On 26 May 2022, Lord Hayward (Conservative) introduced his Ballot Secrecy Bill [HL] in the House of Lords. It is a private member’s bill, and second reading is scheduled to take place on 15 July 2022.

The bill would amend section 60 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 to create new offences for individuals who accompany a voter to a polling booth or position themselves nearby with the intention of influencing a voter. These new offences would not apply to those under 18 years of age. 

The aim of the bill is to address the issue of ‘family voting’, where more than one voter is present in a polling booth at the same time thereby breaching the secrecy of the ballot. The UN has said that the practice can be intended to influence or remove the choice of a voter, violating the principle of voter secrecy. It has also argued that family voting particularly affects women.

Concerns have been raised that in some areas, including the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the practice of family voting is widespread. This issue was raised during debates in the House of Lords on the Elections Act 2022, where Lord Hayward tabled amendments aimed at tackling the issue. In response, the government argued that current legislation already prevents individuals from being accompanied in the polling booth, apart from in specific circumstances. However, it agreed to write to the Electoral Commission and Metropolitan Police Service for confirmation on the issue.

Following responses from these organisations, Lord Hayward said that concerns remained. He argued that the Electoral Commission’s advice was inconsistent, and that police and electoral officers experienced difficulties in applying it. He said that this left the police in a difficult position and meant they recorded incidents of family voting rather than stopping them.


Related posts

  • Online Safety Bill: HL Bill 87 of 2022–23

    The Online Safety Bill is a government bill that would establish a regulatory framework for certain online service providers. It would also create several new offences relating to online harms including offences of false communications, threatening communications, sending or showing flashing images electronically (‘epilepsy trolling’) and sending photographs or films of genitals (‘cyberflashing’). The government has said it will bring forward several amendments to the bill in the House of Lords including new offences relating to intimate images and promoting self-harm, criminal sanctions for senior managers of non-compliant providers, and promotion of small boat crossings.

    Online Safety Bill: HL Bill 87 of 2022–23
  • Commission on Young Lives: National plan for vulnerable young people

    The Commission on Young Lives was an independent group formed to design a new national system to prevent crisis in vulnerable young people and to boost their life chances and educational prospects. The commission published a report in November 2022 which made recommendations to government, local authorities, police and others to tackle the “deep-rooted” problems facing vulnerable youths. The commission’s “centrepiece recommendation” was for a “sure start plus for teenagers” network of intervention and support.

    Commission on Young Lives: National plan for vulnerable young people
  • The Commonwealth: Zimbabwe’s return?

    In 2003, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth following a suspension for human rights violations. In 2018, the country began the process of rejoining the organisation. This process is ongoing. However, it has been argued that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to rejoin as it does not meet the required standards in respect of its human rights record, democratic processes and institutions and rule of law.

    The Commonwealth: Zimbabwe’s return?