Second Reading

Part of Political Parties and Elections Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:16 pm on 18th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 4:16 pm, 18th March 2009

My Lords, it is our intention that they will surface in Committee—probably at a later stage in Committee but before Report.

The Commission would have to have a reasonable expectation that the move to compulsory provision of identifiers would, first, not compromise the accuracy or comprehensiveness of the register by the point of full individual registration in 2017; and, secondly, that the electoral register was both as comprehensive and as accurate as was reasonably practicable, and that the effectiveness of the registration system was improving across Great Britain, as supported by performance standards data and other measures.

If the commission concluded that the tests were met, it could recommend that the shift to full individual registration should proceed, subject only to a vote by Parliament on whether to accept its recommendation. If the commission recommended against, or Parliament did not endorse a positive recommendation, the shift to compulsory provision of identifiers would not proceed. I am sure that the House will agree that this represents an historic change, and one which is vital to the health of our democracy. Such a change should be not be undertaken lightly; I hope that I have demonstrated that the Government are committed to ensuring that the move to individual registration will take place at the right pace and subject to a number of safeguards and tests along the way.

Of course, the proof of the commitment will be in the detail of the amendments which we bring forward and, notwithstanding the time it will take to ensure that these necessarily difficult and complex amendments will be technically effective, I hope to be in a position to share and discuss them, and any other government amendments which we judge necessary, with noble Lords before the substantive debates. As in the other place, the Government's key priority is that this legislation should reflect a broad consensus on the way forward. We are committed to taking this Bill through this House on the basis of agreement and I look forward to working with noble Lords to that end. I beg to move.