To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what guidance the Electoral Commission issues on the sale of electoral registration details of electors who (a) are on the open register and (b) have opted not to be included on the central register.
Electoral legislation prescribes in what circumstances and to whom electors’ details on the full and open electoral registers can be sold.
The ‘full’ electoral register includes the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote. Access to, and use of, the full electoral register is carefully controlled. It is only available for sale to certain government departments and other bodies, as well as to credit reference agencies, and may only be used for the purposes for which it has been supplied (for example, credit reference agencies may only use it for credit reference purposes).
The open register is an extract of the electoral register, which electors can opt out of. The open register can be bought by any person, company or organisation.
The Electoral Commission’s guidance to Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) summarises what they are required to do by law. The guidance makes clear the difference between the open and the full registers, and sets out who can have access to them and the prescribed fees for supply.
Individuals applying to register to vote are provided with information on the open and full registers, including what they are used for and who can be provided with data from them.
As part of the transition to Individual Electoral Registration, EROs wrote to all existing electors who had been automatically transferred to the new registers. This letter included information on both the open and full register. The Commission’s report on the first phase of the transition to Individual Electoral Registration, published in October 2014, noted that when EROs began sending these confirmation letters it became clear from the response that many people who were on the open register were not aware of that fact, and were unhappy about how their information was being used.
The Commission remains of the view that the open register should no longer be compiled or made available for sale. The Commission has also recommended that, should the open register be retained, electors should be asked whether they wish to opt in, rather than opt out.