HC Deb 13 December 2000 vol 359 cc182-3W
Miss Widdecombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the standard data format for the supply of copies of the electoral register to(a) those entitled to receive them free of charge in electronic form and (b) others is to be; and if he will make a statement. [141475]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Regulations C22 to C24 of the draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 (which were published for consultation on 8 November) provide for the supply of copies of the electoral register to specified persons, or the sale of such copies, either in printed or data form. Regulation C25 of the draft Regulations specifies that, subject to any direction of the Secretary of State under section 52(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (directions as to discharge of registration duties), any duty on the registration officer to supply data under regulations C22 to C24 imposes only a duty to supply such data recorded in the form in which he holds it.

The exercise of the powers in section 52(1) is subject to new section 52(1A), as inserted by paragraph 6 of Schedule 21 to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. New section 52(1A) enables the Secretary of State to give directions requiring a registration officer to maintain his registers in a specified electronic form. By virtue of section 8(1) of the 2000 Act the exercise of the powers in section 52 of the 1983 Act, as amended, is exercisable only on, and in accordance with, a recommendation of the Electoral Commission. Subject to consultation with the Commission we propose to bring section 8 of and paragraph 6 of Schedule 21 to the 2000 Act into force on 16 February 2001. Thereafter it will be a matter for the Commission to consider whether to recommend to the Secretary of State that registers of electors should be maintained in a common data format and, if so, what format should be prescribed.