REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE BILL
Memorandum by the Home Office
1. This memorandum describes the powers to make
subordinate legislation which will be conferred by the Representation
of the People Bill. The Bill principally amends the provisions
about the registration of electors in the Representation of the
People Act 1983 (c.2; "the 1983 Act") and, except as
respects Northern Ireland, replaces the provisions about absent
voting made by sections 5 to 9 of the Representation of the People
Act 1985 (c.50; "the 1985 Act").
EXISTING PROVISIONS CONFERRING POWER TO MAKE REGULATIONS
2. Under section 201(2) of the 1983 Act, as substituted
by Schedule 4 to the 1985 Act, no regulations can be made by the
Secretary of State under the powers in the 1983 Act (except those
in sections 29(8) and 203(4)) unless a draft of the regulations
has been approved by each House of Parliament. Where "prescribed"
is used in the 1983 Act, it means prescribed by regulations (definition
of "prescribed" in section 202(1) of the 1983 Act; the
definition does not apply to the provisions in Part III of that
Act, namely sections 120 to 186). Under section 201(1) any power
to make regulations must be exercisable by the Secretary of State
by statutory instrument (subject to a few exceptions referred
to in that provision).
CHANGES WHICH THE BILL MAKES TO THE PROVISIONS ABOUT REGISTRATION OF ELECTORS
3. Under the existing law a register of electors
is used for the period of twelve months beginning on 16th February
(see section 13(1) of the 1983 Act). Under the amendments which
the Bill will make to the 1983 Act a system known as "rolling
registration" will be introduced. Under this system, the
register will continue in force indefinitely and additions and
deletions will be made to it as the need arises. This will replace
the existing system under which registration depended upon residence
on the "qualifying date" (as to which, see sections
1(1)(a), 2(1)(a) and 4 of the 1983 Act). The qualifying date in
Great Britain is 10th October in the year before that in which
the register comes into force.
4. Under the existing system, a name which is
entered on the register remains on it throughout the year during
which the register is in force. There is no provision for the
removal of names. The new system is intended to reflect more accurately
actual residence at a qualifying address as the basis for continuing
inclusion in the register. It is intended to include the detailed
provisions required to achieve this in regulations.
5. Although there will no longer be a qualifying
date by reference to which the register is prepared, the Bill
makes provision for an annual canvass to ensure the continuing
accuracy of the register (see new section 10, to be substituted
by paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill).
6. Clause 4 substitutes a new section 7 of the
1983 Act for the existing section. Whilst both the new and the
existing section make provision about residence for the purposes
of the registration of electors in respect of patients in mental
hospitals, the provision made is substantially different. Unlike
the existing law, new section 7(2) allows a patient to use the
hospital as a place in respect of which he may be registered if
the circumstances specified in that provision apply.
7. New section 7(3) creates a new power
for the period during which a person may remain registered in
pursuance of an application made by virtue of new section 7(2).
Such regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure
(see paragraph 2 above). This new power reflects the changes to
the registration process described in paragraphs 3 to 5 above.
Under new section 7(3) regulations may provide for the period
during which an entry made in pursuance of an application under
new section 7(2) is to remain in force. This will allow for the
deletion of an entry where, for example, the patient has left
the hospital and his entry in a register of electors based on
residence at a qualifying address outside the hospital has come
8. Clause 5 inserts a new provision into the
1983 Act, section 7A. Under section 7A(2) a person who is detained
on remand prior to trial may use the place at which he is detained
as a place in respect of which he may be registered if the circumstances
specified in that provision apply. New section 7A(3) creates
a new power to make regulations which is identical to the one
described in paragraph 7 above. The reason for the creation of
the new power is substantially the same and allows for registration
to cease once the circumstances of the person registered have
altered. The regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution
procedure (see paragraph 2 above).
9. Schedule 2 to the 1983 Act sets out some of
the matters relating to registration and absent voting which may
be included in regulations. This is without prejudice to the generality
of the powers in section 53(1) (see section 53(3)). The existing
paragraph 10 of Schedule 2 refers to provisions requiring electors
lists, the register and other documents to be available for inspection.
The existing paragraph 11 refers to provisions about the supply
of copies of electors lists, the register and other documents,
either free of charge or on payment of a prescribed fee.
10. These provisions are replaced by paragraphs
10, 10A, 10B and 11 as set out in clause 9(2) of the Bill.
The new paragraphs do not refer to the electors lists because,
under the system of rolling registration (as to which, see paragraphs
3 to 5 above), such lists will cease to exist. The new paragraphs
envisage provision being included in the regulations for an edited
version of the register of electors (see new paragraph 10). This
version, which will be freely available, will exclude the names
and addresses of registered electors who have requested such exclusion
(see new paragraph 10(1)). The regulations may impose prohibitions
or restrictions on those who receive copies of the full register
in respect of the uses which they make of it and on those who
inspect the full register (new paragraph 11). By virtue of paragraph
13(1A) of Schedule 2 (as inserted by clause 9(3)), contravention
of the regulations made in pursuance of new paragraph 11 may be
made an offence (punishable on summary conviction by a fine not
exceeding level 5 on the standard scale) by regulations.
11. Clause 10 authorises the holding of pilot
schemes by local authorities to test the sort of changes to the
way in which elections are conducted that are set out in clause
10(2). Such a scheme would be held in the area of any local authority
which submits to the Secretary of State under clause 10(1)(a)
proposals for holding the scheme in question.
12. A scheme may be held only if it is approved
by the Secretary of State under clause 10(1) and the Secretary
of State makes provision by order for and in connection with the
implementation of the scheme.
13. Such an order is not made by statutory instrument;
nor is it subject to any parliamentary scrutiny. This is because
it applies only in the area of the local authority which put forward
proposals for the scheme and only in relation to particular elections.
The purpose of this provision is to test the effect of changes
in electoral procedure on matters such as the turnout of voters
(see clause 10(6)(c)(i) and (7)(a)). It is therefore submitted
that it is appropriate to authorise the Secretary of State to
permit a pilot scheme to be held without requiring parliamentary
approval. The order authorising the scheme is required to be published
locally (clause 10(4)(b)).
14. Clause 11 contains powers to make subordinate
legislation which amends primary legislation where, in the opinion
of the Secretary of State, a scheme held under clause 10 has been
successful. These powers are subject to the affirmative resolution
procedure (see clause 11(4)) and the additional safeguards
15. One safeguard rests on the report by the
relevant local authority. Under clause 10(5) a local authority
which has been authorised to hold a pilot scheme under that clause
is required to produce a report about it. The report must contain
the matters set out in subsections (6) to (8) of clause 10. These
include an assessment on the effect on turnout; whether the scheme
led to an increase in personation or other electoral offences;
and the impact on expenditure (see clause 10(7)). It seems likely
that a particular scheme might be implemented in the areas of
several local authorities. Accordingly, there will be several
reports relating to that scheme. The significance of these reports
is described in the next paragraph.
16. Any determination under clause 11(1) "that
it would be desirable for provision similar to that made by the
scheme to apply generally" must be made by the Secretary
of State in the light of any relevant report under clause 10.
Furthermore, if the Secretary of State decides to proceed with
the draft of an order to apply the provisions of a particular
scheme generally and on a permanent basis, he must lay before
both Houses of Parliament a copy of the report under clause 10
of each local authority in whose area a scheme making provision
similar to that made by the order has been implemented (clause
11(5)). These provisions provide the safeguards described in paragraph
17. Clause 11(1) provides a seemingly wide power
to amend by order any enactment (as defined by clause 16(1)) to
allow provision similar to that in a scheme which is tested under
clause 10 to become part of the law in respect of the types of
elections listed in clause 11(7). However, it is submitted that
there are three safeguards restricting the exercise of this in
addition to the requirement that the relevant order is subject
to the affirmative resolution procedure. First, the Secretary
of State cannot simply make any change; the power applies only
to changes which have been piloted in schemes under clause 10.
Secondly, the Secretary of State cannot, in effect, ignore the
reports that are required to be drawn up under clause 10 by local
authorities as to the success or otherwise of such schemes. It
is likely that a particular change will have been piloted in the
area of more than one authority; if the reports about it are overwhelmingly
adverse, it would be difficult (if not impossible) for the Secretary
of State to use the powers in clause 11 to make the change. Thirdly,
all such reports in relation to the change proposed (whether favourable
or adverse) must be laid before each House of Parliament together
with the draft order giving effect to the change. They would thereby
inform the debates on the motion to approve a draft order giving
effect to the scheme.
18. The final comment on clause 11 concerns clause
11(6). Under clause 11(3) a particular local government area
in England or Wales or district electoral area in Northern Ireland
might be excluded from the change that is being made. This might
be a reflection on the particular sensitivities of the area in
question. An order which excluded a particular area might, however,
be regarded as hybrid because it made different provision for
different areas which fall within the same basic category. Clause
11(6) prevents this. Equivalent provision has been made by section
26(2) of the Local Government Act 1992 (c.19) and section 34(4)
of the Police Act 1996 (c.16).
19. Clause 13(2) amends rule 29 of the
parliamentary elections in Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act which concerns
the equipment which a returning officer must provide for each
polling station. Rule 29(3A)(b), as inserted, enables regulations
made under the 1983 Act to prescribe a device for use by the blind
or partially-sighted (so that they can vote without assistance)
to be so provided. It is submitted that it is appropriate for
regulations to contain the description of this device; the regulations
are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure (see paragraph
20. Clause 16(3) contains the standard power
for the Secretary of State to bring the Bill's provisions (apart
from clauses 10, 11, 15 and 16) into force by commencement order.
Such an order is not subject to any parliamentary proceedings.
21. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 substitutes
a new (and different) section 9 for section 9 in the 1983 Act.
It contains two references to the making of subordinate legislation.
22. The first reference is in new section
9(2)(a). This is not a free-standing power, but reflects the
point that entitlement to be registered depends upon an application
for registration being made in accordance with regulations under
the 1983 Act, as amended; see new section 10A(1), as substituted
by paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill.
23. The second reference is in new section
9(2)(b) and replicates an existing power in section 10(b).
It allows regulations to create exceptions to the requirement
that the register of electors should include the qualifying addresses
of electors. The addresses will be excluded in the case of overseas
electors and those service voters who are no longer resident at
the address in question.
24. New section 10(4) of the 1983 Act,
as substituted by paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, enables
the form used for the annual canvass of electors (as to which,
see paragraph 5 above) to be prescribed in regulations. This form
will resemble the existing "Form A" (as to which, see
Form A in Schedule 2 to the Representation of the People Regulations
1986 (S.I. 1986/1081)) which is used in connection with the
preparation of the register. The regulations are subject to the
affirmative resolution procedure (see paragraph 2 above).
25. New section 10(7) of the 1983 Act
confers a power to make regulations as to the circumstances when
the register need not be amended as a result of the canvass under
new section 10. In particular, it enables regulations to authorise
a registration officer to retain an entry in the register even
when the form described in paragraph 24 above has not been returned.
This power merely gives statutory authority to the existing practice
of registration officers. They currently maintain names on a register
for one year (unless there are particular reasons for not doing
so) even though "Form A" (as to which, see paragraph
24 above) has not been returned to them in respect of a particular
26. New section 10A of the 1983 Act, as
substituted by paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, contains
three express references to "prescribed requirements"
(in subsections (1), (3) and (5)) and one implied reference (in
subsection (4) which applies the provisions in subsections (1)
and (3)). Paragraph 2 above sets out the meaning of "prescribed".
These express powers reflect the current practice (based on sections
10(c) and 53(1)(b) of the 1983 Act) under which regulations under
the 1983 Act make provision for the content and timing of applications
to be registered and the manner of objecting to any such application
(the existing provisions refer to "claims" rather than
"applications"). However, under the system of rolling
registration, persons need to apply to be registered instead of
being included in the register as a result of the "house
to house or other sufficient inquiry" referred to in existing
section 10(a) of the 1983 Act. Persons included in the register
under the new system as a result of the annual canvass are deemed
to have applied to be registered (see new section 10A(2)). Accordingly,
the existing powers to make provision in regulations about applications
will have a wider scope as a result of the Bill. The regulations
are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure (see paragraph
27. New section 13(1)(b) of the 1983 Act,
as inserted by paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, includes
a power to postpone by regulations the date by which the revised
version of the register resulting from the annual canvass must
be published. This power is included because the interval between
the date of the annual canvass and the date by which the revised
version must be published is greatly reduced when compared with
the broadly equivalent provisions in the existing law. The qualifying
date in Great Britain is 10th October and the date by which the
new register must be published is 15th February in the following
year (see the existing sections 4(1) and 13(1) of the 1983 Act).
This power is taken in case the reduction proves to be over-ambitious.
The regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure
(see paragraph 2 above).
28. New section 13(3) of the 1983 Act, as substituted
by paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, enables a revised version
of the register to be published at any time other than the times
when such versions must be published by virtue of new section
13(1). Whilst it is not envisaged that this power will be exercised
very often, it is possible that extensive changes to the register
might make the publication of an updated version desirable. The
new power to make regulations relates to the time and manner in
which the registration officer must give notice of his intention
to publish a revised version.
29. New section 13A of the 1983
Act, as substituted by paragraph 6 of the Bill, confers powers
to make regulations about the manner of making applications to
make alterations to a revised version of the register (subsection
(1)(a) and (b)) and the manner in which the registration officer
must issue notices about alterations to the revised version of
the register. As a result of rolling registration, these powers
cover a wider range of circumstances than current powers; under
the current law a person cannot have his entry in the register
amended as a result of a change of address (in this respect, contrast
new section 13A(1)(b)). But, subject to that, this is the sort
of matter already covered by regulations.
30. Paragraph 13 of Schedule 1 to the Bill
amends the power to make regulations in section 53(1) of the 1983
Act to take account of the amendments made by the Bill consequent
on the introduction of rolling registration.
31. Paragraph 20 of Schedule 1 to the Bill
expands the regulation-making power in section 201 of the 1983
Act to include the new fairly standard provision in respect of
subordinate legislation about different provision for different
cases etc. The 1983 Act is a consolidation of earlier legislation
which probably explains why this provision had not previously
32. Paragraph 23 of Schedule 1 to the Bill
expands the powers to make regulations about registration which
are set out in Schedule 2 to the 1983 Act. This Schedule is also
referred to in paragraph 9 above.
33. The power conferred by paragraph 23(2)
could be exercised to require a person who applies to be registered
in a place of detention to state that he is held on remand (as
to which, see clause 5 of the Bill) and not as a convicted prisoner
(and as such disqualified from voting by section 3 of the 1983
34. Paragraph 23(3) of Schedule 1 to the
Bill adds three sub-paragraphs to paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to
the 1983 Act. The first (new sub-paragraph (3)) is necessary because,
under rolling registration, a register remains in force indefinitely
rather than for one year only. The power in new sub-paragraph
(3) could be exercised to allow the registration officer to act
where he believes that there has been a change of circumstances.
The amendments made by the other two new sub-paragraphs ((4) and
(5)) authorise regulations allowing the registration officer access
to records held by public authorities, even if there is a statutory
or other restriction on disclosure of the information contained
in the records. This power will assist in ensuring that the register
of electors is as accurate as possible. As with the other powers
to make regulations, it is subject to the affirmative resolution
procedure (see paragraph 2 above).
35. Paragraph 2A of Schedule 2 to the 1983 Act
(as inserted by section 5 of the Representation of the People
Act 1989) authorises regulations to require registration officers
to inform persons registered in pursuance of an overseas elector's
declaration of the need to make a fresh declaration if they wish
to remain registered. Paragraph 23(4) of Schedule 1 to
the Bill widens this power so that it can apply in respect of
other categories of electors.
36. Paragraph 23(5) inserts a provision
enabling provision to be made in regulations about the form and
content of applications for registration. Provision is already
made in respect of this in the existing regulations.
37. The amendments made by paragraph 23(6)
and (7) are consequential on other provisions in the Bill
and do not affect the substance of the powers in Schedule 2 to
the 1983 Act.
Schedule 2 to the Bill
38. In consequence of the changes made by the
Bill and, in particular, the abolition of the qualifying date
for registration, Schedule 2 replaces sections 1 to 3 of the 1985
Act. Sections 1 and 2 concern the entitlement of British citizens
overseas to register and vote at parliamentary (and European Parliamentary)
elections. Section 3 concerns the equivalent entitlement of peers
overseas in respect of European Parliamentary elections only.
39. Section 2(3) of the 1985 Act, as substituted
by paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 to the Bill, confers power
to prescribe by regulations information to be included in an overseas
elector's declaration in addition to the information required
by that provision and further requirements about such declarations.
The definition of "prescribed" which is described in
paragraph 2 above applies to this provision (and section 3 of
the 1985 Act) by virtue of section 27(2) of the 1985 Act. The
powers conferred by section 2(3), as substituted, are identical
to those in section 2(3), as it currently has effect.
40. Similarly, paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to
the Bill, which substitutes a new section 3 for the section
of that number in the 1985 Act, does not alter the powers to make
regulations which are conferred by that section as it currently
has effect. The requirement, which is described in paragraph 2
above, that the regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution
procedure applies by virtue of section 27(2) of the 1985 Act.
41. The powers to make regulations are conferred
by subsections (5) to (7) of section 3, both as it currently has
effect and as substituted by the Bill. Whilst the content of the
two sets of subsections has been rearranged (so that, for example,
new section 3(7) corresponds to existing section 3(6)), the substance
is unchanged. That substance relates to the registration of peers
resident outside the United Kingdom as electors for the purposes
of European Parliamentary elections.
Schedule 3 to the Bill
42. Schedule 3 to the Bill amends section 1 of,
and Schedule 1 to, the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland)
Act 1989. Those provisions of the 1989 Act provide for the franchise
at local elections in Northern Ireland and for the registration
of local electors. Separate provision is made because nothing
in the 1983 Act affects the law relating to local government elections
in Northern Ireland (see section 205(2) of the 1983 Act).
43. Part I of Schedule 1 to the 1989 Act applies
various provisions of the 1983 Act for the purposes of the franchise
at local elections in Northern Ireland and the registration of
local electors, subject to the modifications in Part II of that
44. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 to the Bill
amends Part I of that Schedule to apply the amendments which the
Bill makes to the 1983 Act for the purposes of local elections
in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the powers to make subordinate
legislation under the 1983 Act which arise from the provisions
referred to in the amendments made by paragraph 3(4) to (6) of
Schedule 3 to the Bill also arise under those provisions as applied
by Part I of Schedule 1 to the 1989 Act.
45. Paragraph 4(4) of Schedule 3 to the Bill
amends the modification of section 53(1) of the 1983 Act made
by paragraph 14(a) and (b) of Part II of Schedule 1 to the 1989
Act. Section 53(1), as so applied and modified, confers power
to make regulations about the procedure to be followed in the
preparation of the register of local electors in Northern Ireland
and the time, manner and place of its publication.
46. Part I of Schedule 1 to the 1989 Act applies
section 201 of, and the definition of "prescribed" in
section 202(1) of, the 1983 Act for the purposes of the registration
of local electors. This application ensures that the provisions
described in paragraph 2 above (and, in particular, the requirement
that regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure)
applies to regulations made under the 1983 Act as applied by the
1989 Act, as they apply to regulations under the 1983 Act as it
has effect for other purposes.
Schedule 4 to the Bill
47. Schedule 4 to the Bill replaces as respects
Great Britain the provision which sections 5 to 9 of the 1985
Act make in respect of the manner of voting and absent voting
at parliamentary and local government elections. Those sections
continue to apply in respect of parliamentary elections in Northern
48. Paragraphs 3 to 7 of Schedule 4 to the Bill
confer various powers to make regulations. However, the provisions
in the 1983 Act in respect of regulations under that Act which
are described in paragraph 2 above (and, in particular, the requirement
that the regulations are subject to the affirmative resolution
procedure) apply to regulations under Schedule 4 by virtue of
paragraph 1(2) of that Schedule (which provides that the
1983 Act and that Schedule shall have effect as if that Schedule
were contained in Part I of that Act).
49. All of the powers conferred by paragraphs
3 to 7 of Schedule 4 to the Bill relate to the mechanics of
applying to vote by post, or by proxy, or by post as proxy. Schedule
4 makes various changes to the existing law; in particular, it
enables a registered elector or proxy to have a postal (but not
a proxy) vote on demand, subject to satisfying the requirements
of regulations as to the manner of applying for such a vote, etc.
It also allows an application for an absent vote to be made for
a determinate period (such as a three year period during which
the elector is posted abroad). At present, applications must be
either for an indefinite period or for a particular election (these
provisions also continue to have effect).
50. All of the powers to make regulations which
are conferred by Schedule 4 to the Bill correspond to powers in
sections 6 to 9 of the 1985 Act (subject to the exception mentioned
below). The table below indicates the existing powers which correspond
to the powers to be conferred by Schedule 4.
|POWER IN SCHEDULE 4
||PROVISION IN 1985 ACT|
|PARAGRAPH 3(1)(B) AND (2)(C)||SECTION 6(1)(C)|
|PARAGRAPH 3(7)||SECTION 6(5)|
|PARAGRAPH 4(1)(B) AND (2)(C)||SECTION 7(1)(C)|
|PARAGRAPH 6(7)||SECTION 8(6)|
|PARAGRAPH 7(5)(C)||SECTION 9(4) AND (7)|
|PARAGRAPH 7(7)||SECTION 9(8)|
The only additional power is the express power in paragraph 6(9)
to prescribe the form of proxy power. However, that form is currently
prescribed in the Representation of the People Regulations 1986
(S.I. 1986/1081) as form D in Schedule 2 in reliance of the
general powers in section 53(1)(c) of the 1983 Act.
Schedule 5 to the Bill
51. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 5 to the Bill expands the
power in section 29(4C) of the 1983 Act (as substituted by the
Representation of the People Act 1991) to allow an order under
section 29(3) (as substituted) to make different provision for
different cases, etc. An order of the Secretary of State under
section 29(3) (which is not subject to parliamentary procedure)
makes provision for the payment of charges to returning officers
at parliamentary elections in respect of services properly rendered
and charges properly incurred. Such orders already provide for
higher payments to be made to the staff of polling stations in
Greater London than elsewhere and the amendment made by paragraph
4 thereby provides express authorisation for such a provision.
52. Paragraph 9(2) of Schedule 5 to the Bill amends
rule 5(2) of the parliamentary elections rules in Schedule 1 to
the 1983 Act. Rule 5(2) requires that the notice of election must
state the date by which absent voting applications must reach
the returning officer in order to be effective for the election.
This assumes that a single date applies for all applications.
But some applications need to be received earlier than others.
The power, which paragraph 9(2) will confer, to create exceptions
by regulations (which are subject to the affirmative resolution
procedures) will take account of this.
53. Paragraph 9(3) of Schedule 5 to the Bill amends
rule 24 of the rules in Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act which provides
for the issue of postal ballot papers. In doing so, it creates
new powers to make regulations (which are subject to the affirmative
resolution procedure), but also removes an existing power which
has not been exercised. That power was added by Schedule 4 to
the 1985 Act and enabled the Secretary of State to specify the
last date by which postal ballot papers must be despatched.
54. The first new power in rule 24 concerns the means by which
postal ballot papers are issued. At present, they must be sent
by post. By enabling the means of issue to be covered in regulations,
it will be possible to provide greater flexibility by (for example)
specifying circumstances when voters might be issued with postal
ballot papers in person at the returning officer's office. This
would enable a voter to request a postal ballot paper if, close
to the poll, he was unexpectedly required to be absent on polling
55. The requirement in new rule 24 that the declaration of
identity must be in the prescribed form replicates the existing
56. The second new power in new rule 24 concerns the envelopes
which need to be provided for the return of the ballot paper.
These may not be needed if the ballot paper is handed over in
the circumstances described above. But the enabling power will
authorise regulations to require, for example, that the envelopes
for the return of postal ballot papers in ordinary circumstances
bear a first class stamp (such a provision is already included
in the regulations but without a power specifically authorising
57. Paragraph 9(4) of Schedule 5 to the Bill amends
rule 45 of the rules in Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act to enable regulations
to be made to introduce greater flexibility in the manner in which
a postal ballot paper may be returned to the returning officer.
Rule 45(2) currently provides that a postal ballot paper is not
to be deemed to be duly returned unless it is returned in the
proper envelope so as to reach the returning officer before the
close of the poll and is accompanied by the declaration of identity
duly signed and authenticated. The rule will continue to apply
in Northern Ireland (see paragraph 9(4)(b) of Schedule 5).
58. Under paragraph (1B) of rule 45 (which is the paragraph
which paragraph 9(4)(a) of Schedule 5 to the Bill will insert)
a postal ballot paper must reach the returning officer or a polling
station in the constituency before the close of the poll. However,
the manner in which it does so is to be prescribed by regulations.
This would allow, for example, the ballot paper to be handed in
at the offices of the returning officer. Similar flexibility will
apply in respect of the declaration of identity. There have been
cases when the elector has forgotten to include that declaration
in the "proper envelope" (for the purposes of rule 45(2))
but has returned it later in a separate envelope, thereby falling
foul of rule 45(2). The new power will be used to specify a wider
range of means by which the declaration can be returned.
59. As explained in paragraph 9 above, Schedule 2 to the 1983
Act sets out specific enabling powers in respect of regulations
relating to registration and absent voting. Paragraph 10 of
Schedule 5 to the Bill further amends those powers.
60. The amendments made by paragraph 10(2) to paragraph
5A (as inserted by Schedule 2 to the 1985 Act) are consequential
on the replacement of the provisions of sections 5 to 9 of the
1985 Act (absent voting) in Great Britain by Schedule 4 to the
61. The amendments made by paragraph 10(3) to paragraph
12 (voting by post) merely spell out more clearly the powers authorising
provisions which are already included in the Representation of
the People Regulations 1986.
62. The amendments made by paragraph 10(4) to paragraph
13(1) (offences) do not alter the substance but clarify the wording
of the enabling power. They bring the wording into line with paragraph
13(1A) of Schedule 2 to the 1983 Act, which will be inserted by
clause 9(3) of the Bill.