Part 3 — Amendments of other enactments
Royal Commission (London)
Mark Harper (Parliamentary Secretary (Political and Constitutional Reform), Cabinet Office; Forest of Dean, Conservative)
I want to speak to Government amendments 230, 231 and 232, which relate to the question, and I note that similar provisions were tabled by members of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, so their names have been added to the Government amendments. For every referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to consider the wording of the proposed referendum question and to publish a statement of its views on its intelligibility. Where the question is contained in a Bill, this duty is triggered when the Bill is introduced and the report has to be submitted as soon as reasonably practicable after that. The commission completed the process for the referendum on the current voting system on
Most people whom the Electoral Commission consulted felt that the existing question, as proposed by the Government in the Bill, was neutral and not biased. Many considered it to be clear, direct, concise and straightforward. Others, however, found it difficult to understand and confusing. The commission has therefore suggested that the question should be changed to read:
The proposal for a two-sentence question, rather than the one-sentence question proposed by the Government, was based on evidence from the commission's public opinion research, which involved focus groups and interviews with members of the public as well as input from experts on plain language. The redraft avoids some of the slightly complex language in the original question, abbreviates some of the terminology, and splits the one long sentence in the original into two shorter ones.