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Lessons Learned from the EU Referendum

14 July 2016

Following the result of the EU Referendum, and building on Public Administration Select Committee's (PASC) work in the last Parliament on the conduct of the Scottish independence referendum (PDF 622 KB), the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into the lessons that can be learned for future referendums.

Call for evidence

This inquiry will explore:

  • The role and purpose of referendums and the relationship between direct and parliamentary democracy
  • The effectiveness of the existing legislation regulating the conduct of referendums
  • The role of the machinery of Government during the referendum campaign
  • The administration of the referendum and the robustness and integrity of the electoral register, following the introduction of individual electoral registration
  • The level of contingency planning, within Whitehall (and, where appropriate, the devolved administrations), that should be in place prior to the result of a referendum

The Committee invites written evidence submissions on the following questions:

The role and purpose of referendums

  • What is the relationship between direct democracy and the UK's tradition of representative democracy?
  • What is the legal status of referendums and what questions are appropriate to be determined by referendums?

The regulatory system for referendums

  • How effective, and comprehensible, is the existing system of regulation for referendums in the United Kingdom?
  • How can the purdah provisions contained in s.125 of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 retain their effectiveness in an increasingly digital democracy?
  • What are the sanctions available for breaches of s.125; should these sanctions be strengthened?
  • Should referendums on constitutional questions include a minimum percentage threshold?

The campaign

  • How sufficient was the purdah period provided during the EU Referendum campaign and should a longer purdah period apply in future referendums?
  • How effective was the designation process for lead campaigners, and will future referendums require further reform of the designation process?
  • What role did the machinery of Government play during the referendum campaign and what were the consequences for Civil Service impartiality?

Electoral administration

  • How competently did the Electoral Commission discharge its statutory duties during the referendum campaign?
  • Has the Electoral Commission been given the appropriate powers and responsibilities in statute? Should they be altered in advance of any future referendums?
  • How appropriate is it for the Electoral Commission to be both a 'provider', in the sense of running referendums and elections, and a 'regulator'? Should these functions be executed by separate bodies?
  • What were the main problems that arose regarding the electoral administration of the referendum?
  • What impact did individual electoral registration have on the referendum?
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure the integrity and robustness of the electoral register?


  • How adequate was the Government's post-referendum planning?
  • What level of contingency planning should be provided by the Civil Service as to possible referendum outcomes? For example, should it adopt a model similar to that found in General Elections (whereby the Civil Service holds meetings with the Opposition before the result is known to prepare to implement its programme if necessary)?

The deadline for written submissions is Monday 5 September 2016.

Further information

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