Clause 39 - Control of documents after

Electoral Administration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 17 Tachwedd 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Ceidwadwyr, Old Bexley and Sidcup

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 11, in clause 40, page 4, line 39, after second 'the', insert 'marked'.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

We now come to the control of documents after a parliamentary election and the issue of marked registers and access to them. This is, to an extent, a probing amendment, because I want to understand the relationship between this clause and clause 43, which deals with marked postal voters lists. There is no clear link, but clause 43 will provide explicitly for postal voters lists to be marked. Currently, we have the strange phenomenon that marked lists are to be kept of those who have voted in an election unless they happen to vote by post or by proxy by post. The procedures adopted by electoral returning officers in different parts of the country vary enormously, in terms both of their marking of lists and of whether they are prepared to make those lists available to the political parties during or after an election.

A degree of controversy has arisen in several elections about whether, particularly in the context of an all postal ballot, it is appropriate to provide a running total of marked postal voters lists. Some would say that it is inappropriate to give that information to political parties and others would argue strongly—I think that I am one of them—that it is in the interests of electors and of the political process that those marked lists be available because it prevents repeated canvassing of people who have already cast their vote. It is in their interests for everybody to know that they have voted and that it is a waste of time to continue knocking on their doors. In that way they will not be bothered on their doorsteps.

My amendment simply inserts the word ''marked''. I would welcome clarification from the Minister of how the two clauses that I mentioned fit together, and whether it is his intention that the marked postal voters lists be made available to political parties either during the course of an election or following its completion.

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having tabled a probing amendment and I am happy to confirm that the intention is that the word ''marked'' should be read before all of the lists—there   will be marked copies of the postal voters list; marked copies of the list of proxies and marked copies of the proxy postal voters list. However, to answer his second point, it is our intention to make the marked postal voters list available only after the election.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

At least I now know what the Government's intention is and I am grateful for the Minister's clarification. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 40 to 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.