Further to my earlier post, and Paul’s initial piece last week, we have learned that the Conservative Party Board has indeed agreed this afternoon that the Party’s resources (including money and data) will remain neutral in the EU referendum:
Conservative Party Board agreed this afternoon to neutrality in terms of money, resources and data during the EU Referendum campaign.
— Paul Goodman (@PaulGoodmanCH) September 21, 2015
For all the reasons we have previously laid out, this is the right decision – the Board is to be congratulated for taking a step that is in the best interests of the Party and in the interests of a fair referendum. Apparently CCHQ staff will be allowed to apply for a leave of absence to take part in the campaign if they wish – as I said earlier, all should be free to campaign as they wish as long as they do so on their own time.
Here is the full, formal memorandum setting out the terms of the Board’s decision:
‘To: The Conservative Party Board From: The Rt. Hon. the Lord Feldman
Date: 21 September 2015 Re: EU Referendum Campaign
Further to the Board Meeting today, I wanted to write confirming the details of the resolution passed unanimously in support of the Prime Minister’s recommendation that CCHQ and the Party remain neutral during the EU referendum campaign.
The Board resolved that the Party will remain neutral and will not register itself as a permitted participant.
In practical terms, this will mean the following:
1. It is genuinely open to staff to work for either side, and their decisions as to which side they support will be fully respected and will not lead to any less favourable treatment in the future. This can be done in their free time or by taking unpaid leave.
2. Requests to take leave will be agreed where possible subject to the Party’s own operational requirements – e.g. making sure we can fully staff any major by elections in the period.
3. Requests will be treated equally between the two sides and the same operational requirement applied fairly to all requests.
4. When unpaid leave is granted, staff will agree a start date that will allow them to carry out a swift handover after which they will have no access to CCHQ resources and their passes will be cancelled.
5. Staff taking unpaid leave will sign a declaration that they will not use any of the Party’s resources or intellectual property in the campaign.
6. On return all staff will be treated fairly and equally and their employment will be regarded as contractually continuous.
Voter information data held by the Party will not be provided to either side of the campaign.
It would be a breach of data protection rules for the Party to do so.
CCHQ finances will not be used to fund either side of the campaign.
Party Treasurers, who are volunteers, are permitted to raise money or volunteer with either side in the campaign.
Neither side of the campaign will be able to use CCHQ offices.
The Board ruled that the same position of neutrality would apply to Associations.
This means that Associations are not allowed to provide data – as this, again, would be against data protection rules – money, paid staff, or Association offices and property, to either side in the campaign.
Board Approved Recognised & Specialist Groups
Similarly, these Groups will not be able to provide data, paid staff, money, or offices and property to either side in the campaign.’