HC Deb 13 February 2001 vol 363 cc79-80W
Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many United Kingdom companies he anticipates will be covered by article 3(1) of the Companies (EU Political Expenditure) Exemption Order 2001. [149925]

Dr. Howells

[holding answer 12 February 2001]The draft Companies (EU Political Expenditure) Order 2001 seeks to exclude activities such as the publication of newspapers from the definition of "political expenditure" under Part IX of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, while at the same time ensuring that the principles of accountability and transparency are properly applied in relation to political donations and expenditure by companies. The draft order would exempt any company or subsidiary undertaking whose ordinary course of business includes the preparation, publication or dissemination to the public of material such as views, opinion and comment on the news, or on public or political affairs and events, from the requirement to seek prior shareholder authorisation in respect of such activities; it would not exempt such companies from the requirement to seek prior shareholder authorisation for donations to political parties and organisations or for other forms of political expenditure.

The order has been drafted so as to take account of possible future technological advances, and the Department does not have detailed information on the number of companies which will come within the exemption. The Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents national daily and Sunday newspapers, has eight members. The database of The Newspaper Society, which represents the regional newspaper industry, indicates that there are currently 106 regional press publishers.