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My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The Government have yet again shown that in certain instances when dealing with issues relating to a part of our kingdom, Northern Ireland, they appease rather than take the action necessary to get a grip on the situation and ensure that democracy prevails against those who have turned to, and continue to employ, solutions that are outwith the democratic arena.
Although it is important that sensitive information is not disclosed unnecessarily, it is a typically public sector approach to admit that the technology to prevent that is achievable but to discount its use because of artificially imposed deadlines. I have read that in other reports. If something is likely to strengthen a measure, it is worth ensuring that it is included and delivered on time. It is typical of the Government's haphazard approach that they dismiss potentially useful ideas because they would be difficult or inconvenient to implement.
It has taken some time to produce the Bill. I am astonished that it has taken the Government so long, but judging by comments made earlier in the debate, it appears likely that it will take even longer to be implemented—yet another example of the Government's appeasement. The Government are being hypocritical: it is hardly credible to use as an excuse lack of time or the fact that people might not know their own social security or national insurance number. Few complain of not knowing their national insurance number when claiming benefits, so I do not understand why it should be such a problem when they want to vote.
There is no question but that the Bill will enable significant headway to be made. That is welcome. However, I urge the House to support the Opposition amendment to include national insurance numbers as additional identification markers for electors registering in Northern Ireland. I see no good reason why any of the obstacles that the Government claim exist should prevent the use of national insurance numbers in the electoral registration process.
Of course it will take time to construct a workable system, but in the long term the ability to cross-check national insurance numbers against those registering to vote—and later, if necessary, those voting—will provide an extra layer of security against electoral fraud. Simply giving dates of birth and signatures may prove to be insufficient to stop those who are determined to get around the system. National insurance numbers might not make the system foolproof, but they are unique pieces of information, specific to individuals, that are too valuable to ignore. I commend the amendment to the House.