HC Deb 25 March 2002 vol 382 cc560-1
34. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

What consideration the Electoral Commission has given to the use of incentives to encourage voter participation in elections. [43177]

Mr. A. J. Beith (representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission)

Consideration of the use of financial or other individual incentives to encourage voter participation is not currently part of the commission's planned review programme. However, I understand that the commission gave evidence to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions earlier this year on a proposal from Blackburn with Darwen council for a pilot scheme linked to the May 2002 local elections that would have involved entering all electors in a prize draw. The commission concluded that the proposed scheme did not fall within the legal framework for electoral pilot schemes set out in the Representation of the People Act 2000.

Kevin Brennan

Rather than considering ideas such as compulsory voting, would not it be better to offer incentives for people to vote? Perhaps we could have a good citizens tax credit or a free lottery ticket—as in the suggestion described by the right hon. Gentleman—on the basis that, for citizenship, the carrot would be better than the stick.

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view but I believe that such proposals would face many legal and some ethical obstacles. Several other pieces of legislation might bear on them. As I said, the Electoral Commission has no current plans to conduct a review on the feasibility of introducing such proposals, but is considering a wide range of initiatives to encourage voter participation and to make the process of voting more accessible and user-friendly.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for those for whom financial incentives are beyond the pale, a cheap—indeed, free—incentive would be to allow voters to vote at any polling station? In this age of modern technology, it must be possible for lists to be available at any polling station. Would the commission look into that?

Mr. Beith

The commission is looking into the possibility of voters being able to vote at more than one polling station.