HC 1463

Written evidence submitted by Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, (EA 37)

I am grateful for the opportunity to give evidence to your Committee on 13 October. During this session, Mr Hamilton asked a question about the use of community languages on which I agreed to provide further evidence to the Committee.

Under the current system, the Electoral Commission sets out the guidance for Electoral Registration Officers (ERO) relating to the accessibility of services. This states that they should "consider contacting relevant community groups, as they may be able to help their members complete the registration form and alert them to the canvass and registration process more generally". The Commission also produce rolling registration forms in a variety of languages. The guidance suggests that EROs may find it helpful to make these accessible to canvassers making house-to-house enquiries.

As I mentioned at the session, there are good examples of how Electoral Registration Officers are currently using community languages when talking to electors about registration for example the use of Bengali translations in Tower Hamlets and the availability of registration information sheets in fourteen additional languages in Hammersmith and Fulham.

I am keen to make the process of registration as easy as possible for all electors and would therefore expect the essence of guidance for EROs to remain. However, guidance on this issue is ultimately a matter for the Electoral Commission and I will ask my officials to take forward discussion with the Commission regarding this issue.

26 October 2011

Prepared 14th November 2011