Election campaigns

2.10The law on election campaigns is comprehensively set out in Part II of the Representation of the People Act 1983 as amended by the Representation of the People Act 1985, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009.

The maximum expense which may be incurred by a candidate or the agent for a candidate is £8,700 for a county or a borough seat, plus a further 9p in a county constituency and 6p in a borough constituency for every entry in the electoral register. For a candidate in a by-election, the limit is £100,000.1 The personal expenses of the candidate are not taken into account in calculating the maximum. Where the Parliament sits for more than 55 months after the date on which it first sat, separate limits (termed pre-candidacy limits) also apply from that moment until the person becomes the candidate.2

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 imposed, for the first time, limits on national expenditure by political parties and others to promote the election of candidates. The limits for parties are whichever is the greater of £30,000 per constituency contested or £810,000, £120,000 and £60,000 for elections contested in England, Scotland and Wales, respectively. There are special provisions if the campaign period for a general election overlaps with that for other elections.3

The Representation of the People Act 1983 also limits the amount that third parties can spend in support of a candidate. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, s 36, set out reporting requirements in connection with such third-party expenditure.

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, s 5, the Electoral Commission is required to publish a report following each general election, and it has issued reports on each general election since 2001, giving the voting results, and the expenses incurred by candidates, political parties and third parties.4 The Commons sessional resolution regarding bribery is no longer passed, given that there is statute law on corrupt practices at elections.5


  1. 1. Representation of the People Act 1983, s 76; Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order 2014 (SI 2014/1870).
  2. 2. Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, s 21.
  3. 3. Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, schs 9, 10.
  4. 4. This replaces a procedure whereby, shortly after a new Parliament was elected, an address was presented to the Sovereign for a Return showing the expenses of each candidate at the general election, together with the number of votes polled by each candidate, the number of polling districts and stations, the number of electors and the number of persons entitled to vote by post, eg HC 260 (1998–99).
  5. 5. For example, CJ (2002–03) 1; and cf CJ (1778–80) 507. The third report of the Procedure Committee HC 333 (2002–03) recommended that the passing of the Sessional Orders and Resolutions relating to elections, witnesses and the Votes and Proceedings should be discontinued. The last time they were moved was on 26 November 2003.