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,


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


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


Although, questions to the Minister and... INAUDIBLE


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


LAUGHTER The government published its review


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


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


out on each recommendation and proposes a conference programme for


reforming the electoral system and making democracy more secure. My


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


LAUGHTER In December, 2008, I was an election


observer in Bangladesh, because of previous voter fraud, they


photographed 80 million people, and it was clearly identifiable when


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


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


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


around international comparisons, many countries across the world


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


when it comes to pulling stations including in Northern Ireland,


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


forward at electoral identification, this will take place in local


government elections of 2018, we will test various forms of


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


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


smoke screen for voter suppression. Macro Barack


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


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


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


surprised the honourable gentleman for somehow claiming this was a


smoke screen, it was a Labour government which introduced


photographic ID in Northern Ireland in 2003, the electoral commission


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


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


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


fraud reported to the election commission and 184 additional cases


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


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


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


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


organisation for Security and Corporation in Europe warned us that


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


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


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


those who seek to use these conspiracy theories are in grave


risk of becoming apologists for electoral fraud? We are determined


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


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


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


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


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


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


Has the Minister made any equality impact assessment on recommendations


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


process to make sure impact assessments are correctly cooperated


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


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


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


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


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


elections of asking collectors to present identification. Would my


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


any measure to secure democracy. Swindon borough council has


repeatedly been commended for good election practice, with the Minister


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


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


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


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


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


time we are determined to ensure that interested local authorities


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


Association of electoral administrators at their annual


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


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


common practice in many sophisticated democracies around the


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


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


pilot schemes we will provide invaluable learning for


strengthening the electoral system but we also want to learn from


international comparisons such as canister, Austria and Brazil which


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


had to present identification since 1985 and photographic since 2003,


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


these international comparisons going forward. Thank you Mr Speaker,


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


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


main challenge to its integrity and credibility is the fact that


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


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


projects designed to increase participation such as a radical


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


pilots. INAUDIBLE Will the Minister give the assurance


that the issue of postal vote applications and proxy vote


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


terms of identification of the accurate person who is supposed to


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


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


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


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


harvesting of personal votes by political parties and eliminating


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


down to two. The electoral commission tells us 3.5 million


genuine legitimate electors do not have valid pieces of photo


identification which would be required in the trials and they risk


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


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


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


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


Lancashire? The honourable lady mentions the electoral commission,


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


considered response from the government and the announcement of


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


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


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


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


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


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


franchise we are protecting communities that are most vulnerable


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


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


seriously. -- we must protect against undue. INAUDIBLE


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


own procurement rules, taking into account additional factors such as


human rights record and environmental impact? Local


authorities must comply with European Union law, they are


enshrined in the public contracts. Would my right honourable friend


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


businesses and can understand small businesses when they seek to procure


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


bodies cannot choose according to geographical criteria, what they can


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


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


approaches to the one that his friend conducted at Waitrose.


Ministers have talked a great deal about linking apprenticeships to


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


both the schools agenda. The commission confirmed last week that


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


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


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


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


apprenticeship programme is to give opportunities to people who would


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


important. The public sector will contribute a significant proportion.


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


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


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


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


government has identified photographic and non-photographic


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


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


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


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


disenfranchisement taking place in our pilot. The Electoral Commission


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


photo IDs. Why is it that the government is ignoring


recommendations to have a voluntary voter card which would allow those


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


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


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


there is photographic and non-photographic identification. If


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


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


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


so. Workforce planning is primarily the responsibility of each


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


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


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


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


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


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


seeking. As my honourable friend continues to modernise the civil


service headcount, will he make sure that apprenticeships will lead


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


my honourable friend precisely that. My predecessor started a programme


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


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


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


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


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


provider by different public sector bodies can drive down costs,


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


learnt from all sectors of government and this programme is


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


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


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


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


because that will provide efficiency? There is a bill passing


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


improving public services with advanced technology. We are doing


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


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


people can access public services online, particularly for those hard


to reach groups, like in my rural constituencies.


By ensuring we have good broadband connections are my honourable


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


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


is responsible for delivering a democracy that works for everyone.


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


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


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


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


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


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


was this government and this Prime Minister that commissioned the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


prepared to enter the most complex negotiations for generations? The


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


am fully confident that the civil service and the marvellous people


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


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


that the government are involved with the returning officers. Last


Friday I addressed a conference of the National police chiefs and


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


been cases in the past were convictions have not been followed


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


government publish departmental performance regarding its commitment


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


My honourable friend knows it was this government that established a


far more rigorous understanding of how still content was in public


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


government departments are making it infinitely more difficult for


members to contact private offices on behalf of their constituents


because of the inaccuracies and the withdrawal of the central register


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


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


individual numbers of ministers private offices are stored as it was


so began a public communication between ministers officers and


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


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


numbers in the directory were both inaccurate and some were general


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


and I have instructed all departments to provide private


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


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


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