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Hansard 14 Feb: Column 618-718 ...
Hansard 14 Feb: Column 618-718

The Bill which broadly enshrines the Neill Committee recommendations on the policing of political parties and the conduct of elections and referendums began its commons committee stage on the floor of the house - because it is a constitutional matter.

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill has broad support from all parties, but the government was forced to a division on two Conservative amendments - both of which they won easily.

The Bill establishes an electoral commission, as recommended by Neill, but it also creates a speaker's committee to oversee the work of the commission, which was not recommended by Neill. The government proposes a committee including the home secretary, the minister for local government, the chairman of the home affairs select committee and six MPs appointed by the peers.

For the Conservatives, Patrick Cormack said if ever a body needed to be respected for its impartiality, that would be the speaker's committee. He proposed an amendment that it should be modelled on the commission of the house of commons, consisting of the speaker, the leader of the house, a nominee of the leader of the opposition, and three MPs appointed by the house of commons, none of whom would be a minister.

The motion was defeated by 290 votes to 144.

Shadow leader of the house George Young proposed an amendment to remove the electoral commission's duty in its educational role to give information about the working of alternative voting systems, particulalrly in Europe. It was defeated by 309 votes to 126.

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