Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:04 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 3:04 pm, 26th September 2019

If Members will forgive me, I will make a little more progress, and then I will give way to Alan Brown.

We are working to reduce intimidation around the ballot box, and intimidation of those in public life. I am sure the whole House will agree that the latter is a deeply worrying trend that we must reverse. Indeed, earlier this year the Government legislated to prevent candidates in local elections from having to declare their addresses on the ballot paper. We have consulted on, and committed ourselves to, a new electoral offence to prevent people from intimidating candidates and campaigners.

However—and this, really, is the essence of the debate—more important than the preparations for an election are the consequences of that election. One seismic democratic event has dominated our proceedings since I was elected to the House in 2015, and that, of course, is our referendum on membership of the European Union. It was something that we had promised in the manifesto on which I was elected, and I well recall the deep scepticism of voters that we would ever deliver on it. Frankly, I do not blame the voters. Other parties had been promising referendums for years: Labour in 2005, the Liberal Democrats in 2008, and the Greens in 2010. In fact, one way or another, every major political party in Britain fought an election between 2005 and 2015 with a pledge to hold a referendum on our relationship with Europe.