Headlines: June 11th, 2008

Cases of fraud in local voting almost led to the Council of Europe stepping in with special election monitoring processes according to the annual report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The report raises a number of issues on MPs’ expenses and allowances and on political party funding but also highlights fears over the vulnerability to fraud of the electoral system.

Sir Christopher Kelly, Committee Chairman said the committee’s 11th report had looked at problems caused by the combination of household registration and the introduction of postal voting on demand. He continued, “Since then, well-reported instances of voting fraud in Peterborough , Burnley and Slough have increased our concern. And the Council of Europe has come close to triggering its special monitoring processes for United Kingdom elections, a process more usually employed for parts of the former Soviet Union or African states.”

His committee, he added, had put forward a strong case and a sensible timetable for the introduction of individual voter registration but there had been no progress on the issue. “Electoral fraud is not a trivial matter. It is an affront to the democratic process and, left unchecked, will undermine confidence in the outcome of elections,” he added.

In addition to the three main matters of concern the report pinpoints other areas that the committee will continue to monitor closely. They include potential problems in the accountability and governance arrangements in London , which emerged during the recent Mayoral and Assembly Elections and the implications for standards of behaviour arising from the Freedom of Information Act.

Sir Christopher concluded, “Given concern in all these areas, I have no doubt that the need for the existence of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is as strong as ever.”