The UK’s elections watchdog has asked the government to reconsider proposals to oversee its operations
The UK’s Electoral Commission urged the British government to reconsider plans that may impinge on the independence of the organization. The government is pushing forward with new legislation that would enhance its oversight arrangement.
The commission is an independent organization which oversees UK elections and political financing.
In its letter to ministers, the watchdog said its commissioners believe that the government’s plan “is inconsistent with the role that an independent electoral commission plays in a healthy democratic system.” It also noted that the provisions would allow No. 10 to “guide the work of the Commission.”
The Election Bill includes a provision for the government to set out the commission’s strategy and policy. Downing Street believes the proposals would protect the health of Britain’s democracy, according to a government statement.
However, the watchdog warned that “if made law, these provisions will enable a government in the future to influence the Commission’s operational functions and decision-making.”
It also argued that there is “no precedent” for such a legislative move in other comparable democracies, such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
“We therefore urge the government to think again about these measures, to remove the provisions, and to work with the Commission and Speaker’s Committee to ensure that suitable accountability arrangements are in place to ensure confidence across the political spectrum,” the letter concludes.
The government said earlier in February that the changes to the Electoral Commission would improve its accountability while ensuring it remains operationally independent.
The bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on January 17 and is now in the Lords. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is formed of MPs, was critical of the reforms and in December urged the government to pause the bill and address the issues raised “before it makes any further progress.”
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