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Voter ID: Election Turnout

Volume 744: debated on Monday 22 January 2024

5. What recent assessment he has made of the impact of voter identification requirements on election turnout. (901067)

We were pleased to see, in the May 2023 elections, that the vast majority of voters in polling stations were able to cast their vote successfully. That amounted to 99.75% of those seeking to vote.

Fourteen thousand voters were turned away from polling stations at the May 2023 local elections for not having photo identification. Local councils have been cut to the bone, so they do not have the resources to ensure that everybody has photo ID. What will the Government do to ensure that nobody is disenfranchised when we get to the general election?

There is nothing novel about having voter ID. France, Germany, Austria and Canada all have it, and we have had it in Northern Ireland—part of the United Kingdom—for the past 20 years. I understand that in internal Labour party selection elections, their members also have to produce voter ID. We have a full and comprehensive list of voter IDs, which councils have been using very well. For those who wish to vote and do not have one of those forms of ID—a tiny number—we also have the voter certificate, available free of charge, which allows them to vote. We want to see as many people as possible voting and, of course, we want to see them voting Conservative.

The Government’s voter ID requirements, which allow travel cards for older people but not the young person’s equivalent, are unfair at best, but the reality is that this is political opportunism. As has just been said, analysis by the Electoral Commission following England’s 2023 local elections found that 14,000 people were unable to vote due to voter ID requirements. There is real concern, based on that data, that there will be a potential impact in the forthcoming general election. Voters at local elections are often a smaller group of more politically informed people, whereas the larger group of voters who wish to cast their vote at a general election may be less aware of the requirements. Does the Minister agree with the words of his former Cabinet colleague, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg), that

“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as… we found by insisting on voter ID for elections”?

I do not agree with that, and nor will I take any lessons on political opportunism from the SNP. I am tempted to say that I would WhatsApp my answer to the hon. Lady, but she would probably delete it before she read it. A lot will depend on whether the identification has the relevant hologram. I also point out to the hon. Lady that—[Interruption.] She chunters from a sedentary position without wanting to listen to the answer, but of the 14,000 who did not have the right identification, 7,000 came back.[Official Report, 23 January 2024, Vol. 744, c. 4MC.]