Electoral Commission

Exiting the European Union (Transport) – in the House of Commons at 1:53 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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[Relevant document: The First Report of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, Re-appointment of an Electoral Commissioner, HC 2513.]

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 1:55 pm, 23rd July 2019

I beg to move,

That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will re-appoint Rob Vincent CBE as an Electoral Commissioner with effect from 1 January 2020 for the period ending 31 December 2023.

The motion proposes that a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty will reappoint Rob Vincent CBE as an electoral commissioner for a period of four years from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023. Mr Vincent has served as an electoral commissioner since 1 January 2016, and his current term expires on 31 December 2019.

It may help if I set out some of the background to this appointment. Electoral commissioners are appointed under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as amended by the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009. Under the Act, the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission has a responsibility to oversee the selection of candidates for appointment to the Electoral Commission, including the reappointment of commissioners. The Speaker’s committee has produced a report, its first report of 2019, in relation to this motion.

The Electoral Commission includes up to six ordinary commissioners, who are subject to restrictions as to political activity. These are recruited by open competition, under a procedure put in place and overseen by the Speaker’s committee. The Electoral Commission also has four nominated commissioners, who are persons put forward by the registered leader of a qualifying party for consideration for appointment. Mr Vincent is an ordinary commissioner and was recruited through an open and fair competition conducted in 2015.

The Speaker’s committee is required by section 3 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as amended, to oversee the procedure for selecting candidates for appointment to the Electoral Commission. Under section 3(5A) of the Act, this duty encompasses the recommendation of candidates for reappointment to the Electoral Commission. There is no presumption in the statute either for or against reappointment.

At its meeting in March 2019, the Speaker’s committee considered a request from Sir John Holmes, the chair of the Electoral Commission, seeking Mr Vincent’s reappointment for a second term. In considering the question, the committee had regard to the report on Mr Vincent’s effectiveness in the role, as submitted by Sir John. In particular, the committee was informed that Mr Vincent’s previous experience as a returning officer in a local authority, and the practical understanding of this work he was able to bring to the work of the commission, had been extremely valuable.

Having carefully considered Sir John’s report, the Speaker’s committee concluded that it was content to recommend Mr Vincent for reappointment. Once the Speaker’s committee has reached a decision, statute requires that the Speaker consult the registered leader of each registered party, provided that that party commands at least two Members of this House. The Speaker therefore accordingly wrote to the leaders of the qualifying parties in April, consulting them on Mr Vincent’s reappointment. No objections or concerns were received by the Speaker in response to this consultation. The Speaker’s committee therefore commends the reappointment of Mr Vincent to the House. If the appointment is made, Rob Vincent will continue to serve on the Electoral Commission until 31 December 2023. I am sure that, should this motion pass today, his expertise will continue to be appreciated by the commission.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

Given the importance of this reappointment to the Electoral Commission’s work, will the Government start working on the Electoral Commission’s recommendations, including the recommendation that electoral fines are too small and seen as normal, day-to-day business by the major UK parties; and the recommendation about revealing donations in Northern Ireland further back than the cut-off date set by the Government?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I will say two things in response to the hon. Gentleman’s question. The first is that it is slightly out of the scope of this debate on a motion concerning the reappointment of an electoral commissioner. I will, however, indulge the hon. Gentleman with my second observation, which is that the wider issues that he has raised would be best taken up with the Minister with responsibility for the constitution, my hon. Friend Kevin Foster.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 2:00 pm, 23rd July 2019

I thank the Leader of the House for moving the motion. I thank the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission for overseeing the procedure for selecting candidates for appointment to the Electoral Commission, and for producing its report, “Re-appointment of an Electoral Commissioner”, which was published on 8 July 2019. I thank Mr Speaker for chairing the committee and I thank the other members: Mr Lidington; the hon. Members for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin), for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) and for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns); and my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero), for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson).

Rob Vincent CBE has served as an electoral commissioner since 1 January 2016, and his current term of office expires on 31 December 2019. At its meeting on 18 March 2019, the Speaker’s committee considered a letter from the chair of the Electoral Commission, Sir John Holmes, seeking Mr Vincent’s reappointment for a second term. Sir John told the committee that Mr Vincent had consistently achieved the objectives agreed with him since his appointment, and that he had offered valuable contributions to the board’s debates on strategy and resources.

Sir John also noted Mr Vincent’s past experience, which the Leader of the House has outlined, as a returning officer in a local authority, and the practical understanding of that work that he had been able to bring to board meetings. Mr Vincent was chief executive of Kirklees Council between 2004 and 2010, and of Doncaster Council between 2010 and 2011.

After considering Sir John’s letter, the committee recommended that Mr Vincent be reappointed with effect from 1 January 2020 for the period ending 31 December 2023. The Speaker wrote to the leaders of the qualifying parties on 4 April 2019 on the committee’s recommendation. No objections or concerns were received from Her Majesty’s Official Opposition—the Labour party—or, as I understand it, from other parties, so the Opposition support the motion.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 2:02 pm, 23rd July 2019

I want briefly, and for the record, to associate myself with the observations made by the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House concerning the suitability of Mr Vincent for his current and future position. The third party has no objection to the motion, and we look forward to Mr Vincent continuing in his role in the Electoral Commission.

Question put and agreed to.