LABOUR and Plaid Cymru have been accused of hypocrisy for opposing UK legislation requiring photo ID to vote while supporting Covid passes. 

Welsh Conservative Darren Millar highlighted what he claimed was a double standard during a Senedd debate on the Westminster Government’s Elections Bill.

The shadow constitution minister told a virtual Senedd meeting: “You’re happy to impose ID requirements to watch the latest Spiderman movie so why do you have a problem with requiring it in order to vote? People have to show a bus pass with photographic identification on in order to jump on a passenger bus.”  

Mick Antoniw, the minister for the constitution, later accused the Conservatives of double standards in opposing the Welsh Government’s requirement that people show Covid passes to enter certain venues and events during the current pandemic but backing photo ID for voting in elections. 

“On the one hand the Welsh Conservatives argue against Covid passed because they think it might gain them some popularity but if that doesn’t work they support voting passes to limit their unpopularity at the ballot box by making it more difficult for people to actually vote.” 

The bill will apply to UK general elections and police and crime commissioner elections in Wales but Mick Antoniw, the minister for the constitution, said it was at odds with the Welsh Government’s aims of increasing participation. 

The debate was prompted by a Plaid Cymru motion, agreed by the Senedd, which requires the Welsh Government to oppose the UK Government’s Elections Bill which includes a requirement to show photographic identification to vote. The vote isn’t binding on the government. 

READ MORE: 'Voter ID is a Westminster intrusion on Welsh and Scottish democracy'

Antoniw told the Senedd: “We will resist all attempts to undermine elections and make it harder for people to cast their votes.” 

He said: “It’s a shameless attempt at voter suppression. Through the requirement for voter ID the Conservative Party is brazenly seeking to limit participation in elections and to change the law for partisan advantage.” 

The minister said there are some “discreet elements” of the UK Government bill the Welsh Government could introduce in its own electoral reform legislation but confirmed voter ID wouldn’t be required for devolved elections. 

He also said the government is concerned at how it could impact other elections and potential confusion if devolved and non-devolved elections are held on the same day, issues he said he has raised with the UK Government. 

READ MORE: 'Voter ID is the last thing Welsh democracy needs'

Plaid’s spokesperson on the constitution, Rhys ab Owen, accused the UK Government of being authoritarian. He also said Covid passes have been introduced for a time limited period.

Ab Owen, a barrister, said: “The Conservatives seek to portray this is a reasonable decision but in speaking to a jury I would always tell them to look at the evidence as a whole, at the Tory government’s action on the whole. 

“They want to restrict protests, they want to strip people of citizenship without providing any justification and stop the courts from quashing secondary legislation and tackle ‘rights inflation’ that’s too much human rights to you and me, restrict the right to judicial review, they want to defund the BBC and make it harder to vote.” 

The Senedd was also told requiring voter ID would disadvantage people from minority ethnic groups, that it was said are less likely to have photographic ID, older people and trans people.  

Concerns were also raised about disabled people’s rights to vote and proposals in the legislation that would allow local councils to decide measures on supporting disabled people to vote rather than them being mandated centrally. 

READ MORE: Tories say voters have nothing to fear from elections bill

Darren Millar for the Conservatives said the bill is intended to bring “safeguards to strengthen the security of elections across the whole of the UK” and said it also includes measures against “undue influence and “intimidation of voters”. 

He said figures showed 98 per cent of the electorate already have suitable photographic ID. 

Those without passports or driving licenses would “be able to get free voter ID cards from their local authorities, as is the case in Northern Ireland where it is already required.” He added the UK is an “outlier” as the only country in Europe that doesn’t require voter ID. 

Millar also claimed, without explanation, that every single person in the meeting, and the country, had been a victim of the “heinous crime” of election fraud. 

The Senedd approved the motion, which condemned the UK Government Elections Bill, supports the Hands Off Our Vote campaign which aims to ensure no “legitimate voter” is turned away and called on the Welsh Government to oppose the legislation, by 39 votes to 14. 

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