RfR3: To support the Secretary of State in discharging his role of representing Wales in the UK Government, representing the UK Government in Wales and ensuring the smooth running of the devolution settlement in Wales.
|(* )The total of 'administration budget' and 'near-cash in Resource DEL 'figures may well be greater than total Resource DEL, due to the definitions overlapping.
(**)Capital DEL includes items treated as resource in Estimates and accounts but which are treated as Capital DEL in budgets.
(***)Depreciation, which forms part of Resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since Capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
The change in the administration budget arises from a £1,000,000 increase in civil court fee income. This will be offset against additional related costs to dispose of civil court business. The appropriations-in-aid are classified as administrative incomeand so the additional fee income will reduce the administration cost limit by £1,000,000.
In October 2007 the Prime Minister announced that he had asked Dr. Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust and Richard Thomas the then Information Commissioner, to undertake an independent review of the framework for the use of personal information in the public and private sectors.
Their final report was published as the Data Sharing Review on 11 July 2008 and recommended various specific measures that the authors considered needed to be taken to increase public trust and confidence in the handling and processing of personal data by both the public and private sectors. The Government have already taken on board many of the review's recommendations, including, for example, strengthening the powers and penalties available to the Information Commissioner.
Recommendation 19 of the report covered the edited version of the electoral register which, since 2002, has been available for sale to anyone for any purpose. People are free to opt-out of inclusion in the Edited Register if they so wish. Nevertheless, the Data Sharing Review recommended that the Government should remove the provision allowing the sale of the edited electoral register and that it should therefore be abolished.
The report's authors argued that it sends a poor message to the public that personal information collected for something as vital as participation in the democratic process could be sold on to "anyone for any purpose" and that the sale of the Edited Register may deter some people from registering to vote at all.
The Government take the issues of data protection, the privacy of citizens and democratic engagement, including electoral registration, very seriously. It is for these reasons that the Government committed, in their response to the Data Sharing Review, to consult on the future of the Edited Register. However, abolition of the Edited Register could have an impact on those businesses, charities and others that currently use it. The Government therefore do not wish to make a final decision to act until they have considered carefully the available evidence about the potential impact of abolition.
It is hoped that the consultation I am publishing today will elicit detailed evidence and information from a wide range of sources on the potential impact of abolition, which will help to inform future policy decisions about the Edited Register. The wide range of options proposed in the consultation paper provides a variety of potential approaches to the future of the Edited Register and the Government invite views on all of them.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I wish to make the following statement to the House regarding the commencement of party funding provisions of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009. The Act received Royal Assent on 21 July 2009 and represents a significant step towards a system of party funding which is more transparent, better regulated and, most importantly, better able to win the confidence of the public.
Section 21-Limitation of pre-candidacy election expenses for certain general elections. This provision introduces a new spending limit for candidates at certain general elections, to run from the date after 55 months of a Parliament have elapsed until the date an individual formally becomes a candidate (this is, in most cases, the date of dissolution of Parliament). Commencement on 25 November means that, in the case of the present Parliament, the new spending limit will apply to election expenses incurred on or after 25 November which are used on or after 1 January 2010.
Section 12-Defence to charge of failing to return donation from impermissible donor. This provision seeks to add clarity to the existing position in the 2000 Act, namely, that if a party treasurer is charged with an offence of accepting an impermissible donation, the party or party treasurer will not be guilty if they can show that they took all reasonable steps to verify that the donor was a permissible donor, and having done so, believed that was the case.
Section 13-"Reasonable excuse" in relation to certain offences under the 2000 Act. This provision recasts certain offences in the 2000 Act (mainly relating to requirements imposed by that Act to report various matters to the Electoral Commission) so that they may be committed only if something is done or not done "without
reasonable excuse". The provision also removes existing defences to the offences in question, in consequence of this new qualification to the acts or omissions that may constitute an offence.
Section 14-Control of donations to members associations: responsible persons. These provisions require that members associations in receipt of a reportable permissible donation (a transaction in excess of £7,500) or an impermissible recordable donation (above £500), appoint a responsible person where they do not have a treasurer.
Section 15-Control of donations to holders of elective office-compliance officers. These provisions are intended to alleviate some of the burden of complying with reporting procedures by allowing (but not requiring) holders of elective office(1) to appoint a compliance officer to assist with the duties of reporting and verifying donations and loans. The provisions do not absolve an office holder who chooses to appoint such an officer of guilt for a failure to comply.
(1) For the purposes of Schedule 7 (reporting of donations), the relevant elective offices are: Member of the House of Commons; Member of the European Parliament elected in the United Kingdom; Member of the Scottish Parliament; Member of the National Assembly for Wales; Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, member of any local authority in the United Kingdom (including the Common Council of the City of London but excluding a parish or community council); a member of the Greater London Assembly; and the Mayor of London or other elected mayor. For the purposes of Schedule 7A (reporting of loans) the list of relevant elective offices is the same, with the exception of independent Members of the Scottish Parliament and independent members of Scottish local authorities.
Section 16-Control of loans to members associations: responsible persons. This provision achieves the same effect as section 14, in relation to loans and related transactions.
Section 17-Control of loans to holders of elective office-compliance officers. This provision achieves the same effect as section 15, in relation to loans and related transactions.
Section 18-Person may not be "responsible person" for more than one recognised third party. A recognised third party is an organisation that spends more than £10,000 on campaigning at an election and registers with the Electoral Commission as a result. This Section provides that persons responsible for ensuring compliance with the reporting requirements for expenditure to which recognised third parties are subject, as set out in the 2000 Act, may not discharge these responsibilities with respect to more than one recognised third party.
Section 20-Increased thresholds in relation to donations etc.. This Section increases to more than £500 the threshold above which donations received and loans entered into must be recorded under the 2000 Act. Additionally the thresholds above which donations and loans must be reported to the Electoral Commission are increased to more than £1,500 (for individuals and accounting units) and to more than £7,500 (for registered parties, members associations, recognised third parties and permitted participants).
We are committed to implementing the Act in a timely and appropriate manner, taking account of good regulatory practice and the desirability of early commencement. We have been engaging with the political parties, the Electoral Commission and other Government Departments to ensure that the commencement programme for the Act is timely and effective.
Section 1(2)-Compliance with controls imposed by the 2000 Act etc. This provision amends Section 145 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 by clarifying that the function of the Electoral Commission is to regulate, as well as monitor, compliance with that Act. In its capacity as regulator, the Commission shall take such steps as they consider appropriate to secure compliance with those requirements. The Commission will publish guidance as to what conduct will satisfy the requirements of the 2000 Act.
Section 2 (and Schedule 1)-Investigatory powers of the Commission. These provisions give effect to new Schedule 19B to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 which provides the Commission with powers to enable them to require access to information for certain purposes and to fulfil their function as an effective regulator.
Section 3 (and Schedule 2)-Civil Sanctions. These provisions insert new Schedule 19C to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. They give the Electoral Commission new powers to apply a range of civil sanctions to offences and contraventions under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (as amended by the Political Parties and Elections Act and the Electoral Administration Act 2006). The new flexible civil sanctions provide alternatives to referral for criminal prosecution under the 2000 Act, allowing the Electoral Commission to apply sanctions that are appropriate to the nature of each contravention. The Commission will also be able to use new approaches to secure compliance with the law where appropriate, rather than imposing a traditional penalty such as a fine, or referring a case for criminal investigation.
Section 8-Education about systems of government and EU institutions. This provision restricts the Electoral Commission's educational role to promoting awareness of current and pending electoral systems in the UK.
Section 9-Declaration as to source of donation;