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The Electoral Administration Act 2006 strengthens the existing offence of undue influence to cover both successful and unsuccessful attempts at exerting undue influence on another voter. This should make it easier to secure conviction where there is evidence of intimidation.
More generally, the Government have fully supported the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Electoral Commission in the development of guidance for police officers to raise awareness of electoral fraud issues. ACPO and the Electoral Commission have issued jointly updated guidance on fraud prevention and detection at the May 2007 elections. The guidance sets out the main electoral offencesincluding the offence of undue influenceand suggests appropriate police action in response to any allegations of fraud or impropriety that are made.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that the procedures in place to verify the personal identity of those people who vote by post are consistent with those in place to verify the identity of those who vote in person. 
Bridget Prentice: Under provisions in the Electoral Administration Act 2006, as approved by Parliament, a greater level of security has been put in place for postal voting than for voters in polling stations, in order to address particular concerns about the security of postal voting.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether her Department intends to extend to other parts of the UK the system in place in Northern Ireland which uses national insurance numbers as a means of ensuring greater checks upon the validity of (a) voting in person and (b) voting by post. 
Bridget Prentice: The national insurance database is primarily used, by the Elections Office for Northern Ireland, to verify the identity of a person registering to vote. It is not used to verify the identity of persons voting in person, although it is also used to verify postal vote applicants.
The Government are currently monitoring the arrangements in Northern Ireland. However, we presently have no plans to verify the identity of registrants, postal voters or persons voting in person against the national insurance database.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what mechanisms are in place to prevent the fraudulent filling in of a postal ballot obtained with false identification. 
Applicants for a postal vote must be included on the electoral register. The Electoral Administration Act 2006 imposes a duty on the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to ensure electoral registers are accurate and comprehensive. It also strengthens the objections procedures, and enables EROs to act upon any objections made to a person's entry on the register, and to initiate an investigation into a person's entry on
the register if the ERO is in doubt about whether the person is entitled to be registered.
The Act also establishes a scheme that provides for the use of personal identifiers by postal voters. They require persons voting by post to provide their signature and date of birth, both when they apply for a postal vote and when they return their postal vote at an election. Checks will be done to ensure the personal identifiers match.
If an ERO is in doubt about the validity of a postal vote application he may make further inquiries with the applicant, and if necessary, he may report the matter to the police. Signatures and dates of birth will be stored by the ERO, and will be important evidence in the event of any investigation into suspected fraudulent applications.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the costs of countering fraud in postal voting across the UK during the next (a) national and (b) local elections; 
Bridget Prentice: The Government have provided £21.1 million to cover the new measures introduced within the Electoral Administration Act 2006, and Representation of the People Regulations 2006, including new anti-fraud measures. In addition, we have committed up to £12.2 million, spread over 2006-07 and 2007-08, to provide to local authorities in England and Wales to cover the specific costs of implementing the absent voter personal identifiers provisions in the Electoral Administration Act 2006.
The precise amount of ongoing funding provided by local authorities to electoral services is not known at present. However, under the Electoral Administration Act 2006, the Electoral Commission will be able to obtain financial information from electoral administrators which will enable accurate data on electoral spending to be made available.
Ms Harman: I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer of 22 January 2007, Office Report, column 1495W. Dedicated drug courts are being piloted by the Department for Constitutional Affairs at Leeds and West London magistrates courts and an independent evaluation of the pilots will be complete by summer 2007. This will determine if this drug court model delivers benefits and will inform the potential for extended operation.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many incidents of violence were recorded on the Northern Ireland courts estate in each of the past three years for which figures are available, broken down by location; and what steps she is taking to reduce such incidents. 
Court security is provided by a private contractor. Sufficient numbers of security personnel and a range of security measures are deployed to deter incidents of violence, including archway and hand-held scanners at entrances and segregation of opposing parties. If required, additional security is provided by the Police Service of Northern Ireland who also respond to reported incidents.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many security officers were employed in each location on the Northern Ireland court estate in each of the last three years for which figures are available, broken down by grade. 
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