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

Published 30 March 2015 | Standard notes SN05262

Authors: Isobel White

Topic: Civil Service, Elections, General elections

The term “purdah” is in 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 was no announcement of the next general election because the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 set the date as 7 May 2015 and Parliament had to be dissolved on 30 March 2015.

The Government had announced that the pre-election period before the general election would 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 pre-election period; the guidance for the pre-election period in 2015 was issued on 30 March 2015.

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 publication of notice of the election. In 2015 the latest date for the publication of the notice of election 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. The Local Government Association has published Purdah: a short guide to publicity during the pre-election period which gives further information.

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