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Voter Registration

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but data are not available on the number of local authority areas in which people in more than 90% of households are registered to vote. As she is aware, each register is held locally. Aggregated electoral statistics are available from the Office for National Statistics, but these are not broken down by household. However, the ONS will publish its data at the end of February, by which time the Electoral Commission will also publish its assessment of the December register.

Ahead of that information being published, will the Minister explain to the House why his Department’s advice to local authorities made such a massive mess of capturing information on voters approaching the age of 18? The evidence suggests a catastrophic collapse in the number of attainers on the register. What will he do about that?

I do not agree that a catastrophic mess was made of the system. If the hon. Lady looks at the forms issued by the Electoral Commission to local authorities to get households to input all the names, she will see that it was clearly stated that people under the age of 18 should appear. This was user tested as well. In addition to the write out, electoral registration officers can knock on doors to make sure that people’s names are on the register. We have given EROs everything they need and everything they have asked for to get on the register everyone eligible to vote.

I am sure my hon. Friend would agree that registering involves faith in the political system. I am sure he agrees with me and the Deputy Prime Minister who said on 6 September 2010:

“Fewer, more equally sized and more up-to-date constituencies will help to bolster the legitimacy of parliamentary elections.”—[Official Report, 6 September 2010; Vol. 515, c. 40.]

Does the Minister agree that a failure of the Liberal Democrats, and particularly of the Deputy Prime Minister, to vote for his own Bill in 2013—he voted against bolstering the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections—has led to this diminution of faith in politicians, showing opportunism and political advantage at its worst?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. Of course we regret going into another election with some constituencies such as Arfon having 38,000 electors and others such as the Isle of Wight having 110,000. Those are not equally sized boundaries, but, as they say, we are where we are.