Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs First Special Report


Memoranda submitted by the Government

Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Office on Electoral Malpractice in Northern Ireland


This paper provides information on progress to counter electoral malpractice since our response to the Select Committee on 5 April 2000 and indicates a timescale for implementation.


In the 5 April response to the Select Committee, the Secretary of State indicated a range of initiatives intended to combat electoral abuse. Following the meeting, the Secretary of State wrote to Peter Brooke on 28 April with an update on our proposals for the applications for absent votes.

Since that meeting a Working Group has been set up to develop the proposals with the intention that they would then be put out to consultation with the Northern Ireland parties.

The proposals have been compiled against the background of the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee (NIASC) published in March 1998. The conclusions of the Northern Ireland Office Review published in October that year and various recommendations that have been put forward during the course of meetings and correspondence with the parties were also taken into account.

The proposals

The proposals are attached at Annex A but are summarised briefly as follows: -

  • the collection, during the registration process, of additional personal identifiers which will help subsequent verification of absent vote applications;
  • replacing, in the short-term, the most vulnerable identification documents currently required at polling stations with a photographic identity card;
  • incremental moves towards the use of an electoral identity card, which could ultimately become a voting card; improving the absent vote procedure to speed up verification;
  • increased cross-checking of data by investigation teams within the electoral office; and
  • examining the role of the RUC in following up cases of electoral fraud.

While some of these proposals will require legislation, by means of a Bill, the remainder are a matter of administrative change subject to the financial and other resources available. It is intended that the initial collection of personal identifiers and the move to allow photographic identity documents would pave the way towards an electoral or smart card at some point in the future. Once agreement is reached on our first steps it may be possible to frame the legislation in a way that provides enabling powers to introduce such a card without the need for a further Bill.


The Minister responsible for electoral matters in Northern Ireland, Mr George Howarth, held meetings with representatives of eleven political parties in Northern Ireland between 20 November and 4 December to discuss the Working Groups proposals for a Bill to counter Electoral Fraud. There was broad agreement to the proposals, but during the course of these meetings, several new ideas or modifications to current ideas were raised. We have also sought the views of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission on the proposals and await their response.

We are now preparing a response to those further proposals and considering the next steps.

21 December 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 6 February 2001