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Higher Education and Research Bill - Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees 7:15 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment and congratulate the noble Baroness on her appointment to Somerville—that is great. As she explained, the amendment would ensure that all eligible students are provided with an opportunity to opt in to the electoral register for the location in which they are studying.

The introduction of individual electoral registration—IER—is a huge change in how elections operate in the UK. It helps the accuracy of the register and helps to counter fraud. So we support IER but want to ensure that it is implemented in the right way. Often when someone is moving house, registering to vote can be a low priority. Many people realise that they did not get around to registering only at election time, when it is already too late. Analysis from the Electoral Commission has shown that areas with a high concentration of certain demographics—students, private renters and especially young adults, who move regularly—are in particular danger of having low registration numbers. It is therefore important that special care is taken to prevent at-risk groups failing to register and failing to have their say at an election. It is particularly important that young people at university should have every encouragement to engage with democracy and the political process as early as possible. We need the engagement of young people to ensure the survival of democracy.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, many universities already do this. The amendment would mean that all would be involved. It would go a long way to helping students to be aware of the need to register and help them to do so quickly and easily. I fully support the amendment.