Polling Stations: ID Requirements

Oral Answers to Questions — Electoral Commission Committee – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central 12:00 am, 2nd March 2017

What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the potential implications of introducing ID requirements at polling stations.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

The Electoral Commission has recommended that an accessible proof of identity scheme should be developed and implemented for polling stations across Great Britain. However, the commission has also recognised the potential implications for electors who do not have access to the prescribed identification documents and costed options for introducing identification requirements.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What steps is the Electoral Commission taking to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are not disproportionately affected by the requirement to show ID at polling stations?

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

My hon. Friend is right to raise that concern, because some groups will be less likely than the general population to hold certain forms of photo ID. The commission estimates that approximately 3.5 million electors in Great Britain are without suitable ID and would therefore need to obtain an alternative form of identification. It is for that reason that the commission has recommended that electors in that position should be able to apply for identification free of charge, as they can in Northern Ireland.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

In welcoming again Bridget Phillipson to her new responsibilities, I hope that I can, on behalf of the whole House, very warmly thank Mr Streeter, who undertook these important responsibilities for several years, and who in fact served on the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission from October 2006 onwards. He has discharged his obligations extremely competently and efficiently in the interests of the House, and we know that the hon. Lady will certainly follow in his footsteps by doing so as well.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

As part of this assessment, what consideration is being given to international best practice from around the world?

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

The Electoral Commission will consider all evidence, and I will relay the hon. Gentleman’s comments to it. It is clear that recent public opinion shows that 82% believe that voting at polling stations is safe. That will be kept under review. It will be for the Government to make recommendations to the Electoral Commission about how that can be improved.

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General

My hon. Friend correctly identified the 3.5 million people who do not have the photographic ID required. Does she agree that the Government are completely short-sighted by ruling out a voluntary voter card scheme that would assist those very people?

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

The Electoral Commission has been clear that an identification scheme along the lines of that in Northern Ireland would be the best option. I will relay my hon. Friend’s concerns to it, and I am happy to arrange for him to meet the Electoral Commission to make those points more clearly.