Record year and quarter for political party donations and loans in Great Britain

Introduction

In 2019, political parties in Great Britain reported accepting over £113,119,000 in donations, the largest value ever reported in one year, according to new figures published today by the Electoral Commission. This is almost £40 million more than in 2017, the year with the previous largest value of donations. 

In the fourth quarter of 2019 (October to December, covering the UK Parliamentary General Election), 14 political parties registered in Great Britain reported £70,113,414 in donations and public funds.

Seven parties accepted a total of £1,337,718 in public funds in the quarter. 

Quote from Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation

Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: 

“In the final three months of 2019, political parties reported accepting the highest value of donations in one quarter since our records began. The value of the donations accepted by parties in the last quarter exceeded the previous high, from 2017, by almost £28 million.   

“While there is no limit to the value of donations political parties can accept, spending rules are in place during elections to keep the campaign fair. 

“Publishing this data allows voters to see clearly how parties in Great Britain are being funded, enhancing public confidence and trust in our democratic processes.”
 

The 14 political parties that reported donations including public funds between 1 October and 31 December 2019 were:

PartyTotal reportedDonations accepted (excl. public fundsPublic funds acceptedTotal accepted
Co-operative Party£20,750£20,750£0£20,750
Conservative and Unionist Party£37,746,193£37,666,568£67,425£37,733,993
Green Party£409,475£381,393£22,182£403,575
Labour Party£10,685,389£9,833,863£851,526£10,685,389
Liberal Democrats£13,611,751£13,372,664£212,627£13,585,291
Official Monster Raving Loony Party£8,222£8,222£0£8,222
Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales£90,027£70,000£20,027£90,027
Renew£65,000£65,000£0£65,000
Scottish Green Party£53,600£48,561£5,040£53,600
Scottish Libertarian Party£8,848£8,848£0£8,848
Scottish National Party (SNP)£213,059£54,169£158,891£213,059
The Brexit Party£7,150,000£7,150,000£0£7,150,000
UK Independence Party (UKIP)£3,600£3,600£0£3,600
Women's Equality Party£47,500£47,500£0£47,500
Total£70,113,414£68,731,138£1,337,718£70,068,854

Further information

Political parties are required to submit quarterly donation and loan returns to the Electoral Commission. Within these returns, parties report:

  • donations accepted above the £7,500 threshold (£1,500 for accounting units)
  • smaller donations from a single donor which add together to exceed the reporting threshold 
  • donations which ought to have been reported in previous quarters; and
  • impermissible donations they have received and the action taken in relation to these.

As a result of impermissible donations being returned and some donations being reported late, the amount reported by a party in a quarterly return may exceed the total accepted.

Four parties failed to meet the reporting deadline for this quarter. The Commission will consider each of these matters, as well as donations reported late, in line with its Enforcement Policy and publish any sanctions applied at a later date. 

Parties will likely have received other donations from different individuals or bodies that are below the thresholds for reporting to the Commission. Taken as a total sum these can amount to substantial sources of income for parties.
 

Borrowing

The value of new loans to political parties in Great Britain in the fourth quarter of 2019 was £526,373. Loans with a value of £67,623 were paid off in the fourth quarter of 2019.  

Donations accepted by regulated donees in Q4 2019

The Commission also publishes donations accepted by regulated donees on a monthly basis. Regulated donees are members of registered political parties, holders of relevant elective office and members associations.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, £1,051,242 donations were accepted by 58 donees. The total includes cash and non-cash donations, as well as donations towards overseas visits. Full details are available on our website.

Type of regulated doneeValue of cash and non-cash donations acceptedValue of donations accepted towards overseas visitsTotal value of donations accepted
Mayor£86,347£0£86,347
Member of Registered Political Party£22,100£0£22,100
Members Association£539,010£0£539,010
Member of Parliament£393,473£10,312£403,785
Totals£1,040,930£10,312£1,051,242

This table does not include data on donations accepted by candidates who stood in the UK Parliamentary General Election. Candidates submit their spending and donations reports to the returning officer in the constituency they stood in. Details of candidates’ donations can be obtained from the returning officer in the relevant constituency.

Further information

Further information

A summary of donations reported by GB parties in the fourth quarter of 2019, including the highest donors and details of late reports, is available on the Commission’s website. 

For information on donations and public funds reported by political parties and regulated donees in Northern Ireland, see our press release.

Full details of donations and loans are available on our registers.

Ends

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

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 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) requires registered parties to report cash and non-cash donations and borrowing to the Electoral Commission on a quarterly basis. Political parties must report all donations and borrowing over £7,500 relating to the central party, or over £1,500 relating to an accounting unit. This includes aggregates of donations and loans from the same source during the calendar year.

As the parties only report donations and loans over these thresholds, the figures do not include all donations and loans to political parties. Donations and loans under these thresholds are recorded in political parties’ annual Statements of Accounts. 

Public funds are donations from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Scottish Parliament and the Electoral Commission. ‘Short’ and ‘Cranborne’ grants are available to parties in opposition in the House of Commons or House of Lords respectively. 

Some donations appear on the register as being from the Electoral Commission. These are Policy Development Grants, which were established by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 for parties represented in the Commons by two or more sitting members. The grants are intended to assist parties in developing the policies that they will present in an election manifesto. The legislation provides the total sum of £2 million annually for this purpose. Policy Development Grants became reportable as donations for the first time in quarter three of 2006 as a result of the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

There were 359 registered political parties in Great Britain during quarter four 2019. 62 were required to submit a quarterly donation report and 48 to submit borrowing information within the deadline. The remaining political parties were exempt (unless they received donations) because they have previously submitted four consecutive nil returns. 

More information on what constitutes a regulated donee and their legal reporting requirements is available on our website.

Members of Parliament report their accepted donations to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. 

Members of Scottish Parliament report their accepted donations to the Register of Interests for the Scottish Parliament. 

All other regulated donees report their donations directly to us. We then publish this information monthly as part of our role in providing greater transparency in political finance in the UK.