Whitsun Adjournment

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 24th May 2007.

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Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons) 3:50 pm, 24th May 2007

I thank my hon. Friend.

I do not know how to hack into systems, but some people do. If the Pentagon can be hacked into, the Blaby district council website on conducting elections can be. It is as simple as that. No one in the House has any idea what it could lead to if we go down the route of e-voting.

We are talking about all-postal voting pilots. Postal voting is not a panacea. I would have thought that everyone knew that. I have known Mr. Prentice for some years. He will probably agree that postal voting on demand has been a disaster. For years, Members of Parliament have had postal votes. People could get a postal vote if they really needed one. Now, people have been encouraged to take postal votes. What has happened? As we know from the case in Birmingham not two years ago, we have been reduced to the status of a banana republic.

I do not know how many hon. Members read The Sunday Times insight team report about three weeks ago about postal voting in Leeds. The inquiry was conducted by a couple of under-cover reporters. I do not particularly like to quote under-cover reporters because from time to time some of them are pretty dodgy people, if I can put it that way without being too unkind. The report was about Labour activists, and the reporters went around with them. The result was shocking. The activists were going around helping people to fill in postal votes and then collecting them. They were deliberately getting round the systems that the Electoral Commission had tried to establish to ensure that postal voting was not corrupt. I am afraid that it is corrupt, and we should have no more truck with postal voting on demand. Of course we want people to vote, but is it too much to ask people to wander down every couple of years or so to a polling station and put a cross in the box?

After the chaos in Scotland and the corruption that has been identified in postal voting, one would think that we would want to move on, and that hon. Members on both sides of the House would say that we must revisit the integrity of our electoral system. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

Let me turn briefly to proportional representation, which has been introduced in Scotland and Wales. If my memory serves me correctly—someone will correct me if I am wrong—I believe it was the d'Hondt system in Scotland and Wales, and now we have the single transferable vote for local government elections in Scotland. It is obviously not a simple system because, notwithstanding what one Scottish Labour Member said yesterday, I do not think that the Scots are any less intelligent than others. I see one Scottish Member in his place, so I will say that I am quite sure that they are not. However, they found the system pretty baffling, and I am not surprised.