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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 459: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission was asked—

Electoral Administration

22. What plans the Electoral Commission has to exercise the powers given to it under the Electoral Administration Act 2006 to set and monitor performance standards in electoral services. (131443)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it is developing performance standards for electoral services. It is intended that the standards for electoral registration will be set in early 2008 and that the standards for elections will be in place for 2009.

I am grateful for that answer, but how can we ensure that during the current elections, pending the new performance standards, no electoral returning officer will make perverse decisions that are possibly against the law?

The commission informs me that it has no powers to compel performance improvement. Its powers are restricted to setting the standards and requesting information in order to measure performance against the standards. To put that in context, the Audit Commission has no powers to enforce particular regulations on local authorities; it does it by example. The Electoral Commission feels that it has sufficient authority to raise standards among electoral registration officers.

Constituency Boundaries

23. If his Committee will discuss with the Electoral Commission the effect of disparity in sizes of electorate on the constituency boundaries. (131444)

The Speaker’s Committee has no plans to do so. Responsibility for review of parliamentary constituency boundaries rests with the four parliamentary boundary commissioners, not the Electoral Commission.

Will the hon. Gentleman discuss with his colleagues on the Speaker’s Committee and the Electoral Commission the proposal that is on the agenda to bring under one umbrella somewhere the review of all the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies for Westminster in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, in order to ensure that whatever way people vote and whatever constituency they are in, the same criteria apply across the country, and above all that votes are worth the same because the constituency quota is the same whether in Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland?

The Electoral Commission has no direct role in relation to parliamentary constituency boundaries. As to how the review might be carried forward, the last review was carried through by Parliament itself. The Electoral Commission has no opinion as to whether it should be responsible for the review. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Committee on Standards in Public Life also expressed a view on this issue.