Funding Democracy – Breaking the Deadlock

A Draft Bill to illustrate how key recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on Party Political Finance could be implemented has been published at a cross-party seminar today.  The Bill also makes the first serious attempt to deal with the possibility than non-party campaigns could seek to influence the 2014 European Elections, and the following General Election, on a scale not seen at previous polls.

  • Commenting on the publication of the Bill, Lord (Paul) Tyler (Lib Dem) says:
    “We have discovered a yawning gap in the current recording, monitoring and controlling regime.   While donations to, and expenditure for, the promotion of parties and individual candidates are inadequately limited, political campaigns by other organisations could end up outside any controls at all.“A Russian oligarch, bored with owning football clubs, any other maverick multi-millionaire – or even a single-minded trade union – could now invest vast, unlimited sums of money in targeted mail shots, billboards and newspaper advertising.  Such campaigns could be used to fuel anti-Europe fears in advance of the May 2014 European Parliamentary Election.  It seems that under the current Electoral Commission rules the paymasters would not even need to be UK citizens, providing their campaigns avoided direct reference to parties and candidates.”
 The Bill’s other propsoals, based on CSPL recommendations, include a donation cap of £10,000 phased in over ten years, and new rules to permit trade union affiliation fees to be counted as individual donations under certain strict conditions. Existing spending limits would be reduced by 15%, and new forms of public funding – subject to a cap on overall expenditure – are illustrated in legislative form.
  • In a foreword to the Draft Bill, Andrew Tyrie MP (Con) says:
    “This Bill is a big step in the right direction.  It takes us towards the minimum required to command public confidence:  the eventual removal of institutional, trade union and corporate donations, with a tight cap on individual donations.  Only with those comprehensive reforms in place can we expect the public to believe that influence, access and honours can no longer be bought.” 
  • In a foreword to the Draft Bill, Alan Whitehead MP (Lab) says:
    Any solution needs to recognise the different historical circumstances between political parties.  Distinguishing affiliations from donations is important as far as the way any political party will need to operate in the future and helps pave the way for a proper relationship between what the state provides and parties raise themselves.”
The Bill is subject to an open, online public consultation at www.fundingukdemocracy.org 

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