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Electoral Register

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2012

We are bringing forward our Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, which has its Second Reading in the House tomorrow, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the electoral register.

How does my hon. Friend expect individual voter registration to help with efforts to get more disabled people and young people registered to vote?

It is certainly true that there has been a lot of focus on the possible risks to this approach. When we debate Second Reading tomorrow, I hope that colleagues will see that we have taken a lot of steps to deal with that. However, there are also a number of opportunities, one of which is through the online registration system that we are introducing. We hope that disabled people, particularly those with visual impairments, will find it more convenient and easier to register. We may therefore find that, among certain groups, we have a better chance of getting people registered to vote and able to exercise their democratic rights.

Will the Minister publish an ongoing league table showing the number and percentage of people on the electoral register?

Information about people on the electoral register is, I understand, already published by the Office for National Statistics. It is difficult to publish a league table showing the percentage of eligible voters, because no clear information is available about the number of eligible people in each parliamentary constituency. However, information on the number of people registered to vote in each area is regularly published by the Office for National Statistics.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that all appropriate steps will be taken to reduce the risk of people falling off the register, and that registration officers will have all the tools available to them to ensure that registration is maximised in their local areas?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We have made a number of changes to the Bill to reflect the recommendations of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, whose Chairman, the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen), is in his place today. When colleagues on both sides of the House study the changes, they will see that we have taken all the steps to maximise the accuracy of the register and to ensure that no one eligible to vote falls off it in the transition.

If the Government wish, as they say, to have a complete and accurate electoral register, why are they pressing ahead with their individual electoral registration legislation before the results of the next round of data matching are known? Can it be because they are thinking about the parliamentary boundary review of December 2015?

That is not the case. The hon. Gentleman knows that, based on the data-matching pilots we have already run, we think that there is good evidence that we will be able to confirm two thirds of voters who are already on the electoral register and move them over to the new one, assured that they are real people registered at those addresses. We will run more pilots later this year, subject to parliamentary approval of the orders, to test that proposition further and see whether there are any other lessons to learn. However, we are confident from the work that we have done so far that the process is robust.