Donations made direct to a candidate (rather than to their party) are only recorded in these constituency returns and do not appear in the donation records published by the Electoral Commission. However, in previous Parliaments both the local copies of these returns kept by electoral officials and the copies gathered in by the Electoral Commission were destroyed after a handful of years. This meant that even before the next general election was held, records were no longer available of who had donated how much to which candidate at the previous general election.
Having raised the issue previously, I took advantage of a recent meeting with the Electoral Commission’s Chief Executive, Jenny Watson, to ask whether there was any news on it.
After checking the details, back now has come the good news from her that the Electoral Commission will in future retain its copies of constituency returns for seven years and after that will consider transferring them to the National Archives.
Aside from the regulatory benefits, that would also mean that this source of information about electioneering will be preserved for future political scientists and historians to make use of.