§ Mr. Robert McCartney
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will list the(a) number and (b) percentage of absent voting papers issued in (i) each parliamentary constituency for the 1996 forum election and (ii) the 1997 general election; and what steps she is taking to reduce electoral fraud. 
§ Mr. Paul Murphy
[holding answer 29 July 1997]: I have viewed with concern allegations that there is a significant level of electoral fraud in Northern Ireland. I will study the results of the chief electoral officer's investigations into postal vote applications with interest.
Parliamentary general election 1 May 1997 Northern Ireland elections 30 May 1996 constituency Total number of postal ballot papers issued As a percentage of total constituency electorate Number of postal ballot papers issued As a percentage of total constituency electorate Belfast East 748 1.21 635 1.02 Belfast North 656 1.01 566 0.87 Belfast South 694 1.09 621 0.97 Belfast West 687 1.11 458 0.75 East Antrim 559 0.95 575 0.99 East Londonderry 1,750 2.97 1,517 2.59 Fermanagh and South Tyrone 4,927 7.61 4,336 6.81 Foyle 1,102 1.62 1,081 1.62 Lagan Valley 1,231 1.73 1,065 1.52 Mid Ulster 3,609 6.11 2,676 4.64 North Antrim 1,260 1.74 1,105 1.54 North Down 812 1.30 713 1.14 Newry and Armagh 3,021 4.27 2,174 3.11 South Antrim 654 0.94 698 1.01 South Down 2,447 3.50 2,115 3.06 Strangford 1,057 1.51 872 1.26 Upper Bann 1,561 2.21 1,546 2.21 West Tyrone 3,062 5.24 1,913 3.34 Total 29,844 2.53 24,666 2.12
§ Mr. McCartney
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will list the different reasons, by number and percentage, for which absent voting papers were issued in each(a) parliamentary constituency and (b) council area in the 1997 general elections; and if she will make a statement on her policy in relation to 521W discrepancies between Northern Ireland electoral laws and rules and those pertaining to the rest of the United Kingdom. 
§ Mr. Murphy
[holding answer 30 July 1997]: Regulations specifying the grounds upon which absent voting papers may be issued for a both parliamentary and local government elections are set in statute. In both cases, the chief electoral officer shall grant an application if he is satisfied that the applicant's circumstances on the date of the poll will, or are likely to be such, that he cannot reasonably be expected to vote in person. There may be almost as many circumstances which qualify as there are applications, and so it would be impossible to list them all here.
I do not consider that there are discrepancies between Northern Ireland's electoral laws and rules and those pertaining to the rest of the United Kingdom. There are clearly differences, but no more than are necessary to facilitate the different circumstances in Northern Ireland, not least of which is a system of single transferable vote proportional representation for local government and European parliamentary elections.