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Local Elections: Registration and Participation

Volume 681: debated on Thursday 1 October 2020

What steps he is taking to ensure high levels of (a) electoral registration and (b) participation in the May 2021 local elections. (906883)

We will be working safely with the Electoral Commission to support its voter registration and public information campaigns ahead of the next elections next May, as we do for every election. Together, we will be able to ensure that people can participate in the polls safely and confidently and in a way of their choice, whether by post or proxy or in person.

It is a great pity that this spring’s elections were postponed because of covid. To reduce uncertainty about the management of our democracy next May, how seriously are the Government considering all-postal voting, which could be a good way to boost safe participation in the coming elections?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He and I both know that he is an experienced hand at election matters. I welcome his scrutiny of this question because it is important. We want the elections in May next year to go ahead, because it is extremely important that we are able to continue with our normal way of life as a country, rather than seeing any further postponement of important elections.

I do not take the view that all-postal elections would be a wise move, however, for the following reason. It is principally that we have already seen around the world that elections can be run in person safely during this pandemic. We are confident that that can be the case here as well, and I am doing all the work necessary with the electoral community to make sure that is so. Indeed, I published evidence of that only recently, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman has already seen.

Furthermore, it is an important part of our elections that people can actually choose the way in which they vote—as I have already said, by post, by proxy or in person. We think that it is important to maintain that and that there is not a good enough reason to do otherwise.

This week, we have seen thousands of Czechs who are quarantined at home participating in regional and Senate elections by voting at drive-in polling stations. From the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), it is clear that this Government have run out of ideas about how to make sure that the May 2021 elections are both covid-secure and innovative to ensure that voter participation is high at these elections. Is it the case that this Government have really just run out of steam?