Election ‘purdah’ or the pre-election period - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 03 February 2015 | Standard notes SN05262

Authors: Isobel White

Topic: Civil Service, Elections, General elections

The term ‘purdah’ has come into popular use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The term ‘pre-election period’ is also used.

For general elections in the past this period commenced with the announcement of the election by the Prime Minister. There will be no announcement of the next general election because the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 set the date as 7 May 2015 and Parliament will be dissolved on 30 March 2015.

The Government has recently announced that pre-election purdah before the next general election will begin on 30 March 2015, the same day as the dissolution of Parliament.

Guidance is issued to civil servants on the principles that they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the ‘purdah’ period. This has not yet been issued for the 2015 general election.

This Note also gives details of the guidance issued before the general election in 2010.

There is statutory guidance for local authorities about publicity during the period just before local elections. The pre-election period is defined as beginning with the last date for the publication of notice of the election; in 2015 this will be 30 March 2015. The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity is issued under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1986.

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