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Electoral Register

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he is taking to encourage people to complete and return electoral registration forms. (291469)

Encouraging people to complete and return electoral registration forms is the responsibility of electoral registration officers (EROs), in local authorities, under a duty placed on them by section 9 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 (EA Act), which requires them to take all necessary steps to maintain the electoral register, including sending the canvass form more than once, inspecting such records that the ERO is allowed to inspect, and making house-to-house inquiries.

The EA Act also provided for the Electoral Commission to introduce a performance standards framework for EROs. The standards provide a framework within which the performance of EROs in registering people can be assessed, and targeted work undertaken to drive up performance where necessary. The first assessments against these standards were published on 21 April 2009 and are available on the Commission’s website.

The Government also established a funding mechanism to support novel and innovative projects and activities which EROs and returning officers take forward in pursuance of their duty, under section 69 of the EA Act to encourage electoral participation. Through this, funding has been made available for a range of schemes to support registration.

In addition, the Government recently legislated in the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 for the phased implementation of Individual Registration (IR) in Great Britain. This will be supported by a programme of work to drive up registration rates in Great Britain, enhancing both the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the electoral registers.

This programme will include: data matching pilots between EROs and local authorities to support registration; and secondary legislation to support registration amongst service voters, enhance data sharing in areas where there are two tier local authorities, and clarify that the section 9 duty applies all year round. The Government have also initiated a registration poster campaign in Citizens Advice Bureaux, the network of HM courts in England, Wales and Scotland and Jobcentre Plus offices.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that during the last three years registration rates continued to rise. As of 1 December 2008 the number of UK parliamentary electors rose to 45.2 million.