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Police and Crime Commissioners

Volume 528: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2011

8. What discussions he has had with the Electoral Commission on the conduct of elections for police and crime commissioners. (56966)

I have discussed the conduct of the elections for police and crime commissioners with the chair of the Electoral Commission. Cabinet Office officials have also been working closely with their counterparts at the Electoral Commission as part of work with the Home Department on the policy and legislation that will be required to allow for the conduct and regulation of those elections.

Many of my constituents would far rather see the estimated £100 million cost of running such elections for police commissioners spent on keeping police on the beat, but will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us the views of the Electoral Commission on limits to the campaigning expenses for elected police commissioner candidates?

The intention will of course be to bring the legislation on elections for police and crime commissioners into line with that on other elections. We are absolutely determined to deliver the commitment in the coalition agreement to hold the elections so that we have greater accountability in policing. Policing matters to every single family and community in this country, and that is why we should make the police more accountable to the people they serve.

Can the Deputy Prime Minister assure us that he will do what he can to ensure that there is no repeat of what happened in Northern Ireland earlier this month, when we had three different polls on one day, an inordinate delay in declaring the AV referendum result and significant delays in the other polls as well?

I am obviously very keen to hear from the hon. Gentleman any specific reservations he has about how the combination of polls operated, but the provisional feedback seems to be that, despite some very dire warnings about the combination of polls not only in Northern Ireland but elsewhere, on the whole it was conducted very successfully indeed.

The Deputy Prime Minister will know that plans for police commissioners are a pretty major change in the way we do things, with new electoral boundaries and a new post. I will not go into the substance of the disagreement between the two sides about police commissioners, but on a procedural point the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned his discussions with the Electoral Commission. How soon in advance of the elections, which are now less than a year away, will we see the rules on spending limits, on fundraising transparency and on how the elections are held? He will be aware that all parties need to have time to select candidates throughout the country.

The right hon. Gentleman —unusually—makes a fair point. We do need to get these rules into place in good time, and we will be working with the Electoral Commission at all levels to make sure that the rules are available to everybody who wants to participate in these elections in good time so that they can be held in the proper way.