Clause 4 - Electoral Commission report

European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 4th November 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 11:15 am, 4th November 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in

clause 4, page 2, line 36, at end insert—

'(c) the impact of the pilot scheme on the campaigns of the candidates and on the political parties.'.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 34, in

clause 4, page 3, line 19, leave out 'a statement' and insert 'statements'.

Amendment No. 9, in

clause 4, page 3, line 22, at end insert—

'(7A) The report must include a statement by the Commission of the views of the candidates and the political parties on the conduct of the election and on the impact of the pilot scheme on the turnout and result.'.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Amendment No. 6 would insert into clause 4 new paragraph (c) to examine the impact of the pilot scheme on the campaigns of the candidates and the political parties. We have also tabled a similar, albeit more far-reaching, amendment introducing new subsection (7A) to clause 4. It sets out a requirement for a statement by the Commission

''of the views of the candidates and the political parties on the conduct of the election and on the impact . . . on the turnout and result.''

Amendment No. 34 makes a minor, grammatical point.

It is important that, when the pilots are examined, some analysis should be made of their impact on the way in which elections were conducted. Much worry was expressed by the Electoral Reform Society about the way in which mixed messages would be sent. For example, the society said that different methods of election will affect media coverage with the same election taking place throughout the United Kingdom. Obviously, the issuing of the ballot papers for a postal pilot between two and three weeks before polling day will shift the campaign period and change the activities that political parties undertake. Earlier in the year, I observed that in the part of my constituency that was a postal pilot area for the local elections.

While the ability exists for the voter to return his or her postal ballot paper on the evening of election day, in practice most voters may vote within a couple of days of receiving their postal ballot paper. As the Electoral Reform Society said, that may be of little consequence in local elections as the entire efforts of a local political party can be focused on a set campaign period. To some extent, therefore, it may not be so important when that period falls. However, as the society said, an election throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, such as a European election—as the Government propose—that is conducted on the basis of two different timetables, will place extra burdens on each political party. That will affect party political broadcasts and media coverage.

The Electoral Reform Society asks:

''Can the Government guarantee that media coverage, especially national news coverage, will be split between those regions with all-postal ballots''

and those with ordinary voting? The Government cannot do that, so there would be major problems. Such matters should be analysed and set out in the Bill.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

In the few seconds remaining—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.