On 25th April 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Elections Bill. Votes were held on amendments to the bill, in which Bishops took part.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Worcester took part in a vote on an amendment tabled by Lord Judge, to remove Clause 15 from the Bill, in order to preserve the independence of the Electoral Commission:
Lord Judge: I really do not think that anyone in your Lordships’ House can have the slightest doubt about the constitutional imperative that the Electoral Commission should be politically independent—independent of all political influence, whether direct or indirect, over the electoral process. If anyone disagrees with that, would they please say so? Any possibility that the party in government may have influence over the electoral process should be rejected.
Clauses 15 and 16 are repugnant to that foundational principle. They require the commission to have regard, at the very lowest, to pay close attention to the strategy and policy principles, and to follow the guidance, of the Government of the day. The importance of this feature of the language, which is tucked away but needs emphasis, is that the Electoral Commission will exercise its responsibilities in relation to the strategy and policy statement to enable Her Majesty’s Government to meet those priorities. If we rephrase that, it says that the Electoral Commission must enable the strategic and policy priorities of the Government to be met. That does not sound like independence. These are directive provisions. The word “duty” is used, imposing unequivocal statutory obligations on the commission that will govern—or, if not govern, will certainly influence —its own performance of its responsibility, and perhaps, dare I say it, is meant to influence it. Hansard
The amendment passed. Content 265 / Not Content 199
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Worcester voted content.
The Bishop of Manchester voted on an amendment tabled by Baroness Hayman of Ullock:
63: After Clause 60, insert the following new Clause—
(1) Section 54 (permissible donors) of PPERA is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (2)(a), after “register” insert “at the time at which the donation is made, but not an individual so registered as an overseas elector”.”
Member’s explanatory statement:
This new Clause would prevent overseas electors donating to political parties in the UK.
The amendment was disagreed. Content: 194 / Not Content: 220
The Bishop of Manchester voted content.
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