Electoral Commission

Thank you for contacting me about the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. In accordance with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the Commission has a range of supervisory and investigatory powers which enable them to monitor compliance with electoral finance laws proactively and enforce suspected offences.

The Electoral Commission is operationally independent of government and is governed by the Commissioners. The Electoral Commission is accountable to Parliament through the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission.

I do not agree with the view that the requirement for a Strategy and Policy Statement will compromise the independence of the Electoral Commission. Although the Commission will be required to consider the Strategy and Policy Statement, this does not grant the Government new powers to influence the Electoral Commission’s decision-making process. It is commonplace for the Government, as approved by Parliament, to set a broad policy framework, by which independent regulators should work. This is already the case for Ofcom and Ofgem, for example. The Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission and the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee were consulted on a draft of the statement and the final statement was voted on by a majority in Parliament.

Let me assure you that I believe the Statement was compatible with the foundational principle that the Commission remains operationally independent. I know that the Government has been clear on this fact. The Government had already made substantive revisions to the Statement, after the statutory consultation, providing clarifications and reassurances regarding the operational independence of the Electoral Commission. Additionally, it clarified that the Statement articulated the Government’s view of factors the Commission should have regard to, but that Commissioners and the Commission’s executive leadership remain responsible for determining how the Commission exercises its functions. For these reasons I voted for the Draft Electoral Commission Strategy and Policy Statement.