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Electoral Commission statement regarding Better for the Country Limited and Mr Arron Banks

Published: 1 Nov 2017

The Electoral Commission has today 1 November 2017 announced it has opened an investigation to establish whether or not Better for the Country Limited (BFTCL) and/or Mr Arron Banks breached campaign finance rules in relation to donations at the 2016 EU referendum.

The rules around donations to permitted participants at the EU referendum are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and the European Union Referendum Act 2015 (EURA) [see note 1 below].

The investigation will look at whether or not Better for the Country Limited, Mr Banks and recipients of funds from them may have committed offences, in relation to donations and/or loans made to campaigners at the 2016 EU Referendum. It will look at:

  • Whether or not Better for the Country Limited was the true source of donations made to referendum campaigners in its name, or if it was acting as an agent.
  • Whether the recipients of its donations were given the information required by PPERA in respect of the donor.
  • What steps the recipients took to verify the identity and permissibility of Better for the Country Limited as a donor.
  • Whether or not Mr Banks was the true source of loans reported by a referendum campaigner in his name.
  • Whether those individuals and entities involved in that arrangement acted in accordance with PPERA.
  • Whether any individual facilitated a transaction with a non-qualifying person.

It is possible that during the course of our investigation we will identify potential contraventions and/or offences under PPERA other than those set out above.

BFTCL, of which Mr Banks is a director, was incorporated on 27 May 2015 and is registered at Companies House. It was not registered as a permitted participant in the EU referendum. Five registered campaigners reported donations from BFTCL during the referendum campaign period. These donations total £2,359,842.76 [see note 2 below].

Arron Banks was registered as a permitted participant in the EU referendum. Mr Banks gave three loans on non-commercial terms to Leave.EU, another registered permitted participant at the referendum, totalling £6m.

There is already an ongoing, separate Commission investigation into whether one or more donations – including of services – accepted by Leave.EU was impermissible; and whether Leave.EU’s spending return was complete, the details of which are available on our website at https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-referendums/electoral-commission-statement-on-investigation-into-leave.eu

Bob Posner, Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel, said:

“Interest in the funding of the EU referendum campaigns remains widespread. Questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence. It is therefore in the public interest that the Electoral Commission seeks to ascertain whether or not impermissible donations were given to referendum campaigners and if any other related offences have taken place.”

Ends

For more information, contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

1. Paragraph 6 of Schedule 15 PPERA (as applied and modified by paragraph 31 of Schedule 1 to EURA specifies that permitted participants at the EU Referendum must not accept donations from impermissible donors (falling within section 54(2) and paragraph 6(1A) of Schedule 15 PPERA (as amended by paragraph 31 of Schedule 1 EURA)). Donors from outside the UK and Gibraltar were impermissible donors for the purposes of the EU Referendum. By virtue of paragraph 7 of Schedule 15 and section 56 (as applied and amended by paragraph 32 of Schedule 1 EURA), where a responsible person fails to return an impermissible donation within 30 days of its receipt, he is guilty of an offence. Paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of Schedule 15A, and 71L of PPERA (as applied and amended by paragraph 1 Schedule 2 of EURA), set out offences that apply to permitted participants that are not individuals and the responsible person of a permitted participant that is not an individual.

2. BFTCL’s reported donations, made between March and June 2016, were made to the following recipients: Grassroots Out Limited; Trade Unionists Against the EU; Veterans for Britain; WAGTV Limited; UKIP.

3. 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.

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