LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s elections watchdog asked the government on Monday to reconsider proposed changes to its oversight arrangements, warning they could impact its independence.
The government is hoping to pass wide-ranging legislation to update the laws around elections with what it calls the aim of protecting the health of Britain’s democracy.
The Elections Bill includes a provision under which the government will set out the Electoral Commission’s strategy and policy. The commission is an independent body overseeing elections and regulating political finance.
“It is the firm view of the Commissioners that the introduction of a Strategy and Policy Statement — enabling the Government to guide the work of the Commission — is inconsistent with the role that an independent electoral commission plays in a healthy democratic system,” the Electoral Commission said in a letter to ministers.
“If made law, these provisions will enable a government in the future to influence the Commission’s operational functions and decision-making.”
A government document last updated earlier this month set out the aims of the Elections Bill, saying the changes to the Electoral Commission would improve its accountability to government and that it would remain operationally independent.
(Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper)