Amendment 16

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Gale Baroness Gale Labour 7:15 pm, 8th October 2020

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.

It has already been mentioned that the cross-party House of Lords Select Committee on the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, recommended a system of automatic voter registration for attainers. Since the introduction of individual electoral registration, the number of young people registered has fallen among 16 and 17 year-olds, as many noble Lords have mentioned. Given this low number, the amendment seems a simple solution that will ensure that attainers are included on the register. That is now more important as the Bill proposes to use the data on the register to draw the parliamentary constituencies. Such a low level of registration among attainers should be a matter of concern, and without the change suggested by the amendment there will be less representation of young people.

Automatic registration is sometimes opposed on the basis that it is an individual’s responsibility to ensure that they are on the electoral register. This suggestion should not apply to 15 and 16 year-olds, who have no prior experience of the electoral system. There is therefore a strong case that it should not be their responsibility to ensure that they are on the register. This is a sensible arrangement to ensure that young people are on the register and therefore will get all the information required when voting takes place.

At present, the data is less likely to include the names of young people than older people. This means that the register will be skewed towards older people when it comes to voting, resulting in the views of young people in the UK not being expressed in our democracy. For that reason alone, the Minister should give the amendment great consideration. Making this easier, and in such a simple way, will go a long way towards having a much more accurate electoral register than we have at present. There has been agreement around the House tonight on the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, has said that he will call a vote, and we on these Benches will support it.