“(1) If the registration officer receives information that leads him or her to believe that a registered elector has moved, or is going to move, outside the United Kingdom, the registration officer shall contact that elector to prompt him or her to register as an overseas elector.
(2) The Electoral Commission may issue guidance for contact under subsection (1).”
Thank you, Mr Robertson. I shall miss our weekly meetings when they come to an end. I have little to say about the proposed new clause. The Bill is quite clearly defined and I do not believe that the new clause is necessary. We do not want to put in complications that make it more difficult for the electoral community and electoral registration officers. I hope, in the spirit of having a Bill that will help overseas electors to be able to vote, that the Opposition withdraw the new clause.
Thank you for the chance, once again, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I will be brief. Can we believe that it was Halloween when we last gathered? Let us hope this is a more auspicious afternoon.
I will just repeat some themes that I raised in response to a previous group, particularly amendment 37, namely that the Government do recognise the time constraints on administrators when dealing with those last-minute applications to register to vote. That is true domestically, but it is true for overseas voters in particular. As I have said, we have already amended the timetable for parliamentary elections to maximise the time available. I certainly agree that overseas voters should be encouraged to register as early as possible, and I certainly hope that bringing in online renewals, which the Bill does, will assist in that.
Perhaps the message will go out from this Bill Committee and voters will in due course take inspiration and get ready to register to vote. Crucially, major organisations such as the Electoral Commission will, as part of their duties, ensure that people know what they have to do to register. Such organisations run those campaigns before elections to ensure that people are aware of when and how to register to vote.
I endorse the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire. I do not think the proposed new clause is necessary. It raises important themes, but I think they can be considered in other ways.