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Clause 3 — Absent votes and declarations of identity

Part of Orders of the Day — Election Fraud (Northern Ireland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 31st October 2001.

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Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 9:15 pm, 31st October 2001

At this stage I wish merely to direct the Minister to the comments that he made in Committee at columns 68 and 70, where he said of having bar codes or some other number on the forms:

"The chief electoral officer will in future ensure that applications . . . will be given a unique identifier, be it a serial number or a bar code."

Evidently the object, as I understand it, is to move to a position where such applications will be processed automatically.

The Minister went on to say with regard to that processing:

"I cannot stand in front of the Committee and claim that all of that can be done now, because none of it can be. The purpose of the Bill is . . . to match the plans for computers and software so that we will reach a point in 2003 when we can interdict the dishonest use of votes".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 16 October 2001; c. 68-70.]

Will the Minister elucidate on whether he is any closer to realising those proposals? Can he assure us that sufficient resources will be provided to ensure that a system in which an individual identifier is put on the application forms is introduced, and that they can be automatically processed by 2003, in time for the next Assembly election?