Appointment of nominated Commissioners to the Electoral Commission - The Speaker's Committee Contents

Speaker's Committee First Report 2010

1  Introduction

1.  The Electoral Commission was created by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000. Its aim is "integrity and public confidence in the UK's democratic process".[1] It regulates party and election finance and works with others to secure well-run elections, referendums and electoral registration. It is strictly impartial.

2.  The strict impartiality of the Commission originally encompassed all members of the Commission. Section 3 of the PPERA provided that a person could not be appointed as an Electoral Commissioner if he or she had been a member or an officer or employee of a registered party, had been registered as a donor, or had held an elective office such as councillor, MP or MEP within the last ten years. Reviews of the Commission carried out between 2005 and 2008, however, determined that its effectiveness was diminished by the statutory exclusion from membership of anyone with recent political experience. The Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Constitutional Affairs Committee both recommended that a minority of commissioners should have practical experience from across the political spectrum.[2] The Speaker's Committee supported this recommendation.[3]

3.  Section 5 of the Political Parties and Elections (PPE) Act 2009 restructured the Electoral Commission in order to give effect to these recommendations. It provides that four of the Electoral Commissioners should be persons put forward by the registered leader of a qualifying party for consideration for appointment. The Act describes these Commissioners as "nominated Commissioners".[4]

4.  Three of the nominated Commissioners shall be put forward by the registered leader of one of the three largest nominating parties. No two or more nominated Commissioners may be drawn from the same party, and a nominated Commissioner may not be chairman of the Commission. The overall number of Electoral Commissioners was increased by the 2009 Act to nine or ten.[5]


5.  Parliament established the Electoral Commission as a body independent of Government. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the other Electoral Commissioners are appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, following an Address from the House of Commons. Since 2009 the Speaker's Committee has been responsible for the establishment and oversight of a procedure for the selection of prospective Electoral Commissioners and the Commission chairman. The consent of the Speaker and consultation with the registered leaders of certain registered political parties are also required before a motion for an Address may be presented to the House.[6]

1   Electoral Commission Corporate Plan 2010-11 to 2014-15, HC 465 Session 2009-10 page 9 Back

2   Committee on Standards in Public Life, Eleventh Report, Review of the Electoral Commission, Cm 7006 Recommendation 29; Constitutional Affairs Committee, First Report 2006-07, Party Funding HC 163-1 paragraph 64. Back

3   Speaker's Committee, Third Report 2009-10, Work of the Committee in 2009 HC 205 paragraph 9 Back

4   A qualifying party is a party with two or more Members of the House of Commons at the time of the person's appointment. Back

5  s1(3) of the 2000 Act as amended by S6 of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 Back

6   s4(2) of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 Back

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Prepared 14 July 2010