Live Cabinet Office Questions House of Commons


Live Cabinet Office Questions

Live coverage of questions in the House of Commons to the cabinet office minister Ben Gummer and his team.


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of the day in both Houses of Parliament at 11 tonight, first,

:00:00.:00:00.

questions to the Cabinet Office Minister, Ben, full of second

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reading. -- Ben Gummer. Wednesday, 22nd of February, thank you.

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Although, questions to the Minister and... INAUDIBLE

:00:16.:00:18.

Neil Parish... Minor likeness, I beg your pardon!

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LAUGHTER The government published its review

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to the response of electoral fraud, on the 27th of December, the

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response clearly sets out the action that the government intends to take

:00:49.:00:53.

out on each recommendation and proposes a conference programme for

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reforming the electoral system and making democracy more secure. My

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apologies to the both of you, I'm not sure who is more offended(!)

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LAUGHTER In December, 2008, I was an election

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observer in Bangladesh, because of previous voter fraud, they

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photographed 80 million people, and it was clearly identifiable when

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people went to vote map so has the government considered this, because

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in a democracy we need as many people devote as possible but we

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don't want theft of identity when people vote? A very good point made

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around international comparisons, many countries across the world

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including Canada, Brazil, Austria, that already have photographic ID

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when it comes to pulling stations including in Northern Ireland,

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introduced if 2003. The government is taking forward pilots in looking

:01:45.:01:48.

forward at electoral identification, this will take place in local

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government elections of 2018, we will test various forms of

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identification, photographic ID, non-photographic ID, to make sure no

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one is disenfranchised. The government talk of voter fraud is a

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smoke screen for voter suppression. Macro Barack

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they are putting obstacles between people and the voting booth, instead

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of boosting democracy. If it is such a problem, can the Minister report

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family convictions there have been four voter fraud last year? I'm

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surprised the honourable gentleman for somehow claiming this was a

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smoke screen, it was a Labour government which introduced

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photographic ID in Northern Ireland in 2003, the electoral commission

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and all other administrators have called for ID in polling stations,

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when it comes to looking at IDE, we will test this vigorously when it

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comes to pilots and when it comes to convictions, 481 cases of voter

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fraud reported to the election commission and 184 additional cases

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reported to the police. -- when it comes to looking at ID. 30% of the

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population believe there is an issue with voter fraud when it comes to

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their local area and it is perception we are looking to tackle.

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The number of organisations that the Minister has just quoted, plus the

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organisation for Security and Corporation in Europe warned us that

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are a voting system is particularly vulnerable to identity theft. Given

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that all those countries that the Minister said, there is no evidence

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of any voter suppression, do you think, does the Minister think that

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those who seek to use these conspiracy theories are in grave

:03:38.:03:40.

risk of becoming apologists for electoral fraud? We are determined

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to ensure that we have a clear and secure democracy, that voters can

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have confidence in that system. As a government we have 46.5 million

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people on the electoral register, Turner increasing to 30.8 million in

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2015, we are determined to ensure that we have voter participation but

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it is right that if there is a public perception that fraud is an

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issue, perceptions can be as damaging as cases of fraud itself.

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Has the Minister made any equality impact assessment on recommendations

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which would ban the use of any language other than English or Welsh

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in pulling stations? When it comes to the package of measures that we

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reported back on Sir Eric's report, looking at the issue of language is

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an important one, it is important that when comes to electoral

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administrators doing their job and being confident that no one is put

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under it and you pressure when it comes to voting, that we look at the

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question of language. When it comes to government announcements, they

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will be thorough and analysed correctly and we will go through due

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process to make sure impact assessments are correctly cooperated

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with. Number two, Mr Speaker. With your permission, I shall answer this

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question, and question three and five together. In response to the

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review of electoral fraud by my right honourable friend, we outline

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the intention to run a number of pilot schemes, at a number of local

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authority areas in 2018, the purpose of this is to test the impact on

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elections of asking collectors to present identification. Would my

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friend agree with me that voting is one of the most important duties of

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a citizen, and introducing proof of ID would bring voting into line with

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other everyday transactions like buying a mortgage or renting a car?

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I agree with my honourable friend, when it comes to voting there cannot

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be a important transaction that you can make over five years the two

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elected your counsellor or MP, it is right that that process is

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respected. -- -- than to elect. Turning up and claiming your name as

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your identity, does not happen anywhere else and it is time to

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bring democracy up-to-date. Voter fraud is unacceptable and I welcome

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any measure to secure democracy. Swindon borough council has

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repeatedly been commended for good election practice, with the Minister

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consider us for future pilots? I would like to thank my honourable

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friend for his question, we have a great deal of interest from local

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authorities in the pilot process, at the moment we are conducting a

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review to decide exactly what the form most pilots will take, some

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will be photographic ID, some will be non-photographic ID, at the same

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time we are determined to ensure that interested local authorities

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can come forward in due time to participate. I addressed the

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Association of electoral administrators at their annual

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conference on Friday in Brighton, and 40% supported introducing ID in

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polling stations. My honourable friend is absolutely right, this is

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common practice in many sophisticated democracies around the

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world, what best practice has the government been taking on those

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other countries? One double friend is entirely right, by introducing

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pilot schemes we will provide invaluable learning for

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strengthening the electoral system but we also want to learn from

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international comparisons such as canister, Austria and Brazil which

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require voter identification. Voters in Northern Ireland, as stated, have

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had to present identification since 1985 and photographic since 2003,

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further information is available on the report, and we will consider

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these international comparisons going forward. Thank you Mr Speaker,

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the government is deluding itself if it thinks that impersonation is the

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main challenge to the integrity of the democratic system, in fact, a

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main challenge to its integrity and credibility is the fact that

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millions of our fellow citizens who are entitled to vote do not do so,

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would the government not be better to spend time and money on pilot

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projects designed to increase participation such as a radical

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overhaul of how we teach democratic rights in schools, pursuing online

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voting, and most of all, automatic voter registration, so that the

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ability to vote is not something you have to apply for. I'm grateful for

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him to raise that point, we have a record 46.5 million people now on

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the electoral register, Turner at elections is at a record level, what

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we can and must do more. The idea of a Clare and -- the idea of a clear

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democracy is important. INAUDIBLE I will be setting out the democratic

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engagement strategy later in the spring, which will set out further

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pilots. INAUDIBLE Will the Minister give the assurance

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that the issue of postal vote applications and proxy vote

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applications which also can be the subject can be kept under review in

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terms of identification of the accurate person who is supposed to

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be applying for the postal vote? I'm very grateful for that point being

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raised, when we publish the response to Eric Pickles's report, the top

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line was ID in polling stations but there are an entire package of

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measures that include looking again at postal vote fraud, and banning

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harvesting of personal votes by political parties and eliminating

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the number of postal vote packs that can be handled by family members

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down to two. The electoral commission tells us 3.5 million

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genuine legitimate electors do not have valid pieces of photo

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identification which would be required in the trials and they risk

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being denied their votes. The motion was recently asked opposing the

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trial in Kendal, Burnley are considering a similar motion, when

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will the Minister abandoned his Republican party's playbook on voter

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suppression and listen to the sensible voice of the good folk of

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Lancashire? The honourable lady mentions the electoral commission,

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what she omitted to say was that they have stated the full and

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considered response from the government and the announcement of

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the intention to pilot measures, the election commission are in favour of

:10:28.:10:30.

introducing photographic ID when it comes to elections, what we have

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said, when it comes to the pilots, we want evidence -based policy

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making, that is why we will have pilots that look at photographic ID,

:10:39.:10:42.

and non-photographic ID, but let me say, when it comes to ensuring

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people will be able to vote I will not be denying anybody that

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franchise we are protecting communities that are most vulnerable

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from actually casting their vote in a secret ballot. We must protect

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against and you've implements. I'm surprised she does not take this

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seriously. -- we must protect against undue. INAUDIBLE

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It is perfectly legal for local authorities to be able to set their

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own procurement rules, taking into account additional factors such as

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human rights record and environmental impact? Local

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authorities must comply with European Union law, they are

:11:36.:11:38.

enshrined in the public contracts. Would my right honourable friend

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Tommy Hamid a people he has in his departmental staff that run a small

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businesses and can understand small businesses when they seek to procure

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public-sector contracts and against bureaucracy? My team of two

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comprises of one person who has run several small businesses and one who

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is a sole trader. That is 100% fulfilment on his request. We also

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have a small enterprise ambassador who worked at the council to make

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sure we are doing exactly as he wishes. Before he quit a friend of

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mine empowered Waitrose managers... I'm not blaming him! Empowered

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Waitrose managers to go out and procure local products. Cover not

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give similar encouragement to bodies like county and district councils? I

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commend everything that the honourable gentleman's and has done.

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I know he will bring that expertise in due course to the people of the

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West Midlands. What I will say is that although councils and public

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bodies cannot choose according to geographical criteria, what they can

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and must do is take into account the social value of the procurement

:13:23.:13:27.

policies and that is why there is latitude for them to have similar

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approaches to the one that his friend conducted at Waitrose.

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Ministers have talked a great deal about linking apprenticeships to

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public procurement contracts, a sensible use of public funds to meet

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both the schools agenda. The commission confirmed last week that

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only 10% of new apprenticeships are taken from those from low-income

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families. Given the Cabinet Office's unique place to promote this agenda,

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what is the minister doing to tackle this unacceptable situation? The

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honourable gentleman raises are just point. The whole point behind the

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apprenticeship programme is to give opportunities to people who would

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not otherwise have them. That is why the 3 million target we have is

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important. The public sector will contribute a significant proportion.

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I'm responsible for the civil service component of that which is

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successful. We've launched the standards that will surround some of

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the civil service apprenticeships and a hope in time we will fulfil

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Philby aspiration we both had that it will help social mobility. The

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government has identified photographic and non-photographic

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identification that will test ID on all aspects of election, including

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turnout. I know the electoral commission on the report in Northern

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Ireland said that less than 1% of voters were affected by photo ID.

:15:08.:15:12.

That is why we want to look at both to make sure there is no

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disenfranchisement taking place in our pilot. The Electoral Commission

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reported in 2016 that 3.5 electors will have no appropriate form of

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photo IDs. Why is it that the government is ignoring

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recommendations to have a voluntary voter card which would allow those

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2.5 million people to vote? The honourable gentleman is a fine

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historian. Like me he believes in looking at evidence -based policy

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making, which is why we have constructed the pilots to make sure

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there is photographic and non-photographic identification. If

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there is anyone who has no form of identification, we will make

:15:54.:15:57.

provisions for them. When it comes to the electoral ID card rolling out

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across the country, it will be expensive and we have no plans to do

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so. Workforce planning is primarily the responsibility of each

:16:10.:16:14.

individual department, but in answer to her specific question, civil

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service headcount reduced by 303,090 -- 3390. Will he publish the

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assessment regarding Brexit and the work streams that have been cut. We

:16:34.:16:39.

have worked since July to make sure we have the proper resources in

:16:40.:16:43.

place to make sure our exit from the European Union is done effectively

:16:44.:16:47.

and efficiently. Departmental plans will have the kind of outline she is

:16:48.:16:54.

seeking. As my honourable friend continues to modernise the civil

:16:55.:16:59.

service headcount, will he make sure that apprenticeships will lead

:17:00.:17:06.

towards a more diverse workforce to serve our communities? I will assure

:17:07.:17:10.

my honourable friend precisely that. My predecessor started a programme

:17:11.:17:15.

of understanding better the social and economic make-up of the civil

:17:16.:17:20.

service and we will make sure that there is more social equality and

:17:21.:17:23.

diversity in our civil service. We are seeking to find savings of

:17:24.:17:40.

?15 billion by 2020. We have achieved the 3p in the last year. As

:17:41.:17:49.

a councillor I have seen how the commissioning of services from one

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provider by different public sector bodies can drive down costs,

:17:54.:18:00.

providing high-quality services at lower costs. Are there lessons to be

:18:01.:18:04.

learnt from all sectors of government and this programme is

:18:05.:18:10.

evidence that the public sector can deliver more for less. He is right

:18:11.:18:20.

to point out the Cabinet programme, but many of the lessons we can learn

:18:21.:18:25.

is from local government and others in terms of sharing services and

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cutting costs. Will he ensure that the public services can share data

:18:38.:18:41.

because that will provide efficiency? There is a bill passing

:18:42.:18:45.

through the house that will do just that. We are committed to

:18:46.:18:56.

improving public services with advanced technology. We are doing

:18:57.:19:06.

server using tools such as verified. I would liken to reassure the house

:19:07.:19:11.

and the government that he is doing everything he can to make sure that

:19:12.:19:16.

people can access public services online, particularly for those hard

:19:17.:19:20.

to reach groups, like in my rural constituencies.

:19:21.:19:31.

By ensuring we have good broadband connections are my honourable

:19:32.:19:37.

friend's constituency, we will make sure they can access the information

:19:38.:19:45.

online. The Cabinet Office is the centre of government. The department

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is responsible for delivering a democracy that works for everyone.

:19:52.:19:56.

We are also driving efficiencies to make government work better. Can the

:19:57.:20:00.

Minister provides an update on any progress with the PM's order to

:20:01.:20:06.

tackle racial disparities, given so much is already known about these

:20:07.:20:11.

disparities. Should not then the government be getting on with doing

:20:12.:20:19.

the great -- a great deal more about them now rather than waiting for an

:20:20.:20:23.

audit. I find that a surprising thing from the honourable lady. It

:20:24.:20:29.

was this government and this Prime Minister that commissioned the

:20:30.:20:32.

racial disparity audit. Her party when in power have 13 years to do it

:20:33.:20:40.

and did not. I'm proud of what the Prime Minister has done, we will be

:20:41.:20:43.

publishing the audit within the next three months and she will be excited

:20:44.:20:47.

by the possibilities of making things better in this country. Safe

:20:48.:21:02.

tech engineering offers security for cyber issues. They need to be

:21:03.:21:07.

licensed by another list company of the MoD. Will businesses be able to

:21:08.:21:23.

access the markets they need? I have a responsibility for small and

:21:24.:21:28.

medium enterprises and I will take forward his concern to make sure

:21:29.:21:34.

they are represented. Since 2010 the has been more than 100,000 civil

:21:35.:21:46.

service jobs gone. The 300 new recruits for the Brexit department,

:21:47.:21:49.

is the Minister really, really serious that the UK are properly

:21:50.:21:54.

prepared to enter the most complex negotiations for generations? The

:21:55.:22:01.

reality is it is an absolute shambles. I am fully confident and I

:22:02.:22:08.

am fully confident that the civil service and the marvellous people

:22:09.:22:26.

who... Last week I met with the Sussex Police to discuss issues

:22:27.:22:31.

including electoral fraud. What steps are being taken to make sure

:22:32.:22:38.

that the government are involved with the returning officers. Last

:22:39.:22:44.

Friday I addressed a conference of the National police chiefs and

:22:45.:22:51.

electoral commission setting out why things need to be done. There have

:22:52.:22:55.

been cases in the past were convictions have not been followed

:22:56.:22:59.

through. It is wrong and I hope that changes in the future. One of the

:23:00.:23:06.

government publish departmental performance regarding its commitment

:23:07.:23:10.

to deliver ever higher levels of UK steel content in procurement policy?

:23:11.:23:19.

My honourable friend knows it was this government that established a

:23:20.:23:23.

far more rigorous understanding of how still content was in public

:23:24.:23:26.

procurement policy. I will update him on the progress we are making. I

:23:27.:23:33.

applaud the government's efforts to give more contracts to small and

:23:34.:23:39.

medium-size enterprises and the use of technologies such as their

:23:40.:23:46.

websites. How many businesses are signed up to this website and how

:23:47.:23:52.

can I get more businesses in Wisbech to sign up? As of yesterday there

:23:53.:23:57.

were 15,007 job and 45 businesses signed up. -- 15700 and 45. It is

:23:58.:24:09.

easy to sign up and the best he can do is to tell them to do so. Will

:24:10.:24:15.

the Minister enhance strength in the Northern Powerhouse to make sure it

:24:16.:24:23.

you'll sure SMEs can take advantage of public procurement contracts? In

:24:24.:24:26.

the methods I have been describing today, I shall. Will my right

:24:27.:24:37.

honourable friend accept that when we are told that it's good to talk,

:24:38.:24:45.

government departments are making it infinitely more difficult for

:24:46.:24:49.

members to contact private offices on behalf of their constituents

:24:50.:24:53.

because of the inaccuracies and the withdrawal of the central register

:24:54.:24:59.

of private office numbers? Can the Minister tell us when the practice

:25:00.:25:03.

of putting the communal number in the register will be stopped and the

:25:04.:25:08.

individual numbers of ministers private offices are stored as it was

:25:09.:25:17.

so began a public communication between ministers officers and

:25:18.:25:20.

members on behalf of other constituents? Mr Speaker, I own

:25:21.:25:27.

members an apology for this. If it is true that some of the telephone

:25:28.:25:31.

numbers in the directory were both inaccurate and some were general

:25:32.:25:35.

numbers. The revision is being made quarterly. The next one is in March

:25:36.:25:39.

and I have instructed all departments to provide private

:25:40.:25:42.

office numbers as members rightly expect. Order. Questions to be Prime

:25:43.:25:50.

Minister. Mr Toby Perkins. In addition to my duties I shall

:25:51.:26:08.

have further such meetings today Mr Speaker, the Government chose to

:26:09.:26:10.