Franchise (Service Register)

Oral Answers to Questions — British Army – in the House of Commons on 25th April 1944.

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Photo of Mr John Loverseed Mr John Loverseed , Eddisbury

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is yet in a position to state what action has been taken to ensure that all soldiers over the age of 21 will be placed on the Electoral Register: and what steps will be taken to keep this Register up to date.

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

In order to be placed on the Service Register officers and other ranks must complete an Armed Forces Declaration Card. Full instructions about this were issued on 1st April, including a notice which is posted on every unit notice board. These instructions include provisions for keeping the register up to date.

Photo of Mr John Loverseed Mr John Loverseed , Eddisbury

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is sufficient to place on notice boards extracts from A.C.I. 483, which puts the onus of registration on the men, rather than on the Services?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

The notice on the notice board shows rather more than that. It says in block capitals, "If you do not complete Army Form B.2626 you will not be able to vote." That seems to me to go a pretty long way.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the fact of the notice being on the notice board fulfils the promise which was given, that it would be brought to the notice of every soldier that he would be entitled to vote in this way?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I do not see what could be a better fulfilment of the promise. The practice of inducing soldiers to go and look at the notice board for instructions, which concern them, has been developed very much.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Should not every person in the Forces who has reached the age of 21 be automatically placed on the register? Why should there be any discrimination between the men serving in the Forces and the civilian population?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

That is a different matter. Mr. Shinwell: Is it a different matter?

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman has looked at this A.C.I.? Is he aware that there is considerable machinery to be gone through by the soldier before he can get his vote? Will he make it an order that commanding officers shall see that their men are registered, and that it is not merely left to the men to look at notice boards, which in many cases are non-existent in field forces?

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many Army establishments where this notice has not been put up at all? Does he regard that as effectively carrying out the promise?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

Perhaps the hon. Member would give me notice of this long list of Army establishments where the notice has not been put up.

Photo of Hon. Hugh O'Neill Hon. Hugh O'Neill , Antrim

What steps have been taken to acquaint soldiers serving abroad with the position as to appointing proxies?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would put that question down. I would like to have notice of it.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider appointing one officer for each large unit, possibly a brigade, whose duty it would be to see that these men who are fighting for this country should also take part in governing it?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I will certainly consider that.

Photo of Mr John Loverseed Mr John Loverseed , Eddisbury

Has not the Army a simple means of registering every man? Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that when each man went for his pay he could fill in the form at that time? That would ensure that every one was registered.

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Mr John Loverseed Mr John Loverseed , Eddisbury

Can I have a reply? I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.