HC Deb 07 March 2000 vol 345 cc568-9W
Miss Widdecombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the Government's policy regarding freepost mailings at local government elections; and if he will make a statement. [112457]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

[holding answer 1 March 2000]Under current legislation, there is no provision for freepost mailing at local government elections because of the considerable financial burden which would have to be borne by local authorities, and the lack of evidence that such schemes would contribute to improved democracy at local level.

We are now seeking two changes to this position. First, in view of the exceptional size of the electorate, we intend to provide special arrangements for the first election of the Mayor of London to allow the compilation of a single booklet of election addresses for mayoral candidates to a standard format. This will be distributed to all London electors at taxpayers' expense. For future elections, we propose that there should be an Order making power to allow the Greater London Authority to organise and pay for mailings (or other ways of informing the public about candidates). Any such scheme would be developed in consultation with the proposed Electoral Commission.

Secondly, we are providing the opportunity for local authorities to pilot, at their own expense, a freepost mailing scheme.