Electoral Administration Bill
Orders of the Day
Bridget Prentice (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs; Lewisham East, Labour)
The right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I think that we should allow for a variety of elections to take place so that we can have a fairly comprehensive view of the reaction to all the measures. I would not like to put a specific time on that, but I would like examples from a number of elections so that we can make a proper evaluation of the effect of the Bill.
I shall return to my remarks on timing. We hope to implement the postal vote identifier at the next elections in 2007. That includes elections in England and Wales, and indeed in Scotland. About 12 to 15 per cent. of people now vote by post, so we are talking about a major administrative challenge and it will take some time and a great deal of effort to get it right. We want to give the administrators and the electoral returning officers the best possible opportunity to get it right and therefore we are working to a strict deadline.
If Parliament is serious about addressing postal voting issues by the next elections, the Bill needs to be passed soon, without any further delays. Neither the personal identifier scheme, nor the Bill's other important measures—such as the increased powers to secure a complete register and all the amendments on loans to political parties, which achieve transparency in party funding and which the whole House wants to see in order to regain the confidence of the electorate—will be in place until, at the very earliest, the elections in 2008 if the Bill is not passed by this House and in the other place in the very near future.