On Monday 2nd September, Ann Phillips, Chairman of the Association, met with Tony Stafford, Head of Guidance and Policy at the Electoral Commission to discuss the Bill and its implications for charities as non party campaigners.

We said that charities and their advisers were likely to endorse many of the points of concern raised in the Commission’s own briefing for the Second Reading of the Bill, available here.

We expressed particular concern as to:

• the reduction in the threshold of expenditure triggering registration, which was likely to result in a massive increase in the number of charities required to register and/or inadvertent non-compliance with registration and risk of criminal sanction; • the uncertainty inherent in the expression “for election purposes”;

• the difficulty for the Commission in framing guidance as to what is “for election purposes” coupled with the change in nature of the test to an effects based test, rather than a test based on objective intention in relation to the relevant activities;

• the difficulty for charities in ensuring compliance where they campaign together as part of a coalition and the burden of the accounting requirement in relation to coalition expenditure; and

• generally, the regulatory burden of compliance – the Government’s impact assessment being likely to be a very significant under-estimate.

5th September 2013