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2 Mar 2009 : Column 675

I want to ask the Minister a few questions about data security. Will he assure us, on behalf of the individuals of this country, that adequate data security procedures will be in place to ensure that the enormous amount of personal data to which the clauses refer are properly protected—that is, better protected than the personal information that the Government have lost in recent months? Will the Electoral Commission be required to lay before Parliament a copy of its report on the data-sharing scheme? Will the Information Commissioner be required to produce a report in respect of subsection (4)? Will registration officers be required to undertake a privacy impact assessment?

Those are precise questions, but this is not the time for asking them or the atmosphere in which they should be asked; we are now nine minutes from Third Reading. I do not suppose that the Minister will have a chance to answer the questions this evening. [Interruption.] The Minister says that he will write to me, and I appreciate that. However, we should ask the questions in an atmosphere where the Minister and Members can properly scrutinise the information before us.

Having said all that, I am pleased that the Government have brought forward the proposals this evening. As I said a few moments ago, at the beginning of the Bill’s passage we said that there was no point in a political parties and elections Bill that did not include provisions to improve the integrity of the ballot and the individual’s right to register and vote. We are delighted that, at last, the Minister—albeit at the eleventh hour—has come forward with the proposals for which we have been looking for many months.

David Howarth: This has been a remarkable hour and a half. Through a group of new clauses about data sharing, the Government have announced a reform of the entire electoral registration system, and in a wholly new direction. It should be said that my party has called for that new direction for some time; we certainly welcome it and we thank the Government for it. I should also say that, unlike some Conservatives, I have always accepted the Government’s other point, on which the Minister spent a good deal of time before he got to the details of the major concession. It is that if we are to move to a system of individual registration, there needs to be some preparation and a comprehensive study of the possible pitfalls and problems. We do not want there to be a move to an individual registration system that results in a great fall in the number of people registered. We would then have to spend years and years trying to scramble back up to where we were at the beginning.

Mrs. Laing: For the record, I should say that I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman has just said.

David Howarth: I am very glad to hear that. I think that at last we have achieved consensus on an issue where there was no apparent consensus on Second Reading or, for a good deal of the time, in Committee.

There are, though, serious problems to consider, and the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) rightly raised a large number, which I will not repeat because time is short. If I could be forgiven for making a
2 Mar 2009 : Column 676
parochial point from my own constituency, a typical question that arises when one moves to a system of individual registration is what happens to students. At the moment, students in halls of residence are often treated by the electoral registration officer as living in a single household, and the university or college authorities take the role of head of household and fill in the electoral registration forms on behalf of those students. If we are to move to a system of individual registration, as we should, it will take a while for those institutions to work out new ways of encouraging their students to register. That is possible, and it is not something to be afraid of, but it needs time to work through to ensure that it happens.

Like other Members, I am concerned about the process by which this change of direction has been announced. The Minister says that he has been listening in the course of the debates on Second Reading and in Committee. That is true. I would like to pay tribute to the way in which he has approached the Bill; he has indeed listened. However, if someone is listening, they should take sufficient time to work out what they are going to do as a consequence of what they have heard. He might have felt somewhat rushed by the fact that we have had one day on Report, with a second day now under way, and felt that he had to announce these proposals before they had been properly written down. It would have been better, in process terms, and would have shortened the debate—certainly, shortened his speech—if we had taken a few more days before getting to the second day on Report. We would then have had before us proposals that were fully written out and that we could consider and debate in the normal way. As it is, we will end up taking even more time and there will be even more worries about the content of what is proposed.

However, as I said to the hon. Member for Epping Forest earlier, those proposals are not before us tonight: not in this group of new clauses and amendments, nor in any group. Instead, we have before us new clauses about data sharing. Because of the debates that have been going on in the Committee on the Coroners and Justice Bill, many of us are rather more sensitive to the problems raised—

Mr. Hogg: I agree with an awful lot of what the hon. Gentleman has said. The truth is that we do not know the detail of, and we will not have the opportunity properly to discuss, the nature of the amendments to be moved in the other place. Does he agree that the proper thing to do now is to recommit the relevant parts of the Bill to a Public Bill Committee where the Government can table their amendments to be considered and reported back to this House on a further Report stage?

David Howarth: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely correct, given the momentous nature of the new clauses that will be proposed in the other place and the fact that they are about electing Members to this place and nothing to do with what happens in the other place.

Chris Ruane: The hon. Gentleman has expressed his concerns about databases. I think that 420 electoral registration authorities currently have access to local government databases. Can he name one occasion when those databases have been corrupted or shared when they should not have been?

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David Howarth: I do not know of any off the top of my head, but my point concerns the nature of the powers that are being offered in the new clause, which have not been properly examined.

As I said, because of the debate that took place in the Committee considering the Coroners and Justice Bill, there is a great deal more sensitivity in the House about the problems raised by data-sharing orders than there has been, particularly regarding the role of the Information Commissioner in introducing such orders. Also—

9 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 9 February).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

New clause 21 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 22

Schemes under section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers]: proposals, consultation and evaluation

‘(1) A scheme may be included in an order under section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers] only if a proposal has been submitted to the Secretary of State by the registration officer to whom the scheme relates and the scheme gives effect to the proposal, either—

(a) without modification, or

(b) with modifications suggested by the Secretary of State and agreed to by the officer.

(2) The Secretary of State may not make an order under section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers] without first consulting—

(a) the Electoral Commission;

(b) any person authorised or required by the order to provide information to a registration officer;

(c) the Information Commissioner.

(3) An order under section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers] must specify a date (the “evaluation date”) for each scheme included in the order.

The Electoral Commission must prepare a report on the operation of each scheme and, no later than the evaluation date, give a copy of it—

(a) to the registration officer concerned, and

(b) to the Secretary of State.

(4) A report under subsection (3) must set out the terms of the scheme and must contain—

(a) a description of the scheme;

(b) an assessment of the matters set out in subsection (5);

(c) anything else specified in the order under section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers].

(5) The matters are—

(a) the extent to which the scheme has achieved the purpose mentioned in section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers](2);

(b) whether there was any objection to the scheme, and if so how much;

(c) how easy the scheme was to administer;

2 Mar 2009 : Column 678

(d) the extent to which the scheme resulted in savings of time and costs, or the opposite.

(6) The registration officer concerned—

(a) must give the Electoral Commission whatever assistance they reasonably require in connection with the preparation of the report;

(b) must publish the report in whatever way the officer thinks appropriate.

(7) In this section “registration officer” and “scheme” mean the same as in section [Schemes for provision of data to registration officers].’.— (Mr. Wills.)

Brought up, and added to the Bill.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should be most grateful if there were an opportunity to put new clause 23 to a vote on the grounds that it is consistent with decisions previously taken by the House about the security of hon. Members’ home addresses. [ Interruption. ]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. In view of the comments that the hon. Gentleman has made, I have decided that in the circumstances he has outlined, I will select new clause 23 for a separate decision.

New Clause 23

Candidate at parliamentary election may withhold home address from publication

‘(1) Schedule 1 to the 1983 Act (parliamentary elections rules) is amended as follows.

(2) In rule 6 (nomination of candidates)—

(a) sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (2) is omitted;

(b) after paragraph (3) there is inserted—

“(4) The nomination paper must be accompanied by a form (in this Schedule referred to as the “home address form”) which states the candidate’s—

(a) full names, and

(b) home address in full.

Provision in paragraph (1) above about delivery of the nomination paper applies also to the home address form.

(5) The home address form—

(a) may contain a statement made and signed by the candidate that he requires the home address not to be made public; and

(b) if it does so, must state the constituency within which that address is situated (or, if that address is outside the United Kingdom, the country within which it is situated).”

(3) In rule 11 (right to attend nomination)—

(a) in paragraph (3), after “nomination paper” there is inserted “and associated home address form”;

(b) after paragraph (4) there is inserted—

“(5) The returning officer shall not permit a home address form to be inspected otherwise than in accordance with this rule, or for some other purpose authorised by law.”

(4) In rule 12 (validity of nomination papers), in paragraph (1)—

(a) after “consent to it” there is inserted “and the home address form”;

(b) after sub-paragraph (a) there is inserted—

“(aa) the returning officer decides that the home address form does not comply with rule 6(4); or”.

(5) In rule 14 (publication of statement of persons nominated), after paragraph (3) there is inserted—

“(3A) In relation to a nominated person in whose case the home address form (or, if the person is nominated by more than one nomination paper, any of the home address forms) contains—

2 Mar 2009 : Column 679

(a) the statement mentioned in rule 6(5)(a), and

(b) the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b),

the reference in paragraph (2) to the person’s address shall be read as a reference to the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b).”

(6) After paragraph (4) of that rule there is inserted—

“(4A) Where—

(a) two or more of the names shown on the statement are the same or so similar as to be likely to cause confusion,

(b) paragraph (3A) applies in relation to each of the persons in question, and

(c) the information mentioned in rule 6(5)(b) is the same for each of them,

the returning officer may cause any of their particulars to be shown on the statement with such amendments or additions as the officer thinks appropriate in order to reduce the likelihood of confusion.

(4B) Where it is practicable to do so before the publication of the statement, the returning officer shall consult any person whose particulars are to be amended or added to under paragraph (4A).

(4C) The returning officer must give notice in writing to any person whose particulars are amended or added to under paragraph (4A).

(4D) Anything done by a returning officer in pursuance of paragraph (4A) must not be questioned in any proceedings other than proceedings on an election petition.

(4E) A returning officer must have regard to any guidance issued by the Electoral Commission for the purposes of paragraph (4A).”

(7) Before rule 54 there is inserted—

“Destruction of home address forms53A The returning officer shall destroy each candidate’s home address form—

(a) on the next working day following the 21st day after the officer has returned the name of the member elected; or

(b) if an election petition questioning the election or return is presented before that day, on the next working day following the conclusion of proceedings on the petition or on appeal from such proceedings.”’.— (Dr. Julian Lewis.)

Brought up .

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Heath: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether there is any precedent for taking a Division on a completely undebated new clause, which falls in a later group that we have not yet reached, which is in the hands of Back Benchers from an Opposition party and which has not even been moved. Is there a precedent for that?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I have made a decision, and given my ruling and the reasons why this vote has been taken. I have nothing further to add.

The House having divided: Ayes 235, Noes 176.
Division No. 45]
[9.2 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Barker, Gregory

Barlow, Ms Celia
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brake, Tom
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browning, Angela
Bryant, Chris
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clelland, Mr. David
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gale, Mr. Roger
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Patrick
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hayes, Mr. John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret

Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Paice, Mr. James
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Penrose, John
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Pritchard, Mark
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Snelgrove, Anne
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Willis, Mr. Phil
Wilshire, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Wood, Mike
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Wright, Jeremy
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Dan Norris and
Nadine Dorries

Alexander, Danny
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Berry, Roger
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Browne, rh Des
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Cash, Mr. William
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Coffey, Ann
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Creagh, Mary
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Philip
Denham, rh Mr. John
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Duddridge, James
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Engel, Natascha
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Field, Mr. Mark
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Follett, Barbara

Foster, Mr. Don
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Greening, Justine
Grogan, Mr. John
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harris, Dr. Evan
Healey, rh John
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, rh Keith
Hoey, Kate
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Johnson, rh Alan
Jones, Lynne
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kramer, Susan
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Marris, Rob
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mason, John
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Mole, Chris
Moore, Mr. Michael
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mulholland, Greg
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pearson, Ian
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Angus
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Taylor, David
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thornberry, Emily
Thurso, John
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Todd, Mr. Mark
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walley, Joan
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Tellers for the Noes:

Dan Rogerson and
Sir Robert Smith
Question accordingly agreed to.
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