Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14
Section 2 of this Bill imposes similar controls on any campaigning, to those imposed on the Political parties, with differing rules on the limits of expenditure. Any amount over £200, spent during an election period will need to be accounted for. Organisations will be capped to £700 during an election. These sums include volunteer’s time and gifts which must be costed out. Between elections there are more generous cost limits, but also considerable technical burdens.
This Bill now before Parliament is in 3 parts; the first and third deal with the transparency of lobbyists, and the activities of Trades Unions, and will not be discussed further here.
The second part deals with non-party campaigning. The Government claim that there is a perception of a lack of transparency in the way that 3rd parties campaign during elections and that this should be controlled by monitoring (and capping) the expenditure of any 3rd party organisation that is deemed to be promoting the views of any party or candidate for any election (imminent or otherwise). This will require the keeping of records by any campaigning group of the costs (both in money and in volunteer time or donated materials in kind), with penalties for any breach of these new regulations.
The first measure requires any campaigning organisation (planning to spend over £31,980) to seek permission from any political party that it believes is promoting similar policies, and the costs of any such campaign will be added to those of the party for the calculation of electioneering limits, as well as used in calculating the permitted costs of the campaign organisation.
The second realigns the permitted activities of campaign groups so that they are more in line with activities permitted for political parties; this means that any advertising, cost of press conferences, research or canvassing will now be included in campaign groups’ costs.
Measure 3 introduces a cost limit per constituency of £9,750 for these campaigning groups, and 4 requires any group which believes it may spend over £5,000 to register with the Electoral Commission. During the run-up to an election the reports must be made quarterly, and after dissolution of parliament until the election, weekly. Donations will need to be declared on the same basis as party donations.
Measures 5 & 9 require any organisation that spends over £200 campaigning for or against any candidate to keep records that can be requested and analysed by the returning officer, the police, or the Electoral Commission. There is a further limit of £700 on such activity (which includes the monetarised costs of volunteers)
The final measure requires all registered 3rd party organisation to publish a complete list of board members.
These notes are my own interpretation of the information given in Section 2 of the Bill and in the impact statement issued with it. I am not a legal advisor.
Mike Parslow September 2013
News from Parliament with further links and transcripts: http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2013/september/transparency-of-lobbying-non-party-campaigning-and-trade-union-administration-bill-/
Further media articles: