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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

The hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Electoral Fraud

The Electoral Commission has worked with the College of Policing to publish detailed guidance for police forces on preventing and detecting electoral fraud. Additional measures are also being put in place by returning officers and police forces in areas where there have been allegations of electoral fraud at previous elections. The Electoral Commission has worked with political parties to agree a code of conduct for campaigners and is developing a simple guide for voters on how to protect their vote and report electoral fraud.

My Labour opponent in Hendon has registered himself, and just himself, in a flat he owns in the constituency, even though he lives in Notting Hill with his wife. Does my hon. Friend think that is open, honest and transparent?

That is not, directly speaking, a matter for the Electoral Commission, although I certainly agree that transparency in all politics is very important. It might be something that my hon. Friend can raise during the course of the coming campaign.

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Electoral Commission is monitoring events at the election court examining electoral fraud allegations relating to the Tower Hamlets mayoral election last year and that, given that the case is due to finish before the general election, any lessons to help improve the conduct of the election will be communicated to the police, the returning officer and the commissioners in Tower Hamlets?

I can certainly confirm that the Electoral Commission is watching that case very carefully indeed. There will be a study of the outcome once the judge has determined it. Obviously, I cannot comment on the details, as the case is ongoing. The report will be provided by the Electoral Commission as quickly as possible and lessons for the entire democratic system in our country will be learnt.

My hon. Friend will be aware that in the past there have been cases of electoral fraud and abuse in Bradford West. Will the Electoral Commission be keeping a particularly close eye on Bradford West in the forthcoming general election to ensure that no sharp practices are employed? If so, what additional measures are in place to ensure that the election in Bradford West will be free and fair?

Bradford is one of the 17 areas of the country that are receiving special attention from the Electoral Commission and the police in the run-up to the general election. There will be a greater police presence in those areas and firm guidance will be given to campaigners. Every police force in the country now has a specialist electoral fraud officer. The public will be issued with clear guidance on how to protect their vote and report any suspected electoral fraud, either to the police or to Crimestoppers.

In all the years that I have been voting, I have never noticed any clearly displayed signs in polling stations indicating the penalties for electoral fraud. Will my hon. Friend look into that and perhaps arrange to have a clear sign in every polling station explaining that people can go to prison for electoral fraud? Perhaps that will put off anyone intending to defraud the electorate.

I must confess to being as unobservant as my right hon. Friend, because I have not noticed any such displays either. I will pass her suggestion to the Electoral Commission immediately. If action is required, of course it will be taken.