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Electoral Commission

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

20. What representations he has received on the pre-conditions for employment by the Electoral Commission. (74907)

The Speaker’s Committee has not received any representations on the application by the Electoral Commission of statutory restrictions to staff appointments.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that experience of the political process is a valuable asset to a body that deliberates on, among other things, the funding and organisational practices of political parties? Does he consider that the practice of recruiting only people who have not had any active involvement in any political party for the 10 years before application may not be the best use of those potential assets to the commission?

I know of the hon. Gentleman’s interest and recently read an article that he published on the subject. The 10-year rule and the other disqualification criteria for the appointment of commissioners and commission staff were determined by Parliament when it passed the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. However, as he may be aware, that aspect of the Act is being reviewed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its inquiry into the Electoral Commission. It is a subject, too, about which the Speaker’s Committee has expressed concern, as the minutes of the July 2004 meeting reveal.

The hon. Gentleman will know that, under the previous Government, the Widdecombe commission looked at restricting the political activity of people in particular positions. Will he examine that when considering into what the Speaker’s Committee can make inquiries, because many of my friends believe that that places an undue burden on their right to pursue a passive interest in the political process?

Yes, the Committee on Standards in Public Life was instrumental in setting up the Electoral Commission. The current inquiry is wide-ranging, and I am sure that it will take account of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman.