Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Westminster Hall

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Inverclyde MP David Cairns said election counts should take place immediately after the polls close on election days, in a debate in Westminster Hall on 3 February 2010.

Some councils across the country are planning to put off counting ballot papers until the following morning - thought to be a result of new postal voting rules and higher staff costs.

The Labour MP said authorities should stick to the traditional Thursday night count unless there were "compelling" reasons not to do so.

He highlighted the drama of election night in May 1997, when Labour swept to victory after 18 years of Conservative rule.

Mr Cairns also called for closer monitoring of the performance of returning officers, and said the role should be carried out by permanent, senior council officials, not chief executives "moonlighting for a few extra quid".

Justice Minister Michael Wills said electoral returning officers were independent and that he was unable to direct them.

But he said he hoped returning officers contemplating delaying the count would recognise the strength of feeling on the issue on all sides of the House.

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