Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of any liberal democracy and I can assure you that I, and indeed the Government take these core principles extremely seriously.
The purpose of the forthcoming Elections Bill is to reaffirm that the authority for criminal investigations and prosecutions relating to electoral law is with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, who are experts in this field.
The Electoral Commission has sought to develop the capability to bring criminal offences before the courts, which has never been agreed by the Government or Parliament. This has led to a situation in which the Electoral Commission themselves say ‘the current dual jurisdiction for the party and campaigner regime offences between the Commission and the police has created some uncertainties for those we regulate, and for voters.’
The Government proposes to implement reforms that will bring much needed clarity on this matter. Any reforms will bring greater accountability to Parliament on how the Electoral Commission discharges its wider functions, as well as ensuring that we have an Electoral Commission fit for a modern democracy in the 21st Century.
Such reforms, however, will not in any way affect the ability of the Electoral Commission to undertake enforcement activity as it sees fit and I want to reassure you that the investigative and operational decisions of the Electoral Commission will be unhindered. Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution Chloe reiterated this in Parliament on 17 June.
The Government has been guided by independent advice on the need to reform the Electoral Commission. The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee are currently reviewing the role of the Electoral Commission in the regulation of elections. Any final Government decision will carefully consider their findings, which are expected to be published in the coming weeks.
I look forward to reviewing these published findings as a matter of personal interest.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.