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EDITIONS
Party fundraising Tuesday, 13 October, 1998, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
The 100 recommendations - part 2
Limits on Campaign Expenditure

45. Power should be taken to set a higher maximum permitted limit for a parliamentary candidate's expenditure at a by-election.

A sum in the order of 100,000 seems appropriate to the Committee, but the Government should establish the figure after appropriate consultation.

46. The Government should undertake the revision of Schedule 3 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 so that it contains a full and up-to-date list of items of expenditure which should be declared by candidates at parliamentary elections.

47. A limit should be placed on the campaign spending of political parties in respect of elections to the House of Commons.

The operation of this limit, both in principle and in practice, should be kept under review by the Election Commission.

48. The new national spending limits should be separate from, and additional to, those that now apply to candidates in individual constituencies.

49. On the assumption that a national spending limit is in place for the next general election, the limit for parties that contest more than 600 seats at that election should be set at 20 million.

That limit should then be index-linked. It should not be varied in future except on the recommendation of the Election Commission.

50. The limits in a general election for parties that contest fewer than 600 seats should be lower and should be based on a formula taking account of the number of seats they are contesting.

51. Expenditure limits should continue to be set in terms of the purposes for which expenditure is incurred rather than in terms of any specified time period. Expenditure limits, at both national and local level, should be rigorously enforced.

52. The national expenditure limits should cover benefits in kind as well as cash expenditure. Parties' accounts should itemise benefits in kind separately from cash expenditure and should indicate both the nature of each benefit in kind and its true market value.

53. Legislation governing national expenditure limits should include a schedule setting out a comprehensive list of items of relevant expenditure which should be declared by political parties at parliamentary elections.

The contents of the schedule should be kept under review by the Election Commission.

54. Section 75(1)(ii) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 should be amended to allow third-party spending in support of (or to the prejudice of) a candidate in a general election to be increased from 5 to 500.

55. Individuals and organisations other than political parties that wish to incur 'election expenses' of 25,000 or more must register, like a political party, with the Election Commission.

56. 'Election expenses' should be taken to include expenses that are clearly intended to promote or have the foreseeable effect of promoting one or more parties or to disparage other parties irrespective of whether such parties are mentioned by name in the individual's or organisation's advertising or other promotional material.

57. Registered third parties should be required, as a condition of continued registration, to set up a separate election fund. They should be required to disclose to the Election Commission (and the Election Commission should publish) the source and amount of any donation of 5,000 or more.

They should also be barred from accepting any donations into their political fund from any source other than a permissible source and be required to make a formal declaration that they have used their best endeavours to determine that they have not accepted any donations from a non-permitted source.

The Election Commission should have similar investigatory powers in respect of third parties as it has in respect of political parties.

58. There should be a national limit on election spending by 'third parties' set at 5 per cent of the maximum limit set for any political party.

59. Limits should be placed on the campaign spending of political parties in respect of elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. How well these limits work, both in principle and in practice, should be kept under review by the Election Commission.

60. Candidates for the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales who contest an election only as a constituency candidate under the first-past-the-post part of the system should be subject to the same expenditure limits, and the same arrangements for enforcing them, as House of Commons candidates.

61. Independent regional candidates for election to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales should be subject to an expenditure limit calculated by combining the total constituency limits of those constituencies contained within the region.

The limit should be enforced in the same way as the limits for constituency candidates.

62. Limits should be placed on the campaign expenditures of political parties in respect of elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

On the assumption that such spending limits are in place for the first elections to the Parliament and the Assembly, the limits should initially be set at 1.5 million in Scotland and 600,000 in Wales. The limits should then be index-linked.

They should not otherwise be varied in future except on the recommendation of the Election Commission.

63. Campaign expenditure by constituency candidates which also promotes their party's Scottish or Welsh national campaign should be treated, for purposes of expenditure limits, only as constituency expenditure.

64. Limits on third-party campaign spending in connection with elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales should be along the same lines as the limits proposed for elections to the House of Commons.

65. A limit should be placed on the campaign expenditures of political parties in respect of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The limit for the next elections to the Assembly should be set at 300,000. It should then be index-linked. It should not be varied in future except on the recommendation of the Election Commission.

66. A limit on third-party expenditure in respect of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly should be along the same lines as the limits proposed for elections to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

67. In the light of further information the Government should place a limit on the campaign expenditure of political parties (and third parties) in respect of elections to the European Parliament.

The limit, when established, should be index-linked and should not be varied in future except on the recommendation of the Election Commission.

68. Oversight of compliance with the statutory limit on expenditure at general and other elections should be in the hands of the Election Commission.

69. Legislation should provide for:

  • a) the rendering by each political party of an account of general election expenditure, such account to be submitted within a prescribed period following polling day to the Election Commission supported by a statutory declaration as to its accuracy by a designated party official;

  • (b) the scrutiny by the Election Commission of all such accounts and follow-up investigations as necessary;

  • (c) a duty on the Election Commission to take proceedings before an election court where the facts in its opinion disclosed overspending by a political party;

  • (d) a power in the election court to impose a financial penalty on a political party proved to have been guilty of overspending;

  • e) criminal sanctions (fines and imprisonment) for individuals guilty of culpable conduct (including deliberate and reckless acts) in relation to over-spending by a political party;

  • (f) other appropriate provisions applying the principles outlined above to the other recommendations in this chapter, such as limits on third-party expenditure and limits on expenditure in the Scottish Parliament, the National Assemblies and so forth.

    The Election Commission

    70. An Election Commission should be established.

    71. The Commission should publish a report on the conduct and administration of each major election or referendum within 6 months of its taking place.

    72. The Commission should have the duty to advise the Government on the modernisation and revision of electoral law. The Government should consult the Commission before making or proposing any changes relating to electoral law and administration.

    73. The Commission should have the executive and investigatory powers detailed in our other recommendations.

    74. The Commission should not be a court or have any substantial judicial power.

    75. The Commission should be, and be seen to be, an independent and impartial body. Its members should be chosen on a non-partisan basis and by means of a non-partisan procedure. Its members should nevertheless be acceptable to the leaders of the main political parties.

    76. The members of the Commission should be given long periods of office and should enjoy substantial security of tenure.

    77. The Commission should consist of five part-time members.

    78. The Commission's budget should be set in such a way as to preserve its impartiality and independence.

    79. The Commission's remit should cover the whole of the United Kingdom, with individual commissioners taking special responsibility for overseeing electoral matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    80. Election returns should be sent to the Election Commission through the acting returning officers.

    81. The Election Commission should have powers to investigate suspected breaches of electoral law.

    82. The Election Commission should assume the role of registrar of political parties.

    Referendums

    83. In any referendum campaign there must be a fair opportunity for each side of the argument to be properly put to the voters.

    84. Depending on the circumstances, each side should be given equal access to an amount of core funding sufficient to enable it to mount at least a minimal campaign and to make its views widely known.

    85. The Election Commission should decide which organisations, if any, should be in receipt of core funding.

    86. A campaign organisation in receipt of core funding should be required to submit its audited accounts to the Election Commission within three months of the referendum.

    87. The core funding provided to the two sides in a UK-wide referendum should, in real terms, be not less than that provided in connection with the 1975 referendum. It should be enough, in connection with all referendums, to cover the establishment of a campaign headquarters for each side, with basic equipment and staff.

    88. Each side should also be provided with the same facilities as parliamentary candidates in general elections, namely, a free mailing of a statement of its views to every household and the free use of public premises for the holding of meetings.

    89. The government of the day in future referendums should, as a government, remain neutral and should not distribute at public expense literature, even purportedly 'factual' literature, setting out or otherwise promoting its case.

    90. Donations to campaigning individuals and organisations in referendums from one source which total 5,000 or more should be publicly disclosed in audited accounts which should be delivered to the Election Commission within three months of the holding of the referendum.

    91. Campaigning individuals and organisations other than political parties that wish to incur 'referendum expenses' of 25,000 or more, should register, like a political party, with the Election Commission. No individual or organisation not so registered may incur expenses in connection with a referendum in excess of 25,000.

    92. Campaigning individuals and organisations taking part in referendum campaigns should be restricted to the receipt of donations only from a 'permissible source'.

    93. The Election Commission should have as part of its remit keeping referendums and referendum campaigns under review and making reports and recommendations to Parliament and the Government concerning them.

    The Media and Advertising

    94. The ban on political advertising on television and radio should be maintained. Existing legislation should be reviewed to ensure that its reach is sufficiently wide to block attempts at evasion by new modes of communication.

    95. The broadcasters should do all in their power to maintain their established tradition of strict political neutrality.

    96. The political parties should seek to agree, in association with the advertising industry, a code of best practice for political advertising in the non-broadcast media.

    97. In addition to its overall duty of keeping election and funding arrangements under review, the Election Commission should be specifically charged with monitoring the working of the current arrangements for the provision of party political and election broadcasts and the effect on political advertising generally of developing communications technologies.

    The Honours System

    98. In future the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee (PHSC) should be requested to scrutinise every case where a nominee for an honour of CBE and above has directly or indirectly donated 5,000 or more to a political party at any time in the preceding five years.

    The PHSC should satisfy itself that the donation has made no contribution to the nomination for an honour.

    99. In future the PHSC should monitor the relationship between nominations for honours (at CBE level and above) and donations made to political parties or associated organisations in order to ensure that an undue preponderance of honours is not conferred on those who have directly or indirectly made donations.

    100. The PHSC should be renamed the 'Honours Scrutiny Committee'.

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