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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

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

Referendums (Timing)

7. What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the effects of holding referendums on the same day as other elections. (11098)

The Electoral Commission set out its position on the proposal to hold a UK-wide referendum next year on changes to the voting system to the UK Parliament in a statement on Thursday 22 July, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. The commission said in its statement that on balance it believes it should be possible to deliver the different polls proposed for 5 May 2011 if the key practical risks in doing so are properly managed. The commission will advise Government and Parliament if these risks have not been adequately addressed at the appropriate stage during consideration of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.

Given that the Deputy Prime Minister did not have the courtesy to consult the Welsh Assembly Government before making the decision to have the alternative vote referendum on the same day as the Welsh Assembly elections, will the Electoral Commission be listening to the concerns in Wales about the distraction caused by holding the two elections on one day, particularly in terms of competing media campaigns?

The Electoral Commission is extremely good at consulting all its stakeholders, and that will certainly involve all kinds of interest groups in Wales in the run-up to the referendum.

In November 2009 the Electoral Commission took a long look at all the international experience of holding different kinds of votes and referendums on the same day and came to the conclusion that, in principle, it is wrong to maintain that we cannot hold two votes on the same day along the lines that it had previously indicated. However, it is of course looking to make sure that the key safeguards are in place, notably those relating to public awareness and the design of ballot papers, and it will advise Government on that well before the referendum next May.