Thank you for your email about the role of the Electoral Commission.
I agree with you that the commission does vital work to ensure transparency and integrity in the UK’s elections and helps us to secure our position as one of the most open democracies in the world.
Rather than undermine it, the legislative provisions in the Elections Bill are designed to increase its accountability to Parliament through the introduction of a Strategy and Policy Statement.
However, the prosecutorial powers you mention in your email were never agreed upon by either the Government or Parliament. The status quo is that it is the role of the police and the existing, established prosecution service to enforce electoral regulations – a status quo the Government simply intends to clarify.
This is not about interfering with the investigative, operational or enforcement decisions of the Electoral Commission and the reforms would not affect the ability of the Electoral Commission to undertake enforcement action where appropriate.
Indeed, this legislation will help to prevent conflicts of interest which risk undermining our democracy. This is because the Electoral Commission is responsible for providing the advice and guidance on electoral law on which the prosecutions it seeks to bring may depend. So if the Electoral Commission acted as a prosecutor, the success of its prosecutions would depend on its own published guidance.
My ministerial colleagues will, of course, consider proposals from the Committee on Standards in Public Life and from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee which are separately conducting inquiries into electoral regulation and the Electoral Commission.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.