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Voter ID Pilot Schemes

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 6 February 2019

8. Whether his Department plans to conduct further voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement. (909031)

A diverse range of local authorities have confirmed that they will be taking part in the voter ID and postal vote pilots for the 2019 local elections. These pilots will provide further insight into ensuring security of the voting process.

I know different local authorities are using different methods as to what constitutes ID, but does the Minister believe enough progress will be made so that, should this Parliament go the full five years, we will have voter ID available at the next general election?

Yes, I do. I am grateful to the authorities that are piloting voter ID this year. Their experience will help us to formulate the right policy to roll it out nationally.

Let me say to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) that the Cumbrian steak and kidney pie, the merits of which he commended to me, was of the highest quality.

Mr Speaker, I am incredibly grateful to you for those kind words and for coming along to Cumbria Day.

Is the Minister aware that voters in my constituency, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales cannot vote at all on planning and housing issues that affect them? What steps will she take to bring in democracy for those parts of our country that are under the aegis of a national park, which are not directly elected?

I am somewhat familiar with the issue because of my proximity to the Broads Authority in my constituency, but I suspect this question may be for a colleague to answer and I will ask them to do so.

Topical Questions

Last week, I announced new measures, as part of the follow-up action to the Government’s racial disparity audit, to improve outcomes for ethnic minority students in higher education; to ensure league tables reflect performance in addressing inequalities; and to encourage higher education providers to make their workforces more diverse.

Some 16% of the adult population of this country has some form of disability, yet when I look around this House, I see very few Members with a disability. When are we going to see an effective Access to Elected Office Fund? We need a Parliament that is representative of the public it serves. When are we going to be like that?

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman raises this issue. He is right to say that we need to raise that level of participation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities is working on a fund that will help that to happen. Furthermore, a statutory instrument will be before the House next Monday that will help with this by addressing election expenses.

T7. Members discharge their duties in a variety of ways, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is not possible to discharge them properly from inside a prison cell? When will the hon. Member for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya) do the right thing, stand down and give the people of that part of the country the representation they deserve? (909043)

My hon. Friend makes a fair point, and it comes down to what the people of Peterborough need: a hard-working and present local MP. Of course we have passed legislation in this place to enable recall. I suspect that may be used in this case, but I hope it will happen promptly, for the sake of the people of Peterborough.

Let us consider these figures: 25,342 and 21,900. Those were the number of voters who cast their votes for me and for the Minister to serve as elected parliamentarians, yet just 100-odd votes secured a win in the most recent hereditary peer by-election in the other place. The winner was eligible to stand because his great-grandad’s cousin’s dad’s fourth cousin’s dad’s cousin’s great-great-great grandad was made a Lord by Charles I in 1628. What progress is the Minister making on reform of the other place?

May I first welcome the hon. Lady back to the Dispatch Box? It is a pleasure to see her here again. Two points need to be made: first, the legislation she cites was that of her own party; and. secondly, reform of the House of Lords is not a priority for this Government. We have been clear on that matter and I can be so again today.

What conversations is the Department having with local authorities in Scotland and the Scottish Government about relocating civil service jobs north of the border, specifically in areas such as international trade?

The Government have a policy of seeking to relocate Government offices and agencies outside London wherever possible. We are keen to work with Scottish local authorities, as well as local authorities from all around the United Kingdom, to secure that objective.

T2. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy reported last year that it was concerned that “the current complex arrangements for ministerial responsibility mean that day-to-day oversight of cross-government efforts is, in reality, led by officials, with Ministers only occasionally ‘checking in’.”Do the Government have a grip on cyber-security? (909038)

Yes. It is right that different elements of cyber-security report in to different Departments. For example, where this relates to an offensive cyber-capability, as part of our defences, that is rightly part of the Ministry of Defence’s responsibility. The relevant Ministers do co-operate regularly, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that this all reports back to the National Security Council where the relevant Cabinet Ministers take the decisions.

On the inter-ministerial early years working group, which is an excellent initiative, is the Minister aware that the cost of child neglect is estimated at some £15 billion per year? So when negotiating with the Treasury, will he be mindful that funding for this is not only the best way of giving kids the best start in life, but a good way of saving money?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be very glad of my hon. Friend’s support.

What with the £1 billion-plus of Northern Ireland contributions secured by the Democratic Unionist party, the knighthoods for the European Research Group, and now the cash-for-votes inducements that we hear are being offered to MPs, are the Government not a bit worried about sailing dangerously close to the wind of the Labour-introduced Bribery Act 2010? Will the Minister reaffirm that no votes in this place should be for sale? Especially not mine; I have not been offered anything.

I am deeply shocked that the hon. Lady has so little confidence in her own colleagues as to think that they would be capable of that.

Some of my most engaged constituents are expats who currently reside in France or Spain. Does the Minister agree that it is unfair and undemocratic to deny these British citizens the right to vote after an arbitrary 15 years?

Yes, I do, which is why we support the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies), which will redress that injustice and deliver votes for life.

T4. Northern Ireland has required voter ID for 13 years. Why is it necessary to run a pilot programme when we have already evaluated it and found that it works effectively and has not affected voter turnout? (909040)

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support on this matter. We should see such support throughout the House for a set of measures that are reasonable, proportionate and already used in countries around the world and in our own country, the United Kingdom, to help to protect voters and ensure that their vote is theirs alone.