HC Deb 13 January 1913 vol 46 cc1655-7
33. Mr. PETO

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in view of his Amendment to the Franchise Bill under which the occupation of premises is not to be a qualification for the Parliamentary Franchise, sleeping in quarters in barracks will constitute residence within the meaning of the Bill?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)

There would seem to be no doubt that sleeping-in quarters in barracks would constitute residence within the meaning of the Franchise Bill. The Amendment dealing with occupation makes no difference in this respect.

34. Mr. PETO

asked whether, if it is the intention of the Government to confer the franchise upon soldiers quartered in the United Kingdom, he intends to define residence in order to give effect to their intention?


It is not necessary to define residence for the special purpose of the soldiers' franchise, as the ordinary dwelling of a soldier in barracks will no doubt constitute residence.

35. Mr. PETO

asked what provision the Government intend to make in the Franchise and Registration Bill to enable soldiers to register their votes in cases where they have been moved from one constituency to another within six months of a general or by-election?


Soldiers moved from one constituency to another will be able, just as any other voters under the Bill, to vote in the constituency from which they are moved during the period in which they are qualifying to vote in the constituency to which they are moved.


Is it not obvious that, in the case of a whole regiment being moved from one constituency to another, they are not in the same position as any other voters moving; is it not the case that soldiers are moved for the purposes of the nation, and, therefore, are not in the same position as civilians; and is it not obvious that in the exercise of the franchise there ought to be special provision to enable soldiers to vote?


I do not think that any preferential position can be given to any one class of subjects over another. Civil servants, as well as others who perform official duties, have to be moved from one constituency to another, and they are put to exactly the same inconvenience as soldiers.

36. Mr. PETO

asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of the Government, under the Amendments he has put down to Clause 1 of the Franchise Bill, that absence abroad from a residence owned or occupied by a duly qualified voter will disqualify him from exercising the franchise on his return; and, if so, whether the effect of this will be to disqualify many of the few sailors who now have occasionally the opportunity of voting at Parliamentary elections, and also all persons whose business necessitates absence abroad for complete periods of six months, even though they continuously pay rates and taxes on a residence in this country?


Temporary residence abroad will not disqualify a voter. It is possible that the Amendments dealing with occupation may in some cases have the effect pointed out in the question, though it is very doubtful whether there will be many such cases.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he can put some provision in the Bill which will show, now occupation is to be no longer the qualification, what a residence of six months really means—whether it means residence every night or one or two nights during a period of six months?


I think that is a matter for discussion on the stages of the Bill. There is a good deal to be said why residence should not be defined, but I prefer to postpone any observations I have to make on that matter.


Will we be allowed to discuss anything?


May I say that the Prime Minister gave me a pledge, when this Bill was introduced, that we should consider the whole question of the franchise for sailors?


I have no doubt that will be so.