Election Finance and Policy

Cabinet Office written statement – made on 15th September 2021.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

This Government is committed to ensuring our democracy is secure, fair, modern and transparent and through the changes being brought in by the Elections Bill, we are updating our electoral systems to ensure they are kept up to date for our age.

The Elections Bill will progress this week to Committee stage in the House of Commons, and to aid hon. Members in their consideration of the Bill, I am today (15 September) publishing two documents relating to measures in the Elections Bill: specifically an illustrative Electoral Commission Strategy and Policy Statement; and the Government’s response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) report into Regulating Election Finance.

Electoral Commission Strategy and Policy Statement

As I set out in my statement to the House on 17 June, the Elections Bill provides for the introduction of a Strategy and Policy Statement, which will set out guidance and principles to which the Electoral Commission must have regard in exercising their functions. I committed to publish an illustrative example of this Statement to aid parliamentarians’ understanding of this measure, and I have today placed a copy of this in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government will continue to engage with interested parties, including the Parliamentary Parties Panel, on this illustrative Statement.

It is important to note that this is an illustrative example of the Strategy and Policy Statement - the Bill does not include the text of the Statement, and instead makes provision for the Statement to be introduced in secondary legislation. Following Royal Assent, a draft Statement will be subject to a statutory consultation with the stakeholders listed in the Bill before the approval of Parliament is sought.

To further support Parliament’s scrutiny of the Bill, on 7 September I also made a statement to the House on the role of the Speaker’s Committee in holding the Electoral Commission to account, and placed an infographic outlining the Commission’s existing accountability framework in the Libraries of Both Houses.

The Government response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) report on Regulating Election Finance

We have today published the Government’s response to the CSPL report on Regulating Election Finance. The Government welcomes the report published in July by the CSPL, and agrees with the key principles of fairness, transparency and integrity which have guided their

work. Indeed, our existing regulatory framework is already based upon these principles.

It is, of course, important that the rules around electoral finance are kept under review and updated as necessary. As I set out in my statement to the House on 15 June, the Elections Bill is making important reforms to the regulatory framework to support public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system, by strengthening and updating political finance and campaigning regulation; these include reforms that relate directly to recommendations made in the CSPL report.

Electoral law is complex and it is important that any changes are made with careful consideration. Therefore, the Government intends to look at all the recommendations in the CSPL report alongside other recommendations set out in similar reports, including the forthcoming Reports from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the work of the Electoral Commission and the Elections Bill, as part of further work examining the regulatory framework for elections, beyond the Elections Bill.

We are the stewards of a fantastic democratic heritage which must be kept up to date to protect our democracy and maintain public confidence in our electoral system.

The associated documents have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.