Voter Registration

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow Cathcart 2:30 pm, 6th November 2001

What steps she is taking to encourage people in Scotland to register to vote.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

In February this year, my right hon. Friend launched a major publicity campaign to encourage people in Scotland to register to vote, following the introduction of rolling registration by the Representation of the People Act 2000. However, from 1 July, encouraging people to participate in the democratic process became the responsibility of the new Electoral Commission.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow Cathcart

During the general election, I encountered a number of constituents, many of them young people, who had not registered to vote despite being legally obliged to do so. Is my hon. Friend aware that Glasgow city council expects to identify no more than 80 per cent. of all eligible voters for inclusion in next year's electoral register? Given that it is pointless to encourage people to come out and vote unless they are registered in the first place, does he agree that it is about time that we reminded the public that they face individual fines of up to £1,000 for failing to return a completed electoral registration form?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

Low registration certainly depresses me. Glasgow city council aims for 100 per cent. registration, and I encourage people to register. After all, women fought for the vote—they chained themselves to railings and threw themselves in front of race horses to get the vote. When visiting Chile after the dictatorship, I saw people queueing to vote because they recognised the importance of democracy. After 11 September, we, too, ought to recognise the importance of democracy. Young people, above all, should recognise that, register to vote, then vote—and vote Labour.