Clause 35 - Assistance for certain postal voters

Electoral Administration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:30 pm ar 17 Tachwedd 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Jim McGovern Jim McGovern Llafur, Dundee West

May I seek clarification from the Minister on part of clause 35? I apologise for being hoarse, but I have the cold. Proposed new rule 24(1)(c)   in schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 describes what someone requires to be able to vote by post. It says:

''together with such envelopes for their return (whether free of charge or otherwise)''.

That implies that a charge may be introduced in future. If the Bill's objective is to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the electoral process, the possibility that a charge could be introduced would contradict that objective. Will the Minister comment on that?

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Minister of State (Department of Constitutional Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The clause allows the returning officer to provide information to the electorate on how to get translations of guidance for voters in different translations and Braille, and to provide visual representations or pictograms; versions of the directions that clarify how to vote by post. That might be through a hyperlink or internet address. This is deep stuff. A pictogram might be on a hyperlink to a web page containing foreign language or audio versions of the instructions or a phone number for the local electoral services department, which might well be needed.

The clause also makes a change regarding the postal voting statement—replacing the current declaration of identity, which needs to be signed by the elector only—which is to be issued with the postal ballot, and is prescribed in secondary legislation.

I will write to my hon. Friend about—[Interruption.] Apparently there is no intention to charge, but I will have to give him further information about that in due course.

Clause 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.