Electoral Registration and Administration Bill

25 July 2012

The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill had its second reading - the first chance for members to debate general aspects of the bill - in the House of Lords yesterday (Tuesday 24 July)

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat) opened the debate, outlining the purpose of the bill. He explained: 'The aim of the bill is to tackle electoral fraud, to increase the number of people registered to vote, to give people greater ownership of their own registration and to improve the integrity of the register.

'The bill also includes provisions to improve the administration and conduct of elections, which will serve to increase voter participation, and to make a number of improvements to the running of elections.'

Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Labour) commented on the first part of the bill, the timetable and the approach to the introduction of individual voter registration.

He compared it to the current system and said: 'Individual electoral registration means that you have to fill in a form individually and produce proof - including a national insurance number, date of birth and something else - that you are the person who lives at the particular address. This is much more difficult - not remotely impossible but more difficult - and the consequence is almost bound to be that fewer people will register.'

In the introduction to his speech, Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative), spoke of the independent role of the House of Lords in electoral matters. He said: 'My Lords, it is entirely appropriate that this unelected second chamber should be debating, probing, examining and questioning the electoral system in our country. As none of us is elected, we can approach this with a degree of objectivity and dispassion.'

Lord Wills (Labour), who has introduced individual electoral registration in the past, spoke from his experience. He said: 'As we have heard, the latest estimate suggests that at least 6 million people eligible to vote were not registered to do so in December 2010. The problem is all the worse because those eligible voters who are not on the register are disproportionately concentrated in particular groups: young people and students, people with learning disabilities, people with disabilities generally, those living in areas of high social deprivation, and ethnic minorities.'

The debate will continue with line by line scrutiny in committee stage after the summer recess. Lord Wallace of Saltaire concluded: 'We will return to many of these issues in committee. We have taken on board everything that has been said in the debate. We are confident that by going through the transition process and learning from the Northern Irish experience, we will come out with a register that is at least as complete as it is at the moment, and more accurate.'

About the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill

The bill was introduced in the Lords at first reading stage on 28 June. It focuses on the registration of electors and the administration and conduct of elections.

The first part of the bill relates to individual electoral registration. It includes proposals for a new system where each elector must apply individually to register to vote. The bill will create a legislative framework to allow alternative channels for registration, such as online.

The second part of the bill looks at the administration and conduct of elections. It aims to improve the way elections are run, increase voter participation and improve the integrity and robustness of the electoral system.

What is second reading stage?

The government minister, spokesperson or member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate. Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.

Next stage: Committee stage

After second reading the bill goes to committee stage where detailed line by line examination of the bill and discussion of amendments (changes) takes place.

It usually starts no later than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments are published in a marshalled list (amendments on related subjects are grouped together).

During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments.

Further information

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More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Elections, Parliament, House of Lords news, Members of the Lords, Lords news, Bill news, By-elections, Electoral register, Electoral systems, General election

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