Elections: May 2021

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 13th January 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 1:37 pm, 13th January 2021

I will do my best to help you to get this moving as quickly as we would all like, Madam Deputy Speaker. First, on a personal note, may I thank Cat Smith for her support? It is nice of her to say. I have been grateful for lots of support from across the House as I have treatment for breast cancer.

On the hon. Lady’s questions, however, I am afraid that she is wrong to take a party political position on this issue. The Labour party has perhaps been so busy telling itself a story that it has been spinning that it has not looked at how we can actually get it right. It is simply not the case that there has been no action. If she had listened to my opening statement, she would have heard that loud and clear. I absolutely agree that it needs to be done in good time, and it has been. As I have set out in the House, in parliamentary questions and in working with, for example, the election administration sector, there is a record of all the preparation that has been done and that is being taken careful account of ready for May.

The hon. Lady asked specifically whether there will be clear guidance. As I said, there will be. She rightly asked about staff, who are of course a concern. Naturally, we want to make sure that staff in any employment sector are protected in their workplace, as has been the case during the pandemic across the breadth of business sectors, public and private, up and down the land. That is being accounted for in the careful planning.

The hon. Lady also understandably asked about co-operation with the devolved Administrations, because elections are taking place in England, Scotland and Wales. Although it is naturally not my responsibility to answer for the polls in Wales and Scotland, I hope that a sensible position can be achieved that allows voters the clearest opportunity to go to the polls and, as I said, to hold those who have the privilege of governing them to account. That is important in these elections. It is my intention to carry on working in the collaborative way that I do with my counterparts in those Administrations to assist that happening across the Administrations wherever it is needed.

Finally—I will not dignify it with more of a response than this—the very idea that somebody would be forced to choose between their health and their vote is simply not an issue in this case. It degrades the debate we ought to be having about how to have sensible elections, and it undermines the sensible work that has gone on by those who are responsible for running elections across the country, to whom I pay tribute.