Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Eleventh Report



PART II
Registration of Political Parties

CLAUSE 21 - THE REGISTER OF POLITICAL PARTIES

From the appointed day the register of political parties established under the 1998 Act will be maintained by the Commission instead of the registrar of companies. Under subsection (5) of clause 21 the Secretary of State may by order make provision for the transfer to the Commission of any property, rights and liabilities of the registrar of companies in connection with the exercise of his functions under the 1998 Act. This matter has been left to delegated legislation since it will be necessary for there to be consultation with the registrar about what it is appropriate to transfer and this should be done at the time close to the appointed day. The order is subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is thought desirable that there should be some parliamentary scrutiny of an order made pursuant to this power. It is considered that the negative resolution procedure is sufficient for this purpose.

CLAUSE 23 - FINANCIAL STRUCTURE OF REGISTERED PARTY: ADOPTION OF SCHEME

Clause 23 provides that a party may not be registered unless it has adopted a scheme which sets out the arrangements for regulating the financial affairs of the party and the scheme has been approved by the Commission. The scheme must in particular determine whether, for the purposes of the Act, the party is to be taken to consist of a single organisation or a central organisation and one or more separate accounting units of constituent or affiliated organisations (subsection (2)). The separate accounting units must be identified in the scheme (subsection (3)). Subsection (8) provides that trade unions, registered friendly societies and any organisation of a description prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Commission should not be regarded as a constituent or affiliated organisation in relation to a party. The effect is that the party will not be responsible for the financial arrangements of those bodies (including keeping accounts, reporting donations etc) even though these organisations are constituent or affiliated organisations to the party. The justification for excluding such bodies is that they are already subject to separate accounting requirements and they are in practice separate from the party. However, money given by such an organisation to the party will be treated as a donation and will have to be disclosed by the party.

The power to add organisations of a description prescribed by order is necessary because there may be organisations which are constituent or affiliated to registered parties where it would not be appropriate for the party to be responsible for the financial affairs of that organisations. There will need to be consultation with registered parties on whether there is a need for an order and which bodies should be exempt. Variations to the order may be needed form time to time as different parties with different structures apply to register. The order is subject to the negative resolution procedure. The order can only be made on the recommendation of the Commission. It is thought desirable that there should be some parliamentary scrutiny of orders made pursuant to the provision. It is considered that the negative resolution procedure is sufficient.

CLAUSE 25 - REGISTRATION OF PARTIES

Clause 25(2) sets out the grounds on which the Commission can refuse an application by a party to be included on the register of political parties. Paragraph (f) of subsection (2) allows refusal if the registered name includes any words or expression prohibited by order made by the Secretary of State after consulting the Commission. The order may except the use of a word or expression from the prohibition in specified circumstances. The order made under section 3(1)(f) of the 1998 Act (The Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) Order 1998 SI 1998/2873) will, by virtue of clause 148(4), continue to have effect as if made under this provision. The order sets out those words which may not be used as part of the name of a registered party, or may only be used in conjunction with some other specified word. The order may need amendment from time to time. The order is subject to the negative resolution procedure as it is thought desirable that there should be some parliamentary scrutiny of an order made under this provision. It is thought that the negative resolution procedure is sufficient and this is the same procedure as applied under the 1998 Act.

Schedule 3, paragraph 1(2) This paragraph provides that an application for registration must be accompanied by any fee prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State. There is equivalent provision in the 1998 Act. This matter has been left to delegated legislation, as the fee may need to be changed from time to time. The order is subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is thought desirable that there should be some parliamentary scrutiny of an order made under this provision. It is thought that the negative resolution procedure is sufficient.

CLAUSE 27 - CHANGES TO THE REGISTER

Clause 27 makes provision for a party to apply alter the details of its entry on the register. Under Schedule 3, paragraph 8(1) an application for alteration of a party's entry in the register must be accompanied by any fee prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State. This matter has been left to delegated legislation, as the fee will need to be amended from time to time. The order is subject to the negative resolution procedure. Whilst it is thought desirable that the order make pursuant to the provision should be subject to some parliamentary scrutiny, it is thought that the negative resolution procedure is sufficient. This is the same procedure that applies under section 8 of the 1998 Act.


 
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