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Clause 1 — Registration: provision of signature and date of birth

Part of Orders of the Day — Election Fraud (Northern Ireland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 31st October 2001.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire 7:45 pm, 31st October 2001

Mr. Robinson has had some good fun at the expense of my hon. Friend the Minister, because my hon. Friend now adopts a different position from that which he signed up to in the Select Committee report—a report which I also signed. If the hon. Member for Belfast, East is so keen on consistency with the Select Committee report, it is unfortunate that when he was given an opportunity to support my amendments Nos. 18 and 19, which were taken from that report, he did not do so. I do not really condemn him for that because people's ideas alter according to their experiences. My position may have changed since I signed the Select Committee report; the Minister's certainly has.

I am keen on the argument that there should be an identifier, such as a national insurance number. It might be the case that the smaller the nation, the easier it is to sort things out. In Malta, which has identity cards, the identity card number appears on the electoral register. Moreover, a card is issued to an elector, through the police, at each election, and is handed in when people vote. A fresh card is issued afterwards. Therefore, it is possible to develop techniques that make use of good organisation in order to tackle some of these problems.

In Committee I expressed concern—and was taken to task by Mr. Blunt accepted that the national insurance system was less than perfect. How much less than perfect is it? If some people give their national insurance numbers and their numbers are not confirmed within the system or are not seen to be those that are supposed to relate to them, those people can be disfranchised, or temporarily disfranchised, until the problem is sorted out.