Annex 1: Note on Short Money |
1. Financial assistance to Opposition parties is
commonly known as 'Short Money' after Edward Short, the Leader
of the House who introduced it in 1975. It was brought in under,
and is governed by, Resolutions of the House of 1975, 1993 and
2. The purpose of Short Money payments is to assist
a qualifying opposition party to carry out its parliamentary business.
It has three main components: the general fund, mainly for research
assistance for front-bench spokesmen and women and assistance
in the relevant whips' offices; a travel allowance, currently
of £129,000 a year divided between the qualifying parties,
introduced in 1993 and designed to assist with the travelling
expenses incurred by opposition parties' spokesmen and women on
parliamentary business; and, since 1999, an allowance, currently
£548,000 a year for running the Leader of the Opposition's
Office. The allowances are increased annually in line with inflation.
3. With the exception of the travel allowance, for
which claims must be put in, Short Money is paid automatically
in arrears at the end of each month. Each party must have its
accounts audited by an independent auditor; the accounts for each
financial year must be submitted to the Accounting Officer (the
Clerk of the House) by the end of December in the next financial
year, and are examined by the National Audit Office.
4. None of the Short Money resolutions attempted
to define 'parliamentary business'. In response, however, to difficulties
experienced by the auditors for one of the parties in certifying
that the money had been used on parliamentary business, the Department
of Finance and Administration drafted a definition, sometimes
called a description, of parliamentary business, which was agreed
with the Official Opposition, the Accounting Officer and the National
Audit Office. This reads: 'Parliamentary business for the purposes
of providing financial assistance to opposition parties may be
defined as research associated with front bench duties, developing
and communicating alternative policies to those of the Government
of the day, and shadowing the Government's front bench. It does
not include political campaigning and similar partisan activities,
political fund raising, membership campaigns or personal or private
business of any kind'.
5. In March 2001, the Select Committee on Public
Administration, having considered Short Money in the course of
its report on special advisers, reported that it had concerns
that a description of parliamentary business had been arrived
at, without consideration by the House, which seemed to allow
more latitude in how the money was spent. The report continued
In particular we are not clear how 'communicating
alternative policies to the Government of the day' (which is permitted
under the expanded description) is different from 'political campaigning'
(which is not).
We believe that there is an urgent need for stricter
regulation as to what Short money may be spent on and more transparency
as to how it has been spent. We understand that it will be for
the Leader of the House to bring forward an amended resolution
for adoption by the House
We hope that the Leader
of the House will take an early opportunity to table an amended
resolution so that the House can agree more precisely on what
Short Money may be spent and how it is to be accounted for.
This recommendation has not been implemented.
February 2004 Office of the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards
321 Select Committee on Public Administration, Fourth
Report of Session 2000-01 (HC 293), paras 50-51. Back