Press Releases

Electoral Reform Society Cymru to launch Democracy Manifesto: ‘Breathing New Life in to Politics’

11th February 2016
11 Feb 2016
Tags: 
wales
ERS Wales
ERS Cymru
democracy
manifesto
Assembly elections

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Forward Planning Note: 

ERS Cymru  to publish key policy recommendations to parties for revitalising democracy in Wales, ahead of Assembly elections and forthcoming new powers

Release date: Thursday 18th February. 

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

 

Electoral Reform Society Cymru will launch its manifesto on democratic reform next Thursday (18th February), as part of the first of three manifestos [1] ahead of May’s Assembly elections.

The manifesto will call on all parties to get behind policies to improve democracy in Wales as they write their own manifestos.

The 19 key policy recommendations – on issues covering elections, getting young people active in democracy, and bringing power closer to the people - will draw on new powers over elections and the running of the Assembly and local councils coming to Wales, including the franchise age and the voting system used for local elections.

Distribution:

A full briefing/press release and embargoed digital version of the report will be sent out on Wednesday 17th at 10:00, embargoed for Thursday 18th, 00:01. Print copies will be available on request.

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Cymru Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes

The next two policy-themed mini-manifestos will be launched in Marched and April, on diversity/accessibility and open government/transparency. Contact Josiah Mortimer (details above) to discuss further. 

Leading figures from major parties unite to secure electoral reform by 2021

5th February 2016
5 Feb 2016
Tags: 
proportional representation
conference
electoral reform

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PR Alliance Building Conference will bring together high-profile politicians from every major party

  • Forward planning note from Make Votes Matter, for immediate release, 4th February 2016
  • Journalists will be able to interview speakers and participants
  • Date: Monday 8th February 2016, 13:30 - 18:00, followed by interviews, drinks and networking
  • Press accreditation and address available on request for journalists wishing to attend
  • For enquiries contact Klina Jordan on klina@makevotesmatter.org.uk or 07813 336 618

Leading figures from all the UK’s major parties will come together next Monday (8th February) to discuss how to achieve a proportional voting system for Westminster elections by 2021.

It follows rumours that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are discussing a potential pact to secure PR after the next General Election [1], and a joint letter signed by several party leaders in the Independent on Sunday [2].

The conference, organised by Make Votes Matter [3], draws together figures from across the spectrum, with a high-profile platform of speakers and participants:

Keynote speakers:

  • Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party
  • Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society
  • Diane James, MEP for SE England, & Home Affairs Spokesperson, UKIP
  • Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, Labour
  • Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Labour
  • Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, Scottish National Party
  • John Strafford, Vice Chairman, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform
  • Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrats
  • Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, Labour
  • Hywel Williams, MP and Parliamentary Leader, Plaid Cymru

Organisers see the event as an opportunity for all the main political parties, pro-PR organisations, representatives of local democracy groups and public figures to form alliances in order to secure a proportional voting system following the next General Election.

A spokesperson for Make Votes Matter said:

“Last May’s General Election was the most disproportionate election ever in the UK. Votes per MP elected varied dramatically from party to party, ranging from just over 23,000 votes to almost 4 million, and when one quarter of voters are represented by 1.5% of Parliamentary seats, we cannot say we have real democracy.

“To secure a proportional voting system, all the pro-PR parties and organisations need to find the best way forward together, so we excited to be creating a space to start the conversation. The PR Alliance Building Conference is a historic opportunity to work collaboratively towards creating and implementing an effective strategy to get PR for Westminster by 2021.”

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

Last year saw over half a million people and five political parties come together to sign and deliver petitions calling for a fair voting system, so this conference is a very welcome next step in the push for a truly democratic voting system.

“Nearly every European country uses a Proportional Representation (PR) system, and here in the UK, public support for PR is at an all-time high, with three quarters of the public in favour. It’s great to see citizens and leading political figures coming together to work out how best to secure a fair voting system.”

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, said:

“The fact that we have a government without any kind of democratic mandate - with only the support of 24% of eligible voters, combined with our unelected House of Lords, is doing serious damage to trust in our democratic process. It's almost a century since the last significant change in Westminster. It was 1918 when women got the vote - we should not go past the anniversary of that without seeing a change to a fair, proportional electoral system, in both the Commons and the upper chamber.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, Labour, said:

“First Past The Post has had its day. We cannot carry on with a voting system that disenfranchises millions and where winning an argument with the British public is a different task to winning the votes required to form a government.  It is not sustainable and I doubt the British people will continue to stand for it.”

Lord Paul Tyler of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“The public are urging us to act together.  This Government is throwing its weight around with the support of less than a quarter of the eligible electorate – they would brand any other government in the world with that level of mandate as illegitimate.”

Diane James MEP, UKIP Home Affairs and Justice Spokesperson:

“At the last general election, UKIP got 4 million votes and only one elected MP. This is patently untenable and things cannot go on like this. The first past the post electoral system is clearly bankrupt. We must have an electoral system where votes cast match seats allocated and introducing a proportional system will deliver a result that is both fair and more democratic.”

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, Labour:

“The First Past The Post electoral system distorts our democracy, encourages adversarial politics and divides people. With the constitutional foundations of our nation cracking the case for electoral reform has never been stronger. The PR alliance is a doughty campaigner on this vital issue, and I am honoured to have been invited to speak at this important event.”

John Strafford, Vice Chairman, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform:

"Our electoral system is bust. Parliament no longer represents all the people of the United Kingdom. This democratic deficit has to be addressed. It is time for our political parties to come together to create a fair electoral system that will ensure that the views of all the people are taken into account".

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, SNP:

“The current electoral system alienates people from politics and widens the divide between government and the governed. The first past the post system is unfair, undemocratic, and long past its sell by date.”

Programme

  • 13:30 – 14:00 Arrival, refreshments and networking
  • 14:00 – 14:40 Welcome from Owen Winter, Member of Youth Parliament and Make Votes Matter Spokesperson, followed by introductions
  • 14:40 – 15:20 Keynote ideas about how each of the parties plans to get PR and how collaboration with other groups could make this more likely
  • 15:20 – 16:00 Cream tea and bubbly: making connections for ongoing collaboration
  • 16:00 – 16:40 Open Space: facilitated plenary session to establish working group topics  
  • 16:40 – 17:20 Working groups arising from plenary discussion
  • 17:20 – 18:00 Closing circle – reports back from the working groups about what has been agreed and how their ideas will be taken forward
  • 18:00 – 19:30 Press interviews, photo opportunities, drinks, nibbles and networking

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-in-secret-talks-with-tim-farron-over-voting-reform-alliance-against-conservatives-a6830341.html

[2] www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/electoral-reform-party-leaders-call-for-pact-to-achieve-alternative-voting-system-after-next-a6843716.html

[3] Make Votes Matter is a campaign organisation focused on getting Proportional Representation in the House of Commons by 2021. Their formation was triggered by the most disproportionate election in UK history, and they are a non-partisan, democratically-organised group with over 238,000 supporters. MVM’s Declaration for Voting Reform has been signed by hundreds of people, high profile figures and organisations, including Unlock Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Green Party, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and Frankie Boyle.

Electoral Reform Society welcomes ‘red card’ proposal in EU deal

2nd February 2016
2 Feb 2016
Tags: 
EU
Donald Tusk
EU deal
David Cameron
European Union
EU renegotiation

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 11:30, 2nd February 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the proposal for national parliaments to have greater veto power over EU laws, under the proposals announced by EU Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

A ‘red card’ system – where laws which do not have the support of a majority of national parliaments can be vetoed – was one of the Electoral Reform Society’s key recommendations in its recent report ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ [1].

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

"Those in favour of democratic reform of the EU have long called for this change. Elected parliaments need a much stronger role in EU law-making, and a 'red card' system is a positive step towards that goal. 

“However, the ‘red card’ system shouldn’t just be a tool for Ministers – it should be MPs’ voices that are strengthened too, through real parliamentary debate of EU proposals.

"There are clearly major democratic issues with the EU which both sides of the referendum debate have to confront. Whether we vote to stay or go, today's announcement should be the start of a real debate about Britain's democratic relationship with the EU.

The 'remain' campaign needs to answer serious questions about whether UK citizens are adequately represented at the European level. The 'red card' reform is a good start, but much more needs to be done if we are going to close the gap between British people and the institutions of the European Union [3].

“And there are democratic questions for the 'leave' campaign too. If Britain does vote to leave the EU, how will we ensure that British citizens and their elected government have influence over European issues, especially during what could be a two year transition before a full exit.  After what would be a seismic political change, we would also need a citizen-led constitutional convention of citizens to look at how we move forward as a democracy.

"Today's announcement opens up the debate on Britain's democratic relationship with the EU. We want to see these issues remain at the centre of the referendum campaign. The British people deserve nothing less."

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] In 2014 the ERS published ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ which laid out 12 major recommendations on EU democratic reform.

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[3] Read the full ‘Close the Gap’ report and recommendations here.

Electoral Reform Society Cymru warns against June EU vote

2nd February 2016
2 Feb 2016

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**Fersiwn yn y Gymraeg yn cael ei yrru cyn hir // Welsh-language version forthcoming**

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society Cymru
  • For immediate release, 13:00, 2nd February 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer (English only), ERS Cymru Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Electoral Reform Society Cymru has warned today (2nd February) that holding the EU referendum in June [1] would risk undermining the upcoming Assembly elections.

The Society believes a June vote – something being mooted today - could overshadow the Welsh elections this May.

Stephen Brooks, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:

“An EU referendum vote so soon after the Assembly elections would risk undermining the elections themselves – knocking the debate off course and away from issues which are actually devolved.

“April and May will see the EU debate reaching its peak if the vote was to be held in June – potentially overshadowing the crucial process of Welsh voters choosing their next government.

 “A June EU vote would only serve to add more confusion to an already busy day of elections, with Police and Crime Commissioners also being picked – despite issues of justice and policing not being fully devolved [2].

 “The Welsh Assembly elections get far too little UK-wide attention as it is. Both the Welsh Assembly elections and the EU referendum need clear runs: let’s have genuinely focused discussions about these two important decisions by conducting the campaigns at different times.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12135328/EU-referendum-draft-deal-revealed-by-Donald-Tusk-live.html#update-20160202-0800

[2] http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wrong-person-could-elected-assembly-8862675

Electoral Reform Society Cymru yn rhybuddio yn erbyn pleidlais Refferendwm ar Ewrop yn mis Mehefin

2nd February 2016
2 Feb 2016

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  • Datganiad gan y ERS Cymru
  • I'w ryddhau ar unwaith, 13:00, 2 Chwefror 2016
  • Am ragor o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau neu i drefnu cyfweliad, cysylltwch â Josiah Mortimer (Saesneg yn unig), ERS Swyddog Cyfathrebu Cymru, ar 07717211630 neu josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk
  • Neu am ddyfyniadau neu cyfweliadau yn y Gymraeg, cysylltwch â Dr Owain ap Gareth ar 07771661802 neu Owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk

Mae Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru wedi rhybuddio heddiw (2il Chwefror) yn erbyn cynnal y refferendwm ar aelodaeth o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd ym mis Mehefin [1] gan y byddai'n beryg o danseilio etholiadau sydd i ddod i Gynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru.

Mae'r Gymdeithas yn credu y gall bleidlais yn Mehefin - rhywbeth sy'n cael ei grybwyll heddiw - daflu cysgod dros yr etholiadau Cymreig ym mis Mai, a’r ymgyrch sydd ohoni.

Dywedodd Stephen Brooks, Cyfarwyddwr ERS Cymru:

"Mae pleidlais refferendwm UE mor fuan ar ôl etholiadau'r Cynulliad yn beryg o danseilio yr etholiadau eu hunain – gan wyro y ddadl oddi ar ei gwrs ac i ffwrdd o faterion sydd wedi'u datganoli.

"Bydd Ebrill a Mai yn gweld y ddadl am Ewrop yn cyrraedd ei anterth pe byddai'r bleidlais i'w gynnal ym mis Mehefin - o bosibl yn rhoi’r broses hanfodol o bleidleiswyr Cymru yn dewis eu llywodraeth nesaf yn y cysgod.

"Byddai pleidlais Ewrop yn Mehefin hefyd yn ychwanegu mwy o ddryswch i ddiwrnod eisoes yn brysur gyda etholiadau, gyda Heddlu a Chomisiynwyr Troseddau hefyd yn cael eu codi - er gwaethaf materion cyfiawnder a phlismona nad yw'n faterion sydd wedi eu datganoli [2].

 "Mae etholiadau'r Cynulliad Cenedlaethol yn cael llawer rhy ychydig o sylw ar draws y DU fel ag y mae. Mae etholiadau Cynulliad Cymru a refferendwm Ewrop angen cyfle clir i gael eu lle ar wahan: gadewch i ni gael trafodaethau â ffocws gwirioneddol am y ddau penderfyniadau pwysig drwy gynnal yr ymgyrchoedd ar adegau gwahanol ".

DIWEDD

Nodiadau i Olygyddion

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12135328/EU-referendum-draft-deal-revealed-by-Donald-Tusk-live.html#update-20160202-0800

[2] http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wrong-person-could-elected-assembly-8862675

ERS Cymru: Wales TV debates need to include all six parties

29th January 2016
29 Jan 2016
Tags: 
ERS Cymru
TV debates
Assembly elections
wales

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***Neges Ddwyieithog: Scroliwch Lawr am y Gymraeg***

***Bilingual Message: Scroll down for Welsh***

 

Electoral Reform Society Cymru is calling on broadcasters in Wales to include all six major parties in their election debates, to make the upcoming broadcasts as inclusive as possible.

While arrangements for the TV elections debates have yet to be decided, Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru say there is a clear case for including six parties in the TV debates, following the UK general election debates last year which featured seven leaders.

Steve Brooks, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“It’s clear that with six parties in the running for Assembly seats, they should have their voices heard. The public deserve as open and inclusive a debate as possible, especially given that the proportional electoral system means we truly have a multi-party political system in Wales, with a diverse range of viewpoints in the democratic arena. ..

“With the Assembly getting more powers, we need as open a debate as possible, and voters should be given a true representation of the options available in May.

“We call on the broadcasters to look at the success of last year’s Westminster TV debates which drew in millions of viewers because there was a real debate with clear differences of opinion.

“It would be wrong for broadcasters in Wales to exclude the Greens and UKIP, given the fact that their support has grown significantly since the last Assembly elections. Both parties are in the race to secure their first Assembly Members this May – and it’s only right that they should face the scrutiny of the public and other parties.

“Let’s open up these TV debates to reflect the diverse political landscape Wales has today. To exclude serious contenders for seats would be a missed opportunity and would only let down voters here in Wales.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Josiah Mortimer will be working with Electoral Reform Society Cymru in the run up to the Assembly elections in May.

ERS Cymru will be releasing three mini-manifestos ahead of the Assembly elections, as well as polling, research and projections for May.

 

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ERS Cymru: Mae angen i ddadleuon teledu arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru gynnwys pob un o'r chwe plaid

  • Datganiad gan Electoral Reform Society Cymru
  • Embargo hyd nes 00:01, 29 Ionawr, 2016
  • Am fwy o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau neu i drefnu cyfweliad / sylwadau, cysylltwch â Josiah Mortimer, Swyddog y Wasg ERS Cymru, ar 07717211630 neu josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk.  
  • Am gyfweliadau yn y Gymraeg, cysylltwch â Dr Owain ap Gareth ar 07771 661 802 neu owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk

Mae Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru yn galw ar y darlledwyr yng Nghymru i gynnwys pob un o’r chwe prif blaid yn eu dadleuon ar gyfer etholiad cyffredinol Cymru, er mwyn gwneud yr ymgyrch mor gynhwysol â phosibl.

Er bod y trefniadau ar gyfer yr etholiadau teledu dadleuon i'w benderfynu, mae ERS Cymru yn dweud bod achos clir dros gynnwys chwech plaid yn y dadleuon teledu, yn dilyn dadleuon yr arweinwyr yn etholiad cyffredinol y DU y llynedd a oedd yn cynnwys saith arweinydd.

Dywedodd Steve Brooks, Cyfarwyddwr ERS Cymru:

"Mae'n amlwg gyda chwe blaid yn y ras i ennill seddi yn y Cynulliad, dylent i gyd gael llais cyfartal. Mae'r cyhoedd yn haeddu dadl mor agored a chynhwysol a phosib, yn enwedig o ystyried bod y system etholiadol gyfrannol yn golygu ein bod gyda system sy’n wirioneddol aml-bleidiol yng Nghymru, gydag amrywiaeth eang o safbwyntiau yn cael eu hadlewyrchu yn yr arena ddemocrataidd Gymreig.

"Gyda'r Cynulliad am ennill mwy o bwerau, mae angen dadl agored, a dylai pleidleiswyr gael syniad o'r opsiynau sydd ar gael iddynt wrth fwrw pleidlais ym mis Mai.

"Rydym yn galw ar y darlledwyr i edrych ar lwyddiant y dadleuon teledu yn San Steffan y llynedd a oedd yn tynnu mewn miliynau o wylwyr oherwydd bod dadl go iawn gyda gwahaniaethau barn clir.

"Byddai'n anghywir i ddarlledwyr yng Nghymru wahardd y Gwyrddion a'r UKIP, o ystyried y ffaith bod eu cefnogaeth wedi tyfu'n sylweddol ers etholiadau diwethaf y Cynulliad. Mae’r ddwy blaid yn y ras i sicrhau eu Haelodau Cynulliad cyntaf y Mai hyn - ac mae hi ond yn iawn iddynt wynebu craffu a scriwtini iawn gan y cyhoedd a gan y pleidiau eraill.

"Gadewch i ni gael trafodaethau teledu gwbl agored i adlewyrchu'r tirwedd wleidyddol amrywiol sydd yng Nghymru heddiw. Mi fyddai gwahardd cystadleuwyr difrifol ar gyfer seddi yn colli cyfle euraidd ac yn gadael pleidleiswyr Cymru i lawr."

Am fwy o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau neu i drefnu darn cyfweliad / sylwadau, cysylltwch â Josiah Mortimer ar 07717211630 neu josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

DIWEDD

Nodiadau i Olygyddion

Bydd Josiah Mortimer yn gweithio gyda ERS Cymru yn y cyfnod hyd at etholiadau'r Cynulliad ym mis Mai.

Bydd ERS Cymru yn rhyddhau tri mini-maniffesto cyn etholiadau Cynulliad, yn ogystal ag pleidleisio, ymchwil a rhagamcanion ar gyfer mis Mai.                                     

Transparency campaigners welcome Scottish Government commitment to 2-year review of Lobbying (Scotland) Bill

28th January 2016
28 Jan 2016

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  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland on behalf of Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT)
  • For immediate release 28 January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, on 07940523842 or Willie.Sullivan@electoral-reform.org.ukAlternatively, contact Katie Gallogly-Swan ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser, on 07930862497 or katie.galloglyswan@electoral-reform.org.uk

Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) [1] welcomes progress as Scottish Government promises two-year review [2] today (28 January) to consider a stronger Lobbying Register, but warns against leaving ‘lobby loopholes’ for email or contact with senior civil servants.

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Scotland said:

“By ensuring that the framework of the Bill allows for it to be strengthened, the Government has shown a commitment to the ongoing improvement of transparency. However, by not implementing more robust registration now – by including more than just face-to-face communication, communications with SpAds and Civil Servants, and campaign expenditure - the two-year review will be missing crucial information.

“At the Stage 1 debate on 7 January 2016, the Scottish Government disappointed transparency campaigners by showing reluctance to close the loopholes in the Bill, despite recommendations from the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee [3] and overwhelming public support [4]. Their ‘cautious’ approach to the public demand for transparent politics has meant that any lobbying registration process will be missing vital information that could help level the playing field between wealthy, private interests, and community campaigns.

“While the review is important, not including email communications as part of the register makes the legislation out of date long before it is even enacted.”

Steve Goodrich, Senior Research Officer, Transparency International UK:

“We’re pleased to see the Scottish Government promising to review how transparent Scottish politics is after the new lobbying rules have had time to bed in. Westminster should take a leaf from their book. However, this review will be more fruitful if it has more evidence to draw from. That’s why the Scottish Government should introduce transparency now about who’s trying to influence its decisions and officials via email, letter and phone rather than leave it for years down the line. This is a golden opportunity for Holyrood to show Westminster what political openness really is. Ministers should take it rather than letting it pass them by.”

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy:

"We welcome the commitment to a review of the lobbying register after two years in operation.  However, the government should not miss the opportunity to get it right first time round. The experience of lobbying registers around the world shows that these reviews recommend more, not less transparency. That transparency could start right now with a robust register.

“Lobbyists will always try find loopholes in the rules. Unfortunately, they’ve still got lots to work with in this Bill. Lobbyists should not be able to escape the register simply by talking to politicians on the phone or by email."

Robin McAlpine, Director of Common Weal said:

“It’s really good that the Scottish Government seems to be becoming more and more persuaded on the case for proper transparency over lobbying, not least because of the overwhelming public support. This commitment to an ongoing process to make this better regulation is a genuinely positive sign and as long as the Scottish Government doesn’t allow momentum to be lost after the election it will send out a message to the public that it’s their parliament, not the lobbyists.”

Notes:

[1] The Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) is an alliance of civil society groups who are concerned about the growing influence of lobbying on decision-making in Scotland. We believe only increased transparency can begin to restore trust in policy making and make ministers, elected representatives, and officials more accountable to the public. 

[2] The Government response can be seen here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_StandardsProceduresandPublicAppointmentsCommittee/Stage_1_response_-_Lobbying_Bill.pdf

[3]In December 2015, SALT commissioned a YouGov poll on public opinion of the three suggestions to strengthen the Bill by:

1.     Expanding the definition of lobbying so multiple modes of communication trigger registration

2.     Expanding the definition so lobbying of civil servants and special advisers triggers registration

3.     Expand the information that should be disclosed by lobbyists to include spending on lobbying

Of those polled, 88% believed that lobbying posed a big or significant risk to the policy-making process, compared to only 12% who said there was not much or no risk. Only 9% said it was enough to have face-to-face meetings between politicians and lobbyists in any lobbying register, whereas 91% believed that the register should include lobbying communications with Special Advisers and Civil Servants. While 13% agreed with the initial Bill that lobbying should include only face-to-face meetings, 87% agreed with the SALT recommendation to include more modes of communication like telephone calls and emails. Most significantly, 92% of those polled supported financial disclosure of lobbying expenditure, with only 8% saying this was not important.

[4] The Committee report can be read here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94898.aspx

Trade Union Bill: 77% of public think that big donors have too much influence on parties

20th January 2016
20 Jan 2016

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Findings come amid calls for Trade Union Bill to form part of a comprehensive party funding reform deal

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 20th January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Ahead of a major Parliamentary showdown on the Trade Union Bill, the Electoral Reform Society has released new polling showing that 77% of the public believe big donors have too much influence on political parties [1].

The findings come ahead of a motion in the House of Lords on Wednesday [2] to make the Trade Union Bill – which is expected to result in a £6m per year cut to Labour’s income [3] – form part of a cross-party deal on party funding reform, rather than just affecting Labour.

The Electoral Reform Society is calling on Peers to back the motion to set up a cross-party committee on the Trade Union Bill, so that it can form part of a new settlement on party finances across the board. The motion is backed by Liberal Democrat and Labour Peers and is likely to be backed by a large number of cross-benchers.

The polling released today also shows that 72% of the public agree or strongly agree that the system of party funding is ‘corrupt and should be changed’ – up from 61%when the same question was asked in 2014 [4].

57% also believe that a ‘state-funded political system would be fairer than the one we currently have’ – up from 41% in 2014.

The ERS and others are concerned that the Trade Union Bill is currently one-sided in its approach to reforming Labour’s funding, undermining the convention that party funding matters be dealt with in a multi-party manner.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [5]:

“These findings show that the public are deeply concerned with Britain’s broken party funding model. Party finances in the UK are in dire need of reform, following years of scandals and voters’ rising disgust about the role of money in our politics.

“There is growing appetite for reforming the way parties are funded, and you can see this among people from across the political spectrum. Measures in the Trade Union Bill to ensure union members have to ‘opt in’ to pay into political funds could form part of a fresh settlement.

“However, by targeting Labour and not tackling the issue in the round, the Government is risking decades of parties indulging in tit-for-tat raids on each other’s sources of funds. We need all parties to get around the table and deal with this once and for all. There is no other way of finding a sustainable solution and avoiding accusations of constitutional gerrymandering.

“Now is the time for all parties to get to grips with the mess that is Britain’s party funding system. The fact is that Labour is seen by the public to be at the behest of barons, and the Tories at the behest of bankers. All parties need to tackle the big donor culture which makes party funding an arms race rather than an open democratic process.

“We therefore urge Peers to get behind Wednesday’s motion to set up a cross-party committee on the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes to Editors

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals’. Read the full report and recommendations here.

 [1] Polling by BMG research of 1,504 UK residents aged 18 or over, conducted at the end of October 2015. Full cross-tabs available on request – contact Josiah Mortimer (details above). http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] See here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trade-union-bill-lib-dems-to-help-labour-prevent-bill-from-stifling-party-funding-a6816856.html

[3] More information on how the Trade Union Bill will affect Labour Party funding is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33537550

[4] Polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 24-27 February 2014, available here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/GQR%20public%20poll%206%20March%202014(1).pdf

[5] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

New Lords committee could be first step towards party funding settlement

20th January 2016
20 Jan 2016

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 20th January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society has strongly welcomed a vote by Peers in the House of Lords this afternoon to set up a cross-party committee on party funding reform - amidst growing concern that the Trade Union Bill is far too one-sided in its approach to the issue.

Peers voted this afternoon (5pm) by 327 votes to 234 in favour of Baroness Smith of Basildon’s motion [2] to create a select committee on the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill which would force union members to ‘opt in’ to unions’ political funds – potentially cutting off up to £6m of Labour’s funding every year [3].

The motion will establish a new committee ‘to consider the impact of clauses 10 and 11 of the Trade Union Bill [on unions’ Political Funds] in relation to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report, ‘Political Party Finance: ending the big donor culture’’ – a major 2011 report on party funding reform [4].

Peers advocated ‘urgent new legislation to balance those provisions [in the Trade Union Bill] with the other recommendations made in the Committee’s Report’, with the new cross-party select committee set to report by 29 February.

Welcoming the move, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [5]:

“This could be the first step towards a lasting settlement on party funding. As things stand, the current Trade Union Bill could take £6m per year off Labour’s finances, without reforming party funding across the board. We need to clean up the parties’ big donor culture once and for all.”

“Our new polling shows that that 77% of the public think that big donors have too much influence over our politics, and 57% believe that a state-funded political system would be fairer than the one we currently have – up from 41% in 2014 [6]. We need serious cross-party action on this – not tit-for-tat partisan attacks.

“We strongly welcome Peers’ important decision on this Bill and we hope parties engage constructively with this new committee to sort out the mess that is Britain’s party funding system.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes to Editors

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals’. Read the full report and recommendations here.

[1] See here http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/trade-union-bill-77-public-think-big-donors-have-too-much-influence-parties

[2] See here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trade-union-bill-lib-dems-to-help-labour-prevent-bill-from-stifling-party-funding-a6816856.html and here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldordpap.htm

[3] More information on how the Trade Union Bill will affect Labour Party funding is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33537550

[4]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228646/8208.pdf

[5] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[6] Polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 24-27 February 2014, available here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/GQR%20public%20poll%206%20March%202014(1).pdf

Carwyn vs Nigel: Both sides need to deal with Europe's democratic deficit, say Electoral Reform Society

8th January 2016
8 Jan 2016

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  • Statement comes as Carwyn Jones and Nigel Farage go head to head on Monday at the Institute of Welsh Affairs
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 12:00, 7th January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society have today called for both sides of the EU debate to ‘deal with the democratic deficit Britain faces’ - both within and outside of Europe –ahead of a major debate on Monday at the Institute of Welsh Affairs [1].

The Society is calling for a ‘real debate’ on Britain’s democratic relationship with Europe, beyond simple in/out divides. The ERS says both camps should address arguments around the democratic deficit – whether Britain stays in the European Union or not.

Ahead of the debate, the ERS are making key four key recommendations:

 

1.    Change the voting system for electing MEPs from a ‘closed list’ to an open, candidate-centred electoral system, the Single Transferable Vote

2.    Consensus should be sought with Ministers in the devolved nations on the stances taken by the government during EU policy negotiations

3.    Allow Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to take part in meetings of the EU’s Council of Ministers

4.    Open up the EU policy-making process to enable  citizens to become more involved

 

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

“There are clearly major democratic issues with the EU which both sides have to face up to. We need a real debate - beyond simple in/out divides - on Britain’s future, whether that is in or out of Europe.

“Carwyn Jones has in the past raised the issue of the so-called ‘Bridgend Question’ – the fact that in the European Council of Ministers, Britain’s case on for example farming policy is always put by Westminster’s Minister for Agriculture, regardless of whether Welsh, Scottish or Northern Ireland Ministers agree to the line or not. Now he needs to address this question in the context of the referendum. If voters choose to stay in the EU, how should this and other aspects of the democratic deficit be addressed?

“And there are questions for Nigel Farage too – if Britain does vote to leave the EU, it will have no say over the trade rules we’ll need to comply with in order to conduct our business with Europe. How will Britain outside Europe ensure that citizens and their elected government have real influence over these issues? And if Wales votes to stay in the UK but England votes to leave, should England’s votes pull Wales out of the European Union?

“If we leave Europe, we will need a constitutional convention of citizens to look at how we move forward as a democracy, after what will be a huge political change. We’ll also need to ensure people in Wales and the UK as a whole have some say on whatever treaties or trade relationships we sign up to. And if we remain in Europe, there are vital reforms we must make to improve the UK’s democratic relationship with the EU - and give Wales more of a voice over European affairs.

“For a start, the voting system for the EU elections puts power in the hands of parties, rather than citizens, allowing party bosses to draw up candidate lists behind closed doors. We need a system which lets the public decide: a candidate-centred voting system - the Single Transferable Vote – where citizens can actually pick the representatives themselves.

“Secondly, Ministers from the devolved nations should have a right to hold UK ministers to account on the stances taken by the government during negotiations. The discussions in the run-up to the vote affect people in Wales, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, significantly – whether it’s in terms of employee rights or free trade, environmental legislation or government vetoes.   

“And if we vote to stay in, Welsh Ministers should have the opportunity to take part in meetings of the Council of Ministers. It is not right that they are locked out of essential debates. Other EU countries such as Germany and Belgium allow federal regions to participate – there’s no reason we can’t.

“Welsh and British citizens also need far more of a say over what happens in the EU – including shaping EU legislation. From citizens’ assemblies to public hearings and open debates on EU legislation in Parliament, we can open up the policy-making process so that the people affected by European law aren’t left out in the cold if the UK votes to stay in.

“The elephant in the room then is clearly a need for a proper debate on democracy and our relationship with Europe. The choice to remain or leave has huge implications for Wales and the rest of Britain’s constitutional future. Stay or go, the sooner we start talking about this, the better.”

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ which laid out 12 major recommendations on EU democratic reform. Read the full report and recommendations here.

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] See here http://www.iwa.org.uk/en/events/view/300 or here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/nigel-farage-carwyn-jones-go-10602023

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0