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Report No. 255

D. Electoral Expenditure, Disclosure, and Contribution: A Comparative Analysis

(i) United Kingdom


2.24.1. In the UK, there are limits on party and candidate expenditure, and these limits differ depending on the type of election (parliamentary or local body).

2.24.2. Section 76(2) of the Representation of the People Act, 1983 (hereinafter "RPA, 1983") along with the Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order 2014 sets the limits on candidate expenditure or "election expenditure". For county constituencies in a parliamentary general election, this is £ 8,700 with an additional 9 pence for every entry in the register of electors.

The amount is higher under section 76ZA if Parliament has not been dissolved within 55 months (or has sat for more than 55 months) and covers pre-candidacy election expenses. These amounts do not cover the candidates' personal expenses.

2.24.3. "Campaign expenditure", incurred to promote a party or its policies in general, is limited under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (hereinafter "PPERA") 2000. Schedule 9 of the Act limits campaign expenditure by parties up to £ 30,000 per constituency or a total of £ 810,000 for England; £ 120,000 for Scotland and £ 60,000 for Wales.46 Campaign expenditure is defined with reference to a list of specified expenses in Schedule 8 of the PPERA, which includes party political broadcasts, advertising, unsolicited material to electors, manifesto or other policy documents, market research and canvassing, media/publicity, transport, rallies or other events.

46. Schedule 9 of the PPERA Act, 2000 makes party spending limits depend on, and increase with, the number of constituencies that it contests.

2.24.4. Notional campaign expenditure or "third party/controlled" expenditure, that is "incurred by or on behalf of the third party in connection with the production or publication of election material which is made available to the public at large or any section of the public (in whatever form and by whatever means)", is also limited under section 85, PPERA and section 75, RPA 1983.

This expenditure includes money spent on holding public meetings or organizing public displays, or by issuing advertisements, circulars, or publications praising or disparaging candidates. It can independently be incurred only up to a limit of £ 500 for parliamentary expenses, although "recognised third parties" can incur greater expenditure.

2.24.5. Of particular interest is the regulation where expenditure limits have been introduced for periods both, before nomination ("pre-candidacy") and after nomination as a candidate. For instance, the 2015 general elections has been divided into a "long campaign.- which is pre-candidacy; and a "short campaign.- which is from the time of becoming candidate to polling day; and each has its own spending limit with fixed and variable amounts.47 The fixed amount for the long campaign is £ 30,700 and for the short campaign is £ 8,700 for 2015.48

47. Electoral Commission, UK Parliamentary Guidance Candidates and Agents: Parliamentary Elections 2015, at
< Spending-and-donations.pdf>

48. Electoral Commission, Third Parties,


2.24.6. In the UK, there are no caps on individual or corporate contributions to parties or candidates [under Section 54(2)(b), PPERA r/w Schedule 2A of RPA, 1983], although foreign donors are banned. In fact, there is no specific provision prohibiting corporations with partial government ownership or government contracts from donating as well.49 However, donations above £ 200 may only be received by parties only from 'permissible donors'.50 With respect to corporate contributions, it is important to note that they require prior shareholder approval.51

49. IDEA, Political Finance Data for United Kingdom,

50. Permissible donors vide section 54, PPERA include "an individual registered on a UK electoral register; a UK registered political party; a UK registered company; a UK registered trade union; a UK registered building society; a UK registered limited liability partnership; a UK registered friendly/building society; or a UK based unincorporated association".

51. Samya Chatterji and Niranjan Sahoo, Corporate Funding of Elections: Strengths and Flaws, Observer Research Foundation Issue Brief #69, February 2014,
<>, at 7

2.24.7. Section 52(2) of the PPERA prohibits all anonymous donations to parties, unless it is under £ 500; while Schedule 2A of the RPA, 1983 disregards all donations under £ 50.


2.24.8. All registered parties must maintain accounting records, which show all the money received and expended by the party. These include an annual statement of accounts; quarterly donation reports vide Section 62 of PPERA; and weekly reports during general election periods vide Section 63.

Both the quarterly and weekly reports must list the names and addresses of donors for donations over £ 7,500 along with other relevant transactions" such as loans and sponsorships.52 Schedule 6 of the PPERA lists the details to be given in donation reports in detail. Further, Section 43 provides that a qualified auditor must audit parties' accounts, if their gross income or total expenditure in any financial year exceeds £ 250,000 or if the Commission considers it desirable to do so.

52. Sections 62, 63, 71M, 71Q of the PPERA, 2000; section 20, Political Parties and Election Act 2009

2.24.9. Under section 81, RPA 1983 and Schedule 2A, candidates are also required to submit a return detailing their campaign expenses incurred by or on behalf of the candidate, or by their agents, to the Electoral Commission, within thirty-five days of the declaration of result. Donations of more than £ 50 to the candidate and impermissible donations must all be included in their returns.

2.24.10. On disclosure, the UK repealed Section 68 of the PPERA Act 2000, requiring donors making multiple small donations annually up to £ 5000 to report the same to the Electoral Commission, vide the Electoral Administration Act 2006 because "in practice" it had been "of little use".53

53. UK Parliament, Electoral Administration Bill: Part 7,

US Library of Congress, Campaign Finance: UK,

2.24.11. All reported financial information of political parties, namely their donation/loan reports, campaign expenditure returns (including pdfs of invoices and receipts) and statement of accounts are made available on the website of the Electoral Commission of the UK54. Information about regulated donees including MPs and members of political parties, along with third parties are also available online.

54. IDEA, United Kingdom, supra note 49.


2.24.12. The Electoral Commission has certain supervisory, enforcement and investigatory powers under the PPERA that allows it to check that funding is derived from permissible sources; to issue notice to a person/organisation to produce any books, documents or records for its inspection.

2.24.13. Schedule 20 of the PPERA lists the various penalties, which provides for instance a fine or one year imprisonment for being indicted for making false statements to auditor; or a level 5 fine (maximum £ 5,000) for summary conviction for failing to deliver proper statements of account, or within time.

The Electoral Commission's Enforcement Policy prescribes the varying nature of penalties in detail providing for fines ranging from £ 250-£ 5,000 for prescribed contraventions and £ 250-£ 20,000 for certain offences triable by a Magistrate or in a Crown's Court. Apart from this, it can issue a compliance notice, a restoration notice, a stop notice, or an enforcement undertaking.55

55. The Electoral Commission, Enforcement Policy December 2010.
< Policy-30March11.pdf>, at 10

2.24.14. Courts can also order forfeiture, if the Commission applies for the same in a civil process. The forfeited amount will be equal to the donation value that was accepted impermissibly or from an unidentifiable source or was concealed in a statutory report. The Commission will request a court-ordered forfeiture in these cases if it cannot agree on a voluntary settlement and it believes it is in public interest to do so.56

56. Ibid.

2.24.15. Finally, the Commission lacks the power to impose criminal sanctions, although it may refer a breach for criminal investigation and prosecution under certain circumstances.

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