May 23 2012
People who fail to register to vote will face fines, the Government has said.
The civil penalty will be included in a shake-up of the voting system designed to combat fraud and stop would-be electors losing the chance to cast their vote.
Ministers are planning to introduce individual electoral registration (IER), which would see individuals sign up to cast their vote rather than the current system which relies on the head of a household filling in a form stating the number of voters in a property.
Earlier, the Government scrapped plans which would have made failing to register a criminal offence.
Opening the Commons second reading debate of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, constitutional reform minister Mark Harper said: "We didn't think it appropriate to criminalise people who simply didn't register to vote.
"After careful consideration with key stakeholders and listening to members of this House we do think it is appropriate to create a civil penalty, akin to parking fine, for individuals who, after being required to make an application by a certain date, have failed to do so."
The fines were unveiled as part of the IER system the Government hopes will crack down on incidences of voter fraud.
Ministers abandoned criminalising failing to register to vote, but will give local authorities' registration officers powers to levy fines.
Mr Harper said: "The Bill provides that after the registration officer has followed any specified steps and the individual hasn't made an application, then he can require them to make an application, and if at that stage they fail to do so he can impose a civil penalty.
"The intention is that only those who refuse repeatedly can be fined. We don't think it's particularly helpful to democracy if we start fining hundreds of thousands of people."