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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Experimental Voting

27.

What statutory measures allow experimental voting procedures in individual constituencies at general elections. [107088]

Mr. Peter Viggers
(representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission)

The statutory provisions for experimental voting procedures apply only to local authority elections in England, Scotland and Wales.

A while ago, my hon. Friend referred to the number of younger people who vote. I and, I am sure, other colleagues have received representations from people of all ages asking for the opportunity to vote by e-mail or via the internet. Can the Speaker's Commission enable an experiment to see whether that would make a difference? It might allow the country to see whether those methods would work or whether more traditional ones are preferable.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This is indeed an area in which the Electoral Commission has a keen interest. The commission's strategic evaluation report on the May 2002 electoral pilots notes that voters generally found electronic voting systems easy and convenient to use. However, the commission also recognises that evidence in relation to turnout remains unconvincing and recommends further trials to build on the experience of this year's pilots, which, of course, will be held in relation to the May local government elections.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked

Fundraising

28.

What advice is given by the commissioners regarding the use of Church premises for fundraising; and if he will make a statement. [107089]

The Church Commissioners give no such advice. Parishes make their own arrangements for fundraising events, and we applaud them for what they do. Many use their buildings for activities intended to raise funds, and well-planned events can benefit both the congregation and the wider community.

I am very grateful for that answer, and it is right to say that a variety of activities can take place. May I again implore the hon. Gentleman to visit Lichfield to see not only activities such as the Lichfield festival, which occurs annually in our cathedral, but the many different churches, which raise money not only from jumble sales and bazaars, but through artistic events in the area?

I am grateful for the question. If the hon. Gentleman remembers, at the previous Question Time, I accepted an invitation to visit Lichfield in July. When he sends me the invitation, I will be glad to accept it. Having said that, I was in mid-Wensleydale parish last week, in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), and I must tell him that there was a strong response: all those in the room said that they had supported him, did support him, and would support him. I can only congratulate him on his role as a constituency Member of Parliament. At mid-Wendsleydale, a clear local connection existed between the parish church and the parish in relation to fundraising, which was very successful. The hon. Gentleman reminds us of how much work is done in parishes up and down the land in relation to fundraising and in relation to their parishioners.