HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 c584
21. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what discussions the Committee has had with the Electoral Commission on the use of marked electoral registers in political campaigning. [129572]

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

The Speaker's Committee has had no such discussions. However, I am informed by the commission that it is currently reviewing the use and supply of, and access to, marked electoral registers and intends to make recommendations to Government when its review is complete.

Kevin Brennan

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. In any discussions he has with the Electoral Commission, will he remind it that the Chartists campaigned for the fundamental human right to vote, and in secret, not for the fundamental human right to keep secret whether one voted or not? If the Electoral Commission did not allow marked registers to be made available to political parties, would not that represent yet another erosion of the idea of voting as a duty, rather than just another lifestyle consumer choice?

Mr. Viggers

I hear the representation made by the hon. Gentleman, but issues of law and principle, human rights and data protection are involved, as well as practical issues about the provision of an accurate register, especially during the campaign period itself. The commission is assessing those issues alongside the views of political parties and the public.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Will the hon. Gentleman put the other side of the argument to the Electoral Commission, especially with regard to Northern Ireland? En the past it has been the practice of certain political parties in Northern Ireland to make use of marked registers to see who has not voted for the purpose of personation.

Mr. Viggers

The Electoral Commission is considering all those matters, but it takes the view that if the marked registers can be made available—subject to the caveats that I have just described—it would be in the general public interest for them to be made available.