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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 9:40 pm on 31st October 2001.

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Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:40 pm, 31st October 2001

I was only touching briefly on the context in which the Bill will proceed to the other place and thereafter—in an improved form, we hope—on to the statute book.

Now is an opportune time to reflect on the way in which democracy works in Northern Ireland—its mechanisms and safeguards. We all hope that from the context that I briefly described will emerge a rosier future for democracy, and that people will have greater confidence in the devolved institutions of Northern Ireland and their ability to meet the aspirations of the electorate. Now is a good time to debate such a Bill as this.

It is obvious that among Northern Ireland's many problems is an unfortunate tradition of electoral abuse and fraud more prevalent than is usual elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland Members on both sides of the House have, with their characteristic frankness and honesty, accepted that fact. It lies with us to do something about it, and we are doing so. We are improving the system, albeit not as fully as we wanted to while the Bill was in the Commons. I believe that today we have made a contribution to improving the prospects for the people of the Province and their public life to which the whole House is strongly attached.