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EU Referendum Bill

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 18 June 2015

5. What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the proposals in the European Union Referendum Bill relating to disapplication of purdah. (900399)

The Electoral Commission has set out in its briefings on the European Union Referendum Bill why it does not agree with the disapplication of section 125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as proposed in the legislation being considered by this House. The commission’s briefing papers on the legislation are circulated to hon. Members and published on its website.

Does my hon. Friend expect the Government formally to respond to the helpfully clear advice that

“there is a risk that the use of significant amounts of public money for promotional activity could give an unfair advantage to one side of the argument”?

If so, can it be published?

I am not aware of any legal duty for the Government to respond to any recommendations made by the Electoral Commission, but I was pleased to hear earlier this week that the Government appear to be moving in the direction of the advice given by the commission. I am sure that my hon. Friend, who is a tenacious warrior on this issue, will welcome that.

As the hon. Gentleman just said, the Electoral Commission clearly disagreed with the Government’s position. Why does he think that the Government disagreed, other than in a wish to rig the referendum?

Happily, that is not a matter for me. I am sure that will be a question the hon. Gentleman will ask Ministers on the Front Bench, if he has not already done so.