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Britain delayed election law in its first year

Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

10 December 2007

Britain delayed election law in its first year

National Party Deputy Leader Bill English says new laws covering elections in Britain were delayed in the first year they were implemented.

“Supporters of this bill have often used the British example to justify regulating free speech from January 1 in election year. However, what they don’t say is that Britain also chose to delay the start of the regulated period until 5 ½ months before the election in 2001.

“This was the first time the longer regulated campaign period applied, and the delayed start date was a reflection of the new rules. The public were given a 2 ½ month window to decipher how the laws applied to them.

“Even though the regulated period on the books was effectively 12 months, the first time around it was reduced to give the public time to understand the changes.

“Here in New Zealand, Labour plans to give us around a week.”

Mr English is making the comment in a bid to show the smaller parties that voting for National’s amendment to implement the law from April 1 would be in sync with how Britain treated its election reform legislation.

“Officials here have said the Electoral Finance Bill needed to pass at the end of last month to give them time to prepare to enforce it. There is also widespread confusion about critical clauses in the bill.

“When the political parties don’t know what it means, when the officials don’t know what it means, and when most legal experts can’t agree - what chance do the public have of understanding it?”

Mr English says Labour’s supporters of the bill should employ their own law of commonsense and provide a decent window of opportunity for people to come to grips with this fatally flawed piece of partisan law.

“No one wants to see a series of test cases before the courts from January 1, as precedents are sought to determine what the law means and how it will be applied.

“According to officials, they won’t be equipped to deal with it. So, why the indecent haste?”


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