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Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

5. What steps the Electoral Commission has taken to reduce its spending over the next three years. (33921)

The Electoral Commission plans to reduce its core costs by 27%, or approximately £4.5 million, over the next three years, mainly by cutting spending on year-round public awareness work, staffing and offices.

I am pleased to learn about the cost-cutting, but can my hon. Friend reassure me that the Electoral Commission will have enough funds properly to promote the upcoming alternative vote referendum? Whatever one’s views on AV—I, for the record, am against it—we must ensure that the public are aware of the referendum and its importance.

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Levels of public awareness about the forthcoming referendum on the alternative vote system are extremely low. The Electoral Commission has a budget of just over £9 million for the main referendum, which will enable a leaflet to be distributed to every household in the United Kingdom as well as a wider public awareness campaign.

With 3.5 million voters missing from the registers, will the Electoral Commission give even greater priority to electoral registration? With the difficulties faced by local government and the likelihood that it might look to electoral registration departments to make reductions, will the Electoral Commission ensure that the system is properly policed?

It is terribly important in this country that we try to achieve maximum registration of voters wherever possible. I encourage every colleague to visit their electoral registration officer and quiz them on how they are going about this important task. If any colleague is not happy with the work of an ERO in any locality, the Electoral Commission would be very pleased to hear from them.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider persuading the Electoral Commission to join the campaign for a democracy week—or democracy day—every year in March, ahead of the normal election cycle, as a very cheap and cost-effective way of raising consciousness about electoral registration and participation in elections and referendums?

My hon. Friend is always full of good ideas. That is another one, which I shall certainly pass on to the Electoral Commission.