Application of Section 125 of the Political Parties and Referendum Act 2000 (PPERA)
I should declare, as well as being Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, I am a Director of Vote Leave, the organisation officially designated by the Electoral Commission to campaign for a ‘leave’ vote.
I hope you will forgive my writing in response to concerns raised with me. You have already made your views known about the question in the forthcoming referendum. The concern is that you, as Governor of the Bank of England, or others who serve the Bank, may have occasion to make further public comment on matters arising from the question on the ballot paper for the referendum to be held on 23rd June.
I have no doubt that you will have been made familiar with the provisions of PPERA, which place restrictions on what any “person or body whose expenses are defrayed wholly or mainly out of public funds” may publish during the 28 days prior to a referendum (known as ‘purdah’). I attach a full text of section 125 of the Act. As such, I am sure you are aware that you are prohibited from making any public comment, or doing anything, which could be construed as taking part in the referendum debate, in the same way as civil servants, government departments and other public bodies are restricted.
I have taken legal advice from Speakers’ Counsel on behalf of my committee on this matter. While there is specific exemption for the BBC, for example, there appears to be no exemption in law for the Bank of England or anyone publishing material on behalf of the Bank of England in respect of section 125.
I wanted to take the opportunity to stress the importance of this matter. Parliament was invited by the government last year to consider weakening the application of ‘purdah ‘, during consideration of the EU Referendum Bill. The House of Commons voted down the government’s proposed amendment, thereby establishing the importance which Parliament attaches to the observance of ‘purdah’.
I very much hope that you will avoid doing anything which could suggest you or the Bank have disregarded Parliament’s wishes. By defeating the government in a vote in the Commons, the importance of this matter could not have been made any clearer.
Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair, PACAC
11 April 2017