With permission, Sir, I should like to make a statement about the Government's conclusions on the review of the law relating to Parliamentary elections.
The Government have studied the recommendations made in the Final Report of Mr. Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law and the Government's conclusions are set out in a White Paper, Cmnd. 3717, which is available at the Vote Office now.
May I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, of expressing the appreciation of the House of the care which you, and the Members of this House who served on your Conference, gave to the review?
The Final Report of your Conference contains 71 conclusions, of which the Government accept 60. Of the remainder, four of the conclusions on which the Government differ relate to major issues. First, your Conference recommended by a majority that the minimum age for voting should be reduced to 20. On the other hand, the Government have already announced their acceptance of the recommendation of the Latey Committee that the age of majority should in future be 18, and the Government accordingly recommend in the White Paper that the minimum age for voting should also be reduced to 18 years.
Secondly, your Conference recommended by a majority that public opinion polls and betting odds should be prohibited for 72 hours before the poll. The Government are not convinced that this is practicable.
Thirdly, while your Conference recommended no change in polling hours at Parliamentary elections, the Government consider that the present hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. should be extended so as to end at 10 p.m.
The fourth major recommendation from which the Government differ is that party labels should not be allowed on nomination and ballot papers. The Government's view is that these should be allowed if the necessary administrative machinery can be worked out; and I propose to consult the parties on this matter.
The White Paper also contains the recommendations of the Electoral Advisory Conference, which was convened at the same time as the Speaker's Conference to consider detailed questions on election procedure. The Government have examined these recommendations and the White Paper explains that we accept all but three of them.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has asked me to say that it is his intention to make arrangements for a debate on these matters when the House resumes after the Recess. The Government would then consider the views expressed during the debate with a view to the introduction of legislation next Session.