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Elections (Identification Documents)

Volume 80: debated on Thursday 13 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what use he intends to make of the power to extend by statutory instrument the prescribed identification documents in the Elections (Northern Ireland) Act 1985.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Nicholas Scott)

My right hon. Friend is currently reviewing the list of specified documents in the light of experience at the district council elections on 15 May. The Government will in due course consider bringing forward legislative proposals to apply the specified document requirement to other categories of elections held in Northern Ireland.

Making use of the blessed interval between elections to which we are now looking forward in Northern Ireland, will the Government be careful to consult all those with practical experience derived from the local government elections a month ago?

The Assembly has already had a debate on that subject, and we shall be studying that. We are ready to listen to representations from any quarter in Northern Ireland about the range of the documents electors might produce or, indeed, other aspects of the conduct of those elections.

Is my hon. Friend certain and satisfied that those wishing to take part in the recent elections in Northern Ireland were able to do so and were not denied the opportunity because they had the wrong documents available on the prescribed list?

We got the balance about right. The overriding fact is that, as the Irish News put it, personation was well and truly buried at this election as the result of our legislation. That was our aim, and we achieved it.

Can the Minister assure us that the Central Services Agency is doing everything in its power to issue a post-1973 medical card to everyone in Northern Ireland?

In giving that assurance, I wish also to pay the warmest tribute to the staff of the Central Services Agency for their efforts in putting out more than 50,000 cards immediately before the election.

Will the Minister keep in mind the proposal put in this House—[Interruption.]—when the matter was debated by—[Interruption.]

Will the Minister keep in mind the proposal put to this House by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) that those who wished to have their names on the electoral list would have to sign the forms themselves and put their date of birth, which would be duplicated so that the presiding officer could properly check that all those voting were on the list?

As I said earlier, we shall want to review the experience of the district council elections and ensure that in future elections personation is as well and truly buried as it was in those elections.