As promised by Eleanor Laing last week, the Conservatives have tabled an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill which would Save General Election Night by setting in statute a requirement for Returning Officers to count votes at general elections on the night.
It proposes that counts could only be delayed if there are "exceptional circumstances" – and that these would have to be defined by the Justice Secretary and be subject to approval by Parliament.
Tomorrow's proceedings on the committee stage of the Bill will most likely be dominated by the Government's proposals on electoral reform, so I do not presently know what likelihood there is of the issue being properly debated and/or voted on.
If it is put to the vote, I would certainly hope that all the 220 MPs from across the House who signed the original Save General Election Night early day motion would stick to their word and back it.
I will let you know if I get any more news later.
The full text of the amendment (New Clause 98) is as follows:
Counting of votes in parliamentary elections
Mr Dominic Grieve
Mrs Eleanor Laing
Mr Eric Pickles
To move the following Clause:—
(1) The Representation of the People Act 1983 is amended as follows—
(2) In Schedule 1 (Parliamentary elections rules), in paragraph 44, after sub-paragraph (1) insert—
“(1A) The counting of votes in a parliamentary election shall start within four hours of the close of the poll, save in exceptional circumstances.
(1B) The Secretary of State shall, after consulting the Electoral Commission, prepare draft guidance on the definition of “exceptional circumstances” for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1A).
(1C) The draft guidance prepared under sub-paragraph (1B) may not be issued unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by both Houses of Parliament.”.