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House of Commons
Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

Electoral Commission

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First Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Sir John Butterfill

†Ainsworth, Mr. Bob (Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household)
†Blackman, Liz (Erewash) (Lab)
Corbyn, Jeremy (Islington, North) (Lab)
†Devine, Mr. Jim (Livingston) (Lab)
†Griffiths, Nigel (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons)
†Heath, Mr. David (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
Jones, Mr. David (Clwyd, West) (Con)
†May, Mrs. Theresa (Maidenhead) (Con)
†McCafferty, Chris (Calder Valley) (Lab)
†Miller, Andrew (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
†Moon, Mrs. Madeleine (Bridgend) (Lab)
†Robathan, Mr. Andrew (Blaby) (Con)
†Shapps, Grant (Welwyn Hatfield) (Con)
Stunell, Andrew (Hazel Grove) (LD)
†Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)
Wills, Mr. Michael (North Swindon) (Lab)
†Wright, Jeremy (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con)
Gosia McBride, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

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Tuesday 17 January 2006

[Sir John Butterfill in the Chair]

Electoral Commission

4.30 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Nigel Griffiths): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the motion in respect of the Electoral Commission in the name of Mr. Geoffrey Hoon.

The motion proposes that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will re-appoint as electoral commissioners, with effect from 19 January 2006, Jonathan Glyn Mathias for the period of two years and Sukhminder Karamjit Singh CBE for the period of four years.

The chairman of the Electoral Commission, Sam Younger, proposed the reappointments. Mr. Speaker then consulted party leaders as required under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. They raised no objections. Mr. Speaker then gave his agreement to a motion being made in the House for the reappointments and wrote to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to ask him to arrange for today’s motion to be considered. I should emphasise that, as the Electoral Commission is independent of the Government, it is a House matter, as was a similar motion last year. The Leader of the House and I are acting at the request of the Speaker.

It is proposed that Glyn Mathias and Karamjit Singh, who currently serve on the commission, are reappointed. One of the effects of the motion, as with last year’s motion, is that, combined with the initial periods of appointment, we now have a rolling pattern of appointments. That will help preserve a degree of continuity when, in due course, fresh appointments are made.

To underpin the commission’s independence and to provide for a degree of parliamentary accountability, the Speaker has certain responsibilities for the commission under the 2000 Act. One of those areas of responsibility is the appointment of commissioners.

I know that colleagues will want to join me in paying tribute to the work of the two commissioners whose reappointment we are considering today. We are grateful to them for the service that they have given already and for their willingness to continue to serve. Glyn Mathias has had a long and distinguished career as a BBC and ITN journalist. He has served on the commission for five years. Karamjit Singh CBE has also served for five years, and has given distinguished public service on, among other bodies, the Civil Service Commission, the Police Complaints Authority, the Commission for Racial Equality and, in
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local government, as an assistant county clerk. He is currently a member of the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The chairman of the Electoral Commission has proposed that Mr. Mathias be reappointed for two years, and Mr. Singh for four. I understand both are content with that recommendation. I hope that the reappointment of the two commissioners will be supported by all parties in the House. I commend the motion to the Committee.

4.33 pm

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak. The Committee will be on tenterhooks, wanting to know whether we might be about to call a Division on the reappointment to the Electoral Commission of these two individuals. Members will be relieved to hear that I have no intention of objecting to their reappointment. As the Minister said, they have given good service to the commission over a number of years, and it is entirely appropriate that they be reappointed for the periods proposed by Mr. Speaker.

The debate gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the Electoral Commission and of these two individuals in bringing important matters before the House in relation to the electoral system. I hope that the Government will pay more attention to the commission in future, particularly when it raises issues such as the importance of ensuring the security of the postal voting system. The Government have still not taken on board everything that the commission put before them on that subject. We will have other opportunities to explore the details of some of those points and the importance of responding to matters that are rightly raised by the commission about the operation and processes of elections.

I am happy to support the motion for the reappointment of the two individuals for the periods of time set out. I pay tribute to the work that they have already done, and I am sure that they will continue with it in the time to come.

4.35 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I concur with the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). In my capacity as a spokesman for my party on constitutional affairs, I have worked closely with the Electoral Commission on a number of occasions. I have good reason to respect its judgment and the assiduity with which it does its work on behalf of the British public. I am grateful to the commission for what it does, and I am grateful to the two commissioners for their work.

I have a word or two to say about the process. I was a little surprised that it should be necessary for the motion to be considered by a Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation. One imagines that it would normally go directly to the House for confirmation. However, as we are here, I simply suggest that it might
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be good practice, given that we are being asked to put our imprimatur to their reappointment, to circulate among members of the Committee the curricula vitae of the prospective candidates, so that we can be aware in advance of their personal and occupational history.

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I have no problem with the motion, and I trust that we can swiftly move to a conclusion.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose at twenty-four minutes to Five o’clock.


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