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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 9:15 pm, 19th October 2010

I am grateful to you, Mr Bayley, for your guidance. As you will notice, my amendment states:

"This rule is subject to an independent assessment of the Boundary Commission as to the potential electorate within any area where the Commission, having consulted- the Electoral Commission,

(b) the Registration Officer of the local authority or authorities in that area,

(c) such other organisations and individuals whom the Boundary Commission may choose to consult".

I mentioned the margin of error in order to contrast it with the proposal in my amendment, which would give the Boundary Commission some discretion over how it interpreted the rule. In other words, the commission would be able to take into account the distinction between, as the amendment itself describes, the potential electorate, bearing in mind the variability of registration throughout the country, and the actual electors on the electoral roll. The amendment prises open the issue that several Members have already teased out in today's debate and, therefore, questions whether the 5% margin of error might in fact reflect a larger margin of error in the registration of electors in each constituency.

The Boundary Commission has not been given sufficient leeway to take account of that variability, and, as others have already pointed out, the Electoral Commission studied the issue earlier this year. It produced a report entitled, "The completeness and accuracy of electoral registers in Great Britain, March 2010", and I shall quote from the document's key findings. It states:

"national datasets and local case study research suggest there may be widening local and regional variations in registration levels. While there is no straightforward relationship between population density and the state of local registers, the lowest rates of completeness and accuracy were found in the...most densely populated...areas" and among "the most mobile populations".

The report continues:

"Recent social, economic and political changes appear to have resulted in a declining motivation to register", and it goes on to state:

"Under-registration and inaccuracy are closely associated with the social groups most likely to move home."

Across the case study areas, it found, as Chris Bryant said earlier, that

"under-registration is notably higher than average among 17-24 year olds (56% not registered), private sector tenants (49%) and black and minority ethnic British residents (31%)."

It also found that during the year the rate of completeness is likely to decline by about 10 percentage points.