Voter ID Pilots

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 12:00 am, 12th September 2018

Whether he has made an assessment of the operation of recent voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

Whether he has made an assessment of the operation of recent voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement.

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

The Cabinet Office and the independent Electoral Commission published their respective findings in July that the pilots worked well. The overwhelming majority of people were able to cast their vote without a problem, and there was no notable adverse effect on turnout. The success of the pilots proves that the measures are reasonable and proportionate.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

Can the Minister confirm that concerns about ethnic minority communities being adversely affected did not come to pass during the pilots? Is that not yet another reason why voter ID should be rolled out across the whole country as soon as possible?

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

My hon. Friend is correct. Our surveying alongside the pilots found no indication that the ID requirements changed the reasons for not voting for any specific demographic group across the participating authorities. That is important evidence.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

My hon. Friend knows well that elections are expensive to conduct. Sevenoaks District Council and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council do excellent jobs of conducting elections not just for themselves, but for this place and for the county council. Is she planning to consider ways of speeding up payments to those borough and district councils?

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

Yes, I am working with the Association of Electoral Administrators to see how the process can be improved. I take this opportunity to thank all the electoral staff in my hon. Friend’s council and elsewhere, who work so hard. The fact is that they have six months in which to submit an account. These things can sometimes be left to the last minute, which creates a bulge in the process, but we want to improve that.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

In terms of this so-called success, the Electoral Reform Society’s report says:

“The government must have a strange definition of success.”

It confirms that this is a waste of money and that it disenfranchises voters. When will the Government tackle the real electoral fraud issue, which is the spending breaches by the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory parties?

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

The Electoral Reform Society and people who quote from it have a strange definition of mathematics. The number that they put out on polling day was wildly inaccurate and scaremongering about this policy and they have some explaining to do.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Out of 45 million votes cast last year, there has been only one conviction for voter fraud, yet the Government seem determined to pursue voter ID, which stopped hundreds of people voting last year. When faced with real threats to our democracy, in the form of violations of campaign rules and finance laws, the misuse of voters’ personal data and foreign interference in our elections and referendums, the Government have done almost nothing. Will the Minister tell us when the Government will get their priorities right and stop penalising honest voters while turning a blind eye to electoral abuses by the powerful?

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

There is an incredibly important principle at stake here, which seems to be missing from the Labour party. Either you want to stamp out electoral fraud or you do not. This policy is about that. Regardless of the number and the levels of the crime, we should tackle it and ensure it does not rob people of their votes. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman entirely forgets what his own party did in government by making this policy a fact in Northern Ireland.