Voter ID Pilots

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

What progress his Department has made on further voter ID pilots.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster

Whether the Government plans to conduct further voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

Whether the Government plans to conduct further voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement.

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

The British public deserve to have confidence in our democracy. A diverse range of local authorities have confirmed that they will be taking part in voter ID and postal vote pilots for the 2019 local elections. The pilots will provide further insights into ensuring the security of the voting process.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I am grateful for that answer. Bishop Auckland has the lowest rate of passport ownership in the entire country. Does not the Minister understand that expensive forms of voter ID will exclude thousands of people from exercising their democratic right to vote?

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

Yes, I do; so the design of the pilots acknowledges that and makes sure that a free-of-charge alternative will be available.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster

My previous experience as a Tower Hamlets councillor highlighted to me the significant vulnerability of poorer, more diverse communities to electoral fraud. How can my hon. Friend improve democratic education across all communities so that we can make the electoral system more robust?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing her experience and her voice to this debate; it is very important that we hear that. I also thank Jim Fitzpatrick, who also represents Tower Hamlets, for his cross-party support for this policy. It shows how important that is. It is essential that electors are aware that their voice is theirs alone. That message was promoted through various channels in May this year, including work with the Electoral Commission, Crimestoppers and the police, and we will do more to spread that message.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

Will the Minister assure the House that those who do not have the documentation she requires will not be disenfranchised by the new policy?

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

Yes, I am very happy to repeat that reassurance. When somebody does not have the correct form of ID, local authorities will provide an alternative method free of charge. On top of that, we are working closely with a range of charities and civil society organisations so that everyone who is registered to vote has the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Minister not aware that ID is linked to knowing where the children of our country are: are they in school; are they vulnerable? Those in her party stopped us having that identification. Many children are at risk because of their actions on ID.

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

The hon. Gentleman has advanced that argument over many years in many different formats. I regret to say I am not entirely clear if I follow him this morning, but I would be very happy to have a further conversation with him if there is an important point there.

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

I say to Mr Sheerman, if he is listening, that I think what the Minister was saying, in a very polite and roundabout way, is that she has not got the foggiest idea what he is on about. No doubt, with some clarifications, she will be perfectly clear on what he is talking about. I thought I knew what he was talking about.

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

Yes, Mr Speaker. To answer Angela Crawley, she will know very well that the election manifesto on which this party and Government were elected excluded votes at 16. It is also a little sad if she does not see the merits, in their own right, of ensuring integrity in our voting processes. That means tackling fraud.

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

This year’s voter ID pilots cost the taxpayer £1.7 million and the only discernible effect was that several hundred people were prevented from voting. The Minister is refusing to publish details of the budget for next year’s voter ID pilots. Why is she keeping that information secret, and what has she got to hide?

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

There is nothing to hide. I have been extremely clear about what the costs may be. As soon as I have information about the design of the pilots, I will be happy to share it with the House. Indeed, I have undertaken to do so through the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The hon. Gentleman needs to be concerned about how his party says one thing and does another. The Labour party uses voter ID in its own meetings. If it is good enough for them, why is it not good enough for the country?