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Clause 13 — Role of Electoral Commission

Part of Firearms (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:55 pm on 25th January 2011.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe 9:55 pm, 25th January 2011

Clause 13 covers the role of the independent Electoral Commission in the administering of any future referendums held under the Bill. The clause would supplement the existing provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Neill committee originally suggested the establishment of such a commission to supervise the restrictions on spending by, and donations to, both political parties and third parties.

As I have explained, we have not sought to disapply or replace any of the general provisions of PPERA. There is, of course, nothing to prevent Parliament doing so in any legislation that might be needed for a referendum in future, in order to reflect the context and the circumstances in which that referendum would be held. Significantly, however, the Act contains no provision to confer on the Electoral Commission power to promote public awareness and understanding of the subject matter of referendums.

We feel that, as part of the Government's firm commitment to helping to rebuild trust and reconnect the British people to decisions made in their name on the European Union, it is important that the administration of any future referendum to be held under this Bill facilitate the understanding and clarity required to enable the British people to make informed decisions on whether or not to approve a treaty change or decision that would transfer power or competence from Britain to Brussels. Clause 13 provides that if a referendum is triggered under the EU Bill, the Electoral Commission has an obligation to take whatever steps it thinks appropriate to promote public awareness of the referendum and how to vote in it.