PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1991

DRAFT REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (SCOTLAND) AMENDMENT REGULATIONS 1991

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1991

Wednesday 8 May 1991

LONDON: HMSO

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. TED LEADBITTER

Bowden, Mr. Gerald (Dulwich)

Brazier, Mr. Julian (Canterbury)

Carrington, Mr. Matthew (Fulham)

Cox, Mr. Tom (Tooting)

Davies, Mr. Quentin (Stamford and Spalding)

Heal, Mrs. Sylvia (Mid-Staffordshire)

Hicks, Mrs. Maureen (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Hughes, Mr. John (Coventry, North-East)

Knight, Mr. Greg (Derby, North)

Lester, Mr. Jim (Broxtowe)

Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Mr. Terry (Worsley)

Maclennan, Mr. Robert (Caithness and Sutherland)

McMaster, Mr. Gordon (Paisley, South)

Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)

Moss, Mr. Malcolm (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Nicholson, Mr. David (Taunton)

Rumbold, Mrs. Angela (Minister of State, Home Office)

Turner, Mr. Dennis (Wolverhampton, South-East)

Mr. F. A. Cranmer, Committee Clerk

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3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 8 May 1991

[MR. TED LEADBITTER in the Chair]

DRAFT REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 1991

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Angela Rumbold): I beg to move. That the Committee has considered the draft Representation of the People (Amendment) Regulations 1991.

The Chairman: With the agreement of the Committee, it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the other regulations before us, namely, the draft Representation of the People (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1991 and the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1991.

Mrs. Rumbold: The draft regulations are straightforward and I hope not to have to detain the Committee too long in considering them this morning. They amend the relevant 1986 Regulations, which govern the registration of electors, absent voting and the conduct of parliamentary, European parliamentary and local government elections. The purpose of the draft regulations is to enable the Representation of the People Act 1990 to take effect. That Act simplifies the arrangements for granting an absent vote to people who have moved house. At present, such people need to apply for an absent vote, by post or by proxy, each time there is an election. In future, they will have to make only one application to ensure that they have an absent vote at all elections, until they can go on to the electoral register at their new address. The existing arrangements have been criticised by the political parties, by electoral registration officers, and by electors as cumbersome and unnecessary. The 1990 Act will reduce the potential workload of electoral registration officers and remove a bureaucratic burden from the electorate. The Act, which was the result of a private Member's Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham Selly Oak (Mr Beaumont-Dark), received all-party support. The 1990 Act extends to the whole of Great Britain. Members of the Committee may therefore ask why we are not considering draft regulations covering Northern Ireland, as would normally be the case. The reason is that 4 those draft regulations have not yet been finalised and we do not know when they will be ready to come before a Committee. Members will appreciate the problems in Northen Ireland about the possibility of fraudulent use of postal voting facilities, which has delayed the draft regulations. The draft regulations require an applicant for an absent vote who has moved house to supply the electoral registration officer with the new address, if any, where the applicant is resident at the date of the application. That information is needed to enable the electoral registration officer to determine whether the new address is within the same electoral area, as defined in the 1990 Act, as the qualifying address, and so to decide whether the applicant qualifies for an absent vote. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee. The new absent voting arrangements for those who have moved house will make life simpler for the elector and the registration officer.

10.33 am

Miss Joan Lester (Eccles): I thank the Minister for clarifying the position on Northern Ireland, about which I had intended to ask. I suppose that those regulations will be introduced in the future. I agree with the Minister that the regulations will tidy up existing reulations and extend the democratic right to vote. There was some controversy about the proposal to extend the right to vote to overseas residents because we felt that it was too narrow and unfair. However, we support the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Representation of the People (Amendment) Regulations 1991.

Draft Representation of the People (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1991

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Representation of the People (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1991.—[Mrs. Rumbold.]

Draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1991

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1991.—[Mrs. Rumbold.]

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Eleven o'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Leadbitter, Mr. Ted (Chairman)

Bowden, Mr. Gerald

Carrington, Mr.

Davies, Mr. Quentin

Heal, Mrs.

Hicks, Mrs. Maureen

Hughes, Mr. John

Knight, Mr. Greg

Lestor, Miss

McMaster, Mr.

Moss, Mr.

Nicolson, Mr. David

Rumbold, Mrs.

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