Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill
Baroness Hanham (Conservative)
My Lords, I return to a matter that we raised earlier in Committee—the restrictions, if any, to be placed on the amount of money that can be spent by or on behalf of candidates during any referendum campaign. I am grateful to the Minister for writing to me following our last discussion on this matter. He answered a number of my questions but I should like to raise one more point that he did not clarify. He has made it clear that the institutions of the European Union can contribute to the referendum campaign. That was one of the matters about which I asked him. However, it is not clear how much will be allocated to participants—that is, the candidates who are standing and the list candidates as well.
In his letter to me, the Minister said that Section 117 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,
"provides that no individual or body can incur referendum expenses of more than £10,000 during the referendum period unless they are registered as a 'permitted participant'".
I imagine that a "permitted participant" would include a candidate. I am not clear, therefore, about the rationale regarding the money available. I understand that for all other elections, there are various formulae. I have spared the House by not going through the formula for each aspect of elections because I do not think it would be very instructive. What is instructive, however, is that there is a formula. It relates to the amount that the constituency member—that is, a candidate—can spend, which is usually per head, and how much is available to the subsequent list members.
A very rough calculation of the amount available for the Greater London Assembly elections leads me to the view that that figure was under £1 million. There needs to be an upper limit on expenditure and probably also on total expenditure. I am concerned that companies will be able to put in money without having to appeal to their shareholders.
If there is to be a formula, does the Minister yet know what it will be? If not, will the noble Lord consider that that expenditure should not be more than £1 million—which is a lot of money in terms of promoting people's futures?
The Minister told me that he would let me know before Third Reading if he had any further views. I have returned to the point a bit sooner and if he can give any further information, I shall be grateful. I beg to move.