Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 14 of Session 2004-05                          24 March 2005


The Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee have today released a joint report, calling for changes in the way electors register to vote in Great Britain.

The Committees' inquiry examined the principles behind registration and highlighted the problems with the existing electoral registration system and the drivers for change. In the joint report, they set out four options for a way forward:

•To design a new system of registration based around the principle of individuals registering themselves, to be introduced in two years' time

•To accept the principle of individual registration without setting a date for implementation

•To adapt the existing system of household registration by requiring individual signatures on the registration form

•To let the system evolve as it has done.

Whichever option is chosen, the Committees identify a wide range of other methods which should be adopted to increase registration levels, which have been falling significantly. These include data-sharing between those responsible for compiling the registers and a wide range of public and private bodies, educational strategies, changing the closing date for registration prior to an election, electronic forms of registration and establishing a national register. They call for a greater lead from Government on how the agenda may move forward and how the issues identified may be tackled.

Mr Andrew Bennett, Chairman of the ODPM Committee, said:

"In my personal view, in recent years, all the political parties have tried to make it easier for people to vote, in particular encouraging postal voting. The result is that our electoral system has grown like Topsy. Perhaps because electoral fraud was so rare, the system has not been adapted to make fraud difficult. Suddenly, it appears that fraud has become an issue. The Committees have looked at how we could reform the electoral system, moving from household registration to individual registration. This could dramatically reduce the chances of fraud.  However, it could significantly reduce the number of people able to vote.

I believe we should move swiftly to individual registration. With vigorous data-swapping between electoral registration officers and utilities, the Post Office, DVLA and others, very few names would be lost from the register."

Rt Hon Alan Beith, Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, said:

"On the basis of the evidence we heard I do not believe that a move to individual registration should be undertaken until measures likely to increase registration have been put in place and proved effective. There is no point in making so fundamental a change if the effect would be to reduce the proportion of the eligible population who are registered to vote."

Notes to editors:
1. For more information or to arrange an interview with the committee Chairmen please contact: Jessica Bridges Palmer, Media Officer, on 020 7219 0718 or e-mail:
Other members of the Committees who are available for comment are: Mr Clive Betts, Mr David Clelland, Chris Mole, Mr Bill O'Brien, Christine Russell, Peter Bottomley, Mrs Ann Cryer and Dr Alan Whitehead
2. The text of the Report will be available on the Committees websites from 3.30 pm on the day of publication. Alternatively, copies may be purchased from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3474)
3. If you would like a copy of any House of Commons publications, and did not submit written or oral evidence to the relevant inquiry, you may purchase them from The Stationery Office, General enquiries tel no.0870 600 5522, or access them via the Reports and Publications pages of each Committee's website
4. Constitutional Affairs Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith (Chairman), Peter Bottomley, Hilton Dawson, James Clappison, Ross Cranston QC, Andrew Rosindell, Clive Soley, Ann Cryer, Keith Vaz, Jim Cunningham, Dr Alan Whitehead
5. ODPM Committee Membership: Andrew Bennett (Chairman), Sir Paul Beresford, Clive Betts, Mr Graham Brady, David Clelland, Mr John Cummings, Chris Mole, Mr Bill O'Brien, Richard Page, Christine Russell, Adrian Sanders
6. Press notice 14

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