Oral Answers to Questions — Parliamentary Elections

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1950.

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Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham 12:00 am, 27th July 1950

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to alter the law which enables a person absent from home because of detention in prison to vote by post but does not allow a person absent from home on holiday to do so.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember what he said on Tuesday night, when he held out hope that this matter would be put right? Would he bear in mind the absurdity in the present law whereby if one goes to prison in one's own borough one has no vote, while if one goes to prison outside one's borough one has a vote?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, Sir, but I gave a detailed reply on this point. I am not quite certain that anyone sent to prison, except on remand, ought to be allowed to vote.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Hove

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recommendation has been made by the electoral committee at his Department regarding the question of perforating instead of embossing the voting paper with the official mark; and whether he is giving effect to this recommendation.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have had this matter reviewed, but I am not satisfied that any advantages that perforating instruments may have over embossing instruments are sufficient to justify the expense of substituting the former for the latter.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Hove

Can the right hon. Gentleman form any estimate of the expense? If so, how much would it be? Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect how many votes were spoiled at the last election through the embossed stamp not appearing on the voting paper?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

An embossing machine costs 5s. I am informed that a perforating machine would cost 30s. 6d., and that to make a complete substitution would cost something like £75,000.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Hove

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the proposal that a reminder be sent to householders and others who do not complete electoral registration form A, warning them that a fine may be imposed for failure to complete the form; and what conclusion he has reached.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, Sir. I have had a form of reminder printed on the lines suggested in the Question, and instructions on using it will be included in a circular to electoral registration officers.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Hove

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his Department's electoral committee has now arrived at any conclusion with regard to the proposal to re-open the electoral register for a limited period to allow late application for registration by persons qualified for inclusion on the present register but inadvertently omitted.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have considered this matter again since the hon. and learned Member asked me Questions about it last March, but I have not felt able to alter my previous decision.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Hove

Would the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider the matter in view of the fact that the October Register will not be prepared this year owing to the mishandling of our financial situation by the Government? Does he not think that he ought to take this step in order to allow people to get on the Register?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir. It would require legislation, and I do not think that it is sufficiently important for that.

Photo of Mr Frederick Erroll Mr Frederick Erroll , Altrincham and Sale

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recommendations were made by the electoral conference at the Home Office regarding the need that the two envelopes used in postal voting should be more clearly distinguished; and whether he is giving effect to this recommendation.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have arranged for the two envelopes to be distinguished by having the letters "A" and "B" printed on them boldly, and the revised instructions to the voter refer to them respectively as "the envelope marked 'A'" and "the envelope marked 'B'."

Photo of Mr Frederick Erroll Mr Frederick Erroll , Altrincham and Sale

While thanking the Minister for taking action in this matter, may I ask whether he could not substitute two alternative letters, since "A" and "B" are very much overworked in all official communications?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

That might add to the confusion of the voter. He might look for the letters earlier in the alphabet.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusion he has reached with regard to the proposal that the electoral regulations should provide for each candidate's agent to be supplied with a copy of the list of absent voters.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have not felt able to make this obligatory, because I am advised that some electoral registration officers would find it impossible to produce enough copies for the purpose in the short time available for preparing the list for an election. I propose, however, to ask registration officers to have the lists duplicated and supply copies to candidates wherever practicable.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this does not really meet the position? Would he reconsider the matter with a view to including the provision in the regulations, if possible, because some returning officers are not complying?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir; I think that the facilities available to returning officers differ so much over the country that it would be impracticable to make this a requirement by regulation, but I am asking them, wherever practicable, to take steps to ensure that lists are available.

Photo of Mr John Hay Mr John Hay , Henley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the proposal made to him that electoral registration officers should be required to send electors' lists to citizen's advice bureaux and libraries for exhibition; and what conclusion he has reached.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, Sir. I propose to ask those electoral registration officers who do not already follow this practice to consider doing so.

Photo of Mr John Hay Mr John Hay , Henley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated cost per annum of substituting a provisional register for the electors' lists B and C; and what decision has been reached on this proposal.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

It is estimated that this would cost between £150,000 and £200,000 a year for the whole of the United Kingdom. The Government have decided that, because of the cost involved, the proposed change can not be made.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will arrange for special constables of the Metropolitan Police to be called up on polling day, so that so far as possible a regular or special constable may be on duty at every polling station throughout the poll.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The arrangements for attendance of police at polling stations must have regard to the manpower available, which may not permit a constable to be posted throughout the poll at every polling station. The Commissioner of Police has no power to call up special constables for this purpose, but at the last General Election volunteers were called for and 50 per cent. of the total strength of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary did duty.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Would the Home Secretary consider sending out a circular to all police forces suggesting—I know he has no power—a similar course, which would certainly reduce the risk of personation, of which, judging by the number of cases that were caught, there was quite a lot at the last General Election?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, this is a matter to which the attention of chief constables generally will be called.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the proposal made to him that the electors' lists and register for every town should have an index of streets; and what instructions he has issued.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, Sir. An index of streets is not always needed, but I propose to encourage the provision of an index where this would be advantageous.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements he has made for fuller publicity to be given by the British Broadcasting Corporation to the principles and requirements of electoral registration.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

This is a matter for the British Broadcasting Corporation, but my Department have had discusions with them and they appreciate its importance.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a good deal more can be done in this way than was done at the last election?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I think we did pretty well on the last occasion, but we are hoping to improve on it on the next.