Controlled expenditure to count towards limits on campaign expenditure
21.—(1) This subsection applies to any expenses which, in relation to a relevant election—
(a) are controlled expenditure incurred by or on behalf of a third party during the period specified in Schedule 10 to the 2000 Act in relation to that election; and
(b) are incurred in connection with the production or publication of election material within the meaning of section 85 of the 2000 Act, where—
(i) the electoral success of a particular represented registered party (“the represented registered party in question”) at a relevant election is promoted or procured by the material; or
(ii) the party’s standing with the electorate, or the standing of any candidate authorised to use a description likely to lead electors to associate the candidate with the party, is otherwise enhanced by the material in connection with future relevant elections.
(2) Any expenses to which subsection (1) applies in respect of a relevant election—
(a) are to be treated as if they were campaign expenditure incurred by or on behalf of the represented registered party in question during the relevant period for that election specified in Schedule 9 to the 2000 Act; and
(b) are to be taken into account in determining whether the limits on campaign expenditure which apply by virtue of Schedule 9 to the 2000 Act at that election are exceeded.
(3) But subsection (2) does not apply where a public statement has been issued in accordance with subsections (4) and (5) on behalf of the represented registered party.
(4) The person whose name is entered on the register maintained under Part 2 of the 2000 Act as being the treasurer of a represented registered party may issue a statement on behalf of the party which—
(a) specifies the name of the party;
(b) identifies the third party by or on whose behalf expenses falling within subsection (1) are being incurred; and
(c) contains the following statement—
“The registered party, (specify name), of which I am treasurer is not in any way connected to (specify the name of the third party), and does not co-operate with that person, in order to influence the outcome of any election or referendum.”
(5) A statement issued under subsection (4)—
(a) must be issued before the start of the 3 week period which expires on the day of the relevant election in question; and
(b) must be published on the represented registered party’s website.
(6) It is an offence for a person knowingly or recklessly to issue a statement under subsection (4) which is false or misleading in a material particular.
(7) A person convicted of an offence under subsection (6) is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or a fine, or both.
(8) The preceding provisions of this section are in addition to the controls on campaign expenditure and controlled expenditure which are set out in Parts 5 and 6 of the 2000 Act.
(9) In this section—
“campaign expenditure” has the same meaning as in Part 5 of the 2000 Act (control of campaign expenditure);
“controlled expenditure” have the same meaning as in Part 6 of the 2000 Act (controls relating to third party national election campaigns).
Clause 21 seeks to deal with the potential for displacement of large donations from political parties’ coffers to those of third party campaigning organisations. This Clause represents a response to increasing concerns across the parties, about the capacity of such organisations to obviate campaign finance rules. These concerns have emerged since the reports of the CSPL and Sir Hayden Phillips so, more than any other area of the draft Bill, the Clause is a first attempt to deal with what is a complex problem. Comments are particularly welcome.
The Clause sets out the circumstances in which third party campaigners’ expenditure would be counted as expenditure within the spending limits of political parties. However, it provides for political parties to prevent this occurring, in the event they are able publicly to distance themselves (through a ‘distancing provision’) from a third party campaigning organisation. A draft, statutory public statement to this effect is set out at subsection (4)(c), and it would be an offence to make a false statement. Such a statement would need to be made by the party three weeks before polling day.