HC Deb 22 April 1975 vol 890 cc1373-440

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. MacFarquhar

I think that we have dealt with the question of Service voters. I must confess I was glad to find that some of the people who oppose the amendment are at one with me and a number of my hon. Friends in accepting that the extension of the vote to Service voters is not, as the Lord President suggested, merely making it easier for Service men to vote but a change in the principle of the franchise that we have always adopted for Service voters.

The right hon. Member for Down, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury made great play of the suggestion that hundreds of millions of people might be entitled to vote in the referendum. My hon. Friend suggested 1,000 million. I am tempted to say that it was all done by mirrors but in fact it was done on the basis of an argument on citizenship. I must give my right hon. Friend the Lord President his due. Although he enjoyed the interventions to which I have referred, he did not adduce a similar argument himself.

My right hon. Friend listed five major qualifications which he and his officials—and presumably Foreign Office officials—thought essential to lay down so as to have a practicable working of the amend- ment if it is carried. At no time did my right hon. Friend allege that this system was likely to lead to the enfranchisement of hordes of people all over the world. The right hon. Member for Down, South, suggested 800 million and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury suggested 1,000 million. That indicates the ridiculous lengths to which opponents of the amendment have to stoop in order to try to defeat it.

Mr. George Cunningham

It is not the case that my hon. Friend's amendment would open the door to 1,000 million people, but there are other amendments which would do so.

Mr. MacFarquhar

If the House divides we shall be voting on my amendment. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Lord President fairly listed several grave problems but the size of the electorate abroad was not one of them. He said that there would be controversial decisions. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) has indicated clearly that it is more important that we should get to the voting stations the tens of thousands of people who have a right to vote in terms of the amendment. It is more important to get them to vote than to worry about the problem cases, the difficult cases which I accepted earlier were bound to arise.

Mr. Lee

Do I understand that my hon. Friend accepts that a large number of doubtful cases will have to be disputed? Such cases would have to be evaluated. How long would that take? Is my hon. Friend prepared to see the referendum deferred so that there shall be a realistic opportunity for the hard-pressed consular authorities to deal with such cases?

Mr. MacFarquhar

I do not know whether my hon. Friend was present when the Lord President addressed the Committee. My right hon. Friend said he thought that there would be no difficulty; he had examined the amendment and had looked at the problem. I am prepared to accept that statement. However, I suggest that objections to the amendment have not been based on the grounds of principle because many people concede the principle on this specific issue. It is a unique issue, and it is right that all the British people we can get to the polls should have the right to vote. Therefore, I would ask the House to support my amendment.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

It may be convenient if I reply briefly to one or two of the points.

I wish first to pick up the points made by the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), who mentioned a Written Answer which he had received from my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office. That answer on 17th April said: Excluding United Kingdom passport holders living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America, for whom we have no figures. and those who have not registered with Her Majesty's consulates elsewhere, there are at least 366,000 British passport holders currently living abroad …"—[Official Report, 17th April 1975; Vol. 890, c. 158.] The Committee will see the difficulty of making much of that point. It excludes a large part of the world. It includes only those registered with British consulates, which most British residents in Europe do not do, and includes only passport holders who are not in the same category as those who are entitled to vote.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) asked why Irishmen should be entitled to vote in this country, whereas some British residents abroad could not vote. The answer was given by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr.

Powell). Our franchise has extended hitherto to citizens of the Irish Republic with a residential qualification in this country. There is no possible means of detecting on an electoral register whether somebody is a British subject or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. It would be quite impracticable, even if one wished to do so, to exclude such people from the referendum. But the hon. Gentleman's question posed backwards the issue of principle behind the amendment.

The issue of principle on which I must take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) is this: is this the right moment at which to take a leap in the dark and to break the recommendations of every Speaker's Conference which has considered hitherto the extension of the franchise? Is it the time to break with the principle that our entitlement to vote is restricted to British subjects with residential qualifications and citizens of the Republic? Can that be done without going through the normal procedure of a Speaker's Conference and without bringing in a new Representation of the People Act? My view is that that would be an unwise step and that many Members of the House would come to regret it in years to come. I strongly advise the Committee to reject the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 211, Noes 251.

Division No. 176.] AYES [10.10 p.m.
Adley, Robert Clark, William (Croydon S) Glyn, Dr Alan
Arnold, Tom Clegg, Walter Godber, Rt Hon Joseph
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Cockcroft, John Goodhart, Philip
Awdry, Daniel Cope, John Goodhew, Victor
Banks, Robert Cormack, Patrick Gorst, John
Beith, A. J. Costain, A. P. Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)
Benyon, W. Crowder, F. P. Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
Biffen, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Gray, Hamish
Biggs-Davison, John Drayson, Burnaby Griffiths, Eldon
Blaker, Peter Durant, Tony Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Boscawen, Hon Robert Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Grist, Ian
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Braine, Sir Bernard Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Brittan, Leon Emery, Peter Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brotherton, Michael Eyre, Reginald Hampson, Dr Keith
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Feirbairn, Nicholas Hannam, John
Bryan, Sir Paul Fairgrieve, Russell Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Finsberg, Geoffrey Havers, Sir Michael
Buck, Antony Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Hawkins, Paul
Budgen, Nick Fookes, Miss Janet Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Bulmer, Esmond Fox, Marcus Heseltine, Michael
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Freud, Clement Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Mark Fry, Peter Higgins, Terence L.
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Holland, Philip
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Hordern, Peter
Churchill, W. S. Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)
Hurd, Douglas Moore, John (Croydon C) Shersby, Michael
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Morgan, Geraint Silvester, Fred
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Sims, Roger
James, David Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Sinclair, Sir George
Jenkin, Rt Hon P.(Wanst'd&W'df'd) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Skeet, T. H. H.
Jessel, Toby Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Mudd, David Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Neave, Airey Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Jopting, Michael Nelson, Anthony Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Neubert, Michael Sproat, Iain
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Newton, Tony Stainton, Keith
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Normanton, Tom Stanbrook,Ivor
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Nott, John Stanley, John
Kitson, Sir Timothy Onslow, Cranley Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Knox, David Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Lamont, Norman Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Lane, David Pardoe, John Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Latham, Michael (Melton) Parkinson, Cecil Stradling Thomas, J.
Lawrence, Ivan Pattie, Geoffrey Tapsell, Peter
Lawson, Nigel Penhaligon, David Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Le Marchant, Spencer Percival, Ian Tebbit, Norman
Lloyd, Ian Peyton, Rt Hon John Temple-Morris, Peter
Loveridge, John Pink, R. Bonner Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Jevon)
Luce, Richard Prior, Rt Hon James Townsend, Cyril D.
McCrindle, Robert Raison, Timothy Trotter, Neville
Macfarlane, Neil Rathbone, Tim Tugendhat, Christopher
MacFarquhar, Roderick Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) van Straubenzee, W. R.
MacGregor, John Rees-Davies, W. R. Viggers, Peter
Mackintosh, John P. Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Wakeham, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Ridley, Hon Nicholas Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Madel, David Ridsdale, Julian Walters, Dennis
Marquand, David Rifkind, Malcolm Weatherill, Bernard
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wells, John
Mates, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Mather, Carol Rose, Paul B. Wiggin, Jerry
Mawby, Ray Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Winterton, Nicholas
Mayhew, Patrick Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Younger, Hon George
Mills, Peter Royle, Sir Anthony
Miscampbell, Norman Sainsbury, Tim TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Dr. Colin Phipps and
Monro, Hector Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Mr. George Strauss.
Montgomery, Fergus Shelton, William (Streatham)
Archer, Peter Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Armstrong, Ernest Corbett, Robin Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Ashley, Jack Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Flannery, Martin
Ashton, Joe Cralgen, J. M. (Maryhill) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Crawford, Douglas Forrester, John
Atkinson, Norman Cronin, John Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cryer, Bob Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Garrett. W. E. (Wallsend)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) George, Bruce
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Davidson, Arthur Gilbert, Dr John
Bates, Alf Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Golding, John
Bean, R. E. Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Gould, Bryan
Bell, Ronald Davies, Ifor (Gower) Graham, Ted
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric Grant, John (Islington C)
Bishop, E. S. Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Grocott, Bruce
Boardman H. Delargy, Hugh Hardy, Peter
Booth, Albert Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Harper, Joseph
Boolhroyd, Miss Betty Dempsey, James Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Doig, Peter Hart, Rt Hon Judith
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Dormand, J. D. Hatton, Frank
Bradley, Tom Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hayman, Mrs Helene
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dunn, James A. Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Dunnett, Jack Helfer, Eric S.
Buchan, Norman Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Henderson, Douglas
Buchanan, Richard Eadie, Alex Hooley, Frank
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Edge, Geoff Horam, John
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Campbell, Ian English, Michael Huckfleid, Les
Canavan, Dennis Ennals, David Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Cant, R. B. Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clemitson, Ivor Evans, John (Newton) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Hunter, Adam
Coiquhoun, Mrs Maureen Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, ltchen) Skinner, Dennis
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Moate, Roger Small, William
Janner, Greville Moonman, Eric Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Spearing, Nigel
Jeger, Mrs Lena Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Spriggs, Leslie
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Stallard, A. W.
John, Brynmor Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Stoddart, David
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Newens, Stanley Stott, Roger
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Noble, Mike Strang, Gavin
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Oakes, Gordon Summerskili, Hon Dr Shirley
Judd, Frank O'Halloran, Michael Swain, Thomas
Kaufman, Gerald O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Kerr, Russell Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ovenden, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lambie, David Owen, Dr David Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Lamborn, Harry Padley, Walter Thompson, George
Lamond, James Park, George Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Leadbitter, Ted Parker, John Tierney, Sydney
Lee, John Parry, Robert Tinn, James
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Pearl, Rt Hon Fred Tomney, Frank
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Perry, Ernest Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lipton, Marcus Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Litterick, Tom Price, C. (Lewisham W) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Loyden, Eddie Price, William (Rugby) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Luard, Evan Radice, Giles Ward, Michael
Lyon, Alexander (York) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Watkins, David
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Reid, George Watt, Hamish
MacCormick, Iain Richardson. Miss Jo Weetch, Ken
McElhone, Frank Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Weitzman, David
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock) Welsh, Andrew
Mackenzie, Gregor Robertson, John (Paisley) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Maclennan Robert Roderick, Caerwyn White, James (Pollok)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Rodgers, George (Chorley) Whitlock, William
McNamara, Kevin Rodgers, William (Stockton) Wigley, Dafydd
Madden, Max Rooker, J. W. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Magee, Bryan Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Mahon, Simon Rowlands, Ted Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Marks, Kenneth Ryman, John Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Sandelson, Neville Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Sedgemore, Brian Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Marten, Neil Selby, Harry Wise, Mrs Audrey
Maynard, Miss Joan Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Woodall, Alec
Meacher, Michael Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Woof, Robert
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter Young, David (Bolton E)
Mikardo, Ian Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Millan, Bruce Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Mr. James Hamilton and
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Silverman, Julius Mr. Laurie Pavitt.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Tim Renton

On a point of order, Mr. Thomas. In view of the very strong arguments advanced in favour and the total absence of arguments against from Government Ministers, will you agree to put Amendment No. 19 to the vote?

The Chairman

I am afraid not.

Mr. MacFarquhar

I beg to move Amendment No. 104, in page 1, line 11, at the beginning insert 'Subject to subsection (4B) of this section'.

The Chairman

With this amendment it will be convenient also to discuss the following amendments: No. 15, in page 1, line 14, after 'constituency', insert— '(b) all those on holiday or otherwise disenfranchised in a normal General Election'. No. 116, in page 1, line 17, at end insert— 'Provided that persons included in (a) and (b) above who will be absent from home on holiday shall be entitled to vote by post'. No. 20, in page 1, line 17, at end insert— '(c) persons entitled to vote as provided in subsection 3(a) above who notify the Electoral Registration Officer that they will be absent from home on holiday on the day appointed for the holding of the Referendum, subject to any order made by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 1(4) below specifying the method of notification, the amount of notice to be given and the method by which such persons may exercise their rights to a postal vote'. No. 23, in page 1, line 17, at end insert— '(c) persons who are entitled to vote at Parliamentary elections but who cannot vote personally owing to their absence from home on holiday'. No. 105, in page 2, line 4, at end insert— '(4B) An Order in Council under this section may make or enable the Secretary of State to make special provision in respect to persons otherwise excepted under the Representation of the People Acts who are unable or likely to be unable to go to the polling station because they will be outside the constituency on holiday; and any provision so made may permit persons to whom it applies to vote by post'. No. 34, in page 2, line 9, at end insert— '(6) For the purposes of this referendum only, Returning Officers shall issue postal votes on receipt of written applications on an approved form, to persons who will be unable to vote in person by reason of being on holiday on the day fixed by the Secretary of State for holding the referendum; and any provisions to the contrary in the Representation of the People Acts shall be of no effect for the purposes of this Act.' and New Clause 5—Voting in referendum by persons on holiday.

Mr. MacFarquhar

The substantive issue is covered in Amendment No. 105. The basic principle behind the amendment is the same here as in the case of citizens abroad. It was argued repeatedly in the debate on the last group of amendments that this is a unique occasion and a vital national issue and that therefore the franchise should be extended as widely as possible. This would include holiday makers, as well as citizens abroad had the previous group of amendments been carried.

Most holiday makers made arrangements for their holidays probably as far back as January, or perhaps at the turn of the year, not knowing that the Government would call a referendum on 5th June. It is wrong that on this crucial issue these people, who could number in the millions it is sometimes suggested, should be disfranchised just because of the Government's selection of the date.

Frankly, the attitude on all sides of the House of Commons in the past to the holiday votes question has been a rather absurd carry over from the puritan revolution. The implication seems to be that if someone is engaged in so frivolous an activity as taking a holiday, he or she is too unserious to be entitled to the vote. Clearly that is an untenable position today, or at least, it should be.

There can be no argument on principle against votes for holiday makers. There can be arguments only of administrative practicability. On this issue, rather more than on the previous issue—as I understand that the figures are considerably greater—I am prepared to accept that there might be enormous complications with the holiday maker vote—on the practicability; not on the principle. I also accept that with this amendment there is a possibility of extending the franchise and having that extension carried over into the General Election procedure. That was not the case on the previous group of amendments. There was no reason why it should have been so. However, I fully acknowledge that it is a possibility that in this case the voting of holiday makers in the referendum could be used as an argument for putting them on the electoral roll for General Elections.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Why not?

Mr. MacFarquhar

If the hon. Lady had been listening earlier, she would have known the answer because I indicated that answer.

I see no reason of principle why holiday makers at the time of a General Election should not have the vote. The argument is one of practicability. I for one will be listening to the Lord President's argument on this amendment on the question of practicability. If this can be done, with whatever difficulty—as I think the Government admitted, in the debate on the previous amendments, that it could be done—and without putting back the date of the referendum, I hope that in this case, too, the Government will reconsider the matter.

Mr. Carlisle

I am happy to have the opportunity of supporting the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) in his amendment, which is very similar to an amendment in the name of myself and my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page).

Personally, as I never fail to make clear, I am opposed to the idea of a referendum. But if we are to have a referendum, surely the House of Commons ought to approach this matter on the basis that the greatest number of people possible should be able to take part in that referendum. We are told by the Government that the justification of this referendum is that the issue of whether or not we stay in the Common Market is one of unique importance for Britain. We are told that it has nothing to do with any internal difficulties, and that it is because of the vital importance of this issue that the people of this country should decide. If that is so, surely it should be a vote of the greatest possible number of people in the country.

10.30 p.m.

It is wrong, if this is a unique issue, if the whole future economic, social and political well-being of this country is tied up with the decision to be taken on 5th June, that some members of our society should be deprived of the vote merely because they happen to be away on holiday. I agree with the hon. Member for Belper who said that the practical objections are wholly different in General Elec- tions. In principle I believe that those who are on holiday should have the opportunity of voting in a General Election. They are deciding the issue of which party should govern the country for the coming five years.

In the Home Office, during the course of the last Government, I approached the issue on that basis with the knowledge that the Conservative Party had, at a party conference, passed a resolution calling for holiday makers to be entitled to a vote at a General Election. When we referred this to the Electoral Advisory Committee there turned out to be one almost insurmountable difficulty.

The argument was that if we extended the right to postal voting to people on holiday as well as to those who moved from their homes, those who were ill and away on business, we would so increase in size the number of people entitled to a postal vote that we would have to bring forward the final date for applications for postal votes. What the Committee said—I do not think that its report was pub. lished—was that the likely increase in the number of people requiring postal votes would mean that we would have to close the final date for postal votes so much ahead of the date of the election that in the narrow period of a General Election we would very nearly have to say, "This is the final date for postal votes" before the Prime Minister had announced the date of the election. The argument against postal votes for holiday makers in a General Election is a strong one, I will concede, for the purpose of the argument. It is one that the Home Office accepted in the past.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that even if 1 million people exercised a holiday vote it would be an average of only 1,700 postal votes per constituency? Is it really an outrageous administrative problem to deal with that number of postal votes?

Mr. Carlisle

I am at the moment stating that that is the argument of practical objection which has always been raised against allowing postal votes at a General Election. Successive Governments of each party, and a previous Speaker's Conference, in 1968, have, for reasons which seemed good to them at the time, accepted that practical objection.

My point is that that argument has no application in the conditions of a referendum. The only argument that has been raised against the principle of postal votes at a General Election is that we would so have to bring forward the closing date for postal votes that there would be a very short time between calling the election and the final date. I think it has been suggested we would have to bring it forward 10 days.

But tonight, if the Government get their way, we know for a fact that the referendum is to take place on 5th June. People who are likely to be on holiday then could apply for a postal vote today, tomorrow—or they could have applied yesterday. The argument that we do not know until three weeks and two days before the date on which we are to vote has no significance in a referendum. Since no other argument in practice has been put up against the principle that everyone who is able should be allowed to vote at any election, in the circumstances of a referendum there can be no argument to justify refusing a vote to those on holiday.

There is a secondary argument. It is said that this is open to abuse.

I adopt the words of the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) who said that we can get a little too worried about potential abuse and not consider the much more important issue of the vast number of people whom we disfranchise by our action. I do not believe that the argument about abuse carries much weight. The person concerned has to give a holiday address. His postal vote is sent there, and he has to be at that address to fill in the form and send it back.

Subject to what the Lord President of the Council says, I cannot see any argument that entitles the House to disfranchise a substantial number of people from casting their vote on what is said to be the unique issue of continued membership or otherwise of the Common Market. It would be a tragedy if the House, when it need not do so, and without creating any precedent for any future General Election, were to prevent those of our fellow citizens who choose to be on holiday in June from having a vote on so vital an issue affecting the future of this Country.

Mr. Hooley

This is the second time in five years that the Government of the day have chosen to hold a nation-wide poll in the middle of the summer, in a month when many people, quite normally and naturally, are away from their homes on holiday. I happen to know to my cost that in 1970, which was the last time this occurred, there was great anger and resentment among many people who were deprived of their vote because they had quite innocently and very reasonably decided to take their holiday on the day on which the General Election was held.

The proposition for a holiday vote, unlike the matter which we have just debated and decided, does not involve any constitutional change or any change in the nature of the franchise. The previous amendment would have changed the franchise in an important respect, and that is why I voted against it. In this case we are discussing the ability of people to vote who, by every standard of qualification, have the right to do so. They are on the register, they are qualified in terms of nationality, age, residence and so on, in the same way as every Member of this House is qualified to vote. They have a legal right to vote, but because this House in its wisdom has decided that the ballot shall be held in a holiday month in the peak of the summer probably hundreds of thousands of citizens will find that they cannot exercise that right on a great constitutional issue which we all agree is of enormous importance to the House.

I find it outrageous that because a citizen, without any foreknowledge of the date, without any means of knowing that this date was to be decided upon—indeed, the House was told only a short time ago that it was to be 5th June—decided to be on holiday on this date he should be deprived of the right to cast his vote. It is a right which he is just as entitled to exercise as I am, or as you are, Mr. Thomas.

I find it equally outrageous that arguments about mechanics and administration are advanced to support the contention that these people should be deprived of their right to vote.

Before coming to Parliament I was a bureaucrat by profession: I was a professional administrator. I often trotted out excellent administrative reasons why something could not be done. If my excellent administrative reasons were not accepted and the organisation concerned decided to proceed with the project, I as a first-class administrator set my mind to the problem and always found that, after all, it was not unfeasible.

I am sure that in this case all the problems of allowing a holiday vote could be overcome on this occasion and, I hope, on future occasions. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), I believe that it would set a good precedent. It is important that everybody who is on the register and legally entitled to vote should be given every facility that the ingenuity of our electoral system and our administrative system can devise to exercise his vote.

Various Committees of the House of Commons have discussed the matter and have reached some equivocal and ambiguous decisions. The matter was debated for a whole day as recently as last year. I regretted that no firm decision was then taken.

A person who fixed his holiday perhaps as long as 12 months ago had no means of knowing that the ballot would be held on 5th June. What is even more important, a holiday booking involves one in a financial contract. Someone who broke such a contract so as to exercise his right to vote, which he might do if he were very conscientious, could face a serious financial penalty. Why should an ordinary citizen who innocently fixed his holiday for this period be faced with such a burden? Why should we say to him "Either you lose perhaps as much as £250 or you lose your vote on an issue which the House of Commons has agreed to be an important constitutional one affecting Britain's future for many years ahead."

It is preposterous that we should ask a citizen to make that choice when it would be administratively feasible, though it would cause trouble for some officials, but they are there to deal with troubles, to offer people the opportunity of voting even though they might be away from home.

There are two arguments about numbers. One is that such a colossal number would be away that it would be difficult to give them voting rights. The second argument is that there might be so few away that it would not be worth bother- ing. The figure of 3 million has been mentioned as the possible maximum number of persons who might be away on holiday and therefore entitled to claim a postal vote if the Committee approved the amendment.

If that figure is correct, the Government should reflect seriously before advising the House to put obstacles in the way of 3 million voters. That is 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. of the total number qualified to vote. If the Government stick to their figure of 3 million, they should in common decency accept that those 3 million people should be enabled to exercise their vote in the referendum.

10.45 p.m.

A more realistic figure of, say, a million people away from their homes on holiday on 5th June amounts to an average of 1,700 postal votes in each constituency. It might be a few more in a big constituency and a few less elsewhere. No electoral registration officer who knows his business can claim that he cannot cope with 1,700 votes. If he needs a couple of clerks or three part-time clerks to deal with the extra work, they can be recruited and paid for. It is arrant nonsense to say that figures of that order cannot be dealt with in the normal electoral system.

The other question that has been raised is that of fraud or misuse of the right to vote in that way. A person who applies for a postal vote cannot then vote at the polling station, because his name is struck off the list. I see no reason why a person should fraudulently claim a postal vote on the ground that he is away on holiday, when it does not affect his right to cast his vote. If he does not claim it, he can still go down to the polling station and vote in the ordinary way. I cannot see what advantage there would be to a person to pretend that he was away on holiday, and make false statements and declarations, going to the trouble of having a ballot paper sent to another address and then presumably forwarded by a fellow conspirator. The case based on misuse or abuse does not stand up to serious examination.

As for the mechanics of dealing with the matter, my amendment gives the appropriate Minister the power to make. by order, whatever administrative arrangements he thinks most appropriate. For example, he could require that persons who were on holiday and wanted the postal vote should make a formal declaration, counter-signed by a magistrate, that they were genuinely on holiday. They could be required to produce a document, such as a receipt or booking form. A fine or other penalty, even imprisonment, could be imposed on someone who deliberately set out to abuse or misuse this facility. I cannot see who would want to abuse it and run the risk of a fine or imprisonment for the sake of doing by post something that he could do in person by going to the polling station.

There remains the final consideration, that it might set a precedent for elections. I should regard it as a welcome precedent. I am convinced that within a year or two the House will accept this arrangement, and that it will become part of the ordinary facilities for voting by post. We should do much better to introduce it now.

Mr. Michael Marshall

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). I can support his points, and I would also support the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) in his amendment because I am sure that in every way it goes with new Clause 5 with which I am associated, with my hon. Friends.

The whole question of holiday voters must command the favourable attention of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) has rightly said that there are practical difficulties which we have to think about. I shall not repeat some of the arguments I advanced in earlier debates. I would not wish to belabour the Lord President and the Government about the difficulties they have got into. I have every sympathy with the Lord President in his having to pick up the pieces of this Bill.

I urge the Committee to think carefully before refusing to pass this amendment. From my standpoint, the argument must be that the referendum is a unique instrument. I hope that those who take differing views about the argument on General Elections will join me in accepting these arguments, because one can consider separately whether one would accept holiday makers' votes at a General Election in that context, as being a different context.

The Government have known for more than a year that sooner or later they would be faced with this device and they therefore cannot now say that this cannot be worked out properly because of shortage of time. We expect to hear from the Government that they accept this in principle. Once they do, logical deductions follow. They cannot say that there is no way in which the bulk of holiday makers could be given the vote, even by 5th June. If we are to be stuck with the "adhocery" of the worst kind, which this Bill is, we must make the best of a bad job. For holiday makers' votes, there is a reasonable period, and this could be worked without a genuine fear of abuse—and this question of abuse is in many ways being used to obstruct and obscure the real argument.

If 5th June is not feasible time with all the pressures to cover the bulk of holiday makers, I would willingly accept a delay of a few weeks. I do not accept, as some would argue, that delay in this matter is crucial. This is the Government's own initiative and the principle here is so important that they must be prepared to work this one out. If delay is to follow, the Government should be prepared to live with it, because, after all, this is purely for the Government's convenience. They may say that uncertainty must be resolved, but uncertainty for whom? There is none in the country. The only uncertainty is on the Government benches. They cannot say it is a pressing matter for the public at large. That is not so.

I once more urge the Committee to support the amendment. It will not only meet a substantial national mood in favour of allowing holiday makers to vote but it will convey a tinge of respectability to the Bill and make it worth while.

Mr. George Cunningham

I am sure that all hon. Members agree that electors who are away on holiday feel deeply embittered when they are unable to vote. Every hon. Member has come across many constituents who have grumbled about that. The grievance will be particularly strong in the case of the referendum because of its unique and important character. Constituents will be upset, on this occasion above all others, if because they are on holiday they will not be able to vote. If practical means can be found without abuse to accommodate those people by giving them the vote I should certainly support such a proposal, but there is a danger about postal voting that we have never taken sufficiently seriously when on one or two recent occasions we have extended the facility for postal voting.

The postal vote is a dangerous procedure. It is contrary to the fundamental principle adopted in the Ballot Act 1872. The postal vote is a witness-able vote. The reason why over the last hundred years we have not had corruption in British elections is that it is expensive to corrupt a lot of people. That does not apply to local elections where it can be done quite cheaply.

The reason why we have not had corruption is not that the elector is entitled to Keep his vote secret, it is that even if he does not want to keep it secret he cannot do otherwise. His vote is necessarily secret. If he wants to sell his vote he cannot prove to the purchaser that he has given it to him or to the person for whom the purchaser acts. That is the protection against corruption. The postal vote—and the proxy vote to a lesser extent—is the exception. The postal vote can be witnessed and therefore it can be bought.

In recent years the postal vote has been extended partly by changes in rules and partly by changes in habit. It has been extended in the case of people who are too sick to be able to get to the poll by not requiring medical certification. We now leave it to the discretion of the registration officer whether to require a certificate by a doctor, nurse or any other medically qualified person. In my constituency and many others the registration officer does not require any such certification by a medically qualified person.

When, a year ago, the previous Conservative Government misguidedly took a half-page advertisement in the newspapers to point out to people that they could have a postal vote just for the asking if they complied with the requirements, many a registration officer, including my own, decided that if the Government raised these expectations in the mind of the electorate it was not for him to go in the opposite direction by being stringent about the evidence which would satisfy him that the person was entitled to a postal vote. Consequently, in my area and in many others one can get a postal vote in practice for the asking. I hope that the Home Office will take this point more seriously than it has.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Representing a constituency in the North-East of Scotland, may I dissociate myself from the remarks made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham)? Disabled persons, even when the registration officer has admitted that they are disabled, have not necessarily been able to get postal votes. In the areas of Scotland of which I have experience, there is no question of registration officers dishing out votes without calling for medical certificates.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Cunningham

I thought I had made it clear that the present situation is that the registration officer has discretion for medical certification, although he did not have it previously. May be it is difficult for someone with my accent to suggest that the news has not reached the hon. Lady's constituency. I merely point out that the situation varies from area to area. Indeed, that is the point that I am making.

As the news gets through and as one registration officer feels that he cannot take a more rigid approach than his colleague on the other side of the boundary, postal voting will gradually become available almost upon request. As the postal vote is a witnessable vote and open to corruption there is a danger that is not present in the referendum voting. No one would try to corrupt a great mass of people because it would be too expensive. It would also be extremely expensive in parliamentary elections. Of course, it would be possible to do so. There are many hon. Members who are in the House on a few hundred votes. As it is a long time since it was practical to have corruption in British elections people are overlooking the possibilities that exist. The possibility of corruption would certainly exist if this principle were extended to local elections.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that in a postal vote it is the certification that is witnessable and not the vote itself? A postal vote is witnessable in that a person does not have to go into a polling booth and put his cross on the paper without someone seeing it. The distinction that the hon. Gentleman is making is without validity.

Mr. Cunningham

No. If I go to the polling station and mark my ballot paper It is not permitted and it is not practical in normal circumstances to show it to anyone else.

Mr. Lawrence

It is witnessable.

Mr. Cunningham

It is not witness-able as I cannot show it to anyone else.

Mr. Lawrence

It is possible to show it to someone else.

Mr. Cunningham

In the case of the postal vote the person sits at home and marks his paper—

Mr. Carlisle

The holiday maker is, beyond peradventure, not at home.

Mr. Cunningham

It does not matter if the postal voter marks his paper in an hotel lounge, the point is that it is a witnessable vote in that it can be shown to someone. I stress that I am not making that point in the context of the referendum although it is relevant to it. I am saying that once we have allowed for the postal vote for holiday makers in the referendum it is bound to be extended, as has already happened in a debate initiated by the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), to include holiday makers in normal elections. That would be a pity for the reasons that I have given.

If it were a choice between votes for holiday makers in elections with the possibility of abuse, to which I have drawn attention, or no votes for holiday makers for ever, we might have to put up with the possibility of abuse. But we are not faced with that choice. Obviously what we should do is to have the absent vote in person for the holiday maker and, indeed, for others. In that way the person who was away from his normal residence in this country would be able to vote at one special polling station in each constituency, but he would vote there under the normal methods. He would either have a blank paper which he could not mark until just before putting it into the box or he would be handed a paper at the special polling station which he would then put into the box. It would therefore be a witnessable vote.

Of course, there is no possibility of corruption in practice in the referendum even as regards postal votes. If the Government were prepared to say that they would provide for votes for holiday makers in future but on the basis of a vote in person at a special polling station in each constituency, and that they would accept the postal vote for holiday makers in the referendum because of the lack of time to do anything else, I would vote for the amendment. But I am so persuaded of the dangers of the extension of the postal vote that, unless the Government are prepared to give an assurance that this will not create a precedent in respect of voting in normal elections, I cannot support the amendment.

Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair.]

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

We heard a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). We heard an attack on the elderly, the sick, and the disabled—

Mr. George Cunningham

Nothing of the sort.

Mr. Smith

They are the people who have postal votes and they are the people to whom the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Cunningham


Mr. Smith

That was the impression I got from the hon. Member. Indeed, in part of his speech he said that he accepted that his remarks were not applicable to the referendum. Then, realising that he had put himself out of order, he said that perhaps they were applicable to the referendum. It was one of the most remarkable speeches I had heard in a long time.

I am very much in favour of the principle of referenda—indeed I am more in favour of the principle than are most, if not all, Labour Members. I believe in the principle of referenda—not merely a referendum on Europe. I have never varied in my opinion on referenda and I stuck by it in the 1970 General Election before Labour Members were converted to that point of view. Indeed, I have demonstrated my support for the principle of referenda in the Division Lobbies—if I may say so, against the wishes and advice of my own party. But that is my view. I believe that referenda are right and I support them as a matter of principle. If referenda are to be of any help to elected Members they must be conducted among the widest possible cross-section of people who are called on to vote or who have the right to vote.

I would not object to the method suggested by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury if it could be shown to be practicable. My objection to it lies in the matter of administrative convenience. But whatever method is adopted, I believe that people on holiday should have the right to vote not only in this referendum but in a General Election. I personally hope that there will be other referenda in the future. Therefore, I would welcome the extension of referenda. The only argument which I can see against giving people on holiday postal votes is an administrative one. There would undoubtedly be administrative difficulties. I can see no other logical argument against the proposal.

I do not accept that it is impossible to introduce postal votes for people who are on holiday. How do postal votes work? It is a perfectly simple system. One has to produce a piece of cardboard with four printed points on it. The man or woman concerned merely strikes out the points that do not apply, leaving those that do to back the application for a postal vote. The person concerned signs it and in some constituencies he has it witnessed.

What on earth is to stop a fifth point being included in the form to the effect: "I shall be away on holiday on voting day"? That could be witnessed and the Government could devise any witness they liked. They could insist that the person concerned obtained the signature of the magistrate who could have it proved to his satisfaction—by the production of tickets, or whatever it may be—that the person concerned was going on holiday on the day stated. The travel agent could certify the fact that the man was to go on holiday. Members of local authorities could be brought in—I am sure they would not be subject to corruption—and all sorts of witnesses could be used to certify that the person concerned would be away on holiday on that day. The man fills in the form, which is then witnessed by someone who certifies that the application is bona fide.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) smiles. I agree that solicitors could act as witnesses. I should be prepared to trust professional people, though clearly some Government supporters would not.

Mr. George Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman is raising a difficulty which does not exist. It is necessary for an applicant to certify only that he is likely to be away. That will apply also to holidays. Otherwise, having expected to be away on holiday, the applicant would have to go.

Mr. Smith

I know that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) sets himself up as an authority on these matters. He states how the law should be written. It is possible to make postal votes available to people who can prove that they will be away on holiday and exclude the phrase "likely to be away". I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's argument.

When the applicant has filled in the form it will go to the returning officer, who will type the name on a sheet of paper, tick off the name on a register to show that the vote has been issued to the person, and issue a postal vote. It is a simple process. It is a load of codswallop for any one to suggest that that process is administratively difficult or impossible. If the will is there it can be done. If the amendment is not carried it will not be because the process is administratively impossible but because Government supporters are determined that people on holiday shall not be allowed to vote. That is the issue.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Is not there a question of political principle involved here? The business man can always arrange when to be away. However, the holiday maker, who saves up for his annual holiday, cannot rearrange it once he has paid the money and made his plans. He cannot arrange to do without his holiday. Is not it strange that the Labour Party does not support the principle that people who have arranged their holidays should be able to vote?

Mr. Smith

I agree. That is why the Liberal Party voted in favour of extending the possibility of who should and who should not be allowed to vote in the referendum.

Once a postal vote has been issued, the elector's name is ticked off on the electoral register as having voted. Even if the elector went to the polling booth to seek a vote, which is the only abuse that I can see, he would not be allowed it, because it would already have been issued as a postal vote. That now happens in local and national elections. Some people, having been issued with postal votes at addresses they left months before, have turned up at polling booths to find that they had been disfranchised because postal votes had been issued in their names. There can be no abuse in terms of a person having two votes. The only possible abuse can be that a person claims to vote by post when he is capable of voting in person. I accept that is an abuse—we heard about secret ballots, and so on—but it is not a serious abuse of democracy. In the end, the man is using only one vote whether he votes at home or at the polling station. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment. I believe that it is an extension of the principle of democracy.

15 p.m.

Finally, I should like to make a constituency point. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), who was standing at the Bar a moment ago, has left, but I see the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) is still there. I hope that local Members around Rochdale will think seriously about this matter. It is certainly not uncommon for people in our area to take their holidays in June. Indeed, the annual wakes week in Rochdale is within 14 days of the polling day for this referendum. If the original date had been agreed, it would have been in the middle of Rochdale's wakes week.

I assure the Leftists who are present that I am not talking about company directors and great businessmen, but about workers in industry who stagger their holidays. People in engineering normally have a one- or two-week holiday in June and then take another two weeks in September. There is nothing uncommon or unusual about that.

If the Government do not accept the amendment, they will not only disfranchise hundreds of thousands of people in this country, but—I think that this will certainly appeal to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer)—hundreds of thousands of workers. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is on the side of the workers in this country, though some of us have doubts as to how he implements that support. None the less, that is what he claims.

I hope that practical difficulties will not be put in the way of this proposal. If the amendment is not carried, it will not be because it cannot be practically implemented, but because the Government do not have the will to allow people on holiday to vote in the referendum.

Sir Raymond Gower

I sincerely hope that the Lord President has been impressed by the manner in which the amendment was moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) supported by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) and others.

I agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) that we want to see the will to introduce this reform.

The Leader of the House, in his remarks on the last amendment, said that the Government want the largest possible vote. Here is his chance to demonstrate that claim. If they want the largest possible vote they can get it by accepting the amendment. The Government said that they could not get it on the last amendment because of various technical difficulties. Many hon. Members have explained that those technical difficulties do not obtain in this instance.

Whatever the result and however we may view the rights and wrongs of the idea of a referendum, it is desirable that, now that it is to be held, there should be a large and convincing poll and, I hope, a convincing decision by the nation in favour of remaining in the Community. But that is irrelevant. Whatever the decision, it must be by a convincing margin on a large poll.

It would be regrettable if the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman in particular, signified tonight that they were not prepared to take the opportunity of maximising the number of people who will vote on this occasion.

The point has been made that people who go away on holiday make their arrangements at an early date. Certainly that has been my experience at General Elections when many people have explained to me that they cannot easily alter arrangements once they have been made. I know of several examples where people have been able to afford to come back great distances to vote. One of my constituents came back from Northern France and two or three returned from Cornwall. But not everyone can afford to do that. Far too many people have to arrange their holidays on a very slender budget, and they cannot afford the expense of travelling back great distances. It is not fair therefore to exclude these people simply because they are of slender means.

The Lord President may not be prepared to accept the precise wording of the amendment, but surely he can accept the principle behind it. Surely with all the advice at his command in his Department and in the Home Office he can frame a formula which will enable this measure to be implemented without risk of an unreasonable degree of abuse. If it is framed to accommodate those who have actually made their holiday arrangements and can produce the minimum of evidence to show that fact there is no reason why it should not be done.

I want to see as many people as possible voting in the referendum, and therefore we need a postal vote for those on holiday. I should like to see such a vote in General Elections, too. My hon. Friends and I are not afraid of democracy or of very large polls. I hope that all hon. Members will share that view. As many people as possible should have the chance to vote. Let us not deny them that privilege on this occasion.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

I never thought I should live to see the day when I should agree with every word uttered in a speech by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). I congratulate him on what he said. I did not believe that I should live to see the day, either, when the Labour Party, which stands for universal franchise, would, through a whole debate, constantly put difficulties in the way of enabling people to exercise the right to vote. There has even been muttering by hon. Members below the Gangway about members of the Armed Forces not being well enough informed to vote on this issue. Yet they are the people who insist upon one man one vote in Rhodesia and other places when the people they want to give the vote to may not be as well educated as the members of our Armed Forces.

I want the Government to explain tonight how they can resist giving holiday makers the right to vote on this occasion. They accept, as we all do, that at General Elections people away on business should have the right to vote. If that can be done I cannot see that there should be any difficulties about holiday makers.

We have been reminded constantly that this is a unique event. So unique and important is it, we are told, that it will be binding on the Government. The Prime Minister said today that even if he believes that it is against the interests of his constituents and the other people of the United Kigdom he is prepared to vote for us to come out of the EEC if the people say so. If the vote is that vital and unique why should those on holiday be denied the right to vote?

It has been said before, and I hammer it home once again, that in general most people are not free to choose when they go on holiday. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) said that there are areas in which everyone goes on holiday at the same time. That applies particularly where there are large industries and so on. But in smaller companies and firms, of which there are very many which employ a very large number of electors, it is a question of taking one's turn in the queue or being spaced out over the year. Those with young children have to take their holidays during the school holiday season and go away in August or early September. Those without young children are obliged to take dates in June which they might not otherwise choose.

Therefore, people are not able to make a choice as to whether they are able to exercise their right to vote. It is decided for them in the majority of cases. I need read only a few words of a letter I received from a constituent about this matter. In this case it is not because he cannot decide when he may go on holiday but because he had earlier heard that the Government had said that they expected to hold this referendum on 19th June. He says, I deliberately arranged my holiday to be back, assuming the date would be the 19th, and now I shall be unavoidably away which means I keenly feel I am deprived of exercising my vote. Altogether, there will be 13 of us unable to vote Because the Government announced a particular date earlier and have changed their minds, if they do not enable us tonight to allow votes for holiday makers they will be denying many other people in that situation the right to express their view on this vital issue.

It needs no more emphasis from me. I merely say that if there is a will to enable people to cast their vote on this issue, it can be arranged. If the Government insist that this is a vital vote, a unique occasion and something in which they believe so very strongly, they will accept the amendment.

Mr. Emery

The only basis of the referendum which can hold water in any way is the Government's desire to remove any future uncertainty about the position of Great Britain in relation to the Common Market. That having been argued, the only way in which that object can be reasonably achieved is to have the greatest possible number of people voting in the referendum.

As I have previously made only too plain, the referendum is undermining the position of Members of Parliament. It can only have been demanded by the Government because they believe that the House of Commons does not represent the views of the electorate on this subject. If that is the Government's view, surely they must bend every muscle to ensure that they get the largest turn-out available. That being so, the only argument that can be mounted for refusing to have a postal vote is the fact that such a vote is administratively difficult to arrange and inconvenient.

That argument can certainly be mounted when there is a limited time between the declaration of an election and the polling day. As the Lord President knows, returns for a General Election need only 22 days. But that is not an argument that can possibly be mounted on this matter. Indeed, if the Committee were to decide tonight that there shall be the availability of a postal vote for anyone who is going on holiday, the Home Office could tomorrow begin instructing the authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that that could be carried out.

It may be said that the Bill will not have been passed. That is fair enough. But at least the Government could be warning the authorities that the House of Commons had spoken, and the necessary preparations could be initiated. For goodness' sake, let us wake up to the fact that at times our public servants must be our public servants and do what the House of Commons requires, and not have to consider the difficulties but, rather, consider the service they should provide to the House of Commons and to the electorate in general.

11.30 p.m.

Nobody in this debate has defended the Government's position. The Government say, "You shall have a free vote to decide how the matter will be dealt with". Therefore, let them listen to the views of hon. Members and not to the views of the Whips, whose job is to marshal people into the Division Lobby to defend the indefensible.

I make an appeal, not just on behalf of my constituents, but on behalf of the holiday makers who come to my constituency. In the past four elections I have been inundated in my constituency office by people on holiday who have said, "We did not realise that we would not be able to vote. We are on holiday. How do we get our postal votes? Why, because we are on holiday, do we not have the right to vote?" I advised them of their legal rights. If people were combining business with holiday, I said that they had to decide whether they had the right to apply for a postal vote. This took an immense amount of time and I had to deal with many annoyed people who felt that they had as much right to vote as anybody else.

Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)

Has the hon. Gentleman been as clamant in the past on behalf of holiday makers about giving them the opportunity of postal votes at General Elections as he is now in respect of this somewhat extraordinary poll? Does he agree that this is a unique procedure which is seriously undermining parliamentary government and that we do not wish to compound the injury being done to the House by sudden changes in normal franchises and in alterations of existing electoral law piggy-backing on the special referendum poll? This is not the way to go about changing electoral arrangements.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I hope that hon. Members—I do not say this in any sense of rebuke—will not make interventions which are almost the length of speeches.

Mr. Emery

I am delighted to bring the hon. Gentleman up to date. I refer him to the first Early Day Motion of the 1970 Parliament which stood in my name and those of a hundred other right hon. and hon. Members which advocated that votes for holiday makers should be allowed at all elections.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Stanley Orme)

Why did not the hon. Gentleman do something about it?

Mr. Emery

I am delighted to deal with the intervention of the Minister of State standing behind the Speaker's Chair. There may be a number of things that he wishes to do as a member of the Government which he cannot do. Let us not have the childish behaviour reflected in that sort of intervention from that sort of Minister.

I have been consistent about this matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) that the referendum is a nonsense and will undermine the parliamentary structure. I said so at the beginning of my speech. But if we are to have it—and I am against it—let us make it as thorough and efficient as is humanly possible. That is what I am arguing and what it is right that Members should argue.

As yet, no argument has been mounted by anybody in this debate to try to explain why the status quo should be kept. No one has spoken in support of the view taken by the Government. All the argument is on the side of those who wish to give the vote to people who are on holiday. If that is the case, and if the Government are supposedly as pliant on matters of the referendum as they certainly put out to the public, let them bow to the wishes of the House of Commons on this matter without having to try to use a three-line Whip as the only way to make their point of view prevail tonight.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

I wish to make one or two brief points. Who is likely to be away early in June? If anyone who has had experience in local government work puts his mind to the question, he will realise that that is usually the time when hotels offer a reduced price to old people and to the disabled. My old people's welfare association takes advantage of literally hundreds of holidays which are offered at seaside resorts to old people if they go in the early part of the season while the machinery is being cranked up. Therefore—point one—it is the elderly and the disabled who will be disfranchised if the Government persist in their action.

Mr. George Cunningham

The disabled can vote now.


The hon. Member made his speech. Perhaps he will remain in a sedentary position in silence.

It is necessary perhaps to examine one other point which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) raised—and having been shot down he retired, but he has come back again. I refer to the nonsense, if I may so put it, of the witnessed vote. If he casts his mind back to the occasion when he was able to go into a polling booth, if he had his glasses with him, as I sometimes need them, he will remember that there is a notice inside the booth. If my memory is correct, it would tell him that when he has voted he should fold his paper and, before placing it in the box, display it to the presiding officer, folded closed, to show that he is putting a ballot paper in the box. There is no need, and it is impossible, to show what is on the paper.

In my view, that is no different from a ballot paper which comes through the post. As hon. Members will know, a separate envelope is used for the form. I see no reason to suppose why anybody should disclose how he has voted in a postal ballot, because the voter will close the ballot paper over and all that the witness has to certify is that that is the person—not how he has voted or even if he has voted, but that that is the person. I should have thought there would be no objection to that.

I am worried about accepting the point which was belaboured by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) about the necessity of witnessing an application for a holiday vote. The hon. Member was at great pains to say "Let us have witnesses." He left it to the Government. I hope I am not being uncharitable, but if the Government are being as flexible as the Lord President usually is they will go on to say that everyone who has a holiday vote must have it witnessed by the Lord President in person. I do not think that that would meet with his agreement or that of the House of Commons.

It is not right to deny this right to persons who have to go on holiday and who wish to vote. It is perhaps fair to remind the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) that it was his party which talked out a Bill in the last Session, which had been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), which was designed to give a postal vote to persons on holiday. There again, consistency is on the Conservative benches.

The obstinacy may not lie with the Lord President. One of the most obstinate, backward and stubborn Departments of State is the Home Office, as anyone who has ever tried to deal with it will know. If it is a matter of altering byelaws the advice is "We must not make a change." If it is a matter of bringing up to date company law, the advice Is "We must not do it." If it is a question of bringing up to date election laws, the advice is "We should not do it, Minister. It is very dangerous." I do not believe that this Committee should take any notice.

I have said more than once that if the will of the Committee is that there should be, for example, a postal vote for people on holiday, and if the Lord President wants to say at some time that such a suggestion has defects, so be it. He must know that if he is working to the deadline of 5th June and this Committee puts into the Bill the right to vote by post in a way that he does not like, his Office and the Home Office will have plenty of time to put it right when the Bill goes to another place.

If we do not put such a provision in the Bill, placing upon the right hon. Gentleman the responsibility of getting it right, if we let it go by and hope that something will be done, I do not believe that those hopes—

Mr. Sandelson

I intervene again simply to correct a point on which I think the hon. Gentleman may have misrepresented my views. May I make it clear that in principle I am not opposed to postal votes or some other arrangements being made for the benefit of holiday makers. What I am strongly opposed to is any such arrangements being made for the purpose of this referendum. The Speaker's Conference and similar bodies are the proper channel through which such matters should be discussed, and then determined by the House in more normal circumstances.

Mr. Finsberg

I made a mistake in giving way to the hon. Member because clearly he has completely misunderstood what was being said. All I was trying to do was to follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery). The inconsistency comes from Labour Members.

There is no need for any new forms to be printed to enable postal voting for holiday makers to take place. Let us take part in the "Save a Tree" campaign and publish a full-page advertisement telling anyone who wishes to vote by post because they will be on holiday to alter the wording on the form which reads: I shall be away on business. to read: I shall be away on holiday. It is administratively simple. The decision is for the returning officer. If the Lord President is genuine, and I believe he is, in wanting to get the maximum number of votes for the referendum he ought to give way to the wishes of the Committee:

Several Hon. Members


The Deputy Chairman

Order. May I at this stage appeal to all hon. Members to be as brief as possible? There is a substantial number of hon. Members who would like to get to their beds before 5th June, let alone go on holiday.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

I think, Sir Myer, that many hon. Members will welcome what you have said, and I shall therefore be brief.

In the October election my constituency, like that of Dundee West, was substantially affected by holiday voters. The Government chose to hold the election during a trade week, when factory after factory had shut down and many people were away on holiday. They were bitter because they did not get a vote which they expected to get as of right.

We have to realise that people regard a vote not just as a privilege but as a function which it is their civic duty to carry out. A number of persons approached me, as they did other candidates, about what they considered to be the injustice of not being able to vote, and I pledged that I should do what I could to try to get postal votes for people who were on holiday. I did this not because of the pressure that was brought to bear on me, but because I believe in the principle that people should be allowed to vote wherever possible.

If we concede the principle of a postal vote for a person who is away on business, there is no reason why we should not concede the vote to somebody who is away on holiday. It is puritannical hypocrisy that a person has to prove that he is away for some good reason before he can get a vote. A holiday is a necessary recreation, and a person should be entitled to a vote if he is away on holiday. It has been said that people cannot easily change their holidays. I see no reason in principle why they should not be given a vote. It is not simple to be away on holiday, and if it is not simple those who are on holiday should be given a vote. Certain administrative objections have been made, but I have no sympathy with them. It is the duty of the administrators to take care of a situation such as this.

We are to have a referendum. Whether we like it or not, it is a method of consulting the people of this country, and if we are to consult them we should do the job thoroughly and consult all those whose names are on the electoral register. I suggest that it is the job of the administrators to adapt their routine business to allow these voting papers to go out to all those concerned. I do not think that, with the referendum being held in June, there will be an overwhelming demand for postal votes, but I agree that if it was held in July or August during trade weeks those responsible for organising the postal votes might be overwhelmed. I do not accept that there are any practical objections to what is proposed, and I doubt very much whether the Government could come up with one that would hold water.

Mr. Goodhart

Inevitably, there has been a certain amount of dispute about how many voters will be disfranchised if no postal votes are allowed to holiday makers for the referendum on 5th June. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) talked of a few hundred thousand. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) referred to a possible 3 million. It has authoritatively been suggested by the travel trade that the number of people likely to be away on 5th June is about equal to the electorate of Northern Ireland.

By chance, Northern Ireland is the one part of the United Kingdom where a major referendum has already been held. It is worth remembering that at that referendum on the border postal votes were handed out to all those who applied for them. As it turned out, about 16 per cent. of the electorate did so.

On 10th May 1974, in the debate on a Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department reported on the effect of postal voting in the Northern Ireland referendum. She said this: It is true that in the Northern Ireland elections last year—at the Border poll, the local government elections and the Assembly elections—an experiment was made with giving a postal vote to anyone who applied. This was done because the number of polling stations was restricted in the Province, and because voting in person might have involved personal danger. That was one of the main reasons for its introduction. The closing date for applications was extended by 11 days, and in the event about 16 per cent. of electors applied. I understand that, on the whole, the experiment was a success and that there were few reports of abuse."—[Official Report, 10th May 1974; Vol. 873, c. 784.] Therefore, in the one referendum that we have had postal voting for those on holiday and, indeed, even for those who were not on holiday but who for one reason or another did not wish to go to the polling station in person was allowed and was admitted by this Government to have been a success. Therefore, if the Government do not allow postal votes for holiday makers it will be a clear sign that this is not because of theoretical, philosophical or administrative difficulties but because they do not want the 2 million people who will be away on holiday to cast their votes.

Mr. Onslow

I want briefly to endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has said. In reply to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), I would say that, as the evidence is in favour of this method of postal voting being extended to referenda, if he wishes us to take the view that there is a danger of corruption inherent in it he should tell us who he thinks will do the corrupting in the unique context of the referendum which is to take place on 5th June. As the hon. Gentleman made no attempt to be specific on that point, we can disregard most of what he said.

I only wish that when we debated this point on 10th May of last year I had been fortunate enough to secure the support of some of those hon. Members opposite who have now courageously spoken out in favour of postal voting.

Mr. Edward Short

There are 10 amendments on the Notice Paper to extend postal voting facilities to those on holiday on 5th June. I shall refer to some of these amendments in more detail later; but before that I want to make some general comments.

First, Mr. Speaker's Conference in the 1964–66 Parliament considered and rejected the extension of postal voting in elections to those on holiday.

The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) has just told us that the Conservative Party has not dragged its feet on this question. However, neither the Conservative Government of 1951–64 nor the Conservative Government of 1970–74 took any action on the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), who spoke on this question, was the Under-Secretary at the Home Department in that latter period. No doubt when the Conservatives had responsibility they found the official advice of the Home Office Electoral Advisory Committee as persuasive as their predecessors had done.

This is not the advice of the Home Department. It is the advice of the experts who have to organise elections throughout the country—the Home Office Electoral Advisory Committee.

Postal and proxy voting fell within the terms of reference of the last Speaker's Conference but had not been considered when the conference was interrupted by the Dissolution in February of last year. They will certainly fall to be re-examined when the conference is re-convened. I suggest that Mr. Speaker's Conference is the correct forum to consider this and to advise the House of Commons on a matter of this kind.

Mr. Emery

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman at the start of his speech, but he has used an argument which he obviously thinks is compelling on the advice the Home Office committees have given about not allowing postal votes to those on holiday in the previous elections. He said that that advice has been followed by Governments of both parties. As I understand it—and I said that I had looked at the matter fairly closely—the basis of that advice was the administrative difficulties between the date of the announcement of the election and the poll. Those difficulties do not apply in the referendum. Surely, therefore, it would be wrong to use that argument and that advice in dealing with the referendum.

Mr. Short

If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I shall deal with that point in great detail.

It has been said that while the Speaker's Conference and the House have agreed that the postal vote for holiday makers is not appropriate at elections, it is a different matter in a referendum, and that everything should be done to enable the greatest possible number of people on the register to vote on a matter of unique national importance. The argument is that as the referendum is being held at the beginning of June, at the beginning of the holiday season, special consideration should be given to those on holiday.

I have sympathy with that argument, but I believe that it contains a number of misconceptions. First, while the referendum is certainly unique and of great importance to the future of the country, it would be hard to argue that the issues at stake in the General Elections of 1970 or 1974 were not also very important for the country, and in that respect the referendum is not unique.

We want the largest possible poll in the referendum, but not at the expense of abandoning our well-tried electoral procedures in favour of a device which has been rejected as undesirable and impracticable both by the body that represents the electoral registration officers and the Speaker's Conference. I repeat what I said in our debate on the previous amendments, that if we abandon well-tried electoral procedures lightly we shall put at serious risk the national acceptance of the referendum result. We must at all costs secure the widest possible national acceptance of the result.

Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)

Following that argument, does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the exclusion of large numbers of our fellow citizens unnecessarily from the referendum will in itself cast doubt on the outcome?

Mr. Short

That is a point of view, and I respect it. But I sincerely believe that if we abandon electoral procedures which the electorate understands and trusts, and which are among the best in the world, we put at risk the credibility and national acceptance of the result.

Mr. Hooley

I cannot follow my right hon. Friend's argument about abandoning well-tried procedures. The postal vote has been a long-established procedure, which people understand. We are simply asking that certain people who have not so far enjoyed it should do so.

Mr. Short

My hon. Friend has made his point. He made a long speech and I did not interrupt him.

That brings me to some of the practical considerations to point out what would be involved in allowing a postal vote on 5th June to those who claim that they will be on holiday on that day. Applications would have to be considered individually and granted by returning officers, who would have no power to begin that work until the referendum order had been made. The order is to be made under powers given in the Bill, so it cannot be made until the Bill receives the Royal Assent. Therefore, the earliest date for the order to be made, if we can keep to our tight timetable, is 14th May.

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Runcorn, I think ignored this fact in his speech. In other words—

12 midnight.

Mr. Carlisle

The Lord President is saying that because the Government have got in a mess with their timetable and have brought in a Bill too close to the date of the referendum, many people are, as a result, going to be disfranchised.

Mr. Short

I do not accept that about the date of 5th June. The returning officers locally would have no power to begin this work until the order has been made, and the earliest date for making the order is 14th May. The additional work would all have to be done within the normal timetable for existing postal votes in a General Election. Naturally, it would—

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)


Mr. Short

The hon. and learned Member has not been here long, but I will give way to him.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I have been here the whole time and I did not catch the Chairman's eye.

The Lord President's point is simply not true, because there would be no difficulty in the appropriate and requisite forms to implement a decision of the House of Commons taken tonight so that they would be ready before 14th May, ready to carry into effect the rest of the procedure.

Mr. Short

I am advised that local officers running the election would have no power to do that until the order has been made, so the work would all have to be done within the normal timetable.

In the case of holiday makers abroad, whom it would be unfair to exclude, a separate nomination of a proxy would then have to be made; and his or her willingness to serve would need to be established by the returning officer before the appointment could be confirmed. Next, the absent voting holiday makers would have to be added to the list of postal and proxy voters which must he compiled by registration officers. Postal ballot papers would then have to be issued to holiday makers giving addresses in the United Kingdom; and finally the resulting votes opened and checked before ballot boxes could be dispatched for the count. This is a formidable catalogue, and it will be clear to the Committee that the additional and novel burden falling on electoral registration officers would be severe.

Sir Raymond Gower


Mr. Short

It is true, if the hon. Member listened to the catalogue I gave. It is particularly true in Scotland, where the new authorities do not take over until 16th May, two days after the earliest date for making an order and less than a week before the closing date for applications for postal votes from those entitled to them under the Bill as it stands, 12 working days, including Saturdays, but excluding Sundays and bank holidays and the working day immediately before and immediately after the bank holiday in the case of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, before polling day. In effect this means that in England and Wales there would be only five clear days between the making of the order and the closing date for postal vote applications. In Scotland with no bank holiday in this period there would be eight.

I have been asked whether it is possible. I believe this is a quite impossible timetable, particularly as what we are really considering is postal votes on demand, since there is no way of checking them.

I have considered whether what is sought in both the amendments proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) could be done. In the case of his previous amendment, I thought it possibly could be done, with a fair amount of chaos.

In the case of these amendments, I do not think it can, in time to have the referendum on 5th June.

Sir Raymond Gower

One cannot object to the right hon. Gentleman's timetable, but it appears that 5th June is regarded as sacrosanct. Why should it be sacrosanct? Why cannot it be put back a week or a fortnight?

Mr. Short

I am coming to the date.

It is no answer to say "Very well, postpone the referendum by a week or two". One of the factors that led us to select 5th June was that it is after the spring bank holiday week and before the traditional industrial and other holidays begin. By 12th June the North Staffordshire miners will be on holiday. By 19th June school holidays in Glasgow will have begun. By 26th June, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) told us, the June wakes weeks in Lancashire will have started, notably in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I thought that I might have had a word of credit from the hon. Gentleman, but I did not get one. In the debate on the referendum White Paper he urged us to avoid that week, and we have avoided it.

As the number away on holiday will increase steadily throughout June, so the burden on the electoral officers will increase. To all these reasons for not delaying the poll I must add the widespread feeling in the House of Commons and in the country that the uncertainty that hangs over our membership of the EEC should be removed by holding the referendum at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)


Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman has not been present throughout the debate, but I will give way to him.

Mr. Evelyn King

Are not the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman describes self-created? The Government decided on what date to introduce the Bill. The Government decided on what date to hold the referendum. The Government could have made the timetable to suit their convenience. The right hon. Gentleman puts up the timetable and then says that it is impossible.

Mr. Short

I have been explaining why we selected 5th June. The selection of any week beyond that makes the problem much worse.

I will return to the practical difficulties by giving the Committee three examples. First, the effect of increasing the 12-day period that I have mentioned in order to give more time for the processing of postal votes for holiday makers would penalise those who fall ill after the earlier closing date for applications. All Members of Parliament who canvass and pick up postal votes know that many come in on the last day or two. To disfranchise some of the bedridden for the sake of the holiday makers would be very rough justice.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is perfectly possible to have a different qualifying date for those who fall ill and those who go on holiday?

Mr. Short

That would be an additional complication which would immediately rule out the matter completely.

Secondly, holiday addresses are often transitory. [Laughter.] What about the holiday maker who goes on holiday in a caravan? Another effect of this extension would be a large distribution of postal ballot papers, readily identifiable as such, to hotels, boarding houses, caravan and camping sites and the like. This system would therefore be wide open to considerable abuse.

Thirdly, a person claiming a postal or proxy vote because of illness or employment has to produce evidence which the electoral registration officer can check. But a claim to a postal vote because of absence on holiday would be impossible to verify in the very short time available. This extension, therefore, would virtually amount to granting postal voting on demand.

Apart from the insuperable difficulties which do not go away merely because my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) says they do not exist, all the factors that I have mentioned would be certain to lead not only to errors and anomalies but, much more important, to widespread complaints that people had been improperly allowed or denied a postal vote. The Committee will have noticed that as a result of the representations made on Second Reading I added my name to an amendment to delete paragraph (b) of Clause 4. It is quite likely that because of that some of the complaints would be pursued in the courts, thus casting some doubt on the validity of the certified result of the referendum.

I come now to the terms of the amendments on the Order Paper. They are very varied and sometimes in conflict with each other. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) would give a vote to

all those on holiday or otherwise disenfranchised in a normal General Election. I point out that that would include criminals, children, the Royal Family, the lot. The Liberal Party, whose amendment is elegant in wording but obscure in intention, apparently would give a vote to anyone on holiday abroad or at home, on the register or not, unless he happened to be a Peer. That is the effect of the Liberal amendment. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and his colleagues would extend absent voting facilities to anyone

who may be absent from home on the day the referendum is held … That is postal voting on demand, to which I have referred. The amendments in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Belper and 16 of his colleagues would give postal votes to people unable or likely to be unable to go to the polling station because they will be outside the constituency on holiday … I do not want to make too much of the rather curious phrase outside the constituency". The constituency for the referendum is the United Kingdom, and a court might well hold that the effect of the amendment would be to give a postal vote to those on holiday on the Costa Brava but to deny it to those in Margate or Blackpool.

On a narrow interpretation of "constituency" the amendment would plainly deny a postal vote to someone who lived at one end of a constituency and who spent his holiday at the other end. Let us take, for example, the Leader of the Liberal Party. The right hon. Gentleman resides in rural North Devon. He might want to spend his holiday at Ilfracombe on polling day. If he did he would not be able to get a vote as he would still he in his constituency. He could not get a vote if these amendments were carried or if one of them were carried.

Mr. Hooley

It seems that my right hon. Friend has found no technical objection to my amendment. Indeed, he has not even mentioned it. Will he explain in what way it is out of order?

Mr. Short

I cannot believe that my hon. Friend has been listening to me. At least half of my speech has been concerned with the technical difficulties involved in carrying out his amendment.

The amendment, if carried, would place a dangerously heavy burden on those who have to organise the poll. It will be impossible to check or to prevent the abuse of postal votes that are issued to holiday makers. It will deny the over-riding importance we have always attached to the stringent limitation of the potential for abuse in our electoral procedures. In effect it will endanger the whole exercise of the referendum in providing postal votes for the small group of people who can register their applications in the five-day period available. The amendment is impracticable, it puts the credibility of the referendum at risk, and I ask the Committee to reject it.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

About two hours ago—it may seem longer to you, Sir Myer—the Committee, at the Government's behest, and as a result of a rather fanciful argument adduced by the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, to the effect that it would be a leap in the dark, rejected the idea of giving votes to British subjects who worked and resided abroad.

The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council gave further garnish to that argument by saying that it might just have been possible at the price of a fair amount of chaos. I do not believe that decision—which I believe was a lamentable one—is sufficient grounds for the Committee to make a similarly mean decision in respect of holiday makers who wish to vote on the referendum. I do not believe we have had any argument at all to persuade us to this effect.

In my view and experience, the Home Office is perhaps not the most flexible department. It is a department to which the answer "No" comes fairly naturally. This was also the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg). However, the Lord President of the Council rightly said a few minutes ago that this was not a matter for which the Home Office was immediately responsible. It was a matter for an electoral advisory committee—a committee of experts. I wonder how often that committee is reshuffled.

The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) made it clear that in his view there was no argument in principle against his amendment. I very much hope he will carry that view to the obvious conclusion to show that he believes his conviction is right.

It is time we faced the fact that there is nothing wrong or wicked in going on holiday, and that there are no grounds in principle for disqualifying anybody from voting on that score. The fact that we are dealing with a one-off referendum, something that is unique, need not bother anybody in terms of its effect on General Elections.

We were impressed by the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Sheffield. Heeley (Mr. Hooley) who described himself first as an ex-administrator and then, with characteristic modesty, as a first-class administrator. From that lofty position he gave his judgment that there was no possible administrative reason why this amendment could not be passed.

In ordinary circumstances, and at ordinary hours of the day, I would be tempted to make a quite long speech, but I shall resist the temptation tonight. However, it would be wrong for me not to refer to one or two points made by the Lord President of the Council. He reminded the Committee that we had not had a Speaker's Conference to approve postal votes—nor have we had a Speaker's Conference to deal with the question of a referendum. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be heard to adduce that argument and then proceed to bring in an even worse argument—namely, that it would be wrong if now we were to abandon well-tried electoral procedures which the electorate understand and trust. Such contacts as I have had with the electorate recently lead me to believe that they do not regard the referendum as tried and certainly are not prepared to put trust in it.

The Lord President took undue risks with his case when he brought forward that argument. The single practical argument of delay—if the right hon. Gentle-man had put that forward alone—might have weighed with me. However, when he completed the sandwich by referring to the possibility of disfranchising the bedridden and the sick, I thought that he had departed into the realms of fantasy.

We must have some pity for the right hon. Gentleman in his unhappiness, be-cause he then referred, as if to add further splendour to such a rubbishy argument, to the difficulty of establishing holiday addresses. There then followed a piece of real news. He said that holiday addresses were often transitory, especially when holidays were taken in caravans. I realise that at this time of night the acumen of hon. Members is not at its sharpest. Nevertheless, hon. Members would have been able to perceive that

point without being reminded of it by the right hon. Gentleman. I am certain that I command the agreement of the Committee when I say that those points add nothing to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman.

The Opposition did not put down an amendment on this subject. We listened carefully to the argument. The overwhelming weight of the argument was in favour of conceding postal votes for the purpose of the referendum only. The right hon. Gentleman said how difficult that would be. The Government should have thought of that a long time ago. The Prime Minister should have thought of that point before he came up with this rubbishy idea to get himself out of his own, home-made, self-inflicted difficulties.

I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends, even if they had any doubts, as I had, before, that on this occasion they should go into the Lobby in support of the amendment.

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 201. Noes 250.

Division No. 177.] AYES [12.24 a.m.
Adley, Robert Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hicks, Robert
Arnold, Tom Emery, Peter Higgins, Terence L.
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Holland, Philip
Banks, Robert Eyre, Reginald Hordern, Peter
Beith, A. J. Fairbairn, Nicholas Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Benyon, W. Fairgrieve, Russell Howell, David (Guildford)
Biffen, John Finsberg, Geoffrey Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)
Biggs-Davison, John Fisher, Sir Nigel Hurd, Douglas
Blaker, Peter Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fox, Marcus Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Freud, Clement James, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)
Brittan, Leon Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Jessel, Toby
Brotherton, Michael Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Bryan, Sir Paul Glyn, Dr Alan Jopling, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Mick Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Buck, Antony Goodhart, Philip Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Budgen, Nick Goodhew, Victor King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Bulmer, Esmond Gorst, John King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Gow. Ian (Eastbourne) Kitson, Sir Timothy
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Knight, Mrs Jill
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Gray, Hamish Knox, David
Churchill, W. S. Griffiths Eldon Lamont, Norman
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Grimond, Rt Hon J. Lane, David
Clegg, Walter Grist, Ian Langford-Holt, Sir John
Cockcroft, John Grylls, Michael Latham, Michael (Melton)
Cope, John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Lawrence, Ivan
Cormack, Patrick Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Lawson, Nigel
Contain, A. P. Hampson, Dr Keith Le Marchant, Spencer
Crawford, Douglas Hannam, John Lloyd, Ian
Crouch, David Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Loveridge, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Havers, Sir Michael Luce, Richard
Drayson, Burnaby Hawkins, Paul Macfarlane, Neil
Durant, Tony Heath, Rt Hon Edward MacGregor, John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Heseltine, Michael Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Prior, Rt Hon James Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Raison, Timothy Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Madel, David Rathbone, Tim Stradling Thomas, J.
Mates, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Tapsell, Peter
Mather, Carol Rees-Davies, W. R. Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Mawby, Ray Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Tebbit, Norman
Mayhew, Patrick Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Temple-Morris, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Mills, Peter Ridsdale, Julian Townsend, Cyril D.
Miscampbell, Norman Rilklnd, Malcolm Trotter, Neville
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Tugendhat, Christopher
Monro, Hector Roberts, Wyn (Conway) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Montgomery, Fergus Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Viggers, Peter
Moore, John (Croydon C) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Wakeham, John
Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Royle, Sir Anthony Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Mudd, David Sainsbury, Tim Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Neave, Airey Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Walters, Dennis
Nelson, Anthony Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Weatherill, Bernard
Neubert, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham) Wells, John
Newton, Tony Shersby, Michael Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Normanton, Tom Silvester, Fred Wiggin, Jerry
Nott, John Sims, Roger Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Onslow, Cranley Skeet, T. H. H. Winterton, Nicholas
Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Page, Rt hon R. Graham (Crosby) Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Pardoe, John Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Younger, Hon George
Parkinson, Cecil Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Pattie, Geoffrey Sproat, Iain TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Penhaligon, David Stainton, Keith Mr. Mark Carlisle and
Percival, Ian Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Michael Marshall.
Peyton, Rt Hon John Stanley, John
Pink, R. Bonner Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Abse, Leo Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Hayman, Mrs Helene
Anderson, Donald Deakins, Eric Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Archer, Peter Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Heffer, Eric S.
Armstrong, Ernest de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Horam, John
Ashton, Joe Delargy, Hugh Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Atkinson, Norman Dempsey, James Huckfield, Les
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Doig, Peter Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dormand, J. D. Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bates, Alf Dunn, James A. Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Bean, R. E. Dunnett, Jack Hunter, Adam
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Bidwell, Sydney Eadie, Alex Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Bishop, E. S. Edelman, Maurice Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Edge, Geoff Janner, Greville
Boardman H. Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Jeger, Mrs Lena
Booth, Albert Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty English, Michael John, Brynmor
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Ennals, David Johnson, James (Hull West)
Boyden, James (Bash Auck) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Evans, John (Newton) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Buchan, Norman Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Buchanan, Richard Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Judd, Frank
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kaufman, Gerald
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Flannery, Martin Kerr, Russell
Campbell, Ian Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Canavan, Dennis Ford, Ben Lambie, David
Cant, R. B. Forrester, John Lamborn, Harry
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Lamond, James
Cartwright, John Freeson, Reginald Leadbitter, Ted
Clemitson, Ivor Garrett, John (Norwich S) Lee, John
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen George, Bruce Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Gilbert, Dr John Litterick, Tom
Corbett, Robin Ginsburg, David Loyden, Eddie
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Golding, John Luard, Evan
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Gould, Bryan Lyon, Alexander (York)
Crawshaw, Richard Graham, Ted Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Cronin, John Giant, George (Morpeth) McElhone, Frank
Cryer, Bob Grant, John (Islington C) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Groton, Bruce Mackenzie, Gregor
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hardy, Peter Maclennan Robert
Davidson, Arthur Harper, Joseph McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Hart, Rt Hon Judith Madden, Max
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hatton, Frank Magee, Bryan
Mahon, Simon Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Marks, Kenneth Richardson. Miss Jo Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Meacher, Michael Robertson, John (Paisley) Tierney, Sydney
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Roderick, Caerwyn Tinn, James
Mikardo, Ian Rodgers, George (Chorley) Tomlinson, John
Millan, Bruce Rodgers, William (Stockton) Torney, Tom
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Rooker, J. W Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Rose, Paul B. Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, lichen) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Molyneaux, James Rowlands, Ted Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ryman, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Sandelson, Neville Ward, Michael
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Sedgemore, Brian Watkins, David
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Selby, Harry Weetch, Ken
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Wellbeloved, James
Newens, Stanley Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Noble, Mike Shore, Rt Hon Peter White, James (Pollok)
Oakes, Gordon Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C) Whitlock, William
Ogden, Eric Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Wigley, Dafydd
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Silverman, Julius Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Skinner, Dennis Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Ovenden, John Small, William Williams. Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Owen, Dr David Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Palmer, Arthur Spearing, Nigel Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Park, George Spriggs, Leslie Wise, Mrs Audrey
Parry, Robert Stallard, A. W. Woodall, Alec
Pearl, Rt Hon Fred Stoddart, David Woof, Robert
Perry, Ernest Stott, Roger Wrigglesworth, Ian
Phipps, Dr Colin Strang, Gavin Young, David (Bolton E)
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Swain, Thomas Mr. Laurie Pavitt and
Price, William (Rugby) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Mr. James Hamilton.
Radice, Giles Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No.26, in page 1, line 18, leave out from beginning to end of line 19 and insert: '(4) Her Majesty may by Order in Council—'.

'(4A) An Order in Council under this section may make or enable the Secretary of State to make special provision with respect to persons, or any description of persons, who are members of the forces (as defined in section 46 of the Representation of the People Act 1949) or spouses of such members, and may do so differently with respect to different cases; and any provision so made—
(a) may permit persons to whom it applies to vote in the referendum notwithstanding that they are not duly registered under the Representation of the People Acts, and, if they have or have had an address in the United Kingdom, notwithstanding that the conditions of those Acts as to residence are not satisfied; and
(b) may enable persons to whom it applies to vote at a date earlier than that appointed under subsection (4)(a) of this section and may also enable them to vote at a polling station set up in accordance with that provision or by post'.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Amendment proposed to the proposed amendment: (b) in line 3, leave out 'as defined in section 46 of the Representation of the People Act 1949)'.—[Mr Percival.]

No. 29, in page 1, line 23, leave out 'him' and insert 'Her'.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Amendment proposed: No. 31, in page 2, line 4, at end insert:

Question put, That the amendment to the proposed amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 192, Noes 248.

Division No. 178.] AYES [12.37 a.m.
Adley, Robert Braine, Sir Bernard Carr, Rt Hon Robert
Arnold, Tom Brittan, Leon Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Brotherton, Michael Churchill, W. S.
Banks, Robert Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Beith, A. J. Bryan, Sir Paul Clegg, Walter
Bitten, John Buchanan-Smith, Alick Cockcroft, John
Biggs-Davison, John Buck, Antony Cope, John
Blaker, Peter Budgen, Nick Costain, A. P.
Boscawen, Hon Robert Bulmer, Esmond Crouch, David
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Carlisle, Mark Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Drayson, Burnaby King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Durant, Tony King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Kitson, Sir Timothy Ridsdale, Julian
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knight, Mrs Jill Rifkind, Malcolm
Emery, Peter Knox, David Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Eyre, Reginald Lamont, Norman Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lane, David Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fairgrieve, Russell Langford-Holt, Sir John Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Latham, Michael (Mellon) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lawrence, Ivan Royle, Sir Anthony
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Lawson, Nigel Sainsbury, Tim
Fox, Marcus Le Marchant, Spencer Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Freud, Clement Lloyd, Ian Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Loveridge, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Luce, Richard Shersby, Michael
Gilmour, Rt Hon tan (Chesham) Macfarlane, Nell Silvester, Fred
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) MacGregor, John Sims, Roger
Glyn, Dr Alan Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Skeet, T. H. H.
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Goodhart, Philip Madel, David Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Goodhew, Victor Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Gorst, John Mather, Carol Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mawby, Ray Sproat, Iain
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mayhew, Patrick Stainton, Keith
Gray, Hamish Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Griffiths, Eldon Miscampbell, Norman Stanley, John
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Grist, tan Monro, Hector Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Moore, John (Croydon C) Stradling Thomas, J.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Tapsell, Peter
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Tebbit, Norman
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Mudd, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Havers, Sir Michael Neave, Airey Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Hawkins, Paul Nelson. Anthony Townsend, Cyril D.
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neubert, Michael Trotter, Neville
Heseltine, Michael Newton, Tony Tugendhat, Christopher
Hicks, Robert Normanton, Tom van Straubenzee, W. R.
Higgins, Terence L. Nott, John Viggers, Peter
Holland, Philip Onslow, Cranley Wakeham, John
Hordern, Peter Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Walters, Dennis
Howell, David (Guildford) Pardoe, John Weatherill, Bernard
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Parkinson, Cecil Wells, John
Hurd, Douglas Pattie, Geoffrey Wiggin, Jerry
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Penhaligon, David Winterton, Nicholas
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Percival, Ian Wood, Rt Hon Richard
James, David Peyton, Rt Hon John Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Pink, R. Bonner Younger, Hon George
Jessel, Toby Prior, Rt Hon James
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Raison, Timothy TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rathbone, Tim Mr. Adam Butler and
Jopling, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Mr Laurie Pavitt.
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Abse, Leo Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Anderson, Donald Campbell, Ian Dell, Rt Hon Edmund
Archer, Peter Canavan, Dennis Dempsey, James
Armstrong, Ernest Cant, R. B. Doig, Peter
Ashton, Joe Carter-Jones, Lewis Dormand, J. D.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Cartwright, John Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Atkinson, Norman Clemitson, Ivor Dunn, James A.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Dunnett, Jack
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Eadie, Alex
Bates, Alf Corbett, Robin Edelman, Maurice
Bean, R. E. Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Edge, Geoff
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)
Bidwell, Sydney Crawshaw, Richard Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Bishop, E. S. Cronin, John English, Michael
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cryer, Bob Ennals, David
Boardman H. Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)
Booth, Albert Cunningham, Dr J. (Whlteh) Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Davidson, Arthur Evans, John (Newton)
Bottomtey, Rt Hon Arthur Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Davies, Denzil (Lianelli) Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davies, Ifor (Gower) Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Flannery, Martin
Buchan, Norman Deakins, Eric Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Buchanan, Richard Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Ford, Ben
Forrester, John McElhone, Frank Ryman, John
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) MacFarquhar, Roderick Sandelson, Neville
Freeson, Reginald McGuire, Michael Once) Sedgemore, Brian
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mackenzie, Gregor Selby, Harry
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maclennan Robert Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
George, Bruce McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Gilbert, Dr John McNamara, Kevin Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Ginsburg, David Madden, Max Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Goiding, John Magee, Bryan Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Gould, Bryan Mahon, Simon Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Graham, Ted Marks, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marquand, David Skinner, Dennis
Grant, John (Islington C) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Small, William
Grocott, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Meacher, Michael Spearing, Nigel
Hardy, Peter Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Spriggs, Leslie
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mikardo, Ian Stallard, A. W.
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Millan, Bruce Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Hatton, Frank Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Stott, Roger
Hayman, Mrs Helene Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Strang, Gavin
Healey, RI Hon Denis Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Heifer, Eric S. Molyneaux, James Swain, Thomas
Horam, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Huckfield, Les Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Newens, Stanley Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Noble, Mike Tierney, Sydney
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oakes, Gordon Tinn, James
Hunter, Adam Ogden, Eric Tomlinson, John
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) O'Halloran, Michael Torney, Tom
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Janner, Greville Ovenden, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Jeger, Mrs Lena Owen, Dr David Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Palmer, Arthur Ward, Michael
Jonn, Brynmor Park, George Watkins, David
Johnson, James (Hull West) Parry, Robert Weetch, Ken
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Pavitt, Laurie Wellbeloved, James
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Perry, Ernest White, Frank R. (Bury)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Phipps, Dr Colin White, James (Pollok)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Whitlock, William
Judd, Frank Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Wigley, Dafydd
Kaufman, Gerald Price, C. (Lewisham W) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Kerr, Russell Price, William (Rugby) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Radice, Giles Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Lambie, David Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Lamborn, Harry Richardson. Miss Jo Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Lamond, James Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Leadbitter, Ted Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Lee, John Robertson, John (Paisley) Woodall, Alec
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Roderick, Caerwyn Woof, Robert
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Litterick, Tom Rodgers, William (Stockton) Young, David (Bolton E)
Loyden, Eddie Rooker, J. W.
Luard, Evan Rose, Paul B. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lyon, Alexander (York) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Rowlands, Ted Mr. Laurie Pavitt.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed to the proposed amendment: (a), in line 4, after 'spouses' insert 'and any adult dependant having a right of abode in the United Kingdom as defined in the Immigration Act 1971'.—[Mr. Goodhart.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 190, Noes 248.

Division No. 179.] AYES [12.49 a.m.
Adley, Robert Braine, Sir Bernard Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Arnold, Tom Brittan, Leon Churchill, W. S.
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Brotherton, Michael Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Banks, Robert Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Clegg, Walter
Beith, A. J. Bryan, Sir Paul Cockcroft, John
Benyon, W. Buchanan-Smith, Mick Cope, John
Biffen, John Buck, Antony Costain, A. P.
Biggs-Davison, John Budgen, Nick Crouch, David
Blaker, Peter Bulmer, Esmond Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Carlisle, Mark Drayson, Burnaby
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Carr, Rt Hon Robert Durant, Tony
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Kitson, Sir Timothy Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knight, Mrs Jill Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Emery, Peter Knox, David Ridsdale, Julian
Eyre, Reginald Lamont, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lane, David Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Fairgrieve, Russell Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Latham, Michael (Melton) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lawrence, Ivan Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Lawson, Nigel Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Fox, Marcus Lloyd, Ian Royle, Sir Anthony
Freud, Clement Loveridge, John Sainsbury, Tim
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Luce, Richard Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Macfarlane, Neil Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Gilmour, Rt Hon lan (Chesham) MacGregor, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Shersby, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Silvester, Fred
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Madel, David Sims, Roger
Goodhart, Philip Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Skeet, T. H. H.
Goodhew, Victor Mather, Carol Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Gorst, John Mawby, Ray Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mayhew, Patrick Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Meyer, Sir Anthony Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Gray, Hamish Miscampbell, Norman Sproat, Iain
Griffiths, Eldon Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stainton, Keith
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Monro, Hector Stanbrook, Ivor
Grist, Ian Montgomery, Fergus Stanley, John
Grylls, Michael Moore, John (Croydon C) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Stradling Thomas, J.
Hannam, John Mudd, David Tapsell, Peter
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Neave, Airey Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Havers, Sir Michael Nelson, Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Hawkins, Paul Neubert, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Newton, Tony Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Jewton)
Heseltine, Michael Normanton, Tom Townsend, Cyril D.
Hicks, Robert Onslow, Cranley Trotter, Neville
Higgins, Terence L. Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Tugendhat, Christopher
Holland, Philip Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Viggers, Peter
Hordern, Peter Pardoe, John Wakeham, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Parkinson, Cecil Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Howell, David (Guildford) Pattie, Geoffrey Walters, Dennis
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Penhallgon, David Weatherill, Bernard
Hurd, Douglas Percival, tan Wells, John
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Peyton, Rt Hon John Wiggin, Jerry
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pink, R. Bonner Winterton, Nicholas
James, David Prior, Rt Hon James Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Jessel, Toby King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Younger, Hon George
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Ralson, Timothy
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rathbone, Tim TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jopling, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Mr. Adam Butler and
Joseph, RI Hon Sir Keith Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Spencer L. Merchant.
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Abse, Leo Canavan, Dennis Dormand, J. D.
Anderson, Donald Cant, R. B. Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Archer, Peter Carter-Jones, Lewis Dunn, James A.
Armstrong, Ernest Cartwright, John Dunned, Jack
Ashton, Joe Clemitson, Ivor Dunwoody, Mrs Gwynelh
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Eadle, Alex
Atkinson, Norman Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Edelman, Maurice
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Edge, Geoff
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Corbett, Robin Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Cox, Thomas (Tooting) English, Michael
Bates, Alf Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Ennals, David
Bean, R. E. Crawshaw, Richard Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cronin, John Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Bidwell, Sydney Cryer, Bob Evans, John (Newton)
Bishop, E. S. Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Boardman H. Davidson, Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Booth, Albert Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Flannery, Martin
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Davies, Ifor (Gower) Ford, Ben
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Forrester, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Deakins, Eric Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekln)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Freeson, Reginald
Buchan, Norman de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Buchanan, Richard Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dempsey, James George, Bruce
Campbell, Ian Doig, Peter Gilbert, Dr John
Ginsburg, David McNamara, Kevin Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Golding, John Madden, Max Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Gould, Bryan Magee, Bryan Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Graham, Ted Mahon, Simon Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marks, Kenneth Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Grant, John (Islington C) Marquand, David Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Grocott, Bruce Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Silverman, Julius
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Skinner, Dennis
Hardy, Peter Meacher, Michael Small, William
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Hart Rt Hon Judith Mikardo, Ian Spearing, Nigel
Hatton, Frank Milian, Bruce Spriggs, Leslie
Hayman, Mrs Helene Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Stallard, A. W.
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Helfer, Eric S. Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen) Stoddart, David
Horam, John Molyneaux, James Stott, Roger
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Strang, Gavin
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Huckfield, Les Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Swain, Thomas
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Newens, Stanley Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Noble, Mike Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Hunter, Adam Oakes, Gordon Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Ogden, Eric Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) O'Halloran, Michael Tierney, Sydney
Jackson, Miss Margaret(Lincoln) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Tinn, James
Janner, Greville Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Tomlinson, John
Jeger, Mrs Lena Ovenden, John Torney, Tom
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Owen, Dr David Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
John, Brynmor Palmer, Arthur Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Park, George Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Park, Robert Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Parry, Laurie Ward Michael
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Pavitt, Earnest Walkins, David
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Phipps, Dr Colin Weetch, Ken
Judd, Frank Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Wellbeloved, James
Kaufman, Gerald Prentice, Rt Hon Reg White, Frank R. (Bury)
Kerr, Russell Price, C. (Lewisham W) White, James (Pollak)
Killory-Silk, Robert Price, William (Rugby) Whitlock, William
Lamble, David Radice, Giles Wigley, Dafydd
Lamborn, Harry Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Leadbitter, Ted Richardson. Miss Jo Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Lee, John Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Lessor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Robertson, John (Paisley) Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Litterick, Tom Roderick, Caerwyn Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Loyden, Eddie Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Luard, Evan Rodgers, William (Stockton) Woodall, Alec
Lyon, Alexander (York) Rooker, J. W. Woof, Robert
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Rose, Paul B. Wrigglesworth, Ian
McElhone, Frank Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Young, David (Bolton E)
MacFarquhar, Roderick Rowlands, Ted
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Ryman, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mackenzie, Gregor Sandelson, Neville Mr. Joseph Harper and
Maclennan Robert Sedgemore, Brian Mr. John Ellis.
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Selby, Harry

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment No. 31 agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 33, in page 2, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'has' in line 8 and insert— '(5) An Order in Council under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council under this section: but no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council under this section until a draft of the Order'.

No. 35, in page 2, line 11, leave out from 'an' to 'this' in line 12 and insert `Order in Council under'.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Emery


Hon. Members


Mr. Emery

This is the Committee stage of a very important Bill—[Interruption.]

The Chairman

Order. The quieter we are the quicker we may be.

1.0 a.m.

Mr. Emery

I have been here all day, which is more than can be said of some hon. Members opposite. I believe that it is important for the Committee to consider the major clause of the Bill, certain aspects of which have not been dealt with because certain amendments have not been selected. The question arises whether it would have been sensible for the clause to have made it clear that this is to be an advisory referendum. No Government can bind the House of Commons to the outcome of a referendum just by a statement by the Prime Minister. The powers of the House of Commons will indeed be undermined if we ever reach the stage when it is believed that Parliament can be bound by a statement by the Prime Minister which has no formal backing.

The Chairman

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is not free to discuss amendments which were not selected.

Mr. Emery

I am delighted by that statement. I did not need to be so reminded. I am not discussing any amendment. I am discussing the overall principle of the clause, which certain amendments might have touched, and the question whether the advisory element is important. It is imperative for hon. Members to realise the situation that the House of Commons will be in if less than a majority of the electorate vote and if by only the smallest majority a decision is carried by the Government against the present wishes of the House of Commons.

Many hon. Members believe that the referendum—I refer to subsection (1), to be in order—undermines the position of the House. The Government's action in not taking the advice of a majority of 226 Members on the White Paper—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that in the debate on the Question, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", he must discuss not what should be in the clause but what is in it.

Mr. Emery

If I may run over what I was saying—

The Chairman

That the hon. Gentleman certainly may not do, or he will be guilty of tedious repetition.

Mr. Emery

I shall at no time be tedious, Mr. Thomas. To ensure that I am in order, I point out that I am discussing not what is not in the Bill but the interpretation of the words that are in it. Some of us are worried about not only the effect of the clause but the parliamentary and constitutional problems that it will cause for the country later. Certain hon. Members support the clause and the Bill in general because they will want to use the principle established in the clause for other referenda on other subjects. That principle must undermine the work of the House. Even at this late hour, and at the cost of having to keep a number of hon. Members away from their beds, that should be recorded, and people should understand it.

Time and again approaches will be made to us on other subjects. The Lord's Day Observance Society has been on to me today, urging me to press on many Labour Members that there should be a referendum on the greater observance of the Lord's Day. How foolish shall we get when that sort of argument comes forward because of the action of the clause? It may be a matter of great humour to certain Labour Members, but they should realise that the position of Members of Parliament and the authority of the House are under considerable challenge from many organisations and people outside. Whether we like it or not, the standard and standing of the House are not as high as hon. Members may think, or as is desirable.

When the Government, by Clause 1, go about further undermining the position of the House they do the House a major disservice. In the same way, it has been evident that during this debate there has been an immense pressure on the Government to ensure that the largest possible number of the electorate should be able to record their votes. While the Government have at all times, in words, suggested that it is their wish to ensure that the largest number of people should be encouraged to record their votes, it is interesting that they have not seen fit to be able to interpret the words of the Clause so as to increase that number to the extent that the House has urged that they should.

The statements made by the Minister of State for Defence earlier, suggesting that he would try to ensure that regulations made under the clause should be as wide as possible, show that at one time the Government seemed to be willing to react to the general wishes of hon. Members. The fact that other Ministers have not taken a leaf out of the Minister of State's book in interpreting the desires of the House on the clause will be a matter for worry and concern to those who will not be able to record their votes.

When we come to the appointed day—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I can be here for a long time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am happy to go on as long as I can, but I want to suggest that the appointed day has become a stumbling block for the extension of the electorate and for the manner in which the clause can be interpreted by the Government to ensure that the largest number of people go to the poll.

It has been pointed out time and time again by the Leader of the House that the appointed day, because it has to be 5th June, makes it impossible for provisions to be made in this clause. We should have the largest possible electorate voting and the Government should reconsider when the appointed day should be. I strongly urge the Lord President to defer that appointed day for at least 14 days and, if necessary, for longer, so that the largest possible number of people may vote.

1.15 a.m.

Subsection (4)(c) refers to modifications and exceptions which may be specified in the orders. Paragraph (c) would allow the Government, by Order in Council, to meet many of the points put forward by the Opposition, if the Government could be persuaded to overcome their own difficulties.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)

In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman's argument is developing into what appears to be a very long speech, my right hon. and hon. Friends might be advised to stay and see out the rest of the Bill.

Mr. Emery

I am delighted to have an interjection from the Patronage Secretary, but it seems to contain a veiled threat. I shall express what I believe to be the feelings of my constituents, not what my Front Bench may think are the wishes of my constituents. I am the interpreter of the wishes of my constituents, and not anyone else in the Committee.

Before I was interrupted, I was arguing that the orders which may be made under subsection (4)(c) would allow the Government to meet many of the arguments that were made in our previous debates and to meet the desire even of those who are against the referendum to ensure that the largest possible number of people are enabled to vote. It is up to the Government to make clear whether they would consider using the powers contained in paragraph (c) to enable the date to be deferred.

I do not believe that the Lord President is paying attention to what I am saying. In case there is any doubt about that, I shall put it in another way. We are in Committee, and hon. Members have every right to expect their questions to be answered. I ask the Lord President directly whether it is possible, under subsection (4)(c), for him to do what we asked him to do in the debates on previous amendments

. It is important that the people should realise that the position of civilians who are overseas and working with the Armed Forces rests with the Government. It has been suggested to me by a legal luminary that it would be within the power of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name him".] It might be embarrassing for Labour Members if I named him. It was someone from their side of the House. In fact, it would be within the power of the Government to take specific action.

It is unsatisfactory that we should have to deal with the clause at this hour, particularly in view of the amount of ribaldry that we are getting from Labour Members. They are showing a complete disregard for the points that are being made, because they want to go home to their beds. Their beds are more important to them than the Bill—

The Chairman

Order. There is nothing about beds in the clause.

Mr. Emery

I am certain that there are Labour Members who will bear that point very much in mind. I know that I am being pressed to come to a conclusion, but I am making a point of major importance. Why should the House be pushed into railroading the Bill through its various stages so that the Government can get out of the absurd position which they now occupy? It seems that Labour Members are prepared to treat this matter with laughter and levity. I do not believe that they are doing any good whatsoever.

The people have no desire for the pro-visions of the clause. They are concerned about the way in which they will be able to vote and the way in which they will be able to make up their minds on this issue. They have said to me time and time again that it is for Members of Parliament to come to decisions. They believe that this matter should have been decided in the normal way in the Chamber and that it should not have been dealt with by means of a referendum. They think that it should have been decided by the House of Commons—

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

And Brussels?

Mr. Emery

No, by Members of this House of Commons. The Government had a majority of 226 on their White Paper. It seems that they are now pre-pared to undermine the authority of their majority. I raise these matters because of the strong feelings of my constituents and myself.

The Chairman

Order. Will hon. Members please leave the Chamber quietly?

Mr. Emery

What I was saying was that a great many people in the South-West are concerned about the way in which this clause undermines the authority of the House of Commons.

Mr. Gow

I appreciate that my hon. Friend is only in the introductory stage in his remarks, but will he, before he reaches the end of his speech, deal with my point about the consequences of the referendum? I do not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend's flow, and perhaps he will deal with this point now—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is out of order in inviting his hon. Friend to be out of order.

Mr. Emery

In no way would I, Mr. Thomas, accept any invitation to be out of order. What I am trying to say to the Committee is that this matter has a much greater importance for the country than the discussion has displayed so far. The clause might have gone through "on the nod", and that surely would not have been right. It is because I feel so strongly on this matter that I seek to raise these points. I have put a direct question to the Lord President about where the powers under the statutory instrument will lie and also about the position of orders in council. I hope that we shall be given a direct answer so that we may get on with the Bill.

The Chairman

The Question is—

Mr. Emery

I am sorry, Mr. Thomas, but I was seeking a reply.

The Chairman

I thought the hon. Gentleman had concluded his speech.

Mr. Emery

I put one direct question—and indeed I think I put it three times—to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. This is the Committee stage, and I hope that I shall have an answer from the Government.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

To avoid the point being put by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) for the fourth or, in-deed, the fifth time, to the extent that his question was comprehensible, the answer is "Yes".

Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 209. Noes 3.

Division No.180.] AYES [1.29 a.m.
Abse, Leo Bidwell, Sydney Canavan, Dennis
Anderson, Donald Bishop, E. S. Cant, R. B.
Archer, Peter Blenkinsop, Arthur Carter-Jones, Lewis
Armstrong, Ernest Boardman H. Cartwright, John
Ashton, Joe Booth, Albert Clemitson, Ivor
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)
Atkinson, Norman Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen
Bagler, Gordon A. T. Bray, Dr Jeremy Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Corbett, Robin
Bates, All Buchan, Norman Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Bean, R. E. Buchanan, Richard Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)
Beith, A. J. Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Crawshaw, Richard
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Campbell, Ian Cronin, John
Cryer, Bob Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Price, William (Rugby)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Janner, Greville Richardson. Miss Jo
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jeger, Mrs Lena Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davidson, Arthur John, Brynmor Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Davies, Denzil (Lianelli) Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Davies, for (Gower) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Roderick, Caerwyn
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Deakins, Eric Judd, Frank Rooker, J. W.
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kaufman, Gerald Rose, Paul B.
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Kerr, Russell Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Dempsey, James Lamble, David Rowlands, Ted
Doig, Peter Lamborn, Harry Sedgemore, Brian
Dormand, J. D. Lamond, James Selby, Harry
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dunn, James A. Lee, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dunnett, Jack Litterick, Tom Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Loyden, Eddie Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Eadle, Alex Luard, Evan Silverman, Julius
Edge, Geoff Lyon, Alexander (York) Skinner, Dennis
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) McElhone, Frank Small, William
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) MacFarquhar, Roderick Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
English, Michael McGuire, Michael (Ince) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Ennals, David Mackenzie, Gregor Spearing, Nigel
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maclennan Robert Stallard, A. W.
Evans, John (Newton) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Madden, Max Stoddart, David
Flannery, Martin Magee, Bryan Strang, Gavin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marks, Kenneth Swain, Thomas
Forrester, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Meacher, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Freeson, Reginald Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mikardo, Ian Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Millan, Bruce Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
George, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Thin, James
Gilbert, Dr John Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Tomlinson, John
Golding, John Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Graham, Ted Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Walker. Terry (Kingswood)
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Ward, Michael
Grocott, Bruce Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Watkins, David
Hardy, Peter Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Weetch, Ken
Harper, Joseph Newens, Stanley White, Frank R. (Bury)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Noble, Mike White, James (Pollok)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Oakes, Gordon Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Hatton, Frank Ogden, Eric Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Hayman, Mrs Helene O'Halloran, Michael Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Heffer, Eric S. Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Horam, John Ovenden, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Owen, Dr David Woodall, Alec
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Palmer, Arthur Woof, Robert
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Park, George Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Parry, Robert Young, David (Bolton E)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Penhaligon, David
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, Adam Phipps, Dr Colin Mr. James Hamilton and
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Price, C. (Lewisham W) Mr. Laurie Pavitt.
Brotherton, Michael
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
Mr. Peter Emery and
Mr. Ivan Lawrence.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill, put accordingly and agreed to.

Mr. Edward Short

As we have made very good progress, and it has been a good-natured debate throughout, I think that we should call it a day. Therefore, I beg to move,

That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.

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