My Department has not received any representations about the legality of the pilots. The powers to make the pilot scheme orders are in section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000, which was, of course, passed by Parliament. Those powers enable changes to be made to rules regarding the conduct of any local elections in England and Wales.
At the last general election, my constituency had the lowest turnout in the UK, and it also has a low registration rate. What kind of democracy are we living in when the Government actively pursue a scheme that results in people being denied the vote, as was shown by the pilot in May, instead of seeking better engagement and participation in our democracy by potential voters?
The hon. Gentleman will have just heard me setting out measures to encourage more people to be involved in our democracy. He knows, as I hope does every Opposition Member, that there is a point of principle at stake here. Do we defend our system from fraud or do we not?
Two barristers have concluded that there is no provision in the Representation of the People Act to introduce schemes by secondary legislation that restrict or discourage voting, and that the scheme is therefore beyond the scope of the law. Can the Minister reassure the House that she acted within the law?
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) is signalling that that was very much her own question. It has to be said that Whips’ handouts are also not unprecedented in the House, but she is keen to draw attention to her own independent mindedness on this important matter.
I recently spoke at an event at Newbattle Abbey College in my constituency about encouraging people to vote—no Whips were in attendance. Meanwhile, the Government’s voter ID pilots saw at least 340 people turned away, and many more would have been discouraged from voting. Is this not a slap in the face of people who are working hard to encourage people to vote?
To be clear, that was 340 out of a total of more than 230,000. I also want to be clear on the matter of principle. The Labour party accepts this principle for its own selection meetings, where it routinely asks for ID from members. Is this good enough for Labour but not for the rest of the country?