Electoral Register (Dissolution Date)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1945.

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Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse 12:00 am, 17th January 1945

I have been authorised by the Prime Minister to make the following statement:

On 31st October when moving the Second Reading of the Prolongation of Parliament Bill my right hon. Friend said that, between the date when the war with Germany can be officially declared over, and a General Election, there must be an interval. He felt it was inconceivable that anyone would wish that election to be held in a violent hurry or while we were all rejoicing together and rendering thanks to God for our deliverance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 664.] My right hon. Friend went on to point out that under the electoral arrangements then in operation there would have to be a prolonged interval between the polling date and the date of the issue of the Writs.

It is now proposed to alter by legislation the electoral arrangements which involved the preparation of an electoral register after the date of the proclamation and to substitute a system by which a fixed register will be in operation from 7th May. As a consequence of this change, there will not be the prolonged interval between the proclamation and the poll which was necessitated by the 1943 Act. There will be a reversion to the pre-war time-table and the interval between the proclamation and polling day will be 17 days.

This change in technical requirements does not, however, affect the broad considerations to which the Prime Minister referred in his speech of 31st October, and there will, he thinks, be general agreement with his view that when in the circumstances contemplated advice is tendered to the Crown in respect of a Dissolution, knowledge of the date should be available more than 17 days in advance.

The Prime Minister has, therefore, submitted to His Majesty that should he be pleased at any time to dissolve the present Parliament, it would be desirable for an announcement to be made of the actual date of the Dissolution in advance of the Royal Proclamation, and His Majesty has authorised him to say that, in the exceptional circumstances which may be expected, he is willing that an announcement of the date of the Dissolution shall be made three weeks in advance of the formal proclamation. My right hon. Friend is therefore in a position to give the House an assurance that, whenever the contemplated General Election is decided on, an announcement of the date will be made at least three weeks plus 17 days before polling day.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

Does that part of the Prime Minister's statement about no election taking place until after the defeat of Germany also stand?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

Clearly my statement only affects the actual point with which I was dealing.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Is it not a fact that under the Meetings of Parliament Act we must have regard to the fact that there will be a long delay before the count takes place and that therefore for a period of six or seven weeks it will be impossible for any Parliament to sit?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

That is another question and I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is right.

Photo of Mr Francis Douglas Mr Francis Douglas , Battersea North

Does the Deputy Prime Minister's statement affect the latter portion of the speech made by the Prime Minister on the Second Reading of the Prolongation Bill with regard to the dissolution of the National Government and the formation of a new Government? Will that take place upon the date when the announcement is made?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I am not varying anything in the statement made by the Prime Minister, except in regard to the changed circumstances brought about by the introduction of new legislation. My hon. Friend may take it that everything else stands.