Headlines: August 6th, 1998

Consumers, direct mail businesses, and regulators such as the Data Protection
Registrar are being invited to have their say in whether the state should sell
copies of the electoral register.

Under current law, copies of the register may be bought from local council
electoral registration officers at a fee ranging from between two and eighteen
pounds per thousand names. In Northern Ireland, copies are available from the
Chief Electoral Officer.

But the Home Office is worried that selling names and addresses could put some people off registering, at a time when it is driving local councils to achieve
a higher turn out of electors.

Home Office Minister George Howarth said: “This practice is controversial and
unpopular with many members of the public. So much so that some people may even
be reluctant to register to vote.

“However, the register is necessarily a public document which has to be widely
and freely available for electoral purposes.

“This consultation seeks views on whether the law should be changed, how it
could be amended and what implications it could have for consumers and

One change being suggested is that members of the public could ask to have
their details left off copies of the register which are sold on, sparing them
from junk mail, or even fear of crime.

Views are sought by 1 September 1998 and should be addressed to The Home Office
Elections Section (Registration), Constitutional Unit, Rm 1371, Queen Anne’s
Gate, London SW1H 9AT.