Joint Committee On Human Rights Seventeenth Report

2 European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill

Date introduced to the House of Commons

Date introduced to the House of Lords

Current Bill Number

Previous Reports

17 September 2003

House of Commons 160


2. 1  The Bill would pave the way for the Government to test, through pilot projects, different manners of conducting elections. Pilot projects would be undertaken at the election for the European Parliament in 2004 and at the local elections due to be held at the same time.

2.2  In the Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 23-26, the Government correctly accepts that the Bill would engage the right to the free expression of the electorate's opinion by a secret ballot under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR. The Government recognizes that it would be necessary to ensure the secrecy, security and accessibility of the ballot, and hopes that the pilot schemes will generate evidence on which there would be a report by the Electoral Commission, so that decisions on the wider use of such systems 'can be proportionate and soundly based' (paragraph 24). There would be statutory safeguards, including an offence of personation (clause 6), and we are also promised unspecified non-statutory safeguards.

2.3  We have asked the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs for details of the non-statutory safeguards for accessibility and secrecy in relation to each of them, and for the reasons for making them non-statutory rather than statutory, to facilitate an assessment of the protection available to voters in the elections which are used to pilot the schemes. The Government responded by way of a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (Mr Christopher Leslie MP), dated 10 November 2003, enclosing a memorandum setting out the Government's response. The correspondence and the memorandum are published as an appendix to this Report, and we draw them to the attention of each House.

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Prepared 24 November 2003