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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 9:57 pm on 31st October 2001.

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Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down 9:57 pm, 31st October 2001

This is an important Bill to eradicate the scourge that has persisted for many years in the democratic system in Northern Ireland. It could have gone a wee bit further, but it is difficult to achieve a compromise between securing the integrity of the voter and not preventing legitimate voters from exercising their right. We will revisit many of these matters.

I do not agree with the Minister's comment at the start that no change has been made during the passage of the Bill. There may be no change in the wording of the Bill, but the Official Report of the Committee and the debate tonight is riddled with promises and undertakings, which the Minister will have to live up to, after he persuaded us to withdraw our amendments. We will hold him to that.

I offer the Minister, his predecessor and their current and past staff a great deal of thanks for the many, many hours of consultation that they gave us and other parties. However, the Minister did not take on board the fact that we and other parties in Northern Ireland had a unity of purpose and a unity of mind that were unique. He should have grasped the historic moment when it was available to him.