General Elections: Party-political Spending

Lord Rennard Excerpts
Wednesday 29th November 2023

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for increasing the maximum limit for political parties to spend at general elections.

Baroness Penn Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Baroness Penn) (Con)
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It has been a long time since campaign spending limits were last adjusted for inflation—some have not changed since 2000. This means that as prices rise over time the limits are, in effect, reduced. Parliament anticipated this when the limits were set, which is why the legislation allows for them to be adjusted to account for inflation. The Government have now begun making these adjustments to ensure spending limits are restored in real terms.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
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My Lords, none of the last five Governments has seen fit to increase these spending limits for political parties, so I wonder what was different about this Government? In the last five elections, only one party—the Conservative Party—has come close to spending towards the election expense limit, so why does it now have to be increased by 80%? Which party will benefit? Boris Johnson managed to win the last general election spending £16 million, so why do this Government seem to think that they need to spend up to £36 million to try to be re-elected? What will their donors expect in return for this cash?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, this is not an unusual exercise. In fact, uprating has been done under successive Administrations of all political colours and is done regularly for other matters too. It is provided for in the original legislation passed by this Parliament. By using those powers, we are simply restoring the levels of spending limits that were provided for by Parliament.