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Individual Electoral Registration

Volume 603: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2015

1. If he will make an assessment of the effectiveness of the transition to individual electoral registration. (902468)

7. If he will make an assessment of the effectiveness of the transition to individual electoral registration. (902474)

The Electoral Commission will publish its assessment of the first full registers under individual electoral registration next spring. In the meantime, I am delighted to inform the House that the transition to IER is now complete. Ghost entries of people who have died or moved house have been removed. We now have a register that is clean, more accurate and less vulnerable to fraud than ever before. This is a vital foundation stone as we move on to the next big challenge: finding people who are legally entitled to vote, but have never been on the register, such as expats, students and people in private rented accommodation, and persuading them to sign up.

I thank the Minister for his response. University towns and cities are some of the areas worst affected by the Government’s rushed changes to IER. Will the Government allow universities to block-register their students this year?

I think the hon. Lady and I may mean slightly different things by block registration, but there is common ground, in that some very useful and effective new work is being done in places such as Sheffield, which is dramatically improving student registration rates. With any luck, we can take its example and persuade others to do the same.

The Electoral Commission states that 51% of 16 to 17-year-olds are registered, compared with 95% of those over 65. The Government have opposed votes for 16 and 17-year-olds in the upcoming EU referendum, and they will not even ensure that young people have a voice. Why are they so indifferent to a whole generation?

We addressed that issue at some length yesterday when discussing the European Union Referendum Bill. This is the third or fourth time that the House has addressed that idea, and each time it has returned pretty solid majorities against it. The vote yesterday was because we did not think it sensible to change such a fundamental piece of the franchise for just one vote. That would leave us open to the charge of trying to sway the franchise for the EU referendum to favour one side or the other—something that I am sure no one would support.

May I encourage my hon. Friend to consider postal voting? Leaving aside what may or may not have happened at the recent by-election, is it the case that registering for a postal vote is far too easy these days, which renders the whole system open to serious abuse?

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and large numbers of people are concerned about that issue. I am happy to tell him that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) is at this moment considering a report, and if my hon. Friend has any suggestions about what should be in it, he is welcome to make them.

I am glad the Minister noticed that there was a parliamentary by-election in Oldham last week. When he carefully studies the figures he will see that there are 1,814 fewer voters in Oldham West and Royton than there were at the general election. If those figures are extrapolated across the country, they show that more than 1 million fewer people are registered than were a year ago. That was predicted; it has happened intentionally. By design, this Minister is responsible for silencing the voices of more than 1 million voters in Britain. How does he feel about being the only Minister in British history to disfranchise 1 million people?

I see that the conspiracy theorists are out in force this morning. The entries that will have been crossed off the register as a result of the introduction of individual elector registration—a measure that was supported in principle by the Labour party—will be those for people who have died or moved house. Anybody who is a legitimate elector and who has a pulse will have been confirmed on the electoral register. If anybody is worried that they may not be registered, they can register online before May—it takes under three minutes, which is less than the time needed to boil an egg—and they will get their vote.