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Recall of MPs Act 2015

Schedule 3: Regulation of expenditure

76.This Schedule regulates expenditure in relation to recall petitions.

77.The recall petition period is defined in paragraph 1 as the period beginning with the day after the day on which the Speaker’s notice is given and ending on the day that the petition officer receives notice from the Speaker under section 13 that one of the conditions for early termination of the petition process has been met or on the day that the petition officer gives notice to the Speaker of the outcome of the petition (section 14).

78.Part 2 limits the amount of petition expenses that may be incurred during the recall petition period by or on behalf of non-accredited and accredited campaigners (defined in Part 5 of Schedule 3).

79.For non-accredited campaigners, the total amount of campaign expenditure that can be incurred by them or on their behalf must not exceed £500. An offence is committed if expenses are incurred above this threshold and the campaigner does not register for accreditation (provided the expenses are incurred knowingly or if the person/party/body should have reasonably known that they were incurring expenses above the threshold) (paragraph 2).

80.For accredited campaigners, the total amount that can be incurred must not exceed £10,000. An offence is committed if expenses are incurred above this threshold (provided they are incurred knowingly or if the person/party/body should have reasonably known that they were incurring expenses above the threshold). It is a defence to show that an Electoral Commission code of practice (paragraph 16), that was in force at the time that the relevant expenses were incurred, was complied with in determining the items and amounts of expenses and on the basis of those determinations the limit was not exceeded (paragraph 3).

81.Paragraph 4 makes provision about the aggregation of expenses incurred by persons who are acting in concert. It would cover, for example, two groups both campaigning for the same outcome to the petition who agree to share the costs of distributing campaign leaflets by covering half the constituency each. Sub-paragraph (3) provides that where expenses are incurred by persons acting in concert, the total value of those expenses is to be regarded as having been incurred by each of the persons in question (and will therefore count towards each person’s spending limits).

82.Paragraph 5 makes provision about petition expenses that are incurred before the start of the recall petition period on property, services or facilities subsequently used for campaign purposes during the recall petition period. An “appropriate proportion” of those expenses are treated as having been incurred during the recall petition period and therefore will count towards the spending limits in paragraphs 2 and 3 (sub-paragraph (2)). Sub-paragraph (3) defines the “appropriate proportion” as that proportion of the expense that is reasonably attributable to the campaigning which takes place during the recall petition period. The purpose of this paragraph is to prevent campaigners from circumventing the limits on expenditure by incurring expenses before the start of the regulated period (i.e. the recall petition period) on matters that are to be used during that period.

83.Paragraph 6 concerns benefits in kind which are given to a campaigner either free of charge or at a discount of more than 10 per cent of their market value (sub-paragraph (2)). If the campaigner makes use of those benefits during the recall petition period in such a way that any expense incurred on them would have been treated as a petition expense, then the campaigner is deemed to have incurred expenditure on them of an amount equal to the difference between what the campaigner paid (if anything) and the market value of the benefit. An “appropriate proportion” of this expenditure (being the amount reasonably attributable to the use made of the benefit in kind during the recall petition period) will count towards the thresholds set out in paragraphs 2 and 3. However, where the appropriate proportion would be £50 or less, the deeming provision does not apply (sub-paragraph (9)).

84.Paragraph 7 makes supplementary provision about what is to be counted as a petition expense incurred by the accredited campaigner. Paragraph (a) relates to petition expenses that the accredited campaigner incurs during the recall petition period but at a time before the campaigner becomes accredited. Paragraph (b) relates to petition expenses that the campaigner is treated as having incurred during the recall petition period under paragraphs 5 and 6. For the purposes of the limit on petition expenditure in paragraph 3, all these expenses are treated as having been incurred by an accredited campaigner and will therefore count towards the £10,000 limit.

85.Part 3 imposes controls on the petition expenses of accredited campaigners. It is an offence to incur an expense, without reasonable excuse, without the authority of the responsible person or a person that the responsible person has authorised in writing to incur expenses. The same rules apply to payments. Invoices or receipts must be kept for payments of £20 or more, which must be delivered to the responsible person otherwise, in the absence of a reasonable excuse, an offence is committed. Part 3 also sets out restrictions on the payment of claims and makes it an offence, in the absence of a reasonable excuse, not to comply with those restrictions. It also sets out the processes for applying to a court for leave to pay a late claim and in respect of disputed claims.

86.Part 4 defines a petition expense and sets out a list of matters that count as petition expenses. It also sets out the process for the Electoral Commission to seek approval for new or amended codes of practice on petition expenses.

87.Part 5 defines an accredited campaigner and sets out eligibility to be an accredited campaigner. It also sets out the process for submitting an accreditation notice to the petition officer as well as subsequently altering information in the accreditation notice. It makes it an offence to fail to comply with the provisions relating to the alteration of the notice. Part 5 identifies the responsible person for the accredited campaigner (who is the treasurer if the campaigner is a registered party other than a minor party (as defined in PPERA)). In all other circumstances, the responsible person is the individual who is named in the accreditation notice. Part 5 also imposes a duty on the petition officer to publish information about accredited campaigners.

88.Part 6 sets out supplementary provisions, including the power to alter the meaning of petition expense and certain financial limits, as well as providing how offences in Schedule 3 which are corrupt or illegal practices should be treated for the purposes of other electoral legislation. Various provisions of that legislation, which provide for the penalties for such offences and related matters, are applied.

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