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(4) The donor has given a declaration in the manner specified by regulations made by the Commissioners for Her Majestys Revenue and Customs and containing any information and any statements required by regulations.
(a) to have effect;
(b) to cease to have effect;
(c) to be treated as never having had effect,
in any circumstances and for any purposes specified by the regulations.
(a) the amount of donations given by the individual in that year to which section (Tax relief on donations) applies;
7 The amount of tax relief (subject to paragraphs 5 and 6) shall be computed and allocated to the political party to which the donation was given as if that party was a charity to which Chapter 2 of Part 8 of the Income Tax Act 2007 applies.
(1) A registered political party may spend in total, including expenditure by its national, regional, local or other organs, no more than £100 million on qualifying expenditure in the period of 61 months following a general election.
(2) If more than one general election occurs within 61 months following the previous general election, the Secretary of State may by order increase the sums referred to in subsection (1) by any appropriate amount.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, we now turn to the discussions that have taken place over many years about constraint on spending by political parties at both the national and the local levels. In case the Minister feels that this is not a relevant or topical issue, perhaps I may refer to the fact that today UNISON, Britains second largest union, has decided not to make any further contributions to the Labour Party for the time being. Therefore, constraint on expenditure by political parties may be more relevant than it was just a few hours ago. Perhaps I should also remind the Minister that, in the last three months recorded by the Electoral Commission, Labour managed to raise £2.8 million but the Conservatives raised £4 million. The Minister may like to comment on that discrepancy and think again about whether implementation of the agreements arrived at during the cross-party talks under the auspices of Sir Hayden Phillips may be more appropriate.
Amendments 67 to 73 would, in effect, all implement the concerns and proposals discussed at such length by the Hayden Phillips team. Although spending limits were debated in Grand Committee, the Minister will acknowledge that we have responded in these amendments to some of the criticisms made during that process. We have returned to the amendments proposed in the
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I do not propose going through all the specifics of the Hayden Phillips proposals, which are directly reflected in the amendments before your Lordships House. However, I should like briefly to refer to the conclusions of that team, which I again remind the House reflected the anxieties, concerns and intentions of all three parties and for which, at the time, there was explicit support not only in the Hayden Phillips team but also in the House of Commons. Mr Maude, whose comments I referred to in the previous debate and will not repeat now, was absolutely explicit that the recommendations should be incorporated as soon as possible, while in exchanges during Prime Ministers Questions in December 2007 the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party also specifically endorsed the proposal that there should be limits on expenditure.
I believe there is general agreement that: expenditure on general election campaigns has progressively grown and should now be reduced in line with a new spending control regime to be agreed between the parties; and controls on expenditure by all third parties should be strengthened ... This chapter has described the options available to the parties in crafting new controls on spending. To reach a lasting agreement, there needs to be a focused discussion on four key issues: the period over which spending should be limited; the categories of spending which should be limited; the geographical scope of the limits on spending; and, in the light of the nature of an agreed scheme, the amount by which spending should be reduced. But it is clear to me that progress must be made on this point and that a new approach to curbing expenditure is necessary. A comprehensive agreement on party funding should, at a minimum, include within it measures to return to the overall rise in party spending to the trend line as it was before the spike in spending prior to the 2005 general election.
I turn now to a specific issue that again we have modified somewhat from the proposals we put to the Grand Committee; it relates to permissible expenditure. We are clear that at the moment there is a temptation for national parties effectively to interfere with constituency campaigns in a way that is contrary to all the intentions and legislation going right back to the 1883 Act. That temptation relates to specific approaches made to individual electors on behalf of a national campaign and seeks effectively to undermine what is going on in the individual constituency.
Many of us who took part in the Grand Committee proceedings have been candidates at various stages. I added up the number of occasions on which I have been a candidate for a county or general election and it is rather a large number, but on every occasion my agent was able to say to meothers will have had this experienceIf you go over the expenditure limit that
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However, by means of mailshots directed at individualslet alone all the other material that can come from a national headquartersa principle that has been in place for more than a century has been effectively undermined. Therefore, we have included a specific requirement in these amendments that, where national expenditure takes place to promote, effectively, a candidate and his or her party within a constituency directly related to an individual electors response, that should be taken into account in relation to the limits on expenditure at the local level. We understand that this is difficult where, for example, billboards are used; in Chester, for example, it might be said that billboards apply to the whole of Cheshire, because people go in and out of the city. However, where unsolicited mail is sent to an individual elector, that undermines what is happening at the local level and the responsibility of the candidate and his or her agent to look after very precisely what expenditure is made on behalf of that candidate. That is included in the eligible expenditure categories within this section.
I do not need to say much more at this point. There has been considerable discussion at all stages of the process through your Lordships House and some discussion in the other place, but I plead with the Minister to take this seriously. Indeed, perhaps on this occasion he might be permitted a little bit of a partisan approach, as it is his party that is suffering most from this attempt to get around the law on the way in which expenditure is advanced.
It has also been the experience in recent years that expenditure during the three weeks or so of the campaign is but part of the total campaign expenditure. That has been the cause of much concern and controversy, certainly in the analysis undertaken by Mr Peter Bradley, the former Member for the Wrekin, who was the unfortunate victim of a huge amount of money being spent in his constituency on behalf of his opponent before the dissolution of the last Parliament.
This is an important issue. There has been considerable agreement across the parties, with all three leaders agreeing that something needs to be done on this score. I hope that we will not have yet another example of the St Augustine syndrome: let us all be virtuous, but not yet. I beg to move.
The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, referred to being virtuous, but not yet. He might say that to his own party on the question of the donation of £2.4 million. This is a germane point and the people watching this debate or reading it in Hansard need to have it placed in context. It was a significant donation from a foreign national, a fugitive from justice in the UK, which was made to the Liberal Democrats, who refuse to repay it. If the
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My real point on spending preferences is that in a fair and democratic situation we need to have a level playing field. However, that level playing fieldI alluded to this in my previous commentshas been distorted by the amount of public money that has been poured into constituencies. The office costs allowance, which I mentioned, and the communications allowance could amount to something in the region of £100,000 per year, or £500,000 during the lifetime of a Parliament. That money is put in by the incumbent and is in addition to all the benefits and opportunities that he or she has of writing letters and access to the press.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, the noble Lord seems to be repeating what he said in the debate on the previous group. Regardless of what one thinks about the £10,000 a year communications allowanceI would be in favour of scrapping itdoes he really believe that there is a proper comparison between the £10,000 per year communications allowance that an MP receives and the much larger amounts of money with which the Conservative Party is swamping some constituencies?
Lord Bates: My Lords, I was intending to go on to talk about all the additional benefits that the incumbent has in contesting an election. If the noble Lord is so passionate about limiting the amount of money that can fund campaigns, I think, having been around a few campaigns myself, not least by-election campaigns, that the Liberal Democrats could take the lead and show their virtue by imposing a restraint now on the amount of funds that they are going to put into the Norwich North by-election. They could do that if they really wanted to take the big money out of politics.
A member of the House who is speaking may be interrupted with a brief question for clarification. Giving way accords with the traditions and customary courtesy of the House ... Lengthy or frequent interventions should not be made, even with the consent of the member speaking.
I was talking about the amount of money that is going into elections and the need for a spending cap. This is the point that my right honourable friend
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I would like to make a couple of other points about expenditure limits. There are many other forms of support that political parties receive from the public purse, a point that was raised in the Neill report and was touched on by Sir Hayden Phillips in his review, where he pointed out the value of freepost mailings of manifestos at election time and of political election broadcasts. Significant amounts of funding are there for the incumbent.
We are not saying that there is not a problem; big moneyI use the term again with no hesitationneeds to be taken out of politics. Big money refers not only to trade unions and major wealthy individuals but to the public purse as well. Some steps have been taken and it is worth putting on the record some of the progress that has been made in relation to national limits. We have just experienced a European election that had a national limit on expenditure. That was a good exercise and a good discipline to impose.
The very Bill that we are talking about came forward with a limitation on pre-candidacy election expenses for certain general elections. It introduces a limit, which is a step in the right direction, as it acknowledges that we have to find ways of reducing the amount of funding that is going into constituencies. Section 18 talks about a system of limiting the amount of money expended, kicking in after the 55th month of a Parliament.
However, there is an important corollary to the point about the limitations on pre-election expenses under the Bill. I would be grateful if the Minister could put some additional remarks on the record about this. The understanding was that that would be matched by a limitation of the communications allowance used during that period by Members in the other place in their constituencies. It seems only right and fair that any limit that applied to donation income should be matched by a gesture from the incumbent Members in limiting the amount that is spent through the communications allowance. Various statements have been made claiming that such a statutory instrument or convention would be in place by the time the Bill received Royal Assent. It would be good to hear that this is still very much the Governments intention. I recognise the intention behind the amendments but, for the reasons that I have outlined, we do not want to support them at this stage.
Lord Bach: My Lords, this group of proposed amendments seeks to introduce a radical change in the regulation of political expenditure in this country. I
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