Annual limit on expenses incurred by third parties in pursuit of party political objectives
19.—(1) This section applies to any expenses which—
(a) are incurred by or on behalf of any third party in pursuit of party political objectives; and
(b) are not subject to the controls relating to third party national election campaigns which are contained in Part 6 of the 2000 Act.
(2) The Secretary of State may by order make provision as to the circumstances in which a limit in respect of a financial year is to be imposed under the order on the amount of expenses to which this section applies which are incurred by any third party.
(3) An order under subsection (2) must specify—
(a) the amount of the financial limit to be imposed on any third party under the order;
(b) the description of third parties to whom the financial limit is to apply;
(c) the description of expenses to which the financial limit is to apply;
(d) the circumstances in which any such expenses are (or are not) to be treated as incurred for party political objectives.
(4) An order under subsection (2) may include—
(a) provision about the keeping of records and accounts by third parties to whom the financial limit applies;
(b) provision requiring any such third party to provide information to the Commission;
(c) provision for such information to be provided at the request of the Commission or on such dates or at such intervals as the Commission may determine;
(d) provision in respect of the form and manner in which such information is to be provided to the Commission;
(e) provision in respect of the time within which such information is to be provided pursuant to a request under paragraph (b).
Clause 19 provides an order-making power for the Secretary of State to establish a system by which third parties could be subject to similar regime of annual expense limits to political parties. It would be necessary to define what kind of expenditure – and in the pursuit of what objectives – should be covered.
Comments are especially welcome on how and whether such a scheme would work. One option would be for such limits to cover the production or publication of “election material” (as in section 85(3) of the 2000 Act – see page 18). This is material intended to promote or procure electoral success at a specific election or to enhance the future standing of the party or its candidates (whether the party or candidate is named or whether the same result is achieved by the party’s, or candidate’s, association to particular policies).