elections and ensure the fair conduct of referendums have been published by home secretary Jack Straw.
The proposals are contained in a White Paper which sets out the
government's response to the Neill Committee Report and includes a
The main features of the draft Political Parties, Elections and
Referendums Bill, are:
- A registration scheme to bring parties under the funding controls
set out in the draft Bill.
- A requirement on parties to disclose the source and amount of
donations above£5,000 in a quarterly donations report.
- To prohibit the acceptance of donations made from outside the
United Kingdom - donations must be from individuals registered in a
UK electoral register, registered companies incorporated in the EU
and which carry out business in the UK, registered political parties,
trade unions or unincorporated associations which carry on business
in the UK.
- National spending limits on political parties for elections
determined by the number of constituencies and /or regions contested
in the election. In the case of a Westminster general election a
party which had candidates in all 659 seats could spend up to£19.77
- A framework for the conduct of referendums to ensure their fair
conduct. The Bill provides for the designation of campaign bodies
which will be entitled to particular forms of assistance, including a
grant of up to£600,000. It also provides for restrictions on the
publication and distribution of promotional material by central and
local government in the 28 days prior to the holding of a referendum.
- The establishment of an Electoral Commission which will supervise
the restrictions on spending by and donations to political parties,
oversee the fair conduct of referendums and report on elections and
referendums. It will have a broad responsibility for electoral law,
provide guidance in relation to party political broadcasts and
promote the understanding of electoral and political matters. It will
also take over the functions of the four parliamentary Boundary
Commissions and the Local Government Commission for England.
Mr Straw said:
'There has been widespread public concern about the way that
political parties are funded and the rules governing what they can
spend at elections. This government made a manifesto commitment to
clean up British politics and introduce more transparency into the
'We are grateful to Lord Neill and his colleagues for their extensive
work on this issue which has given us a firm basis on which to draft
these proposals. These will ensure that political parties are
properly accountable to the people they seek to represent and that
politics in this country does not become a matter of who can spend
'We are publishing this legislation in a draft form to enable us to
improve the Bill before putting it up for legislative scrutiny. As I
said when the original recommendations were published, I intend to
legislate on this before the next election.'
1. The Neill Committee's report, 'The Funding of Political Parties in
the United Kingdom' was published on 13 October 1998.
2. The draft Bill covers the majority of the material needed to give
effect to the government's responses to the Neill proposals. However,
there are some points on which the government intends to include
provisions in the legislation as introduced to parliament but which
are not included at this stage in the draft Bill. Details of these
proposals are set out in the White Paper.
The government also expects to include in the Bill for introduction:
a) Provisions for regulating the election expenditure of 'third
b) Further generic provision relating to the administration of
referendums, including the designation of counting officers
c) Further amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1983
with a view to removing some out of date provisions
d) Clarification of the law as to what items are covered in election
e) Amendments to the companies Act 1985 to require shareholder
approval for company donations to political parties
3. The consultation period ends on 15 October 1999.
Comments should be sent to:
Party Funding Unit
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT
Fax: 0207 273 2045
4. The White Paper The Funding of Political Parties in the United
Kingdom is available from the Stationery Office, command paper number
5. The White Paper and draft Bill are available on the home office