Press Release from Electoral Commission 25 Jan 2011
The Electoral Commission has decided that, although the applicant to become the lead campaigner for the ‘Yes’ campaign in the referendum adequately represented those campaigning for that outcome, the only applicant to be the lead campaigner for the ‘No’ campaign does not meet this statutory test. In these circumstances, the law does not allow the Commission to designate lead organisations for the referendum on the law making powers of the National Assembly for Wales.
The Commission is now seeking the views of all registered campaigners on how it might help voters get information about the arguments for and against the referendum question, in addition to its planned public awareness campaign.
Kay Jenkins, Head of the Electoral Commission in Wales, said: “The only applicant for the ‘No’ campaign in Wales didn’t meet the statutory test so the Commission cannot appoint lead campaigners for this referendum.”
“Voters need to have as much information as possible about the referendum question, and we are already planning to send an information booklet to every household in Wales explaining what it is about, as well as how to take part on 3 March. Voters should look out for this next week and there will be advertising across television, radio, in Welsh newspapers and on the internet.”
“A number of campaigners – including political parties, individuals and trade unions - have also already started their campaigns. So there should be plenty of opportunities for voters to hear the arguments of both sides in the media, in campaign materials and online.”
“We are also now seeking the views of registered campaigners on what more the Commission might do to help voters get information about the arguments they are making. We will announce the results of those discussions as soon as possible.”
Decision on designating lead campaigners
The Political Parties, Elections & Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000 requires the Commission to determine whether each applicant to become a lead campaigner ‘adequately represents’ those campaigning for the relevant referendum outcome. The Commission must designate lead campaigners for both sides of the debate, or not at all.
Anyone wishing to spend more than £10,000 in the referendum must register as a ‘registered campaigner’. Any registered campaigner could apply to become a lead campaigner, giving them access to higher spending limits, a public grant, referendum broadcasts on television and radio and free delivery of campaign material to voters.
Two campaigners submitted applications to the Commission to become ‘lead campaigners’ for the referendum. The Commission decided that while ‘Yes for Wales’ adequately represented those campaigning for the ‘Yes’ campaign, David Alwyn ap Huw Humphreys did not meet the statutory test of adequately representing those campaigning for the ‘No’ campaign. This means that the Commission cannot appoint lead campaigners for either side of the debate.
Provision of information to voters
The Commission is already planning an extensive public information campaign, including sending an information booklet to every household in Wales. The booklets are being sent to voters next week and are currently available on the Commission’s website.
The Government of Wales Act 2006 states that in the event that there are no lead campaigners for the referendum, the Commission has the discretion to “take such steps as they think appropriate to provide information…about the arguments for each answer to the referendum question.”
The Commission considered whether or not it would be possible to include additional information about the arguments for each answer to the question in the booklet it is sending out next week, or in a separate information leaflet. The Commission decided that this was not possible within the timescales available.
The Commission has decided to seek the views of all registered campaigners this week on the following options:
Establishing a page on the Commission’s website – which voters will already be directed in the Commission’s information booklet and advertising campaign – that would provide voters with links to the websites of all registered campaigners. This is the Commission’s preferred option.
Offering all registered campaigners in addition the opportunity to each place a short statement of their arguments on the Commission’s website. The Commission has said it will need to consider further whether or not this option will work in practice, taking account of the response of the registered campaigners.
Once it has heard from registered campaigners, the Commission will make an announcement as soon as possible on whether it will undertake either or both of these activities.
The Commission will start sending out its information booklet to voters from 31 January. A copy of the booklet is available on the Commission’s website.