Voter Registration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:15 pm, 23rd November 2018

I will not give way again because I am trying to develop my argument. It is obvious that not everybody accepts the principle that we should have a legal system that is as tight as possible so that it is easy to enforce against those people who carry out abuse. There were five prosecutions after the previous general election, but we know that the practice of voting in more than one constituency is much more widespread than that, as is reflected in both the Pickles report and also the work of the Electoral Commission.

Why do we not do everything possible to maximise the confidence in our electoral system and follow the recommendations that I propose in this Bill, which would ensure that if somebody registered with an electoral registration officer, they would, at the same time, have to declare that they were not already registered somewhere else? It is a pretty straightforward thing to do. There is also provision, which is not often enforced, that people should indicate their previous registered address, or that if they do not have a previous registered address, they should give some evidence of identity and perhaps also of nationality.

The electoral register is the key to the integrity of our system but, at the moment, it is very vulnerable. Another area of vulnerability is that if people are registered in more than one place and, to take the point of Luke Pollard, somebody is away, it is easy for somebody else to impersonate that person, knowing full well that they will not get caught out, because there are no circumstances in which that person will turn up to vote.

One of the deterrents against people going along and voting as somebody else in a constituency is that the real person could turn up to vote and that would create a bit of a problem. If people know that large numbers of voting cards have been delivered, sometimes in bulk to halls of residence at universities, for example, those voting cards are very vulnerable to getting into the wrong hands and then being the subject of abuse. This enables people to vote when they should not be able to do so, because they will be voting for a second time.

I am disappointed by the tone that we are hearing from Opposition Members. They do not seem to be concerned about improving the integrity of our electoral system and doing everything we can to eliminate electoral fraud. Surely that should be the starting point for any debate to try to reinforce our democratic institutions, one of which is, of course, the ability of a person to vote in general elections if they are aged over 18, but only once.