Amendment 56

Elections Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 17 March 2022.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock:

Moved by Baroness Hayman of Ullock

56: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—“(2) Schedule 1 must not come into force until the Secretary of State has made a statement to Parliament on the estimated impact of the provisions on voter turnout.(3) The statement must include an analysis of the impact on voter turnout in different age brackets.”

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I have a number of amendments in this group. I thank noble Lords who have been supportive: the noble Baronesses, Lady Meacher and Lady Lister, and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley. In the previous debate, where we strayed into other areas, we heard a lot of concern about voter turnout. My amendments in this group aim to draw attention to the potential impact on voter turnout in all the different areas where concerns have been raised.

I will just run through them. We are looking at age brackets. We have heard concerns that younger people could be badly impacted by this. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, raised huge concerns about the impact on older people.

I also have an amendment about the impact on voter turnout of different disabilities. Our last day in Committee started with a debate on what could happen to blind or partially sighted people if the proposals were brought in without addressing the concerns of the RNIB and other people who have sight problems. Other disabilities have also been looked at; access, for example. There is also an amendment on the impact on voter turnout among different ethnicities. The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, who is no longer in her place, talked about this and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, has done tremendous work looking at this area.

There is an amendment on nations and regions. One of the concerns is the differentials that will come with England and the devolved areas, and how this will be managed regionally. We know from different kinds of evidence that certain regions are more likely to struggle with voter turnout than others. Also, there is the issue of voter turnout in different income brackets. At Second Reading, noble Lords referred to the important research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which was carried out because the Government had not looked at this. They had looked at other areas but not at income level. If any noble Lord has not read the report, it is very important in getting an understanding.

I draw attention to one or two things the foundation said. It said that low-income potential voters are much more likely not to have photo ID—1% compared with 6%. It talked about how this could mean 1 million low-income voters in Great Britain not having possession of approved photo ID. On top of that, 700,000 low-income adults who would have photo ID felt that they were not actually recognisable and were concerned that their ID would not be accepted. We will have another debate at some point about people being turned away.

I do not want to take up too much time, as we are supposed to finish at 7 pm, but to cover a lot of those different areas, I want to look at the London Voices project. It carried out a survey that asked organisations to describe the impact that they thought photo voter ID would have. The key concerns expressed were that the requirement for photo voter ID

“would reduce democratic participation thus widening the democratic deficit, and impose unfair barriers on already marginalised communities, such as disabled Londoners and Black, Asian and ethnic minority Londoners.”

The report quoted some people in their own words. We have talked an awful lot in this House, but we need to listen to what people on the street say when they are asked about this.

The first one that I want to read out is from Southwark Travellers’ Action Group, which supports Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Londoners. We have not heard enough in their voice. They are very marginalised and we do not take enough account of the difficulties that they often have in civic life. The group said:

“‘The women who we work with, not all of them, but some of them don’t have either passports or driving licences. So that would be an extra barrier for them. Also just the expense of getting those things … Sometimes we have people who want to get a new passport but can’t afford it at the moment, so that’s a real problem.”

Haringey Welcome, which supports migrant and refugee Londoners, said:

“Loads of people don’t have a passport, have never travelled outside of the country… it’s clearly the poor and the disadvantaged, who are least likely to be able to prove their identity”.

Central YMCA looks after young Londoners and points out:

“We do have an informal economy in London. Anybody who doesn’t want to accept that is just not facing reality. So, the people in that economy will be very reluctant. And quite a lot of people in that economy tend to be from BAME communities, or from poorer communities. And therefore, you’re actually saying to quite a large part of the demographic that they are going to be excluded from the democratic process.”

Jacky Peacock, from Advice for Renters—aimed at private renters—says:

“Fewer people will vote—some won’t have photo ID, some (particularly refugees) have lived in authoritarian countries and are fearful while for others it’s just one more small deterrent”.

Voice4Change England looks after black Londoners, and says:

“In vibrant civil society, it is incumbent on the government to endeavour to increase political participation by expanding voters’ rights. The US case rightly highlights that the introduction of voter ID legislation reduced voter participation, and it is suggested that this was disproportionately high among racial and ethnic minority groups … The government should … address the fact that millions of people are left off the electoral register, to review anachronistic campaign laws”.

Finally, Rachel Coates speaks for Advocacy for All, which represents disabled Londoners:

“I think less people with disabilities will vote as this makes it more complicated”.

I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

My Lords, I support this group, and I will speak specifically to Amendments 58 and 59, to which I have added my name. But first I will make some points about the group in general. In the Commons the Minister said:

“The Government are committed to increasing participation in our democracy and to empowering all those eligible to vote to do so in a secure, efficient and effective way”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/1/22; col. 83.]

Yet a wide range of civil society groups, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have all voiced concerns about how the voter ID requirements will have the opposite effect for marginalised groups. We heard powerfully from the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford, about that earlier.

When these concerns were raised in the Commons Committee, the Minister tried to turn the tables with the extraordinary response that to suggest that those groups more likely not to hold the requisite photo ID would not be able to access photo cards

“is to unfairly diminish the agency”, and

“assuming from the get-go that people are disadvantaged on the basis of their background is stigmatising and denies them their agency”.—[Official Report, Commons, Elections Bill Committee, 22/9/21; col. 127.]

As the author of a book on poverty, one of the central themes of which is the importance of recognising the agency of those living in poverty, I would point out that agency has to be understood in the context of the myriad structural constraints and barriers they face. The same applies to all the marginalised groups that concern us here. The Bill will increase those barriers further.

I now turn to the impact of Clause 1 on people in poverty, which I am pleased to say has already been touched on by my noble friend. As she said, the official evidence made available and statements made do not address this directly at all, as income status is not one of the parameters researched, even though the indicators of the likely adverse impact on the unemployed and on people in social housing should have set a red light flashing, prompting further research into those on low incomes. That it did not do so speaks volumes. Instead, as my noble friend also said, we are indebted to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for carrying out the research. I will not repeat the details that my noble friend mentioned, but of the total of all those on low incomes who did not have photo ID, thought that what they had was unrecognisable, or were not sure, only about half said that they would be likely to apply for a voter card, and two-fifths said they were unlikely to, or were unsure whether they would.

That is not to deny the agency of this group, but it might reflect a reluctance to engage with the state in this way, because of a lack of trust, as a number of commentators have observed. Or it may be a function of the sheer hard work involved in getting by in poverty. Getting by in poverty is itself an example of time-consuming agency, the more time-consuming when also juggling multiple jobs, long hours and/or insecure work.

Moreover, psychological research has illuminated the

“cognitive constraints of life in poverty” that can reduce “bandwidth” and mean immediate demands on time can override longer-term planning. People on low incomes are already less likely to vote than better-off people, for a variety of reasons. According to JRF, the gap in turnout increased significantly between 1987 and 2015. Although the trend was bucked in 2017, there was still a clear social gradient in turnout in the 2019 election. Surely we should be doing all we can to increase turnout among this group, not raising new obstacles to it.

With regard to ethnicity, while recognising that there is a real issue here for racially minoritised groups generally, I want to focus, like my noble friend did, on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, who are particularly disadvantaged in a number of dimensions. There is no sign yet of the long-promised strategy from the Government on doing something about the disadvantages faced by this group. As far as I could see, the report published today, Inclusive Britain, does not mention this group. I may be wrong—but the noble Lord is nodding his head, so I do not think that it does. It is one of the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in this country.

The equality impact assessment notes that the Cabinet Office survey of eligible voters

“did not reach a sufficiently large sample size of those who identify as White Gypsy or Irish Traveller to make reliable statistical estimates.”

The document acknowledged:

“Available research elsewhere suggests this group are less likely to hold some types of photo ID” and are,

“according to the 2011 Census, least likely to have a UK or non-UK passport, with 66% holding a passport compared to an average of 86% across all ethnicities.”

The Traveller Movement carried its own small-scale research that suggested that the proposed ID law would create further barriers to voting for this group, who would struggle disproportionately with the new requirements. It points out that nomadic Travellers and those who live on sites already struggle with access to basic infrastructure, including postal services and internet access, which prevents them from registering to vote, or acquiring other forms of documentation or ID. The movement warns that mistrust of state institutions could act as a barrier to applying for ID or a voter card. Indeed, today’s Inclusive Britain report acknowledges more generally that

“there is clearly still a trust deficit which some groups have towards the UK and many of its institutions.”

I suggest that the groups that we are talking about in these amendments are particularly likely to hold such a trust deficit.

The JCHR voiced its concern that

“the Government do not appear to fully understand the potential discriminatory impact of requiring voter ID on individuals who identify as White Gypsy or Irish Traveller”, and called for the information to be obtained and provided to Parliament to allow for effective scrutiny. I am not aware that any such information has been provided to Parliament. Instead, in their response to the JCHR’s report, the Government said that there had been official-level and ministerial engagement with civil society organisations representing these groups so as to better understand the impact of voter ID on voting patterns, and that lines of communication with these groups remain open. That is good—but not what the JCHR asked for.

More generally, engagement with civil society groups has been a recurrent theme in government pronouncements on voter ID. This is of course welcome, but can the Minister tell us what engagement there has been with organisations speaking on behalf of people in poverty, or in which people in poverty are themselves involved, so that they can bring the expertise born of experience to these policy discussions?

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 6:45, 17 March 2022

My Lords, I rise in support of Amendments 56 to 60 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, to which I have added my name. As I said at Second Reading, one of my biggest concerns about the whole Bill—though it is not the only one—is that the ID requirements could, when an election is closely fought, lead to an entirely different outcome of the election from that which would have been achieved without this ID process. In some cases it could result in a change in the MP elected in particular constituencies where, again, the result is close. Although there are obviously problems about individuals and groups, my biggest concern is that this could tip over or interferes with and distort the result of an election. That is a very serious matter.

The requirement in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 that the electoral identity document

“must … contain a photograph of the person” risks excluding various groups. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, went through those groups in some detail, and I certainly do not want to repeat her remarks. A differential turnout in these groups and constituencies will therefore determine to what extend the ID system affects the outcome of elections. I have no doubt that the ID system will affect election results and outcomes, and therefore, in my view, the ID provision should not be included in this Bill at all. However, I do understand that the Government had the election ID proposal in their manifesto. Nevertheless, I think I am completely convinced, certainly by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, who did not get to speak on it, that the manifesto did not refer to photographic evidence. I hope the Minister will, therefore, while hanging on to his ID scheme no doubt, agree that these amendments are very important to keep the impact on elections to a minimum. We need the information required by these amendments. It will be difficult to estimate the impact on various groups, and I would be grateful if the Minister in his response would explain how that data will be obtained—assuming of course that he accepts the vital importance of impact assessments, and I am sure he does—before the ID system is introduced.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, referred to various countries that have electoral ID documents, but it would be very helpful if the Minister would make clear which countries have electoral ID systems that do not have general national ID documentation. I think it was indicated that it would not make any difference; of course, it would make an enormous difference if everybody was automatically required to carry their ID in their pocket or bag. Of course, they would roll up at the polling station with their ID—so I have to say I do not accept that it does not matter. It does; and it would be very helpful if the Minister could give some kind of evidence about efficacy and about the impact on elections in those countries that have electoral ID but not national ID.

A very different concern relates to the delegated powers in relation to the registration officer’s power to issue the relevant electoral identity document. For noble Lords not involved in the earlier debate, perhaps I should again declare my interest as a member of the Delegated Powers Committee. The registration officer is under a duty to determine the application “in accordance with regulations”. That is a very wide power, which leaves it open to Ministers to determine the conditions that must be met before an applicant is entitled to receive an electoral identity document. We are not going to know that; that will be a ministerial decision under delegated powers. It also allows for the possibility of the registration officer being given discretion in deciding whether or not to issue an electoral identity document to a person. Again, on what grounds? What is actually going to go on here?

The Delegated Powers Committee is wanting an explanation from the Minister about why these provisions are not on the face of the Bill, and it is quite difficult to think why they are not. If the Minister cannot give an adequate explanation, the committee’s view is that the delegation in this case is inappropriate. I bring that to the Committee because I think it is relevant, and it is important for people involved in these discussions. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to respond to this, but, if he is not, maybe he can respond in writing, not just to the Delegated Powers Committee but to Members of this Committee. I hope the Minister will be able to respond, though, to this concern.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour

My Lords, to vote is a fundamental right. It is not a new-age right invented the other day; it is a fundamental civil and political right. It is also, for many of us, an ethical duty. If the Government took that view, they would not judge the balance of risk in the way that they currently are. That is where this group relates to the debate foreshadowed in the previous group on financial cost. In that debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said that it is worth it to have integrity in the system, but the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, asked whether just one conviction really justified the risk. Now we are closer to the crux of the debate.

Different groups of people have fought for the right to vote over many centuries, all over the world. It is one of the first-order civil rights in a democracy, and an ethical duty. If the Government agreed with me, they would judge the balance of risk rather differently from the way they are currently doing with this one conviction as evidence of a problem. Although it is always hard to prove a negative, any evidence produced for it—whether in pilots or from well-established civil society research organisations—is batted away and the Minister in the other place says, “Let’s lock the house before the burglary happens”.

If I am right that it is a first-order civil right, like the right to liberty, you have to judge the balance of risk and put the presumption in a slightly different place. With the right of presumption of innocence and the right to liberty, we put the presumption in a particular direction. We say that it is more important—many Conservatives not in their places would agree with me—that one innocent person does not lose their right to liberty than that even a few more who are guilty go free. If that is how we judge the presumption of innocence in relation to liberty, and if we take participation in free and fair elections as a first-order right of that kind, why do the Government judge the balance of risk in the way they do? Why are they not doing everything possible not just to ensure that those with the right to vote can do so but to encourage the behavioural change we want so that people get the habit of voting and discharge what I think is an ethical duty?

Some other countries say that voting should be compulsory—that it is not just an ethical duty but a legal one. That is a step too far for my libertarian instincts; speaking of which, I fought for many years with many who are not in their places on the Benches opposite, and the current Prime Minister, against the principle of compulsory identification cards for people in this country. Conservatives were some of the most eloquent participants in that debate and the Conservative Party fought elections on manifestos against it, on the basis that this is the kind of free country in which free-born English men and women should not have to carry compulsory ID.

It did not make me many friends among those who are now my noble friends, but that was the argument and principle that united the Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in 2010—repealing compulsory identity legislation was their flagship policy—and I welcomed it. It seems a little odd now to say that there will not be universal compulsory identity cards for everyone but we will take your vote off you if you cannot afford ID such as a passport or a driving licence. Ministers are shaking their heads on the basis that they will make it possible for all sorts of other kinds of free and cheap ID to be available. We have to take that on trust.

That does not deal with the principled concern—why we require it at all, given that we blew all those trumpets about free-born Englishmen not requiring compulsory ID in the first place—or solve my practical concern about discouraging people who are already discouraged from getting into the habit of voting. The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, made that point so eloquently in the previous debate.

With all the comings and goings and the vivid nature of the debate, I never heard from either of the noble Baronesses, Lady Noakes or Lady Verma, in what way they think fraud is of a significant enough degree in this country at the moment to justify their points about people being shut out of the process by it.

Evidence has to go both ways. If people on this side have to make their case about discouragement from voting, they cite Joseph Rowntree, et cetera, but where is the Government’s evidence that the system is currently so corrupted by widescale fraud that this kind of measure needs to be introduced, notwithstanding our concerns that people will be disenfranchised in a fundamental way?

Photo of Lord Woolley of Woodford Lord Woolley of Woodford Crossbench 7:00, 17 March 2022

My Lords, I support the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. Seven hours ago, when my back was not aching, there was a good discussion in the Chamber about not rushing through legislation. Do noble Lords remember that? We must not rush it through because, if we do, we are in danger of getting it profoundly wrong.

I was pleased that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community has been mentioned. I have worked with them for more than 25 years and know they are one of the most marginalised and politically disenfranchised communities in the country. They have told me that voter ID would severely impact their ability to engage in the democratic process. We know of other groups too. In 2019, in reviewing the pilot scheme, the Electoral Commission said:

“In Derby there is a strong correlation between the proportion of each ward’s population from an Asian background and the number of people not issued with a ballot paper.”

There is copious evidence to suggest that, if we go ahead with this, black, Asian and minority-ethnic communities will be disproportionately affected. I suggest that we do not make the mistake that we made with Windrush, when we made legislation with the best intentions—one would hope—and the unintended consequences wreaked havoc with the Windrush generation. What we did not do then was have a comprehensive race equality impact assessment.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which looked at the Bill, said in December that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that we need this. We should press the pause button. Let us make sure that we get this right. Our children and voters who find it difficult to get to the booth could be even more severely affected. If we pause, have a comprehensive impact assessment and get this right, I am sure that we can get this in a much better state.

Photo of Lord Kerslake Lord Kerslake Crossbench

Given the lateness of the hour, I hesitate to come in now, but I feel passionately about the importance of tackling the uneven and potentially discriminatory nature of what we are doing here without the proper assessment to which the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, referred.

I shall make two points. The London Voices project is worth reading in detail. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on that. It involves more than 100 organisations with more than 5,000 staff. They have produced a comprehensive picture of the risks involved in this project. Has the Minister met the London Voices project? If she has not, will she do so as a matter of urgency?

My second point is about the Mayor of London’s concerns. He has written and set out very clearly the risks, as he sees them, in London: over half a million Londoners without a passport; over 2.5 million Londoners without a driver’s licence; and something like one in five of those with a disability not having a freedom pass. I could go on. A whole range of people in protected groups do not have the evidence that is required. We may then say that there is a free pass available on application—but look at the JRF analysis, which shows that a large number of those very people are the ones most likely not to apply for the free pass. So, the net effect is that they will be excluded. Can that be what we are looking for here? Have we done enough to be sure that that does not happen? I do not think so.

Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Labour

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord’s back, after seven hours, recovers. I was one of some Members who were in this Chamber at 2 o’clock this morning debating and voting on another important Bill.

In view of the lateness of the hour, I want to put only one point to the Minister. The Government understand that their proposals in this area are controversial. They are controversial because they are making a very considerable proposed change to the way in which we conduct elections. Yet at the same time, on all sides of the House, we are agreed that we want to see the maximum possible voter registration and turnout. Looking at this group of amendments, which I rise to support, does it seem unreasonable that the Government should be required to provide a statement on the estimated impact of these provisions on voter turnout? That seems to me a very reasonable request.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

My Lords, listening to this debate, it is quite obvious that some groups of people are less likely to have access to the voter ID that will be required. We should know much more about the potential consequences of such a major change to our tried and tested system at polling stations before introducing it for a general election. As the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said, let us press the pause button on this. A single survey commissioned by the Cabinet Office is not sufficient to show that compulsory voter ID will not have many of the same problems that we see with electoral registration, which effectively excludes many people from their right to vote.

We should look in some detail at the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on this issue. It drew attention last September as to how:

“The Government must do more to demonstrate the need for voter ID”.

The committee said that the Government must also

“mitigate the potential barriers to voting its proposals may create.”

The Government’s response spoke about making elections “accessible”, but they failed to justify any additional barriers to voting or to show that they were proportionate to what is shown to be an extremely low level of electoral fraud and one conviction. The Joint Committee on Human Rights said that

“it is estimated that over 2 million people will not have an acceptable form of ID and so will have to apply for a free voter card or lose the ability to vote at the polling station. These proposals are aiming to reduce fraud at polling stations, however the recorded instances of such fraud are rare.”

Having taken expert advice, the committee warned that:

“The impact of the proposals may fall disproportionately on some groups with protected characteristics under human rights law. Older people and disabled people are less likely to have photo ID and some groups such as Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities may be hesitant to apply for the Voter Card. The Committee calls on the Cabinet Office to produce clear research setting out whether mandatory ID at the polling station could create barriers to taking part in elections for some groups and how they plan to mitigate this risk effectively.”

It is worth noting that this is what the impact assessment says about this policy in terms of its effects on voting:

“The analysis does not assess the impact of the policy on voter turnout.”

The Government’s own impact assessment has not even looked at what the effect will be on voter turnout. Why was this not done?

It has been mentioned that some countries have voter ID. To answer the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, certain states in America do not have compulsory voter ID, and the effect on turnout is that those who are more economically affluent will vote while those who are least economically affluent will not, because they do not have access to voter ID. So there are international comparisons showing that this is a problem.

Because of the lateness of the hour, I will say just this: there will be roughly 2.1 million people for whom mandatory voter ID will be a barrier to exercising their vote. If that is the case, why are the Government pursuing this policy, and why have they not carried out an impact assessment to see its effect on voter turnout?

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I thank all noble Lords for an interesting debate. I shall respond to a couple of things straightaway. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, raised some issues from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I have agreed with the Minister that if she does not mind, we will write to the noble Baroness and send a copy to anyone who has taken part in the debate.

Due to the lateness of the hour, and because we are going to have a stand part debate on this same issue at our next sitting, I will be much briefer than perhaps I would have been, because I am sure all these issues will get brought up again. The Government strongly stand by the importance of public participation and engagement, which has come out from many noble Lords today. It is important to us. I reassure the House that we share a joint aim on that front. We all want participation in a strong democratic election system.

Turnout fluctuates from election to election; I think we all know that. If we look at national elections versus local elections versus parish council elections, they all have fluctuating turnout, for many reasons, so it will likely not be possible to isolate the impact of the measures in the Bill on that. It would be quite difficult. I hear the concerns that have been raised but, as I said earlier, the impact of the measures in the Bill have been considered in great detail. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I will get her a list of the consultees that we worked with because that is important.

With regard to making sure that all groups, particularly minority groups, engage with the electoral system, register to vote and vote once they are registered, I go back again to the importance of the local electoral teams in all our local authorities. They are the people who have the experience of the communities that they serve and work within. I myself have a particular interest in the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities. If those local electoral teams understand a community locally—I have seen this working locally myself—then they are often the people who can speak to them, find out the barriers for those communities and work through them. I am sure that is same for many other communities across the country.

The amendments relating to postal voter turnout—which we have not really spoken about—would impose extensive reporting and analysis requirements. They would appear to apply to every election and by-election, including local-level elections for parish and town councils, as well as for district and county councils. If we were to accept the amendments, we believe that they would generate an unjustifiable burden.

The Bill already outlines that there must be three evaluations of the effect of the requirement to show identification on voting. These will consider the effect of the new policy on electors’ applications for a ballot paper. By law, the Electoral Commission publishes reports on electoral events. Its reports will no doubt contain thorough analysis of the impacts of any changes brought about by the Elections Bill. For these reasons, we cannot support the amendments, and I ask the noble Baroness not to press them.

Photo of Lord Kerslake Lord Kerslake Crossbench 7:15, 17 March 2022

I asked a specific question as to whether the Minister had met the London Voices project and, if not, whether he would be prepared to meet them now.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

We will write to the noble Lord. We have met, but I shall make sure that we give the noble Lord a clear response on that.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

I know that it is very late, so I shall be quick. The Minister skipped over this, and it is quite key. There has been no analysis of the impact of this policy on voter turnout. The Electoral Commission will do it retrospectively but I am talking about before it comes in. Why have the Government missed this key issue? They keep telling us from that Dispatch Box that the policy will not have an impact on voter turnout, yet they have done no detailed analysis in their impact assessment.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I can confirm that we have not done that impact analysis. The important impact will be after.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

The issue of impacting the outcome of elections is seriously important. Will the Minister go away and think about whether the Government should do an impact assessment not only on overall turnout but on differential turnout among different groups—for example, the disabled, the poor and the elderly—to assess the likely impact on election outcomes. All these things are important, but it seems to me crucial that, in a democracy, Governments should not introduce policies that are going to skew election results. I ask the Minister to take that away and write to us all about what the intention would be.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I am grateful for the wide support for the amendments and for what we are trying to achieve with them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, just made an incredibly important point. All through the debates that we have had, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of democracy, the importance of participation and the importance of widening democracy and encouraging people to vote. It concerns me that the Government are introducing a policy that could have an impact on people’s ability to vote without having done an assessment of what the impact on voter turnout is likely to be. Whether or not we want to look at the Irish case or at what has happened in the United States or in other places, we know that there is likely to be some form of impact. Would it not therefore be good practice and a good way to do legislation to make sure that all those impact assessments are done in advance? That just seems to be logical.

It is late. I shall not speak any more. All I say is that I am sure that these issues will be discussed more when we next sit in Committee, where the clause stand part debate is the first debate. These issues will also definitely come back on Report and will need further debate and discussion. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 56 withdrawn.

Amendments 57 to 60 not moved.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 7.20 pm.