Clause 7

Political Parties and Elections Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 11 November 2008.

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Political restrictions on Electoral Commissioners and staff

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice, Shadow Minister (Shadow Solicitor General), Home Affairs

The Electoral Commission has raised a point on clause 7 that members of the Committee have not really been in a position to put forward in an amendment, but on which I would like the Government to put their position on the record. Is it a good idea to reduce from 10 years to five years the period of restrictions on political activities for non-political commissioners? The Electoral Commission’s view seems to be that, although it is not particularly in favour of political commissioners, if there are to be political commissioners, there must be a very clear distinction between the political and non-political ones. I would like the Government to put on record their reply to the Electoral Commission’s point.

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I beg the Committee’s pardon. I am afraid that I was leafing through my folder while the hon. Gentleman was making his point. Will he be very patient with me and repeat it?

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice, Shadow Minister (Shadow Solicitor General), Home Affairs

It is simply the Electoral Commission’s point about clause 7(1). Political activities for the non-political commissioners are currently defined as being activities

“within the last ten years”, which the clause would change to

“within the last five years”.

The commission has expressed some doubt about that. As I understand it, it wishes to make a clear distinction between the non-political and political commissioners, as long as political commissioners are to take part in its work.

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The changes that we are making are in line with the views of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that the current 10-year—

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. I advise Members that they can leave their papers in the Committee room with total safety, as it will be locked until we come back at 4.30 pm, when, I have to confess, my co-Chairman will be in the Chair. The Minister will have time to consider the question put, and I know that the hon. Member for Epping Forest will catch the Chairman’s eye.

It being One o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o’clock.