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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 Des Browne Des Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 9:15 pm, 31st October 2001

I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman reads my whole contribution, he will see that I made it perfectly clear on more than one occasion during that Committee debate that it would still be open to parties to copy those forms. Although the form would be unique when it was provided by the chief electoral officer, it would still be open to parties to copy those forms as they do at present.

Earlier today, I made the point that as long as the original form that is copied includes the bar code it will be possible to identify to whom it was given. As I explained in Committee and now repeat, it is not my understanding that the effect of any of the amendments would be that parties would not be able to pick up more than one form from the chief electoral officer. That would defeat the objective of being able to identify to which specific voter a bar-coded form was sent or given. Those who tabled the amendments in the group are not suggesting that parties will not be able to go in and pick up forms in hundreds, or even more, if they are available. In those circumstances, how does amendment No. 3 achieve the objective of making it possible to trace a particular form to an individual voter?