Byers to lift access ban on electoral register

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Indy Politics

The Government is expected to end its blanket ban on access to the electoral register for commercial organisations today because of concerns that the fight against money laundering is being hampered.

The Government is expected to end its blanket ban on access to the electoral register for commercial organisations today because of concerns that the fight against money laundering is being hampered.

Stephen Byers' Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions is to announce credit-check agencies will be allowed access to the full register for a limited number of "permitted purposes". These include verifying the identity of people seeking credit.

But it is also expected to introduce regulations allowing people to opt out of the electoral roll so their names and addresses are not publicly available. Credit-checking agencies are also used by banks and the police to verify the addresses of customers opening accounts, to help fight money laundering.

The Treasury has been pressing for an end to the ban. Nick Raynsford, the minister in Mr Byers' department with responsibility for the electoral register, was keen to keep the curbs in place despite representations said to have been made by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor.

The ban was introduced last year after a High Court judge ruled that a council taxpayer in Wakefield would have had his human rights violated if the electoral register was passed on to organisations for commercial gain. Since then, the Electoral Commission, which is under Mr Byers' department, has instructed all electoral officers not to allow commercial organisations access to the latest electoral register.

Access will still be denied to direct marketing companies, who use it to send junk mail, and most other commercial organisations. But credit-check agencies such as Equifax and Experian will have access.

Roger Bingham, of Liberty, said the change struck a good balance between protecting individual privacy and allowing bona fide organisations access to important information.

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