The Electoral Commission continues to regulate the rules on UK political finance in a way that is fair and proportionate, focusing on helping parties to comply with the law. Since 2013 the commission has been calling for changes to improve enforcement and sanctioning of the political finance rules. It has recommended increasing the maximum penalty it can impose and extending its enforcement responsibilities to some candidate spending rules. The commission will publish a report in the autumn on the regulation of election expenses and donations to political parties in the 2017 general election.
There has been significant media coverage of the 2015 general election expenses issue, with the Tories being fined the maximum £70,000, and with an hon. Member reportedly having been charged. In March, the Electoral Commission chair, Sir John Holmes, said:
“There is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business”.
Might it be worth making fine limits proportionate to the number of candidates standing for a party at an election?
The hon. Gentleman is right to make it clear that the Electoral Commission is of the view that the maximum fine of £20,000 could well be seen as the cost of doing business. The commission has called for an increase in the maximum penalty it can impose on political parties and other campaigners. It is of the view that the penalties should be more proportionate to the income and expenditure of larger and well-funded campaigners.