HC Deb 20 February 1979 vol 963 cc136-8W
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to ensure that persons who are entered on the electoral register in more than one place in Scotland are not counted more than once when computing the figure of 40 per cent.; and whether he proposes to take any additional measures to ensure that there is no double voting.

Mr. Millan

I am today announcing how I intend to make an assessment of the number of persons entitled to vote at the referendum on 1 March. It is an offence to vote more than once at the referendum.

Mr. James White

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the assessment of the

Region Islands Area Total electorate, including service voters, merchant seamen, peers "Y" voters "Y" voters (aged under 18) who will attain voting age on 2 March 1979 or later Number of electors of voting age on 1 March 1979
Border 78,595 1,030 77,565
Central 200,569 2,797 197,772
Dumfries and Galloway 106,531 1,329 105,202
Fife 249,538 3,441 246,097
Grampian 349,559 6,032 343,527
Highland 137,986 1,541 136,445
Lothian 573,919 6,664 567,255
Strathclyde 1,791,825 22,748 1,769,077
Tayside 296,855 3,667 293,188
Orkney 14,113 176 13,937
Shetland 15,058 176 14,882
Western Isles 22,566 201 22,365
Scotland 3,837,114 49,802 3,787,312

In relation to entitlement to vote on 1 March, further deductions fall to be made for those whose names appear on the registers but who are dead, for those who are registered for more than one address and for those who are legally debarred from voting. On the basis of all the information which I have obtained and which has been brought to my attention, the provisional estimate of the further deduction is:

Deaths 26,400
Convicted prisoners in prison 2,000
Students and nurses who are registered at more than one address 11,800

The number entitled to vote then becomes 3,747,112.

Representations have been made to me that deductions should be made on other counts because of the improbability that all those entitled to a postal or proxy vote will use that facility, because of the number of people likely to be ill on March 1 and unable to vote, and because of errors in the registers.

I accept that not everyone entitled to vote will in fact be able to vote on 1 number of persons entitled to vote in the devolution referendum.

Mr. Millan

From advance returns provided by the electoral registration officers of the new registers which came into operation on 16 February and the number of electors of voting age on 1 March 1979, I estimate the total electorate to be as follows:

March. I am, however, bound by the terms of the Scotland Act. Under the Act, I have no power to take account of probability of voting or physical capacity to register a vote, but only of entitlement to vote. I am further advised that my statutory duty is to make deductions on the basis of actual counting or well-founded assessment.

Accordingly, the number of votes on the new registers but under the age of 18 on 1 March has been counted by the electoral registration officers; deaths have been systematically estimated by the Registrar-General for Scotland on the basis of extensive records; and the deduction for convicted prisoners has been similarly assessed on the basis of records within my Department.

The deductions for students and nurses registered at more than one address have been based on a carefully constructed sample survey. It may be that there are other duplications in the registers, but no authoritative estimate of these errors is available, and no means of making one is evident, although a few individual cases have been brought to my attention.