On 15 March, the Electoral Commission submitted its response to the Home Office consultation on the draft statutory instruments for police and crime commissioner elections. A copy of the response has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. The commission’s main concern is the Government’s proposal to create a website to host information from candidates. It believes that this is not the most effective way of ensuring that all voters, especially those who do not have regular internet access, know about the candidates standing in their areas. The commission also made a number of other recommendations to ensure that the elections are well run.
Harlow residents are hugely excited about these elections, not least because Essex Conservatives are encouraging any resident to apply to be our candidate if they are up to the job. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the Electoral Commission will help candidates with leaflets and in other ways, rather than be a bureaucratic hindrance?
As we have learned to know in this House, where Harlow leads, others will follow. My hon. Friend endorses the main point made to the Government by the Electoral Commission—that a website alone will not be enough for individual candidates, many of whom were not well known previously, to get the message across. I very much hope that the Government will listen to the Electoral Commission’s proposal that leaflets to every household are also important.
It is certainly not the job of the Electoral Commission to fund a free mail-out on behalf of candidates, but what it will do as part of its £3.6 million awareness campaign is to ensure that a booklet goes to every household in the 41 areas where these referendums are taking place to inform people about the elections, and it will include a reference to the Government website.