Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


"REGISTRATION IN PURSUANCE OF SERVICE DECLARATION
(1) In section 15 of the 1983 Act (service declaration), after subsection (8) insert—
"(9) The Secretary of State may by order provide that, in relation to the persons mentioned in section 14(1)(a) and (d), subsection (2)(a) above has effect as if for the period of 12 months there were substituted such other period (not exceeding five years) as he thinks appropriate.
(10) The power to make an order under subsection (9) is exercisable by statutory instrument, which may contain such incidental or consequential provision as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.
(11) No order may be made under subsection (9) unless—
(a) the Secretary of State first consults the Electoral Commission, and
(b) a draft of the instrument containing the order is laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(12) If the period substituted by an order under subsection (9) is longer than the period for the time being in force, the longer period has effect in relation to any person who immediately before the order was made was entitled to remain in a register by virtue of subsection (2)."
 
7 Jun 2006 : Column 1285
 

(2) In section 59 of that Act (supplemental provisions as to members of forces and service voters), for subsection (3) substitute—
"(3) Arrangements must be made by the appropriate government department for securing that every person having a service qualification by virtue of paragraph (a) or (b) of section 14(1) above has (so far as circumstances permit) an effective opportunity of exercising from time to time as occasion may require the rights conferred on him by this Act in relation to—
(a) registration in a register of electors (and in particular in relation to the making and cancellation of service declarations);
(b) the making and cancellation of appointments of a proxy;
(c) voting in person, by post or by proxy.
(3A) Arrangements must be made by the appropriate government department for securing that such person receives such instructions as to the effect of this Act and any regulations made under it, and such other assistance, as may be reasonably sufficient in connection with the exercise by that person and any spouse or civil partner of that person of any rights conferred on them as mentioned above.
(3B) In subsections (3) and (3A) "the appropriate government department" means, in relation to members of the forces, the Ministry of Defence, and in relation to any other person means the government department under which he is employed in the employment giving the service qualification.
(3C) The Ministry of Defence must maintain, in relation to each member of the forces who provides information relating to his registration as an elector, a record of such information.
(3D) The Ministry of Defence must make arrangements to enable each member of the forces to update annually the information recorded under subsection (3C)."
(3) In section 59(4) of that Act, for "subsection (3)" substitute "subsections (3) and (3A)"."

[Amendment No. 3, as an amendment to Amendment No. 2, not moved.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 4:


"REGISTRATION: PERSONAL IDENTIFIERS
(1) The 1983 Act is amended as follows.
(2) In section 10 (maintenance of registers: annual canvass), after subsection (4) insert—
"(4A) Subject to subsection (4B) below, the information to be obtained by the use of such a form for the purpose of a canvass shall include—
(a) the signature of each of the persons in relation to whom the form is completed, and
(b) the date of birth of each such person.
(4B) The Chief Electoral Officer may dispense with the requirement mentioned in subsection (4A)(a) above in relation to any person if he is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for that person to sign in a consistent and distinctive way because of any incapability of his or because he is unable to read."
(3) In section 10A (maintenance of registers: registration of electors)—
(a) after subsection (1B) insert—
"(1C) Subject to subsection (1D) below, an application for registration in respect of an address in England, Scotland or Wales shall include—
(a) the signature of each of the persons to whom the application relates, and
(b) the date of birth of each such person.
 
7 Jun 2006 : Column 1286
 

(1D) The Chief Electoral Officer may dispense with the requirement mentioned in subsection (4A)(a) above in relation to any person if he is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for that person to sign in a consistent and distinctive way because of any incapability of his or because he is unable to read.";
(b) in subsection (5), at the beginning insert "Subject to subsection (5A) below,";
(c) after subsection (5) insert—
"(5A) A person's name is to be removed from the register in respect of any address if—
(a) the form mentioned in section 10(4) above in respect of that address does not include all the information relating to him required by section 10(4A) above; or
(b) the registration officer determines that he is not satisfied with the information relating to that person which was included in that form pursuant to that requirement.";
(d) in subsection (6), after "above" insert "or his name is to be removed from it by virtue of subsection (5A) above,"; and
(e) in subsection (8), after "5" insert ", (5A)".
(4) In section 13A (alteration of registers), after subsection (2B) insert—
"(2C) Subject to subsection (2D) below, an application for registration under subsection (1)(a) above in respect of an address in the United Kingdom shall include—
(a) the signature of each of the persons to whom the application relates, and
(b) the date of birth of each such person.
(2D) The Chief Electoral Officer may dispense with the requirement mentioned in subsection (4A)(a) above in relation to any person if he is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for that person to sign in a consistent and distinctive way because of any incapability of his or because he is unable to read.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that I am on much less controversial ground here, and I know that the Minister will give way on this amendment without a moment's thought.

The amendment returns us to an issue which we have debated in great detail throughout the passage of the Bill. I was disappointed to find on Report that my amendments on personal identifiers would have been destroyed by the government clause stand part amendments, but I was glad to be able to go away to redraft the amendment in a form that is more amenable to noble Lords today.

The amendment would require a signature and date of birth to be included in all voters' registration and not only in that of postal voters, which is already in the Bill. It would not interfere with arrangements as they stand in Northern Ireland, which I still believe to be the best option. A signature and date of birth are extremely easy to find: the one, you can simply write down; and the other, it is to be hoped you can remember.

While I would still very much like to see national insurance numbers added as a personal identifier for voter registration, I have argued myself into the ground about it and I accept that noble Lords are not in favour of the idea. I am prepared to leave it to
 
7 Jun 2006 : Column 1287
 
simmer until another opportunity arises to get it on the statute book, perhaps at a time when we find that a signature and date of birth are not quite sufficient as identifiers. However, what we want to secure at this stage is some form of personal identifiers for voting.

Noble Lords will be aware of the Electoral Commission's campaign for personal identifiers. From the outset of the Bill, it has called for personal identifiers to be introduced, first into all-postal voting, and then, via a transitional arrangement, into the national canvass. It was pointed out in Committee that to say to people on the national non-postal canvass that they could sign if they wanted to, via the commission's proposed transitional scheme, would not yield an effective result—and I agree with that.

So why postpone a good idea? The amendment regarding personal identifiers for postal voting which was introduced by the Government on Report was very welcome. It was the result of hard work by me and the noble Lords, Lord Elder and Lord Rennard—we all managed to agree at the same time—but we can go still further. Noble Lords will have read about the recent fraud in Coventry, where people who were in Pakistan somehow managed to vote in person at the polling station at the same time. This is just one in a long line of cases where identity has allegedly been impersonated at the polling station. The use of personal identifiers across the board would go a long way towards protecting individuals from this kind of fraud as well.

The Minister has spoken in support of the principle of this amendment time and time again. In Committee, she stated that,

I was pleased to re-read that in Hansard and I am confident that my amendment strikes precisely the right balance between creating a safeguard against fraud and preventing the over-complication of registering to vote. At that stage the Minister also expressed her strong views about making sure that forms requesting information from people should be as simple and straightforward as possible.

Provisions under Schedule 1 require voters to sign for their ballot paper at the polling station. Our amendment would therefore introduce a further check against fraud. Those registering to vote would provide a signature that would go on the register, which would then provide a check at the polling station. I do not see how the provision of a signature at the polling station will be of any use if there is no register of the original signature in the first place. What is more, our amendment would save voters the worry of finding a legitimate counterfoil to prove that their signature is theirs.

I very much hope that noble Lords can support the amendment. In my view it would make a great contribution to the prevention of electoral fraud while retaining simplicity of information. I beg to move.
 
7 Jun 2006 : Column 1288
 

5 pm


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page