The Electoral Commission informs me that it periodically requests details of the expenditure incurred by political parties’ accounting units. The purpose of these requests is to ensure that the Commission receives annual statements of accounts from all accounting units with annual income or expenditure above £25,000. When this exercise was carried out in 2004, 1,283 accounting units that were not required to submit annual statements of accounts, from 14 parties, reported total expenditure of just under £4.2 million in their financial years ending in 2003. A similar exercise is being carried out by the Commission in respect of financial years ending in 2006.
The Electoral Commission informs me that in November 2003 it commissioned Cragg Ross Dawson, at a cost of £30,000, to conduct focus groups to explore awareness of, and attitudes towards, party funding arrangements and potential changes to the current system. This work was in support of the Commission’s 2004 report “The Funding of Political Parties”. In July 2006, it commissioned Ipsos Mori to run, at a cost of £158,000, a programme of in-depth workshops into public attitudes into party funding. This work was to inform current policy discussion in this area, and in particular Sir Hayden Phillips’ review of the funding of political parties.