Representation of the People Act 1983

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Representation of the People Act 1983
Long titleAn Act to consolidate the Representation of the People Acts of 1949, 1969, 1977, 1978 and 1980, the Electoral Registers Acts of 1949 and 1953, the Elections (Welsh Forms) Act 1964, Part III of the Local Government Act 1972, sections 6 to 10 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the Representation of the People (Armed Forces) Act 1976, the Returning Officers (Scotland) Act 1977, section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1981, section 62 of and Schedule 2 to the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 1982, and connected provisions; and to repeal as obsolete the Representation of the People Act 1979 and other enactments related to the Representation of the People Acts.
Citation1983 c. 2
Territorial extent United Kingdom
Royal assent8 February 1983
Other legislation
Repeals/revokesRepresentation of the People Act 1949
Representation of the People Act 1969
Amended byWales Act 2017
Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020
Status: Amended
Text of the Representation of the People Act 1983 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The Representation of the People Act 1983 (c. 2) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It changed the British electoral process in the following ways:[1]

  • Amended the Representation of the People Act 1969.
  • Stated that a convicted person cannot vote at any parliamentary or local election whilst in prison.
  • Laid down the appeals process in local elections

The Act also regulates how political parties and people acting on their behalf are to behave before and during an election.

Election expenses[edit]

Sections 72 to 90 control the total election expenses that can be spent on behalf of a candidate.[citation needed]

During the time limit of the election, all money spent on the promotion of a candidate must be authorised by his election agent. This includes the cost of holding public meetings, organising public displays, issuing advertisements, circulars, or otherwise presenting the candidate's views and the extent or nature of his backing or disparaging another candidate. It does not include travel expenses from home or similar personal expenses.[citation needed]

The expenses limit for the campaign (which is enforceable due to it all having to be authorised by one person) is £100,000 for a parliamentary by-election, but is approximately £5,483 plus either 6.2p or 4.6p for every registered voter in the district.[citation needed]

Publicity at parliamentary elections[edit]

Sections 91 to 94 entitle the candidate to one free mailshot of election material to all voters in the constituency. It is also illegal to print fake polling cards.[citation needed]

Election meetings[edit]

Sections 95 to 98 entitle the candidate to hold public meetings free of charge in schools and other public buildings in the constituency, and pay only the cost price for making the rooms available.[citation needed]

Agency by election officials and canvassing by police officers[edit]

Sections 99 makes it illegal for officers in charge of administering an election to be involved in any of the election campaigns.[citation needed]

Section 100 forbids a police officer from canvassing in any election which overlaps with their police area.[citation needed]

Conveyance of voters to and from the poll[edit]

Sections 101 to 105[2] made it illegal to hire or lend taxis and buses to give lifts of voters to the ballot box. These sections were repealed by Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.[3]

Other illegal practices, payments, employments or hirings[edit]

False statements as to candidates[edit]

Section 106 makes it illegal for any person to publish any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct, unless he or she can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing that statement to be true.[4] Similar provisions in previous laws have made this illegal since 1895.[5] It is also illegal to publish a false statement of a candidate's withdrawal from an election.[citation needed]

In September 2007 Miranda Grell was found guilty under this section when she made allegations of paedophilia and having sex with teenage boys against her gay opponent during the 2006 United Kingdom local elections.[6]

In November 2010, Labour MP Phil Woolas was found by an electoral court to have breached section 106. The judges ruled that a by-election for the seat should be held. Woolas said that he would apply for a judicial review into the ruling.[7] In a statement released through his lawyer, Woolas stated that "this election petition raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question and criticise politicians" and that it "will inevitably chill political speech".[8] The judicial review failed to overturn the ruling of the election court.[9]

In June 2015 the independent candidate in Mid Bedfordshire, Tim Ireland, lodged an appeal against the result at the general election, accusing Nadine Dorries of breaches of section 106 by making false statements about his character.[10][11] The petition was rejected by the High Court of Justice because it was served at Dorries' constituency office and not her home address.[12]

Corrupt withdrawal from candidature[edit]

Section 107 makes it illegal to bribe a candidate to withdraw from an election.[citation needed]

Premises not to be used as committee rooms[edit]

Section 108 made it illegal to hire a room in a pub for holding a campaign committee meeting. This section was repealed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.[citation needed]

Payments for exhibition of election notices[edit]

Section 109 prohibits hiring special advertising spaces (e.g. on the sides of houses) for the display of campaign posters (hiring ordinary advertising billboards used for regular advertising is permitted).[citation needed]

Details to appear on election publications[edit]

Section 110 states that any material, leaflet or advertisement for a candidate in an election must include the names and addresses of the printer, the promoter, and the person on behalf of whom the material is being published.[citation needed]

In December 2008 a Liverpool City Liberal Democrats councillor was found guilty under this section for delivering leaflets during the 2007 United Kingdom local elections purporting to be on behalf of The United Socialist Party (but lacking the necessary names and addresses) attacking the Labour candidate for crossing a picket line during a strike, and accusing his wife (who is a sitting councillor) of leaving council meetings early to learn lap dancing.[13]

Parliamentary election rules[edit]

Schedule 1 of the Act lays out in complete form the rules for running a parliamentary election and how the nomination papers should be handled.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ "Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000". Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Court examines Labour Muslim slur election leaflet". BBC News. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2010. The election court will focus on whether the leaflet and a newsletter breached the 1983 Representation of the People Act. Under the act, anyone involved in an election campaign who "makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct" has committed an offence.
  5. ^ "Watkins v Woolas 2010 EWHC 2702 (QB)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 5 November 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  6. ^ Ahmed, Murad (22 September 2007). "Labour rising star found guilty of smearing her election rival". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  7. ^ "BBC News - Shadow minister Woolas vows to fight election decision". 14 September 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  8. ^ Polly Curtis, Whitehall correspondent (5 November 2010). "Phil Woolas ejected from parliament over election slurs |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  9. ^ Adam Wagner, Guardian Legal Network (3 December 2010). "Court clarifies constitutional role in Woolas decision | Politics |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  10. ^ Perraudin, Frances (10 June 2015). "Nadine Dorries accused of making false claims about opponent during election". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  11. ^ Green, Chris (10 June 2015). "Nadine Dorries faces challenge after general election smear campaign allegations". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  12. ^ Green, Chris (30 July 2015). "High Court rejects attempt to unseat Nadine Dorries after legal documents sent to wrong address". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Liverpool councillor Steve Hurst found guilty of breaching electoral law". Liverpool Daily Post. 2 December 2008. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Representation of the People Act 1983". Retrieved 8 August 2016.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]