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House of Commons Hansard
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04 February 2016
Volume 605
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1. What recent assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the potential effect of the date of the EU referendum on mayoral, local, and devolved institutions’ elections. [903465]

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The Electoral Commission recently wrote to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, following that Committee’s recent evidence session, on a number of issues, including the potential impact of the date of the referendum if it were to be held in June. A copy of the letter is available on the Committee’s website.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. As he will know, early-day motion 1042, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins), has cross-party support in the House. It calls for the EU referendum not to be held in June.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that holding the referendum in June would seriously undermine the democratic process? Furthermore, yesterday the First Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales published a joint letter calling for the EU referendum not to be held in June. Does he not agree that the Government should respect the calls from the devolved Administrations and defer the referendum?

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It is for the Government to decide how they respond to the letters from the heads of those Governments. The Electoral Commission has strongly advised the Government and the House about the date of the referendum. The Government listened; they are not holding the referendum in May. I am sure that, as soon as a specific date is announced, the Electoral Commission will give further advice.

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Given the lengthy procedure for determining the lead organisation, will my hon. Friend make it clear that the Electoral Commission will ensure that it appoints a lead organisation in sufficient time—and not halfway through the campaign?

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The Electoral Commission is extremely exercised about the issue of appointing the lead campaigns, and it will do that as soon as possible.

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Will my hon. Friend confirm whether the Electoral Commission has given any views about potential dates for the EU referendum in June?

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My hon. Friend has his finger on the pulse. Let me read one sentence from the appropriate letter:

“As may be expected, the impact is greater the closer together the dates of poll and is particularly significant for the first two Thursdays in June (2 and 9 June in the case of 2016.) I would encourage that these dates are avoided if it is possible to do so.”

That is the advice that the Electoral Commission has given the Government.