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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

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

Franchise (Overseas Citizens)

8. What steps the Electoral Commission is taking to ensure that citizens resident overseas who are not entitled to vote are not included on electoral registers for parliamentary elections. (33924)

The Electoral Commission has issued guidance to electoral registration officers on the checks they must carry out to determine whether to grant applications to register as an overseas elector. This includes checking evidence of the age of the applicant, their citizenship status and their relevant qualifying address in the United Kingdom.

What I want to know from my hon. Friend is what measures there are to make sure that returning officers and electoral registration officers ensure that those who are not entitled to be on the electoral register—foreign nationals and others—do not simply fill in and return the form to put themselves on the electoral register because it helps them to get other benefits and then have a vote although they are not entitled to one.

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. He will be pleased to know that electoral registration officers have a range of powers to require extra information from people on the register, including evidence that they meet either or both of the requirements of eligibility. Other measures available to EROs are the ability to make house-to-house inquiries and to inspect other council records. However, my hon. Friend raises an important point and sends an important signal to EROs around the country to do their job well.