Public administration and constitutional affairs committee call for greater scrutiny of the elections bill


The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has called for a halt to the passage of the elections bill until more thorough consultations are conducted. A new report by the committee was discussed yesterday in parliament and both the impact of the bill and the lack of scrutiny that it's been subject to were glaring critiques from the committee.

It seems evident that a bill that will signal an important change in how the public elects its representatives should be subjected to rigorous study to ensure its impact is carefully assessed.

This is especially true given the facts we do have, which plainly shows that based on verified possession of valid photo ID the legislation stands to disproportionately marginalise Black people, Asian people, and Gypsy Roma and Traveller people, should the threshold be limited to passport and/or driver license ID.

Knowing this, it's only right to ask what forces are driving the government to rush this through? And how can democracy truly be safeguarded if the impact of such policy risks leaving a disproportionate amount of black and brown people further away from the ballot box than closer? 

Free voter-id cards have since been mooted but these will be funded by councils and cost £120m over 10 years.

The lack of scrutiny has been a frequent criticism of the Bill. As reported in October, Dr. Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society was one of many to make a similar critique of the government's strategy to hastily pass legislation that would result in significant constitutional changes.

“Most of this bill received no pre-legislative scrutiny, in contrast to legislation such as the Online Harms Bill. There has been no formal public consultation on the bill as a whole, and ministers are ignoring the recent Committee on Standards in Public Life report and the principle that governments should consult on big constitutional changes. Devolved governments are clear that they have not been properly engaged with, and they are right to be holding ministers to account on this.”

Following the government's lack of equality impact assessment for removal of s.60 stop and search safeguards, the pattern which we are seeing is worrying and must be recognised.

Mayowa Ayodele