Early parliamentary general election

Part of Early Parliamentary General Election Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West 7:15 pm, 29th October 2019

I can assure my hon. Friend that the independent members of my New Forest association would not tolerate anyone imposing a candidate or superintending the process, and I would hope that other constituencies would follow a similar line.

I will, if I may, come to the question of students. We have heard that, overwhelmingly, students choose to vote at home, that postal and proxy votes are available, and that 40 of the top universities will still be sitting on 12 September.

I believe that my hon. Friend Mr Evans was quite mistaken in an earlier intervention on my hon. Friend Michael Tomlinson. He implied that students could be registered at only one address. That is not the case. Students are entitled to register at both addresses. Of course, it is important that they vote at only one of them. When I was the chairman of the Saint Andrews University Conservative Association—a former friend, Alex Salmond, will remember these events well—I saw it as my duty to ensure that all members of the Conservative Association were registered at both addresses, so that, in an election, we would be able to inform them as to where their vote would count for more. I undertook that task. Unfortunately, on the evening of the referendum, I think, in 1979, I was visited by members of Special Branch and charged with 53 offences against the False Oaths (Scotland) Act 1933. I got off the charges, but nevertheless it was certainly a very frightening experience. In those days, universities and university political associations went to great lengths to ensure that all their members were registered at both addresses. If that has continued, then it should not be a problem.

I conclude by saying that, having heard the speech—the very impressive Second Reading speech—of Jess Phillips, I can assure my hon. Friends that I would not be voting for this Bill with any great enthusiasm if she were the leader of the Labour party.