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May I start my comments on clause 27 by declaring a non-financial interest in organisations in the third sector? I am the chair of the conservation and wildlife all-party group, the secretariat for which is provided by the Wildlife Trusts, and I am a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports. I am proud to be associated with both organisations.
Clause 27 depends for its validity on clause 26, which we have just discussed. In my opening remarks, therefore, I want to make it absolutely clear that if the Government’s intention is to rewrite clause 26 at some point—as they have indicated this afternoon that they will—the Opposition are justified in not supporting the subsequent clauses that depend on it. The Electoral Commission made this point in its latest briefing notes:
“We recommend that once the definition of controlled spending is confirmed, the Government and Parliament should consider again what spending limits will provide the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and controls on undue influence.”
In that context, the Opposition will find it difficult to support clause 27 as it stands. Indeed, we still fail to understand how the Government can support their own clause 26 when they considered in the previous debate that it needed rewriting, but there we are. We will listen carefully not only to the Minister but to the esteemed
Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, my hon. Friend Mr Allen.
We support taking the big money out of politics and we support sensible controls on the money spent by third parties. That is why we introduced the cap on third party spending, ensuring that we would never be like the United States, where unaccountable organisations can spend vast sums of money. We have no objection to a tough cap on third party spending.