Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice No.2 of Session 2005-06
21 July 2005


The Government today published its response to a joint report by the Constitutional Affairs and ODPM Committees on Electoral Registration.

Commenting on the Government's response, the Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee Rt Hon Alan Beith MP welcomed the Government's positive response to the analysis and most of the proposals of the report. He said:

The Government has backed our proposals by recognising the importance of ensuring that everyone who is entitled to vote is able to do so and by making clear that electoral registration officers should actively encourage people to register to vote.

I am also pleased that the DCA is considering positively the Committees' recommendation for a 'one-stop shop' which would allow people to register with councils for electoral, council tax and other purposes at the same time and that further work will done on data-sharing to back up registration.

I am disappointed that the Government has failed to announce a timetable for dealing with many of the issues we raised in our report and has yet to indicate when the Electoral Administration Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech, will actually be introduced to Parliament. 

We are also surprised that the Government has failed to give any indication of its policy on individual registration and whether or not it intends to continue with the system under which the householder fills in the registration form for everyone in the house. 

One of the other issues that concerned us greatly was the low level of registration amongst members of the Armed Services both in the UK and abroad. The Government has given an undertaking to investigate this issue further, but, we are disappointed that it is not placing more urgency on this matter and we expect clarification of what further action will be taken. 

We welcome the fact that responsibility for the voting system is now centred in one Government Department, the DCA, rather than being split between two. The Constitutional Affairs Committee will be scrutinising the Department's performance in this important area in the coming months.

The Committee will be taking evidence on the Electoral Administration Bill in order to give those in local authorities, political parties and other organisations who know most about elections the opportunity to comment on its detailed proposals.