Sunderland MP clashes with Clegg over election shake-up

Nick Clegg and, below, Julie Elliott.
Nick Clegg and, below, Julie Elliott.
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AN MP has taken Nick Clegg to task over election changes she fears will put off voters in Sunderland.

The Coalition Government plans to require people to register individually, instead of using one form per household as they do now.

Julie Elliott new Labour Party MP for Sunderland Central.

Julie Elliott new Labour Party MP for Sunderland Central.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said this was likely to cause areas such as Wearside to shed voters from the electoral register, which could lead to the city being under-represented in Parliament.

Speaking to Mr Clegg in a House of Commons debate, she said: “The Electoral Commissioner says that with these changes more than 10million people will fall off the register.

“How will the Deputy Prime Minister protect people in urban areas like mine of Sunderland Central from disenfranchisement?”

Mr Clegg dismissed Ms Elliott’s claims and suggested she was not accurate in her claims.

“The honourable Lady must be careful not to misrepresent what the Electoral Commissioner said.

“It did not say that this system will lead to a drop-off on that scale. The Electoral Commissioner clarified the point in subsequent publications.

“The Electoral Commission said ‘we would not want to see a move away from the current approach – where electoral registration, though not compulsory, is regarded as an important civic duty’.

“We are maintaining that civic duty – we are maintaining the offence of failing to provide that information when asked for it.”

Ms Elliott had previously questioned Mr Clegg on whether it would be better to make it an offence not to return one of the new individual electoral registration request forms.

He replied: “As I have explained, we believe that individual electoral registration is the right thing to do.

“Preparations were made under the previous Government to introduce it.

“We brought it forward slightly and, as the Minister and I have explained, we are taking meticulous steps to ensure that it does not lead to a decline in overall rates of registration.”

It is not the first time the Coalition Government’s plans to change the election system have raised eyebrows in Sunderland.

Both Labour and Conservative politicians have objected to proposals to redraw the city’s election map, changing wards around to create three new constituencies – Washington, Sunderland and Houghton.

The move would drag parts of Gateshead back into Sunderland’s Parliamentary constituencies.

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