Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Elections Act 2022 View all Elections Act 2022 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 96-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (21 Mar 2022)
Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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I hear what the noble Lord says, but it will not stop me—because in the argument about proportionality the question is, “What is the most important problem that we seek to address?” At the end of the day, we are focusing on this issue of voter ID to address a concern over fraud. As we have heard from the debate, it is not the evidence of fraud that we should be concerned about but the concern about concern, which actually undermines the argument completely.

I come back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley. What evidence do we have? Of course, we have heard about the pilot schemes in the local elections of 2019. What the noble Lord highlighted well was that the Electoral Commission noted that between 3% and 7% of those who engaged in the election were turned away because they did not have the right form of voter ID, including non-photographic ID. As the noble Lord said, those small pilot schemes were not reflective of a general election. If you extrapolate that to a general election, the Electoral Commission and others have suggested that between 50,000 and 400,000 people could show up at a general election and then be turned away. What is that going to do to confidence in our electoral system? Not much, I would suggest. It is pretty appalling that we are focusing on that issue, when there is a desperate need to focus, as the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said, on civic engagement, how to encourage young people to participate and to register, and how to get that understanding of the need to vote.

I was sorely tempted to intervene on the noble Lord, Lord Hayward. Of course, I am fully aware of the rights and responsibilities of membership organisations, having had the responsibility of ensuring that the rules of the Labour Party were properly upheld. But that is not the same as what the right reverend Prelate was talking about: the universal right to vote. I have to pay for my Labour Party membership, and I have responsibilities to abide by its rules. That includes a whole host of requirements that the noble Lord has not mentioned—but what has that got to do with the universal right to vote? Not much, I beg to argue.

It has to come back to this whole point about what problem it is that we are seeking to address. It is a very, very small issue that we seek to address here, and we are taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I support all noble Lords who seek for this clause not to stand part.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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Well, my Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in what has been quite a lengthy debate—but why not? It is an important issue.

I will try to answer the various points which have been made. The proposition in Clause 1, which is before us, is part of a whole series of measures which this Government are putting in the Bill to strengthen the security and integrity of elections. These include matters we are coming on to in relation to postal votes, the handling of postal votes and so on. There is a consistent overall desire in the Government to ensure that votes are cast, and cast with integrity. I submit to the Committee that there is no distinction—no “one or the other”—between wanting more people to vote and trying to secure the integrity of the vote. This is a false antithesis that has run through the debate. All of us should want to do both things: to ensure that all votes are honest and honestly handled, and that as many people vote as possible. We are able to do both; it is not one or the other.

Last week, on the first technical amendment in what was a lengthy series of amendments relating to voter identification, we had a wide-ranging clause stand part-style debate on many aspects of Clause 1, and on the assessments done on costs for voter identification and its potential impacts. I acknowledge that, as has happened again today, the Benches opposite have made it abundantly clear that they do not support this policy—or Clause 1 or Schedule 1 of the Bill. The Government disagree. In our submission, this policy is necessary and proportionate. It also implements the Government’s manifesto commitment to voter identification to protect the security and integrity of our ballot, so that our elections will remain secure well into the future.

The idea floated by some, including the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that this was not a manifesto commitment because the word “photo” was not in the manifesto, is wide of the mark. As I said in our last session, the Government clearly declared their policy in the Queen’s Speech in October 2019, set out in detail in the briefing what that would mean, and referenced that in the manifesto. Manifestos briefly often reference established policy. Indeed, there was much debate at the time about the proposition that the Government had put on the table, including the photographic aspect.

I must tell the House that the Government regard this proposal as fully covered by the conventions of your Lordships’ House on manifesto commitments—as they would apply under the Government of any party. The process for voting in polling stations—

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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I am sorry, but can the Minister clarify why the Government chose not to put the word “photo” into the manifesto? No one is disputing that there was a manifesto commitment; what we are disputing is whether that commitment was for photo ID.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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The Government had an established and declared policy on voter identification which was referenced in the manifesto. Not every aspect of every policy goes into a manifesto. We do not normally put 177 pages—or whatever it was that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned—into a manifesto. However, the specific details—not only the photo identification, but also the fact that we would offer, as part of this, a free card to anyone who is not covered by any of the aspects of the policy—were declared public policy. That, too, remains the Government’s policy.

My noble friend Lady Noakes said that the process for voting in polling stations in Great Britain has seen no significant changes in its security since the Ballot Act 1872. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned another Gladstonian reform. None the less, the system used in the Victorian era, in a confined franchise in smaller communities, is in our submission simply not fit for the 21st century. There are undeniable vulnerabilities in our system—covered not only in this Clause 1 measure but in others as we track through the Bill—which let people down because they can lead, and have led, to votes being stolen by unscrupulous individuals. The introduction of photographic voter identification as a solution to such vulnerabilities is supported by the independent Electoral Commission. As we have heard, it is also backed—

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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I am sorry to interrupt. I do not want to delay proceedings any more, but the noble Lord just referred to the Electoral Commission. It suggested in its briefing to noble Lords that the Government should also consider options on polling day for those people who have lost their ID and have not received their voter card to ensure that no one loses the opportunity to vote. This could include using a vouching system as the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, referred to, which applies in Canada. Is the Electoral Commission’s recommendation going to be considered by the Government when they introduce voter ID?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, applications for the free card will be available up to 5 pm on the day before, as has been said. I note what the noble Lord has said, and I will take away what he and the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, have said but our submission is that the time to apply for the card is satisfactory at the moment and anyone who is turned away initially on the day of vote can return. As a matter of fact, at the last election in which I took part, which certainly was not a general election, I was turned away. The returning officer said: “We are too busy at the moment. We have a technical problem, can you come back later?” I went back later in the day. People can return, and I did.

It was also pointed out, and this is correct, that the provision is backed by leading international election observers such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. It has repeatedly called for its introduction, saying its absence is a security risk. Many people would question why it is not already the case. In fact, as my noble friend said last week, the 2021 Electoral Commission winter tracker report was clear that the majority of the public—66%—say that a requirement to show identification at polling stations would make them more confident in the security of the voting system.

The choice of photographic identification as the model has been questioned by noble Lords. Put simply, it is the most secure and familiar way of confirming that someone is who they say they are. It is true that a number of different models of voter identification were trialled as part of the pilots undertaken by the Government in 2018 and 2019. However, when evaluating the security strengths and weaknesses of each pilot model, the Electoral Commission found that

“the photo ID only model has the greatest security strengths compared with the other models.”

On the basis of those evaluations, it was clear that the most secure and appropriate approach was photographic identification.

Many noble Lords in the debate raised questions about the practical implications of selecting this model. Obviously, as we go forward in co-operation into the face of implementation, the Government will carefully consider all the points that have been raised. The Government understand this and want to prepare the system as well as possible. This is why we considered the absolute maximum range of identifications that could be accepted for the policy. Using the Government’s Verify security scale, we opted for level 2 and then considered this against the widest possible range of documents which would meet that assessment. Should other forms of photographic identification meet that level of security in the future, the Government will be able to add them through the power inserted into Rule 37 by paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 to the Bill. This will ensure that the list remains up to date and is as accessible as possible going forward.

We commissioned a nationally representative survey of over 8,500 electors in Great Britain. This found that 98% of people have access to an accepted form of photographic identification, including 99% of people from ethnic minorities and young people aged 18 to 29. We need to reach all those others, which is why a free card is being offered and the Electoral Commission will be entering into a publicity process to ensure, with the Government, that that is known. Some 94% of the people surveyed felt that having to present a photo identification at the polling station would either make it easier to vote or make no difference.

Voter identification is a proven approach and although I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said, in addition to the provision made for Northern Ireland by the last Labour Government, it is in place in most European countries and also in countries such as Canada which do not have compulsory national identity cards. Whether noble Lords like it or not, Northern Ireland is a comprehensive empirical example of the introduction of photographic identification in the UK. We know that it operates there with ease. It has brought real benefit to the democratic process, and Northern Ireland consistently reports high rates of confidence in the outcome of elections. The 2019 Electoral Commission post-election questionnaire reported that 83% of voters in Northern Ireland found it

“very easy to participate in the elections”

as opposed to 78% in Great Britain.

I trust that that sets out some of the underlying principles, but when developing this policy we of course completed all the required impact and equality impact assessments. A team of analysts produced detailed cost and benefit modelling, published in the impact assessment, as is typical for such a government programme. They incorporated high and low ranges to account for uncertainty and conducted sensitivity analysis to test the most sensitive and impactful assumptions, such as the percentage of the electorate requiring a voter card. If any noble Lord would like to explore details of the impact assessment with officials who have been involved in doing it—I know the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, is interested in that—I would be very happy to arrange for them to meet the Bill team to discuss it.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, I do not need to meet the Bill team. The impact assessment that the Minister signed off on 20 January this year says very clearly on page 30, paragraph 18, on this specific policy, on Clause 1 on mandatory photo ID:

“The analysis does not assess the impact of the policy on voter turnout.”


There has been no assessment in the impact assessment of the voter turnout and this clause.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord does not wish to meet members of the Bill team and I am very happy to repeat that offer.

So far as the noble Lord’s point is concerned, my noble friend answered that point explicitly—indeed, the noble Lord referred to it. An impact assessment is an economic assessment. It did not deal with turnout. As the noble Lord well knows—he has campaigned often enough, as I have—turnout is affected by a very large range of factors. I will give way once more to the noble Lord.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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I think it is important for the Committee to understand this because the noble Lord has said something at the Dispatch Box which they will find is slightly different when they look at the impact assessment. The impact assessment looks at non-monetary and non-economic issues to do with policies all over this Bill. It specifically says about this policy that it has not looked at voter turnout. This is not just an economic assessment—it is an assessment of the monetary and non-monetary effects of the Bill, including voter turnout.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, it covers economic, equality and other assessments. If I misspoke, I apologise. I say for the third time what my noble friend said last week and I have said—the Government did not cover turnout. I have not sought to hide that fact because the factors that affect turnout are very wide and cannot be distinguished. Of course, analysis should not remain static, and I take that point. As we move towards implementation, I say to the Committee that we will continue to make sure that the evidence base remains up to date in terms of costings and will refine the modelling and assumptions. This is standard practice and will address the economic points.

I repeat that year-on-year turnout comparisons cannot be accurately estimated due to the volatility of the electoral cycle. As I have said, a huge variety of disparate factors play a part in whether someone chooses to vote in any particular election, from the appeal of candidates standing to personal circumstances on the day. An attempt to draw conclusions would be difficult.

In this vein, I note Amendment 142 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on post-legislative scrutiny, which has not been addressed in this group yet. I appreciate that she has not had the opportunity to speak to it, but I will reply to the amendment. The Bill already provides for an evaluation of the impacts of voter identification at the first two general elections to which it applies and the first stand-alone set of local council elections. I am pleased to say that we intend to go further and produce a process and impact evaluation of the programme and its implementation across all policy measures. I hope that this reassures the noble Baroness that our aims on this are aligned. However, I repeat what I said in an earlier group: I remain open to further conversations on this point in relation to post-legislative scrutiny. I give that undertaking to the Committee.

Finally, in the same spirit of increasing participation in our democracy and empowering those eligible to vote to do so in a secure and effective way, Clause 2 introduces an online absent vote application service and an online voter card application service. As it stands, there is no facility for electors to make an online application to get a postal vote or proxy vote. Electors must have a paper form which they complete and submit to the electoral registration officer. Here the Government are seeking to encourage participation, because in an increasingly digital world, providing an online service for applications must increase accessibility. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that his fears are unfounded. It will certainly be possible to apply for the voter card and the registration at the same time, just as one can in applying for a postal vote.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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Does the Minister therefore intend to accept my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock’s Amendment 64, which says that explicitly?

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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No—we do not believe that the amendment is necessary, but the noble Lord is anticipating the next group. I am replying to noble Lords and assuring the Committee that I am advised that the noble Lord’s fears are entirely unfounded and that voters will be able to apply for both at the same time.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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That is very well and good but coming back to the impact assessment, on applying for absent votes, paragraph 117 says:

“The requirement for identity verification as a part of the online application process for absent votes could deter some voters from voting … This may impact the integrity of the elections as it may lead to lower turnout”.


Why would such a policy be implemented, with that in the impact assessment?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I repeat that we believe that, in an increasingly digital world, where the introduction of digital services can be done securely, providing an online service for applications increases accessibility. That is our submission, and I think that would be regarded as logically correct by most people who turn on their internet in the morning.

These powers will enable the identity of applicants using the new services to be verified, as well as identity checking for other absent voter applications.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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There is a fundamental issue. The Minister has said that it will be possible to apply for the two at the same time, but paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 1 says:

“Regulations may make provision … about the timing of an application for an electoral identity document”.


Is the Minister saying to the Committee that those regulations will provide that applications for the electoral identity document can be made at the same time and as part of the same form or digital process as electoral registration itself?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am not sure whether it is under that specific rubric. Obviously, a lot of this material will come forward in regulation, including precisely the last hour at which you can make an application, et cetera. I will say to the noble Lord only that his comments were heard and I have been advised that they are not founded. There is a later group during which we can come back to this point, if we must. I can write to the noble Lord, but I think it would be helpful if I was in a position to give that assurance to the Committee, in public, on the next group.

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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I wrote one yesterday.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I make no comment about that, but people increasingly use debit and credit cards. They carry them around on their person. In fact, some people now use their phones for everything. People are paperless even in relation to their statements and so on. I wonder whether that was something the noble Lord considered, because I am so with him in the thrust of what he is trying to achieve.

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Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I shall make a very short point about Amendment 80. The noble Lord should look carefully at whether many of these indicators are male-oriented. Women do not have their names on documents such as mortgage statements and utility bills. It would make more sense to have one particular card, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, suggested. It would be personal, in the name of the man or woman.

I want to add that I have my Freedom Pass in London. It is a very good thing. I could show it around.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, again I thank all those who have spoken in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, outside what he imagined to be the walls of Jericho, sounded a very loud trumpet call to lead his Front Bench into a battle over the Salisbury convention. I will not pursue this. It is for everybody in the House to decide to what extent the opinion of the other place and the Government’s manifesto should be respected or not. I made a statement about that at the beginning of our proceedings.

I was asked about the card and the words “is or has”. I shall come to this shortly because it is important. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that any voter who does not have one of the forms of identification listed in the Bill will be able to apply for a voter card. There is a wide range. I know that my noble friend Lord Willetts wants to extend it. The card is supplementary. All the other types of identification are listed. Expired identification will also be permitted. Not every elector will be required to have the voter card. People will be able to apply for it at the same time as they register to vote, so the process will be as easy and accessible as possible. If they are already registered and need a voter card, they will be able to apply online, on paper or in person. It is our ambition that they will be able to do so until 5 pm on the day before polling day. That was challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. I will come back to it. The Government would regard that as unnecessarily restrictive.

I am not a parliamentary draftsman, but I am advised that the wording,

“is or has applied to be”

is there because, on the wording of Amendment 64, it could be construed that someone who is applying should be able to get it. You obviously have to be on the register to get the voter card. Either you are on it, or you have applied to register. You send your letter or your online application in. With both applications, the process will be that the registration officer will check the correctness of the application to register. When someone is on the register, they will be able to have the voter card. It is sequential, but the application can be done at the same time. This is the purport of why these words are there.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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The Minister has been extremely helpful on this point. An extremely important statement has been made from the Front Bench. To close the point completely, in the regulations that the Government are going to produce, will the Minister undertake that this will be made an explicit requirement of all electoral registration officers? Making available the facility to apply for both at the same time is not just something that they can do; it is something that they must do.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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Certainly, I would hope and intend for that to be the case. I am not writing the regulations personally. I am not the Minister in DLUHC which administers this. I shall certainly pass on the views of the Committee. I reassure the Committee that this is absolutely in the spirit of making life simpler for registration officers. It is certainly the Government’s wish that people should be able to do this. It is not necessarily their intention that everyone should get a voter card—only those who need one. All the other types of identification currently listed in the Bill will be accepted.

Of course, we have undertaken extensive engagement with the electoral sector about this, including with Solace, with civil society organisations, and with those representing the kind of groups to which the right reverend Prelate referred. This is a rolling engagement in order to inform them of the proposals, to gather feedback on the plans and to identify ways to ensure our implementation plans are clear, comprehensive and inclusive for all electors. This engagement continues as officials refine implementation plans. They will be listening to what is said in your Lordships’ House, with a focus on exploring many of the aspects that noble Lords have raised, such as the needs of particular groups and the best ways of communicating.

New Section 13BD is worded specifically so that a person does not have to wait until a registration application has been determined before applying for the card. They can do both at the same time, but they have to be on the register first. In practice, this means that the applications can be put in at the same time.

I turn to the specific amendments. I have partly addressed Amendment 64. I understand precisely where the noble Baroness is coming from. I fully accept that she was quite right to raise that point. I hope that I have been able to give some reassurance.

We do not believe that Amendments 65 to 69 are necessary. They provide for powers that are already in the Bill and make suggestions that are already part of the policy, although not ones requiring legislative definition. I set out some of the policy intentions earlier. They were clearly stated in the voter identification policy statement, published on 6 January.

On Amendment 65, new Section 13BD(10)(a) enables the Government to make provision about the form of a document, including digital. I note that this probing amendment says that it should be in digital form.

On Amendment 66, new Section 13BD(4)(b) enables the Government to make regulations about how cards will be issued, including by post and so on and so forth. We will make sure that this is in the record. I fully accept that these things need to be covered.

Amendment 67 asks about date of issue. The card would have a date. New Section 13BD(9) is about the power to make regulations on what information will be on the document. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is not in her place. The additional kinds of information referred to in that section of the schedule is precisely to allow for something like the date or name of the issuing local authority. They will have different local authority names, so one cannot have a single card. These are the kinds of additional points. In reply to Amendment 68, spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, it is certainly envisaged that the date of issue of the card will be on it.

I thank the noble Baroness again for putting forward Amendments 70 to 73. For noble Lords who are not sure which amendments I am talking about, these are probing amendments concerning the arrangements that will be in place for anonymous electors. I can certainly confirm that officials have carried out extensive engagement with various civil society groups that highlighted their interest in anonymous voting arrangements. This is important. In developing the clauses, an extensive consultation has also been carried out with the AEA on how we could make the provision work effectively for anonymous voters.

I assure the noble Baroness that we share a joint aim. There may be a relatively small number of people here but they are very vulnerable, important people. We share a joint aim that those who rely on anonymity—including some people who have been subjected to the most vile abuse and violence imaginable—will not be negatively impacted by the changes. The Government recognise that there are electors who need to register and vote anonymously for a variety of reasons; I have referred to the kinds of circumstances in which other vulnerable electors may not wish for their name or location to be available on the register.

Anonymous electors who wish to vote in person at a polling station will be able to apply for an anonymous elector document, which will enable effective verification of identity while also protecting the voter’s anonymity. We believe that the changes proposed by Amendments 70 and 71 might undermine the objectives of the voter identification policy. Removing the photograph from the anonymous elector document, for instance, would make anonymous electors, often some of the most vulnerable members of society, potentially an easier target for anyone seeking to commit fraud.

Amendments 72 and 73 propose regulation-making powers relating to the application process for anonymous elector documents and to the exact materials used in the manufacture of those documents. The powers that Amendment 72 provides for are already in the Bill. I have not been advised on which particular clause but I will let the noble Baroness know; I did say to my faithful team, who are absolutely wonderful, that it would be helpful to the House if I were able to give details of clauses when responding. For the reason I have given, the Government do not think that taking an inflexible approach to the production of documents, as set out in Amendment 73, is desirable. With those assurances, I ask that those amendments are not pressed.

Amendment 78 would introduce an attestation process for those without necessary identification. This was given very considerable thought by my colleagues during policy development. However, there is a risk that, if someone brings another elector to the poll, these provisions could be exploited by unscrupulous individuals and might allow a ballot paper to be issued to a person who claims to be somebody else, or who is ineligible to vote in an election. The issues are balanced but we have concluded that any form of attestation would be an unacceptable avenue for this kind of fraud, undermining the core aim of promoting electoral integrity; so, after reflection, it is not something that the Government can support.

As I said earlier, photographic voter identification is, in our submission—and as agreed by the Electoral Commission—the most secure way to prove that someone is who they say they are. On Amendment 66A from the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, our aim is that electors without accepted photographic identification will, as he says, be able to apply for a voter card from their local authority until 5 pm the day before polling day. The noble Lord wishes to have a cut-off date four and a half days earlier. We do not, on the basis of our discussions, think that that is desirable or necessary. Given the great importance that the Committee rightly attaches to the ability to vote, we would like to be more liberal in our approach to making the voter card more readily available. Agreeing to restrict the amount of time for which it was available would not be a step forward; I therefore ask the noble Lord not to press that amendment.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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Will the Minister clarify one issue? Why is the provision to allow an application up until 5 pm on the day before the election considered to be consistent with Northern Ireland? It is not consistent with Northern Ireland. when speaking to electoral officers, what factors suggested that having those extra four days would make it practical to deliver this in the way that the Government are suggesting?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, we believe on the basis of our discussions that it is, and should be, practical. Whether or not you agree with the policy, it should surely be desirable that the card be made available up to the latest possible moment.

Amendments 79 to 81 relate to the range of identity documents; my noble friend Lord Willetts came out with a very long list. As I said on the previous group, the list of acceptable documents in the Bill was drawn up against the widest possible range of documents that would meet strong standards of security. That is the conclusion that we have reached. The Electoral Commission said that photo-only identification had the greatest security value but, as I said on the previous group—and it is there on page 81, lines 24 and 25 of the Bill—other documents may be added. However, for the reasons of security that I gave on the previous group and give again, we do not believe that the list should be extended in the way that my noble friend suggests, and we therefore cannot support this amendment.

We also see little merit in Amendment 63—which I should have referred to—proposing an annual statement from the Secretary of State on numbers of documents issued. Only individual local authorities will have the complete set of cards issued, as they will not be issued centrally. When the Electoral Commission does the post-operative examination of what happened, I am sure that it will consider those figures.

On Amendments 83 and 84, I am pleased to say that, as set out in paragraph 22 of Schedule 1, we already intend that returning officers, through their polling station staff, will record and collate information on anyone who applies for the issue of a ballot paper and is refused. This will be set out in secondary legislation, and we are working on the details with the Electoral Commission and returning officers. Of course, the polling station will already have informed the person concerned that they have been refused a ballot paper and why, so we think that a letter is an unnecessary further step. As I said, secondary legislation will cover this point.

In the light of this, these amendments would ultimately either duplicate or extend processes which are provided for in the Bill—making them either unnecessary or unacceptable to the Government—while only increasing the administrative burden on the electoral sector; for example, an enormous list of documents might do that in itself. For this reason and the other reasons mentioned, I beg that these amendments are not pressed.

I gave a long response, as this is quite a large group. I hope that I have managed to address at least the main points that were made.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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The Minister is making important new points in his closing remarks that are of significance to the Committee. He has drawn our attention to new paragraph (IQ), inserted by paragraph 18 of Schedule 1, on page 81, which says:

“Regulations may make provisions varying paragraph (1H), (1I) or (1J)”,


which give the list of acceptable documents,

“by … adding a reference to a document to any of those paragraphs”.

He has just said to the Committee that that could allow the Government to extend it to any other documents. My reading of that is that it could allow for the extension to a document which is not a photo ID document. Have I correctly construed that new paragraph?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the Government’s policy position is clear. I will probably get wrapped over the knuckles as I may not have construed the Bill correctly because of feeling hungry at 7.29 pm. If I did not then, once we come back, I will correct the record. Certainly, the provision is there. As I said in my speech on the previous group, if the Government consider that there are other documents which can meet the security standards required—some photographic documents currently do not and are therefore excluded—then that is why we were taking that potential power in the Bill. Regarding the type of document, the Government’s policy remains as stated. We are for photographic identification.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, I am sorry to labour the point, but can the Minister write to us on this? It is one thing for him to say what the Government’s policy is but what the law says is another. The issue here is whether that power would require documents which are added to be photo ID documents or whether they could be any other item on the list by the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, in his Amendment 80. I am offering the Minister a possible way out in due course for accepting the noble Lord’s amendment by the back door.

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Moved by
74: Schedule 1, page 72, line 12, leave out from “to” to end of line 19 and insert “a relevant provision.
(1A) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(b), “relevant provision” means— (a) where the person is or will be registered in a register of parliamentary electors in Northern Ireland, section 10(4A)(b), 10A(1A)(b) or 13A(2A)(b), and(b) where the person is or will be registered in a register of parliamentary electors in Great Britain and does not also fall within sub-paragraph (a), section 8(7A) of the Representation of the People Act 1985.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies the requirement relating to preparation of date of birth lists for polling stations in Northern Ireland, so far as that requirement relates to date of birth lists for proxy voters.
--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
82: Schedule 1, page 80, line 37, leave out “current”
Member’s explanatory statement
The definition of “electoral number” in the inserted paragraph (1L) of rule 37 of Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 means that the word “current”, in the inserted paragraph (1K), is not needed. This amendment therefore leaves it out.