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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: CHAIRMAND OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION IEUAN WYN JONES, 3RD MAY, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.
DAVID FROST: Now talk of the Euro has put the cat among the pigeons in this election campaign, Tony Blair says the question in any referendum on that matter would be straightforward. William Hague fears it would be anything but. An Electoral Commission is set up, of course, to marshal the process as well as oversee many other election-related matters, as we saw in the paper review the Mail on Sunday is leading with this claim of vote-rigging, so who better to tell us about both these issues than the Chairman of the Commission, Sam Younger. Sam good morning.
SAM YOUNGER: Morning.
DAVID FROST: What about this situation where it's alleged that, for instance, in Stevenage half the people who voted last time have gone for a postal vote this time, why?
SAM YOUNGER: Well the rules have changed on postal voting so now anybody can get a postal vote on demand for whatever reason, rather than happening in the past to give a reason why they needed one. And secondly there's been quite a lot of encouragement for people to vote postally so it's not surprising that there's been a pretty big take-up and of course one of the reasons for going in this direction is to try to encourage more people to vote. So I think there will be a case for saying that there's a good deal of logic in having gone this direction if we see the turn-out having increased next Thursday.
DAVID FROST: But does this add to the danger of electoral fraud, I mean are, are postal votes more liable to that?
SAM YOUNGER: The whole of our electoral system, frankly, is based on trust really and there is capacity for fraud in all these areas. I think there is a greater possibility of postal vote fraud this time because it's simply easier to get postal votes and there are more and more postal forms floating about and one of the things we'll have to look at very carefully after the election is the balance between the encouragement to participation on the one hand, represented by postal voting on demand and the dangers of any increase on fraud on the other.
DAVID FROST: Now on the actual wording of this referendum which William Hague, our guest later on this morning, is saying is going to be rigged in oneżand he obviously fears and there have been some suggestions that, you know that Labour will want a question like "Do you want to join the Euro and enjoy the full benefits of something the government has examined and found will be really good for you" or something like that, and, whereas William would probably prefer "Do you want to desert the pound which has served us so well in two world wars and see the value of your house plummet with the Euro". Now how do you make, work out what's fair bearing in mind, I know from your constitution, that really you're only allowed to talk about whether it's intelligible, whether it makes sense, not whether it's fair or unfair?
SAM YOUNGER: The, the legislation does say we comment on the intelligibility but I must say I interpret the notion of intelligibility pretty widely and I think it makes no sense simply to comment on intelligibility because either of those two questions that you've just said there could be said to be intelligible, it would make no sense for an independent electoral commission simply to say that's intelligible and nothing else. I think we've got to comment on the fairness and I think because we're going to be in a position to comment on the fairness and because of course many, many other people are going to be looking very, very closely at the wording of any referendum question, I think it would be very difficult in the end to get a question that was genuinely loaded.
DAVID FROST: Yes there's a difference though between, these are two quite reasonable versions, say that Tony Blair went for, "Do you want to join the Euro?", William Hague would say it should be "Do you want to scrap the pound and join the Euro?" Now both of those are close to being fair, aren't they, how do you choose between them?
SAM YOUNGER: Well in a way I want to give us a bit of time after the election to look at this rather than now. We've not looked at it yet but I think we'll have to see what comes forward and then decide whether we think that's fair and what there is that's wrong with it if there is something wrong with it. I wouldn't want to prejudge it now by saying what would be a fair question.
DAVID FROST: But you will, you will speak, speak out on the fairness, that's the important thing you've said today, that you will speak out on that as well as the intelligibility?
SAM YOUNGER: Certainly, I don't think it makes any sense to do anything else.
DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed Sam, for clarifying that, many, many thanks. Sam Younger.
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