It is a pleasure to close this debate on behalf of the Opposition, and I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare), for Norwich South (Clive Lewis), for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter), for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) and for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) for their contributions. I congratulate the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green) on her excellent maiden speech, really bringing her constituency to us—I feel that we lived part of her beautiful constituency—and I am sure she will be standing up for her constituents in the years ahead.
Labour will be voting against this legislation today. My colleagues on the Labour Benches behind me have laid out in clear terms the dangerous consequences of this legislation. This legislation is unnecessary and expensive, costing £120 million over the next 10 years—at least. It will have a chilling effect on democracy and it is an attack on free and fair campaigning. This legislation will see legitimate voters turned away from polling stations and local councils tied up in mountains of red tape and expense. It is a shameless attempt by the Government to rewrite the rules and rig democracy in favour of the Conservative party.
If passed, this legislation will reverse decades of democratic progress in the UK. The Government have not been honest with us here today or with the British public about the true intention of this Elections Bill. It has been presented as a quick-fix solution to polish up our democracy and introduce integrity into our system, but the truth is that our democracy does not have an issue with integrity; it is the Conservative Government who have the issue with integrity.
This Bill will disenfranchise millions of voters, and we all know that the Tories do better in elections the lower the turnout. It is time to be honest about what this Bill will mean in practice. This Bill will make it harder for working-class people, older people and people with disabilities, as well as black, Asian and minority ethnic people and people with learning disabilities to vote. If Government Members do not agree, will the Minister commit to an equalities impact assessment to work out whether this will be true? There are concerns from so many groups representing those people saying that it will disenfranchise those groups of people.
The voter ID proposals are simply not proportionate to the risk of voter fraud. The Electoral Commission’s own advice, following the pilot schemes in 2018 and 2019, is that we are not able to draw definitive conclusions, from these pilots, about how an ID requirement would work in practice”— how will it work?— 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 very clearly concluded that the significant staffing and financial impact was disproportionate to the security risk of voter fraud. In the pilot, more than 1,000 people were denied a vote because of a lack of ID—1,000 people. Even if one person lacked their ID to vote, that should be a reason to rethink this Bill entirely.
Local by-elections took place across Great Britain between January and March 2020 and there were eight Scottish council by-elections in the autumn of 2020, and there are just three cases of voter fraud under investigation. This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and risks disenfranchising the 3.5 million people who do not have a photo ID for the sake of a tiny handful of fraud allegations. In 2019, there was a record turnout of 59 million votes, as many Members have said, but just one conviction for personation. Someone is more likely to be struck by lightning three times than to be convicted of voter impersonation, so why put in place this Bill?