Governing legislation must be changed to underpin future referendums, says Electoral Commission

Electoral legislation information

Key electoral legislation needs to be updated to make sure that rules put in place for the EU referendum are captured for the future, a new report from the Electoral Commission finds. The report, which considers the financial regulation of campaigners at the EU Referendum, finds that rules put in place specifically for that referendum worked well. It sets out a number of recommendations for changes to be incorporated into the legislation that underpins UK-wide referendums.

Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission said:

This report sets out a blueprint for future referendums, taking on board the lessons from the recent examples where controls worked well. It is important that changes to the legislation be enacted by the UK Parliament as soon as possible, to ensure that the regulatory framework stays effective, relevant and proportionate.

Key recommendations include:

  • Parliament should consider the joint spending controls which were in operation for this referendum and clarify their scope ahead of any future referendum. These controls prevent campaigners setting up multiple campaign groups in order to circumvent spending controls, while giving them freedom to work together. To improve transparency and enforceability, the controls should include a requirement that campaigners include in their post-referendum spending return the names of those they worked with and how much they each spent. The current legislation is silent on this.
  • To improve transparency and reduce a potential incentive to delay registration, registered campaigners which spend more than £10,000 should be required to include itemised information for all regulated expenditure, including spending incurred before registering with the Commission. This would remove an incentive for campaigners to register later to avoid full transparency.
  • Campaign-related staff costs should be included in the limits on political party election and referendum spending, which is not currently the case. This would ensure consistency between referendum campaigners, party campaign staff, candidates and non-party campaigners, as well as close a gap in a large strand of election and referendum campaign spending.

This is the second report the Electoral Commission has published following the EU Referendum and includes information on the use of its investigatory and sanctioning powers, as well as analysing the funding and spending of those that registered to campaign at the poll.


The full report is available on the Electoral Commission website:

For further information contact the Electoral Commission press office:

    Extra notes

    Notes to editor

    • 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, focussing 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.

    • The Electoral Commission has specific responsibilities and functions in relation to the delivery and regulation of referendums held under PPERA, which applies to any referendum Bill brought before the UK Parliament unless specifically stated otherwise.