Electoral Registration — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:50 pm on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 1:50 pm, 12th January 2012

I take that point on board and we will feed it back into our considerations, as and when the issue of electronic voting comes up.

I was commenting on whether the physical act of voting in a particular place, within a particular community, or-for those who are deeply committed to single-Member constituencies-within a particular constituency, ought not to be part of the way in which the citizen relates to his community and thereby to his state. We should not entirely rule out the importance of that.

A number of noble Lords asked about pilots. The Government, in their response, will discuss some of what has been learnt through the attempts at data-matching-comparing different databases, not integrating them. A certain amount has been learnt and this is part of the way forward for picking up those who would otherwise have been missed. Again, we have been looking at international comparisons of electoral systems and the Electoral Commission has produced a useful paper on them.

Other uses of the register were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and others, ranging from the letter I received from a number of charities, which talked about the importance of access to the register in order to send out fundraising letters, to commercial use and credit checks, as well as jury service, which is also part of the citizen's obligation to the state.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked about members of the armed services. The new employment model for the armed services will enable many more armed services members to have a longer-term home base. We already know that a number of service members are registered from their home base, and the number of those who are voting from abroad by postal votes may therefore indicate that the system is underestimating those who are able to vote. A number of us have family members serving abroad. My wife currently has a proxy vote for our son, who is on postdoctoral study in the United States. That issue also extends to the armed services. The new employment model will therefore help considerably with the levels of service registration.

The question of fraud has been raised. That is part of the issue of integrity. There is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, remarked, some not insignificant fraud in particular constituencies, and I am well aware that it takes place. Therefore, we have to maintain an effective system of checks, and that is part of the reason why we have to close down late registration and late applications for postal votes some days ahead of each election in order to provide sufficient time for adequate checks.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, raised the question of-