Skip to main content

Alternative Vote Referendum

Volume 519: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2010

1. What discussions the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission has had with the Electoral Commission on its monitoring of the conduct of the forthcoming referendum on the alternative vote. (27046)

The Speaker’s Committee has had no such discussions. However, under section 5 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the Electoral Commission must

“prepare and publish…a report on the administration of”

any UK-wide referendum. The findings of its report will be based on evidence collected from a variety of sources, including an analysis of referendum data, feedback from electoral administrators, designated organisations and permitted participants, and public opinion research.

One area where the Electoral Commission is a statutory consultee is the allocation of referendum campaign broadcasts to the designated yes and no campaigns. In a debate such as that on the alternative vote system, about which there are currently very low levels of public understanding, public engagement could be encouraged and increased by having a higher frequency of much shorter referendum broadcasts. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that the Electoral Commission takes its responsibilities seriously and moves to modernise our system of party broadcasts?

Under current law, the BBC and other broadcast organisations must have regard to the commission’s views when deciding their policy and rules about any referendum campaign broadcasts. Discussions have already taken place, and the Electoral Commission supports the BBC’s proposal to allocate broadcasts on the referendum only to those organisations designated by the commission, which will ensure a fair balance between the yes and no campaigns.