Voter Registration

Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 2017.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip 12:00 am, 22nd March 2017

If he will make it his policy to include in national insurance notification letters to 15 and 16-year-olds information on being able to register to vote from the age of 16.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Public Health)

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of promoting voter registration in national insurance notification letters.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

Although this matter falls within the responsibility of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, I am pleased to confirm that the Cabinet Office and HMRC officials are working together to identify how best to promote electoral registration further in relation to national insurance numbers, including notification letters.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

Clearly, any steps to improve voter registration have to be welcomed, but does the Minister agree that a far more efficient and cost-effective way to do so would be simply to introduce a system of automatic voter registration?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The Government have been clear in their determination to ensure that we have individual electoral registration. Voting is not just a right; it is a responsibility. I am delighted that the Electoral Commission said in a report published last year that the number of 16-year-olds registering to vote increased by 17.7%.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The national insurance registration process is one way to increase electoral registration and therefore democratic participation, but there are others, including education, auto-enrolment—as my hon. Friend Owen Thompson suggested—and, of course, online voting. When previously I pressed the Cabinet Office on this matter, it said there would be a plan in the spring to widen democratic participation. Spring is here. Where is the plan?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

Indeed, spring has sprung, and my commitment to ensuring that we have a democratic engagement plan is still maintained and in place. We will publish that plan shortly, in due course. We are committed to ensuring that we have a democracy that works for everyone, and that includes young people as well.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

We welcome the Government’s commitment to look at promoting voter registration on national insurance letters. We know how important it is to make sure that young people and students are registered to vote—they are often the people missing from the electoral roll. Will the Government commit to supporting the amendment from the other place to the Higher Education and Research Bill? It would allow universities to auto-enrol students on campuses.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

I met Baroness Royall yesterday to discuss her amendment. I have been working over several months with universities, the Cabinet Office funded the University of Sheffield pilot that looked at this enrolment process with £10,000, and we are looking at other universities that are beginning to introduce it. It is right that we have a democracy that works for everyone and that we make it easier for electoral registration staff and universities to work together. We are determined to look closely at this process.