What is the rule for the "regulated period" for party political spending in UK general elections?

This document states:

UK Parliamentary general elections usually have a regulated period of 365 days ending on the day of the election.

Given that the date of a general election cannot be known in advance, this appears to be quite limiting.

This document outlines the General Election of 2017, indicating that because it was a snap election the long period dod not apply, and only the short period was regulated. This appears to contradict other sources.

There appear to be three types of spending, each with their own rules:

  1. Party (usually 365 days ending on election day)

At national level, a registered political party can spend £30,000 for each constituency that it contests at a general election. So a party fighting 650 seats could spend up to £19.5 million across the UK.

  1. Non-Party (usually 365 days ending on election day)

  2. Candidate (usually has a long- and a short- period (Representation of the People Act)

For 2015:

During the long campaign from 19 December 2014 to dissolution on 30 March 2015 the candidate’s expenditure limit is £30,700 plus either

9p per elector in county constituencies (predominantly rural) 6p per elector for borough constituencies (predominantly urban) And for the short campaign the limit is £8,700 plus either

9p per elector in county constituencies 6p per elector for borough constituencies

FullFact states:

In a general election, the maximum a candidate can spend in the 25 days before polling day is much lower: roughly between £10,000 and £16,000, depending on the number of voters and whether it is a borough or county constituency.

Other links:

  • Would you mind double checking your link, it appears to have been Chrome-mangled.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 14:54
  • Depends which party you're talking about. One of them controls the media. The other is forced to follow the rules because of it. Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 22:17

1 Answer 1


Specifically for the case of "campaign expenditure incurred by or on behalf of a registered party which contests one or more constituencies at a parliamentary general election", this appears to be defined in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, in Schedule 9, Part II, paragraph 3, subparagraph 7:

(7) For the purposes of this paragraph the relevant period is—

(a) (subject to paragraph (b)) the period of 365 days ending with the date of the poll for the election;

(b) where the election (“the election in question”) follows another parliamentary general election held less than 365 days previously, the period:

  • beginning with the day after the date of the poll for the earlier election, and

  • ending with the date of the poll for the election in question.

Given that the majority of relevant party campaign spending [to quote the Electoral Commission's non-exhaustive list "advertising, unsolicited material sent to voters, manifestos, party policy publications and party political broadcasts, market research, press conferences, transport, rallies and public meetings"] for an election can't really start until the election has been called, and that spending limits on other elections (e.g. local elections) during the regulated period aggregate, this perhaps isn't as onerous as you'd think, although obviously that's by the standards of the UK, rather than say the USA.

To touch on the expanded topics in the edited question, indeed there are further spending limits for the candidates as individuals, so a leaflet saying "vote Jane Doe", printed and distributed by the candidate or her election agent counts against this limit, not the party one, and similarly apply for independents.

The "hot" short period is where she is a formally nominated candidate, while the "pre-candidacy" long period only applies when a parliament has been going 55 months, where it's known an election must be coming soon. Note that this was all written before the Fixed Term Parliaments Act froze may aspects of the electoral calendar. As you indicate, this all comes from the Representation of the People Act 1983, along with extra advice from the Electoral Commission.

Finally, the "non-party" rules (actually described as "third party", in the sense of me, you & them, rather than the Liberal Democrats or SNP) exist, but only matter for individuals or organizations not standing themselves, and spending more than £20,000 (in England, other figures apply elsewhere) campaigning for or against specific parties or candidates. This period is set in schedule 10 of Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 with identical wording to the version for registered parties.

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