Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

Long title An Act to establish an Electoral Commission; to make provision about the registration and finances of political parties; to make provision about donations and expenditure for political purposes; to make provision about election and referendum campaigns and the conduct of referendums; to make provision about election petitions and other legal proceedings in connection with elections; to reduce the qualifying periods set out in sections 1 and 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1985; to make pre-consolidation amendments relating to European Parliamentary Elections; and for connected purposes.
Chapter 2000 c. 41
Territorial extent United Kingdom
Dates
Royal Assent 30 November 2000
Status:
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (c. 41) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that sets out how political parties, elections and referendums are to be regulated in the United Kingdom. It formed an important part of the constitutional reform programme implemented by the 1997 Labour Government, building on the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 (c. 48) passed two years earlier.

Background[edit]

The Act was introduced after consultation with major political parties, and largely followed the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (known at the time as the "Neill Committee" after its chairman), an independent body set-up by former Prime Minister John Major to consider ways of making politics more transparent. The committee set out its proposals in its report, The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom.[1]

The Act created an independent Electoral Commission to regulate political parties and their funding arrangements. It also required parties to submit statements of their accounts on a regular basis, and prohibited the receipt of funds from foreign or anonymous donors. Restrictions on campaign expenditure were also put in place, dictating the maximum amount that parties were able to spend.

Details[edit]

Registration of parties[edit]

The law gave the newly formed Electoral Commission a role in policing the registration of political parties.

The requirement for parties to officially register was the result of a fairly wide acceptance that the finances of all political groups should be properly regulated to reduce the perception of underhand dealings.

In addition, political groups or individuals failing to register with the Commission would only be able to describe themselves as "Independent" on ballot papers, or have a blank entry against their name -- with the single exception of the Speaker of the House of Commons who is entitled to be described as: "The Speaker seeking re-election".

This built on the provisions of the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, passed amid concern about voters being fooled by misleading ballot descriptions.

There is an annual fee for the registration of a party.

Donations[edit]

Under the terms of the law, parties are only allowed to accept donations in excess of £500 from "permissible donors", defined as either individuals on the electoral register, or political parties, companies, trade unions or similar organisations that are registered in the UK.

The provision of non-financial support to a party – such as subsidies or free materials – is counted as a donation. Each party is required to submit details of all donations received, whether by party headquarters or their subsidiary parts. Each report must provide sufficient information to prove that a donor counts as a "permissible source".

Parties on the separate register for Northern Ireland are exempt from the controls on accepting and reporting donations.

Expenditure[edit]

The Act places strict limits on the amount each party may spend in the run-up to the election (how that time period is defined depends on the type of election). The current limit for elections to the UK Parliament in Westminster stands at £30,000 per constituency contested within 365 days of a General Election, up to a maximum of £18.84 million.

Controversy[edit]

In December 2006 Prime Minister Tony Blair and politicians of other parties were questioned by police as part of their investigation into the Cash for Honours affair. Part of their time was said to be spent looking at whether the Act had been breached by parties taking loans from supporters in return for nominations to the House of Lords. Unlike donations, loans did not have to be made public as long as they were made on "commercial terms".

The Government has since changed the law to require the declaration of all forms of loan, and a former Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, Sir Hayden Phillips, has been asked to undertake a fundamental review of party funding arrangements.

In November 2007 the provisions of the Act were again the subject of scrutiny in the cases of Labour party donor David Abrahams and Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]