Electoral Commission

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 26th March 2014.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 5:08 pm, 26th March 2014

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint as Electoral Commissioners:

(1) Ms Bridget Prentice for the period ending on 30 September 2018; and

(2) Mr Alasdair Morgan for the period ending on 30 September 2016.

The Electoral Commission was established by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 as a body independent of Government. The chair of the Electoral Commission and the other electoral commissioners are appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, following an address from the House of Commons.

The procedure for appointing electoral commissioners is put in place and overseen by the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission. Candidates’ names are put before the House with the agreement of the Speaker. The Speaker’s Committee follows best practice guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in relation to commissioner appointments.

Section 5 of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, which inserted new section 3A into the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, states that four of the electoral commissioners should be persons put forward by the registered leader of a qualifying party for consideration for appointment. Those commissioners are described in the statute as “nominated Commissioners”. A qualifying party is one with two or more Members on the Floor of the House of Commons.

The motion before the House asks Her Majesty to appoint Ms Bridget Prentice as the electoral commissioner nominated by the leader of the Labour party to succeed Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Mr Alasdair Morgan as the electoral commissioner nominated by the leader of the Scottish National party to succeed the right hon. Sir George Reid. Lord Kennedy and Sir George Reid have served the Speaker’s Committee and the House diligently. I know that Mr Speaker and the other members of the Speaker’s Committee would want me to place on the record their gratitude for the dedication of those commissioners to the work of the Electoral Commission.

Ms Prentice’s term will end on 30 September 2018 and Mr Morgan’s term will run until 30 September 2016, as has been the practice for such appointments. Given that both posts are vacant, the terms of both candidates will commence following Her Majesty’s decision to appoint them.

The candidates who are named in the motion have extensive political and electoral experience, as is highlighted in the report that was published by the Speaker’s Committee, which has been tagged as a document relevant to this debate. Ms Prentice served as the Member of Parliament for Lewisham East from 1992 to 2010, and as a Minister in the Ministry of Justice from 2005 to 2010. As a Minister, she was responsible for 14 areas of policy, including electoral administration. Mr Morgan was a Member of the House of Commons and the Scottish

Parliament. He has demonstrated a deep knowledge of electoral processes and regulations. He also has a record of building consensus through chairing and convening a number of parliamentary Committees, including the Justice and Home Affairs Committee in the Scottish Parliament.

The statute requires that the motion be tabled with the agreement of the Speaker. I confirm that Mr Speaker has signified his consent. I trust that the House will approve the motion, and I commend it to the House.