|Electoral Administration Bill - continued||House of Commons|
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Part 7: Regulation of parties
Clause 46 Registered names of parties
205. This clause amends section 28 of the 2000 Act (Registration of parties), by inserting new subsection (4)(da). The effect of this amendment is to enable the Electoral Commission to refuse to register a political party where the party proposes a name which, if it were to appear on a ballot paper, would be likely to:
Clause 47 Political party descriptions
206. Subsection (1) inserts new sections 28A and 28B into the 2000 Act. These make new provision regarding the descriptions that candidates standing on behalf of political parties may use, and the process by which they may be registered with the Electoral Commission.
207. Section 28A(1) entitles a registered party to request up to five descriptions for use on its nomination papers or ballot papers. This is to allow for regional variations, and in line with the Electoral Commission's recommendation would allow a party to use one description for each of the UK, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
208. Section 28A(2) provides that the Electoral Commission should register the descriptions unless they exceed six words in length or fall into one of the categories listed in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g). Those sub-paragraphs are similar to the constraints upon the registered name of a party which are governed by section 28 of the 2000 Act. These constraints include whether the name is the same or confusingly similar to another party's registered description, whether it would be offensive, or would be misleading or confusing to the voter if it appeared on the ballot paper, or if it contains words or expressions which are prohibited from being used as the registered name of a party.
209. Section 28A(5) clarifies that in the case of a party registered for the purposes of relevant elections in Wales, the number of words can be up to six words in English and up to six words in Welsh.
210. Section 28A(6) and (7) empower the Secretary of State by order to change the number of descriptions that a party can register. He must consult the Electoral Commission before making such an order.
211. Section 28B addresses the situation where two or more parties come together to campaign at an election and wish their joint candidates to be able to use a joint description on their nomination papers and ballot paper.
212. Subsection (3) amends section 30 of the 2000 Act, which concerns the manner of amending the register of descriptions of parties. The amendments also specify the grounds on which the Electoral Commission may refuse an application for amendment. These criteria are similar to those relevant to registering the party name or descriptions, and also ensure that the maximum number of registered descriptions does not exceed five (or such other number as the Secretary of State has provided under section 28A(6)). It also prevents a registered description being removed during a pending election.
Clause 48 Confirmation of registered particulars
213. This clause amends section 32 of the 2000 Act (Confirmation of Registered particulars), by setting a new period within which a party must submit to the Electoral Commission confirmation of the party's registered particulars.
214. Section 32(1) of the 2000 Act currently requires the treasurer of a registered political party to provide the Electoral Commission with confirmation of the party's registered particulars at the same time as the party submits its annual statement of accounts.
215. Subsections (2) and (3) amend section 32(1) and insert new section 32(1A) respectively. Consequently, a party is no longer required to submit confirmation of its registered particulars at the same time as it submits its annual statement of accounts. Instead, confirmation of registered particulars must be submitted within the "specified period".
216. The "specified period" begins on the first day of the period within which the party must submit its statement of accounts and ends six months after the end of that period. At present, under section 45 of the 2000 Act, a party required to submit unaudited accounts must do so within 3 months from the end of the party's financial year. Clause 52 amends section 45 of the 2000 Act to extend this period to 4 months. A registered political party required to submit audited accounts, is required to have its accounts audited within six months from the end of the party's financial year and must submit its statement of accounts within seven days from the end of that six month period. Therefore, a registered political party required to submit unaudited accounts will have 10 months from the end of the its financial year to submit its confirmation of particulars to the Electoral Commission. A registered political party required to submit audited accounts will have 12 months and one week to do so.
Clause 49 Removal from register of registered parties
217. Currently, under section 33(1) and (2) of the 2000 Act (Party ceasing to be registered), the Electoral Commission may only remove a party from the register if it receives a signed application from the party leader, nominating officer and treasurer of the party seeking de-registration.
218. This clause amends section 33 of the 2000 Act by inserting new subsections (2A), (2B) and (2C) to give the Electoral Commission a power to remove parties from the register of political parties where they fail to confirm their registered particulars by the "specified day".
219. In relation to the notification requirements under section 32(1) of the 2000 Act, the specified day is the last day of the period in which the confirmation of a party's registered particulars is required to be submitted. In effect, where a registered political party required to submit unaudited accounts fails within ten months from the end of its financial year to submit confirmation of particulars to the Electoral Commission, it will be removed from the register. A registered political party required to submit audited accounts will be removed if it fails to submit confirmation of particulars within 12 and one week from the end of its financial year.
220. Under section 34(3) of the 2000 Act (Registration of minor parties) minor parties are required to provide confirmation of their particulars within a period of seven months beginning one month before the anniversary of the party's inclusion on the register and ending six months after that anniversary (the latter period is extended from three to six months by paragraph 118 of the Schedule 1). In relation to minor parties the specified day is the last day of the period of six-month period commencing on the anniversary of the party's inclusion on the register. The earliest date, therefore, that a minor party might be compulsorily removed for failure to comply with section 34(3) is six months from the date of its anniversary of inclusion in the register.
221. Subsection (4) amends section 33(3) by providing that a party which has been compulsorily removed from the register ceases to be a registered party.
222. Subsections (5) and (6) amend section 33(4) and insert a new section 33(4A), the combined effect of which is to provide that:
Clause 50 Time for registration of parties fielding candidates
223. This clause amends section 22 of the 2000 Act (Requirement for registration) and paragraph 6A of Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act (Nomination papers: name of registered political party).
224. Section 22 of the 2000 Act requires an organisation wishing to field candidates at a relevant election to be registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission. Under section 22, unless his nomination paper gives the description "independent" or gives no description, a person may only stand as a candidate at a relevant election if his nomination paper is supported by a certificate authorising his candidature. The certificate must be issued by, or on behalf of, the nomination officer of the party.
225. Section 22(2)(a) and (b) provides that a party must be registered in the relevant register maintained by the Electoral Commission under section 23 of the 2000 Act by the last date for publication of the notice of an election. Depending on the type of election, this date is usually around a week ahead of the close of nominations.
226. Paragraph 6A(1) of Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act provides that a nomination paper may not include a description of a candidate which is likely to lead voters to associate a candidate with a registered political party unless the party is a qualifying party in relation to the constituency and the description is authorised by a certificate issued by or on behalf of the registered nominating officer of the party.
227. The effect of the amendments is to remove the requirement that parties must be registered by the last date for publication of the notice of election in order to use a description. Instead, any candidate presenting a description bearing the description of a registered party should be entitled to use that description providing that the party is registered with the Electoral Commission two working days before the last day for the delivery of nomination papers at the election.
Clause 51 Requirements as to statements of account
228. This clause amends section 42 of the 2000 Act (Annual statement of accounts), which establishes a requirement to prepare an annual statement of accounts to be submitted to the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission prescribes different requirements in respect of the accounts to be submitted according to whether the income or expenditure of a party falls into one of three bands currently provided for by section 42(4)(a): up to £5,000, between £5,000 and £250,000 and over £250,000.
229. Subsection (2) amends section 42(4) of the 2000 Act by substituting a new paragraph (a), increasing the number of accounting bands to four: not exceeding £25,000, exceeding £25,000 but not £100,000, exceeding £100,000 but not £250,000 and exceeding £250,000.
230. Subsection (3) inserts new subsections (4A) and (4B). New subsection (4A) provides that the Secretary of State may by order vary the number of accounting bands and new subsection (4B) provides that he may only do so to give effect to a recommendation of the Electoral Commission.
Clause 52 Time for delivery of unaudited accounts to Electoral Commission
231. This clause amends section 45 of the 2000 Act (Delivery of statement of accounts etc. to the Commission) to extend the time within which a registered political party not required to submit audited accounts to the Electoral Commission, must submit unaudited accounts to the Electoral Commission. The time is extended from three months to four months from the end of the party's financial year.
Clause 53 Policy development grants to be donations
232. This clause amends section 52(1)(a) of the 2000 Act (Payments, services etc. not to be regarded as donations), the effect of which is to treat the receipt of a policy development grant as a donation that will need to be declared when a party submits its accounts to the Electoral Commission.
Clause 54 Exemption from requirement to prepare quarterly donation reports
233. Subsection (1) of this clause amends section 62 of the 2000 Act (Quarterly donation reports) by inserting new section 62A (Exemption from requirement to prepare quarterly donation reports).
234. Section 62 currently requires the treasurer of a registered party to submit quarterly donation reports in respect of any recordable donation. A recordable donation is any donation of more than £5,000 accepted during a quarter or any donation which when, added to other donations from the same source during that calendar year, brings the amount up to more than £5,000. In respect of an accounting unit of a registered party, a recordable donation is one of more than £1,000 accepted during a quarter or any donation which, when added to other donations from the same source during that calendar year, brings the amount up to more than £1,000. A treasurer must also record any further donations of more than £1,000 from a source, which, during the same calendar year, has already been recorded in a donation report. Parties must also report donations from the same source made to any of their accounting units which in aggregate exceed £5,000.
235. The effect of new section 62A is to make the requirements of section 62 less burdensome for smaller political parties, such as residents associations, and increase the Electoral Commission efficiency. The treasurer of a registered political party which does not receive any recordable donations for four consecutive quarterly periods is no longer required to provide any further quarterly donation reports until a recordable donation is accepted or dealt with in accordance with section 56(2) of the 2000 Act (Acceptance or return of donations: general).
236. Subsection (2) of this clause provides that the provisions in new section 62A will have effect if the last of the four consecutive quarterly donation reports mentioned in subsection (1) relates to a period which falls wholly or partly after the commencement of this section. For clarification it also provides that it is immaterial whether any of the other reports relate to such a period.
Clause 55 Repeal of section 68 of the 2000 Act
237. This clause repeals section 68 of the 2000 Act, which requires donors who make multiple small donations to a registered political party totalling £5,000 within the course of a calendar year to report their donations to the Electoral Commission. In practice this provision has been of little use.
Clause 56 Register of donations to include details of nature of donation
238. This clause amends section 69 of the 2000 Act (Register of donations). Section 69(1) requires the Electoral Commission to maintain a register of all reported donations. Section 69(2) provides for the information which must be recorded in the register in respect of each donation. Sponsorship is treated as a donation, under section 50(2) of the 2000 Act.
239. Some companies have raised concerns that what they consider legitimate commercial activities, or activities which they engage in with all parties, for example sponsorship, are currently considered to be, and are required to be reported as, donations.
240. To this end, for the purpose of clarification, this clause amends section 69(2) by inserting new subsection (aa), which provides that the register of donations should specify when a donation takes the form of sponsorship.
Clause 57 Northern Ireland: disapplication of Part 4 of 2000 Act
241. Whilst the 2000 Act applies to Northern Ireland, Part 4 has been temporarily disapplied by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Disapplication of Part 4 for Northern Ireland Parties, etc) Order 2005 (S.I.2005/299). This is in order to protect the identities of donors to political parties. This clause ensures that the current disapplication Order is not disturbed by the amendments to Part 4 of the 2000 Act made by clauses 53 to 56 this Bill.
Clause 58 Campaign expenditure: standing for more than one party
242. This clause amends Schedule 9 of the 2000 Act (Limits on campaign expenditure). Schedule 9 prescribes the financial limits on campaign expenditure to be applied in respect of parliamentary general elections, European Parliamentary general elections, Scottish Parliamentary general elections, ordinary elections to the National Assembly for Wales and general elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
243. Currently, paragraph 3(5) and (6) of Schedule 9 (Parliamentary general elections) provides that, in a parliamentary general election where a candidate stands on behalf of two or more parties in any constituency, the campaign expenditure limits prescribed by paragraph 3(2)(a) and (4) are divided by the number of parties on behalf of whom the candidate stands. Subsections (2), (3) and (4) of this clause now make similar provision for constituency elections to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly of Wales and elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Clause 59 Time limit for claims in respect of campaign expenditure and Schedule (2)
244. This clause amends section 77 of the 2000 Act (restriction on making claims in respect of campaign expenditure), section 92 of that Act (restriction on making claims in respect of certain expenditure of third parties) and section 115 of that Act (restriction on making claims in respect of referendum expenditure). These provisions regulate the times within which claims for payment and the payment of those claims should be made in respect of:
245. Subsection (1)(a) amends section 77(1) by increasing the period of time a claim for payment in respect of campaign expenditure may be sent to the treasurer or a deputy treasurer or other authorised person within a registered party after the end of the relevant campaign period from 21 to 30 days.
246. Subsection (1)(b) amends section 77(2) by increasing the period of time in which a claim for payment must be paid after the end of the relevant campaign period from 42 to 60 days.
247. Subsection (2)(a) amends section 92(1) by increasing the period of time a claim for payment in respect of controlled expenditure incurred by a third party may be sent to the responsible person or any other authorised person after the end of the regulated period from 21 to 30 days.
248. Subsection (2)(b) amends section 92(2) by increasing the period of time in which a claim for payment must be paid after the end of the regulated period from 42 to 60 days.
249. Subsection (3)(a) amends section 115(1) by increasing the period of time a claim for payment in respect of referendum expenses incurred with the authority of the responsible person or any other person authorised to incur the expenses after the end of the referendum period from 21 to 30 days.
250. Subsection (3)(b) amends section 115(2) by increasing the period of time in which a claim for payment must be paid after the end of the referendum period from 42 to 60 days.
Referendum and election material
Clause 60 Details to appear on referendum and election material
251. This clause amends sections 126 (Details to appear on referendum material) and 143 (Details to appear on referendum material) of the 2000 Act, which prescribe the details to be included on referendum and election material.
252. Subsection (1) amends section 126(1) of the 2000 Act by inserting new subsection (10A). Section 126 is intended to apply to printed material such as leaflets, posters and newspaper advertisements, but not to any material published for the purposes of a referendum if the publication is required under or by virtue of any enactment. New subsection (10A) provides clarification that in a referendum, material such as ballot papers and other material which might, for example, be prescribed under a conduct of referendums Order, does not require imprints.
253. Subsection (2) amends section 143 of the 2000 Act, by inserting new subsections (2A) and (2B).
254. New subsection (2A) provides that in any election where a closed list system operates, election material is not to be regarded as being published on behalf of a candidate on a party list (that is to say, the candidate is not to be regarded as a person on behalf of whom the material is published and who is not the promoter) merely because the material can be reasonably regarded as promoting, procuring or enhancing the candidate's electoral success or standing. In these circumstances the material may be regarded as being published on behalf of the party. In effect this means that where there is a closed list system the promoter of the material is not required to include details of all the candidates on the party list.
255. New subsection (2B) identifies those elections in respect of which new subsection (2A) operates.
Part 8: Miscellaneous
Clause 61 Performance of local authorities in relation to elections etc
256. This clause inserts three new sections into the 2000 Act concerning the Electoral Commission's general functions: 9A (Setting of performance standards), 9B (Returns and reports on performance standards) and 9C (Provision of information about expenditure on elections etc.).
257. New section 9A enables the Electoral Commission to set and publish performance standards for EROs, returning officers and counting officers relating to maintaining the electoral registers and the delivery of electoral and referendum services. The relevant elections and referendums are specified in subsections (6) and (7). It requires the Electoral Commission to consult the Secretary of State and anyone else the Electoral Commission thinks appropriate before determining the standards. After they are published the performance standards must be laid before Parliament.
258. New section 9B enables the Electoral Commission to direct relevant officers to submit reports regarding their level of performance against the standards set by the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission is required to specify to whom the direction is issued and may also specify the elections or referendums to which the report relates and the form in which the report is to be provided. It further enables the Electoral Commission, upon receipt of such reports, to publish assessments of the level of performance of the relevant officer (or officers) against the standards set.
259. New section 9C enables the Electoral Commission to direct EROs, returning officers and counting officers to submit information on expenditure incurred in the performance of their functions (in the case of EROs) or, as regards returning officers and counting officers, in connection with the elections or referendums for which they are responsible. It further enables the Electoral Commission to specify the relevant election or referendum, the form in which the information must be provided and the time within which the information must be supplied.
Clause 62: Funding of services and expense of returning officers
260. This clause amends section 29 of the 1983 Act (payments by and to returning officer) by substituting existing subsections (3) to (4B) with new subsections (3), (3A), (3B), and (3C).
261. New subsection (3) allows the Secretary of State to specify in an order a total overall amount a returning officer may recover for expenses incurred in connection with the services he renders. The order may specify a figure or specify a formula by which the figure may be calculated. New subsection (3A) also enables him to specify maximum recoverable amounts for particular services or expenses. New subsection (3B) enables the Secretary of State to agree to pay more than those amounts if certain conditions are met, and new subsection (3C) specifies those conditions, namely that it was reasonable for the returning officer to incur the expenses, and that the charges themselves are reasonable.
Clause 63 Encouraging electoral participation
262. This clause empowers returning officers and EROs to encourage the participation of electors in the electoral process. It also provides for the Secretary of State to reimburse the electoral officials for expenditure incurred in this respect, subject to a maximum limit to be provided for in regulations.
Clause 64 Time limit for prosecutions
263. This clause amends section 176 of the 1983 Act (time limit for prosecution). It inserts new subsections (2A) to (2G).
Clause 65 Restrictions on powers of arrest by persons other than constables
264. This clause maintains the current position that the power of arrest without warrant of a person suspected of committing personation inside a polling station rests with a police constable only. Without this provision, the amendments made by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to sections 24 and 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 would allow any person who has reasonable grounds for suspecting another person of being guilty of the offence inside a polling station to make an arrest. For personation outside a polling station or fraudulent applications for absent votes, the provisions of section 24 and 24A of the 1984 Act will, however, automatically apply because of the seriousness of the offence and level of the penalty. The effect of this clause, and provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, is to implement the recommendation by the Electoral Commission that the existing provisions relating to personation should be extended to give the police the power of arrest at any location, not just at polling stations.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2005||Prepared: 12 October 2005|