Brandon Lewis misleading to compare voter ID to picking up parcel or library book

18 January 2023
What was claimed

Needing ID to vote is the same as needing ID to pick up a parcel from the Post Office or take a book out of the library.

Our verdict

Voter identification must be in the form of photo ID, but this is not the case in Post Offices or libraries.

I think the government was right to say that people having a bit of ID, the same as you’d have [...] to go to a Post Office and collect a parcel or take a book out from the library is not unreasonable, to just give that extra bit of protection to our democratic process.

Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Brandon Lewis recently compared the new policy of needing a form of identification to vote in the UK to the ID needed to pick up a parcel or borrow a library book. 

In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, which he later clipped and posted to his Twitter account, Mr Lewis said: “I think the government was right to say that people having a bit of ID, the same as you’d have [...] to go to a post office and collect a parcel or take a book out from the library is not unreasonable, to just give that extra bit of protection to our democratic process.”

This is misleading. As we have written before, requirements for the type of ID you need to vote are different to that when picking up a parcel, as voter ID requires a photograph. 

It was announced in the Queen’s Speech in May 2021 that the government was planning to require voters in England to show photo ID when voting. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that this requirement will be enforced from the upcoming elections in May 2023. 

Previously, when people in Great Britain voted they just had to provide their name and address. Voter ID is already required when voting in Northern Ireland.

The Electoral Commission has said that passports and driving licences are acceptable forms of photo ID, along with some other forms of photo identification such as an older person’s bus pass. Documents can be out of date, as long as the photo is still recognisable. 

People without an accepted form of ID can apply for a free voter authority certificate

While it is true that the Post Office does require identification to pick up a parcel, the list of what constitutes acceptable ID is much longer—including non-photo identification documents such as a cheque book, a paid utility bill or a debit card. 

Photo ID is required by Royal Mail at its depots if you are collecting a parcel on behalf of someone else or a parcel which requires age verification, but non-photographic ID such as a bank statement or credit card is accepted if you’re the intended recipient. 

Different courier companies have different requirements. For example, Yodel doesn’t require photo ID for collection, but DPD does, alongside proof of address. UPS also requires a photo ID.

Regarding Mr Lewis’s comparison to getting a library card, as libraries are run by local councils, the requirements differ from area to area. Some form of ID to prove your address is generally required (for example, in Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham) but these do not need to be photo ID. 

Full Fact has contacted Mr Lewis for comment.

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Brandon Lewis to request a correction regarding this claim.

Mr Lewis is yet to respond.

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