Elections Bill: Bishop of Coventry speaks about Voter ID

On 21st March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Elections Bill in committee. The Bishop of Coventry spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I offer your Lordships an apology for not being able to contribute to Committee for all sorts of reasons, but I said at Second Reading that I would support amendments that introduced mitigating factors to reduce the risk of unintended exclusion, particularly for that group of people the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred to: those on lower incomes. There is real risk that that could happen through this immediate introduction of photo ID.

That is why I was very glad to add my name to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, which, as he said, seeks to widen the forms of photo ID available and extend the list to include other forms of ID that do not include photographic ID. I was going to make similar points to say that the amendment is consistent with the approach taken in the local council pilot scheme in 2018-19. As has been said, it is entirely consistent with the earlier report from the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and the gradualist introduction, if I may put it that way, of photo ID in Northern Ireland.

It seems that the purpose of the amendment is to reduce the risk of people living on lower incomes—a significant proportion of whom we know do not possess the acceptable photo ID—being disfranchised, which is my particular concern. That would simply be a form of non-recognition, which would be a moral injury to them and an injustice that would damage the UK’s traditions of democratic participation. The amendment seems to follow the logic of the inclusion of 60+ Oyster cards and blue badges, allowing for greater accessibility to particular groups of the electorate by making provision for those on lower income and other potentially marginalised groups to retain the highest chance of inclusion in the democratic process.


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