HC Deb 02 December 2003 vol 415 cc366-7
28. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South) (Lab)

What recent discussions he has had with the Electoral Commission on the piloting of new voting methods in Scotland at the 2004 European parliamentary elections. [140738]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie)

My Department has asked the Electoral Commission to advise on up to three regions or nations that, in its view, would be suitable for piloting all-postal or electronic voting in the combined local and European parliamentary elections next June. The pilot provisions are the subject of measures that have been carried over into the Session. I anticipate that a decision will be taken in principle before Christmas.

Mr. Tynan

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. He will accept that turnout in the previous European elections was abysmal. I have been pressing for Scotland to be treated as a pilot area for European elections. Will he reinforce that argument and ensure that Scotland is included as a pilot area in those elections?

Mr. Leslie

I sense that there is a great demand for all-postal voting in Scotland, but I wait for the Electoral Commission to give its advice, on which I shall base my decision. Where all-postal voting has been piloted locally, it is clear that it has an appreciable impact on turnout. A typical turnout of 33 per cent. at the previous local elections was increased to 49 per cent. in areas where all-postal voting took place. It is therefore understandable that so many hon. Members want their region or nation to be part of the pilot scheme.