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raising e¬orts and in part from corporate contributions. The Conservative
Party bene¬ts from company donations and the Labour Party from trade union
subventions; both parties have also been helped by substantial donations
from wealthy business magnates. In the election year of 2005 the Electoral
Commission reported (cash and non-cash) donations from 1 January to 30 June
(the election was held on 5 May) to the Conservative Party totalling £14,122,344
and to the Labour Party totalling £14,948,117. The Liberal Democrats have
much weaker resources at their disposal, with a lower membership and less
access to institutional contributions, but large donations in the ¬rst quarter of
2005 enabled them to spend liberally before and during the election campaign.
The Electoral Commission™s ¬gures for donations to the Liberal Democrats
from 1 January to 30 June 2005 totalled £5,357,162.
There has been growing concern in recent decades about the su¬ciency of
resources for a vigorous party system and a like concern about donations from
individuals attempting to buy political in¬‚uence or to secure decisions from
government favourable to their commercial interests.
The Houghton Committee recommended in 1976 that a system of state aid
for political parties should be introduced to maintain the level of activity and
545 Parties, groups and the people

e¬ciency required if the parties were to ful¬l e¬ectively their role in the working
of democracy. (See the Report of the Committee on Financial Aid to Political
Parties, Cmnd 6601/1976.) A few years later the Hansard Society™s Commission
on the Financing of Political Parties proposed a scheme by which the parties
would be able to claim state aid related to their popular support, measured by
individual contributions of money to the parties (Paying for Politics (1981)).
In 1997 the Prime Minister asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life
˜to review issues in relation to the funding of political parties and recommend
any changes in present arrangements™. In their Fifth Report (Cm 4057-I/1998),
the committee rehearsed the arguments for and against state aid for political
parties and found them to be ¬nely balanced (paras 7.14“7.23). They were not
persuaded that the state should provide funding for political parties™ general
activities, but recognised that the parties had been obliged ˜to concentrate their
resources on campaigning and routine administration at the expense of long-
term policy development™. To help the parties to put more e¬ort into the devel-
opment of policies the committee proposed that a modest policy development
fund (initially of about £2 million per annum) should be established ˜to enable
the parties represented in the House of Commons to ful¬l better what is, after
all, one of their most vital functions™. The committee also proposed that dona-
tions to political parties of £5,000 or more should be publicly disclosed and that
foreign donations should not be permitted.
The Government brought forward legislation to implement the main
recommendations of the committee and provision was made by the Political
Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 for the registration of political
parties as the basis for the control of donations (and of election expenditure, on
which see above). A party proposing to ¬eld candidates in elections must be
registered with the Electoral Commission. (There is a separate registration
scheme for Northern Ireland.) A registered political party is required to report
to the Electoral Commission donations of above £5,000 to the central organi-
sation or above £1,000 at the local level. The Commission maintains a public
register of reported donations. It is unlawful for a party to receive ˜foreign™
donations, from individuals not registered to vote in the United Kingdom or
companies that are not incorporated in the European Union or do not carry on
business in the United Kingdom. Anonymous donations are not permitted.
A registered party must adopt a scheme, to be approved by the Electoral
Commission, for regulating its ¬nancial a¬airs and is required to publish its
annual accounts.
The Act does not provide for full state funding of political parties, the Home
Secretary remarking in the second reading debate on the bill that ˜an over-
reliance on state funding could absorb parties into the fabric of the state™ (HC
Deb vol 342, col 34, 10 January 2000). The Electoral Commission may, however,
develop a scheme, to be approved by the Secretary of State, for the payment of
˜policy development grants™ to registered political parties represented by at least
two MPs, to a total amount of £2 million in any year. The grants are intended
546 British Government and the Constitution

to assist the parties ˜with the development of policies for inclusion in their elec-
tion manifestos™: details of the current scheme are contained in the Elections
(Policy Development Grants Scheme) Order 2006, SI 2006/602.
There has been an increasing realisation that overreliance by the parties on
wealthy benefactors is harmful to the political process, in that donors may hope
for favourable treatment (for instance concessions in the development of policy,
or the award of contracts) from the recipient party when in government.
Allegations that peerages have been ˜bought™ with cash donations (in some
instances disguised as ˜loans™) led the Public Administration Committee of the
House of Commons to conduct an inquiry into the scrutiny of political
honours: see its interim report, Propriety and Honours, HC 1119 of 2005“06.
The Metropolitan Police undertook a concurrent inquiry into possible o¬ences
under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. Events such as these have
given a stimulus to the campaign for state funding of political parties, but
a report by the Electoral Commission in 2004 noted that there was ˜a lack of
consensus among political parties and the public about the extent to which
funding should come from the state and/or private donations and whether
private donations should be capped™ (Electoral Commission news release,
16 December 2004). In March 2006 Sir Hayden Phillips was appointed to
conduct a review of the funding of political parties and in particular to examine
the case for state funding and whether there should be a cap on the size of dona-
tions. Sir Hayden Phillips will look for agreement between the political parties
in deciding on his recommendations and is to report by the end of 2006.
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has begun its own review of the openness,
accountability and regulation of political party ¬nancing.
Parties are the motor of our system of government. Membership of the main
parties has fallen steeply in recent decades, and fewer than 2 per cent of the elec-
torate are now members of a political party. Is this decline a threat to the
working of democracy in our country? (See further Parvin and McHugh,
˜Defending representative democracy: parties and the future of political
engagement in Britain™ (2005) 58 Parliamentary A¬airs 632.)
See generally P Webb, The Modern British Party System (2000); V Bogdanor,
˜The constitution and the party system in the twentieth century™ (2004) 57
Parliamentary A¬airs 717; McHugh and Needham (eds), ˜The future of parties™
(2005) 58 Parliamentary A¬airs 499 (Special Issue).

5 Pressure groups
˜Every modern country™, said Duguit in the early part of the twentieth century,
˜is a mass of groups™ (Law in the Modern State (tr F and H Laski, 1921), p 116).
Pressure groups are bodies of persons organised to exert in¬‚uence or pressure
upon government without themselves seeking, through the electoral process, to
assume governmental responsibility. In general they are clearly distinguishable
from political parties, which hope to enter government, or at least to establish
547 Parties, groups and the people

for themselves a strong base in Parliament by ¬elding candidates in elections.
The distinction becomes blurred when single-issue parties, such as the Legalise
Cannabis Alliance, are formed to contest elections.
It is aptly said by Bill Jones (in B Jones et al, Politics UK (5th edn 2004), p 235)
that ˜The ability to form organisations independent of the state is one of the
hallmarks and, indeed, preconditions of a democratic society™. Pressure groups
have grown in number and following in the United Kingdom while the mem-
bership of political parties has declined. Dennis Kavanagh, British Politics:
Continuities and Change (4th edn 2000), p 178, comments as follows:

More than half the adult population are subscribing members of at least one organization
(such as a trade union) and many belong to a number of groups. (The Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds has more members than all of the British political parties put together!)

Individuals may ¬nd that their views on speci¬c issues are more likely to have
an impact via pressure-group activity than through membership of a political
party, or that their particular interests are better defended by a group set up with
the protection of those interests as its object. RT McKenzie (in R Kimber and
J Richardson (eds), Pressure Groups in Britain (1974), p 280) was in no doubt:

that pressure groups, taken together, are a far more important channel of communication
than parties for the transmission of political ideas from the mass of the citizenry to their

Pressure groups are like political parties in expressing the demands of sec-
tions of the public, but unlike most parties they campaign for a speci¬c interest
or cause rather than for a wide range of policies. It is usual to distinguish
two kinds of pressure groups. ˜Interest™ or ˜sectional™ groups represent people
with social, occupational or economic interests in common, and their main
purpose is to protect and further those interests. Among them are professional
bodies, producers™ groups such as trade unions, industrial and commercial
associations, the National Farmers™ Union “ and the two ˜peak™ organisations,
the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress. Some
other organisations in the numerous and varied class of sectional groups are:
the Association of British Insurers
the Automobile Association
the British Medical Association
the Consumers™ Association
the Country Land and Business Association
the Engineering Employers™ Federation
the Federation of Small Businesses
the Institute of Directors
the Law Society
548 British Government and the Constitution

the Methodist Conference
the Police Federation
the Ramblers™ Association
the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The main concern of many sectional organisations is to provide services to their
members, and some also control entry to a trade or profession and seek to main-
tain standards of competence: it may be only occasionally that they resort to
lobbying and the tactics of pressure. But some sectional groups are engaged in
a continuous dialogue with government, and many try to maintain a constant
moderating in¬‚uence upon the government departments whose policies may
a¬ect their interests.
The other kind of pressure group is the ˜promotional™ or ˜cause™ group, which
is an organisation of persons for the promotion of a cause which its members
support. (The cause may embrace the interests of others.) Cause groups too are
of great number and variety. Some examples are:

Amnesty International
the Campaign for Freedom of Information
the Child Poverty Action Group
the Campaign to Protect Rural England
Friends of the Earth
the Howard League for Penal Reform
the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
the League Against Cruel Sports
Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties)
the National Assembly Against Racism
the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Many of the cause groups put much of their e¬ort into giving assistance to
people in need, but all seek by publishing information, mounting public
campaigns, or exerting direct pressure on government, to achieve legal reforms
or the expenditure of public money or other favourable o¬cial response to
the cause advocated. Some cause groups have only a brief life, campaigning on
transitory issues such as a road-building scheme or the closure of a hospital,
but others continue for many years, like the needs or injustices which give rise
to them.
Pressure groups sometimes work through or in alliance with a political party,
hoping in this way to in¬‚uence the policies of an existing or future government.
This strategy was formerly followed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
(CND) in relation to the Labour Party. It achieved a notable success in 1980
when a resolution drafted jointly by CND and the Bertrand Russell Peace
Foundation, demanding that the next Labour manifesto should include a
549 Parties, groups and the people

commitment against a nuclear defence policy and a pledge to close down
nuclear bases in Britain, was approved by the Annual Conference of the party.
(See B Pimlott and C Cook (eds), Trade Unions in British Politics (1982), p 230.)
The League Against Cruel Sports, too, has concentrated its e¬orts on the Labour
Party, and was at the forefront of the campaign which led to enactment of the
Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Hunting Act 2004.
On the other hand Mediawatch-UK (formerly the National Viewers™ and
Listeners™ Association) and the Country Land and Business Association have
had more in¬‚uence in the Conservative Party.
Ernest Bevin remarked that the Labour Party had grown out of the bowels of
the trade union movement, and the trade unions have been closely linked with
the Labour Party throughout its history. Latterly the bond has loosened, but it
has not been severed. The unions a¬liated to the party provide a substantial
part of its income, have 50 per cent of the votes in the party conference and elect
twelve of the thirty-two members of the party™s National Executive Committee.
The leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party are chosen by an electoral
college voting in three sections “ Members of the Commons and European
Parliamentary Labour Parties; individual members of the party; members of
a¬liated trade unions and other a¬liated organisations “ each section having
one-third of the votes. In former years the a¬liated unions and the TUC had a
signi¬cant in¬‚uence on the making of Labour Party policies on issues a¬ecting
their interests, and on occasion they were able to sti¬‚e unwelcome legislative
proposals of a Labour Government. After a period of some disharmony
between the unions and the Blair Government, a renewal of good relations was
re¬‚ected in the ˜Warwick Agreement™ of July 2004 between the Government and
a¬liated trade unions. In return for trade union support for Labour™s forth-
coming election campaign, the Government agreed to a large number of policy
commitments such as protection of the pensions of workers transferring to
a new employer, the uprating of redundancy payments, rights for migrant
workers and legislation on corporate manslaughter.
Sectional groups do not enjoy a similar organic relationship with the other
political parties, but business interest groups, while not a¬liated to the
Conservative Party, have traditionally been informally linked with it and
have been able to in¬‚uence party policy in economic and industrial matters.
The Institute of Directors, for instance, has had close links with the Conser-
vative leadership, and was considered to have made a signi¬cant contribution
to the Thatcher Government™s measures to limit trade union power and immu-
nities (see W Grant and J Sargent, Business and Politics in Britain (1987),
pp 127“8). While generally approving of conservative economic policies, the
Confederation of British Industry does not give invariable or uncritical support
to the Conservative Party and is willing to engage in dialogue with Labour
Apart from groups like council tenants™ associations which are concerned
with local government, pressure groups concentrate their e¬orts on the centres
550 British Government and the Constitution

of decision-making in Westminster and Whitehall. Drawn to the substance of
power, they cluster most densely about the departments and agencies of central
government, where some of them achieve a particular legitimacy and consulta-
tive status. As WJM Mackenzie says, every public body ˜has its penumbra of
organized groups which form its particular public™ ((1955) 6 British Journal of
Sociology 133, 138). The pressure groups admitted to this favoured role are those
able to o¬er the administration something in return. Many groups have
specialised information and expertise which the administration lacks. Some
government policies cannot be implemented without the cooperation of repre-
sentative organisations and their members so that the government, accustomed
to rule, is compelled to bargain. (The administration of the National Health
Service, for example, needs the cooperation of the medical profession, repre-
sented in particular by the British Medical Association.)


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