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An introduction to campaign finance law in the UK

This article will provide an account of the campaign financing laws of the United Kingdom. Laws have been in place to prevent politicians from engaging in excessive spending since the introduction of the Illegal Practices Prevention Act in 1883. The regulation for campaign financing exists to limit the extent to which candidates and political parties can spend during their campaigns.

Purpose

Campaign finance laws do not prevent candidates and parties from receiving large donations from other individuals or organisations. Their main purpose is to provide a transparent system for reporting donations and the amount of expenditure on a political campaign through events including broadcasts, research, advertising, manifestos and paperwork. Legislation
The legislation also ensures that money that would have been paid by the respective candidate or party, but has been funded by another individual is included in the calculations for campaign expenditure. Expenditure
As would be expected, the limit on spending for political parties is significantly higher than that of individual electoral candidates. For example, the expenditure limit during the 2005 general election was £30,000 for each constituency contesting. The Conservatives and Labour each had an expenditure of approximately £18 million, while the Liberal Democrats, a significantly smaller party, had expenditure near £4.5 million.

Concerns over spending limits

The law dictates that expenditure limits apply from the time that parliament is officially dissolved (the time when a politician becomes a candidate for election). Critics
However, critics say large sums of money are spent before this dissolution and that the official figures for spending are inaccurate. However, money that is raised before the dissolution of parliament will be counted, if it is not spent until after this takes place. Report of the Electoral Commission The Electoral Commission once reported that the starting date from which the data was collected was too late. It meant that much of the campaign financing would go unreported because candidates and political parties would not have time to spend all of their funding during this time frame. The Ministry of Justice reiterates this concern, saying that electoral candidates could engage in a significant amount of spending as much as six weeks before the dissolution of parliament. In light of this, a bill has been put forward to parliament, which could raise the time limit that apply to campaign financing laws.

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