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Voter Registration

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2015

May I begin by wishing the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David), who is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, many happy returns on his birthday?

In answer to the question, as well as giving more than £50 million to enable local authorities to carry forward the individual electoral registration system, we have also given more than £10 million to enable them to take proactive steps to increase voter registration.

What actions will be taken against local authorities that have coasting rates of registration—those that have registered fewer than 98% of eligible voters?

I am happy to tell the hon. Lady that the Minister for constitutional reform—my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose)—is proactively stepping in to try to ensure that those local authorities do take further action. The Electoral Commission has also reported on this, and we are keen to see that every local authority ensures right away that it no longer has large groups of people who are unregistered and that it cleans its register.

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge the positive impact on voter registration of civil society campaigns and the campaign by the Church, Have Your Say, before the last election?

Yes, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. I am glad to say that we see a pattern of local authorities in many parts of the country doing what she describes and working with civil society partners to reach those people who might not otherwise be reached by more formal means to persuade them to register.

I think that we can all agree that electoral registration is desirable and that one factor that will affect that is the degree of faith and confidence that people have in our electoral system. One measure that could enhance that is the ability of people to recall their Member of Parliament in between elections. When will the Minister bring into force the remaining provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015?

The hon. Gentleman has indulged in what might be called an elastic interpretation of the question on the Order Paper. But just as I have been indulgent of him, I feel sure that the Minister will be similarly indulgent.

I am delighted to answer that question. The Recall of MPs Act, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, was passed just at the end of the previous Parliament. Two things now need to be done: one is to issue the commencement order, which is relatively straightforward; and the second is to issue the regulations that govern the conduct of the petition, which is more complicated. All of us in this House have a considerable interest in ensuring that that is done right. However, we are doing it at pace. I intend to bring the provisions before the House in September, when we return from recess.

Two weeks ago, the Electoral Commission published a report on the transition to full individual electoral registration. It expressed concern about the numbers that could fall off the electoral register if the Government brought forward the date of full IER to December 2015. Will the Government follow the advice of the Electoral Commission?

The shadow Minister is absolutely right that the Electoral Commission has made observations about that matter. We are now considering them very carefully, and we will think through the Government’s response before we inform the House what it is. In response to earlier questions, I should say that the Electoral Commission report has also indicated that we now have an increase in the total number of people registered compared with the situation before individual electoral registration was introduced.