Draft Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2002

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Mrs. McGuire: We will take up the general issue of the Post Office's efficiency in delivering election material. However, from my experience as an election agent I should say that sometimes it is not the fault of the Post Office. There are times when people rush up against deadlines and just assume the outcome. However, I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith that we are discussing all the relevant details with the Post Office. The same goes for the delivery of polling cards and various other items. Work needs to be done with electoral administrators to ensure that elections to the Scottish Parliament are as efficient and effective as possible.

As to the permanent postal vote, the electoral registration officer can check that every three years; a trawl takes place every three years to make sure that that happens.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith also mentioned the UK Parliament and European Parliament elections.

Mr. Lazarowicz: My concern was about provision being made for combining the Scottish Parliament elections and local government elections. There was no mention of the possibility of combining a UK general election or a referendumówhether national, Scottish or carried out by local government under the appropriate provisions.

Mrs. McGuire: The simple answer is that we have no intention to make that provision at this time.

The issue of voter confusion was raised. The working party on the 2003 elections works to ensure the efficient conduct of elections in 2003. There was no evidence of voter confusion in 1999, although there was a great furore about the fact that there were different ballot papersóballot papers the length of one's armóand other issues to do with whether people would understand. The electorate in fact understand much more about the process of elections and voting than we give them credit for. However, we are constantly trying to ensure that we have an efficient electoral system. We are working closer with the Electoral Commission, which is now responsible for training, guidance, and public awareness of elections.

I turn to one or two other issues. The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale made a point

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about legal expenses being over the limit, due to a drop in the register. I think that that point is probably at the margins, but it is a genuine concern. Maybe he could drop me a note on that issue and we will respond in so far as we can.

For those who are concerned about special advisers working on behalf of political parties, particularly parties in government, the civil service rules are clear. Special advisers must resign in order to participate in the Scottish Parliament election, just as they must resign to participate in any election. That has always been the case.

Various issues have been raised today. I hope that we will appreciate that a great deal of work has gone into consolidating these orders. I should like to thank the officials who put the orders together and who have given us an exemplary explanatory note. There have been criticisms of explanatory notes in the past. I thank the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross for his comments on that. The explanatory note made the discussion of the order easier than it might otherwise have been. I commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2002.

Committee rose at thirteen minutes to Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Begg, Miss Anne (Chairman)
Cameron, Mr.
Duncan, Mr.
Foulkes, Mr.
Harris, Mr.
Joyce, Mr.
Lazarowicz, Mr.
Liddell-Grainger, Mr.
MacDougall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
McKenna, Rosemary
Murphy, Mr.
Osborne, Sandra
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Thurso, John
Wishart, Pete

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):
Smith, Sir Robert (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)

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Prepared 30 October 2002