Overseas Electors Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 22nd March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 1:45 pm, 22nd March 2019

I do not want to get sidetracked from the Bill, but the point I make to the hon. Lady is that many of the new clauses I have proposed and will go on to propose are about making the system robust, so that we have an honest result and we do not have any problem with the result being disputed in any way. Given the problems we have faced, certainly in my Bradford district, at polling stations and in postal votes, I support the Government in believing that we need identification at polling stations. In many cases, presiding officers in polling stations have faced a nightmare in terms of being able to identify people properly. That has been an issue for some time. I believe the same happened in Northern Ireland and they dealt with it there, but unfortunately some of those problems persist in the rest of the UK. It is right that the Government do something to make sure that the results of elections are robust. I am getting sidetracked, Mr Speaker, because this is not really relevant. The point I am trying to make is that I do not see a conflict.

For the benefit of the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton, new clause 11 is on a subject raised in Committee by the hon. Member for Nottingham North. I hope that is clear enough for the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton to understand. The new clause is about the offence of registering to vote as an overseas elector in more than one constituency. When he suggested this change in a new clause in Committee, the hon. Member for Nottingham North said that it was his

“last stab at allaying the concerns that electoral administrators have expressed following the publication of the ‘votes for life’
document and the Bill.”

He was talking about their concerns relating to double registration. He went on:

“The principle is that when electoral registration officers use address data to verify someone’s eligibility to register, they will establish whether someone has lived in that place. However, they will not try to establish whether that is the last place where the person lived, or whether they have lived in multiple places and are having the same conversation with multiple electoral registration officers around the country, and possibly voting in two or more places.”

He rightly pointed out that there was therefore a

“live danger that might merit an individual sanction”.––[Official Report, Overseas Electors Public Bill Committee, 14 November 2018;
c. 115.]

That is what new clause 11 provides. It says that somebody commits an offence by registering to vote in two separate parliamentary constituencies as an overseas elector. That is absolutely right. It comes back to the point I made before about making sure that the results are robust and without question and all the rest of it. Currently, there is something lacking in our system in respect of people voting in more than one constituency at parliamentary elections, and there have been complaints about that. I genuinely do not know how widespread the issue is, and I am not sure that there is any great evidence one way or the other, but, anecdotally, people are concerned that the system is not as robust as it should be. The hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to highlight this potential issue, and we should do what we can to stop it.