§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a Second time."
"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Yesterday I was subjected to severe but unmerited criticism by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for introducing a Bill that was they said, too large, and that was inspired so they believed, solely by the Lord President of the Council. I would have been well advised, they suggested, to have considered it a great deal longer before introducing it. Today I am told that this Bill is too small, and that while I have escaped from the domination of the Lord President of the Council, I ought to legislate ahead of a Committee which was promised by the Coalition Government. Well, I realise that in the difficult position in which hon. Gentlemen opposite are placed with their Press, they have to make as much small capital as they can out of these matters, and I shall not, therefore, be unduly distressed by the weight of the metal which is to be brought to bear on me when the Amendment on the Paper is moved.
The problem of elections, or rather of the preparation for elections during the past three to four years, has been a very difficult one for succeeding Governments, and Bills have been passed in 1943, 1944 and 1945, varying the enactment that was passed in 1918. I have to ask the House today to pass another Measure that will make temporary provision for elections that will be held during the coming year 1946. In 1943, an effort was made to link up the national registration records with the electoral register, and to produce a register that would have some relation ship to a residence qualification over a period of time, two months. It became very complicated. The operations between the national registration officer and the electoral registrations officer were so detailed that, with the shortage of staff, it became clear that the Act could not be operated under the conditions that then prevailed. The Act also contained a pro vision that once a person was qualified for 448 a constituency, he was not removed from the register for that constituency until he had acquired a new qualification. In 1944, in order to remove some of the complications that arose under the 1943 Act, and which had made it quite unworkable, a new Act was passed. That Act got back to the principle of the fixed date, and a register had to be compiled which could be brought into operation on the initiation of an election.
The 1944 Act really enacted this, that when an election took place—that is, when the writ was received in the constituency—the register should be that which was in the electoral registration officer's possession on the last day of the last month but one before the election was initiated. That is to say, if the writ was received in the constituency on, let us say; 3rd April, the register was that which was in the possession of the electoral registration officer on 28th February. The register did not move a month forward until the month of May was reached. An election initiated on 1st May would have been fought on the register that represented the compilation in the possession of the electoral registration officer on 31st March. That Measure was, again, found to be too complicated to work and the 1945 Act was passed, which had a qualifying date, 31st January, and the register was due to be published on 7th May. That was the register on which the General Election of 1945 was fought, and I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen in various parts of the House found that, although the enactment was that the register was to be published on 7th May, it was not in fact until some weeks after that date in certain cases that the register was actually available.
The view of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House always was that having regard to the circumstances in which that register was compiled, it would be an unsatisfactory register, and what occurred in the General Election has not altered our view, for it is obvious that the present register is considerably more satisfactory. Otherwise how could one account for the Labour Party polling 3,000 more votes at Bournemouth in November than they did in July. There is a new register now in operation which came into force on 15th October and relates to the national registration address on 30th June. That register will remain in force under the 449 1945 Act for all local government elections during 1946, and for all Parliamentary elections initiated before 1st January, 1946. That is to say, that any writ that is received in a Parliamentary constituency between now and 31st December, will cause the election to be fought on the register that was compiled on the national registration address on 30th June. The present law would enact that, for Parliamentary elections after 31st January, 1946, there would have to be an ad hoc register compiled very much on the basis of the register that I have described in connection with the Acts previous to the 1945 Act.
We were warned by the registration officers throughout the country that it would be quite impossible to compile this ad hoc register with the staffs at present at their disposal, and that the printers would be unable certainly to deal with a General Election that had to be fought on an ad hoc register of that description. Therefore, we ask the House to pass this amending Bill, so that we may be able if necessary to have a General Election during 1946 because, quite clearly, it would be wrong to place either the Government or the Opposition in a position where the mere machinery of electoral registration would prevent a General Election. I do not want anyone on either side of the House to think that we contemplate that a General Election would be necessary, although on recent figures we should not shrink from it, but I think it would be constitutionally wrong to put the Government, or anyone else responsible for having a General Election, in a position in which the mere machinery of electoral registration made an Election impossible. Therefore, we have brought in this short Bill, which deals with two or three matters, and which will, I hope, enable us to have by-elections fought on registers which will be reasonably up to date, and, if it should be necessary, to have a General Election.
There are three principal matters dealt with in this Bill. Clauses 1 to 5 deal with alterations to the existing registration arrangements. Clauses 6 to 8 deal with the extension of postal voting facilities, and Clauses 9 to 12 deal with the compilation of fresh jurors books for England and Wales. In Clause 1, we propose that the register now in force shall remain in force until 14th October next and that 450 all Parliamentary elections during the intervening period shall be fought on that register. 1 have given the reasons why we do not think it is possible to carry out the more elaborate machinery provided for in the existing law, which will come into force on 1st January next if this Bill does not become law before.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House in any way, but as 1 read the Bill, and the Explanatory Memorandum which prefaces it, Clause I appears to be without any duration in point of time whatever. It provides that the register of electors to be in force for a Parliamentary election shall be the register, which is the annual register, last published in accordance with the Act of 1945
§ Mr. Ede
I was coming to the question of the duration of the Measure later on. It is true that, on the face of Clause 1, this is an arrangement which, if not altered, would get back to continuing the annual register published on 15th October of this year.
We propose by Clauses 3, 4 and 5 to arrange for a supplementary register to be published on 28th February, 1946, and on that supplementary register, it will be possible for members of the Forces, seamen, and war workers, as defined in the previous Acts and in this Bill, whose declarations for registration have been received since 30th June and up till 31st December this year to be entered, and these persons will possess the existing rights of Service voters as regards both postal and proxy voting. That means, that where a man sent in an application to be registered as a Service voter and it had arrived two or three days too late to be included in the existing register, that application will now hold good to enable him to be on the supplementary register, which will come into force and which will be published on 28th February. Members of the Forces and seamen who are discharged between 30th June this year, and 1st January, 1946, will also be entitled to be registered in respect of the address for which they are registered in the national register on discharge. This may very well lead to a number of duplicate entries on the register. A man may make application as a serving man to be entered on the register of a particular con- 451 stituency. On discharge, he may, in fact, go to some address and be registered there, outside the constituency in which he asked to be registered as a Service voter, and we are, therefore, asking registration officers, as far as possible, to avoid duplication of entry. But where it does occur, the man, of course, can only vote once in respect of these two qualifications and he must choose which of the two he proposes to use.
We propose also to extend postal voting facilities, and in Clause 6 we provide that a person who has removed from his registered address may apply to be entered on the absent voters list and, therefore, be entitled to vote by post, if the address to which he has removed is not situated in the same area as his registered address. I regret that it has been necessary, in this connection to arrive at a somewhat arbitrary decision of what is "the same area." The Government would have liked a reasonable discretion in this matter left to registration officers, because it is clear that mere removal from one side of a street to another, while it might take a person out of one area into another, may not be as serious as a removal from one side of a county borough to another— from the extreme North to the extreme South and so on. But the registration officers of the country represented to us that leaving them with a discretion in this matter might involve them in controversies from which they would wish to be spared, and in a closely contested election, when the majority either way was perhaps ten or a dozen, there might be accusations that the result had been achieved because the registration officer had, or had not, exercised his discretion in this way. I am sure that we would all desire that public servants who endeavour to discharge their duties in these matters with complete impartiality, should 'be spared being involved in controversies of that kind.
Therefore, we have regretfully, but I think, rightly, included in the Measure a quite arbitrary definition of what the same area is. In London this will be the combined area of two contiguous Metropolitan boroughs; elsewhere in England and Wales, the area of the same county borough, non-county borough, urban district or rural parish; in Scotland, the area of the same electoral division of a county 452 or of the same burgh; and in Northern Ireland, the area of the same county borough, borough, urban district or rural district. We have applied this same regulation to people who are appointed as proxies for Service voters; that is to say, if a proxy appointed by a Service voter is not within the same area as the registered address of the Service voter concerned, the proxy voter can claim to vote by post.
We also have taken the opportunity of accepting the recommendation of the Speaker's Conference that persons physically incapacitated should be able to vote by post. This is a matter which has been urged, I think, by all parties for some years. It is a recognition of the citizen's right to exercise his franchise, and I hope that the measures we propose in the Bill will be satisfactory to the House. The detailed provisions for making these postal voting applications will be prescribed by Regulations, which in accordance with Clause 18 (1) will require an affirmative Resolution of the House; that is to say, they will have to be placed upon the Table and then the Secretary of State for the time being will have to move that the House accepts them, and a similar Resolution will have to be passed in another place. Thus there will be every opportunity for Members becoming acquainted with them, and of knowing that they are being brought before Parliament.
Section 32 (1) of the 1945 Act applied the postal arrangements that were in operation during the recent General Election to a General Election initiated before 1st January, 1946. In this Bill a later date is prescribed, and by Clause. 8 we extend the date to 1st January, 1947, and that means that, if those arrangements are to be continued beyond that date, and no action has been taken in the meantime to pass permanent legislation, we shall have to ask the House for authority to extend them.
The Amendment that has been placed on the Paper alludes to the question of the Speaker's Conference. We have not implemented all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, and for this reason, that I announced in the House, on nth October, that I proposed to appoint a Committee, which would consist of Members of the House, the chief agents 453 of the political parties and certain Departmental representatives, to examine the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference and make a report, on which the appropriate legislation could be passed. I think that we shall be well advised to await the result of that Committee's work before we proceed with any further legislation on these matters. It is the intention of His Majesty's Government, when we get the report of the Committee, to base legislation thereon, and to submit it to the House as soon as Parliamentary time can be found thereafter; and we regard ourselves as bound during the lifetime of the present Parliament to submit to the House the necessary legislation to give effect to these recommendations. I do not think that it would have been at all polite to the hon. Members of the House who have been asked to serve on the Committee and the other people, if, having announced the appointment of the Committee, we had then proceeded to put the legislation we asked them to consider into this Bill.
Clause 13 deals with an entirely Scottish point, of which I hope the House will not expect me to give any elaborate explanation. My hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary of State for Scotland will be speaking in the course of the Debate, and, if there should be any difficulties with regard to Clause 13, he will deal with the matter.
I come to the third of the principal things that we do in this Measure. We compile fresh jurors' books for England and Wales. The jurors' books now in existence are those that came into force at the beginning of 1940. They are very much out of date. It is, in consequence, necessary for the officers who summon jurors, in order to be certain that they will have enough jurors, to call upon a very much larger number of people, at any rate by name, than they would in ordinary circumstances. The consequence is that some people are now called up who are well entitled to exemption on one of the numerous grounds for exemption, and that when the officer happens to have made a particularly fruitful selection of names from the jurors' rolls people are called up and kept hanging about the courts, sometimes without being called upon to discharge any of the duties of a juror.
454 We feel, therefore, that it is desirable that the jurors' books should be brought up to date, but it is not possible merely to revert to the method in operation under the Juries Act, 1922, for the compilation of jurors' books, because that method was based on information obtained in the course of the canvass which preceded the compilation of the electoral register, nor would the timetable in operation under that Act be generally applicable to existing registration arrangements. Therefore we propose in Clauses 9 to 12 that jurors' books shall be compiled, effective for 1947 and subsequent years, and based on the electoral register published in the previous October. This procedure will not operate for the compilation of a jurors' book for any year if in the previous year the register has been compiled by a canvass. The procedure we now propose entails the sending of the relevant civilian residence electors' list to the appropriate rating authority, who will mark thereon the persons who, by reason of the necessary rating qualification, appear to be liable for jury service. An electoral registration officer will be required to inform everybody who comes on to the Jurors' List for the first time that it is proposed to mark him as a juror so that he can if he thinks he is entitled to benefit by any of the exemptions from jury service, make the necessary appeal, and the existing right of appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction is retained in this Measure.
That is a brief account of the proposals in this Bill. We would very much like to get back, as we hope we shall at a fairly early date, to the compilation of a register by canvas, but the electoral registration officers throughout the country say that in the case of the register to be compiled during next year it is improbable that they will be in a position either as respects canvassers or printers to comply with the law that would exist unless this Bill were passed. We hope that it will be possible, as far as the years after that are concerned, to ensure that we may get back to the normal practice. After the experiences of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council in the statement, which I thought was quite reasonably guarded, to which attention is drawn in the Amendment, I do not intend to make any precise prophecy. All I can say is that the Government are 455 working in the hope that, certainly in the case of the register that will be compiled to come into force on 15th October, 1947, they will be able to rely upon the canvass, publication, claim and objection method, which was the practice prior to the difficulties into which the war brought us.
I hope the House will recognise that this is an effort to deal with a situation that arises out of the conditions of the times, that we are taking steps to introduce those improvements in the law which it is possible to make at this time, and that as soon as we get the report of the Committee, whose names I hope to be able to announce in the course of the next three or four days, we shall be able to proceed with a permanent Measure of legislation which will bring us back, I hope, to the compilation of the register by canvass, publication, claim and objection, and will enable us also to implement the remaining recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. I hope the House will feel that in these circumstances it can give a Second Reading to this Measure.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, whilst welcoming the proposal to extend facilities for absent voting to persons who have changed their residence, and to blind persons and persons physically incapable of voting, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which ignores many of the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference and, notwithstanding the assurances given by the Lord President of the Council on 27th June, 1944, continues the suspension of any qualifying period, and perpetuates a system of registration which has resulted in many persons being deprived of the franchise.The right hon. Gentleman, in opening his speech, suggested that he had been subject to severe but unmerited criticism yesterday because he had introduced a Bill inspired by the Lord President of the Council. Today, if the criticism is again severe, no doubt it will bring certain comfort to the heart of the Lord President of the Council, who invited severe criticism, if it brings no comfort to the right hon. Gentleman. I may tell him in regard to the hope he expressed that he would not be distressed by the weight of the metal brought against him that the bulk of the metal I propose to use today is provided by the Lord President of the 456 Council. I am not sure from what the right hon. Gentleman has said whether it is intended that this Bill should only be for the purpose of elections in 1946, because the actual terms of the Bill are far more extensive than that, and, indeed, on that point it seems to me that he has not dispelled much of the fog that now exists in this Chamber. I appreciate, as I am sure all on this side of the House will appreciate, from all that he has said that there are some good points in this Bill, but it is our regret that the good is so overladen with bad that we have no alternative but to move its rejection for the reasons stated on the Order Paper.
Many hard things were said about the register on which the last election was fought. Every one of us on all sides of the House, I think, had brought to his notice cases of persons long resident in a constituency, persons who had been resident there throughout the war, whose names were for some unaccountable reason omitted from the register. In my division I had some cases of duplication brought to my notice, the names of persons having been entered twice on the register. What the right hon. Gentleman omitted to draw attention to was that the October register, which he has praised so highly, is a register which was compiled in precisely the same fashion as the register on which the General Election was fought, and whether the October register contains fewer or more extensive defects than the register on which the election was fought has not yet been tested in the country. Hon Members opposite were not slow to take advantage of those defects by representing that we on this side of the House were responsible for them. The Minister of Fuel and Power said at Leith on 8th July:Our experiences of the past two weeks show that the register is an insult to the British electorate.The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning said in his election address:With our incomplete register of voters many thousands of electors, including numerous Servicemen, will be denied the right of voting.Therefore, it is with astonishment and some amazement that I see the right hon. Gentleman introducing a Bill providing for the registers to be made in exactly the same way as the register on which the General Election was fought. It is aston- 457 ishing now that they have secured their return to power—and if controls are necessary I would suggest that control over the exercise of that power might be justified— that they should introduce a Bill which perpetuates for an indefinite period, because there is no limitation in the Bill, the precise system of registration which they themselves so loudly condemned and attacked this Summer. This register is still to be based on where a person happens to be drawing his food ration on a particular date. If he should be registered in that division on that date he will remain on that register till the October of the ensuing year. There is no qualifying period of residence at all, and in my view that is a grave and serious defect.
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman when he refers to setting up a Departmental Committee that a Departmental Committee was set up before the 1943 Bill was introduced? It was a Committee on which each of the parties was represented, and it was set up by the Lord President of the Council. That Committee recommended a two months' qualification period and there was no dissentient. It was only after they reported that a Bill was introduced providing not only for the two months' period of qualification but also for the continuous registration to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech. All that has been thrown overboard. That system of continuous registration has never been tried. Under this Hill, as I see it, if you move immediately after 30th July to another constituency— it may be miles away, may even be in Scotland—you will be on the register of the division from which you moved but where you were not living on 15th October of that year, and you will remain on that register without a chance of getting on to the register in Scotland until 15th October of the ensuing year. Your only consolation will be the extension of postal voting which will enable you, if you apply in time, to get on to the absent voters' list and to record a vote for a candidate whom you have probably neither seen nor heard. I do not regard that as very satisfactory. When the Lord President of the Council introduced the Act of 1943 he said its purpose wasto provide an efficient and effective system of registration despite the difficulties which had been brought about by wartime conditions.458 and he went on:I think that proposals made in this Measure will solve those difficulties and give us perhaps a more up-to-date register than we had in the period before the war."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October. 1943; Vol. 393. c. 58.]I am sorry that we are not apparently to try that continuous system of registration. What happened after that? In 1944 the same right hon. Gentleman had to come back to this House and introduce another Measure. He had to confess then that owing to staffing difficulties during war it was impossible to operate the two months' qualifying period contemplated by the Act of 1943. The Act of 1944 provided for one qualifying day, and that is carried on by this Bill. In introducing that Measure in 1944, the Lord President said:I know that Members in certain parts of the House are rather averse from abolishing for the time being this qualifying period. I sympathise with them. I like some attachment to the soil on the part of the electors in a constituency, and I do not in any way dispute the sentiments of those who feel rather unhappy on this point.'This is the particular passage which I commend to the right hon. Gentleman:I have taken the greatest pains to see that this Bill is temporary and that it will be brought to an end as soon as possible.Again, he said:Because the Government and I recognise that the' Bill is not ideal, and, because we ourselves would have preferred to preserve the modest residential period of two months if we could have done so, I have taken the greatest care to see that the Bill is temporary. There are a number of points designed to meet that end. In the first place, the word 'temporary' appears in the Bill; in the second place, there is a mandatory direction to the Secretary of State that, as soon as he is satisfied that" sufficient staff and facilities are available for the operation of the 1943 Act, he will make an Order bringing the Bill to an end.This is what I would like the right hon. Gentleman to note:I can assure the House, not only will there be no wish on my part to avoid that obligation, but the conscientious officers of the Home Office will see to it that I do not avoid the issue, even if I wanted to." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, I944; Vol. 40I, c. 3.]Here, in this Bill we find that the temporary provision of that one— 459 clearly his undertaking or pledge to regard this provision of one qualifying day as a very temporary one, which is to be brought to an end at the earliest possible moment. That view, I have no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman sincerely holds, and, in view of the strength of his conscientious objections, I hope that this afternoon or evening we shall find him accompanying us into the Lobby.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, when he talks about the difficulty put forward by registration officers, and says that they cannot, in peacetime, operate the 1943 Act, that we were told in 1944 that the objection then was the impossibility of operation due to lack of staff—an objection in the country, but not in the boroughs. We were told then that it would only require 1,200 clerical assistants and 400 persons competent to instruct and supervise to enable that Act to be implemented. Does the right hon. Gentleman now tell us that demobilisation will be so tardy, and so tied up in red tape that 1,600 people will not be available next Autumn, for making a register with a two months' qualifying period, as contemplated in the 1943 Act? Because, as I see it, that is really what the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to accept. I find it difficult to believe that it is really impossible to carry out the provisions of that Act, when we were told in 1943 that the system which the 1943 Act envisaged, could be carried out in wartime.
This Bill is not only bad because it perpetuates the absence of any residential qualification at all. It is also bad, in my view, because it prolongs the unsatisfactory system of the Service voter having to contract in. Hon. Members opposite have frequently indicated how much they dislike the principle of having to contract in, in the case of a political levy, but, apparently, they are quite content to record their votes to make it compulsory for the Service voter to contract in, if he wants to exercise his right of voting. I take the view that the registration of his vote should be automatic, and that was one of the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, which I should not have thought required consideration by another Departmental Committee. The Service authorities surely know the name of each man and woman in each Service. Why should they not 460 be charged with the duty of seeing that every man and woman in the Services is registered? That might not have been possible in war, but, surely, it can be done now. Surely, the difficulties about securing compulsory returns from each branch of each Service are not insuperable. When we look at the supplementary register, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, one can see the principle that the Service man and woman have to contract in, to vote being carried into practice.
Incidentally, the expression "war workers" is not defined in that Clause, or elsewhere in the Bill, and I think the right hon. Gentleman made a slip when he said that it was. I am sure that the intention of the Bill is that it should be limited, as it was in the earlier Acts, to war workers abroad, but there is no word here to say that it should be war workers abroad. Under that Clause, Servicemen, war workers and those demobilised before the end of the year will all have to contract in, if they are to get on the register before 15th October of next year. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if this system is going to work at all, what steps are to be taken to bring the existence of these rights conferred by this Clause to the notice of those who may exercise them. The time within which applications have to be made under Clause 3 is very short indeed, and it is no use our making provision in a Bill for machinery to get Service voters, war workers and people who are demobilised, on to the register when they apply, if no proper steps are taken to inform them of their rights.
This Clause, I think, will require most careful consideration in Committee. It contains the obnoxious phrase "as soon as may be," and it seems to me to make no clear provision for those released from the Forces under Class B or under compassionate release. They are still technically members of the Forces. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, for the purpose of this Clause, they are to be regarded as civilians—soldiers who have been demobilised—or as Service voters? If they come in either category, it is quite true that if they make the necessary application, they can get on the register, but that point ought to be put beyond doubt, and again I ask the right hon. Gentleman what steps are to be taken to bring to the notice of those concerned their rights under this Clause.
461 I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with one or two other points on this Clause. As I see it, a man who joined the Army at 18 and was discharged after 30th June, 1945, for medical or other reasons, and who comes of age before December, cannot get on the supplementary register. He will not get a vote until he is nearly 22. The cases may not be numerous, but the responsibility for that will rest upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. Clause 6 also provides a complete loop—hole for the registration officer, for it provides that, "so far as is reasonably practicable," he has to secure that there is no duplication of entry. I take the view that, as far as possible, there should be no double entry, and I think the insertion of those words in an Act of Parliament is really providing adequate cover for a multiplicity of mistakes. I put this further point. Would a man now on the civilian register, who is called up after 30th June, 1945, have to apply to be placed on the absent voters list under Clause 6, in order to record his vote, or will there be some way of transferring him to the Service register? If he is to be treated as a civilian absent voter, although in the Services, what machinery will there be for getting all the election documents to him? I regard that part of this Bill as entirely unsatisfactory. I think we should go back to the 1943 Act, which the Lord President commended so highly, with its two months' qualification period and its continuous registration. Alternatively, I think we should go back to the prewar system where the registration officer had to make, in the words of the Statute a
"house to house or other sufficient inquiry " before compiling his list. I hope that we shall soon be able to go back to that system, which did not lead to such criticisms as came from all sides, about the register during the last General Election.
In addition to that, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, even now, to take some steps to make the Service register a matter of automatic registration. I take the view that this Bill, with its complexities—and it really means that you have to understand the 1943, 1944 and I945 Acts to see where you stand—does nothing to help the Service voter, but puts a series of obstacles in his path. How is he to understand where he applies for 462 the supplementary register? How the Minister is going to get the information across to him I do not quite know, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider whether, even now, he could not make it automatic registration, as recommended by the Speaker's Conference.
I want to say a word or two about the temporary provisions for voting by post and by proxy. There is, apparently, no provision for voting by post when absent on holiday. Are we to have again unduly prolonged elections in different parts of the country because of absence on holiday? Clause 6 has to be read with Clause 20, and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman confirmed that in introducing the Bill. While I welcome the extension of facilities for postal voting and for voting by proxy, I must confess that I think that Clause 6, coupled with Clause 20, will lead to extraordinary anomalies and difficulties, especially for the registration officer. As I understand these two Clauses, if a person moves from one rural parish to another in the same division, that person will be entitled to record a vote by post/ but if a person moves from one metropolitan borough to another, although his two houses may be miles apart, that person would not be able to vote by post, but would have to travel to vote.
§ Mr. Ede
That is not quite accurate. The Bill says that "two contiguous metropolitan boroughs" make an area. If we take Wandsworth and Battersea, they are contiguous, and anyone removing from any part of Wandsworth to Battersea would not have the right to vote by post. But, in the case of a removal from Wandsworth to a borough not contiguous to Wandsworth, although a metropolitan borough, the voter would be able to vote by post.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I had made a slip about that, and I appreciate that they have to be contiguous metropolitan boroughs. I hope that, in the Committee stage, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whether the influence of the Thames has any effect on this distinction, and whether, in law, Wandsworth or Battersea could be regarded as contiguous to Westminster or Chelsea, though that, I think can be reserved for another day. With regard to Birmingham, there will be 463 no facilities, as I see it, for anyone still residing in the city of Birmingham, to obtain facilities for postal voting, although it is a very large city. But, if you are living on the edge of Birmingham and move 100 yards into another borough beside it, you will be able to vote by post. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated the difficulties, but the fact that these difficulties arise under this Bill do not make one very much in favour of the Bill on that point, I do however welcome any facilities provided for blind and physically incapable people and I am sure that part of the Bill will meet' with support from all sides of the House. At the same time one must ask why are not these facilities extended to local elections? Why are not the blind and physically incapable given the same facilities for voting in local elections? Perhaps we can have an answer on that some time today.
I appreciate the full force of what the right hon. Gentleman said in regard to jurors' lists. One knows the great difficulties there have been in summoning jurors, but these books will again be based on the register compiled in the way the General Election register was made and I cannot believe that these books will be extremely reliable or very accurate. Bearing in mind that the real content of this Bill is to make provision for the extension of a system of registration, which has met with nothing but criticism since it was introduced, a system of registration not based on residence, but based solely upon where you happen to be registered for buying your food rations; bearing in mind that that is the purpose, and that no provision is made here for the Service man being placed on the register without a lot of trouble to himself; also bearing in mind that although the right hon. Gentleman has selected one of the Speaker's Conference recommendations, he has omitted to implement now any of the others—for all these reasons I desire to move the Amendment on the Paper.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Renton (Huntingdon)
My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) has put forward a great deal of constructive criticism of this Bill. The criticism I have to put forward relates entirely to form and is, I must confess, destructive. I have a bad headache, caused entirely by attempting to 464 understand this Bill. I suggest that the form of our work in this House should be perfect, and this foggy Bill appears to be very far from perfect. It is especially important, bearing in mind the subject matter with which it purports to deal, that the wording of this Bill should be made as clear as possible. The Bill deals with important democratic rights, including the right to vote, which is the very essence of democracy. To that extent, this Bill, although it may not have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that it is so, is the lineal descendant of the great Reform Act. It contains a penal Clause, by which people can be punished for failure to obey its provisions and if they do not know exactly what its terms are, attempts by the courts to punish them are likely to be made entirely nugatory. In regard to jurors it is the lineal descendant of Magna Charta—and is in parimateria with it.
The form of this Bill is bad. I am supposed to be learned in the law and I have made really serious attempts to understand it, but I find that it is unintelligible and muddling. It does not even say what the right hon. Gentleman intends that it should say. Take as an example Clause I. Clause I, according to the right hon. Gentleman, is intended to have the effect that the registers should remain in force until 15th October, 1946. No scanning by the ordinary citizen of the Clause would give him such information, or anything like it. The criticism which these days can be levelled on those lines at this Bill is criticism which can be made of, at any rate, two-thirds of the Bills which come before this House; and I am perfectly conscious of the fact that the speech I am making now is one I might have made on almost any Bill introduced since I had the honour to become a Member of the House. But this particular Bill appears to me to provide an outstanding example of this unfortunate symptom. It is mainly for this Government to decide, aided and criticised by the Opposition, whether they are to go down in history as the Government which restored the health of the body politic or as the Government which gave headaches to the citizens by the inferior quality of its legislation. Almost every jurist and every judge who has sat on the bench, and that eminent student of Parliamentary procedure, Dr. C. K. Allen, have agreed that one of the worst vices of legislation is legisation by reference.
465 Of the 24 Clauses of this Bill 19 contain legislation by reference. Having pointed that out to the right hon. Gentleman, I suggest he may care to think once again, before he presses forward with the Bill in its present form. Not only is there legislation by reference, but legislation by reference to no less than eight previous Acts of Parliament; and anyone who solved the jig-saw puzzle which the right hon. Gentleman has created and correlated this Bill with all the previous legislation indicated, would be a genius. Indeed I admire the mental agility of those who drew up this Bill, and had to think out its details.
The question we have to consider is whether the rights and obligations the Bill creates are likely to be understood by the people who will have to obey them, or will benefit by them; and in particular whether these rights will be understood by the seafaring men who are intended to benefit by them. One realises that there must occasionally be legislation of a technical or temporary kind; and when there is such legislation an Explanatory Memorandum might possibly seem to be justified. Surely the subject matter of this Bill is, however, of such fundamental importance that it should not be made the subject of temporary legislation. In speaking of the Explanatory Memorandum, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, not only for this occasion but for others as well, that these memoranda have no binding effect in law, that judges are not bound by the law of England to take judicial notice of them, and that it is possible they may cause confusion. Surely, it would be far better to ensure that each Statute, as it becomes law, is in itself intelligible.
I make no apology for criticising only the form and not the substance of this Bill, for the very simple reason that they arc one and the same thing. Unless the form is intelligible the Bill will have no substance, or at any rate no one will be able to tell what the substance is. I hope it is not too late for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this whole matter. It is a vastly important matter; and if he will in this outstanding case of an unfortunate piece of legislation, so to speak, "come clean" —I am sure that in his present office he will understand the expression—the public will appreciate it and will be reassured that Parliament is not going to inflict this sort of thing upon 466 them indefinitely and that we are intent upon ensuring that when we do a job, we do it well.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Captain Swingler (Stafford)
I do not propose to detain the House a long time but there are one or two observations which I wish to make on this very important Bill. I support the Government wholeheartedly in the main provisions of this temporary Measure, and I would like to emphasise, in view of remarks of the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) that it is in this Bill stated, as he said it was stated in previous Measures, that the provisions are temporary. He will find, in looking at the Bill, that the heading of Clause I of the Bill is:Temporary provisions as to electoral registration.As regards the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, it also states that Clause 2 is to extend Section I of the Parliamentary Electors Act, 1944, until 31st December, 1946. Therefore, I hardly think it can be said that this Bill is brought forward, extending these wartime temporary Measures for an indefinite period, because in its main provisions, it is stated that they are temporary.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
One looks at the content of the Clause. Is there one word in Clause I which puts a time limit on it?
§ Captain Swingler
I quite agree with the hon. Member that in Clause I of the Bill no date is stated, but he remarked that in previous Measures dealing with the question of registration it had been stated that they were temporary. I am pointing out that it is stated in this Bill that the provisions as to electoral registration laid down in Clause I are temporary provisions and in Clause 2 that it is to continue up to December, 1946. I, think the Government are right in making these temporary provisions in view of the difficulties which are going to exist, up to the end of 1946. I consider it would have been unwise in that period of resettlement and reconstruction, in the initial period after the war, to reintroduce immediately the residence qualifications. I think it is quite clear that in the period in which we are living, and particularly in the next 12 months during the period of demobilisation from the Armed Forces, there will be considerable movement of population in 467 the country. People have not settled down in the places in which they intend to live; there are still large numbers of evacuees who are going back to their home towns; large numbers of men and women are being demobilised from the Forces; people are compelled to live in places in which they do not in the future intend to live because of the difficulties and prospects of accommodation. Therefore, the reintroduction of the residence qualification would have been a bad thing in this immediate period.
However, I am glad that a time limit has been put on in Clause 2 with regard to the method of making up the electoral register, namely 31st December, 1946. In addition, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary stated, there is the difficulty of clerical staff in regard to the making up of the complete register along the old lines and I think it is questionable, particularly as put forward by some hon. Members, whether we should decide that staff—even though it should be a very small number of clerks involved— should, at this period, be put on to the job of making up the register in a more complicated way, when industry and so on are crying out about the great need for their assistance in reconstruction.
One point which I would put forward very strongly to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in regard to the register on which the General Election was fought this year, and the type of register that is now to be made up under this Bill in 1946. There were many problems and grievances arising out of it, not so much because of the provisions or methods by which it is made up, but because of sheer administrative inefficiency, or what I regard as administrative inefficiency, in matters of detail. It was a widespread scandal in regard to the register on which the Election was fought in July that on a host of matters of detail small mistakes had been made by those who made up the register. Children in their teens, well under the age permitted by the law to vote, were included on the register; there were many duplications, misspelling of names, and a host of minor details which showed that the register had been made up in a great hurry without due attention to detail. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will see to it that, when the next register is made on the same lines in 1946, special instruct- 468 tions are issued to see that more attention is paid to the detailed matters which were overlooked in very many cases in regard to the last register.
There is one final point on which I feel very strongly, and on which I agree with some of the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Daventry, namely, on the Clause dealing with the Service voters. I think the greatest scandal of all in regard to the register on which the General Election was fought was the fact that the vast majority of the Servicemen did not get on to the register, that they did not understand how the register had been made up, that large numbers of them were never given the opportunity to get on to that register, that many of them took the opportunity and the correct ways of getting on that register and still never got on to it, and never found out why they did not get on; and there was no means of redress for the Serviceman who, although he had taken all the correct actions in filling up Army Form B.2626 and sending it off to the registration officer, still found that something had gone wrong in the process and his name was left out. In the constituency I represent, much less than 50 per cent. of the Servicemen actually got on to the register. It is proposed in this Bill to continue the same methods in regard to the Service register and the supplementary register under Clause 3 of the Bill as were laid down for Servicemen to get on to the last register. I consider that an unfortunate aspect of this Bill and I agree with the hon. Member for Daventry when he says that it should not be a method of contracting- for the Serviceman, at any rate when there is no longer a wartime situation, to be able to get his vote, but it should be administratively possible for the Serviceman, from all the records which the Services have of him, which every unit has, which the Army records offices have, to get his vote without having to fill in a postcard and send it off.
What I am particularly concerned about is that for the purposes of the register next year there is now, with the announcement of the Second Reading of this Bill in this House, only the period between now and 31st December of this year for a Serviceman who was not on the register in July, 1944, to get on to the register which will be made up in February, 1946. Otherwise he "will have had it," as they say in the Army, up to the end of Decem- 469 ber, 1946, unless he gets a postcard and fills it in. What about the man far away in the overseas Forces, in S.E.A.C., in the C.M.F.? What about units who have not got any Army forms B. 2626 when the man applies? There is a very short period of time allowed, and I feel that some special effort should be made, as this decision has been taken to continue the supplementary register for the Serviceman along these lines, to give publicity immediately to those people. For those Servicemen who did not get on to the register for the General Election, special measures will have to be taken by the Service Departments to see that the necessary forms are available and publicised as being available, so that within the next month we may have some assurance that the Servicemen will get on to the supplementary register to be made up next year. Otherwise, we shall have exactly the same grievances in 1946 in the case of elections affecting Servicemen as we had in the General Election of 1945. As the Government have not found it possible to come to the conclusion that some other administrative method should be devised to put Servicemen on to a Services supplementary register without their having to fill in forms and make application to get on that register, I appeal to the Home Secretary to start immediately a publicity campaign, particularly for the overseas Forces, to see that the forms are made available, and to see that it is made clear to the Servicemen that they have to fill in those forms and get them to their registration officers by 31st December, 1945, if they are not to lose any opportunity to vote which may be their privilege in the year 1946.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler) T and all other hon. Members have had hundreds of complaints from people who thought they ought to be on the register and found at the time of the election that they were not. However, I shall not pursue that point but deal with rather a different question. It is this, that any register set up under this Bill will, like all registers in the past, be, so far as hundreds if not thousands of electors in the North of Scotland and the Highlands and Islands are concerned, a complete and utter farce. The truth is that their names are put on the register but they 470 are left in a position in which it "is absolutely impossible for them to exercise their vote.
I must explain to hon. Members that the machinery in Scotland is slightly different from that in England. Under Section 43 of the Representation of the People Act, 1945, the Returning Officer in Scotland has the duty of dividing the constituency into polling districts so as to give all the electors as reasonable facilities for voting as are practicable. Under Section 31 (2) a local authority in Scotland, or a body of not less than 30 electors, may represent to the Returning Officer that the polling districts do not meet the reasonable needs of the electors in the constituency. Furthermore, if the Returning Officer does not give them satisfaction, the Lord Advocate—I am sorry he is not here for the moment—has the power to direct the Returning Officer to make such alterations as he considers necessary. That does not mean that 30 electors in a community, however isolated it may be, can automatically get into the polling booth by discretion of the Returning Officer, or even by invoking the aid of the Lord Advocate. That is far from being the case because, lurking in the background, is the Treasury, which keeps a very watchful eye on the Consolidated Fund, out of which has to be borne the cost of setting up polling facilities.
I do not know if it is laid down in any Statute or in any public Regulations what number of electors is held to justify the setting up of a separate polling district. I have been told that the Treasury looks very closely at any proposal to set up a polling district with less than 500 electors in it. I know that exceptions have been made, however, and that there are districts with a smaller number, but, in spite of this, there are many areas in the Highlands and Islands where the electors are, and always have been, virtually disenfranchised. This is particularly the case in certain parts of the Highlands and Islands and in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, the islands of Orkney and Shetland, which consist of some 60 inhabited islands, large and small, spread over a very wide area of the ocean. It happens more particularly where a polling district comprises more than one island, in which case the electors have to cross the sea to record their votes. The Corrupt and Illegal Practises Preven- 471 tion Act, 1883, has a great deal to say on the subject of the conveyance of voters to the poll, Section 7 of which says:No payment shall, for the purpose of promoting the election of a candidate. … be made—(a) on account of the conveyance of electors to or from the poll; whether for the hiring of horses or carriages, or for railway fares, or otherwise;If a candidate pays any of these expenses, he is guilty of an illegal practice which entails certain consequences. Amongst others, his election becomes void, he is precluded from standing again for an election during the life of that Parliament, his name is struck off the register of electors for five years, and he is liable to a fine of £100. All of which goes to show that Parliament, in passing that Act, took a very serious view of what was or was not an undesirable practice. Having established that very salutary principle, Section 48 of the same Act proceeds to drive a coach and horses through it, by the way it deals with the conveyance of electors who have to cross the sea to record their votes. Section 48 says:Where the nature of a county is such that any electors residing therein are unable at an election for such county to reach their polling place without crossing the sea or a branch or arm of the sea, this Act shall not prevent the provision of means for conveying such electors by sea to their polling place, and the amount of such payment for such means of conveyance may be in addition to the maximum amount of expenses allowed by this Act.In other words, candidates are permitted to indulge in a practice which, elsewhere in the Act, is condemned, and rightly condemned, as illegal.
There are some points which I want to bring to the notice of the Joint Undersecretary of State for Scotland with regard to Section 48. It is one of the most extraordinary provisions that has ever found its way on to the Statute Book. He will note that provision is only made for the conveyance of voters to polling places across the sea. In one case in my constituency it is 25 miles across the sea, and in another case, 16 miles. Having conveyed them across the sea to the polling place, you have done all that the Act permits. You are not permitted to take them home again; so presumably, having commandeered the only steamer available, and having taken voters from Fair Isle to Sumburgh to record their 472 vote, you leave them there to find their own way home, which would have to be by swimming, as you have got the only steamer.
Another point to which I would draw at tention is that under Section 48 there is no limit upon the amount which a candidate may spend in providing transport for the conveyance of voters across the sea. There is no limit except the length of the can didate's purse, because Section 48 says that the amount paid for the provision of such transport may be added to the maximum expenses allowed by the Act. The worst thing of all I think is this: In the Act as it now stands, it is perfectly legal for a wealthy candidate to hire the only available steamer, or other means of transport, and to use it exclusively for the conveyance of his own known supporters. I think that is a shocking thing, and one of the reasons why I am intervening in this Debate is, because I think it ought to be stopped, and that something should be done under this Bill to deal with that matter.
All sorts of interesting situations have arisen since that Act was passed. What would be the position if I could get hold of a few [...]ducks,'' or amphibious vehicles as a means of conveyance for electors in my constituency? I would be doing something illegal while the vehicle was going over land, but when we got to the sea, everything would be all right. Then again, what is the position in regard to aircraft? Am I allowed to hire an aeroplane to convey voters from one island to another? I think that the law ought to be made absolutely equal for everybody in this respect. In no circumstances, what so-ever, should a candidate be allowed to pay any part of the expenses of conveying voters to the poll either by land, sea or air. Neither should any candidate be expected to bear the cost of conveying voters to the poll across the sea, just because the returning officer, backed up by the Lord Advocate and the Treasury, thinks that it would cost too much, or that it would be too difficult to provide people with facilities which they ought to have for exercising their vote, by setting up separate polling stations on islands containing less than a certain number of electors. Equally we ought not to have any body of electors disfranchised solely because of their geographical situation.
473 The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will want to know whether there is any practical solution to these difficulties. I certainly do not advocate a solution by setting up polling stations on every island. There are certain practical difficulties in connection with that, with which I am very familiar, but it is not necessary to my argument to go into them now. It would not be a practical solution. Nor do I think the difficulty could be got over, in every case, by providing transport. In the last election, had it not been for the good offices of the Admiralty, and the Admiral commanding in the Orkney and Shetland, a great many more of my constituents would not have been able to get to the poll. There happened to be a large number of craft available at the islands, and the Admiral very kindly placed them at our disposal, but in normal times we cannot command enough transport in the islands to see that these people get to their polling places. There is another objection to transport, and that is the distance between some of these islands—in some cases a 25-mile journey each way. A 50-mile journey across the North Sea in something not much bigger than a herring boat in mid-winter is not a pleasing experience, nor is it one to ask women to undertake. In any case, small boats of that kind, even if they work throughout the day, cannot convey all the electors; it is physically impossible to do it. The real solution, I think, is to embody in this Bill a provision that when the nature of a county is such that any electors re-siding therein are unable, at an election for that county, to reach their polling place without crossing the sea, or a branch or arm of the sea, they shall be entitled to vote by proxy or by post.
That is a simple practical solution and I see nothing in this Bill to prevent that provision being incorporated, and it would be a very good thing. It would relieve candidates of a very heavy expense. It costs a lot to hire a steamer, and it should be no part of a candidate's expense to provide transport for electors. It would prevent the possibility of candidates, under Section 48 of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, from indulging in practices entirely contrary to the real spirit of that Act. Section 48 of that Act puts a doubtful and very dubious legal respectability on the candidate in 474 regard to matters which ought to be considered as entirely illegal. Finally, if this could be done, it would redress a very long-standing grievance with which the Scottish Office is perfectly familiar and about which nothing has been done to put it right. It would remove a grievance affecting hundreds or thousands of electors who are permanently disfranchised at the present time.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Hoy (Leith)
While giving general approval to the Bill, there are two or three points upon which I would like: to have a reply from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I must support the plea of the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler) for further simplification with regard to the registration of Service voters. I can, as one of His Majesty's "other ranks," speak with some authority on the difficulty of Service voters. It might interest the Joint Under-Secretary to know that for a period on the Continent, I served under the command of the hon. Member for Stafford, and so I can vouch for the statement that was made.
The Bill makes it appear to be a very simple matter. It would appear from Clause 3 (2) that all a Serviceman had to do was to fill in a card, and that no other duties were necessary. I want to inform the Under-Secretary that that is not the case. Servicemen on many occasions made application for this particular form— B.2626—only to find that it could not be obtained at their company office, and on many occasions when the forms were filled in, and the cards returned, it was found that a Serviceman was not on the electoral register. There was some mix-up, which was reflected in the voters' register on which the last election was fought, and I think that it was a fair plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) when he asked that we might have a simplification so far as the register of. Service voters was concerned.
It does say, that unless the Serviceman makes his application by December of this year he will not be included in the new roll. I would like some assurance from the Minister that failing that registration, or failing a supply of forms, Servicemen will be placed on the roll subsequent to December of this year. I think that is 475 only asking what is fair to the Serviceman, because I can assure the Minister that conditions are not always such, that registration of a vote is the first concern of the ordinary Service man or woman.
My next point is with regard to hospital patients. I welcome the effort to register people at present incapacitated, but it is not always possible for even the wisest voter to know when he is going to be incapacitated, and that means that thousands of people in this country, in hospital on a given date, are prevented from registering their vote. When one considers how few opportunities there have been in recent years for recording votes, I think it becomes the duty of the Government to introduce legislation which would give an opportunity to people in hospital to vote on the day that polling takes place. I would like a reply from the hon. Gentleman on that point.
There is one other point which is purely a Scottish matter, to which, I trust, the Lord Advocate will give some attention. It is that part of the Bill dealing with sheriffs and their duties. There is one problem we have in Scotland which is not applicable to England, that is, the rigidity with which we enforce the matter of the cross only being on the exact place on the ballot paper. The Scottish Office has had its attention drawn to the fact that in my constituency of Leith 375 papers were spoiled by the incompetency of a presiding officer, who marked the voters' numbers on the ballot paper, instead of on the counterfoil. We paid that person £3 3s to sit and spoil the votes of every voter who came to his polling station that day.
§ Mr. Hoy
I can safely assume that 75 per cent. of them were votes for me. Inasmuch as the majority was 9,500 it was not serious at that time, but it might have been serious if Leith had had its old Member back, instead of myself. I suggest that when the Minister replies he should certainly have something to say on this point. I am not complaining about the returning officer of that day, who was very scrupulous and fair in every detail, and who attempted to have his staff as competent as it was possible for any one man to make it. But I suggest that where a voter has made his intention known, it should be left to the discretion 476 of the returning officer to see that his vote is not declared invalid.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lieut. -Colonel Byers (Dorset, Northern)
There are many provisions of this Bill with which I and my hon. Friends are in general agreement, but it is quite clear, although I dislike saying so, that it is a slipshod Bill and it does not go far enough in many ways. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and I welcome the information, that a Departmental Committee is to be set up to deal with other recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. I hope that that committee will not confine itself to all the matters of the Speaker's Conference, but that it will go a little way outside those terms. In particular, I hope that the committee will notice that Proportional Representation seems to have had a great success in Europe during the last few weeks. Even in Norway there was, under that system, a success which hon. Members opposite would appreciate—a clear Labour majority. I would ask the Minister to watch how Proportional Representation is working in other countries of the world, because it is a thing to which we shall have to turn our attention. From my own position as a Liberal, it appears to be unfair that 2,225,000 votes should be cast, to be rewarded by only I0 seats in the representative Assembly of the people. We make no plea as a minority, but it does indicate that the present system is unjust and unfair. We can draw the conclusion that each seat cost the Liberal Party 220,000 votes, as against 30,000 or 40,000 in the case of other parties; but we do not want to draw the conclusion that we are four or five times better than anybody else.
Turning to the contents of the Bill, it has been stated by the Home Secretary that the present register, under the present arrangements, will be valid only up to 31st December of this year, and that every election after that would, under the old arrangements, have required the provision of an ad hoc register for the purpose of any by-election or General Election which was to take place. I believe I am right in saying that when these ad hoc registers were introduced in 1943 they were generally welcomed as being a method of dealing with the problem of the stale register. The problem of the stale 477 register and the disfranchisement of the people of this country is one which I do not feel this Bill tackles adequately. I emphasise the word "adequately." The Bill does attempt to solve the problem, but it does not go far enough. I believe I am also right in saying that under the Representation of the People Act, 1918, provision was made for two registers a year. Under the economy measures of 1926 this was again put back to an annual register system. This Bill, as I understand it, reverts to the 1926 principle, and that means that, normally, we shall have a new register every year, although in the case of the first so-called year the period is approximately I5 months; so that under these arrangements as contemplated by this Bill, we shall have with us the problem of the stale register and the problem of the disfranchisement of the people.
I would reinforce what has been said from these benches today already, that the vote is a very precious thing, and I believe that all Members will agree that it was a delightful thing to see the value which the electorate of this country placed upon this vote in the General Election. It was something which, coming back after many years overseas, cheered me immensely, and gave new strength to my belief in democracy. We must regard the vote as a precious thing, and accept the responsibility we have, as representatives of the people, to make certain that they obtain their votes with the minimum difficulty in the places in which they reside. This Bill makes provision to assist certain classes of people to obtain their vote. First, there are the persons who have ceased to be members of the Forces or seamen between June and December, 1945. They can be put on a civilian supplementary register in the constituency in which they reside. Secondly, we have been told that members of the Forces, seamen and war workers from abroad can make declarations in the same period, which is getting very short now, and they too can be put upon a supplementary register. Thirdly, persons who are incapacitated or who are blind can be given the privilege of absent voting. On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself I welcome those provisions very much indeed. But we do not feel that the fourth provision, namely, that of allowing people who have moved from one part of the country to another, to be placed upon the absent 478 voters list, is any solution to the problem at all. It is not nearly good enough.
On the last qualifying date for this register, which was 30th June, the war in Europe had scarcely ended, and the Japanese war was not over. Since then, war workers and evacuees have been moving from one part of the country to another. It is fair to say that this movement of population will inevitably increase, or at least it will continue for a considerable time. If this is a temporary Bill that fact is no argument, for over the next year or two, this movement—as the result of the conversion of industry, the switch-over of jobs, the housing problem, men coming back on demobilisation, picking up their wives and families who have been staying with relations, and going to another town—is bound to continue for a considerable time. It is no solution whatever for those civilians who move from one place to another, war-workers in this country, etc., to be told that they can still vote in the place which they have left, the place where they have been living perhaps for part of the war, a place in which they have no longer any interest.
There is a further anomaly where a demobilised man comes back, and takes his wife from the town in which she has been living to reside elsewhere. As I understand the Bill, he can get on to the supplementary register without difficulty and can vote where he is residing. It is difficult to understand this Bill but I take it that his wife is only entitled to vote by post in the constituency which they have left. That seems to me to be a very wrong situation, which it would not be difficult to put right. This Bill, as it stands, is designed for static conditions, and a Bill which is to deal with the next two years must cater for this great problem of movement from one part of the country to another in order to ensure that the vote, which is a very precious thing, is given to every person entitled to it, with the minimum difficulty. I, therefore, suggest that every citizen who moves from one part of the country to another should be included on the supplementary register in the same way as Service men and women. I cannot see that any great difficulties would be involved in such a system. After all, one still has to make an application if one wants to be put on the absent voters list but that application, 479 as I understand the matter, is made at the place which one has left.
We are asking that one should make a similar application to be put on the supplementary register of the place to which one has gone. I cannot believe it would be difficult to confer such a privilege upon people who are moving round. If necessary, it would be a good idea to confine the qualifying period to two months residence in the new place. It will undoubtedly be advanced as an argument against this proposal that there will be duplication of the registers. I do not feel that that is a problem which cannot be solved. I believe it is an administrative detail, which I believe can be dealt with by a system of cross-checking, such as will be undertaken in the case of the other supplementary registers. The desire to achieve this will depend on the value which the Government set upon the citizens of this country having their vote in the right place, at all costs.
The ideal solution, if we are to get over this question of stale registers, is to have two registers a year, as we had before the 1926 economy enactment, and that all people who have moved during that period should be entitled to inclusion in a supplementary register compiled more frequently than the present one. I say that is the ideal solution. I put it forward in order to emphasise the importance which we on these benches attribute to the possession of a vote. I believe the minimum we should accept is one register a year, but that all people who move should be entitled, instead of being relegated to the absent voters' list, to be included in a supplementary register that enables them to have a vote in the constituency in which they have resided for a two months qualifying period. That would solve a great many of the problems which will, inevitably, arise.
May I say, finally, how strongly I reinforce, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, the pressure which is being put upon the Home Secretary to do away with this contracting-in system in the case of the Service votes, and to get down to an automatic system? It ought to be possible to introduce such a system when one considers that it is a matter of administration. I do not believe that this Government need be frightened of administration, but. I hope they will not in any 480 way refuse to give the people the very best possible service and every opportunity for using the votes to which they are entitled in places where they reside, and that matters of administrative detail will not prevent any of the people of this country from having the right to vote.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lang (Stalybridge and Hyde)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down will, I am sure, forgive me if I do not follow him in all that he has said, although, if I may say so, he has given a very lucid and remarkably well reasoned speech upon this Bill, and has said something which many of us— perhaps most of us—were very glad to hear. I was very glad to hear his plea that the Committee set up by the right hon. Gentleman might go a little beyond what seemed to be its terms of reference, and inquire into the question of voting. After all, this Bill deals with very important matters— the right of every citizen to vote for the Imperial Parliament, and the right of every man to be tried by his peers under the jury system. A more important Bill introduced into this House one could scarcely conceive, and I hope that, in the spirit of the times, the Bill will be interpreted liberally, and that those responsible for it will find themselves able and willing to accept the strong views of the House.
The last matter to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, and which was eloquently dealt with earlier by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler), is that Service men and women should be able to exercise their right to vote. They did not have that privilege during the recent General Election, and it was by no means entirely their fault. There were plenty of cases in which Service people went to the trouble of filling up the prescribed form, and yet were never given the opportunity to vote. It would be a tragedy, if an opportunity were not afforded to every Service man and woman to vote. That is the desire of the country and of the House. There is another thing to be said about it. No matter how far the system of demobilisation is accelerated, if it were much more speedy than it is, and as speedy as I wish it to be, there is bound to be a certain sense of frustration among those who are awaiting their turn, and if, by any chance, in addition to their 481 extended service with the Forces, they found themselves deprived of their rights as citizens the position would be a grievous one indeed. Here, then, is an opportunity for reducing that possibility.
Then I would like to refer to classes of people who have not yet been mentioned in this Debate in connection with the subject of absent voters. Perhaps I may state my own case. I had the privilege of fighting five Parliamentary elections, but I have not had the privilege of voting at one. I was obliged to be away from the constituency in which I live, in order to contest my seat. I do not see why it should not be arranged that Parliamentary candidates who have to be away contesting constituencies, should be able to exercise their votes by post. I think it ought to be permissible, as indeed it ought to be for learned judges and barristers on circuit, and even for people who are engaged in travelling for commerce. They are not the least intelligent section of the community. If the intention is, as it ought to be, that everybody who is entitled to vote should be able to vote, I believe it is the duty of the Government to make it easy for those people to vote, even if there were some errors in the registration list. If within a few days of an election a person can validly prove that he is entitled to vote, I cannot see why it is not possible to enable him to do so. Surely these matters ought to be subject to common sense as well as to all kinds of legal formulae.
I desire to say one word about the second part of the Bill, and about something which, unfortunately, is not in it. The compilation of the jurors' list is, again, a very important matter, and people are called upon to render great service. We have every reason to be proud in this country of our system of justice, and recent events in other places have, I think, made many of us more thankful than ever for the broad, fair and incorruptible system of justice that is administered for us and to us. Jurors obviously have to play a great part in that, but it is a very difficult part for a large number of people. Take, for instance, the average court of justice. The only persons whose expenses are not paid in that court, apart perhaps from an accused person, are the members of the jury. The judges, the legal people engaged and the reporters receive salaries. 482 there are witnesses' expenses, and even the messenger boys are paid, but business men who are often compelled to close down their businesses or engage additional help, have to be in the courts for many days to discharge their duties without any kind of recompense or out-of-pocket expenses. They, and perhaps they only, in the court are the people who might have a rankling sense of injustice. I know it is customary at the end of a long trial for the judge to give exemption to the jury for some years, but I would point out that jurors may actually be in court for much longer periods than that. They may be called at the beginning of an assize; they may have to attend each day and yet not go into the jury box until three or four days have elapsed. If they only sit two days, their period of service and of being away from their business is longer than that of people who may sit at a noted trial.
I not only want the jury service to be continued as an integral part of the administration of justice, I want it to be cheerfully given. Some of us are aware of the way in which great bodies of trades-people at their conferences have, now and then, pressed for exemption from jury service. I have never thought that to be the way out. I want these people to have the opportunity and the privilege of serving upon juries, but I believe there is a case for paying them reasonable expenses. In these days nearly everybody is paid for everything he does. Why should not these people, who render very important and indispensible service, be recompensed for out of pocket expenses? I hope that at some time that matter can be dealt with.
That is all I desire to say upon this Bill. I hope some of the points that have been pressed by Members of this House will be conceded. I am quite sure they will be considered, but that is not enough. I want every Service man and woman put on the register. They have more right than anyone. We owe to them a debt which, as long as we live, we shall never be able to pay, and the least we can do is to see that they have their opportunity of deciding who shall represent them and what policies they want to be the policies of the country. I hope something may be done to give to those who, like myself, have to fight elections a good way from home an opportunity to register 483 their votes. It will be a great day when I can register my first Parliamentary vote. I hope it will not be suggested that those of us who had the privilege of being voted for by scores of thousands of people are themselves not competent to vote. Why a Parliamentary candidate should not be able to send his vote by proxy or by post I do not know. I hope at some time— not in this Bill, perhaps, but at some time—the service of jurors to the community will be recognised, and a reasonable reinbursement of their expenses granted.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Nigel Birch (Flint)
I will not detain the House long, but I want to put in a plea for a very special class of person. I refer to nuns in enclosed orders —nuns who have taken vows of perpetual seclusion in a convent. I speak entirely without prejudice in this matter because I am a member of the Established Church, and I have not been approached by any Catholic interest. It so happens that there is a nunnery in my constituency, and all the candidates at the Election were approached to see if anything could be done to get proxy votes for the nuns, who are unable to leave the convent. Of course, we were not able to do anything about it. I imagine the number involved is very small. I cannot understand any principle which draws a distinction between those who are trying to cure our bodies, and those who are trying to cure our souls. I would like the hon. Gentleman who replies to give some indication of whether he will put in an Amendment so that this special class of people can be included in Clause 6.
§ Lieutenant Skeffington - Lodge (Bedford)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that there are communities of women in the Established Church, and that such communities are not exclusive to the Roman Catholic Church?
§ Lieut-Colonel Birch
I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised that point. I hope these communities will be included in the manner I have indicated.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Major Digby (Dorset, Western)
It seems to me there are two things about this Bill which are bad, and one which is good. The two things which I regard 484 as bad are that we are continuing with this very unsatisfactory register, and that once again we are continuing without a qualifying period. The point which I regard as satisfactory is the fact that the method of postal voting has at last been extended. I am sure the lack of it inflicted great hardship in the past. With regard to this question of the register, on which we fought the last election, we are today being asked by the Home Secretary to continue that system. I very much doubt whether there is in any part of this House any Member who during the election did not have some complaints about that register and the omissions from it. We all know, from our own knowledge, a number of cases of men and women who have lived in places all their lives and reached advanced years, and yet were left off the register. I myself know one polling district of considerable size in which all the people whose names began with "H" were automatically left off the register. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs, and I suggest that this House should be very slow to perpetuate a system of that sort. It was the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Health who said, when the Act of 1944 was being debated in this House:Yes, if a Labour Government cause conditions which make people dissatisfied, that dissatisfaction should find expression in the election. It is essential that we should arrange our system of election so that no considerable body of citizens is prevented from having a vote at an election." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, I944; Vol. 40I, c. 633.]That is exactly what we are being asked to do today. We are being asked to continue this system which, we know from the experience of the election, will result in a large number of citizens being disfranchised.
Although I agree with a great deal that was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler), especially concerning Service voters, I am afraid I was not in agreement with him on one matter. He suggested that at times like these, when we are short of men for many tasks, it would be asking rather a lot to put on the extra men to enable us to go back to the old system which we know was satisfactory. I consider, and other hon. Members feel the same, that the right of the citizen to vote is very important and should not be taken from him lightly. I suggest that this 485 House needs extremely good reasons before it decides to go on with a system which we know has deprived a number of citizens of their democratic right to vote.
Now, let me come to the question of the qualifying period, which does not find a place in the Bill. Once again, the qualification to vote depends upon an appointed day. In this country we have long relied upon a system of territorial representation, the Member of Parliament representing a certain area. Other ways have been tried in other countries. There has been a system of Proportional Representation where there is a pool of Members of Parliament, each of whom is not necessarily identified with any particular geographical area. We have had in certain States in Europe, the very objectionable attempt to establish the corporate State, which is representation according to vocation. I am sure that is objectionable to most hon. Members of this House. I believe that our system, by which one man represents a particular area, very often lives there and is well known to most of the people living in that area, is very good. If we are to go on with the system of having an appointed day, and not a residence qualification, we arc endangering our whole system. I regard it as most important that we should re-establish at the earliest possible moment the residence qualification.
My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) quoted at some length from what the Leader of the House said during a Debate a year ago. I would like to add one further quotation from what he said on this subject, which was:It is only because of the urgency of putting the new arrangements into effect for by-elections that the Government have been prepared to suspend, even as a temporary measure, the requirement of the two months' continual residence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, I944; Vol. 401, c. 613.]Hero again, a General Election has been fought on this register. We are asked again today to continue this system which many of us believe to be very bad.
I should like to come now to what I consider to be good in the Bill. I am glad that the Government have included in it at least one recommendation of the Speaker's Conference, and that is the extension of the personal and proxy vote. Many invalids in the past have been disfranchised and many have come to me 486 or have written to me and asked: "Is there any way in which I can record my vote?" I think it is an excellent thing that this grievance has now been remedied and that those people will now have an opportunity of recording their vote, and of exercising their rights as citizens. There are, however, other recommendations of the Speaker's Conference which it has not been possible, I am very sorry to say, to include in the Bill. We have just heard that a Committee has been set up to consider the matter, and that is very satisfactory, but I do not understand why, if it was possible to include one recommendation it was not possible to include more. After all, the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference are clearly laid down and they were agreed upon at that time. There is not very much controversy about them. I could deal at length with matters which I should like to see included in the Bill. There are, for example, the expenses incurred by outside organisations being included in election expenses. That seems to be to be a very necessary provision. Again, it was suggested by the Speaker's Conference that poll cards should be issued by returning officers. There is also the question of speakers' expenses being allowed.
One matter which is of the greatest importance, especially in rural areas, is the recommendation about the use of schools and other institutions which are partially or fully maintained. It was recommended that they should on all occasions be made available for political meetings. In the country districts we have considerable difficulty in finding suitable halls or other places in which to hold our meetings. We have felt the difficulty during the war, on account of the large measure of requisitioning, but the difficulty is always there. We cannot tell that the next General Election will be fought in the summer time, as was the last, when we shall be able to make full use of the open air. It is most important that we should have proper places in which to put our views before the electors. Then there is another matter which is equally important for rural areas, the provision of more polling facilities. I believe that those who live in cities and towns do not generally-realise how far some of the unfortunate country voters have to go to record their vote. Often they may have to go a number of miles, and that is a lot to ask 487 of old people. In fact, it is impossible for some very old people to go to the poll. Once again, a particular class of persons are disfranchised and prevented from exercising their democratic right to vote.
I consider that we are being asked to continue a system which is unsatisfactory and is unfair to the electors. We heard the complaints at the last General Election about the register, and I do not suppose that any of us said: "I am going up to Westminster to vote for the continuation of this system." Hon. Members in all quarters of the House would be very slow to suggest that. I do not think that we have been given a sufficiently good case this evening for continuing this system. I am very sorry that the Government have not seen fit to include more of the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. For those reasons I am opposed to the Bill.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Major Wells (Walsall)
In the course of the Debate we have heard a number of eloquent appeals. The Government have been urged to consider the position of enclosed nuns, commercial travellers and Parliamentary candidates. The first two of those classes are at all times deserving of the full consideration of this House. We have heard from my hon. Friend— if I may so call him—the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) a devastating attack on the evils of legislation by reference, and we have heard the Government invited to introduce, in what is, and what purports to be, only a temporary Measure, wide and far-reaching reforms both in the electoral system in this country and in the method by which legislation is put before us.
As one of those unfortunate beings who are asked from time to time to construe the law for the benefit of their clients, I could not agree more than with my hon. Friend's appeal for the abolition of legislation that is in the form of this document here. I am afraid it is rather a stale argument to use perhaps, but at any rate, the present Government are not the first Government to employ this method of legislation. If we look at the terms of the Bill we shall see how extraordinarily difficult it would be to draft anything of moderate length without a great deal of legislation by reference. 488 When the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said in the course of his argument that Service voters would have to read three Acts before they understood what they had to do in order to secure votes under the system which is imposed, I think the provisions of Section I0 of the 1943 Act had escaped his attention. There is there laid upon the Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council the statutory duty both of making administrative arrangements to make it possible for the Service voter to vote, and also of drawing the attention of those men and women to what they have to do in order to vote.
Speaking for myself, at the relevant time I was serving in this country, and the Army Council at any rate performed that second part of their duty, the explanatory part, most admirably before the last Election. Not only were Army Council Instructions issued, but notice board instructions were drafted in very simple language and were generally disseminated, and so it was made possible for very ordinary people to follow exactly what they had to do. The real reason for the undoubted disorganisation that existed at the time of the last Election was not in the necessity of explanation or in the methods that were taken to explain; but, owing to the fact that right hon. Gentlemen opposite decided to have an Election on the date when they did, there was no time to make the administrative arrangements that were necessary in the overseas theatres.
In fairness, it may be said that whatever day had been fixed, there might have been some mistakes in the immediate operational theatres. There would have been mistakes. People there would have thought there were more important things to do than vote at a General Election. It is a fantastic argument, and one which should not be taken into account, to suggest that it is necessary that anybody in the Services should read three Acts, or anything at all except some very simple explanatory matter, in order to know what they have to do to vote.
The hon. Member for Daventry used another argument which rather surprised me at the time, and I wanted to verify whether I was right in doubting the accuracy of this argument when he said that, although the sub-title of this Bill states that the provisions as to electoral registration are temporary, there was no 489 provision in Clause I for any termination of the operation of this part of the Bill. On looking at the Bill I see:Notwithstanding anything in the Act of 1943 or in the Act of 1945, the register of electors to be in force for a parliamentary election which(a) is initiated on or after the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-six; and(b) is an election at which the time fixed for nomination falls before the coming into force of a new register prepared under section eleven of the Act of 1918;".The second paragraph, to my mind, does provide a perfectly definite term to this Bill, which is linked to the duration of the National Registration Act, 1939, which in its turn is limited to the duration of the present emergency. I submit that the temporary arrangements made by this Bill are perfectly satisfactory, and that the criticisms opposite, based on its inadequacies as a long-term Measure, are inept and should not be considered. The interim Report of the Committee on Electoral Reform has been published; its final report has not yet been published and, in due time, I for one would agree that there are a great many alterations which ought to be made in our electoral law. This, however, is not the time or the occasion for making them.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
I want to refer to merchant seamen and the method used to get them on to the voters' register. In every division in Liverpool, I think, during the General Election, it was discovered that there was not a merchant seaman at all on the register, and in view of the fact that this Bill contains procedure similar to that which created the register for the General Election, on the next occasion merchant seamen will again be entirely off the register. I think the Home Secretary might consider the special case of merchant seamen, because while the necessity for provision to deal with people in the Forces will gradually disappear, the Merchant Service continues for ever, and unless there is special legislation or some special method is adopted to enable merchant seamen to get on to the register, they will be disfranchised for ever. I hope the Home Secretary will make some attempt to introduce some legislation or method whereby the merchant seamen of this country can be put on to the electoral register.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
In the present partly fog-bound condition of this noble Chamber, it is perhaps not surprising that hon. Members have shown a desire to enable the many deserving officers and staff of the House who serve our requirements to see their homes at some time this evening. All the same, we have had a number of useful contributions to the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself was unable to inspire any warmth into this rather dry subject, but I think perhaps he has been unfortunate in having been connected with a number of bad Bills during the last three or four weeks. I should like however to congratulate him on the successful manoeuvre of changing his batting order yesterday, and only express the hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is not suffering any reaction as a result of the oratorical fireworks to which he yesterday treated the House.
Some parts of this Bill will be generally welcomed. The Amendment which was moved from these Benches expresses our satisfaction that there are to be extended provisions for postal voting, by persons who cannot be in the constituency upon the day of the poll, and by sick persons. Those provisions will be generally welcomed, and they might well have formed part of our statute law in days gone by. I also welcome the provision that new jurors' lists are to be compiled. That, at any rate, seems to indicate that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to abolish trial by jury, and of course jurors will be very much needed in the years that lie ahead. There are bound to be many more offences under a Socialist régime; the more regulations there are, the more penalties there have to be, and it is perfectly clear that it will be very difficult in years to come for citizens to know whether they are within or without the law. In fact, it is not too easy at the present time under the various wartime provisions that have had to be made. One could cite plenty of examples of cases where you are bound to break the law whatever you do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Indictable offences? "] Yes, I am sure they are indictable. A friend of mine who has been engaged on Secret Service work was told that if he gave details of his income to his Inspector of Taxes he 491 would be guilty of a breach of the Official Secrets Act, and hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that not to disclose one's income to the Inspector of Taxes is a very serious offence. It seems to me that in the times that lie ahead there will be many citizens who will not be able to tell when they are breaking the law, and I therefore welcome the establishment of new jurors' lists, because during wartime it has been extremely difficult to secure satisfactory juries. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when introducing an unpopular Bill such as the one which he brought before the House yesterday—
§ Mr. Peake
—blamed his predecessor in office for the difficulty in which he found himself. I have noted that to-day he has not blamed the Lord President of the Council, who was Home Secretary for four and a half years and whose enactments are responsible for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has to bring in this Bill today. He has not been subjected to any censure by the right hon. Gentleman.
This matter began in the summer of 1942. The problem at that time was to devise a method of electoral registration which would be satisfactory in the conditions of a very mobile population in the months following the termination of the war. It is a very obvious difficulty, and in 1942 the Lord President of the Council appointed a very strong Committee to try and devise some system of voting which could operate satisfactorily under those conditions. He appointed a very good committee called the Committee on Electoral Machinery, which reported in December, 1942. Amongst its members, who included the three agents of the main political parties, it contained Mr. Garro Jones, who was a Socialist Minister in the last Government but one, and the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. That Committee reported very fully and elaborately in favour of a system of what they called "continuous registration." I think it was a very excellent plan. The plan was this: by means of the national register, there should be automatic Registration of everybody who resided for a period of two months at any once place, 492 and the register should be brought up to date continuously. That is to say, if somebody living in Westminster went to stay for six weeks in Leeds and then moved for nine weeks to Bristol, he would not be transferred from the register in Westminster to the register in Leeds but would be picked up automatically when he stayed the ninth week in Bristol, being put on the register there and taken off the register in Westminster.
That was the system recommended by this very strong Committee, and it is an ideal system for a time when there is a mobile population. The great advantage of the system was that it preserved the connection between a definite period of residence and being placed upon the register. I think that a period of residence is a very desirable thing, and it would be a very bad thing if casual visitors—people, for instance, who stayed for a few weeks at one of the seaside resorts in the summer were to be placed upon the electoral register there. It would be quite contrary to the spirit of our institutions, which is that there is some connection, some tie, between the Member and his constituency. It would be quite wrong that somebody who casually came into the constituency for a few weeks, knowing nothing of the local conditions, not intending to stay there, and knowing nothing of the rival candidates, should obtain a vote for that constituency. I am very much fortified in my views by those of the Lord President himself which were expressed in the Debate on 27th June, 1944, to which I will shortly refer.
What happened to that system of continuous registration? It was embodied in the Act of 1943, and some months later the electoral registration officers came along and told the Home Secretary that in the conditions then obtaining they could not operate it. That was close to D-Day, I944, when obviously the pressure upon manpower was at its very greatest. As a result of the situation that arose and the obvious inconvenience caused by not having the possibility at that time of an up-to-date register, the Lord President of the Council brought in the Parliamentary Electors (War-Time Registration) Bill, I944, which was given a Second Reading on 27th June. In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman came before the House in a white sheet. I was the right hon. Gentleman's Under-Secretary at that 493 time, and I shall quote from my own remarks, but first I would like to quote from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. He apologised for the breakdown in the machinery of the 1943 Act, and explained that the purpose of the Measure before the House, which was a purely temporary one, was to do away with the two months' residential qualification and in its place put residence on a single day. He expressed great regret at having to take that course and promised in unqualified terms that the arrangements would be only temporary. He said:The Bill suspends the requirement of two months' continuous residence and substitutes a provision that a person shall be entitled to be included on the electoral register for civilians if he is registered in the national register, as residing in the constituency on the qualifying date. I know that Members in certain parts of the House are rather averse from abolishing, for the time being, this qualifying period. I sympathise with them. I like some attachment to the soil on the part of the electors in a constituency, and I do not, in any way, dispute the sentiment of those who feel rather unhappy on this point.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he had taken all possible precautions to make sure that the Bill was only of a temporary character. He was asked by Sir Percy Harris, who at that time represented South-West Bethnal Green:Will my right hon. Friend give an important guarantee, which will expedite the passage of the Bill, that the Bill will not be used for a General Election?The right hon. Gentleman replied:I want to be absolutely honest with the House. I, personally, do not think it will. I do not think it ought to be, unless circumstances should force us, for example, to have a wartime General Election—which Heaven forbid. My own view is that whether a General Election comes during the European war or thereafter, this Bill ought not to be used if it is possible to avoid it, and every effort will be made to that end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1944; Vol. 401, c. 611–13.]When I replied to the Debate, speaking with the assent and, in fact, on the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman, I was questioned by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) who asked:Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance, on behalf of the Minister, that this reduction of the residential qualification is purely a temporary war measure, and that the old-time principle of the residential qualification is not being jeopardized?I replied:I can give that assurance without any qualification whatever. It is not only a wartime measure, but it will expire at the end 494 of 1945"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, I944; Vol. 401, c. 647.]I hold that I, at any rate, am bound by those undertakings. They seem to me to be quite inescapable. The residential qualification was abolished in 1944, at the height of the war and just after D-Day, on purely manpower grounds. The war has now been over for some months, and I regard it clearly as a breach of pledge to bring before the House a Bill which carries on for an indefinite period the existing system of a single residential day. During the Debate on the I945 Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the Lord President of the Council stated what would be the manpower requirements for operating the continuous registration system which the House adopted in 1943. He said that to work that system would require an additional 1,200 clerks and 400 supervising officers. I think this country deserves the best electoral machinery that can be devised and I do not think that in time of peace we ought to assent to the perpetuation of a one-day residential qualification when, in order to secure what the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself in I944 to secure, all that would be required would be an additional 1,200 clerks and 400 supervising officers.
The system of continuous registration would have been the best system for dealing with a mobile population, and would have avoided much of the necessity for the extension of postal voting facilities, because under the continuous registration system the register would always have been automatically brought up to date. I say that it would have been the best system, and that it is the system to which the Government ought at this time to revert, in accordance with the pledge that was given in 1944. I do not know why it has been jettisoned. After all, right hon. and hon. Members opposite have said that the register of May, 1945, was a very bad one. They condemned it out of hand. I see that the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. McLean Watson) is in his place; I have here statements from his election address:Mr. Churchill has refused to wait until the more complete register of voters is issued in October, and tens of thousands of the electors who changed their addresses will be deprived of the opportunity of taking part in the election.I think we are all agreed that it was not a very good register, but what surprised me was that when a series of by-elections 495 had to be held in order to fill vacancies which occured in the Socialist ranks soon after the General Election, they rushed in and held the elections on the May register.
I want, in conclusion, to make three points. It is to be regretted that the system of continuous registration is not to be given a chance, and that we are to continue for an indefinite period without any residential qualification whatever. It is a pity, also, that the right hon. Gentleman is shelving, by means of establishing another Committee, the main recommendations of the Second Report of the Speaker's Conference. Those very important recommendations were made in July, 1944. Some of them were referred by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, who is now Lord President of the Council, to Sir Cecil Carr, Parliamentary Counsel, for his opinion on them nearly 15 months ago. I think it is rather a pity, when hon. Members in all parts of the House want to see these recommendations carried into effect, and when they have been exhaustively examined by the Speaker's Conference, to establish yet another Committee. At any time during the past four months, the right hon. Gentleman could have got expert advice on the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference from the chief agents of the different political parties. There are many matters contained in the Second Report of the Speaker's Conference on which hon. Members in all parts of the House would have liked to have seen legislation, and this Bill would have been a fine opportunity for incorporating such legislation, without there being any necessity for further inquiry. Hon. Members on this side of the House will be bound to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill and in favour of the Amendment, for the reasons stated therein.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)
There has been an interesting discussion on this Bill, and I will try to answer many of the points that have been raised by hon. and right hon. Members. Before doing so, I think I have the responsibility of dealing with the Amendment on the Order Paper, because we have been told quite specifically that hon. Members opposite intend to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill both for the reasons they 496 have given and for the reasons stated in the Amendment. The Amendment reads:That this House, whilst welcoming the proposal to extend facilities for absent voting to persons who have changed their residence, and to blind persons and persons physically incapable of voting, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which ignores many of the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference and, notwithstanding the assurances given by the Lord President of the Council on 27th June, 1944, continues the suspension of any qualifying period, and perpetuates a system of registration which has resulted in many persons being deprived of the franchise.We have had two reports from the Speaker's Conference, the first Report on 24th May, 1944, and the second Report on 20th July, 1944. The first Report contained 28 resolutions, and 23 of those resolutions were given effect to in the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1944. The remaining resolutions related to reform of the franchise and methods of election. Two of them dealt with assimilating the Parliamentary and local government franchise and with the abolition of the spouses qualification. Those were given effect to in the 1945 Act. The only recommendations of the first Report not enacted are one relating to the automatic registration of University electors, and the recommendation that persons should not be registered for more than one residence and one business qualification, if administratively possible. Those three words, "if administratively possible," were used by the Committee. I do not think there is any criticism of the Government for failing at this time to enact either of those last two recommendations of the first report. The second report contained 20 resolutions mostly dealing with the conduct and cost of elections, and the expenses falling upon candidates and Members of Parliament. There was one relating to postal voting by Service voters to which effect was given in the Act of this year. That is being continued in the present Bill.
This Bill also gives effect to the resolution in the second report about absent voting by physically incapacitated persons. The other resolutions relate to somewhat far-reaching matters and would involve amendment of the Ballot Act and the Corrupt and Illegal Practices (Prevention) Act. It may be that it would not have been wrong to amend those Acts 497 at this time, but I think that the Opposition, who are pressing us all the time to give adequate consideration to any matters we may decide to bring before the House in the way of legislation, ought to be consistent on this occasion and agree that it would be undesirable in this Bill, which is necessary at this time, to bring in these matters that require very considerable consideration before they are enacted. The legislation implementing such recommendations will, I think it is agreed, be extremely difficult to draft because of the technical nature of the subject matter. In the circumstances we did not think it possible that these matters should be dealt with at this time.
Great play has been made with the qualifying period of residence and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) rather exaggerated the position when he spoke about casual visitors to the seaside. I think he is quite wrong. Casual visitors to the seaside normally take out emergency cards for one or two weeks and their registration remains in their own locality. Thus if they should be at the seaside at the time of registration, they would still be registered in their own locality and would therefore vote in their own constituency. The difficulties of having this qualifying period of residence and continuous registration were appreciated when the 1944 Bill was introduced. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Lord President of the Council, when he was Home Secretary, and also quoted himself. I will not quote the Home Secretary because he has already been quoted twice this afternoon but I would quote the right hon. Gentleman himself when he was Under-Secretary when he said that it was a temporary measure which would expire at the end of 1945 and that the Bill was brought in because there was no real or practicable alternative. I would beg to use the right hon. Gentleman's words and to say that this Bill this afternoon is brought in because we see no real or practicable alternative. The difficulty persists. I think I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that there was a war on then, but it is only a short time since peace broke out and we have not yet reached the stage of total peace.
The reason for the present proposal is not that the Government are opposed to a qualifying period. We are not opposed to it and it is quite wrong to say that it 498 has been jettisoned or thrown overboard. We agree with the remarks made by the Lord President of the Council on the Bill in 1944, but it must be appreciated that there are many difficulties. Registration officers have said to us that to have this period and a system of continuous registration is quite impossible of operation at the moment. It seems to me quite easy to say that when a person leaves Westminster and goes to Leeds for seven weeks there should be no transfer, but if he goes from Leeds to Bournemouth or somewhere like that and stays nine weeks there should be a transfer to there. When a person moves from one part of the country to another a careful check would have to be made, if he moved out of the constituency in which he was at the moment residing, to say that he left the one constituency on such a day and that he came to the other constituency on such a day. Under the continuous registration system we would just check him for the moment. We would not transfer him. We would just keep an eye on him and if he was still away eight weeks and one day after he had moved, a transfer would be made out and cancellation of his registration in the first constituency effected.
In spite of the claims about the small numbers of people that are required to do it—and I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman quoted the Lord President of the Council's figures—in spite of the statement that the number affected is small, and that the difficulties are not insuperable, we have still to consider the people who would be required to administer this system of registration. They inform us— and they are not agents of the Labour Party—that it is quite unworkable and that it cannot be done. I think this time we have the responsibility of listening to them. The right hon. Gentleman knows that if we do not get this Bill, on 1st January next these provisions for working on the register compiled on the basis of national registration at a certain date expire, and we should have to go on to an ad hoc register. We were told by the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manning-ham-Buller) that he did not see that there was any real difficulty about this, but I would point out to him that the time when an ad hoc register would be required would not be Autumn next year, for instance, but January of next year which is only six weeks away. Since, according to the best advice at our dis- 499 posal, which is inevitably that of the electoral registration officers, it is not possible to do it, it would be quite improper for us to create a situation wherein it would be quite impossible for there to be a General Election in this country. My right hon. Friend in his opening speech said that, although no one anticipated a General Election in 1946, nevertheless it would be most unfortunate if we were to allow a position to be created whereby it would be physically impossible for the people of this country to engage in a General Election.
It has also been argued that it is very unfortunate that we propose to perpetuate a system of registration which has resulted in so many people being deprived of the franchise. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary indicated earlier, he made a statement on nth October intimating that the Government were inquiring into the question of what should be the permanent basis of registration and that a committee was in process of being appointed. I think it a fair point to say that no one has suggested a workable alternative to our present proposal to continue the existing wartime system of registration. We do not know of one, and we think it would not be a bad thing if hon. Members from all sides of the House and people outside with a knowledge of electoral machinery got together to examine every avenue and to report to us at the end of their deliberations what they consider to be the best means of registering people for the purpose of voting in elections.
There have been criticisms, and I think probably very legitimate ones, of the inadequacies of the present register. I think however that though these criticisms may be justified in some cases, some people have rather over painted the lily, and the imperfections of the system have been exaggerated. I have tried to get some evidence in Scotland as to the extent of these imperfections. I do appreciate that the imperfections of the Service register were extensive, but I cannot get any very detailed information on the extent of the imperfections of the civilian register. The normal method before the war of course was by means of a canvass and the residence qualification. During the war years the manpower difficulty made a departure from that system very 500 necessary. This difficulty persists and although none of us could say what system of registration will be recommended by the Committee appointed by the Home Secretary it seems to me that it is not unreasonable that we should continue with our wartime expedient until a better way is found.
§ Mr. Peake
I am very sorry to interrupt but this is a very important matter. I have not got the position quite clear. I understood the Home Secretary to say that he hoped to resume the 1918 system in the year 1947. Do I understand that the Committee is going to inquire into whether that system is good or bad?
§ Mr. Fraser
In moving for the Second Reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said he hoped it would be unnecessary to continue this system indefinitely. I hope that we will not have to go on with it. The Home Secretary did inform the House that he had set up this Committee to inquire into a permanent basis of registration for election purposes, and, of course, that means that they will look into the provisions of the 1918 Act. I hope they will succeed in finding a better way, but I cannot be sure they will do so.
My right hon. Friend indicated that I would be saying a word about that part of the Bill which deals with purely Scottish matters and, although no one has raised that in discussion, I think I ought to do so. Clause 13 of the Bill proposes a certain change, as under the 1918 Act where a constituency extended into more than one sheriffdom the Schedule to the Act decided who the returning officer should be. I would inform the House that the returning officer in Scotland is the sheriff of the sheriffdom in which the constituency is situated. In adjusting constituencies and sheriffdoms we believe that difficulties may arise in relation to constituencies that are situated in one or more sheriffdoms, and we think it better, in order to avoid any confusion as to who the returning officer should be, that the Secretary of State should take the responsibility of informing any such constituency of the sheriff who is to be the returning officer for that constituency. This is a purely Scottish point dealt with in the new Bill.
I think I should try to reply to one or two points raised by hon. Members. 501 Some of their suggestions are outside the scope of this Bill, and it would have been impossible to include them. The hon. Member for Daventry asked how we were going to warn the Service man when he would be eligible for inclusion in a supplementary register. Immediately after the General Election I believe that the Commands in all the Services were informed that they had better provide that their personnel should make application for registration. Since my right hon. Friend was able to indicate to the House the other week that this Bill would be introduced as soon as printed, we again took steps to ask for the co-operation of the Service Departments in warning the Commands straight away to give to their personnel who were not already on the Service register the opportunity of getting on that register before 31st December next.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member has said what steps will be taken to warn those still in the Services. Would he go on to say what steps have been, or will be, taken to warn those who have been demobilised since 30th June, and those who are war workers abroad?
§ Mr. Fraser
We are publishing our intentions to the best of our ability, and it will be incumbent upon the Commands— I am referring to the Service voters for the time being—to inform those who joined the Services between 30th June and 31st December.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Gentleman has not got my point. I was not talking about Commands informing people who were recently called up, but was asking the hon. Gentleman about people who have been demobilised since 30th June and who no longer have a Command. What steps are to be taken to bring to their notice the fact that they are to make application before the end of this year?
§ Mr. Fraser
If they were not on the Service register they will not go on under the provisions of this Bill. That may be unfortunate, but there are many civilians in this country who are not on the register, 502 and it is not found possible to have all of them included and given an opportunity of going on to the supplementary list at this time. It is well to remember that in the past we have always had imperfections in the electoral register.
§ Mr. Fraser
I would like to meet the wishes of the House and I do not want to be unreasonable. I understand that when the serving man is demobilised he receives an identity card, and he is immediately registered in the same way as any other person and he will then be eligible for inclusion. If the man was not on the Service register and was demobilised between 30th June and 31st December, he would be eligible for inclusion in the Service register, but it would be the next one.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It is very important that we should get this absolutely clear, not only for the benefit of hon. Members in this House, but for people outside the House. A number of people will have been demobilised between 30th June and the end of December this year. Some of these people may not have been on the Service register or on the October register. What steps are to be taken to enable them to get on to the supplementary register? As far as I can see they can get on the supplementary register even if they were not on the old Service register. If they were on the old Service register, there is no need to apply to get on to the supplementary register. I think that the hon. Gentleman rather slipped up there, and that is why I intervened. The next point I would like to make clear is this. If the demobilised people do not apply before 31st December this year for the supplementary register, they cannot get on any register until the register for October, 1946, comes into force. Is not that the position?
§ Mr. Fraser
I understand that when the demobilised man comes along to register in the ordinary way he receives an identity card and is immediately Regis- 503 tered as a civilian voter, and I understand that he is included in the supplementary register automatically. I think that that is the position. I am being honest and frank with the House, and I say that we will have a look at the matter. This is not the last occasion on which we shall have to discuss the Bill now before us. If I am wrong, we can take whatever steps seem to be most appropriate to meet the wishes of the House. The hon. Member for Daventry also raised the question of the man who is released from the Services and who becomes 21 between 31st June and 31st December? How would he get on? He would be in exactly the same position, I am afraid, as any other person who becomes 21 between 30th June and the 31st December. He would not be eligible for inclusion on the annual register for the ensuing year. I do not think that it is unfair to treat the Serviceman who has been demobilised in the same way as a civilian in that regard.
There have also been many representations made this afternoon from Members in all parts of the House in favour of automatic registration for Service voters, and again some hon. Members have asked why this recommendation of the Speaker's Conference has been thrown overboard. The answer is that that recommendation has not been thrown overboard. We have not sought to deal fully with the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference and I have the greatest sympathy with the proposal that serving men should be automatically registered and ought not to have to contract in. That is wrong, and I hope a way will be found out of it. But, as has already been stated, this is a temporary Measure, and, as far as I can see, when the present Government introduce legislation implementing all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference that are found practicable, there is no likelihood of any opposition in the House whatever. Members from all parts of the House have been pleading with the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon to implement the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference.
The hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) raised with me one or two points about the ballot places in sparsely populated areas and said that better facilities were needed. I entirely agree with him 504 that better facilities are needed in many of the sparsely populated areas. He stated correctly the procedure whereby the local authority or 30 electors may represent to the sheriff, who is the returning officer for their constituency, the desirability of putting up a new polling place and, failing satisfaction, there is the right of appeal to the Lord Advocate. It may be that that has not been particularly successful in many cases and that the difficulties persist, but again the answer is that we hope very much that next year, when we get the report of the Committee which is being set up on registration, and when we have fully considered along with it the report of the Committee under Sir Cecil Carr, it will be possible to introduce further legislation and, I hope, not impossible to give further consideration to these points which have been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, West)
Is it not the case that this machinery has been in operation for a long period and that nothing has been done?
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the House when I started, but I said that, if we did not introduce a Bill at this stage and get it passed through all its stages before the end of the year, it would be physically impossible to have a General Election next year. That is the point I am making.
§ Mr. Scollan
The point about which I am asking is this. At the present time, if you want a polling station at a particular place in Scotland, you ask the sheriff. If the sheriff does not think it advisable to give it, then you do not get it. As I understand my hon. Friend, this is to continue and there will be no alteration unless some future legislation brings it about.
§ Mr. Fraser
That may be the case. Further legislation may bring about improvements and, as I was saying, I hope that these considerations will be taken into account when framing this legislation. This is purely a stop-gap Bill. We have not dealt with polling places and polling stations at all. I think the House will agree that it is impossible to cover the whole field in a Bill brought forward at such short notice, one which must be passed through all its stages in a very short time. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) raised one or two points to 505 which I should seek to reply. He raised a question about the "X" on the ballot paper and about the number being put on the ballot paper direct, and also complained that so many papers were spoiled due solely to the fault of the presiding officer of a particular polling place. I am afraid that one can only regret that the presiding officer made a mistake on the occasions mentioned. On the other point there is a lot to be said for continuing the pre-war provision—we could not deal with it in any case in this Bill—whereby no one can possibly tell how any person casts his vote, since it might well be contended that if you allowed a vote to count on which a number had been put by a presiding officer, there would no longer be a secret ballot.
The hon. and gallant Member for North Dorset (Lieut-Colonel Byers) raised one or two points. He seemed to be asking for what was quite impossible, continuous and special registers, and asked also for two separate registers in the year, with supplementaries. The answer to him is that it is physically impossible to conduct all the inquiries and to operate all the machinery that would be necessary to keep the continuous register in operation. I was also asked a number of questions by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang), and although some of the matters could not possibly have been dealt with in this Bill I feel that I have an obligation to do my best to reply to some of his points. He asked for the addition to the absent voters' list of Parliamentary candidates and a host of other people who should be regarded as being eminently capable of casting their votes in the right direction. I entirely agree with him, but that is a matter which must be dealt with in the permanent legislation. He also asked about the anomalies that obtain in jury service and are continued in this Bill. This Bill seeks only to bring up to date the jury list. I would not presume to speak with authority on the jury service in England—and the jury service dealt with in this Bill refers only to England and Wales—but I am authorised by my right hon. Friend to give an assurance that the matters raised will be considered when revision of the jury laws is contemplated. It was represented to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Flint (Lieut-Colonel Birch) that there are a number of classes of 506 people who are disfranchised by the very nature of their calling, and he instanced nuns and so on. We thought we had gone a long way to meet the wishes of this House by making it possible for people who are physically incapacitated to be entered on the absent voters' list, and I do not think there would be any measure of support for a proposal to include anyone on the absent voters' list who decided that he just could not go along to the polling station for some philosophical reason.
I think these were the main points raised by hon. Members in the Debate. I do not think it is necessary for me to repeat what the Bill actually seeks to do. I think it is a good Bill, and hon. and right hon. Members have said it is a good Bill in so far as it goes. It is agreed, I feel, that we had a responsibility, if it was at all possible to do so, to provide the machinery for the setting up of a supplementary Service register, and are doing that. I think it is also a good thing that we found it possible to provide a means of voting for those who are physically incapacitated and cannot go to the polling stations. In the circumstances I do not think I need say anything further about the Bill, and I hope that the vast majority of hon. Members will see fit to do the exercise of going through the Lobby in support of the Government on this occasion.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down would he make some reference to the question of merchant seamen which I raised?
§ Mr. Fraser
I understand that merchant seamen are provided for at the moment, that they may make application and be registered for inclusion in the supplementary register, but I also understand that large numbers of them did not find themselves on the lists in the recent Election. This Bill provides that they will be given an opportunity to get on to a supplementary register if their applications are received between 30th June and 31st December this year.
§ Mrs. Braddock
In view of the fact that there were no merchant seamen at all on the last register in the port of Liverpool and there is to be the same machinery now, will something further be done or some further guidance be given as to how they can get on the register?
§ Mr. Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
Would it be possible to introduce some arrangement similar to that for the Armed Forces, because these men are in almost precisely the same position?
§ Question put, "That the words pro posed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 296; Noes, 149.509
|Division No. 27.]||AYES.||[7.5 p.m.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Logan, D. G.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Longden, F.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Dye, S.||McAdam, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McAllister, G.|
|Allighan, Garry||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||McGovern, J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mack, J. D.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Austin, H. L.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Ewart, R.||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Fairhurst, F.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Farthing, W. J.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Balfour, A.||Follick, M.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Foot, M. M.||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Barton, C.||Forman, J. C.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Battley, J. R.||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Beshervaise, A. E.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Mathers, G.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Mayhew, Maj. C. P.|
|Benson, G.||Freeman, P. (Newport)||Medland, H. M.|
|Berry, H.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Messer, F.|
|Beswick, Flt-Lieut. F.||Gallacher, W.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Binns, J.||Gibbins, J.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Gibson, C. W.||Monslow, W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gooch, E. G.||Montague, F.|
|Boardman, H.||Gordon-Walker, P. G.||Moody, A. S.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Grenfell, D. R.||Morley, R.|
|Bowen, R.||Grey, C. F.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Grierson, E.||Morris, R. H. (Carmarthen)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mort, D. L.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.||Moyle, A.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Murray, J. D.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Nally, W.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Burden, T. W.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Burke, W. A.||Hardy, E. A.||O'Brien, T.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Haworth, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Harbison, Miss M.||Orbach, M.|
|Callaghan, James||Hobson, C. R.||Paget, R. T.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Holman, P.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||House, G.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hoy, J.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Chater, D.||Hubbard, T.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Parkin, Flt-Lieut. B. T.|
|Clitherow, R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (WThampton, W.)||Pearson, A.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Peart, Capt. T. F.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Janner, B.||Perrins, W.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)||Platts Mills, J. F. F.|
|Collick, P.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Collins, V. J.||Keenan, W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Kenyon, C.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cook, T. F.||Key, C. W.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||King, E. M.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Randall, H. E.|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Kinley, J.||Ranger, J.|
|Daggar, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Rankin, J.|
|Daines, P.||Kirkwood, D.||Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Lang, G.||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Lavers, S.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Richards, R.|
|Deer, G.||Leonard, W.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Leslie, J. R.||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)|
|Delargy, Captain H. J.||Levy, B. W.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)|
|Diamond, J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Royle, C.|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Lipson, D. L.||Sargood, R.|
|Scollan, T.||Swingler, Capt. S.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Segal, Sq. Ldr. S.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.||Wells, Maj. W. T. (Waisall)|
|Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Shurmer, P.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'gh, E.)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Thorneycroft, H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.||Thurtle, E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Skinnard, F. W.||Timmons, J.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Tolley, L.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Williamson, T.|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Maj. L.||Willis, E.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Usborne, H. C.||Woodburn, A.|
|Snow, Capt. J. W.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Woods, G. S.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Viant, S. P.||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Wadsworth, G.||Yates, V. F.|
|Sparks, J. A.||Walkden, E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Stamford, W.||Walker, G. H.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Steele, T.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Stephen, C.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Stubbs, A. E.||Watkins, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Watson, W. M.||Mr. J. Henderson and|
|Sunderland, J. W.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)||Captain Michael Stewart.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Pitman, I. J.|
|Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Lord J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Howard, Hon. A.||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hurd, A.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Ramsay, Maj, S.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Jennings, R.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Keeling, E. H.||Renton, D.|
|Bower, N.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr Roland|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Carson, E.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Linstead, H. N.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.).||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stoddart-Scott, Col M.|
|Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Stuart, Rt. Hon|
|Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Studholme, H. G|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Maude, J. C.||Turton, R. H.|
|Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Mellor, Sir J.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Molson, A. H. E.||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'br'ke)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Nield, B.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Nutting, Anthony||York, C.|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Osborne, C.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Mr. Drewe and|
|Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.||Pickthorn, K.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the510
§ Whole House, for Tomorrow. [Mr. Mathers.]