Thank you for writing to me about the Elections Act and the Electoral Commission.
It is commonplace for the Government to set a broad policy framework, as approved by Parliament, by which independent regulators should work. This is already the case for Ofcom and Ofgem, for example.
The Strategy and Policy Statement, which you refer to, is therefore not without precedent and, once introduced, will improve the accountability of the Electoral Commission. (Just for your information, the Statement will be subject to a statutory consultation and will need to be approved by Parliament before it can be introduced. It will also be reviewed regularly.)
I do not agree with the view that these reforms will compromise the independence of the Electoral Commission. While the Commission will be required to have regard to the Strategy and Policy Statement, it does not give the Government new powers to direct the Electoral Commission’s decision-making process. The Commission will continue to be governed by the Commissioners and will remain operationally independent of government. The introduction of the statement would not in any way affect the ability of the Commission to undertake investigative, operational or enforcement activity as it sees fit, but it will ensure greater accountability to Parliament on how the Electoral Commission discharges its wider functions.
Furthermore, the Government has introduced measures to prohibit the Statement from including reference to specific investigatory or enforcement activity to provide further reassurance on the Commission’s operational independence.
Thank you again for writing to me about this matter. I hope you find this response helpful.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking