133. To ask the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the fact that the number of Service voters on the 1949 electoral registers is only about one-third of the estimated number who have a Service qualification, he will appoint a committee to consider what further efforts can be made to induce men and women with a Service qualification to register.
Members of the Forces and their wives form the great majority of those with "Service qualifications and the most strenuous efforts have been, and will continue to be made to encourage them to complete the necessary declarations for inclusion in the Electoral Register. In the circumstances a Committee on the lines suggested by the hon. Member would serve no useful purpose, particularly as the qualifying dates for the Spring 1950 Register have now passed.
The latest information indicates that approximately 50 per cent. of Service voters have already been included in the Spring 1950 Register and appreciable numbers of qualifying declarations are still being received.
But as it is clear, even on the expected 1950 basis, that something like 200,000 men and women entitled to claim the Service vote have failed to do so, and as it is also a fact that the ordinary householder is under a statutory obligation to register, should it not be considered whether Service men and women should be placed under a like obligation, either statutory or disciplinary?
We are making this matter as widely known as possible and using every effort to get everybody on to the register, but we think that at this time a committee, such as the hon. Gentleman suggests, would not really be effective because the work is being pressed forward as rapidly as possible.
Would the right hon. Gentleman give some assurance that commanding officers of units will be reminded that they should make these facts known to men serving under their command?
As the Service vote can now be claimed by all civil servants abroad who are paid by the Treasury, and also by their wives, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any similar steps have been taken about them?
Will my right hon. Friend press his right hon. Friend to take all possible steps to see that the tragedy which occurred in 1945—[Interruption]—does not repeat itself—a tragedy whereby thousands and thousands of men and women were prevented from receiving their voting papers and, therefore, prevented from voting?