HL Deb 19 April 2000 vol 612 cc112-3WA
Baroness Howells of St Davids

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What previous political activity will make a person unsuitable to be appointed as an electoral commissioner. [HL2047]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)

The recruitment process to find the Commissioners will begin shortly and applicants will be asked to declare any political activity within the last ten years. It will be for the selection panel to determine whether that activity has been such as to make the applicant unsuitable for consideration for appointment. For the Commission to perform effectively the functions given to it by Parliament, it must command wide confidence that it is entirely independent and non-partisan. Accordingly, Commissioners must not be, or perceived to be, associated with any political party.

We also think it is right that there should be statutory disqualifiers. I said during the Second Reading of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill that the Government intend to bring forward amendments to disqualify from appointment as Commissioners persons who have had substantial involvement in party politics.

The Government will be seeking to disqualify any person who within the last ten years has:

  • held a relevant elective office as defined in paragraph 1(8) of Schedule 6 to the Bill;
  • been an officer of a registered political party or one of its accounting units; or
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  • appeared in the register of recordable donations maintained by the Commission.

Additionally, we will be proposing that no person shall be able to serve as Commissioner while a member of a political party. We shall also be seeking powers to allow for the automatic termination of appointment if a Commissioner:

  • stands for a relevant elective office;
  • takes up any office or employment with a registered political party (including accounting units), recognised third parties or permitted participants; or
  • makes a recordable donation.

These additional measures will strengthen the independence of the Commission. The recruitment material sent to applicants will make clear the Government's intention to make these changes to the Bill