The UK Government plans to introduce new rules for non-party campaigners. Non-party campaigners are individuals and organisations that campaign in the run-up to elections but do not stand as political parties or candidates. You cannot vote for a non-party campaigner at an election.
The UK Government is proposing several changes relating to non-party campaigners:
Making clear in law that campaigning at UK elections is restricted to UK-based campaigners (but including overseas UK voters). Foreign entities would not be able to register as campaigners and spending money to campaign from overseas would be illegal.
Requiring any non-party campaigner spending more than £10,000 in the period before a UK general election to register with us. At the moment, non-party campaigners must register with us if they plan to spend over £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland at a general election.
Banning non-party campaigners from also registering as a political party. At present, a group can be registered as both a non-party campaigner and as a political party.
Requiring new political parties who register with us to tell us if they have more than £500 in donations, income, loans or debts. At present, parties submit their first annual accounts one year after registering.
Extending the reporting requirements for spending on joint campaigns to include political parties and third-party campaigners who are working together at an election. The current joint spending rules currently only apply to non-party campaigners.
Non-party campaigners are a vital part of a healthy democracy and play an important role in sharing information with voters. It is important that these groups can easily participate in the UK’s elections, but also that voters can see and understand how these groups receive and spend money.
Over recent years, there has been an increase in the number of non-party campaigners. Spending by these groups has risen too. At the 2019 UK general election, there were 61 non-party campaigners registered with us who spent over £6m between them.
The government’s proposed changes to the rules for non-party campaigners would bring greater transparency to their election activity. It will be important, however, that changes are proportionate, and do not discourage campaigners from participating.
Changes to the law that restrict election spending from outside the UK would make clear that foreign interference in UK elections is not permitted. It will be for the government to consider how these rules would be enforced.
We are not able to take any enforcement action against organisations or individuals outside the UK that don’t follow the law. Criminal law enforcement bodies are also limited in the action they can take against people or organisations based overseas. Requiring new political parties to set out any donations, income, loans or debts over £500 would give voters greater transparency. It would allow voters to see from the outset the level of funds or debts a party has.
Applying the rules on joint spending to include political parties will help ensure the effectiveness of the spending limits and will increase the transparency of such arrangements. For this change to work well, it will need to be clear how this additional rule will sit alongside other spending rules for parties. It is important that they can clearly tell when the joint spending rule applies, and when other limits or controls apply, such as the existing targeted spending or notional spending rules.