Electoral Registration and Administration Bill
Bill Presented — Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill
Andrew Stephenson (Pendle, Conservative)
This is a particular issue in the south Asian community. I have met Asian women in my constituency who have told me they have no idea who they voted for because their husband did it. Needless to say, because of the close family ties and bonds of loyalty, this is not going to be reported to the police or investigated by anyone. I imagine Emmeline Pankhurst will be turning in her grave.
Apart from electoral fraud taking place and women and young people in some households losing their right to vote, such goings-on play into a narrative that gives impetus to groups such as the British National party and the English Defence League. As someone who played an active role in helping an excellent Conservative candidate unseat a BNP councillor in Pendle this year, I say that we cannot allow electoral fraud, or the suspicion of it, to continue to be used as a reason for undermining community cohesion.
In my view, the only sensible conclusion is to suspend postal voting by demand and revert to a system in which postal and proxy votes are available only to people who genuinely need them and can provide a compelling reason why they cannot vote on the day. That would save a significant amount of money, which could be invested in better scrutiny of individual voter registration, as outlined in the Bill, and would address the biggest area of fraud in our electoral system. We would disfranchise nobody and could restore confidence in our democracy. Alongside individual registration, an immediate end to postal voting on demand would lead to electoral fraud, and allegations of it, once again becoming exceptional.
I welcome the Bill’s Second Reading but urge the Government to go much further by ending postal voting on demand. That would end almost all electoral fraud, re-empower women and young people, remove a hobby-horse issue from the far right, bring our democracy in line with international standards and restore true confidence in our electoral system.