HC Deb 22 July 1997 vol 298 cc545-6W
Mr. Robert McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will list the number of absent voting papers issued in(a) each parliamentary constituency and (b) in Northern Ireland for the (i) 1992 and (ii) 1997 elections, and the percentage difference between 1992 and 1997 for each constituency; and if she will make a statement. [7722]

Marjorie Mowlam

The information is as follows:

1992 and 1997 Northern Ireland general election: absent voting
Parliamentary constituency Absent voting Percentage difference
1992 1997
North Down 1,048 1,052 0.40
Strangford 938 1,271 35.50
South Down 5,359 3,504 34.61
Lagan Valley 1,104 1,443 30.71
Upper Bann 1,854 1,759 -5.12
Newry and Armagh 3,580 3,960 10.61
Fermanagh and South
Tyrone 5,847 5,996 2.55
Mid-Ulster 3,638 5,047 38.73
Foyle 1,531 1,460 -4.64
East Londonderry 2,409 2,128 -11.66
North Antrim 1,032 1,467 42.15
East Antrim 1,002 793 -20.86
South Antrim 962 884 -8.11
Belfast north 615 847 37.72
Belfast east 638 912 42.93
Belfast south 856 886 3.50
Belfast west 757 1,104 45.84
West Tyrone 4,372
Totals 33,170 38,885 17.23

These figures show a significant rise in the numbers of absent votes in Northern Ireland over the last two general elections. Due to boundary changes which increased the number of Northern Ireland constituencies by one in 1995, there is no strict comparison between the two elections.

However, in just under a third of Northern Ireland parliamentary constituencies the number of absent votes issued was greater in 1992 than at the 1997 general election. In those constituencies which did see an increase in the absent votes issued, in a quarter of these cases the percentage increase was less than 5 per cent. It is the case that in just under half of the 17 constituencies there has been an increase of more than 30 per cent. in the numbers of absent votes issued.

The Government have made it clear that they are concerned at the increase in the numbers of absent votes issued at the last election, and that will study with interest the results of the study begun by the chief electoral officers into all absent vote applications in Northern Ireland for the last three elections.