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Electoral Register

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2014

Individual electoral registration will help to enhance the accuracy of the electoral register by verifying applications against Government records. We will also use data matching to ensure the completeness of the register during the transition to the new system by confirming the vast majority of existing electors. Five national organisations and every local authority in Great Britain are sharing £4.2 million of funding aimed at maximising registration. The introduction of online registration will be of particular help to groups such as overseas voters, students and young people.

If the Electoral Commission recommends in its report due in 2015 that the move should not go ahead because too many voters have dropped off the register, will the Minister listen to its advice?

With respect, the hon. Lady is bringing together two different points. The Electoral Commission has already said that individual voter registration should proceed, stating:

“We have independently assessed how ready the plans are for this change…and have concluded that it can proceed.”

The decision on whether to close the transition is a decision for the next Government and the Electoral Commission has said that it will provide advice during the next Parliament.

When individual registration was introduced in Northern Ireland, the registration of young people fell dramatically. A duty was then placed on schools and colleges to help register their students and Northern Ireland now has registration rates among young people that are higher than those in the rest of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister introduce a similar duty to apply to schools and colleges in the rest of the United Kingdom so that we maximise the number of young people who are registered?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s interest in this matter, as he knows. We have learned the lessons from Northern Ireland and that is one reason we have provided the funding we have to enable groups of people to go into schools and encourage people to register. One of the differences from which we have learned a lesson concerns the importance of online registration, which was not available in Northern Ireland. Our approach to registering young people is to encourage them to register online, and that will be carried out across the country.