Clause 20 prohibits groups and individuals from having access to multiple spending limits at an election. Spending limits exist to ensure a level playing field, and any opportunities to unfairly expand them should be removed. During the 2019 UK parliamentary general election, one group claimed that it could do exactly that by registering as both a political party and a third party campaigner. That showed the potential for the current rules to be abused and spending limits expanded.
If we do not close down the loophole, it may be exploited further in future. This change will prohibit recognised third party campaigners from registering as political parties and gaining access to a spending limit for each registration. That will serve to protect the integrity of the existing spending limits.
To ensure that there can be no doubt, the list of individuals and entities permitted to be on the third party campaigner register will also be amended to remove political parties. As groups may already appear on both registers when the provision comes into force, clause 21 will ensure that any group that spends in a third party capacity during a regulated period will not be able also to spend as a political party. That means that any group appearing on both registers when these provisions are commenced will have to choose whether it wants to spend as a political party or a third party campaigner during any subsequent regulated period.
Finally, clause 20 also makes consequential amendments to the rules on donations, spending and reporting for recognised third party campaigners, where they currently refer to the specific requirements for political parties, which take into account their existing financial controls as a party. Altogether, these changes will ensure that groups cannot use the rules to their advantage to expand their spending limits unfairly.