An important new review into the UK’s political finance framework

An important new review into the UK’s political finance framework

Twenty years ago this November, Parliament set out new laws that would see increased transparency, integrity and consistency in our political finance and electoral processes, delivering in turn greater public trust and confidence. This legislation – the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000 – also established the Electoral Commission, a new and independent authority to oversee and regulate the political finance framework.

Over the last twenty years, we have worked to meet our aims as set out by the UK Parliament, and the system has proven crucial in ensuring that voters can have confidence in our democratic process. Yet it is not without its limitations. In that time, huge technological and societal changes have taken place, but as anyone involved in elections knows, so many of our laws and processes are stuck in the Victorian era. They haven’t kept pace with digital campaigning techniques, with voters’ expectations, or with more modern and efficient working practices. Only government and parliaments in the UK can pass laws to sort that and keep our democracy robust and fair, maintaining the UK as one of the world’s leading democracies.

So as a step towards this, today’s announcement that the Committee on Standards in Public Life is to review the regulatory framework for political finance is particularly welcome. As the Committee itself has set out, it gives all those with an interest in this regulation the opportunity to look at what it should achieve, how it currently works and whether there needs to be change. 

An important part of our role is to advise on where change is needed to maintain an effective democratic process, and we have recommended a range of reforms designed to deliver greater transparency, reflect new ways of campaigning, and provide sufficient deterrents to those tempted to breach electoral law. And we have called for greater alignment between the party and candidate regulatory framework, to ensure the system is fairer and more proportionate for candidates and frees up police and court time. It is positive that these are topics covered by the scope of this new review. 

The Committee’s last review of the areas covered by PPERA and the Electoral Commission was in 2007. It led to significant and positive changes to legislation, the regulation of election and referendum campaigns and the Commission’s approach to enforcement. Now in 2020, we look forward to engaging with the Committee on this timely and valuable work, and to discussing how financial regulation can be strengthened to deliver greater voter confidence.