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Lord Greaves: My Lords, we have indeed seen it in Oldham. Again, it is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, is now interjecting from a sedentary position because we have missed his great experience over the years. It was a great pity that he could not take part in the Grand Committee, in particular, and in the other stages of the Bill. His experience would have been extremely valuable, whether it be from Oldham, Wigan or anywhere else.

I should say to the noble Lord that there are many reports of landlords voting on behalf of tenants in Oldham. They go round, collect the rent, collect the ballot papers and send them back. The noble Lord is nodding. I would not like to say whether it is limited to one party or to two parties. I would like to say that it is perhaps a cultural issue but, whatever it is, it is highly undesirable.

On the other hand, if votes are being stolen without the knowledge of the elector and the elector gets a letter from the town hall stating, "Your vote has been sent in", surely that is a fundamental safeguard against fraud. We are all concerned about fraud and I therefore support my noble friend's amendment.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 160

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall be brief. As to the good question of the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, about why last week that and this week this, the answer is that the declaration of identity with witness requirement is the norm for postal ballots in traditional elections. This is different because it is a pilot and we are testing out a different system in this respect. The reason that we have done so in the way proposed initially in the House, which the Commons now insist on, is because the evidence points that way.

I would be the first to agree with the noble Lords, Lord Rennard and Lord Greaves, that if these measures—perhaps with some caution about the second one, which is expensive—appeared to address the problem, we should look at them. When I first engaged with the Bill, on first flush it appeared to be the case that a witness signature would increase security and would be beneficial. But the evidence from the Electoral Commission in that respect is that that is not so, and the evidence from Scope—a charity for the disabled which has done more research on this than anyone—is that there are significant disadvantages as a consequence. So there is no measure of hostility on this; it is merely that the evidence does not support the fact that these changes will work.

I also agree with the noble Lord that we should be serious about the assessment of the scale of fraud, in both postal and other elections. I am four square with him on that. But I do not think that an acknowledgement is the way to achieve it. I have sought, in a condensed form, to set out the ways in which I believe that assessment should be carried out as part of the evaluation of these pilots. For those reasons, not through any sense of hostility, I do not think we would be wise to support these measures because there is no evidence that they will work.

Lord Rennard: My Lords, I agree with the Minister that in due course it will probably be unnecessary to have these declarations of identity accompanied by a witness signature. But, until we have individual voter registration, as my noble friend Lord Greaves explained so persuasively and powerfully, the system is seen to be open to abuse and has been abused in a number of areas.

We are experimenting now with voting mechanisms and, when we have safeguards in the vast majority of the country for everyone who applies to vote by post, it is wholly inappropriate that we should eliminate those safeguards and simply send out ballot papers, almost willy-nilly, through every letter box. That seems totally wrong.

The arguments put forward by Scope, much as I respect it and disabled people, have effectively been countered during the debate. In my long experience of elections, these people are used to voting by post rather than going to a polling station. They seem to have no problem with the system at the moment and I do not see why they should have a problem with the system in the future. For those reasons, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 161

4.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 174; Not-Contents, 126.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Arran, E.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blaker, L.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Deedes, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Feldman, L.
Fookes, B.
Fowler, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greaves, L.
Greengross, B.
Greenway, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hylton, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kilclooney, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, 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.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Mancroft, L.
Mar, C.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prior, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L. [Teller]
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vinson, L.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wilcox, B.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Andrews, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bhatia, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Chorley, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dearing, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Haskins, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Jordan, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkhill, L.
Laming, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Orme, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, 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.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

16 Mar 2004 : Column 163

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Bill returned to the Commons with reasons.


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