HC Deb 09 November 1988 vol 140 c302
14. Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the anticipated percentage change in the numbers appearing on the electoral registers for 1988 and 1989.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No forecasts of the numbers on the electoral register are prepared. The projected population aged 17 and over shows an increase of 0.16 per cent. between 1988 and 1989.

Mr. Barnes

Is there not a considerable danger that, due to the operation of the poll tax in Scotland, the franchise will be considerably reduced, either in the coming year or by 1990, when the tax will begin to bite? In those circumstances, clearly there is a case for repealing the legislation, otherwise a future Government may have to introduce a Re-enfranchisement of the People Act.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No, I cannot accept that suggestion. On the basis of the population projections, a slight increase of about 11,000, or 0.28 per cent., might have been expected. The actual numbers show a fall of about 27,500, or 0.69 per cent. As to the reasons, no definite information is available on what part of that reduction might be attributable to any one factor, such as changes in practice by electoral registration officers or the removal of dual registrations.

Mr. Patnick

Can my hon. Friend explain what percentage of the Scottish electorate vote in local elections, and can he say what effect, if any, the community charge will have on voting patterns?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The percentage of the electorate voting in local elections is considerably below that for general elections—

Mr. Harry Ewing

What is it?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) asks me what exactly is the figure. To the best of my knowledge, it is less than 50 per cent.

This question relates directly to the electoral roll, and it is vitally important that it is kept separate from the community charge register; that it is separately prepared and maintained. That is the crux of the matter.

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