Work of the Committee 2017–18 Contents

Work of the Committee 2017-18

1.The Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission (SCEC) is a statutory body established under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). Its work relates to the Electoral Commission and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).

2.Under paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 to the PPERA, the Speaker’s Committee is required to report to the House of Commons not less than once a year on the exercise of its functions. The last annual report covered the period from 1 April 2016 to 3 May 2017, when Parliament was dissolved for the General Election. This report covers the period from 13 June 2017 (when the new Parliament first met) to 31 March 2018.

Membership

3.The Committee has nine members, five of whom are members of the House of Commons who are not Ministers and are appointed by the Speaker. One member—a Member of the House of Commons who is a Minister with responsibilities in relation to local government—is appointed by the Prime Minister. The other ex officio members are the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who chairs the Committee.

4.On 10 July 2017 Jessica Morden MP and Bridget Phillipson MP were appointed to the Committee. Kirsty Blackman MP, Ms Nusrat Ghani MP and Gloria De Piero MP were appointed on 12 September 2017.

5.On 12 January 2018 Nusrat Ghani MP wrote to Mr Speaker to resign as a Member of the Speaker’s Committee, following her appointment as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport.

6.Andrea Jenkyns MP was appointed to the Committee on 21 February 2018.

7.The ex officio members of the Committee during the period covered by this Report were:

a)Mr Marcus Jones MP appointed to the Committee by the Prime Minister as a Minister with responsibilities in relation to local government on 31 October 2017.

b)Rishi Sunak MP appointed to the Committee by the Prime Minister as a Minister with responsibilities in relation to local government on 8 February 2018

c)Mr Bernard Jenkin MP - Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

d)Rt Hon Damian Green MP - Minister for the Cabinet Office (June 2017-December 2017)

e)Rt Hon David Lidington MP - Minister for the Cabinet Office (from January 2018).

Meetings

8.The Committee met three times during the period covered by this report. The minutes of the Committee’s meetings are reproduced in Appendix A. The Chairs of and officials from both the Electoral Commission and the LGBCE attended parts of some meetings at the invitation of the Committee. The Committee also took a number of decisions outside meetings by correspondence.

Parliamentary Accountability

9.The Committee provides a mechanism for Members of Parliament to ask questions in the House of Commons about the work of the Electoral Commission and the LGBCE. Bridget Phillipson MP acts as the Committee spokesperson and answers questions on behalf of the Committee. During the period covered by this Report, Bridget Phillipson replied to thirty-one questions on the floor of the House and to twenty-four questions in writing.

Appointment of Electoral Commissioners

10.The Electoral Commission was established by Parliament as a body independent of the Government. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as amended by the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, provides for the Electoral Commission to have nine or ten Commissioners.1 Up to six are ‘ordinary’ Commissioners who may not be members or employees of a political party.2 These Commissioners are recruited by competition, under a procedure put in place and overseen by the Speaker’s Committee. Four Commissioners are persons put forward by the registered leader of a qualifying political party3 for consideration for appointment; they are described in the statute as ‘nominated’ Commissioners. While there are restrictions on their political activity, they are permitted to be members of parties, and to have been active in their party within the previous five years.4

11.Pursuant to Section 3 of the PPERA, the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission is responsible for determining and overseeing the procedures for selecting candidates to be put forward for appointment or re-appointment as Electoral Commissioners. The candidates for these posts are approved by the House of Commons and appointed by the Queen. During the process of making appointments, the Committee has regard to the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.

12.In the period covered by this report, the Committee oversaw one appointment process relating to the Electoral Commission.

13.The Committee’s Third Report of 2016-17, HC 668, sets out the procedures and process for the recruitment of an Electoral Commissioner to replace Commissioner Toby Hobman. Following an open and fair competition led by a panel appointed by Mr Speaker, the Speaker’s Committee recommended that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy should be appointed as an Electoral Commissioner to replace Mr Hobman.

14.The House of Commons debated the motion that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the appointment of Professor Sir Ian Kennedy as an Electoral Commissioner on 23 January 2018. The motion was negatived on a division.

15.Following this decision by the House, the Committee further considered the appointment of an Electoral Commissioner to replace Toby Hobman. The Committee’s First Report of 2017-18, HC 901, sets out the procedures and process for the appointment of Sarah Chambers to this post. The House approved the motion that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to appoint Sarah Chambers as an Electoral Commissioner on 29 March 2018.

16.In November 2017 the Committee began the process to recruit three new ‘nominated’ Electoral Commissioners to replace the outgoing nominated Commissioners in September 2018.

Appointment of the Chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England

17.Under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, which created the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE), the Speaker’s Committee is responsible for overseeing the process for appointing the Chair of the Commission. All other appointments to the Commission are the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Committee did not appoint a Chair of the LGBCE during this period.

Financial Scrutiny

18.The Committee’s role is to examine the estimates of resources needed for both the Electoral Commission and the LGBCE. It must also consider one statutory five-year plan and one value for money study in relation to each body during the life of a Parliament. The Speaker’s Committee has the power to require further such studies and reports to be produced as and when it sees fit.

19.The Electoral Commission’s main priorities are: electoral registration; participation in elections and referendums; electoral fraud; the electoral framework; and political and campaign funding and expenditure. The LGBCE’s main objective is to provide boundary arrangements for English local authorities that are fair and deliver electoral equality for voters.

20.The Speaker’s Committee must decide whether it is satisfied that the estimates and plans are consistent with the economical, efficient and effective discharge of each body’s functions. If it determines that they are not, it must modify them as necessary. In carrying out its work, the Committee consults with the Treasury and has regard to reports received from the National Audit Office concerning each body’s use of resources.

21.In the period covered by this report the Committee considered and approved Supplementary Estimates and Main Estimates for both the Electoral Commission and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).

22.The Committee approved the LGBCE’s Supplementary Estimate for 2017-18, agreeing to the LGBCE’s proposal to transfer £124,000 from its resource budget to the capital budget, resulting in a revised capital budget total of £174,000. Both the Treasury and the National Audit Office had been consulted on these proposals.

23.In relation to the LGBCE’s Main Estimate, the Committee agreed a voted Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2018-19 of £2,137,000 and a voted Capital Departmental Expenditure Limit of £50,000, as consistent with the economical, efficient and effective discharge of its functions in that year.

24.The Committee approved the Electoral Commission’s Supplementary Estimate for 2017-18, agreeing a reduction in Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit by £770,000 and Capital Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit by £175,000. Of this, £45,000 would be used to increase Annually Managed Expenditure, and the rest returned to the Treasury.

25.In relation to the Electoral Commission’s Main Estimate, the Committee agreed a voted Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2018-19 of £16,571,000 and a voted Capital Departmental Expenditure Limit of £972,000, as consistent with the economical, efficient and effective discharge of its functions in that year.


1 PPERA s1(3) as amended by s6 of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009

2 PPERA S3(4)

3 PPERA s3A(2)

4 PPERA s3(4) and s£(4A)




Published: 28 November 2018