CABINET OFFICE – VOTER REGISTRATION – 16 January 2012
Dr Julian Lewis: This is a genuine inquiry: will the right hon. Gentleman [Sadiq Khan] inform the House whether a significant proportion of that 11% subsequently rejoined the register, or whether very few did, which would suggest that the 11% were not entirely genuine in the first place?
[Sadiq Khan: As ever, the hon. Gentleman raises a good question. The evidence from the experts is that of the 11% who were taken off the register about 5% should not have been on there. There has been increased integrity in the Northern Irish system but there has also been continued instability. Those who were originally taken off but should not have been have not come back on as quickly as we would have hoped. One reason for that was that there was not the carry forward—but I shall come to later... ]
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Dr Lewis: In general, I am happy with my hon. Friend's [Mark Harper's] proposals, but the one thing in the Opposition motion that strikes me is the question of the abolition of the sanction if people do not register. We do not believe in compulsory voting, but up to now we have always believed in compulsory registration. Will he reassure us on that specific point?
[The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): ... I do not think that it is correct to say that the Government have eroded the civic duty of registering to vote. It is not an offence – this comes back to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) made – not to be registered to vote. It is an offence to refuse to provide information to an electoral registration officer on the household canvass form when required to do so. We do not propose to change that, but I must note that there is some doubt about how effective that is, given that about 15% of electors are not registered to vote... ]