To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what steps are being taken to ensure that returning officers take effective steps to provide people with disabilities with access to polling stations; and if he will make a statement.
The Electoral Commission informs me that its guidance for returning officers covers access to polling stations for those with disabilities. This includes a checklist of issues to consider when choosing buildings for use as polling stations. The polling station handbook for use by presiding officers and poll clerks on election day also contains advice on accessibility.
The Representation of the People Act 1983 places an obligation on councils, so far as it is reasonable and practicable, to designate as polling places only places that are accessible to disabled people and to give all electors within their area reasonable facilities for voting.
Following Electoral Commission recommendations, section 16 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 required that councils consult the returning officer as part of their review of polling places. Councils must seek the views of people who have particular expertise in relation to access to premises or facilities for people with disabilities when carrying out reviews, and were required to carry out such a review during 2007.