HL Deb 14 October 1999 vol 605 c92WA
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to introduce electronic counting for the Greater London Authority elections. [HL4204]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)

The Government intend to proceed with plans to use electronic scanning equipment to count the votes in next year's elections on 4 May for a London mayor and the London assembly. The election will provide an excellent opportunity to introduce a more up to date method of counting of votes, more in keeping with today's technology and systems. This will be the first time such a modern system of counting has been used in an election in the United Kingdom.

We estimate that a manual count in next year's London elections could take up to three days before a result is known. With the new equipment, a result will be known by the next morning. For an election in the new millennium it is only right that we use the latest technology to speed up the process, as long as it can guarantee an accurate count and maintain public faith in the secrecy and integrity of the election process.

Shortly, we will be appointing DRS Data & Research Services Plc to undertake the count. They have a successful track record in elections in other countries, including Norway and Bosnia-Herzegovinia, and we are confident that they can contribute to a smoothly run election in London. We will be conducting a major trial in the New Year, involving a mock election in one of the London boroughs.

As well as saving time, an electronic count will save money. Without the need for many teams of people and large counting halls for a prolonged period, we estimate that, despite the additional cost of counting machines, there will be an overall saving of some half a million pounds in the cost of the election.