Debate on electoral registration

13 January 2012

Lord Wills (Labour) led a debate yesterday calling for Members' opinions on government policy on electoral registration

He focused on the pros and cons of the introduction of individual voter registration in his opening speech. Lord Wills said citizens should be responsible for their own eligibility to vote. 'Individual registration can help to tackle fraud, although... the extent of fraud should not be overstated nor is individual registration a cure...where it does exist. However, there is widespread concern about the way that the government are introducing this change.'

He suggested that the government set up a working group to 'agree how best to tackle the problems that have been so widely identified by independent bodies.'

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Conservative) introduced the notion that we need to learn from the experience of other countries: 'We were, with the exception of Albania, the last country in Europe to create a modern national lottery and, as the minister who introduced it, I can testify to how much we learnt from the experience of others to create what is widely regarded as the best lottery in the world. I know that we are the mother of parliaments, but perhaps humility might help us to make the giant leap to an electoral registration card ourselves.'

Lord Beecham (Labour) addressed issues around the 'turnout' numbers for registration and postal voting and resourcing from local authorities.

Members focused on the role of the electoral register.

Lord Rennard (Liberal Democrat) homed in on the legal requirements on registration forms, while Lord Lipsey (Labour) said the register was part of an outdated system. 'We now live in an age of hi-tech science and development. No wonder a lot of our youngsters do not go out and vote and are disillusioned with our electoral system; they consider it to be so out of date and old fashioned. They vote for their favourite characters in "The X Factor" and "Strictly Come Dancing" by mobile phone.'

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government and said: 'The government are still in listening mode. We are all committed to a transition from a household system of registration to a system of individual registration, and we all have a strong interest in ensuring that the new system which emerges is accurate, complete and widely trusted.'

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