Representation of the People (Annual Canvass) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:00 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 1:00 pm, 31st October 2019

I thank the three noble Lords who have taken part in this debate today. I am grateful for their generous, warm—albeit slightly lukewarm—welcome and for not attacking me too much; it is much appreciated.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, asked whether the regulations had been debated in the House of Commons. They were debated at 11.30 am today in the Delegated Legislation Committee; the Minister for the Constitution answered questions on them, and they were approved.

The noble Lords, Lord Rennard and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asked about automatic registration, which has come up quite often in debates in this House. They probably know what my answer is going to be. We feel that automatic registration is not consistent with the principle of individual responsibility and ownership of registering to vote. There are technical obstacles; for example, no one dataset is currently identified which would allow a registration officer to establish all aspects of eligibility to register to vote, in particular nationality. Moreover, the accuracy of other datasets would also be vital. If the data underpinning any system of automatic registration were not robust, it could lead to multiple or duplicate register entries for the same individual, increasing the risk of electoral fraud.