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Political party spend in Northern Ireland at UK Parliamentary general election revealed

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Almost £120,000 was spent by political parties campaigning in Northern Ireland at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election. The figures are included in the campaign expenditure returns of political parties and registered non-party campaigners who spent £250,000 or less campaigning at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE). A report on political finance regulation at the general election, also published today by the Electoral Commission, calls for changes to the law to further improve transparency and strengthen confidence in the UK’s political finance rules.

11 political parties campaigned in Northern Ireland during the 2017 UK general election and all spent less than £250,000.

During the regulated period which ran from 9 June 2016 to polling day on Thursday 8 June 2017:

  • Eight parties in Northern Ireland reported spending a total of £118,071. Three parties submitted nil returns.
  • The 109 candidates who contested the election in Northern Ireland reported spending a total of £449,583.
  • Twenty-four parties in Great Britain reported spending a total of £189,948 on campaigning. A further twenty-nine parties submitted nil returns and six parties failed to submit any expenditure returns by the deadline.
  • Seventeen non-party campaigners from across the UK submitted returns to the Commission totalling £1,864,599.

The tables below show the reported spending of the political parties in Northern Ireland who contested the election.

Table 1: Spending by political parties in Northern Ireland at the UKPGE 2017

Party Name

Expenditure

Sinn Féin

£28,196

Conservative and Unionist Party

£27,488

Democratic Unionist Party - D.U.P.

£21,802

Alliance - Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

£17,105

Ulster Unionist Party

£13,580

SDLP (Social Democratic & Labour Party)

£9,274

Green Party

£501

Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance

£125

People Before Profit Alliance

£0

The Workers Party

£0

Traditional Unionist Voice - TUV

£0

Reported spend by non-party campaigners across the UK, at the election, totals more than £1.8 million to date, illustrating why it is important that there are rules about their funding and spending to ensure transparency for voters. These figures as well as spending by political parties in Great Britain who spent £250,000 or less can be seen here

In addition to the overall expenditure, political parties and non-party campaigners allocate all spending against one of nine categories. Details by category, as well as copies of individual invoices and receipts can be found on the Commission’s website here

Each candidate at the election was required to submit a spending return to the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland no later than 35 days after polling day. Each of these returns is available for public inspection at the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland. The Commission has also published a spreadsheet outlining the total spent by candidates who stood at the election which can be viewed here

Enforcement

Failure to comply with political finance laws can reduce transparency for voters and confidence that an election was well run. It is therefore important that when breaches occur they are dealt with robustly and effectively.

One political party in Northern Ireland failed to deliver its expenditure return by the statutory deadline of 8 September and is under investigation.

Parties that may not have complied with the reporting rules are considered in line with the Electoral Commission’s enforcement policy which is available on our website here. We publish details of all sanctions on a monthly basis here.

Political finance regulation at the June 2017 UK general election

The Commission reports that most candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners seem to have complied fully with the rules on campaigning at the UK parliamentary general election. Any failures to comply with the rules can reduce transparency for voters and confidence that an election was well-run. When breaches do occur, they must be dealt with robustly.

Candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners made significant use of digital campaigning in this election, providing new opportunities for campaigners to engage voters, but there are also risks to transparency and concerns about what may be happening behind the scenes. Commission recommendations to improve electoral law include:

  • Online campaign material produced by political parties and non-party campaigners should – like its printed equivalent – be required to include an imprint stating who has published it. This would enable voters to identify who is spending money trying to influence them at elections.
  • Campaigners could be required to report more detailed breakdowns of spending, including different types of advertising such as online and social media promotion.

The Commission also continues to recommend that its investigative and sanctioning powers at major elections should be extended to include offences relating to candidate spending and donations.

Ann Watt, Head of the Electoral Commission Northern Ireland, said:

“Most candidates, parties and campaigners comply with the rules. However, failures to comply can reduce transparency and damage voters’ confidence in elections, which is why breaches must be dealt with effectively. We also want to work with the UK’s governments and legislatures to ensure further transparency about spending on digital and online campaigns, and reassure voters accordingly. These changes should be in place ahead of the scheduled elections in 2021 and 2022.”

The report can be viewed in full here.

Ends

For more information please contact:

Electoral Commission press office on 028 9089 4023, press@electoralcommission.org.uk
Out of office hours 07789 920414

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. It works 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 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000) introduced controls on campaign expenditure by political parties contesting UK Parliamentary elections. Political parties and non-party campaigners that spent £250,000 or less were required to submit their returns by 8 September 2017. Parties with expenditure over £250,000 must deliver an audited report to the Commission within six months of the election.

3. Non-party campaigners must register with the Commission before they can spend more than £20,000 on campaigning in England, or £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and are required to submit an expenditure return if they campaigned and spent over these sums of money at the UK Parliamentary General election.

4. Figures in this press release are rounded to the nearest £.

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