15 Feb 2021
The Lobbying Act only applies to Senedd elections in 2021. If you're campaigning around council or metro mayoral elections in England then you're regulated under a different law, called the Representation of the People Act. For this, all you need to do is make sure you’re adhering to our political impartiality guidance.
Campaigning during Senedd elections
During Senedd elections, campaigners and campaigning groups are regulated under electoral law. This can have implications for the kind of work that you may want to undertake during that time, and it’s important that everyone understands the regulations.
We've recently updated our political impartiality guidance which, when followed, will ensure that all groups maintain a high standard of political impartiality.
Senedd elections and the Lobbying Act
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) limits certain types of spending by organisations, including Friends of the Earth, before Senedd elections. It was amended by the Lobbying Act ahead of the 2015 general election. Friends of the Earth has campaigned for changes to the Lobbying Act as we're not happy with how it regulates campaigning in civil society.
Regulated campaigning activity includes: staff time, rallies and public events, printed campaign materials. Volunteer time does not count as regulated activity.
When campaigning activity in the run-up to Senedd elections is public and can be reasonably regarded as intended to influence the way someone votes, it's considered to be regulated activity under electoral rules. If you spend over a certain limit on regulated activity you have to register with the Electoral Commission and report your campaign spending.
Under the lobbying act, these rules apply for 4 months up to polling day, which means that the regulated period for these elections began on 6 January 2021.
Any organisation that spends more than £10,000 in Wales on regulated activity, on its own or in coalition with other groups, will need to register with the Electoral Commission.
We don’t expect any Friends of the Earth Local Groups or Climate Actions groups to spend anywhere near the threshold for registration with the Electoral Commission (let alone the upper spending limit). So while it's important that you're fully aware of it, your main focus should be maintaining high standards of party political impartiality. If you stick to our political impartiality guidance, you're unlikely to undertake much (if any) regulated activity
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) may register with the Electoral Commission. Friends of the Earth Local Groups and Climate Action groups are separate legal entities from Friends of the Earth EWNI, so this decision will not impact your campaigning.
Working with other groups
The rules around working with other groups are particularly important to be aware of. If you're making joint plans with other campaigners or groups which involve regulated activity and cost money, then you may be incurring regulated spending without realising it, because the costs incurred by others when working together can count towards your total.
It’s therefore important to be clear with any coalitions or groups you work with that you're not working to any joint plans unless specifically agreed in writing. We recommend that, if you feel it's appropriate or necessary for your group, you send a version of the below email template to the relevant people to ensure that you have all your bases covered. If the group is not aware of the lobbying act then please feel free to share the information in this email, and the political impartiality guidance.
As you know, Senedd Elections are taking place on 6 May 2021. This means we are now in a regulated period under electoral law and there are rules about how much money organisations can spend campaigning in connection to Senedd Elections, which means that we have to make sure that we are aware of any work that is being done in our name or by coalitions we are part of.
As we frequently work together, this email is to make it clear that from now until the date of the election, we agree that we are doing the following work together (list any upcoming plans you may have with that group), and do not agree to other joint work unless agreed separately. This is a precaution to ensure we comply with electoral law.