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Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth fined for breaking campaigning rules

Published: 19 Apr 2017

Greenpeace Ltd and Friends of the Earth Limited have been fined by the Electoral Commission for failing to comply with campaigning rules at the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election.

At the general election, non-party campaigners were required to register with the Electoral Commission if they spent more than either £20,000 campaigning in England or £10,000 campaigning in Wales. Neither organisation registered, although the Commission’s investigations identified over £100,000 in spending on campaigning activity conducted during the regulated period.

Separately, the Electoral Commission has also fined the Democratic Unionist Party £1000 for failing to notify the Commission of a change of registered Leader of the party by the required date.

Greenpeace Ltd and Friends of the Earth Limited investigation

Greenpeace Ltd has been fined a total of £30,000. The Commission concluded that Greenpeace Ltd incurred at least £99,000 of spending in England and £12,000 of spending in Wales on a “Coastal Champions” boat tour and on an anti-fracking poster campaign which was undertaken jointly with Friends of the Earth Ltd. The spending on these campaign activities was incurred during the regulated period for the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election.

The Commission also found that Friends of the Earth Ltd incurred at least £24,000 on spending in England. The spending was incurred on the joint activity with Greenpeace Ltd and separately on a “manifesto scorecard” published on its website. Friends of the Earth Ltd was fined £1000 and has paid the fine.

The Commission concluded that overall, these activities promoted the candidates or parties who demonstrated their support for particular campaign messages and were therefore regulated activities under the legislation.

Bob Posner, Director of Party Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel for the Electoral Commission said:

“Non-party campaigners are vital to a healthy democracy and we encourage their active participation during campaign periods; however, where a significant amount of money is being spent on campaigning it is right that voters can see who is spending that money and what they are campaigning for. The Commission supports all campaigners by producing a range of materials to help ensure compliance with the law.”

Democratic Unionist Party fined £1000

The Democratic Unionist Party failed to notify the Commission of a change in registered Leader of the party by the required date.  The party has been fined £1000 and has paid the fine.


For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

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.
  2. The term ‘non-party campaigners’ refers to individuals and organisations that campaign in the run up to elections but do not stand as political parties or candidates. In electoral law they are referred to as ‘third parties’.
  3. Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), third parties cannot incur controlled spending in excess of £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Wales unless they have registered with the Commission as a recognised third party.
  4. Section 85 of PPERA defines controlled expenditure by third parties. Controlled expenditure in relation to a third party means expenses incurred by or on behalf of a third party that can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure the electoral success at any relevant election for –
    - one or more particular registered parties
    - one or more registered parties who advocate (or do not advocate) particular policies or who otherwise fall within a particular categories of such parties, or

    - Candidates who hold (or do not hold) particular opinions or who advocate (or do not advocate) particular policies or who otherwise fall within a particular category of candidates.
  5. Registered third parties are subject to certain reporting requirements. For more information see our website here.
  6. An individual or organisation that is issued with a sanction by the Electoral Commission has 28 days to appeal that decision. Any such appeal is made to the County Court.
  7. Unpaid fines will increase by 50% if not paid within 56 days of being imposed. After a further 28 days we may take action to obtain payment through the courts using the debt recovery process.
  8. Any penalties that are imposed by the Commission go into the Consolidated Fund. This is managed by HM Treasury and not the Electoral Commission