Local Government: Elections

(asked on 23rd February 2021) - View Source

Question to the Cabinet Office:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the legal basis for the view set out in the Minister of the Constitution’s letter of 22 January distinguishing between volunteer distribution of campaign leaflets and identical activity by people paid by commercial organisations; what reference is made to this distinction in the COVID-19 regulations, and what assessment they have made of whether holding elections on 6 May with (1) this restriction, and (2) other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, will contribute to reduced turnout and campaign activity.

Answered by
Lord True Portrait
Lord True
Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal
This question was answered on 9th March 2021

Democracy should not be cancelled because of covid. As outlined in my Written Ministerial Statement of 8 February 2021 (HLWS766), the Government has confirmed that the set of council, mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner elections scheduled for May will go ahead, and made a firm commitment that the Government will support the sector to deliver them.

The Government has published a Delivery Plan for the May elections, setting out how the Government will support local elections teams to deliver effective polls that are covid-secure for voters and staff. The Medical Officers advised Ministers in drawing up this delivery plan. The Government has committed to further engage with political parties through the Parliamentary Parties Panel and the Local Government Association; we are committed to ensuring we take into consideration the views of independent candidates as effectively as possible.

Campaigning is an essential part of democracy. Voters deserve to be well informed before going to the polls and there must be a level playing field for candidates. On 22 February the Prime Minister announced the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown and we have since published guidance on campaigning reflecting the updated COVID restrictions/guidance.

The whole of England remains in a national lockdown and will do so until 29 March. The current restrictions do not support door-to-door campaigning or leafleting by individual campaigners. Leaving home to undertake leafleting increases the risk of unnecessary social interactions and viral transmission both during travel and on doorsteps. Campaigners should instead ensure leafleting is carried out through existing commercial delivery services, which are already operating and delivering during the national lockdown. Any spending on this which is incurred during a regulated period must count towards a candidate’s spending limit.

From 8 March, individual activists will be able to campaign outdoors in a COVID-secure way. The rules will allow for individual campaigners to deliver leaflets and to engage with electors on their doorsteps - but they should always be socially distanced and not enter inside people’s homes.

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