New Clause 3 Absent and overseas voters

Electoral Administration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

‘(1)The Secretary of State shall, within 12 months of the enactment of this Act lay regulations—

(a)providing that overseas voters’ ballot papers may be delivered to a British diplomatic representative and if so delivered before the close of the poll shall be counted there in secure conditions and the result transmitted by electronic means to the returning officer or officers in any such polls;

(b)providing that absent voters’ ballot papers may on any weekday after their distribution by post be left at a place designated by the returning officer at any time designated in this regulation and kept in secure conditions until the close of the poll when they shall be counted with other ballot papers; and

(c)providing that a returning officer or officers shall adopt a common date on which absent voters’ ballot papers shall be posted.

(2)Regulations made under this section shall be laid in draft before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before being made.’. —[Mrs. Laing.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I speak on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner). The clause relates to absent and overseas voters. In this year’s general election, many people who live outside the United Kingdom who were entitled to vote lost that right because of administrative problems in returning their ballot papers. If the Minister is unwilling to accept the new clause as a way of putting that right, can she please reassure the Committee that the Government will take other steps to protect the rights of voters who live outside the United Kingdom?

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

The hon. Lady anticipates my response. I cannot offer to accept the new clause, but the points that lie behind it are well made. I said earlier that we want to ensure that as many people as possible register to vote and participate in voting, including overseas voters, crucially servicemen and women. Although we cannot accept the new clause, there is more that can and should be done. The Bill has thrown light on many areas in which people are inadvertently being disfranchised, either because of the time it takes to vote or by not being on the register. We will need to look at the matter further.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I accept the Minister’s assurance; I am very pleased to hear what she said. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.