New Forest East

DTLR – POSTAL VOTING – 21 May 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Secretary of State [Stephen Byers] accept that in conventional voting methods, people's ability to go into a private booth to cast their votes is an element of privacy and confidentiality that is very important? Is he not concerned that the introduction of postal ballots on a mass scale will mean that that element of privacy is lost and that those who wish to vote privately from their own households will not have the same safeguards that people have traditionally enjoyed in casting their votes in the traditional way?

[Mr Byers: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to refer to the safeguards that we hold dear in terms of how we cast our votes in elections. That is one of the issues to which the Electoral Commission will want to give proper consideration. We must take this matter slowly and we must get it right; we will not be rushed into taking early decisions. We must use the pilots and learn from them, and we must then make decisions that are in the interests of the democratic process.]