The Government have published their response to “Securing the ballot”, the review of electoral fraud conducted and published by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) in August 2016. I would like to thank my right hon. Friend for the work involved in his comprehensive and detailed report, which the Government believe is an important step in our commitment to tackling all types of electoral fraud in the UK. I add my thanks to all those individuals and organisations who contributed to this important review.
The Government have given each of My right hon. Friend’s 50 recommendations careful consideration. In setting out the Government’s view on each of the recommendations in turn, the response presents a package for reform that will ensure we can build a democracy that is clear and secure. We intend to achieve the changes we propose through a combination of primary and secondary legislation, where parliamentary time allows, and through new or reinforced guidance. As a central part of the reform package, the Government will look to identify legislative opportunities to give electoral administrators greater powers to protect voters from intimidation and undue influence, and to end the dubious practice of postal vote harvesting by political parties.
We will also look to introduce a number of pilot schemes at local government elections in 2018 to trial the use of voter identification in polling stations. The Government agree with my right hon. Friend that asking voters to prove their identity before receiving their ballot paper may be an effective way to enhance the security of the democratic process. Using existing legislative provisions, we will invite those local authorities identified by the Electoral Commission as being at risk of electoral fraud to take part in pilots, as well as authorities who are not considered at risk. The pilots will enable the Government to assess the impact of voter identification on elections in the UK.
The Government are aware of the consequences of devolution for this programme of reform. As with all legislation that relates to the division of competence on electoral matters between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, we are clear that decisions on these changes are ultimately the responsibility of those Administrations. We will consult with the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish Administrations to ensure that there is an effective and consistent fit for any changes brought forward.
The response presents a challenging programme of reform, which we will work hard to implement over the coming years. The Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations and with interested organisations to ensure that we can provide a democracy that works for everyone.
Copies of the response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.