FREE SAMPLE from ‘A Practical Guide to Election Law’ by Tom Tabori


  • Following recommendations for an independent commission in reports by the Select Committee on Home Affairs (“the Howarth working group”),[1] the Committee on Standards in Public Life (“the Neill Committee”),[2] and the Independent Commission on the Voting System (“the Jenkins Commission”),[3] the Electoral Commission (“the Commission”) was established by the Political Parties, Elections and Representations Act 2000 (“PPERA 2000”).[4] It is important to note that, though the Commission has general duties to report on the administration of certain elections,[5] and may send representatives to attend proceeding conducted by returning officers or counting officers,[6] the Commission operates within an electoral system in which elections are not run by the Commission. Where the Commission does hold sway is in the registration of political parties and certain other political actors, and in the regulation of their funding.
  • The Commission took over a political party registration scheme that had only been in existence since 1998,[7] enacted to solve the problem of misleading descriptions of candidates standing under party labels easily confused with those of major parties, such as ‘Conservative’, or ‘New Labour’, or ‘Literal Democrat’,[8] which the courts had held to be lawful whilst nonetheless inviting Parliament to consider following other jurisdictions by adopting “a system of registration of political parties and a statutory provision limiting the ability of candidates to use the name of a political party”.[9] Prior to 1998, political parties did not occupy a distinct legal status. With the introduction of registration in 1998 and then the controls on funding in 2000, tightened further in 2009,[10] political parties now exist in as finely worked a regulatory regime as other sectors of public and commercial life.
  • This chapter summarises this PPERA 2000 statutory scheme administered by the Commission across the following topics:
  1. The Commission and the registers of political parties;
  2. Registration;
  3. Registered party (“RP”) regulation;
  4. RP members, members associations, and certain elected office-holders (“regulated donees/participants”);
  5. Third party national election campaigners;
  6. Unincorporated associations;
  7. Enforcement by the Commission;
  8. General offences;
  9. Incidental powers;
  10. Interpreting the legislation; and
  11. Judicial review of the Commission.
    • The Commission has a duty to “maintain” two registers of political parties: the Great Britain register and the Northern Ireland register.[11]
    • Subject to a requirement that the Commission mark the part of Great Britain in respect of which a registered party (“RP”) is registered and whether it is a ‘minor party’ (only contesting parish or community elections),[12] the registers may be maintained in such form as the Commission chooses.[13]
    • This duty to maintain has been held to entail a power to alter entries in the register.[14] It has also been held to be concerned with content and not form, such that an initially compliant entry may be removed if its substantive meaning changes in light of events that put it in breach of, say, requirements as to offensiveness.[15]
    • To field candidates, a political party must be registered with the Commission.[16] The Commission has published guidance on how to do so.[17] Below is a summary of what the law requires.

How to register

  • To be registered, a party must send the Commission an application accompanied by a declaration that the party is applying for registration in the GB register, NI register, or both (depending on where it intends to contest elections). Alternatively, the party may accompany its application with a minor party declaration (that it intends only to contest one or more parish or community elections) and is accordingly applying to be registered in the Great Britain register only.[18] The Commission’s PEF Online services can be used for registration.
  • The application must:
  • State the party’s registered name and address of its headquarters;
  • State the name and home address of the leader, nominating officer and treasurer;
  • Be accompanied by a copy of the party’s constitution (defined as “the document or documents (of whatever name) by which the structure and organisation of the party is determined”)[19] and a draft of the financial scheme proposed to be adopted; and
  • Be signed by the leader, the nominating officer, the treasurer and (if applicable) the campaigns officer, making clear if someone is signing in two capacities.[20]
    • The application may request that the following are also included in the party’s entry in the Register:
  • The name of its campaigns officer, if has one;
  • Up to twelve descriptions (to be used on nomination papers or ballot papers, to help voters identify them);[21]
  • A joint description with another party;[22] and
  • Up to three emblems.[23]
    • The Commission may check whether the registration requirements are satisfied, and must apply an objective test when undertaking that check.[24]


  • The Commission must register the desired description(s) unless:[25]
  • It is more than six words long;
  • It is the same as an existing RP’s description;
  • It would likely lead to electors confusing the party with another an existing RP “already registered in respect of any part of Great Britain in respect of which that party is applying to be registered”;[26]
  • It would be likely to “(i) to result in an elector being misled as to the effect of his vote, or (ii) to contradict, or hinder an elector’s understanding of, any directions for his guidance in voting given on the ballot paper or elsewhere”;[27]
  • It is obscene or offensive;
  • Its publication would likely amount to commission of an offence; or
  • It includes any script other than Roman script.
    • This mirrors case law on candidate descriptions, from which guidance may be derived, e.g. “the Official Byron Ward Conservative”[28] and “Literal Democrat”.[29]
      • “The Official Byron Ward Conservative” former was subject of an injunction granted by the High Court during a LE by-election, and which the court refused to discharge. The Court of Appeal upheld that refusal, May LJ (with whom Woolf LJ agreed) holding “Clearly the description which this appellant applied to himself in relation to his nomination was capable of confusion with the description applied to herself by the plaintiff and we have no doubt that it was for that reason that the learned judge made the original injunction in October”.[30]
      • “Literal Democrat” was a description entered on the nomination paper of a candidate for a European Parliamentary election. The acting returning officer (“RO”) held this was valid as it was good in form and the candidate went on to receive 10,203 votes. The Liberal Democrat candidate lost by 500 votes and brought a petition challenging the election. He claimed the “Literal Democrat” description was intended to confuse and mislead electors. The RO is (and was then) only entitled to hold a nomination paper invalid on narrow formal grounds of “the particulars of the candidate or the persons subscribing the paper are not as required by law”, the paper not being “subscribed as required”, or the candidate being disqualified.[31] The Court (Dyson and Forbes JJ) held that the particulars of the candidate using the description ‘Literal Democrat’ were as “required by law” and thus the acting RO had not breached their duty in so deciding,[32] as “the description did not remove the sufficiency of the identification of him given by his full names and home address”.[33]
    • It is hard to reconcile these cases, but PPERA 2000 supersedes the issue by making the Commission gatekeeper for descriptions, requiring parties to register with the Commission, and requiring candidates’ use of a description to be authorised by a party’s nominating officer. The RO is thus spared having to enquire into the correctness of a given description.


  • The Commission must register a proposed emblem unless one of the grounds for refusing a proposed description are made out (these are the same grounds as for descriptions save for the word-length and Roman-script description restrictions).[34]
  • If the Commission rejects an emblem, it must notify the party of its reasons.[35]

Financial scheme

  • To be registered by the Commission, a party must also adopt a scheme that sets out its arrangements for regulating its financial affairs in compliance with the below financial controls.[36] The scheme also must state whether the party is to be taken to consist of:
  • A single organisation with no division of responsibility for its financial affairs and transactions for purposes of its accounting requirements; or
  • A central organisation with one or more separate accounting units (constituent or affiliated organisations each responsible for its own financial affairs and transactions for purposes of its accounting requirements). If so, then the scheme must state which organisations are to constitute the central organisation and which the accounting units, and the name of each.[37]
    • The prospective RP must submit the scheme to the Commission for approval.[38] The Commission may request that the applicant submit a revised scheme,[39] specifying any modifications it considers should be incorporated or matters it thinks should be dealt with.[40]
    • The level of scrutiny by the Commission is likely to be greater since Erlam v Rahman,[41] where an application for registration had been approved even though “there was no responsible financial scheme whatsoever”,[42] leading the Election Court to remark “that the enquiries into the structures of [the party] cannot have been excessively rigorous”.[43] That scrutiny must however be exercised with regard to the Commission’s “responsibility for promoting participation in the democratic process”.[44]

Party office-holders

  • To be registered, a party must also give the name and home address of the persons to be registered as its:
  • Leader[45] (who must be its overall leader or a person who is the leader of the party for some particular purpose);[46]
  • Treasurer[47] (responsible for the party’s compliance with PPERA’s accounting requirements and control of donations, loans and certain other transactions, plus campaign spending, third party spending, referendums, and financial controls on recall petitions).[48] A RP with accounting units must have a treasurer of the accounting unit and another person as officer of the unit, and the application for party registration must name them;
  • Nominating officer,[49] who has responsibility for arranging (a) the submission of lists of candidates for elections; (b) the issuing of a certificates authorising a party description;[50] and (c) the approval of descriptions and emblems used on nomination and ballot papers at elections).[51]
    • A RP may also register someone as its campaigns officer. If so, this campaigns officer replaces the treasurer as person responsible for compliance with campaign spending, third party spending, and financial controls on recall petitions.[52] This may be its leader or nominating officer, but may not be its treasurer.[53] The campaigns officer may appoint up to twelve deputy campaigns officers.[54]
    • A registered treasurer or campaigns officer commits an offence if they register having been convicted in relation to an election offence in the past five years.[55] The offence is triable summarily and the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine.[56] If they commit such an offence after registration, then their appointment terminates.[57]

Registration amendment

  • An RP may request its entry be altered.[58] The Commission must refuse if it considers any of the original grounds for refusing to register a description or emblem are present.[59] If an application to amend or substitute a description is granted after the date of publication of the notice of an election that is contested and before the date of the poll, the amendment only takes effect at the subsequent election.[60]
  • An RP treasurer must notify the Commission within 28 days (or fourteen if due to death or termination of appointment)[61] if any particulars of its entry in a register cease to be accurate in respect to:
  • The name or home address of any registered officer of the RP or one of its accounting units;
  • “The address of the party’s headquarters (or, if it has no headquarters, the address to which communications to the party may be sent)”;[62] or
  • The name and headquarters address of any accounting unit of the RP.[63]

Ceasing to be registered

  • An RP may have its entry in the register removed if: (i) it fails to send notice confirming particulars and constitution or notifying of any changes;[64] or (ii) it applies to have its entry removed, enclosing a declaration, signed by signed by the responsible officers of the party,[65] that it does not intend to have any candidates at any relevant election.[66]

False statement offence

  • A person commits an offence if, on behalf of a party or purporting to be on a party’s behalf, for purposes of party registration, they knowingly or recklessly make a false statement to the Commission.[67] The offence is triable summarily only and the maximum penalty is a fine at Level 5 on the standard scale (unlimited).[68]

Accounting requirements

  • The RP treasurer must keep accounts showing entries showing: (i) all sums of money received and spent by the RP and in respect of what; and (ii) a record of the RP’s assets and liabilities.
  • Within four months[69] of every financial year end, the treasurer must prepare and deliver to the Commission a statement of accounts, approved by the RP’s management committee (or leader if it does not have one).[70] The statement can be submitted via the Commission’s PEF Online interactive website[71] or the spreadsheet tools or templates created by the Commission to assist treasurers.[72] The accounts must be kept by the treasurer for six years.[73]
  • If the RP has accounting units, each unit need only prepare a statement of accounts where its total income of spending exceeds £25,000 or the Commission requests it.[74]
  • If an RP’s gross income or total spending in any financial year exceeds £250,000, or it does not but the Commission requests it, that financial year’s accounts must be audited by a qualified auditor within six months of the end of the financial year in questions.[75] If the Commission considers the accounts not duly audited in time, it may appoint an auditor to do so.[76] That appointee has a right of access and to request information,[77] misleading response to which is an offence,[78] punishable by an unlimited fine or six months’ imprisonment (on summary conviction) or one year’s imprisonment (on indictment).[79] Failure to comply with the auditor’s request for information is treated as per disobedience to court orders, upon application by the Commission to the High Court.[80]
  • The Commission must make these statements of account available for public inspection.[81] They are displayed on the Commission’s website.[82]
  • If the treasurer fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any of these requirements, they commit an offence[83] triable summarily and punishable by unlimited fine.[84]
  • After submission of a statement of accounts, the treasurer may revise them[85] and the Commission may raise questions of the treasurer.[86] If the latter, the treasurer must be given at least one month to respond.[87] If no satisfactory response is received, the Commission may apply to the County Court[88] for (i) a declaration that the statement of accounts is non-compliant with prescribed requirements; and (ii) an order that the treasurer prepare a revised version.[89]

Confirmation of registered particulars

  • Within six months of the first date by which the RO’s annual statement of accounts is to be delivered to the Commission (i.e. within ten months[90] of every financial year end),[91] its treasurer must notify the Commission as to:
  • Whether the particulars in the RP’s entry in the register remain accurate, and if not then apply to alter its entry on the register as necessary;[92] and
  • Any change to the RP’s constitution occurring since the last confirmation of particulars, or if the first time then since the RP registered.[93]
    • If the treasurer fails to do so in time, the Commission must remove the RP’s entry from the register.[94]

RP obligations in relation to donations, loans and transactions


  • ‘Donations’ to an RP (but not a minor party)[95] means:
  • Gifts of money or other property (including where the RP gives consideration in return, if the consideration is less than the value of the money or property), including (a) gifts or transfers to an RP officer, member, trustee or agent in their capacity as such, and not for their own use or benefit;[96] (b) gifts or transfers to an RP indirectly through any third person;[97] and (c) bequests;[98]
  • Membership or affiliation fees or subscriptions;[99]
  • The discounted provision of any property, services or facilities for the use or benefit of the RP;[100] or
  • Money spent directly paying expenses incurred by the RP, or given to the RP to helping it pay those expenses (‘sponsorship’).[101]
    • ‘Donations’ does not include:
  • Donations up to £500 (but attempts to game this limit by arranging mass sub-£501 gifts may amount to evasion);[102]
  • Public grants for security costs at a party conference, applicable to conferences held in the UK for the purposes of an RP that has at least two MPs, or one MP and that received not less than 150,000 votes at the last election, and that is certified by a chief of police;[103]
  • Transmission by a broadcaster, free of charge, of a party political broadcast;[104]
  • Facilities provided pursuant to candidates’ statutory rights an elections;[105]
  • Assistants to local authority political groups, appointed under s 9 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to assist councillors’ discharge of their functions;[106]
  • Unpaid, volunteer campaigning (e.g. door-knocking, envelope-stuffing, leafletting);[107]
  • Any interest accruing to an RP whilst dealing with an impermissible donation;[108]
  • Donations to be included in a return as to election expenses in respect of a candidate at a particular election;[109] or
  • Stand hire at party conference.[110]
    • Further to this statutory delineation of the scope of ‘donation’, the Court of Appeal has interpreted the term (albeit in the referendum context) as follows:
  • Not all donations can be regarded as “expenses incurred” by the donor;[111]
  • ‘Expenses incurred’ does not mean the same thing as ‘spent’[112] and, equally, ‘expenses’ “are not necessarily the same as “spending” or spending”;[113]
  • Expenses are not ‘incurred’ every time a person’s assets are diminished;[114]
  • Whilst the same money may be treated both as a donation by one person and as an expense by the recipient, if cannot be treated as an expense by both.[115]
    • ‘Regulated transactions’ means: (a) loans to RPs; (b) credit facilities made available to RPs; and (c) the provision of security for a sum owed by an RP.[116]
    • Loans are valued according to the amount lent, credit facilities according to the amount borrowed, and giving security according to the contingent liability under that security.[117]

Permissible donors

  • In R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court,[118] Lord Phillips PSC held: “The primary object [of Chapter II of Part IV of PPERA] is to prevent donations to political parties from foreign sources”[119] and “The secondary object of Chapter II of Part IV of the Act is to provide a scheme for achieving the primary object that is easy to apply, easy to police and that contains adequate sanctions for non-compliance”.[120]
  • An RP may not accept a donation if (i) the donor is not a permissible donor; or (ii) the RP is cannot ascertain the identity of the donor.[121]
  • The permissible donors are:[122]
  • Individuals registered in an electoral register;
  • Companies registered under the Companies Act 2006 and incorporated within the UK;
  • Trade unions entered in the list kept under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 or the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1992;
  • A society incorporated under the Building Societies Act 1986;
  • Limited liability partnerships carrying on business in the UK;
  • Registered friendly societies;
  • Unincorporated associations (a combination of people with an agreement between them, whether contractual or mere “tacit understanding”, as to what they are undertaking),[123] carrying on activities mainly in the UK, and whose main office is also in the UK; and
  • If received by a Northern Irish RP: an Irish citizen[124] or a body of a type in the foregoing list but registered in the Irish equivalent.[125]
    • The following donations are treated as being from permissible donors, even if not from a person on the above list:
  • Payment out of public funds[126] (e.g. policy development grants, which the Commission distributes equally amongst the eligible parties, or Short or Cranborne Money, which the House of Commons gives to opposition parties);[127]
  • Donations to meet qualifying costs of an overseas visit by a RP member or officer (travel to the country and travel, accommodation and subsistence therein), where not exceeding a reasonable amount in respect of those costs.[128]
    • RPs must not be party to a regulated transaction, nor derive benefit from a connected transaction, in which one of the parties is not an ‘authorised participant’.[129] This has the same meaning as ‘permissible donor’.[130] ‘Connected transaction’ means an arrangement whereby the person with whom the RP agrees a loan or credit facility also enters an arrangement with a third party to give security for the debt owed by the RP.[131]

Donations via agent: information requirements

  • Where a donation greater than £500 is provided on behalf of a donor, they must ensure they give the RP all the information the RP will need to be able to record the donation in a quarterly donation report.[132] Failure to do so is an offence, for which the penalty is unlimited fine or six months’ imprisonment (on summary conviction) or one year’s imprisonment (on indictment).[133]
  • The required information is as follows:
  • Donation by an individual: full name and address, either as shown in an electoral register or home address if different, or if from someone with an anonymous entry in an electoral register, evidence of the same (to enable the RP to state in a quarterly donation report that it has seen such evidence);
  • Company donation: registered name, address of registered office, and number with which it is registered;
  • RP donation: registered name and address of registered headquarters;
  • Listed trade union: name of the union and address of its head or main office;
  • Building society: name of the society and address of its principal office;
  • Partnership: registered name and address of its registered office;
  • Friendly society: name of the society and address of its registered office;
  • Unincorporated association: name of the association and address of its main office in the UK;
  • Payment of qualifying costs of overseas visit by RP member or official: full name and address of the donor;
  • Irish donation to Northern Irish recipient: as above, save that it must inform the RP so it can state that the donation is an Irish donation, and be accompanied by a copy of the donor’s certified Irish passport, certificate of nationality, or certificate of naturalisation.

Unclear donor: identify checks

  • To make sure they do not accept donations from impermissible sources, when an RP receives a donation but it is not immediately clear whether it should accept it, the RP must immediately, without delay, take all reasonable steps to verify or ascertain: (i) the donor’s identity; (ii) whether they are a permissible donor; and (iii) the above-listed details required to be given in respect of the donor of a recordable donation.[134]

Impermissible donation: return or forfeit

  • If an RP receives an impermissible donation, within 30 days of receipt, it must either: (i) return the donation; (ii) if unable to ascertain the donor’s identity, return it to the person who transmitted it, or, if none, then return it to the financial institution who facilitated transmission; or (iii) if neither are possible, send it to the Commission for payment into the Consolidated Fund.[135] Failure to do so is an offence by the RP and its treasurer,[136] punishable on summary conviction by an unlimited fine or six months’ imprisonment, or on indictment by a fine or one year’s imprisonment.[137]
  • If the RP does not take these steps and cannot produce record of the return (or having sent it to the Commission), then: (i) they will be deemed to have accepted the donation;[138] and (ii) a Magistrates’ Court may, on an application made by the Commission, if persuaded on the balance of probabilities of the impermissibility and the acceptance, order the forfeiture by the party of an amount equal to the value of the donation[139] or a lesser sum.[140]
  • In R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court,[141] the Supreme Court loosened the apparently strict application of the forfeiture provisions. The RP had received 69 donations from an individual entitled to register but not on the electoral register at the time of those donations. The RP was not aware the donor was impermissible. The Magistrates’ Court (upheld, ultimately by the Supreme Court) made a forfeiture order only in the value of the donations received by the RP after it became aware the donor was not on the register.[142] Lord Phillips PSC held, allowing the RP’s appeal, that:
  • “Almost automatic forfeiture of the totality of an impermissible donation is [not] necessary to provide a realistic sanction against non-compliance with the requirements of the Act”;[143]
  • “Of course the party and the donor should make sure that the donor complies with the statutory requirement of being placed on an electoral register. But if, by inadvertence, or even negligence, they fail to do so, it does not follow that it cannot be disproportionate for the donation to be forfeited. Proportionality will depend on the degree of culpability, the size of the donation and its importance to the party”;[144]
  • “Parliaments scheme usefully transfers the burden of showing that the donation is not a foreign donation onto the donor and the party. If this burden can be discharged, the primary object of the legislation has not been defeated, and this fact is highly relevant to the issue of whether the power to forfeit should be exercised”;[145]
  • “The fact that Parliament has not made ignorance of the impermissibility of the donation a defence is no reason why it should not be a relevant extenuating circumstance when considering whether or not to forfeit the donation”;[146]
  • Where the donor is a foreign donor, “forfeiture is virtually automatic, forfeiture proceedings are unlikely to be protracted”, but where the donor is not a foreign donor “the fact that forfeiture is discretionary is likely to involve a significant investigation of the facts”;[147]
  • “Where it is shown that a political party has accepted a donation from an impermissible source, there should be an initial presumption in favour of forfeiting the donation. … The onus should be on the party concerned to show why a donation that has been received from an impermissible source should not be forfeited”;[148]
  • “A first step in discharging this onus will normally be to show that the mischief against which the relevant part of the Act is directed did not occur – that the donation in question was not, in fact, a foreign donation. Where an individual is concerned this should require demonstration that the individual was entitled to be entered on an electoral register. If this cannot be demonstrated, forfeiture should normally follow”,[149] but “If it is shown that the donor was in a position to qualify as a permissible donor by registering on an electoral register, the initial presumption in favour of forfeiture will have been rebutted”.[150]
    • In forfeiture appeal proceedings, even if it is unincorporated and therefore has no legal personality independent of its members, the RP must be named in its own right, not that of any member, and the forfeiture must paid out of the central funds of the RP.[151] Appeal lies to the Crown Court against a forfeiture order. The time limit is 30 days. The appeal is by way of a rehearing,[152] in which the court looks at the facts found by the Commission anew, rather than as merely reviewer of the Commission’s determination of factual matters.

Impermissible transaction: void and repay

  • If an RP enters into a regulated transaction with an unauthorised participant or stands to benefit from a connected transaction, then:
    • The transaction is void and the money paid thereunder must be repaid plus any interest, failing which the Commission may apply to court for an order that the amount owed by the RP be repaid or the security discharged;[153]
    • The RP commits an offence (punishable on summary conviction by unlimited fine)[154] if: (a) one of its officers knew or ought to have known that they were unauthorised; or (b) none did, but upon discovering that they were unauthorised fails to repay any money received as soon as practicable;[155] and
    • Its treasurer commits an offence if they: (a) knew or ought to have known that they the other participant was unauthorised (punishable by unlimited fine);[156] or (b) did not know and could not reasonably be expected to know, but, upon discovering that they were unauthorised, still failed to repay any money received as soon as practicable (punishable by unlimited fine or one year’s imprisonment (on summary conviction) or unlimited fine (on indictment).[157] The treasurer has a defence if they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the RP entering the transaction or deriving benefit from the connected transaction.[158]
  • The transaction is also void if an authorised participant transfers their interest in it to an unauthorised participant.[159]

Evasion offences

  • It is an offence, punishable summarily by unlimited fine or six months’ imprisonment, or on indictment by a fine or one year’s imprisonment,[160] to:
  • Knowingly enter into or further an arrangement that facilitates (or is likely to facilitate) impermissible donations or transactions, e.g. by concealing or disguising them;[161] or
  • Knowingly and with intent to deceive give a treasurer any materially false information, or withhold from them any material information, relating to (a) the amount of any donation made to the RP, or (b) the person or body making such a donation.[162]

Quarterly reports

  • Once per year, within 30 days of the end of the reporting period to which it relates,[163] the RP’s treasurer must prepare and deliver to the Commission a quarterly donations report and a quarterly report of regulated transactions, featuring four reporting periods: January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. Failure to deliver a donation report within the time limit is an offence,[164] for which the penalty is an unlimited fine.[165]
  • A quarterly donation report must record the following donations:
    • Each donation accepted from a permissible donor that year, the value of which, either alone or cumulatively with previous donations, exceeded either: (a) £7,500, if the first time donation(s) has reached this amount; or (b) £1,500, if the £7,500 threshold had been crossed previously;[166] and
    • Each donation returned to an impermissible donor or, where unidentifiable, returned to the financial institution or Commission.[167]
  • A quarterly transactions report must record the following:
  • Each transaction the RP entered into with an authorised participant, the value of which, either alone or cumulatively with previous transactions, exceeded either: (a) £7,500, if the first time it has exceeded this amount; or (b) £1,500, if the £7,500 threshold had been crossed previously;[168]
  • Each transaction entered into with an unauthorised participant where the money generated has then repaid by the RP;[169] and
  • Each transaction already recorded that changes in any of the following ways: (a) new authorised participants joins the transaction; (b) change in detailed reported previously; (c) the transaction comes to an end,[170] stating how (e.g. loan repaid or debt released).[171]
    • If no such recordable donations or transactions have been received, the respective report must state this.[172] After four such nil returns in a row, the RP is exempt from preparing quarterly reports until it receives another recordable donation or transaction.[173]
    • In each report, the treasurer must make a declaration that, to the best of their knowledge and belief:
  • All the donations or transactions recorded as having been accepted by or entered into are from permissible donors or authorised participants; and
  • During the reporting period, no other recordable donations or transactions have been accepted or entered into, nor transaction changes.[174]
    • The Commission has produced template quarterly donation reports[175] and quarterly transactions reports,[176] which specify the prescribed information and the declaration,[177] and a template statement of nil return.[178]
    • Where the RP has accounting units, this quarterly report obligation applies both to the central organisation of the RP and to each of its accounting units.[179] However, in the case of accounting units, the threshold at which a transaction or aggregate transactions must first be reported is £1,500 rather than £7,500.[180]

Weekly donation reports (during election periods)

  • Within seven days of the date on which Parliament is dissolved (which marks the start of the general election period)[181] and every seven days thereafter,[182] an RP’s treasurer must prepare a report recording every donation or transaction the value of which is greater than £7,500 and received by the RP within the preceding seven days, including a nil receipt return if applicable.[183]
  • There is a detailed prescription as to what information the weekly report should include,[184] made easier by the Commission’s PEF Online database system,[185] via which reports may be made, and by a nil returns form.[186]
  • The report must contain the same treasurer’s declaration as the quarterly reports.[187]

Reporting offences and enforcement

  • The treasurer commits an offence, punishable on summary conviction by an unlimited fine or six months’ imprisonment or, on indictment, by a fine or one year’s imprisonment,[188] if:
  • They fail to deliver…


[1]Electoral Law and Administration, Fourth Report, HC 768 1997-8, paras 54 and 156.

[2]Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, ‘The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom, vol. 1, October 1998.

[3]Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System, Cm 4090, October 1998.

[4]S 1 PPERA 2000.

[5]S 5 PPERA 2000. Parliamentary general elections, Scottish Parliamentary general elections, National Assembly for Wales general elections, Northern Ireland Assembly general elections, and ordinary elections of police and crime commissioners.

[6]S 6A PPERA 2000.

[7]Registration of Political Parties Act 1998.

[8]Home Secretary statement on publication of the Registration of Political Parties Bill 188 of 1997-98, Home Office Press Notice 176/98, 14.5.98.

[9]Sanders v Chichester [1995] 92(3) LSG 37, [1995] 139 SJLB 15 (DC), p 50, per Dyson and Forbes JJ.

[10]Political Parties and Elections Act 2009.

[11]S 23(1)(a) PPERA 2000.

[12]S 23(3) PPERA 2000.

[13]S 23(1)(b) PPERA 2000.

[14]R (English Democrats Party) v Electoral Commission [2018] EWHC 251 (Admin) at 44-45, per Supperstone J.

[15]R (English Democrats Party) v Electoral Commission [2018] EWHC 251 (Admin) at 43, Supperstone J rejecting challenge to Commission decision to remove RP’s ‘England worth fighting for’ description in the register ahead of by-election held in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP.

[16]S 22 PPERA 2000.

[17]Electoral Commission, ‘Introduction to registering a political party’

[18]S 28(2) PPERA 2000.

[19]S 26(9) PPERA 2000.

[20]Para 7 sch 4 PPERA 2000.

[21]S 28A PPERA 2000.

[22]S 28B PPERA 2000.

[23]S 29(1) PPERA 2000.

[24] Grimes v Electoral Commission (unreported, 19.7.19, County Court at Central London), at 87, per HHJ Dight; following R (English Democrats Party) v The Electoral Commission [2018] EWHC 251 (Admin).

[25]S 28A(2) PPERA 2000.

[26]S 28A(5) PPERA 2000.

[27]S 28A(2)(e) PPERA 2000.

[28]Jessie Patterson v David Steven Merrick and Michael Hammond, unreported, 2.11.1988, May and Woolf LLJ. See Chapter 2.

[29]Sanders v Chichester [1995] 92(3) LSG 37; [1995] 139 SJLB 15, Dyson and Forbes JJ.

[30]Jessie Patterson v David Steven Merrick v Michael Hammond, unreported, 2.11.1988, May and Woolf LLJ, p 1.

[31]S 12(2)(a)-(c) RPA 1983.

[32]Sanders v Chichester [1995] 92(3) LSG 37; [1995] 139 SJLB 15, Dyson and Forbes JJ, p 48 of transcript.

[33]Sanders v Chichester [1995] 92(3) LSG 37; [1995] 139 SJLB 15, Dyson and Forbes JJ, p 23 of transcript.

[34]S 29(2) PPERA 2000.

[35]S 29(5) PPERA 2000.

[36]S 26(1) PPERA 2000.

[37]S 26(2) and (3) PPERA 2000.

[38]S 26(1) PPERA 2000.

[39]S 26(5) PPERA 2000.

[40]S 26(6) PPERA 2000.

[41]Erlam v Rahman [2015] EWHC 1215 (QB).

[42]Erlam v Rahman [2015] EWHC 1215 (QB) at 275.

[43]Erlam v Rahman [2015] EWHC 1215 (QB) at 274.

[44] Para 23 Explanatory Notes to PPERA 2000.

[45]S 24(1)(a) PPERA 2000.

[46]S 24(2) PPERA 2000.

[47]S 24(1)(c) PPERA 2000.

[48]S 24(4) PPERA 2000.

[49]S 24(1)(b) PPERA 2000.

[50]S 22(6) PPERA 2000.

[51]S 24(3) PPERA 2000.

[52]S 25 PPERA 2000.

[53]S 25 PPERA 2000.

[54]S 25(4) PPERA 2000.

[55]Ss 25(3) and 24(8) PPERA 2000.

[56]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[57]S 24(9) PPERA 2000.

[58]S 30(1) PPERA 2000.

[59]S 30(4)-(6) PPERA 2000.

[60]S 30(6A) PPERA 2000.

[61]S 31(4) PPERA 2000.

[62]S 31(2)(c) PPERA 2000.

[63]S 31(1) and (2) PPERA 2000.

[64]S 33(2A) PPERA 2000.

[65]Para 14 sch 4 PPERA 2000.

[66]S 33(2) PPERA 2000.

[67]S 39 PPERA 2000.

[68]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[69]S 45 PPERA 2000.

[70]S 42 PPERA 2000.



[73]S 42(6) PPERA 2000.

[74]Para 6 sch 5 PPERA 2000.

[75]S 43(1) PPERA 2000.

[76]S 43(4) PPERA 2000.

[77]S 44(1) PPERA 2000.

[78]S 44(4) PPERA 2000.

[79]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[80]S 44(3) PPERA 2000.

[81]S 46 PPERA 2000.


[83]S 47 PPERA 2000.

[84]Sch 20 PPERA.

[85]S 48(1) and (2) PPERA 2000.

[86]S 48(3) PPERA 2000.

[87]S 48(4) PPERA 2000.

[88]S 48(5) PPERA 2000.

[89]S 48(6) PPERA 2000.

[90]S 45 PPERA 2000.

[91]S 32(1A) PPERA 2000.

[92]S 32(2) PPERA 2000.

[93]S 32(3) PPERA 2000.

[94]S 33(2A) PPERA 2000.

[95]S 50(9) PPERA 2000.

[96]S 50(6) PPERA 2000.

[97]S 50(8) PPERA 2000.

[98]S 50(8) PPERA 2000.

[99]S 50(2)(c) PPERA 2000.

[100]S 50(2)(f) PPERA 2000.

[101]S 50(2)(b) PPERA 2000.

[102]S 52(2)(b) PPERA 2000.

[103]S 52(1)(b) PPERA 2000 and s 170 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

[104]S 52(1)(d) PPERA 2000.

[105]S 52(1)(e) PPERA 2000. See Chapter 3.

[106]S 52(1)(f) PPERA 2000.

[107]S 52(1)(g) PPERA 2000.

[108]S 52(1)(h) PPERA 2000.

[109]S 52(2)(a) PPERA 2000. See Chapter 3.

[110]S 52(3) PPERA 2000.

[111]R (Good Law Project) v Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567, [2020] 1 WLR 1157, at 71.

[112]R (Good Law Project) v Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567, [2020] 1 WLR 1157, at 87.

[113]R (Good Law Project) v Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567, [2020] 1 WLR 1157, at 87.

[114]R (Good Law Project) v Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567, [2020] 1 WLR 1157, at 86.

[115]R (Good Law Project) v Electoral Commission [2019] EWCA Civ 1567 at 89. The result of this holding was that one campaign organisation (X) can donate money to another campaign organisation of shared point of view (Y) *(e.g. because X has reached its spending limits and Y has not), for Y to spend to the same ends as X, so long as it is not “on behalf of” X.

[116]S 71F PPERA 2000.

[117]S 71G PPERA 2000.

[118]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40.

[119]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, at 25.

[120]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, at 29.

[121]S 54(1) PPERA 2000.

[122]S 54(2) PPERA 2000.

[123] Grimes v Electoral Commission (unreported, 19.7.19, County Court at Central London), at 103, per HHJ Dight.

[124]S 71B(1)(a) PPERA 2000 and art 3 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Northern Ireland Political Parties) Order 2007.

[125]S 71B(1)(b) PPERA 2000 and art 4 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (Northern Ireland Political Parties) Order 2007.

[126]S 55(2) PPERA 2000.


[128]S 55(3) PPERA 2000.

[129]S 71H PPERA 2000.

[130]S 71H(3) PPERA 2000.

[131]S 71F(4)(b) and (9) PPERA 2001.

[132]S 54(5) and paras 2 and 2A sch 6 PPERA 2000.

[133]S 54(7) PPERA 2000.

[134]S 56 PPERA 2000.

[135]Ss 56(2) and 57(1) PPERA 2000.

[136]S 56(3) and (4) PPERA 2000.

[137]Sch 20 PPERA.

[138]S 56(5)

[139]S 58 PPERA 2000.

[140]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, at 51.

[141]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40.

[142]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, at 53.

[143]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 38.

[144]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 39.

[145]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 40.

[146]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 41.

[147]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 41.

[148]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 47.

[149]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 48.

[150]R (Electoral Commission) v Westminster Magistrates Court [2010] UKSC 40, 49.

[151]S 60(5)(c) PPERA 2000.

[152]S 59(3) PPERA 2000.

[153]Ss 71I and JPPERA 2000.

[154]Sch 20 PPERA.

[155]S 71L(1), (3), (5) and (7) PPERA 2000.

[156]S 71L(2) and sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[157]S 71L(4) and (6) and sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[158]S 71L(10) and (11) PPERA 2000.

[159]S 71K PPERA 2000.

[160]Sch 20 PPERA.

[161]S 61(1) and 71L(9) PPPERA 2000.

[162]S 61(2) RPA 1983.

[163]Ss 65(1) and 71S(1) PPERA 2000.

[164]Ss 61(3) and 71S(4) PPERA 2000.

[165]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[166]Ss 62(6) and (6A) PPERA 2000.

[167]S 62(9) PPERA 2000.

[168]S 71M(6) and (7) PPERA 2000.

[169]S 71M(9) PPERA 2000.

[170]S 71N(1) PPERA 2000.

[171]S 71N(2) PPERA 2000.

[172]S 62(10) and 71M(10) PPERA 2000.

[173]Ss 62A and 71P(1) PPERA 2000.

[174]Ss 66 and 71T(2) PPERA 2000.

[175]Form RP10 – Quarterly donation return by a registered political party.

[176]Form RP10b – Quarterly return of regulated transactions.

[177]Schs 6 and 6A PPERA 2000.

[178]Form RP10QN Quarterly report of donations to a political party: statement of nil return.

[179]S 62(11) PPERA 2000.

[180]S 62(11) and 71M(11) PPERA 2000.

[181]S 63(6) PPERA. See Chapter 3.

[182]Ss 65(2) and 71Q(1) PPERA 2000.

[183]Ss 63 and 71Q(3) PPERA 2000.

[184]Schs 6 and 6A PPERA 2000.



[187]Ss 66 and 71T PPERA 2000.

[188]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[189]Ss 65(3) and 71S(4) PPERA 2000.

[190]S 65(3) and 71S(5)PPERA 2000.

[191]S 66 PPERA 2000.

[192] Grimes v Electoral Commission (unreported, 19.7.19, County Court at Central London), at 93, per HHJ Dight.

[193]S 65(7)(a) PPERA 2000.

[194]S 65(6) and 71S(7)PPERA 2000.

[195]S 69(1) PPERA 2000;

[196]Ss 69(2) and 71V(3) PPERA 2000.

[197]Para 1(1) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[198]Para 1(2) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[199]Para 1(3) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[200]Para 1(4) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[201]Para 1(5) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[202]Para 1(6) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[203]Para 1(7) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[204]Electoral Commission, ‘Code of Practice on qualifying expenses for political parties’ (draft), paras 7.1-7.5.

[205]Para 1(8) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[206]S 73 PPERA 2000.

[207]Para 2(1)(a) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[208]Para 2(1)(b) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[209]Para 2(1)(c) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[210]Para 2(1)(d) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[211]Para 2(1)(e) sch 8 PPERA 2000.

[212]Para 3 sch 8 PPERA 2000; Draft Code of Practice on qualifying expenses for political parties 2019.

[213]Para 3(7) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[214]Paras 6(4) and (5) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[215]S 3(1) Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011; para 1(3) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[216]Para 9(4)(a) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[217]Para 9(4)(b) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[218]Ss 75(1) and 76 PPERA 2000.

[219]S 75(2) PPERA 2000.

[220]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[221]S 75(3) PPERA 2000.

[222]S 76(2) and (3) PPERA 2000.

[223]S 76(4) PPERA 2000.

[224]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[225]S 77(1) PPERA 2000.

[226]S 77(2) PPERA 2000.

[227]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[228]S 77(4) PPERA 2000.

[229]S 77(3) PPERA 2000.

[230]S 78 PPERA 2000.

[231]Para 3(2) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[232]Para 3(2) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[233]Para 3(3) sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[234]Para 6 sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[235]Para 9 sch 9 PPERA 2000.

[236]Sch 20 PPERA 2000.

[237]S 79(2) PPERA 2000.

[238]S 79(3) PPERA 2000.