Voter Registration

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston 12:00 am, 16th May 2018

What steps the Government are taking to ensure that people with no fixed address are able to vote.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

People with no fixed address can register to vote at an address or place where they spend a large part of their time. The Government have and will continue to work with homelessness charities to make sure that the paperwork required to register without a fixed address can be easily accessed.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

The voter ID pilots in the recent local elections required people to produce a passport, bus pass or utility bill with their address on it—you will see the irony, Mr Speaker. How likely is it that someone of no fixed abode could produce those documents, and what will the Government do to avoid their disenfranchisement?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

The hon. Lady raises an important point. We had those pilots just a few weeks ago, and I look forward to a full evaluation of their impact. We believe they have been successful and that very few people were negatively affected by them. I look forward to working with the Electoral Commission on the next steps.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

People with no fixed address can register to vote through a “declaration of local connection” form. Will the Minister look at reforming that form so that, given the stigma associated with its name, it is no longer called that? The form also states that if people have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, they have to report it. That requirement is a disgrace and needs to be removed.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in looking at such things—not only the form he mentions, but paperwork to assist people with a visual impairment or those who need to register anonymously. This Government can be proud of those achievements, and I would be happy to discuss his points further with him.

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

Three thousand eight hundred: that is the number of people nationally with no fixed abode who are registered to vote. Does the Minister agree that that is woefully under-representative of the number of homeless people and families in this country? One way to make it easier for people with no fixed abode to register to vote would be to remove the requirement to print the form. Why is the group of voters with the least access to a printer the only one that has to print out their paperwork?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

As I said in my first answer, homelessness charities and other organisations that assist homeless people are very able to help them with the form, and that is very important. I would also say that this Government are working across the breadth of what we need to do to support those who are homeless, and I regard the ability to register to vote as just one of those pieces of work. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office chairs the taskforce that is looking at how to reduce and eliminate rough sleeping, and that is important work.