By Bob Posner, Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel
Today we’ve launched our new consultation on the Codes of Practice on election spending for candidates and political parties. We want your input to make sure they’re comprehensive, promote consistency, and provide the necessary clarity you need.
We hope these Codes will make it easier for you to submit your own or your party’s returns, simplifying the process and removing any blurred lines that there might have been. It will also help to increase transparency in the spending and reporting of expenses at elections and in turn help increase voter confidence in the system of political and election finance.
With two general elections in quick succession, we understand that the demand on candidates, agents and parties has been high. After the 2017 general election we received over 3,300 candidate spending returns totalling over £14 million. We also received 69 political party returns, detailing over £39 million worth of spending. So simplifying this process will benefit a huge number of people involved in spending returns.
In responding to this consultation you’ll help us to further demystify the process and remove any confusion that you or your party may have over the process of campaign reporting.
To inform the Codes, we’ve drawn on our experience as a regulator and also from the views of parties, candidates, and agents to make sure that these Codes will be as helpful for you as possible.
The aims of the Codes
We have introduced the Codes to:
- provide guidance for candidates, their agents and political parties about what items of spending count towards the spending limits and are to be reported
- make clear to political parties and candidates about when spending should be in a candidate return and when it should be in a political party return
- ensure the reporting of spending, including digital campaigning by political parties and candidates is clear and consistent.
The Codes set out what is and isn’t included in the categories of spending for elections and allow us to give guidance on the cases and circumstances where spending will be regarded as contributing to a candidate’s election or alternatively to the promotion of a party. We’ve set out a number of questions to assist in consultation responses, including ‘Are the Codes easy to understand?’ and ‘Do the Codes cover all the types of spending on digital campaigning at elections?’ but we also welcome and encourage any further feedback you may feel relevant.
Once finalised, these Codes will be presented to the Minister for the Cabinet Office for consideration before being laid before the UK Parliament for approval. When in force, political parties, candidates and agents must abide by the Codes when they organise their campaigns and when they complete their spending returns after an election.
The Scottish Parliament has responsibility for the law on Scottish Parliament and Scottish local government elections whilst the National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for the law on Assembly and Welsh local government elections. We anticipate also developing Codes appropriate to those elections, which will be subject at that time to consultation.
How you can get involved
We welcome responses before Tuesday 4 December. You will find the consultation questions on page 7 of the consultation document. You can also view the Code of Practice for candidates and the Code of Practice for political parties.
Please send your answers and any other comments to:
Responses can also be submitted by post to:
Codes of Practice Consultation
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
Responses can also be submitted by phone to Denise Bottom on 0207 271 0638.