Clause 18. — (Preparation of registers and appeals from registration officer.)

Orders of the Day — Representation of the People Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1945.

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Photo of Captain Edward Cobb Captain Edward Cobb , Preston 12:00 am, 17th January 1945

I beg to move, in page 17, leave out lines 27 to 30.

My purpose in moving this Amendment is really to ask for information. I want to know why the Service register is not to appear, in what is, in effect, draft form, on 31st August, along with the annual register. As the Committee is aware, two months, August and September, are given for persons excluded from the register to make claims to be included in the annual register. No doubt, there is some good administrative reason why this two months' grace is not to be allowed to men and women on the Service register, and I should be very much obliged if my right hon. Friend would tell me what that reason is. It seems unfortunate, on the face of it, that these persons on the Service register are not to have the same advantages as the ordinary civilian population.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I am greatly obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for giving me the opportunity of explaining why this provision does not apply to the Service electors' list. If the Service electors' list is published, it, of course, becomes open to claims and objections. As regards an objection, it is essential for a registration officer to send a copy of the notice to the voter concerned. It would be quite impracticable to operate this procedure at a time when the bulk of the persons entered on the Service register will be serving at a distance from this country.

My hon. and gallant Friend will note that we do provide for the publication of the Service list in regard to the annual register for 1946, and that is on the assumption that, at that time, the number of Service voters will be substantially diminished and the procedure will be a good deal easier. I think I have quite shortly explained to my hon. and gallant Friend the point which he so rightly raised.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Do I understand from the Solicitor-General that, in 1946, he will know the addresses of the Service voters?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I said that I hoped that things would be a great deal easier. I do not think I need descend to details, but I think that is on a general assumption which it is fair to make, and we have proceeded on that basis and hope to be able to publish the list. If we are taking an over-optimistic view of the matter, we shall have to come to the House, but that is the view which we think is justified by the facts.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

I am sorry, but I do not think I am stressing a point of detail. As I understand it, under the existing law the returning officer has no opportunity of knowing the address of a Service voter. Are the Government contemplating a change of the law in that respect to provide, in 1946, that the returning officer will know the address of the Service voter, so that he can tell him when his claim is objected to? This is a matter of considerable importance to Servicemen.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

As I said, it is hoped that the number of Service voters will be substantially diminished. If the Service voter has come back here, then it ought to be more possible to find out where he lives. I am afraid that, beyond that, I am still not clear on the point which is troubling my hon. and gallant Friend, but I am only too anxious to help, and if he will communicate either with me or with my right hon. Friend, I shall willingly go into the matter further. The Amendment before the Committee is with regard to the position in 1945, and I think I have satisfied him in regard to that, and if the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will elaborate his point a little further, or would care to put it in writing, we shall consider it and see if we can help him.

Photo of Captain Edward Cobb Captain Edward Cobb , Preston

I would like to thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the explanation that he has given, which seems to me, so far as the 1945 register is concerned, to be completely adequate, if I may say so, for the reasons he gave. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 19 to 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.