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Postal Votes

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 17 December 2015

5. What guidance the Electoral Commission issues on the handling of completed and sealed postal votes by political activists. (902799)

The Electoral Commission has developed a code of conduct for campaigners, which makes it clear that:

“Campaigners should never handle or take any completed ballot paper or postal ballot packs from voters.”

The code of conduct is non-statutory, but it applies to all campaigners at elections and referendums in Great Britain.

I declare an interest as a member of Kettering Borough Council. Kettering was one of the first authorities in the country to get all local activists to sign up to the code of conduct, which I am pleased to see the Electoral Commission has adopted. Will the Electoral Commission apply the code of conduct to by-elections, because in the recent by-election there were disturbing reports that activists were handling other people’s postal votes?

Where Kettering leads, other parts of the country will surely follow. My hon. Friend is right to say that this matter is now embraced in the national code produced by the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission spoke to members of UKIP recently and, as I understand it, they have still made no formal complaint. Perhaps a lesson for all of us is that if we make allegations, we should back them up and refer matters to the police.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Electoral Commission is of the view that electoral fraud cases are few and far between?

That is certainly the case, and we are fortunate in this country that there are very few cases of electoral fraud. Of course there are allegations, and the police now have special officers to investigate them, but mercifully at the moment, electoral fraud does not trouble us greatly.