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Electoral Registration

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2011

3. What discussions he has had with local authorities on (a) voter registration and (b) maximising participation in local and national elections. (80657)

We have been having regular discussions with local authority registration officers and those involved in our electoral data-matching pilots and the smooth implementation of individual registration. Everyone in the House has a responsibility to encourage people to participate in elections. Mr Speaker, you will know that the Electoral Commission has a particular role to play in that work, which the Government find very valuable and which I am sure is supported by every Member of the House.

Surely the Minister realises that a party that seems to believe in the big society and in localism would want participation to increase. Local authorities are deeply unhappy about the effect that the changes that are being mooted will have on local participation. Is he aware that the Deputy Prime Minister’s constituency—the wealthiest constituency in the north of England—could manage only a 73% turnout? What are we going to do about the others?

The hon. Gentleman is confusing two things. Clearly, the Government want to ensure that the electoral register is complete and accurate. As regards the turnout for elections, however, it is the responsibility of all of us in the House to ensure that we provide people with compelling reasons to vote. For example, we are taking the necessary steps to clear up the mess left for us by the Labour party.

In seeking to maximise participation in elections, what action is the Minister taking, and considering, to counter voter fraud and what I call the farming of votes?

My hon. Friend raises the question of potential fraud. That is exactly why we are introducing individual registration.

That measure was supported by all three parties in the House, despite what the hon. Lady might say from a sedentary position. The previous Government legislated to introduce individual registration in order to move away from the household-based system. In this way, we will have a register that is more complete and, importantly, more accurate.