Labour hits out at ‘cynical and ugly’ voter ID plans ahead of Queen’s Speech

Labour has hit out at "cynical and ugly" plans to require voters to provide proof of identity when casting a ballot.

A number of measures to tackle voting fraud are expected to be introduced by the government in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech, including on voter ID.

At the moment, people only have to walk into a polling station and give their name and address to vote.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy has criticised the plans to require people to provide identification in the future.

He said: "In the 2019 election, there was just one conviction for voter fraud. 3.5 million British citizens do not have a photo ID.

"This is a cynical and ugly attempt to rig the system to disempower the poorest and most marginalised groups."

Chloe Smith, minister for the constitution and devolution, said the legislation was designed to "stamp out" fraud.

"Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice. Fraud, and the intent to intimidate or coerce a voter, are crimes," she said.

"So this government is stamping out the space for such damage to take place in our elections."

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Voter ID pilots have been held in recent years, including at local elections in 2019.

The Electoral Commission said that in the areas that took part, the proportion of people who initially did not bring the right identification and then did not return ranged from 0.03% of all polling station voters in one council area to 0.7% in two other areas.

The commission said that it could not "draw definitive conclusions" from the pilots "about how an ID requirement would work in practice, particularly at a national poll with higher levels of turnout or in areas with different socio-demographic profiles not fully represented in the pilot scheme".

It added: "If the policy is to be developed further, government and parliament should consider carefully the available evidence about the impact of different approaches on the accessibility and security of polling station voting in Great Britain.

"This should include evidence from the experience of polling station voters in Northern Ireland, who have been required to show ID since 1985 (including requiring photo ID since 2003), as well as the evidence from the local pilot schemes in both 2018 and 2019."

As well as introducing voter ID, the government will tighten the rules around absent voting and voter intimidation.

A ban on postal vote harvesting will be introduced, limiting the number of votes a person can hand in at a polling station on behalf of others.

Voter intimidation will be listed as a form of undue influence in law, in a bid to stop people from being coerced into giving up control over their vote.

Other measures set to be included in the Queen’s Speech are:

– A Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to give police in England and Wales more powers to curtail protests

– An Environment Bill to set new, legally-binding climate targets ahead of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.

– Proposals to reform adult social care may also be set out. Michael Gove said at the weekend that a plan will be "heading for the statute books" by the end of the year.

– A Health and Care Bill to implement planned changes to structure of the NHS in England.

– In a bid to boost housebuilding, a planning bill will relax controls in England.

– A Sovereign Borders Bill will overhaul the asylum system to try and deter migrants from crossing the Channel.

– Ministers have said they will repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act introduced under David Cameron and bring back the prerogative power to call early elections.

– A Building Safety Bill will introduce a new regime of safety regulations and inspections for buildings under construction in the aftermath of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

– Legislation to limit future prosecutions of British soldiers who served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland is anticipated. According to reports, it may also cover paramilitaries.

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