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The noble Duke asked about personal identities being inconsistent with England and Wales where other changes are also being introduced. We are keen to remain consistent with England and Wales and will

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commence this provision for Scotland after May. We felt that already a number of significant changes were being introduced for electoral administrators in May, including the introduction of electronic counting and the single transferable vote for the local government elections to be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament. That is why they will not be introduced until after May.

The noble Duke also asked about the number of anonymous registrations. We have no knowledge of how many people will avail themselves of the right to register anonymously, but we will monitor the numbers after the provision comes into effect in June. He also asked how anonymous registrants will vote at polling stations. The voter at the polling station will be identified by poll card, which the voter will need to take to show to the presiding officer.

The noble Duke asked what it means when we say that the sorting papers should be face down. It means that the front of the paper on which you cast your vote goes face down. He asked what the Government are doing about incompatibility with the ECHR. The Government’s consultation paper was issued on 14 December with a 12-week deadline for comments. As signalled in the foreword by the Lord Chancellor, the Government wish to launch a debate on how best to implement the Grand Chamber judgment in the Hirst case, which required a review of the current blanket ban on prisoners’ rights to vote. The responses to the consultation, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, told us, closed today, will be analysed and, if appropriate, drafting of phase 2 consultation will occur between April and June 2007. The response paper for the phase 1 consultation completed on 7 March is expected to be published in June 2007. The noble Duke also asked whether elections would be put in limbo by an ECHR challenge. The answer is no: the elections will proceed in May as planned. He also asked whether there would be a limit on commonly used names. It refers to a commonly used name defined in legislation and there is no prescription on what that should be.

The Duke of Montrose: My issue on the challenge and the ECHR was not that it would stop the election; it was that the challenge would come after the election. A number of people might challenge their inability to vote, which might change the result. Would that mean a breakdown in the progress from the election?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I am advised that we do not feel that there is any danger in that happening.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: That is not an answer.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: It is the only answer Members of the Committee will get today. I will write to the noble Baroness if she can tell me exactly her concern.

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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My noble friend suggested that the outcome might be affected by the fact that prisoners had not voted, which is possible. We need to know the answer. Could the fact that prisoners have not voted put the result of the election in limbo? It is a straight question and not a question of whether or not it might happen.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The straight answer is no, it could not happen, because what we are proposing is not an illegal action.

The Duke of Montrose: I am grateful to hear that from the Minister. The question is whether a whole bunch of smart lawyers would also consider that it was not an illegal action; they might raise a case.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: Another point is that the election cannot be illegal as prisoners are not eligible to vote.

To turn to the noble Duke’s ninth question, he asked what confidence we had in electronic counting. The electronic counting system has been independently verified; the same system is used in GLA elections and comprehensive training and guidance are provided to electoral administrators.

Finally—or not quite finally, because there are 11 questions—the noble Duke asked how much e-counting would cost. It is difficult to be precise because some costs will not be known until after the count has concluded and accounts are submitted to the Scotland Office. At this time, however, we estimate the costs at around £4.7 million.

The noble Duke asked whether the corresponding number list would be publicly available. The answer is no; rule 71 prevents public inspection of the list and keeps ballot papers confidential, unless a court wishes to inspect them.

I move on to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. He asked why it had taken so long to issue the consultation paper. It is on a complex and controversial area that required full consideration within government. I can confirm that statements made by David Cairns in press and media after the declaration of incompatibility judgment reflect accurately the Government’s view. The Government are not persuaded that lifting the blanket ban on prisoners is the best way forward in these circumstances, but we must take account of the European judgment and initiate a public debate and reflection on the present position.

I was asked why the JCSI’s report on the order highlights that it represents an unexpected and unusual use of power under Section 12 of the Scotland Act. The JCSI brought to Parliament’s attention that the order contains certain provisions that carry forward the blanket ban on prisoners voting contained in the Representation of the People Act 1983, which had been judged to be not ECHR compliant. The view of the JCSI is that Parliament would normally expect that the power to make any subordinate legislation would be exercised in a way that is compatible with the ECHR. It is, therefore, unexpected that this order is

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being exercised in this way. However, the JCSI has also indicated that it does not think the provisions of the order are unlawful.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, asked about the ballot paper and whether the names of nominated regional candidates will be displayed in polling stations. Details of all regional candidates will be clearly displayed in the polling stations. The lists will also be sent to all postal voters with their postal ballot papers.

The noble Lord also asked about multi-party descriptions and whether, for example, Alex Salmond’s name could be used on ballot papers that were not for the constituency in which he was standing. That would be possible as long as the description used on the ballot papers was one of the 12 descriptions registered by the party. However, it would appear as the party description and not the candidate’s name.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I am sure that what the Minister said is factually absolutely correct, but my complaint, and that of my noble friend, is that the registration process ought to be looked at again. I hope that the Minister will draw that to the attention of those responsible for the registration process because once that is done I accept that it has to be on the ballot paper. It is questionable whether this practice should go on.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: We will be very happy to draw the noble Lord’s concerns to the attention of the relevant people.

On the question of the eligibility to vote in local government elections, registration officers make decisions on who is entitled to be on the register based on the information received. We are introducing the co-ordinated register of electors to assist in future with a UK-wide approach to registering eligible voters.

I have already dealt with confidence in the electronic counting system. I was asked whether we can use manual counting as a fallback. The electronic system has been independently verified and tested, and a manual count can be used if the electronic system fails.

At the moment, there is one question that we are unable to answer. It came from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, and I shall write to her on whether the different descriptions of parties have to be consistent between the regions and between the constituency and regional lists. I will send a copy of that letter to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is right that parties can register up to 12 descriptions with the Electoral Commission.

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I was asked when the Government will provide the results of their voting systems review. Discussions are continuing within government in preparation for the review. No decision has yet been taken regarding timing for conducting it.

Lord Greaves: I was really asking whether the review will take account of the current crop of elections as well as of elections in the past. Will they be new evidence for the inquiry to look at?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: We do not know and will have to write in answer to that question. I think I have answered all the questions—

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My noble friend asked about what happens when an anonymous voter goes to vote and the Minister said that he has to take his polling card with him. Will he be told that he has to? At the moment, when one votes, one does not have to take one’s polling card. Lots of people think that they have to and produce them, but one does not have to. At the moment, there is no personal identifier system, so will that person be told and if so, when? Will it be when it is agreed that he can be an anonymous voter? That is important.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I can confirm that he will be told when he is sent the postal vote.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Representation of the People (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2007

6.58 pm

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Representation of the People (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2007. 9th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2007

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2007. 9th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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