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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act

Volume 450: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

20. What recent measures the commission has taken to ensure constituency accounting units’ compliance with the disclosure requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. (92601)

The Electoral Commission has informed me that it issues advice and guidance on which accounting units are required to submit a statement of accounts and on the format and content of those submissions. Additionally, it provides advice through central party organisations on the reporting of donations. The commission checks all the statutory information that it receives to identify any discrepancies or inconsistencies, and all those arising are addressed with the relevant parties and accounting units.

PPERA states that constituency parties with incomes more than £25,000 must declare their accounts. At the end of the last financial year, 308 Conservative associations, 93 Liberal Democrat associations and only 38 Labour associations had filed their accounts. The worst offender was Hammersmith and Fulham constituency Labour party. Regardless of political party, what progress is the commission making in ensuring compliance with the 2000 Act?

The accounts that Hammersmith and Fulham Labour party submitted for 2005 were received on 12 July 2006, and they are in a satisfactory form. My hon. Friend makes a fair point, as a considerable number of accounting units have not reported on time. However, the Electoral Commission takes the view that it is appropriate to have a sense of proportion about this, and that the criminal penalties available in legislation are disproportionate. The commission has the option either of reprimanding the accounting unit or of seeking to impose a criminal sanction against the treasurer, who will often be an untrained amateur. The commission has therefore made recommendations for a more enforceable scheme, and its review is expected to report in December.