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Spending Limits (General Elections)

Volume 501: debated on Thursday 26 November 2009

5. What recent consideration the Electoral Commission has given to the current limits on expenditure by candidates in general elections; and if he will make a statement. (301669)

The Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 has introduced significant changes to the limits on candidates’ spending, including for the first time the concept of a long campaign period during which their spending is regulated. The Electoral Commission issued briefings on the proposals while the Bill was before Parliament, which are available in the Library and on the commission’s website.

The monopoly of political power between the Government and the media threatens not only this place but the grass roots of our politics. Many of us of all parties know of the decline in the membership and activity of local parties. Will the hon. Gentleman make it his aim to extend the ability of the grass roots of our parties to thrive, not least by raising the amount that Members of Parliament can spend on their campaigns locally rather than at national level?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and he has campaigned diligently on the issue over the years. However, as the House has recently considered the matter in some depth as the 2009 Act went through, the Electoral Commission is not currently examining it and sees no opportunity for a review of candidates’ spending before the next general election.

One of the challenges for the Electoral Commission in trying to have a long-term limit on expenditure is not knowing when the general election will be. Has the commission made any representations on, or study of, the benefits of a fixed-term Parliament to making electoral expenditure more predictable?

Not as far as I am aware, but I will of course pass on the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the Electoral Commission.