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Vote Leave officials to face MPs’ questioning over conduct during Brexit referendum

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary and the UK's most senior civil servant, (front right) giving evidence on the work of the Cabinet Office to the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) in April - Credit: PA

MPs are set to examine the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission at the time of the Brexit and Scottish independence referendums. 

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) will be hearing from senior officials of both campaigns on the Commission’s role of enforcing compliance with rules governing spending and donations during both votes.

The meeting on Tuesday comes after a series of high-profile court cases surrounding the funding of Vote Leave during the 2016 referendum.

The Commission reported that the post-Brexit group had exceeded the £7 million spending limit in breach of the law and fined the campaign £61,000. 

Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, initially appealed but claimed it had run out of money to pursue their case.



MPs will hear from Paul Comer, the former compliance director of Britain Stronger in Europe; Alan Halsall from Vote Leave; Scott Martin, a solicitor to the SNP and former responsible person, for Yes Scotland; and Kate Watson, from Better Together; and former Tory minister Dominic Grieve. 

It will also examine the quality and timeliness of support and guidance over the course of the campaigns and its approach to investigations and sanctions. It will also take evidence from former members of the Independent Commission on Referendums on their 2018 report.

PACAC has made headlines in recent weeks after its member launched inquiries into the lobbying of government ministers by private donors following the Greensill scandal, the role and status of the prime minister’s office and the work of the cabinet office. 

One of its high-profile grillings includes Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and the UK’s top civil servant. Case had been called upon to give evidence on the government “chatty rat” leak inquiry.

The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up under statute to oversee elections, regulate political finance in the UK and who work to promote public confidence in the democratic process.

The Committee’s predecessor recommended that it “should carry out an inquiry into the role and effectiveness of the Electoral Commission”.

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