Electoral Registers and Electoral Fraud
Eleanor Laing welcomes the Government's decision to bring in individual voter registration and calls for voters to be required to provide proof of identity when they go to vote.
Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): As the Minister knows, we enthusiastically welcome the steps that he and his colleagues are taking to bring in individual voter registration, for which we have called for over five years. We Opposition Members are never complacent about electoral fraud; this House derives its legitimacy from the integrity of the ballot. Individual voter registration is only part of the solution. Does the Minister agree that the integrity of the ballot will only be really secure when a potential voter is required to produce evidence of their identity when they go into the polling station to get a ballot paper? The Minister knows that that works in Northern Ireland. When will he take steps to introduce the system in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Mr. Wills: As I have said to the hon. Lady before in Committee, there seems to have been a policy switch by Conservative Front Benchers in favour of the advantages of identity cards, and I am glad that she seems to be endorsing that— [Hon. Members: “No.”] I simply say that the hon. Lady needs to be careful about which policy prescription she comes forward with. On her first point, she has advocated individual registration for some considerable time, but throughout that period she was silent on the need for the register to be comprehensive as well as accurate. I have to say that until this Government brought forward proposals that combine measures to complete the accuracy of the register and measures to ensure its comprehensive nature, individual registration carried as many risks as benefits. I would just ask the hon. Lady to reflect on that the next time she makes such comments.