Chris Clarkson debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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The hon. Gentleman rightly raises the matter of the enormous contribution of prison officers. They are often under-sung members of our public services, risking their life day in, day out, to protect us all from dangerous and violent criminals. Of course, as Ministers, we have a duty to protect the public purse. We have set out a clear principle on the age of retirement from government roles. We would be reluctant to start varying that for a further group of people, because it is very difficult to draw the line once we start unpicking that principle.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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It has been reported in The Daily Telegraph that the Starmerite think-tank Labour Together has had to pay a fine of just over £14,000 for failing to declare hundreds of thousands of donations. The rationale it gave was that it did not want to name some of its donors. Does my right hon. Friend think that simply not wanting to do something is a reasonable basis on which to break the law?

Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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The short answer is clearly no. Indeed, it really worries me that things have come to a state where the Labour party allegedly did not want to declare donations because of concerns about growing antisemitism. That is a very worrying allegation.

Tributes to Sir Tony Lloyd

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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I am not going to talk for long, because a lot of people knew Tony better than I did, but for the past four years I had the privilege of sharing a borough with him. I was his constituency neighbour, and a better friend and neighbour you could not ask for.

I was trying to think of anecdotes I could use to sum up how good a friend he was to me, but as has been alluded to, Tony’s sense of humour was very dry, which means I cannot repeat quite a few of those anecdotes in the Chamber. I will touch on a couple of incidents. The first was on 13 December, when a bleary-eyed, newly-elected MP for Heywood and Middleton reached out of the bed to grab their phone, which was ringing. It was Tony on the other end, who was clearly in a lot better condition than me. He said, “I think we should probably get together so I can get you up to speed.” This was a man who had just been through a tough election, and his first thought was getting his constituents’ needs dealt with, because there had been a transition on the other side of the borough. There is a lovely story that comes off the back of that, but it is not repeatable, so Members should find me in Strangers later. It was the mark of the man. If we are talking about the spirit of co-operativism that is Rochdale, Tony embodied that. That service never waned, even when his health did.

Most recently, I spoke with Tony one-on-one at the Holodomor commemorations. Tony did fantastic work with the Ukrainian community, especially in our borough. We were stood there in the freezing cold, and I was close enough to him at that point to ask how his treatment was going, and he started asking questions about how I was doing personally. He was so sanguine about it, and he just kept going. We were exchanging casework pretty much up to the last. This was a man who gave his all for something he really cared about. He was a parliamentarian’s parliamentarian, but he was also a fantastic local community representative.

We use a lot of superlatives in this job—we talk about things being awesome, big and grand—but a word that carries a lot more weight for me is “good”. Tony did not just do good; he was good.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Last week, we had yet another half-hour speech from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and—what a surprise—it did not contain a single new idea. We have had four years of him as Labour leader and it is still all slogan and no plan. Just this weekend, we are delivering on our plan to cut people’s taxes; he does not have a plan. We have a plan to stop the boats; he does not have a plan. And we have a plan to get people off welfare and into work; he does not have a single idea. It is crystal clear: stick with us to deliver the long-term change that the country needs; do not go back to square one with him. [Hon. Members: “More!”]

None Portrait Hon. Members
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More!

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let the hon. Member ask the question before shouting for more.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Q7. They just know that it is going to be fantastic, Mr Speaker. A happy new year to you anyway. It is almost spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to tax. In Scotland, the nationalists have decided to increase taxes on hard-working people. In Wales, businesses are being clobbered by a 5% increase on rates. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is only one party in this Chamber that can be trusted to cut taxes for hard-working people across the country, and that is the Conservative party?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Just this weekend, we are cutting taxes for an average person in work by £450. In Wales, where Labour is in charge, the Welsh Government are raising them, with businesses there now seeing double the rate of business rates this year. It is the same in Scotland under the SNP. It is the new high-tax capital of the United Kingdom because of the SNP’s tax-hiking decisions. Mr Speaker, while we have a plan to cut your taxes, Labour and the SNP are going to raise them.

Israel and Gaza

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 16th October 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I believe that we must support absolutely Israel’s right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and to ensure its security in the long term and that such acts cannot happen again. As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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Greater Manchester is home to a large and vibrant Jewish community. They are our neighbours, our friends and our families. It is also home to a sizeable presence of the BBC which, when faced with child murder, rape and torture, decided that Hamas should be called militants rather than terrorists. The political leaders of this country and our royal family can decide that they are terrorists; why cannot our national broadcaster?

Papers Relating to the Home Secretary

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Richard Foord). I was not planning to speak at length, because this all has an air of déjà vu about it, and apparently that is also true for official Opposition Members because there are so few of them here. I mean, this is an Opposition day motion and we are outnumbering them here by two to one. They are fed up with hearing about this too. It is not as if this topic has not been hashed and rehashed ad nauseam, but I suspect that Labour Members will continue to bang this particular drum for a while because, let’s face it, they have absolutely nothing else to talk about.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) has taken on the demeanour of the witchfinder pursuivant lately: “I saw Goody Braverman talking to the ERG in the Aye Lobby—she must be hanged!” It is not like we are looking at the second coming of the Blair era here. We are not faced with bright, intelligent people bringing alternatives to this country; it is just more carping. They are a tired, lazy Opposition. I was going to call them beige but I think they are more of a Farrow and Ball crowd. I had a look through the range and the closest colour to beige I could find was called smoked trout, which I think is quite apt.

Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence I am going to get to the motion via a slightly circuitous route. I am headed there and I am developing my argument en route. I think Labour Members might want to reflect on why they lost supposedly safe seats at the last general election, including mine in Heywood and Middleton. I know it is very easy to blame Brexit and that is of course their go-to: it must have been Brexit because everything was fantastic and they had such a good manifesto and everyone agreed with it; that is why people did not vote for them. We saw the first signs of that in 2017. There is a clear values dissonance between the Opposition’s increasingly metropolitan and louche outlook and what used to be their core vote.

When I knock on a door in my constituency I can guarantee that if I mention the Home Secretary, the first words out of someone’s mouth will not be, “Well, there was a data breach.” The first words out of their mouth will be “small boats”. Of course we are not talking about small boats today, but people want to know what we are doing to stop that influx of illegal migration. They want to make sure that our rightly generous and welcoming asylum system is not being abused by people coming here to take the mick. The fact that Labour Members care about what we are talking about today more than that issue should be extremely telling for the people who voted Conservative for the first time at the last election. My constituents want more coppers on the street and fewer boats in the channel, and I think we have the team in place to do that.

Turning to the motion, I would love to say that I was surprised by it, but yet again we have sixth-form politics. The official Opposition are asking to breach the confidentiality of advice regarding appointments. Officials should be able to rely on the advice that they give being done in a private and confidential way. Setting a precedent that their advice could be published as a matter of course would inevitably weaken the quality of the advice that they give to Prime Ministers of all parties.

We already know quite a lot of the salient details that the Opposition are asking for in this motion. The Home Secretary’s letter to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee—the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) is unfortunately not in her place—said:

“The draft WMS did not contain any information relating to national security, the intelligence agencies, cyber security or law enforcement. It did not contain details of any particular case work.”

The letter also points to the fact that the data in question was already in the public domain.

I hate to labour the point, but I feel I must in the vain hope that the message starts to percolate through to the Opposition. My constituents want more police, like the 15,300 we have already put on to the streets. They want to stop illegal crossings, and they want to stop the evil traffickers who exploit and endanger the most desperate. They like the Rwanda plan and they like the tough measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, both of which the Labour party voted against.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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No, I will not.

My constituents think we should be banging up people who glue themselves to the roads and vandalise buildings and monuments. They want fair, controlled migration, not open borders. Any of those things would have been a worthwhile use of an Opposition day but, again, we are talking about a process issue—the same thing we have talked about half a dozen times. It is a waste of parliamentary time. Sadly, it is predictable, wearing and utterly ridiculous. Get a grip.

Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 18th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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Today’s motion is on whether we have confidence in the Government, and obviously I will be speaking in favour of that. I want to register my exasperation with the way that we arrived at having to table this motion, after the botched stunt by the Labour party last week. By attempting to table a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, Labour Members sought to do away with constitutional precedent and decades of convention. Whatever their personal animus towards the Prime Minister—I have listened to the speeches, and I can tell it runs very deep—the office is bigger than any one person, and the institutions around it, and our constitution, are bigger still. To seek to upend that in a fit of petty spite just shows how irresponsible and deeply unfit the Leader of the Opposition is to lead. He is a man who should know better, and a man who, as a lawyer, does know better, but he simply cannot do better.

This is the mother of Parliaments, not a sixth-form debating society. However, that is not what the debate is about. I appreciate this is a popular debate, so I want to touch briefly on why I will be supporting the Government tonight.

Government Members were elected on an ambitious manifesto, which was not just about Brexit, as some would like to claim. It was also about how we use that opportunity to change the way in which our country is working, because frankly, for a very long time in a great number of places, it simply has not been. Areas like mine were left in abeyance, written off, put in the “too hard” basket and subjected to their own passive form of managed decline, and that is not right. It cannot be the case that all the talent and ability is clustered in one part of the country—we know it is not—so why should all the opportunity be focused in a postage stamp-sized area of the country? Our manifesto promised to address that, and we have already made great strides.

That job has undoubtedly been complicated by the pandemic, which nobody’s manifesto contained. The pandemic has meant that it has been necessary to do extremely difficult things, but it was years of making tough choices since 2010—restoring our public finances—that enabled us to put our arms around the nation at the darkest of times. There will undoubtedly be those who want to talk down the pandemic response, but the simple fact is that this country went further and faster than most to protect, vaccinate and unlock. It was not all that long ago that Opposition Members were demanding that we emulate the EU, New Zealand and a host of other countries, only to then see them grappling with surging infections and repeated lockdown measures.

I have always believed that levelling up—or whatever we want to call it—is about different things in different areas. For me in Heywood and Middleton, it meant improving educational opportunities and transport links—seemingly simple things that will open doors that are currently just out of reach of so many. In my borough alone, about £130 million was injected into the local economy to protect lives and livelihoods at the height of the pandemic, and, after a genuine fight to stop the Labour Rochdale Borough Council siphoning most of that into its reserves, we got the money to the people who needed it. During my first 18 months as an MP, I closed more cases than my Labour predecessor did in her five years. That is the level of intensity that this Government have put into supporting the country, and the amount of disinterest shown by my predecessor and her party.

As we emerge from the pandemic, what next? Rochdale borough has bids in for £40 million of levelling-up funding. Greater Manchester has been allocated £98 million from the shared prosperity fund, in addition to over £1 billion earmarked to improve public transport, which is a game-changer. More than £1 million has been given to cultural recovery in the borough, and the Government have designated us as one of their priority education investment areas, with a share of more than £40 million. Despite everything that has happened in the past few years, we are getting on with the job.

I have been extremely proud to sit on these Benches for the past two and half years, and I genuinely believe that what we have done has been with the best intentions—to make this country a true partnership of people, all of them engaged in a common endeavour, and all of us equally able to achieve if we are willing to put the work in—and that is why I will be voting confidence in the Government tonight.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they have manifestly failed to govern efficiently or effectively. They wasted billions on fraudulent covid loans, unusable PPE and a test and trace system that never, ever worked, and they have completely mismanaged the Passport Office, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the railways.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they lied about Brexit and they have not got Brexit done.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they have not got any of the big calls right. When we were warning—when I was warning—about Putin’s Russia, the Prime Minister said the days of tanks rolling across Europe were over, and he cut our Army by 10,000. When covid started, the Government failed to protect people in care homes, sending thousands unnecessarily to early graves. When everyone issued warnings about inflation, the Prime Minister said that it was nothing to get worried about.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because a massive shortage of personnel and skills is holding Britain back. Asparagus and courgettes are ploughed back into the field, strawberries are left to rot and pig carcases are destroyed, all while British families rely on food banks and—worst and most shameful of all—NHS hospitals run food banks for their staff. Many schools have no applications at all for teaching posts, especially in key subjects such as science, maths and modern languages.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they refused to put Magnitsky sanctions in place for years; because they still have not tackled dodgy Russian money and London’s massive money laundering industry; because they failed to take Putin’s initial invasion of Ukraine seriously enough in 2014; and because their delight in Putin’s bling emboldened Putin.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they are obsessed with all the wrong things. They spend more time and energy protecting statues than protecting women from domestic abuse. They deliberately drive wedges between people over gender identity and trans rights, and ignore the fact that their own Equalities Minister resigned because he thought the Government were creating a hostile environment for LGBT people, which is why the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson) should be ashamed to defend this Government.

No, I don’t have confidence in this Government, because they have no plan for the NHS or social care. England has a backlog of 6.6 million patients, and that excludes patients’ multiple treatments. And no, it is not all to do with covid; we had a 4.8 million backlog before the pandemic.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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It is quite bad to have points of order that disrupt debates. The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson) has had a chance to speak. I am not sure whether he tried to intervene on the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), but he may go ahead with his point of order.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) just pointed at me and said, “and that’s why he should be ashamed.” Is that in order, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Well, yes, if that is the opinion of the hon. Member for Rhondda. Did you try to intervene?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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No, you did not. That would be the appropriate thing to do.

--- Later in debate ---
Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)
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The most disturbing aspect of this entire debate is that the Prime Minister is still in office. After all the lies, the rule-breaking and the defence of sexual predators, and after his own Cabinet turned on him, he is still in office. Clearly, this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.

The reason I have no confidence in this Conservative party is that Conservative Members have enabled the delusion and they continue to enable it. In the Prime Minister’s mind, he thinks he has done no wrong. He probably even thinks that he is the victim.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Does the hon. Gentleman know of any other party represented in this Chamber whose leader tried to protect a sexual predator and is still in post?

Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard
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I am sorry, but I did not hear what the hon. Gentleman said. My apologies. Will he repeat it?

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Does the hon. Gentleman know of any other party represented in this Chamber whose leader is still in post after protecting a sexual predator?

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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Again, I make a wider point that we all need to consider. What is our future policy? Our future policy is all about clean energy. Again, I refer the hon. Lady to the energy security strategy, which sets that out very clearly.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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T6. The UK is in the unique position of being able to become a net exporter of energy again. What progress has my right hon. Friend made towards developing green hydrogen, in particular, for the UK to export to the energy market?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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My hon. Friend raises an important point. Of course, hydrogen is clearly part of our energy future. We set out our hydrogen strategy last year and, as he will know, in the energy security strategy we have doubled our ambition to 10 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. Internationally, we are working with partners through the COP26 breakthrough agenda to ensure that clean technologies such as hydrogen are affordable and accessible for all by 2030.

Living with Covid-19

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 21st February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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The hon. Gentleman is raising a very important but very difficult issue. In answer to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), I mentioned the importance of the private sector. We need to ensure that the pharmaceutical companies have the wherewithal to make these colossal investments that offer hope for humanity.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his forbearance, because across from the Government Dispatch Box he was faced first by the vacillations of General Indecision and then by the rank opportunism of Captain Hindsight. Does he agree that if he had listened to Lieutenant Lockdown, instead of being the first major economy to unlock and having a world-leading vaccine programme, we would now be facing a Major Catastrophe?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Yes. The most important thing is that if we had taken those steps and remained in lockdown, we would not have the financial wherewithal—the firepower, the money—to pay for all the things that people now need support for, not least clearing the covid backlogs.

AUKUS

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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It sits within the Five Eyes arrangement. The Five Eyes arrangement obviously comprises Canada and New Zealand as well. They, for various reasons, are not part of this very greatly intensified technological partnership. The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership is of absolutely huge value to the security of the western world. It remains one of the pillars of our strategic defence.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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In welcoming AUKUS, which is a fantastic opportunity for new jobs and development to come to the north-west of England, does my right hon. Friend agree that it also dovetails nicely with our ambitions towards the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, and shows our intent towards a stronger presence in our tilt towards the Indo-Pacific?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Yes. The whole Indo-Pacific tilt, of which this is a part, is a recognition of the fact that the CPTPP area my hon. Friend talks about is a £9 trillion trade area in which the UK has an increasing diplomatic and commercial presence.

Elections Bill (First sitting)

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
None Portrait The Chair
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Order. Chris Clarkson.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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Q Thank you, Ms Rees. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. Councillor Golds, to pick up on what you said about that going on in other parts of the country, I can attest to that. In Rochdale there is a sitting councillor who, three years ago, accepted a caution for electoral fraud after being caught voting twice. He is still sitting there and did not lose the Labour Whip.

As an experienced election agent, do you think the relatively low level of detection of personation is down to the fact that it is so easy to do? I could pick up a copy of the marked register tomorrow, find out whether you vote routinely in elections, turn up to your polling place, claim to be Peter Golds and vote on your behalf. Or do you agree with Mr O’Hara that it is a solution looking for a problem? If you contest that, what would you describe as an acceptable level of electoral fraud?

Councillor Golds: I disagree with Mr O’Hara. When you have the marked register, if you get the proverbial Sid and Doris Bonkers who have never cast a vote in their life, and someone turns up at the polling station and says, “I am Sid Bonkers,” they are given a ballot paper. If Sid Bonkers does not turn up to say he is going to vote, nothing happens. I have to say that there are far too many instances.

I had one incident of a lady who lives in Woodseer Street, E1, who telephoned me to say that she had gone to vote. She knew that the people next door were off on holiday and furthermore that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and never voted, but democracy had taken place on this particular occasion. When she was marked off on the electoral register, she saw that their names were marked off. She asked the presiding officer why they were marked off, and he said, “Because they voted.” That is an absolutely classic example. Somebody knew that these people were Jehovah’s Witnesses, somebody knew that they never voted, but democracy took place.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Q So in your opinion, if I had to turn up with a piece of identification that said, “I am Peter Golds,” and I could not provide it, I should be issued a ballot paper.

Councillor Golds: Yes—[Laughter.] Sorry, I misunderstood what he said; my hearing is not terribly good.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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If I could not prove that I was you, should I be issued with a ballot paper?

Councillor Golds: No. If you go to collect a parcel without ID, you are not issued with a parcel. For example, if you go to select a Labour candidate, you have to take ID. We had a selection in 2019 of a Labour candidate, and her document to members of the Poplar and Limehouse constituency Labour party says not to forget to bring photo ID. To go to select Apsana Begum, you had to bring photo ID, but to elect her, or not elect her, anybody can be given a ballot paper.

None Portrait The Chair
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Thank you. Have the other witnesses anything to add to that, or can I move on?