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Lord Rennard: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I understand the sincerity of his argument about various measures to overcome fraud with postal voting. However, I still believe that the witness signature on the declaration of identity is a necessary weapon in the armoury against fraud at this stage, until such time as there is individual voter registration.

I understand that there may be concerns about the secrecy of the ballot. However, as the ballot paper is inserted into one envelope and can be sealed and seen by nobody else and the declaration of identity then accompanies it, there should be no problem with secrecy. I accept that there may be some problems for some people in acquiring a witness to sign that they are who they say they are. However, we are now at a point at which the all-postal pilot votes may not require that, while in any other region in England, Scotland and Wales, if one votes by post on 10 June, one will require a declaration of identity. I do not see why there should be that difference. On that basis—

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I should like to make one response, which I omitted earlier, to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about the policy paper. He has my apologies if he has not received a copy. We believe that one was sent, but I shall try to ensure that one gets to him this afternoon.

Lord Rennard: My Lords, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

5.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 157; Not-Contents, 110.

Division No. 2


Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ampthill, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blaker, L.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chadlington, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Falkland, V.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fookes, B.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geraint, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Jellicoe, E.
Kilclooney, L.
Kingsland, L.
Laird, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Ludford, B.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Methuen, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Patten, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Rogan, L.
Roper, L. [Teller]
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Tugendhat, L.
Ullswater, V.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Windlesham, L.


Acton, L.
Amos, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blood, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dixon, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Greengross, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Orme, L.
Pendry, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stallard, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

23 Feb 2004 : Column 50

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

5.38 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon): My Lords, I must inform the House that in the first Division this afternoon, the number voting "Not-Content" was 111 and not 110, as previously announced.

I call Amendment No. 7.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, speaks to his amendment, I

23 Feb 2004 : Column 51

draw to the attention of those of your Lordships who did not notice the fact that the Division Bells failed to function in the last Division. The Division was therefore extended to 10 minutes from the conventional eight minutes. If the Division Bells cannot be repaired, we may need to give further thought to how we proceed in future Divisions. Obviously, in this particular case we were caught short, as it were, by the failure of the equipment. Let us hope that it can be repaired.

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 7:

    Page 2, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) The pilot order must make provision for including in the count of votes any postal ballot paper received by the returning officer through the post on the day following the day appointed for the poll (or, where more than one day has been appointed, the last of such days)."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as one of the tellers for the "Not-Contents" in the first Division this afternoon, I feel a certain sense of guilt about the correction that has just been made.

I tabled this amendment because I think it is essential to allow postal voters to vote on polling day, which would be the effect of this amendment. It is wrong in principle to say that postal voters in pilot regions must vote a day earlier than voters in the regions that have conventional polling. It is true, of course, that most recipients of postal ballots are likely to vote quite shortly after receipt of a ballot. That is not necessarily a good thing, but that is what seems to happen in practice. Surely, however, they should have the right to delay their vote until polling day. As has been said, people change their minds as a result of events which may happen at a very late stage during the poll. So it seems right that it should be possible to vote by post on the polling day itself.

When I originally tabled the amendment I had assumed that postal votes cast on a Thursday would be delivered to the returning officer on Friday morning and that postal votes cast on Friday would be delivered until Saturday, with the result that votes received on the Friday would be votes cast on the Thursday—assuming that to have been the polling day—and that they should therefore be counted. I recognise that it is possible under the Government's proposal for people to go to a supported delivery point, but that is likely to be inconvenient in a great majority of the cases and impracticable in a substantial number of them. If there are one, two or, at most, three supported delivery points in each constituency, a journey of many miles may be required to reach them in rural areas. Even in urban areas, supported delivery points may be located in places where parking is difficult or impossible. They may be beyond easy walking distance and involve the voter having to use and pay for public transport.

It now appears from the policy paper published by the Government—I am very grateful for having been sent a copy of it—that I may have been wrong to assume that ballots posted on polling day will not be collected and delivered on that day. Section 6 of the paper states:

23 Feb 2004 : Column 52

    "Royal Mail will be offering a specialised service for these elections which will provide for all electoral mail collected on the day of poll, up to the last collection from post boxes within the local authority area, to be sorted out and made available to electoral administrators at a time that ensures the ballots are available for the close of poll . . . It will ensure that ballots put into post boxes within the local authority area up until the time of last collection (usually between 4.00 pm and 6.00 pm) on the day of the poll are collected and made available for the count.

The policy paper goes on to say:

    "Electoral administrators should make it clear in elections materials that ballots should be posted no later than midday on the day before the date of the poll or otherwise to return completed ballots at a SDP. The 'day of poll sweep' will act as a contingency to catch ballots where electors do not heed this advice".

So far, so good; that means that postal voters will be able to vote by post on Thursday. At the same time, however, it appears that voters will be told not that they can vote on the Thursday, but that they must vote by Wednesday, even though they will in fact have been able to vote by post on the Thursday. If that is the position, then that seems very unsatisfactory. Surely the official election literature must accurately tell the voters the true position. It is entirely legitimate for them to be encouraged to post not later than the day before polling day. However, surely they must be told that ballots posted before the last collection on polling day will in fact be delivered and counted. Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case? I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, as I think the Liberal Democrats appreciate, although we exactly understand the situation, we are not totally in support of the amendment, mainly because we think that without a poll closing time it will be very difficult to decide the time by which a ballot has to be received in order for it to be counted. What will the election literature specify as the time by which a ballot must be posted to ensure that it is counted? To some extent it will depend on the Royal Mail. However, we need to know a little more clearly what the Royal Mail is intending to do. We shall come to that point in a later amendment.

When we spoke to the Minister in a meeting a week or so ago, there was some confusion between the time at which the Royal Mail would make the final collection of ballot papers—between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the day of the poll—and the time by which it would be advisable to post the completed ballot as stated in the election literature. The point may have been covered in the policy paper, but the policy paper will have to be turned into something else, which I presume will be the pilot order. The point will have to be covered in that.

I was pleased to see included in the policy paper a commitment that the number of votes received after the close of poll will be counted to inform an evaluation by the Electoral Commission on the reliability of the system.

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