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Elections Bill: Electoral Commission’s Discharge of Functions

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

What assessment the Committee has made of the potential effect of the proposal in the Elections Bill to introduce a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission on the ability of the commission to discharge its functions. (903184)

Any changes to the commission’s accountability are a matter for the UK Parliament through statute and not the Speaker’s Committee. The Elections Bill was introduced to the House earlier this month. Members will have the opportunity to debate the proposals relating to the Electoral Commission during the passage of the Bill. The commission will provide briefings for parliamentarians to support their considerations of the Bill’s content and impact, covering the full scope of the measures proposed.

I thank the hon. Member for that response, but under the Government’s proposals in the Elections Bill, the Electoral Commission’s powers to ensure that criminal offences under electoral law are prosecuted will be drastically curtailed. Given the numerous instances over recent years of sharp practice and outright criminality, and the corrupting influence of dark money in our democratic processes, will the Electoral Commission be able to fulfil its basic remit and properly regulate donations and spending if the Bill is passed?

The Electoral Commission tells me that effective enforcement when the rules are broken gives voters and campaigners confidence in the system. Where any political party or campaigner deliberately or recklessly breaks electoral law, voters have the right to expect that they will face prosecution. The Government do not consider prosecution to be an area of work that the commission should undertake. If the Elections Bill is passed, the commission will work with the Government and other prosecuting authorities to ensure that there is no regulatory gap across the full range of offences. The commission will retain a range of other powers and access to civil sanctions to continue its important work in regulating political finance.