Electoral Commission response to successful appeal

Summary

Today the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s ruling in September 2018, on the interpretation of a point of law on referendum campaign donations and expenditure. Commenting on the successful appeal, an Electoral Commission spokesperson said:

“The Court of Appeal has ruled that our original interpretation of electoral law was correct. The judgment provides the necessary clarity about campaign donations for all those taking part in elections and referendums. It should reassure political parties, campaigners and their donors that the Commission’s guidance is accurate, up to date and reliable.

“In July 2018 we found significant evidence of undeclared joint spending between the lead campaigner in the EU referendum, Vote Leave, and another campaign group, BeLeave. We fined Vote Leave for this offence; they have since accepted and paid the fine. Today’s ruling does not affect that outcome.”

Background

Background

  • On 14 September 2018, the High Court ruled that donations from one campaign group to another are lawful, but that those donations may also have to be declared as expenditure by the person or campaign group making the donation, if it meets certain criteria as being for a specific purpose
  • On 18 December 2018, the Electoral Commission was granted permission to appeal the judgment by the Court of Appeal. On 17 September 2019, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, setting aside the order made by the High Court.  It ruled that the correct interpretation of the legislation – as always maintained by the Commission – is that a donation to a campaigner cannot also be an expense incurred by the donor.
  • For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy,
    • aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.