The Electoral Commission informs me that it has not issued such guidance to returning officers. Any change to the date of a polling day would require legislation.
I thank my hon. Friend for that response, but does he share my concern about what would happen if the swine flu pandemic were to escalate and hundreds of thousands of people were to be ill on 4 June? How could the elections possibly continue in such circumstances?
My hon. Friend is on to a potentially important point. The commission advises me that it is in regular contact with the Ministry of Justice on this issue and will keep the situation under review. The commission will consider issuing guidance, possibly in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, if and when appropriate. Moreover, the commission has issued general guidance to returning officers that emphasises the importance of ensuring that they have general mechanisms in place to identify and manage risks and to develop contingency plans for dealing with such situations if they materialise.