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20 February 2003 Edition

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British MPs raise concern over disenfranchised voters

British Labour MP Tony Clarke has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons drawing attention to the missing 187,000 voters who failed to appear on December's electoral register in the Six Counties. The motion, which calls for the Secretary of State to urgently address the issue, has been signed by a cross-section of MPs.

The House of Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee is planning to take evidence to look into the issue under the heading Electoral Registration in Northern Ireland. The cross-party committee will look at: the reasons for the reported drop in voter registration in some areas; the procedures in place for publicising and issuing the new electoral identity card (a total of 234,000 reqests); measures taken to prepare voters and presiding officers at polling stations for other changes in voting procedures; and the effectiveness of measures taken by government and other bodies to promote participation in parliamentary elections in the Six Counties, while tackling electoral fraud.

Meanwhile, the Policing Bill is making its way through the British legislative process, and is due to reach its third reading in the Commons on 18 March. Sinn Féin representatives have been briefing MPs and raising concerns that the new legislation still fails to address the outstanding issues in relation to policing - in particular still falling short of the Patten recommendations. Sinn Féin representative to Britain, Dodie McGuinness, and other representatives will be briefing MPs on this issue over the coming weeks.

In addition, Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and Dodie McGuinness were in London this week to hold a round of meetings with editorial boards of national newspapers to discuss the current political situation.

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