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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

General elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly

165.Paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 sets out the campaign expenditure limits for ordinary and extraordinary elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The expenditure limits are calculated by reference to the number of constituencies contested for a party. A party receives an allowance of £17,000 for each constituency contested. Under the provisions of section 33 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 there are 18 constituencies each returning six members of the Assembly. Accordingly, the maximum amount of campaign expenditure a party could incur if it stood for election in all constituencies is £306,000.

166.Paragraph 7(3) provides that the relevant period during which the campaign expenditure will normally apply is the four-month period before the date of the poll. Section 31(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides that (subject to section 31(3)) the date of the next ordinary election will be Thursday 1 May 2003. Section 31(1) of that Act provides (again subject to section 31(3)) that subsequent ordinary elections are to be held on the first Thursday in May in the fourth calendar year following that in which the previous ordinary election was held. Section 31(3) of the 1998 Act makes provision for the date of the poll to be brought forward or moved back by no more than two months. Subject to the exercise of the power in section 31(3), the relevant period for the next ordinary election will be the period 2 January 2003 to 1 May 2003.

167.Paragraph 7(5) provides that the relevant period in the case of an extraordinary general election is the period beginning with the date when the Secretary of State proposes a date for the poll for the election under section 32 of the 1998 Act and ending with the date of the poll. As no provision about Assembly elections has yet been made under section 34(4) of the 1998 Act, there is at present no other constraint as to the length of the relevant period.

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