Amendment 16

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Janvrin Lord Janvrin Crossbench 7:00 pm, 8th October 2020

My Lords, I too—alongside the noble Lord, Lord Wills, who has just spoken—was a member of the Select Committee on the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt. I have added my name to this cross-party amendment, as I continue to believe that the Government should address the issue of the completeness of the electoral registers as a matter of priority, and certainly in the context of this Bill.

As has been made clear, the amendment has evolved since Committee, with its focus on completeness and on attainers. I want to make three brief points on Report. First, I entirely accept that the Government recognise the importance of the issue of completeness, and that they are well aware of the missing millions, and of the evidence that we do not perform well by international standards. In Committee, the Minister said that they were not complacent, and that there was work in hand to address some of the issues. If that is so, it would be a very small step for the Government to agree to a deadline for bringing forward further proposals, particularly in the light of the committee’s recent report. It would show a sense of urgency, which is important.

Secondly, the focus in the amendment on doing something about attainers is worth highlighting. Attainers are in a different position, and this has always been recognised, in that their names can be considered for entry on the register before they attain the right to vote. As the noble Lord, Lord Wills, said, there is significant evidence that registration rates for attainers have dropped markedly in recent years. Therefore, there is real cause to focus on them.

Thirdly, my reading of the amendment is that it is compatible with the Government’s position on automatic registration. I understand the Minister’s position that, in principle, registering to vote and voting are civic duties. The amendment does not seek to challenge the Government’s view, in that it would be perfectly possible to accept it while holding firm to that principle. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this modest amendment as a way of working towards fairer constituency boundaries based on better data. It may be modest, but it is important in the wider context of the integrity of our democratic process.