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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 Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 9:15 pm, 19th October 2010

I have not come to that point yet, but there is an overlap. Some recent immigrants are Commonwealth citizens and entitled to vote in general elections. It is a complicated matter. The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but there is some overlap between people who are entitled to vote and people who are part of the recent immigrant community.

Another large area where there is under-representation and, probably, unlawful activity associated with it relates to houses in multiple occupation and private landlords. For different reasons-sometimes voting abuse, sometimes to conceal the number of people living in houses of multiple occupation-landlords prevent their tenants from voting or hinder their attempts to do so.

The hon. Gentleman previously mentioned recent immigrants. Registration is low among those in black and ethnic minority groups for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is because they do not understand the system or are frightened of it, and sometimes, as was mentioned previously in the case of poorer sections of the community, it is because the levels of functional illiteracy are higher than one would want. That means that many of the forms end up in the bin, because they cannot be understood. There are different estimates, but generally in this House-and not just on the issue of electoral registration-we ignore the fact that probably about 22.5% of the adult population in this country are functionally illiterate and find it difficult to deal with forms.

Those are the main reasons there are real practical difficulties-there are probably more difficulties than I have mentioned, as well as those to do with the efficiency of the electoral registration officers-and why 3.5 million people are currently not on the electoral register. I do not think that we can move to a more balanced system between the different constituencies-one based on the number of electors-until we ensure that registration is much more accurate than it currently is.