A row has erupted between Labour and the trade unions over
proposals by the party to curb the advertising budgets of unions during
Unions are opposing Labour’s plans for pressure groups, including
unions, business organisations and charities, to be allowed to spend no
more than pounds 1.5 million on their campaigns.
The issue has arisen because Labour has proposed a pounds 15 million
campaign spending limit for each political party. It that argues a
ceiling is also needed on outside groups, to prevent the parties using
them to get around the spending restrictions.
’It would make no sense to impose a limit on political parties, only to
see these eclipsed by free-spending pressure groups,’ Labour says in its
evidence to the Neill committee on standards in public life, which is
investigating party funding.
But Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, the public service
union, told the committee that its campaigns were not intended to
encourage people to vote for a party but to state its position on
’The price of advertising is not cheap,’ he said. ’If unions were
spending pounds 150 million and parties were limited to pounds 15
million, then curbs might be necessary. It is a matter of degree. We do
not have the money to push that level. I only wish we had.’
At last year’s election, Unison spent pounds 1.1 million on a press
campaign through BMP DDB, Labour’s agency. At the 1992 election, Nalgo,
its predecessor, spent pounds 2 million on ads through BMP and ran more
press ads than any political party.