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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 512: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2010

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

Unregistered Voters

4. What discussions the Electoral Commission plans to hold with electoral registration officers in Scotland on the conclusions of its recent report on unregistered voters. (3390)

The Electoral Commission is concerned about the levels of voter registration in the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and it has met the electoral registration officers who took part in its recent research. It has met also all electoral registration officers in Scotland to discuss the recent findings and to seek improvements in Scotland’s registration levels.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his reply. He will be aware that the report revealed that more than 100,000 of Glasgow’s citizens were not registered. That is three times the entire electorate of Orkney and Shetland. Will the Electoral Commission request an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Scotland to ensure that proper resources are now provided as a matter of urgency in order to resolve that disgraceful position?

I shall certainly pass on the hon. Lady’s comments to the Electoral Commission, but it is already working with electoral registration officers in Glasgow. She is right to point out that the recent research demonstrated worrying levels of voter registration, and it seems that that has been going on for some time. Everyone is working hard to try to put that matter right, but the primary focus is on the electoral registration officers in Glasgow. However, I shall pass her comments on to the Electoral Commission.

Close of Polls (Voting)

5. What recent representations the Electoral Commission has received on whether ballot papers may be issued to those within the precincts of polling stations at 10 pm on polling day who signify their intention to vote. (3391)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it has received representations from voters, candidates, political parties, returning officers, Members of Parliament and professional bodies regarding queues at some polling stations on 6 May. In its urgent report, published two weeks after the general election, the commission identified a total of 27 polling stations in 16 constituencies where it was able to confirm that there were problems with queues at the close of poll. At least 1,200 people were affected. The commission has recommended that the law should be changed to make it clear that any elector who is entitled to vote and who is in the queue to enter the polling station at the close of poll will be allowed to vote. This will require primary legislation.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his answer. He is also aware that the Electoral Commission has indicated that legislation to ensure that voters within the precinct receive a ballot paper could take the form of a one-clause piece of legislation—an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 2000. Will he press the Government to ensure that time is made available for this urgent piece of legislation early in this Session to ensure that those who present themselves for voting at a polling station do indeed get their ballot papers?

It is not for me to press the Government on any issue, but I am sure that those who are sitting on the Front Bench today will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s representations. This is a matter of concern. The Electoral Commission is of the view that primary legislation is required; and certainly, in its discussions with the Government, it will be urging them to respond in an appropriate manner.