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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 8:15 pm on 31st October 2001.

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Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 8:15 pm, 31st October 2001

My concern, which I expressed repeatedly in Committee, is that we may inadvertently disfranchise people because of changes in the rules that we make. We had to strike a balance between interdicting fraud and not placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of legitimate voters, and identify where in the use of national insurance numbers such difficulties might be found. However, I am conscious—this was forcefully pointed out to me in Committee and on more than one occasion today—that all the Northern Ireland political parties represented in the Committee and in the Chamber today are as one on the issue. Mindful of that pressure and consistent with my approach throughout proceedings on the Bill, I have put a number of options to the test again, including data protection aspects, which are not minor, to see if the national insurance number can be used for electoral purposes in a way that does not disfranchise legitimate voters. However, as presently advised, I am not satisfied that they can; until I am, I have no alternative but to resist the amendments.