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Electoral Reform

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

2. What discussions the Electoral Commission has had with Government Departments on funding levels necessary for it to undertake its functions under the Government's programme of electoral reform. (11093)

The Electoral Commission informs me that its chair and chief executive have held discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister on the commission’s role in relation to a referendum on changes to the voting system for the United Kingdom Parliament, and on the funds that it will require to perform that role. The commission also informs me that it has not held discussions with the Government about the funding implications of other proposals for electoral reform.

If there is one thing more important than tackling the deficit, it is the integrity of our democratic system. The hon. Gentleman has set out part of the ambitious programme of reform with which the Electoral Commission is having to deal. Will he also press the Deputy Prime Minister to ring-fence the commission so that its budget will not be cut at this difficult time?

The Electoral Commission expects to have to spend about £9.3 million in connection with the referendum on the alternative voting system. I am sure that the House will approve that amount, and I do not expect any difficulty to be involved in providing the commission with sufficient resources to enable it to do its job properly.

During his discussions with the Electoral Commission about the cost of the forthcoming referendum on electoral reform, did the Deputy Prime Minister tell the commission how much the referendum would cost if it were held on 5 May and how much it would cost if it were held on some other date?

I am afraid I do not know the precise answer to that question, but no doubt the Deputy Prime Minister will be in touch with my hon. Friend to make the position clear.

The extra jobs that the Electoral Commission will have to do in helping with individual registration and so forth will cost money if the system is going to work. Will the hon. Gentleman agree to be the champion of the additional resources that the commission will require, and will he argue for them with his colleagues in Government?

I am happy to be considered to be a champion on that issue. I have little doubt that the Electoral Commission, which has an important role to play in overseeing the political processes in this country, will receive sufficient resources to enable it to do its job.