The ad industry and the Government have clashed over who should
regulate party political ads after ministers rejected proposals by the
Committee of Advertising Practice.
In a surprise move, the home secretary, Jack Straw, has scuppered plans
for a new code of conduct on press and poster ads to be policed by the
Electoral Commission, which will control election campaign spending by
Political campaigns will no longer be regulated by the Advertising
Standards Authority from January 2000.
Concern has grown over the present ’halfway house’ system, under which
parties are subject to the industry’s code of practice but do not have
to prove their claims like other advertisers.
The dispute leaves the regulation of political campaigns clouded in
uncertainty, with the political parties seeking another body to take
over from the ASA.
The Home Office said it saw ’dangers’ in the CAP’s plan. It warned that
the commission’s impartiality would be at risk, calling into doubt its
ability to carry out its other work.
’Adjudicating over complaints about political advertisements would
inevitably draw the Electoral Commission into the party political arena
in a way that could compromise its reputation for even-handedness and
independence,’ the Home Office said. ’The risk of this happening is
particularly acute during the hothouse atmosphere of a general election
The ruling has puzzled leading industry figures, who believe the
commission is bound to become embroiled in party disputes over the
pounds 20 million general election spending limit that it will
Andrew Brown, director-general of the Advertising Association, said: ’I
am disappointed about the decision. If the commission is to look at good
conduct in election, I don’t see why advertising should not be part of
that. But it is not for us to say who should administer the code.’