Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000
Act of Parliament
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
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.
Citation 2000 c. 41
Territorial extentUnited Kingdom
Dates
Royal assent 30 November 2000
Other legislation
Amended by Government of Wales Act 2006
Political Parties and Elections Act 2009
Scotland Act 2012
Wales Act 2014
Scotland Act 2016
Wales Act 2017
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted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 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) which was passed two years earlier.

An act of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. The United States Act of Congress is based on it.

Parliament of the United Kingdom Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament or Westminster Parliament, as well as domestically simply as Parliament or Westminster, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign (Queen-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

A referendum is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. This may result in the adoption of a new policy or specific law. In some countries, it is synonymous with a plebiscite or a vote on a ballot question.

Contents

Background

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 Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life. It promotes a code of conduct called the Seven Principles of Public Life.

John Major former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir John Major is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. Previously Foreign Secretary and then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher Government from 1989 to 1990, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon from 1979 until his retirement in 2001. Since the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013, Major has been both the oldest and earliest-serving of all living former prime ministers.

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.

Electoral Commission (United Kingdom) an independent body set up by the UK Parliament

The Electoral Commission is the election commission of the United Kingdom. It is an independent body, set up in 2001 by the British Parliament. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run.

Details

Registration of parties

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

The requirement for parties to register with an official body, if they wished to be named on ballot papers, was the result of a fairly wide acceptance that the finances of political groups should be 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 else have a blank space instead of a description after their names—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.

Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 United Kingdom legislation

The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which made legal provision to set up a register of political parties in the United Kingdom. Previously there had been no such register, and political parties were not specially recognised. There were 468 political parties registered in the UK on 8 October 2016.

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

Donations

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

The provision of non-financial support to a registered 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 show that a donor counts as a "permissible source".

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

Northern Ireland Part of the United Kingdom lying in the north-east of the island of Ireland, created 1921

Northern Ireland is variously described as a country, province or region which is part of the United Kingdom. Located in the northeast of the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, its population was 1,810,863, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the UK's population. Established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the British government. Northern Ireland co-operates with the Republic of Ireland in several areas, and the Agreement granted the Republic the ability to "put forward views and proposals" with "determined efforts to resolve disagreements between the two governments".

Expenditure

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[ when? ] 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.

The amount permitted to be spent by third-parties during Parliamentary elections to support or oppose candidates was increased from the previous limit of £5 (which had been held to be an impermissible restriction on freedom of expression by the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Bowman v United Kingdom ) to £500. [2]

Referendums

The Act provides a basic framework to the running of all future referendums that are to be held under the jurisdiction of the Electoral Commission in pursuance of any provision made by a subsequent Act of Parliament in the following areas:

The Act also makes the provision that in any future UK-wide referendum the chairperson of the Electoral Commission is appointed “Chief Counting Officer” for the United Kingdom or gives the power for the chairperson to appoint a Chief Counting Officer.

Controversy

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 later changed the law to require the declaration of all forms of loan, and asked a former Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, Sir Hayden Phillips, to undertake a fundamental review of party funding arrangements. He reported in 2008. [3]

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.

In 2016, several UK police forces started investigations into allegations of election fraud, in the 2015 general election, specifically on the Conservatives breaching the spend limits permitted. The majority of alligations focus on the mis-representation of the "battle-bus" finances.

See also

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References

  1. Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Archived 2004-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Alder, John (2013). Constitutional and Administrative Law (ninth ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 267. ISBN   978-1-137-28144-9.
  3. "Party Finance and Expenditure in the United Kingdom Report" (PDF). Ministry of Justice. 16 June 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2009.