Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effects of the abolition of regional spatial strategies on the joint core strategies which are being developed by local councils; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to all local authority leaders and the Planning Inspectorate confirming the Government's intention to abolish regional strategies and saying that he expects them to have regard to his letter as a material consideration in decisions on applications and local development frameworks, including core strategies. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library of the House.
We want local authorities to put local plans in place as soon as possible, including joint plans where appropriate, to provide greater certainty for communities and investors. However authorities may wish to review elements of their local development frameworks in the light of the impending abolition of regional strategies.
Mr Blunt: The current interim arrangements for the Ministry of Justice are (a) four cars and (b) four drivers allocated to departmental Ministers. This is supplemented by the use of pool cars as needed.
"the number of Ministers with allocated cars and drivers will be kept to a minimum, taking into account security and other relevant considerations. Other Ministers will be entitled to use cars from the Government Car Service Pool as needed".
Mr Kenneth Clarke: The Prime Minister has written to Cabinet Ministers(1) reiterating transparency commitments made in the Coalition Programme for Government, and setting out a timetable for achieving them. In particular, all new items of central Government spending over £25,000 will be published online in an open format from November 2010.
Andrew Stephenson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department is taking to reduce the level of electoral fraud; and if he will undertake a review of current legislation with a view to restricting on-demand postal and proxy votes. 
The Government are committed to tackling electoral fraud by speeding up the introduction of individual electoral registration. This will enhance the accuracy of the register, ensuring that only those entitled to vote are registered.
Postal and proxy voting, along with all other areas of electoral law, are kept under review. As part of this process, we will carefully consider the findings and any recommendations contained in the reports of the Electoral Commission into the conduct of the recent general election.
The Government will work closely with the Electoral Commission, police, political parties and returning officers to raise awareness and strengthen systems to ensure that fraud is detected and prosecuted.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps his Department has taken against local authority electoral registration departments that have not achieved registration targets. 
Responsibility for registering electors lies with individual electoral registration officers (EROs) based within local authorities. EROs do not have statutory registration targets in terms of numbers registered, but operate within a performance standards framework.
Sections 9A and 9B of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 empower the Electoral Commission to set and monitor performance standards for electoral registration officers. As part of this monitoring role, the Commission recently published its second assessment of "The Performance Standards for Electoral Registration Officers in Great Britain (March 2010)".
The Government understand that the Commission has committed to contacting all EROs who have fallen below certain criteria to identify the reasons for poor performance and then to develop appropriate methods to ensure improvement.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 9 March 2009, Official Report, column 88W, on the electoral register, what progress has been made on standardising the wording and layout of rolling registration forms. 
The Government have committed to speeding up the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration. We also need to make sure that-for those who are entitled to vote-it is as straightforward as possible to register. As part of that, we will give consideration to whether all electoral registration forms, including a rolling registration form, should be prescribed. In the meantime the design of rolling registration forms under the current system of electoral registration is a matter for Electoral Registration Officers.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment has been made of the socio-economic profile of citizens who are eligible to be on the electoral register and are not on it. 
The Electoral Commission in its report "The Completeness and Accuracy of Electoral Registers in Great Britain" published in March 2010 found that case studies confirmed that registration rates were especially low among young people, private renters and those who had recently moved home.
It found that the highest concentration of under-registration was likely to be in metropolitan areas, smaller towns and cities with large student populations and coastal areas with significant population turnover and high levels of social deprivation.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 4 March 2009, Official Report, column 1708W, on the electoral register, what the outcomes were of the 2007 financial information survey; and what period elapsed between the survey sampling exercise and the production of the final report. 
The Electoral Commission has informed me that it will be publishing its report into the cost of electoral administration covering the 2007-08 and 2008-09 financial years in early June 2010. The deadline for the survey covering the 2007-08 financial year was 31 July 2008 and that for the 2008-09 financial year was 31 July 2009. After this information was collated, the data were verified, analysed and checked and the findings are to be published shortly. The information will be placed on the Commission's website when it is published.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment has been made of the effects of functional illiteracy on the ability of people to fill in electoral registration forms; and what steps have been taken to assist functionally illiterate people to register. 
The Electoral Commission is responsible for guidance for electoral registration officers (EROs). The Commission recommends that the electoral registration office and contact staff are trained to deal with inquiries from people who have low level reading and writing skills and suggests that EROs may want to produce easy-read literature to enable greater understanding of the registration process.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 4 March 2009, what the results were of the pilot data matching schemes under which public authorities will provide registration officers with information to assist them in maintaining an accurate and comprehensive register. 
The Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 makes provision for the piloting of data-matching schemes to test which data sets help to maintain the completeness and accuracy of the register. As yet, no pilots have been carried out under this legislation.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward proposals to register unregistered voters before the implementation of any review of parliamentary constituency boundaries. 
It is important that all eligible individuals should exercise their democratic right to register and vote. The Government have committed to speed up the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER). We will be considering how the electoral registration system can be improved in that context.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what estimate his Department has made of the effect on the size of the registered electorate of the introduction of individual voter registration. 
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many full-time equivalent personnel were employed in electoral registration departments in each local authority on the latest date for which figures are available. 
I understand from the Electoral Commission that it has collected this information for the 2007-08 financial year only. I also understand that it will be published on the Commission's website alongside its report into the cost of electoral administration, covering the 2007-08 and 2008-09 financial years, which it expects to publish in early June.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice which local authorities have achieved the highest increase in levels of voter registration in the last two years; and what steps his Department has taken to ensure that the practices leading to such increases are adopted in other local authorities. 
According to data supplied by the Office for National Statistics, the five local authorities with the highest cumulative increase in levels of voter registration over the last two years were Sheffield city council, Birmingham city council, the London borough of Hackney, Manchester city council and the London borough of Barnet.
The Electoral Commission published research on electoral registration and a report on EROs' performance in March 2010: "The Completeness and Accuracy of Electoral Registers in Great Britain"; and the "Report on Performance Standards for Electoral Registration Officers in Great Britain".
The Government have no current plans to commission such research. The Government have committed to accelerate the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER). Work is under way to consider how implementation will be carried out. The design of forms and access issues will clearly be relevant to any changes to the electoral registration system.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 26 February 2009, Official Report, columns 988-89W, on the electoral register, what progress the Office for National Statistics made on publishing figures for the 2008 annual canvass. 
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the figures for the 2008 annual canvass in February 2009. The number of parliamentary electors in the UK grew by 111,595 to 45,194,449 and the number of local government electors in the UK grew by 227,374 to 46,147,877.
In February 2010, the ONS published the figures for the 2009 canvass. The number of parliamentary electors grew by 226,359 to 45,420,808; and the number of local government electors grew by 308,013 to 46,455,890.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 24 June 2008, Official Report, columns 243-4W, on the "Electoral Register: Fines", which local authorities have initiated proceedings for failure to complete and return an annual registration. 
This information is not collected centrally. Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) have a statutory duty to maintain a complete and accurate electoral register. It is for individual EROs to decide on what action to take in relation to non-completion of an individual annual canvass form.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much his Department paid electoral registration officers in local government for work on election administration in the last 12 months. 
Funding for electoral registration activities is met through the Revenue Support Grant (RSG), administered by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Once these funds are allocated, decisions on how they are utilised are a matter for the local authorities concerned.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people resident in each parliamentary constituency were added to the electoral register in (a) February, (b) March and (c) April 2010. 
The Electoral Commission has received some information from returning officers about increases to the register ahead of the general election and I understand that it will include such information in its election report, which it expects to publish in July.