong support for the amendment:

It is outrageous that non-resident Peers can sit and vote on our laws in this House, but it is even more outrageous that a person who does not pay full British tax can pay millions to a political party—money that is, in effect, filched from the British taxpayer by that person because he is not resident here and does not pay tax but can influence millions of votes.

A small but significant victory – now let’s see what the Labour/Tory-dominated House of Commons does…

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What is interesting with this debate is that with Labour split down the middle, the Tories could have easily swatted it away – but they failed to get their people out.

The votes on capping donations and tax relief take place on Wednesday. I assumed these amendments had no chance but if the Tory peers decide to spend the afternoon at Ascot again, we might yet pull it off.

by James Graham on June 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm. Reply #

What is the purpose behind this except to spite the Tories?

by Richard on June 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm. Reply #

Perhaps because it’s morally right?

by Andrew Tennant on June 16, 2009 at 9:41 pm. Reply #

Richard: I think the quote from Paul Tyler included in the post gives a pretty good principled basis for the change, “As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, unless we stand up for the right of citizens of this country who pay taxes to be the people who decide how our political system works, the House of Commons will not get its opportunity, and the Bill will be weaker for it.”

by Mark Pack on June 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm. Reply #

I’m a British citizen currently living in Canada. I was a member of the LD’s before I emigrated in 2006. I’m only going to be living in Canada for a few years and then coming back to the UK. I left the LD’s when I left the UK, but recently I’ve been thinking of rejoining, because I’d like to give the Party my support in the run-up to the next election. But — it looks as if you don’t want me. Oh well!

by Jane Leaper on June 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm. Reply #

I’d like to add that the implication of Lord Campbell-Saviours quoted comment goes further than banning ex-pats from joining UK political parties, and appears to imply that we should not have a vote either. That is a fairly major change in the voting system, and one that would affect very many people now that so many of us work abroad, particularly the EU for a few years, or retire abroad.

Far from being principled, it doesn’t seem to me to have been properly thought through.

by Jane Leaper on June 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm. Reply #

Sorry to rabbit on about this, but you can probably see why I’m incensed, me being an ex-pat and all. But — if paying taxes is to be the determining factor deciding who participates in the democratic process, then there are thousands of non-British, but taxpaying residents of the UK, who currently are disenfranchised. Now that is a hot potato!

by Jane Leaper on June 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm. Reply #

Clealy we must not allow the unemployed to vote, they do not pay taxes either.

by Richard on June 16, 2009 at 11:49 pm. Reply #

Yes Jane…but I see their point too….

But you’re in a funny situation and I completely empathise…

I wanted to go live in the US for a bit for my career, to help it and I would hate to think I couldn’t vote etc after spending sooo much money on tax living here or contributing…

by rantersparadise on June 17, 2009 at 12:04 am. Reply #

Ex-pats currently get the vote for 15 years after we leave the UK, in National and EU, but not local elections. That seems fair to me, since it avoids disenfranchising people who are just abroad for a few years.

I don’t see why the rule on donations to political parties should not follow the same principle, perhaps with a cap on the size of donations if you are temporarily resident outside the UK.

And btw I am not in a “funny” situation. There are thousands of people working or living abroad for a few years. I’ve not found a statistic. There are about 5.5 million British citizens living abroad, but most have permanently emigrated. I remember reading a few years ago that there are about 1 million Brits working abroad in the EU at any one time.

by Jane Leaper on June 17, 2009 at 12:33 am. Reply #

It seems that alot of people still do not understand that to contribute to a political party you must be a UK tax payer.

If people who live outside the UK for a period of time have not left the UK and therefore under the UK tax legislation are still required to file an annual UK Tax Return – as they have to declare their worldwide income and capital gains and before using the available exemptions to claim relieves to reduce their tax liabilities.

Therefore this bill is for political reasons and not for the benefit of this country.

by Jezza on June 17, 2009 at 9:19 am. Reply #

This isn’t just spite about Tories – Lord Paul is one of the few declared non-doms in the Lords and he is a major Labour Party bankroller http://www.accountancyage.com/accountancyage/news/2196659/non-dom-billionaire-vows

by Mike on June 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm. Reply #

Dear Jane, I am sure you will be welcomed back with open arms.
I don’t know if this means you cannot join the UK party ( at the standard fee) or just that you cannot Donate sums above the £200 notifiable amount . Perhaps someone at Cowley st can comment.

I think it is fair that only UK taxpayers can DONATE to political parties.

by simonsez on June 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm. Reply #

Simonsez: I don’t understand this. If I have to be a UK tax payer to contribute to a political party, how can I join a political party? Membership fee is a donation surely?

When you say, only UK taxpayers can DONATE, don’t you mean, can donate more than £200?

by Jane Leaper on June 18, 2009 at 6:06 am. Reply #

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