Weston MP votes for controversial 'voter ID' bill

Voters will go to polling stations on December 12.

John Penrose was one of 325 MPs to pass the Elections Bill. - Credit: Archant

A controversial bill which asks for voters to show photographic identification in future general elections has passed its third reading in the House of Commons.

The Elections Bill, which received 325 votes to be passed, has also received criticism for handing power to ministers over the Electoral Commission - an independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finances in the UK.

A similar system has been used in Northern Ireland since 1985, with photo ID requirements introduced in 2003 to stamp out voting fraud.

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John Penrose said he did not want a 'papers please' society last month. - Credit: John Penrose

Last month, Weston MP, John Penrose rebelled against Boris Johnson's vaccine passport mandate, telling the Mercury that it would "take us further from normal life by turning us into a two-tier, ‘papers please’ society".

However, on January 16, Mr Penrose voted to pass the Elections Bill despite the crux of its content requiring would-be voters to show papers.

Mr Penrose was quizzed on his reasoning for passing the bill and told the Mercury that democracy is dependent on safe elections.

He said: “We have got to make sure British elections stay fair and accurate in a digital world, so we do not leave the door open to fraud.

"Democracy only works if everyone knows their vote cannot be stolen by criminals, foreign powers or unscrupulous politicians either.

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"But the idea that safe elections and convenient voting are opposites and we can only have one or the other but not both is just silly. We can and should expect both at the same time, so our elections stay honest, fair and representative. We would not trust a bank that left its accounts open to fraud, so why should we expect less from our elections?

"Labour and the Libdems made the same arguments when we updated voter registration laws in 2014. But turnout in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 was higher than in 2001, 2005 or 2010."

In May 2021, former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock confirmed that there were only 6 recorded cases of voter fraud in the 2019 general election.

Valid forms of identification would include passports, driving licences, various concessionary travel passes and photocard parking permits issued as part of the Blue Badge scheme. 

Any voter who does not have any of these will be able to apply for a free, local Voter Card from their local authority

North Somerset and Wells' MPs, Liam Fox and James Heappey did not take part in the reading.

More details on the Elections Bill can be found here