Following on from the release of my draft Right of Recall Act earlier this week, and my draft Fixed Term Elections Act earlier in the year, today I’ve released my draft Referendum (Clarity) Act.
I actually wrote this in December 2013 – I wrote it in reaction to the Gaming Referendum Act 2013 which ignited a storm of controversy due to the incredibly loaded question it proposed for the then promised referendum on casino gambling.
At the time I expected the Government to amend the question to a more neutral one, even if by an Opposition motion. I wasn’t expecting them to drop the referendum altogether – and when they did I decided to focus on the petition for a referendum on casino gambling, as that seemed the priority once they dropped it. I didn’t want to confuse the issue by having two related things going on at once, so I put this draft Act on the backburner.
I think it’s important to note that before the referendum was dropped, I sent an earlier draft of this Act to every single MP and Senator, OBA, PLP and Independent. Only PLP MPs and Senators replied to that email, offering some constructive criticism (typos, legal phrasing, etc) and generally being supportive of it. I say that to stress that this proposed Act shouldn’t be new to any MP or Senator – they’ve had access to at least an earlier version for almost a year now.
My approach since the 2012 election was announced (and thus a key factor in my deciding to run as an Independent then) has been that while criticising policy is all well and good, I should take it a step further and offer alternatives or concrete proposals, rather than just simply criticise things.
So, rather than just simply criticise the Government for not implementing Fixed Term Elections or Right of Recall legislation yet, I’ve taken a stab at preparing workable drafts that the Government (or Opposition) could take and introduce – and hopefully get passed – thus expediting their introduction. I realise my drafts may subsequently get amended in the process – in some cases purely procedurally (I’m not a lawyer trained in official drafting of legislation) or more substantively.
My proposed Referendum (Clarity) Act simply seeks to strengthen the Referendum Act 2012, correcting a flaw in the 2012 legislation that was highlighted by the biased phrasing of the Gaming Referendum Act 2013 question.
It’s based on UK legislation that empowers their Electoral Commission to rule on the neutrality and intelligibility of referendum questions, including the power to postpone referendums until an acceptable question is proposed. This was most recently seen with the referendum on Scottish independence, with the original question being ruled biased in favour of independence, and subsequently replaced by a more neutral question.
Quite simply, the policy exists in other jurisdictions, it has a proven precedent, and we can introduce it quite easily.
I welcome feedback on this draft Act too, although I’m confident (having received feedback from MPs earlier, and having consulted the UK Electoral Commission in drafting it), that it’s good to go as is.
If you think that my draft Referendum (Clarity) Act is good, or at least the underlying principle of it is, then please help me get it introduced – please contact your MP, or write to a Senator, and encourage them to adopt and/or support it!