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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

I understand that signatures and dates of birth will be used, and it is being proposed that national insurance numbers should be added. The date of birth is relevant because electors will be asked their dates of birth in addition to having to show their cards when they turn up at polling stations. Some people might get that wrong and some people might be disfranchised as a result, but that is very unlikely. It is much more likely that there would be difficulties with national insurance numbers.

People would have to complete forms and provide their national insurance numbers, signatures and dates of birth, and the one that they would be liable to get wrong is their national insurance number, so the electoral returning officer would have to return to the constituents to check whether an error had been made. When looking at national insurance forms and details and writing them down, how many people would get them wrong, especially in households where several people have to do that? Even if only 1 or 2 per cent. of the population get those numbers wrong, those people would be disfranchised, or they would have serious problems.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East was eloquent in saying that he did not want a system that actually disfranchised people who were entitled to be on registers, and I am keen not to introduce a measure that would remove people from the franchise.