Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:30 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour 11:30 pm, 19th January 2011

I will be even briefer than my noble friend. I agree very much with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. This is not the time to go into detail; that will happen when the Bill arrives. Like my noble friend Lord Dubs, I agree with the principle. There is no great problem in deciding who deals with this. Normally the home address should be used for registration, otherwise it is a matter for the local MP and occasionally for a solicitor.

There is a more important issue to address. Perhaps the Minister should refer this to the Electoral Commission. If it is the Government's intention to give the vote to prisoners, there is a case for instructing the Electoral Commission to look at the problems of registering to vote. The registration process needs to be thought about in advance. In one sense, the problem is like that of other groups who cannot easily register. Prisoners are a captive population. Complications will come over where their home addresses are. There will be particular complications for the fairly small number of very large prisons that have a large percentage of people with no fixed address. I remember that when my noble friend Lord Rooker was a Minister, he arranged for people to give a non-registered street address so that they could have the vote.

There are many complications inherent in what the Government are proposing. I will support them and when the Bill arrives I will spell out some of the issues. At this stage, I simply say that there is a lot of sense in warning the Electoral Commission. As an adviser to the commission, I should do that too, and I will, but it would help if it came from the Government too. If the Government are going to do this, they should start to think about the complexities of registration.