To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what steps the Electoral Commission has taken to improve security of voting by post; how much those steps have cost to implement; and how effective they have been in reducing postal ballot fraud.
The Electoral Commission informs me that since 2003 it has made a number of recommendations to improve the security of postal voting in Great Britain. In 2003 the Commission first recommended the introduction of individual electoral registration in Great Britain in order to help secure the entry point to the electoral process.
Individual electoral registration (IER) will be implemented in Great Britain from June 2014. The UK Government has indicated that it will fully fund the transition to individual electoral registration. In 2012 the Government estimated the initial costs of introducing IER to be £85 million in 2014-15, plus subsequent additional costs of £13 million per year.
In 2005 the Commission recommended the introduction of a system of verifiable personal identifiers for postal voting in Great Britain. Since 2006 returning officers have been required to verify the date of birth and signature on a minimum 20% sample of returned postal voting statements against the details provided at the time of application. The Commission continued to recommend that returning officers should verify the personal identifiers on all returned postal voting statements, and legislation passed in 2013 will make this a requirement for elections from May 2014 onwards. The UK Government provided funding to meet the costs of the introduction of this change in 2007.
The Commission published an evaluation of the introduction of absent vote identifiers in England and Wales in July 2007 but this did not include any analysis of the costs of the policy. It did, however, note that the 2007 elections, conducted under the new rules requiring verifiable personal identifiers, resulted in far fewer allegations of postal voting fraud when compared to the previous period, 2004 to 2006. The evaluation can be found on the Commission's website here: