Voter ID plan ‘nothing to do with party interests’, says George Eustice

Environment Secretary George Eustice. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA.

Environment secretary George Eustice - Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

A cabinet minister has insisted plans to require photographic identification to vote has “nothing to do with party interests” after questions the move could limit votes for opposition parties.

Civil liberties groups and senior MPs on both sides of the Commons have criticised the proposal, warning it could disenfranchise some voters.

Newly-released research for the Cabinet Office suggested around 98% of voters held some form of photo ID, including documents that had expired.

But the UK-wide study said this figure fell to 96% when considering if recognisable ID was held, suggesting around two million people were at risk of missing out.

Questioned over whether the government would drop the plans if that scale of potential voter exclusion was confirmed, Eustice instead stressed there would be extensive scrutiny of the proposal.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “there will be consultations, there will be pilots, there will be debate in parliament” and considerations on “what exemptions, if any, there might be”.

“We are a government that is bringing forward legislation to protect the integrity of our electoral system and to prevent electoral fraud,” he added.

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“You mentioned earlier that older people allegedly potentially find it harder to have photo ID – well in other fora, you’ve put it to me that older people are more likely to vote Conservative.

“So it is clearly nothing to do with party interests, it’s about the integrity of the electoral system.”

The research carried out for the government suggested only 91% of over-85s have photo ID that is recognisable.

People with a disability were also found to be disproportionately affected, with 94% said not to have recognisable ID. The unemployed were also less likely to have any form of ID, at 92%.

Some 27% of people without photo ID, and 19% of those with only unrecognisable ID, said they would be less likely to vote if they had to present the documentation to vote.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband told LBC that “we have got a voter ID plan which the Conservative Party think will benefit them by putting people off from voting, and absolutely shouldn’t be in the Queen’s Speech”.

Tory former Cabinet minister David Davis is among the requirement’s critics. He has described it as an “illiberal solution for a non-existent problem”.

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