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House of Commons Hansard
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20 July 2016
Volume 613
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6. What the Government’s plans are for the future of electoral offices in Northern Ireland. [905913]

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The Government want to make sure that Northern Ireland voters can benefit from the introduction of digital registration. This new technology also provides an opportunity for the chief electoral officer to examine how electoral services can be delivered more effectively.

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I, too, welcome the Minister and the Secretary of State to their place and thank the former team. Does the Minister accept that there may be some difficulties with online registration that are particular to Northern Ireland and not to other parts of the United Kingdom?

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The system has been working in the rest of the United Kingdom since 2014. A full public consultation on the reform proposals and models will start this autumn, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will make a full contribution to the process.

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13. What consideration has been given to adopting the cross of St Patrick as a unity flag for all communities representing Northern Ireland? [905921]

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The issue of flags in Northern Ireland is sensitive and complex. Any change in existing arrangements would require cross-community support. The Stormont House agreement included a commitment to a commission on flags, identity, culture and tradition, and that was established in June.

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During the consultation process on electoral services, will both the Minister and the Electoral Office ensure that accessibility is a top priority, so that local people outside Belfast can have access through their local electoral offices for registration and photographic ID purposes?

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The key thing to say about the issue of digital registration is that it is not replacing the old system. The existing system will stay in place and there is an opportunity to contribute on the issues relating to rural communities in particular, which I know many Members from Northern Ireland are concerned about.

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I call Fabian Hamilton. Where is the fella? He is not here.