Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 4:00 pm, 25th June 2020

May I put on the record how much I appreciated the illustration the hon. Gentleman made to the Committee earlier about those who have second homes in his constituency? He gave a powerful illustration of the problem at hand for those who have their second homes in his constituency, perhaps in a slightly different direction in income terms from the thinking in this proposal.

Let me come to what is being asked in this proposed measure. My principal, practical point, which I make to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood, is that the DWP does not actually have such a dataset. It does not have a dataset that specifically identifies eligible electors who are not registered to vote. In keeping with its purpose and powers, the Department holds data on those who pay tax or are in receipt of a benefit. That will certainly include individuals who are eligible to vote but not registered, and perhaps even the majority of such people—who knows?

My point is that we do not know that. However, those people would not be identifiable as such, because that is not the purpose of the DWP data. To create such a dataset, the Department would need to match its records with the electoral register, eliminate registered electors and generate a fresh, accurate list of those from its first dataset who are not registered but who are eligible to be. That would require a new data-matching process and a new power to share data for that purpose and place a new duty on the DWP. I think that the Committee will understand that I am not in a position today to accept such a new clause and argue that the DWP should proceed in that way. That is not within the scope of the Bill.