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Anonymous Voter Registration: Domestic Violence Victims

Volume 614: debated on Wednesday 7 September 2016

The Government are determined that those whose personal safety would be at risk if their details appeared on the register should be able to register anonymously. I have arranged to meet representatives from Women’s Aid to discuss concerns they may have over the process of anonymous registration and have also written to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities to set out our plans to look at regulations on this important policy.

I thank the Minister for the information he has just given me and am pleased with what he has said. He has to acknowledge that some domestic violence victims choose not to go to the police and do not have easy access to the qualifying officers or registrars at present. I am pleased that he is having meetings and look forward to his announcing the steps he is going to take—[Interruption.]

Order. This is very unfair. The hon. Lady is asking a question about help for victims of domestic violence who wish to register to vote anonymously. I really think the House should be attentive to this matter.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am pleased that the Minister has acknowledged some of the difficulties these women have in registering. They are victims. I look forward to hearing the steps he will announce in the future. A very real barrier to registering to vote at present is the limited number of officers. The women do not have easy access to those people, which disfranchises them.

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue with me. I recognise what she says. Those who have left domestic violence to seek a new life may be seen as some of the most vulnerable in society, but I believe that they are also some of the bravest. As I said, today I can announce that the Government will look closely at representations from Women’s Aid and other domestic violence charities. I am happy to meet the hon. Lady, since we are determined that no one should be denied the opportunity to vote.

I warmly welcome the Minister to his position. He will find that his letter is a reply to one I wrote on this topic when I was Minister for Women and Equalities. I warmly welcome what he has said, but he could speed things up by adding domestic violence protection orders and domestic violence protection notices to the list of evidence needed. I urge him to do that speedily.

I appreciated receiving my right hon. Friend’s letter. It was one of the first things in my inbox that I was determined to act on straightaway. The situation is slightly more complex, because changing the regulations would require a change to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, but the Government will review all aspects of the policy.

Most victims of domestic abuse never report the abuse to the police. Will the Government commit to reviewing the regulations, so that those women are able to register anonymously?