House of Lords - Explanatory Note
Political Parties, Elections And Referendums Bill - continued          House of Lords

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Clauses 70 to 73 : General restrictions relating to election expenditure

130.     In order to ensure proper observance of the limits on campaign expenditure by parties, clauses 70 and 71 require that all such expenditure, and any payment in respect of such expenditure, must be authorised or made by the registered treasurer, a deputy treasurer or a person authorised in writing by either the treasurer or a deputy treasurer. Similarly, clause 72 requires that any claim for payment in respect of campaign expenditure must be sent to the treasurer or a deputy treasurer or other authorised person. These provisions (and clause 73, which provides for disputed claims) are similar to the provisions in Part II of the Representation of the People Act 1983 concerning election expenditure by candidates and their agents.

Clause 74 and Schedule 8: Limits on campaign expenditure

131.     Clause 74 and Schedule 8 set out the financial limits on campaign expenditure. The limits apply to the following elections: a parliamentary general election; a European Parliamentary general election; a Scottish Parliamentary general election; an ordinary election to the National Assembly for Wales; and a general election to the Northern Ireland Assembly. No limits are, as such, imposed on campaign expenditure by political parties in connection with local government elections, although any such expenditure which is incurred during the relevant campaign period for one of the above elections would count towards the expenditure limit for the election in question.

132.     The scheme provides for expenditure to be apportioned between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The reason for apportioning campaign expenditure to each part of the United Kingdom is that the campaign periods for parliamentary or European Parliamentary general elections and elections to the devolved legislatures may overlap and, without provisions for apportioning expenditure, an expenditure limit for elections to the devolved legislatures could, in such circumstances, be avoided.

Parliamentary general elections

133.     The limits for parliamentary general elections are set out in paragraph 3 of Schedule 8. The maximum amount a party may spend is determined by the number of constituencies contested. A party receives an allowance of £30,000 for each constituency contested, subject to a minimum threshold. The maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it contested all the parliamentary constituencies in each part of the United Kingdom is set out in the table below:

 

No of parliamentary seats

Maximum expenditure limit £'000

England

529

15,870

Scotland

72

2,160

Wales

40

1,200

TOTAL Great Britain

641

19,230

Northern Ireland

18

540

TOTAL United Kingdom

659

19,770

134.     The minimum expenditure limit is set at 5 per cent of the maximum limit rounded up to the nearest multiple of £30,000 (paragraph 3(3)). This minimum expenditure limit is intended to ensure that a party which campaigns primarily in local government elections, but also puts up a handful of candidates in a parliamentary general election, does not inadvertently breach the expenditure limits for that election. For example, a party that spent £200,000 in England campaigning in advance of local elections in May, but subsequently put up only three candidates at a parliamentary general election the following October would, but for the minimum expenditure limit (of £810,000), have committed the offence in clause 74(4) of incurring campaign expenditure in excess of the limit in paragraph 3 of Schedule 8.

135.     The campaign expenditure limits for parliamentary general elections ordinarily apply to the 'relevant period' of 365 days ending with the date of the election (paragraph 3(5)(a)). Where one general election follows within a year of another, however, the relevant period for the second of these elections begins the day after the first general election and ends with the date of the second election. To take the example of 1974, the 'relevant period' for the October general election would have been the 224 days from 1 March 1974 (the day after the first general election in that year) to 10 October 1974 (the date of the second election).

General elections to European Parliament

136.     Paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 sets out the campaign expenditure limits for general elections to the European Parliament. As for the June 1999 elections in Great Britain, the expenditure limits are calculated by reference to the number of regions contested by a party multiplied by the total number of MEPs to be returned for those regions. A party receives an allowance of £45,000 for each MEP to be returned in each of the regions it contests. The maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it stood for election in all the English regions and in Scotland and Wales and put up candidates in Northern Ireland is set out in the table below:

 

No of MEPs

Maximum expenditure limit £'000

England

East Midlands

Eastern

London

North East

North West

South East

South West

West Midlands

Yorkshire and The Humber

TOTAL England

6

8

10

4

10

11

7

8

7

71

270

360

450

180

450

495

315

360

315

3,195

Scotland

8

360

Wales

5

225

TOTAL Great Britain

84

3,780

Northern Ireland

3

135

TOTAL United Kingdom

87

3,915

137.     These limits on campaign expenditure by parties in European Parliamentary elections will replace those contained in regulation 15 of the European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/1214). The Regulations apply only to the elections in Great Britain; the equivalent regulations for Northern Ireland impose expenditure limits on candidates and not on parties (these limits will be retained).

138.     Paragraph 4(5) provides that the relevant period during which the campaign expenditure limits will apply is the period of four months ending with the date of the poll. The dates of elections to the European Parliament are by and large fixed. The date is governed by Article 10(2) of the Community Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage annexed to the decision of the Council of the European Communities dated 20 September 1976. Under that Article, elections take place every five years in the period corresponding to the first elections to the Parliament in 1979 unless the Council of Ministers acting unanimously determine otherwise; they have not done so. Article 9 of the Community Act provides that the elections to the European Parliament must for all Member States fall within the same period starting on a Thursday morning and ending on the following Sunday. The precise date of the poll is set by the Secretary of State by order under section 3D of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 (as substituted by section 1 of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999). Subject to any determination by the Council of Ministers under Article 10(2), the next European Parliamentary Election will therefore be held within the period Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 June 2004. If, as previously has been the case, the election is held on the Thursday, the relevant period for the election will be four months commencing on 11 February 2004 and ending on 10 June 2004.

General elections to Scottish Parliament

139.     Paragraph 5 of Schedule 8 sets out the campaign expenditure limits for ordinary and extraordinary general elections to the Scottish Parliament. The expenditure limits are calculated by reference to the number of constituencies and/or regions contested by a party. A party receives an allowance of £12,000 for each constituency contested and of £80,000 for each region contested. Under the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 1 to the Scotland Act 1998 there are 73 constituencies each returning one MSP and eight regions each returning seven regional MSPs. Accordingly, the maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it stood for election in all constituencies and regions is £1,516,000.

140.     These limits on campaign expenditure by parties in Scottish Parliamentary elections will replace those contained in Article 42 of the Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 1999 (SI 1999/787).

141.     Paragraph 5(4) provides that the relevant period during which the campaign expenditure limits will normally apply is, in the case of an ordinary general election, the four-month period before the date of the poll. Section 2(2) of the Scotland Act 1998 provides (subject to subsection (5) of section 2) that ordinary general elections are held on the first Thursday in May in the fourth calendar year following that in which the previous ordinary general election was held. Section 2(5) of the Scotland Act makes provision for the date of the poll to be brought forward or moved back by no more than one month. Subject to the exercise of the power in section 2(5), the next ordinary general election to the Scottish Parliament will therefore be held on Thursday 1 May 2003 and the relevant period for that election will commence on 2 January 2003.

142.     Paragraph 5(5) provides that the relevant period in the case of an extraordinary general election is the period beginning with the date when the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament proposes a date for the poll for the election (in accordance with section 3(1) of the Scotland Act) and ending with the date of the poll for the election. By virtue of the timetable for Scottish Parliamentary elections laid down by Rule 1 of the Scottish Parliamentary Election Rules (contained in Schedule 2 to the Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 1999), the relevant period for an extraordinary election must be a minimum of 22 working days (that is excluding weekends and bank holidays), although in practice it is likely to be longer.

Ordinary elections to Welsh Assembly

143.     Paragraph 6 of Schedule 8 sets out the campaign expenditure limits for ordinary elections to the Welsh Assembly (the Government of Wales Act 1998 makes no provision for extraordinary elections). The expenditure limits are calculated by reference to the number of constituencies and/or regions contested by a party. A party receives an allowance of £10,000 for each constituency contested and of £40,000 for each region contested. Under the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 1 to the Government of Wales Act there are 40 Assembly constituencies each returning one Assembly Member (AM) and five Assembly electoral regions each returning four regional AMs. Accordingly, the maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it stood for election in all constituencies and regions is £600,000.

144.     These limits on campaign expenditure by parties in ordinary elections to the Welsh Assembly will replace those contained in Article 47 of the National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 1999 (SI 1999/450).

145.     Paragraph 6(4) provides that the relevant period during which the campaign expenditure limits will normally apply is the four-month period before the date of the poll. Section 3(2) of the Government of Wales Act provides (subject to section 3(3)) that ordinary elections are held on the first Thursday in May in the fourth calendar year following that in which the previous ordinary election was held. Section 3(3) of the 1998 Act makes provision for the date of the poll to be brought forward or moved back by no more than one month. Subject to the exercise of the power in section 3(3), the next ordinary election to the National Assembly will therefore be held on Thursday 1 May 2003 and the relevant period for that election will commence on 2 January 2003.

General elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly

146.     Paragraph 7 of Schedule 8 sets out the campaign expenditure limits for ordinary and extraordinary elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The expenditure limits are calculated by reference to the number of constituencies contested for a party. A party receives an allowance of £17,000 for each constituency contested. Under the provisions of section 33 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 there are 18 constituencies each returning six members of the Assembly. Accordingly, the maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it stood for election in all constituencies is £306,000.

147.     Paragraph 7(4) provides that the relevant period during which the campaign expenditure will normally apply is the four-month period before the date of the poll. Section 31(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides that (subject to section 31(3)) the date of the next ordinary election will be Thursday 1 May 2003. Section 31(1) of that Act provides (again subject to section 31(3)) that subsequent ordinary elections are to be held on the first Thursday in May in the fourth calendar year following that in which the previous ordinary election was held. Section 31(3) of the 1998 Act makes provision for the date of the poll to be brought forward or moved back by no more than two months. Subject to the exercise of the power in section 31(3), the relevant period for the next ordinary election will be the period 2 January 2003 to 1 May 2003.

148.     Paragraph 7(5) provides that the relevant period in the case of an extraordinary general election is the period beginning with the date when the Secretary of State proposes a date for the poll for the election under section 32 of the 1998 Act and ending with the date of the poll. As no provision about Assembly elections has yet been made under section 34(4) of the 1998 Act, there is at present no other constraint as to the length of the relevant period.

Limits applying in special circumstances

149.     The definition of campaign expenditure in clause 67 is such that campaign expenditure incurred with one particular election in mind cannot be readily delineated from campaign expenditure incurred with a second election in mind. Indeed, an advertisement placed in a newspaper promoting a registered party in general terms may be intended by that party to enhance their electoral prospects at all elections in the coming weeks or months. In recognition of this, Part III of Schedule 6 provides for alternative campaign expenditure limits to apply when the relevant periods for different elections overlap. In most cases, the limits for individual elections are aggregated and applied to a new relevant period which is the aggregate of the relevant periods for the two or more overlapping elections.

Combination of elections to European Parliament and to devolved legislature

150.     Paragraph 8 of Schedule 8 determines the campaign expenditure limits in circumstances where the relevant period for a European Parliamentary election overlaps with the relevant period for an election to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly. If the elections to the European Parliament and the devolved legislature are held according to the fixed timetables provided for in the relevant statutes, such overlapping of relevant periods will happen only once every twenty years. The next occurrence will be in 2019 when the elections to the three devolved legislatures would be held on Thursday 2 May followed, five weeks later, with the elections to the European Parliament on Thursday 9 June.

151.     Paragraph 8(2) provides that where the relevant period (as defined in paragraphs 4 to 7) for these elections overlap the limits that would have applied to the European election and to the election to a devolved legislature are to be aggregated. Where a party contested all the constituencies and/or regions in both elections, the maximum amount of campaign expenditure that could be incurred would be as set out in the table below:

 

Maximum amount in respect of European election £'000

Maximum amount in respect of election to devolved legislature £'000

Aggregate limit applying to both elections £'000

Expenditure in Scotland

360

1,516

1,876

Expenditure in Wales

225

600

825

Expenditure in Northern Ireland

135

306

441

152.     Paragraph 8(3) defines the relevant period in respect of which the aggregate campaign expenditure limits are to apply. Were the European Parliamentary elections and the elections to the devolved legislatures to overlap, as scheduled, in 2019 the relevant period in that instance would begin on 3 January 2019 (four months before the date of the ordinary elections to the devolved legislatures) and end on 9 June 2019 (the date of the election to the European Parliament).

Combined limits where parliamentary election pending

153.     Paragraph 9 of Schedule 8 determines the campaign expenditure limits that apply when the period during which a parliamentary general election is pending overlaps with the relevant period for a European Parliamentary election and/or an election to a devolved legislature. Paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 8 defines the period during which a parliamentary general election is pending as the period beginning with the date on which Her Majesty's intention to dissolve Parliament is announced and ending with the date of the election. Where such an overlap occurs, and a party is contesting each of the elections, the expenditure limits that would apply to that party in respect of each election (by virtue of paragraphs 3 to 8, as the case may be) are aggregated. A party that contested all constituencies and/or regions in each of the elections would be able to incur campaign expenditure up to the limits set out in the following table:

 

Maximum limit for overlapping parliamentary and European Parliamentary polls £'000

Maximum limit for overlapping parliamentary and devolved polls £'000

Maximum limit for overlapping parliamentary, European and devolved polls £'000

Expenditure in England

19,065

-

-

Expenditure in Scotland

2,520

3,676

4,036

Expenditure in Wales

1,425

1,800

2,025

Expenditure in Northern Ireland

675

846

981

154.     Paragraph 9(3) defines the relevant period during which the aggregate expenditure limits would apply. The limits of the relevant period are dependent on whether the parliamentary election takes place either, on the one hand, on the same day as or later than the other election(s) or, on the other hand, earlier than the other election(s). Two examples will illustrate this. First, if a Scottish Parliamentary election was held on 5 May 2011 and was followed by a parliamentary general election on 2 June 2011 (having been announced prior to 5 May), the relevant period would run from 3 June 2010 to 2 June 2011. Second, if a parliamentary general election was held on 31 March 2011 and was followed by a Scottish Parliamentary election on 5 May 2011, the relevant period would run from 1 April 2010 to 5 May 2011.

155.     Paragraph 9(4) determines the campaign expenditure limits to apply where two parliamentary general elections are pending during different parts of the relevant period (as defined in paragraph 4 to 8) for a European Parliamentary election or an election to a devolved legislature or a combination of the two. For this provision to operate, two parliamentary general elections would need to be held within some four months of each other (the two 1974 elections were held nine months and ten days apart). A possible scenario would be:

10 February 2009

Four-month period preceding a European Parliamentary election begins.

24 February 2009

Parliamentary general election takes place (having been called in January).

26 May 2009

Her Majesty announces her intention to dissolve Parliament.

9 June 2009

European Parliamentary election takes place.

7 July 2009

Second parliamentary election takes place.

156.     In such a scenario, paragraph 9(4) determines the campaign expenditure limits to apply in "the first relevant period" (as defined in paragraph 9(5)) and "the second relevant period" (as defined in paragraph 9(6)). The first relevant period would, in this example, be the period beginning 26 February 2009 (that is, 365 days before the date of the first parliamentary general election) and ending on 26 May 2009 (the date on which Her Majesty announced her intention to dissolve Parliament in connection with the second parliamentary general election). The limit on campaign expenditure that a party could incur during the first relevant period would be the aggregate of the limits that would apply to the first parliamentary election and the European election by virtue of paragraphs 3 and 4 respectively.

157.     In the same example, the second relevant period would run from 27 May 2009 (the day after Her Majesty announced her intention to dissolve Parliament in connection with the second parliamentary general election) to 7 July 2009 (the date of the second parliamentary general election). The limit on campaign expenditure that a party could incur during the second relevant period would be the limit that would apply to the second parliamentary election by virtue of paragraph 3.

 
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Prepared: 17 March 2000