Clause 30 - Discretion to report on certain elections

Electoral Administration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:15 am ar 17 Tachwedd 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Brian Binley Brian Binley Ceidwadwyr, Northampton South

This is not a very contentious clause, and I do not want it to be one. I recognise that the training of electoral registration officers and electoral administration staff will be dealt with in another place, but the clause talks about reports on elections, and I wonder whether the report will contain reports on the quality of administration and the performance of electoral registration officers and their staff. I do not suppose that it will be a sort of school report, but that we might use it to improve our electoral administration, because there is a general impression—it is certainly mine—that the concept of good election organisation has deteriorated in the past 30 years and certainly in recent years.

Electoral registration officers and their staff used to be in situ for a very long time, but that no longer seems to happen to the same degree. Very often, a new person is in charge of a general election every time we have one. There is therefore a real need for training as a whole, which I shall discuss later when we deal with the relevant part of the Bill. In this respect, however, we need to monitor the whole process, and I wonder whether monitoring will be part of the reporting procedure.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Minister of State (Department of Constitutional Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Following the debate on the previous clause, I should say that the Bill would have been a classic case for pre-legislative scrutiny. However, we wanted to get the fraud measures in as soon as possible. We want to deliberate long and hard on some provisions; with others, we just wanted to get them on to the statute book. That explains the two speeds.

In reply to the hon. Member for Northampton, South, performance standards will be laid down and monitored by the Electoral Commission. I assume that the issues he mentioned would be part of those standards.

Clause 30 will give the Electoral Commission a power, but not a duty, to report on certain elections in addition to those that they must report on at present. Section 5 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 requires the Electoral Commission to prepare and publish reports on the administration of certain elections and referendums, including parliamentary elections, European parliamentary elections, Scottish parliamentary elections, elections to the National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly and UK and regional referendums. There is presently no duty or power to report on by-elections to those bodies. The clause will therefore add a power to report on parliamentary by-elections as well as those to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. It does not mean that the Electoral Commission must prepare such reports but allows it to do so if it wishes. It is a sensible extension to the commission's powers that gives it the flexibility it feels that it needs to prepare reports when it considers them necessary.

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.