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Electoral Roll

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

Research by the Electoral Commission on the completeness and accuracy of the register shows that the decline in registration levels between 2000 and 2010 has stabilised since 2011. The Government take seriously the need to have a complete and accurate register, are making electoral registration more accessible through online registration and have invested £4.2 million, shared between every local authority and five national organisations, to get those in harder-to-reach groups on the register.

Can the Minister tell the House how many fewer voters there were on the electoral register for England and Wales in December 2014, compared with the previous year, and whether he is alarmed at the reduction?

The full December register has not been published yet so it is impossible to tell the state of the register as at December. As the hon. Gentleman knows, individual electoral registration is a two-year project. We are mid-way through it and it is proving very successful. Nine out of 10 electors were transferred to the electoral register, and online registration is proving very successful. [Official Report, 21 January 2015, Vol. 591, c. 1-2MC.]

Many thousands of east Europeans have chosen to come to live and work in this country. The register published in my constituency shows some 3,000 east Europeans who are not qualified to vote, yet some 4,000 people with similar names are shown as eligible to vote in the general election. Will my hon. Friend order an urgent review of this to make sure that only those who are eligible to vote can do so at the election?

Individual electoral registration is about the completeness and accuracy of the register so that only those who are eligible to vote are on the register. If there is a specific problem in my hon. Friend’s local authority and local area and if he writes to me about it, I will look into it.

Even before the move to individual electoral registration, 7.5 million eligible voters were not on the register. As a result of the move, there is a risk of a further 5 million people falling off the register. Many accuse the Electoral Commission of being ineffective. Remarkably, the Electoral Commission has said that as long as the electoral register does not deteriorate further, this is a measure of success. Does the Minister agree that the Electoral Commission has not been ambitious enough?

I cannot speak for the Electoral Commission, but as the right hon. Gentleman knows, individual electoral registration is the biggest modernisation of our electoral system for more than 100 years. He also knows that nobody who was on the register in January 2014 will not be on the register come the 2015 election, so there is no risk there. Finally, the £4.2 million that the Government have invested in ensuring that we reach under-represented groups is well targeted. Authorities that have more under-represented groups received more money. We have learned the lessons from Northern Ireland, which went through the same process, and have safeguarded the existing system.