Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-144)

9 MARCH 2004


  Q140 Mr Cummings: Is there any evidence that all-postal voting favours one political party or another?

  Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham: No.

  Q141 Mr Cummings: You do in your evidence raise general concerns about the impact on the campaigning of the rolling out of postal elections.

  Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham: It is the timescale problems that Mori touched on. I found it rather eerie last year effectively when the election was in May, the campaign finished in canvassing terms a couple of weeks before polling day and I was bereft really, there was not that much to do.

  Q142 Chairman: You could have gone to one of neighbouring authorities that did not have a pilot.

  Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham: We had pilots in the neighbouring authorities.

  Q143 Chairman: What about making sure that everyone gets the information at the same time? When ballot papers go out ought each candidate be able to send one piece of literature in the same envelope.

  Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham: I have mixed views about that because of course for minority and extremist parties that is a convenient way of distributing their literature when they might not have the resources to do it. I am not sure I would want to facilitate that, if they were going to put their literature out then so be it, you could not exclude any candidate from availing themselves of that opportunity. Moreover, if you have multiple elections, as you will have this year, you will have parcels delivered at the same time rather than envelopes if you had leaflets from goodness knows how many candidates.

  Q144 Mr Cummings: Are independent candidates at parish level in any way disadvantaged by the all-postal elections?

  Mr Green: There has been some concern about that. Not ignoring Sir Jeremy's concern about how they might be used, if each member, each person standing in a contested parish council election was allowed to put one piece of literature in that went with the ballot paper in the post it would not matter whether you were the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems or Independent in a sense the electorate would have access to your additional input which at our level in some of the first tier councils it would be difficult because most people might know the candidates involved but we would find that a useful tool. In the context that every political party gets during a general election the right to have one piece of communication delivered it is not much of an intellectual step to bring that into the terms of local government elections and for it to be fair and reasonable.

  Chairman: On that note can I thank you very much for your evidence. Thank you.

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