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Financial Regulation

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018

1. To ask the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what recent assessment the commission has made of the effectiveness of the regulation of (a) election expenses and (b) donations to political parties. (903523)

The Electoral Commission reported on political finance regulation at the June 2017 general election in November 2017. It highlighted important areas for the Government and Parliament to improve election law and transparency in political finance. The commission’s recommendations include increasing the maximum penalty that it can impose for a breach of the rules, extending the imprint requirement for campaign materials to include online campaigning, and changing the law to allow for transparency of political donations in Northern Ireland.

After the 2015 general election, the Tory party, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats were all fined for misreporting election expenses, and the Liberal Democrats continue to play fast and loose with how they allocate expenses between local and national campaigns. Does the hon. Lady agree with the Electoral Commission that the fines are no longer suitable, and that urgent action must be taken to ensure that the penalty matches the crime?

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the commission’s recommendation to increase the maximum penalty that it can impose on political parties and other campaigners for a breach of the political finance rules. There is a risk that a maximum fine of £20,000 per offence could be seen as the cost of doing business, and the commission’s view is that monetary policy should be more proportionate to the income and expenditure of larger and well-funded campaigners.