The leader of Wokingham Borough Council has traded barbs with a prominent Labour activist over mandatory voter ID proposals.

The clash came when Labour activist Andy Croy urged Councillor John Halsall (Conservative), the leader of the council, to write to MPs to oppose the proposals at the full council meeting yesterday (Thursday, May 20).

Mr Croy said: “The Government’s plan to introduce a requirement for photographic identification before allowing people to exercise their right to vote will disenfranchise Wokingham Borough residents who do not have photo ID.

“Depending on the forms of ID allowed, about eight per cent of electors do not have photo ID. I am sure no member of this Council will wish to see voter suppression on this or scale or indeed any attempt at voter suppression. Will the Leader of the Council write to the Borough’s MPs to express Council’s opposition to voter suppression and to urge the MPs to speak out against these measures and to vote against the Bill when it comes before Parliament?”

READ MORE: Conservatives accused of copying USA 'voter suppression' laws as photo ID for voting is floated

In reply, Cllr Halsall accused Mr Croy of scaremongering. He said: “What I find unbelievable is that you have come out of the gate, trying to rally people

against something which you don’t actually know the detail of yet. The Bill hasn’t been published, and so you have no idea what safeguards will definitely be put in place to ensure that no-one is unintentionally deprived of their right to vote.

“As leaders in the community, councillors like myself, and former councillors like you, Andy, have a responsibility to be honest with our residents and not engage in scaremongering. It’s important that we get our facts on the table.

Voter ID at elections is already being used at elections in the UK, in Northern Ireland, and has been since 2003. A House of Commons Library report has concluded that, quote “there has been no evidence that the ID requirements in Northern Ireland have affected turnout.”

Bracknell News:

“Many healthy democracies around the world require ID to vote. Canada. France.Germany. The Netherlands. Do you believe that all of these countries are engaging in voter suppression? Or just the political party you disagree with? Do you also believe that requiring ID to, say, attend a Labour Party selection meeting, as I believe is standard practice, is a form of voter suppression?

“Most importantly, the Government has already indicated that it intends to introduce a form of ID for the 7.5 per cent of the population who don’t have it – FOR FREE. If these measures go ahead as they have so far been announced in sketchy detail, I would urge you to take a lead in raising awareness among communities that they can apply for this ID if they don’t have anything else.

“As a responsible community leader I have a duty to my residents to wait for the full information to become available before passing judgement on it. I suggest you do the same.”

Andy Croy, a former Councillor, lost his seat in the Bulmershe & Whitegates ward to Conservative Shahid Younis in the borough elections this year.

READ MORE: Labour suffer blow as Wokingham party leader is defeated

The prospect of introducing mandatory photo ID in order to vote in elections was mentioned in The Queen’s Speech, which introduces the Government’s legislative agenda for the year.

The proposal has proven a deeply partisan issue in Berkshire, with all Conservative MPs voicing support, whereas the two Labour MPs have blasted the law.

Wokingham Borough stretches across four parliamentary constituencies: Wokingham, Reading East, Bracknell and Maidenhead.

When asked about the proposals, Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East raised fears that an ID law could "make democratic engagement harder.”

READ MORE: Berkshire MP wades into voter ID debate

Bracknell MP James Sunderland (CON) supported mandatory voter ID. For his part, Sir John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham, said: “I welcome measures to prevent illegal voting but will wish to ensure all legally registered voters can vote easily.”

Theresa May (CON) MP for Maidenhead, has not responded to our enquiry.