The Electoral Commission informs me that it has asked all returning officers to provide information about their current plans for counting ballot papers at the next UK parliamentary general election. This information has been made available in the House of Commons Library. In summary, as of 7 January, returning officers for 586 out of 650 constituencies had provided information. Of these, 52 do not plan to count ballot papers on the evening of polling day at the general election. A further 17 have indicated that they may defer counting if the general election is combined with local authority elections, and 187 were still undecided.
I congratulate my hon. Friend. In 2001 the count in my constituency started at 10 o’clock at night and continued until after 5 o’clock in the morning. It was recommenced at noon the next day, and I did not get my result until well into the afternoon. I should point out that there was only one count. Is he aware that already the count may not be completed on election day, even without the extra day?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting and important point. I am pleased to see that his constituency has decided to continue to count on polling day itself even though, as he said, that may take some time. As we all know, some returning officers have decided to count on Friday because of the extra time and people required to check postal votes taken by hand to polling stations on polling day.