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Elections (2004)

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I have today placed in the Library of the House a summary of the responses which the Government received to their consultation paper "Combining English Local Authority, Greater London Authority and European Parliament Elections in 2004".A total of 364 responses were received to the consultation exercise. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor's Department have analysed these responses very carefully.The consultation document sought views on five issues.

The first issue was whether respondents agreed with the proposal to combine the local and GLA elections with the European Parliamentary Elections in 2004. Of those expressing a view, 172 of those responses agreed with this proposal, while 138 disagreed.

The consultation document secondly asked what practical issues respondents foresaw in combining most effectively the local (and, where applicable, parish) elections with the European Parliamentary Elections, and thirdly what practical issues they foresaw in combining most effectively the GLA elections with the European Parliamentary Elections. Respondents raised a range of different practical issues, relating to the operation of the elections themselves and council business more widely, such as the terms of office of members and the date of annual meetings.

The consultation document asked fourthly what action should be taken to address any practical issues raised. Respondents, including electoral administrators, have put forward a number of suggestions. Having considered the nature of the practical issues raised and the range of solutions available, the Government believe that there is no practical impediment to the combination of local, GLA and European Parliamentary Elections in 2004.

In the light of the responses to these four issues and the Government's analysis of the issues raised, our current intent ion remains to exercise the order-making provisions we are seeking in the Local Government Bill, if these are enacted by Parliament, to allow the combination of local elections in 2004 with the next elections to the European Parliament, which are due to take place on 10 June 2004.

The fifth issue on which the consultation document sought views was on whether to move elections to a weekend. Of those expressing a view, 74 were in favour of this proposal, 66 respondents supported further pilots or testing of weekend voting and 91 were against.

In the light of this response, the Government intend to take forward further pilots of weekend voting in view of potential benefits to electors, and taking into account the costs involved. A series of practical difficulties were raised about proceeding with nation-wide weekend voting in 2004. In particular, the Electoral Commission did not support wholesale mandatory weekend voting in 2004. Therefore the Government remain of the view that in 2004 local, GLA and European Parliamentary elections should take place on Thursday 10 June.