HC Deb 28 November 1917 vol 99 cc2161-79

2. The register shall, as respects each registration unit, contain the names of those who are entitled to vote as Parliamentary electors and of those who are entitled to vote as local government electors, but shall be framed so as to show in separate divisions the names of those who are entitled to vote both as Parliamentary and local government electors, the names of those who are entitled to vote as Parliamentary electors but not as local government electors, and the names of those who are entitled to vote as local government electors but not as Parliamentary electors.

Where a person whose name is entered as a local government elector in any registration unit is not entitled to vote at the local government elections for all the local government electoral areas which comprise that unit, the registration officer shall place a mark against his name, with a note to signify that the person against whose name the mark is placed is entitled to vote only for the local government elections mentioned in the note, and any such note shall be deemed to be part of the register

The registration officer shall prepare and include in the register as a separate list for the whole registration area, or where the area includes more than one constituency, for each constituency in the area a list of those entitled to vote as absent voters (in this Act referred to as the absent voters' list).

5. It shall be the duty of the registration officer to prepare or cause to be prepared, lists (in this Act referred to as electors lists) for each registration unit within his registration area of all persons appearing to be entitled to be registered as Parliamentary or local government electors in the spring and autumn register respectively, and to publish those lists in the form in which the register is to be framed, as respects the lists for the spring register on or before the first day of February, and as respects the lists for the autumn register on or before the first day of August.

The registration officer shall at the same time publish a notice specifying the mode in which, and the time within which, claims and objections are to be made under these rules.

6. The registration officer, where he does not himself perform the duties of overseers, may require the overseers of any parish which, or any part of which, forms a registration unit within his registration area to prepare the electors lists for that unit on his behalf, and it shall be the duty of the overseers to furnish lists as so required, and also at any time, if required by the registration officer, to furnish that officer with information respecting any persons resident or occupying land or premises in their parish, or the removal of any person from the parish.

Any reasonable expenses incurred by the overseers in performing any duties required of them in pursuance of this rule (including reasonable remuneration where the duties are performed by an assistant overseer) shall be paid by the registration officer as part of his registration expenses. In this rule the expression " overseers " includes any person for the time being executing any of the duties of overseers.

8. Any person who claims to be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary or local government elector, and whose name is not entered, or is incorrectly entered, on the electors' lists, may claim to be registered, or to be registered in the correct manner, by sending to the registration officer a claim in the prescribed form not later than the 15th day of February where the claim is for the spring register, and the 15th day of August where the claim is for the autumn register.

9. The form of claim shall contain a declaration of the qualification of the claimant to be registered, including a declaration that the claimant has attained the required age, and of the character in which the claimant desires to be registered, that is to say, either as a Parliamentary elector or as a local government elector, or as a local government elector who is not entitled to vote for all local government elections, and where the claimant claims in respect of a non-residential qualification a declaration of residence, or in case such person has no settled residence an address to which communications may be sent. A note shall also be added to the form warning the claimant that any false declaration for the purpose of this provision will involve a penalty.


I beg to move, in Rule 2, to leave out the words "in separate divisions," and to insert instead thereof the words "by distinguishing marks."

The House will remember that at the present moment the registers are drawn up so as to show by asterisks other methods by which the voters are entitled to vote. It seems to me a, much more expeditious and commonsense way than to put the voters in separate divisions. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is an easy method which I suggest, and one which will expedite the proceedings of the various people who have to vote.


I suggest to the House it is undesirable to make this change. My hon. Friend proposes that there shall be separate marks. You will have against every name a mark of some kind —a star, a dagger, or some other mark. There may be five or six of them, and you will have a very ugly register which it will be very difficult for anyone to understand. I think it would be far better to keep to the scheme of the Bill and have separate divisions.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: In Rule 2, after the word " vote " [" is not entitled to, vote "], insert the words " in respect of that entry."

At the end of Rule 2, insert the words,, " without however removing the names of those voters from any other part of the register." —[Sir G. Cave.]


I beg to move, in Rule 5, after the word " officer " [" duty of the registration officer "], to insert the words " to cause a house-to-house inquiry to be made."

We know from personal experience in the past that these lists of voters are made up very frequently from lists supplied by landlords and from owners' returns. It seems extremely probable when you take into account the large number of soldiers and sailors who are being placed on the register that there will be many omissions in this list unless a house-to-house canvass is made. I do not know, of course, what the view of the Home Secretary is, but I trust he will insert these-words, or some other words, with a view to securing a complete register, and doing justice to the soldiers and sailors, who-otherwise will run the risk in county districts of losing their votes.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I think it is very necessary that some such words as these should be put in the Schedule, because when the first register comes to be made up the local authorities in all parts of the country will have a very great deal of difficulty in obtaining labour in order to compile the register. Unless such words are put in, the registration officer will probably try and make up his register from the overseers' and landlords' lists, and particularly in large boroughs —in large urban districts where there is a dense population, such as there is in London and the surrounding con-constituencies, will render it absolutely necessary in order to obtain anything like a complete register to have a house-to-house canvass. It is because we want the registration officers to do their work thoroughly, especially in the compilation of the first register, that we ask the Home Secretary to agree to this Amendment.


I agree that some words must be inserted, but I think these particular words are undesirable. At all events, in connection with the first register, a house-to-house inquiry will probably be necessary. It will be useful later on perhaps in the larger urban districts, but there will be many districts where, after the first register has been drawn up, it will be needless to have a house-to-house canvass, especially in the country, where people seem to know the movements of their neighbours much better than they do in town. I would suggest an Amendment in this form, that " a house-to-house or other sufficient inquiry " be made.

10.0 P.M.


I hardly think that that would be sufficient. Would it not be better to suggest a house-to-house inquiry or such other methods as the Local Government Board may think desirable? I know of cases where overseers have declined to make a house-to-house canvass on the ground of expense, and there is no power of appeal against that. It will be better for the Local Government Board to have the power to direct a house-to-house inquiry. The overseers' position will be left exactly as it is at present, and if the local authorities should say their opinion was that it is not necessary to have a house-to-house inquiry there will be no remedy, and therefore it would be far better to leave it in the hands of the Local Government Board.


I am glad the right hon. Gentleman realises the importance of putting in some words of this nature, and I am inclined to support the position taken up by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken in the interests of big industrial centres. Now that we have altered the qualifications for the electorate, I do not see how the assistant overseers can get the information they need without a house-to-house canvass. We are putting on the register persons who otherwise would not have gone on in these places because they have not the £10 qualification, but they will now be entitled to go on under the residential qualification. They are not on the rate-book, and therefore something must be done in the direction suggested by my right hon. Friend. I think it is necessary that the Local Government Board should be able, when it thinks fit, to order a house-to-house canvass.


>: I regret that the Home Secretary has not seen his way to accept the terms of the Amendment. I have one of a similar character just below and I would very much prefer that it should be made obligatory. It is in the interests of everybody that we should have a full and complete register, and I do not see how we are going to get it except by a systematic visitation from house to house. If the Home Secretary cannot go as far as that, I would also, support the suggestion that the intermediate course should be taken, namely, that if the Local Government Board do not consider a house-to-house canvass necessary they should declare what is necessary for the purpose. I do not think it should be left to the registration officer's choice, because if it is we shall not have as complete a register as we want. If the Home Secretary cannot accept an obligatory house-to-house canvass, I hope he will accept the alternative proposition.


I am afraid the Home Secretary does not quite appreciate the importance of this Amendment. I think that if he had the proper figures and data before him as to the enormous proportion of removals in large areas, especially in the Metropolis, he would be somewhat surprised. I had occasion some time ago to get out statistics on the subject. I found that in my Constituency 75 per cent. of the voters—90 per cent. householders—removed in each twelve months, and now that we are to bring in the whole of the adult occupants, except under the ages of twenty-one and thirty respectively, the proportion of removals, especially amongst those now regarded as lodgers, will be so great that I should think at least in every year there would be a removal to the extent of something like 100 per cent. Accepting these figures or anything approaching them, it should be obvious that there should be no option left to overseers, or town clerks, or other groups of persons to decide what is the best method of putting these people on the register. I think that while we are dealing with the registration of practically the whole of the adult population we ought not to leave this flaw, which, in my opinion, would be there if the Home Secretary did not see his way to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson). We want a house-to-house canvass in order to secure that everyone shall get a vote without having the trouble to claim it. I cannot see any reason why it should not be done, or why it should not be put in the Bill. I do see many serious dangers in front of us if we are to pass this through both Houses and leave it to the overseers or the local authority to do this in an unsatisfactory way. I support the suggestion of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras.


Of course, there is a difficulty which we shall feel very acutely in the West of Scotland. There has been an enormous removal of population in connection with munition works in the whole of Glasgow, and all the towns in the West of Scotland, and I cannot see any other plan by which even a decent register can be compiled except by a house-to-house visitation. In the old days the valuation roll could be used by the assessor for compiling the register. That would be quite impossible under present conditions, and I would venture to appeal to the Home Secretary to see that this matter is very clearly and definitely settled, in whatever form seems good to him, and to consider the proposal of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson) as providing some control over the local people in this matter which is not a matter of local concern, but of national concern.


The Home Secretary has not, I think, differed very much from the opinion which has been expressed. After all, the hon. Members who have spoken mostly represent the large industrial boroughs, and if we were framing a Bill to affect only those large boroughs and not one to cover many years, I think there might be a great deal in the contention of the hon. Gentleman who has spoken. What we have to look at, however, is that there are very many places in which it may not be necessary after the first register to take a house-to-house canvass every single time, that is, ice in every year. It might be quite sufficient in many country districts to take a house-to-house canvass once in a year, and then you would have enough evidence to keep your register up. The words that the Home Secretary offers to take are to cause a house-to-house or other sufficient inquiry to be made. Allow me to remind my hon. Friends that I have constantly stated the absolute necessity for a house to-house canvass for the first register, because I believe it to be absolutely necessary. Allow me to remind my hon. Friends that when we were discussing Clause 11 I moved an Amendment to that Clause providing that the officer who was responsible for the register must comply with any general or special directions that might be given by the Local Government Board with respect to the arrangements made for the registration officer carrying out his duty as to registration. Already the House has put into the Bill itself a statutory order with which the officer responsible for registration will have to comply, and there is no doubt that the Local Government Board will see to it that everything is done to secure absolutely efficient registration. Certainly for the first registration I should think there is no doubt whatever that they will instruct all the registration officers to order those through whom they carry out the registration to initiate a house-to-house canvass. I think it would be quite impossible to obtain a perfect register unless you have a house-to-house canvass, but I doubt whether it is really necessary to impose this canvass on the registration officer for all country districts for all time, twice a year. I do not think that will be necessary. I think the House has seen to it that the Local Government Board has power to give general or special directions at any time to the registration officer to see that a house-to-house canvass is resorted to, which is the only means in many cases of securing that your register is complete.


I think the President of the Local Government Board has eased the situation rather, and I think we all feel—I do, as representing not a large but a small borough—that a house-to-house inquiry is just as necessary in those places as in the big boroughs. I think, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman has met us. We do not wish it every six months, and if he will give an assurance that for the first register there will absolutely be a house-to-house inquiry, I think the House may be willing to accept the words suggested.


If I am at all responsible I will undertake to give instructions that for the first register a house-to-house canvass shall be the method by which we shall seek to obtain a complete register. I beg to move the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, offered by the Home Secretary, namely, after the word "house " [" house inquiry "], to insert the words " or other sufficient."

Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment to the proposed Amendment made: At the end, insert the word " and."

Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.

Amendment made: In Rule 6, after the word " overseer " [" by an assistant overseer "], insert the words " or other paid officer." —[Sir G. Cave.]


I beg to move, after Rule 7, to insert,

" 8. The naval and military authorities shall furnish to the registration officer, for the purpose of the registration of persons of naval or military voters and their voting as such, such information as may be prescribed after consultation with the Admiralty and Army Council, respectively. Nothing in this rule shall relieve the registration officer of his duties with regard to the preparation of a list of sailors and soldiers qualified to be registered as electors within his area."

I do not know whether the Home Secretary is going to accept the first part, which is nothing whatever but a drafting Amendment placing in this position, which I submit to him is the right position, a Clause which is referred to later on. Therefore, I will not argue the first part of the Amendment. The last part I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept. It may be surplusage, but I submit it is important that it should be understood that the arrangements to be made by the Army and Navy authorities for the purpose of getting absent soldiers and sailors on to the register shall not absolve overseers from the imperative duty of ascertaining from the house-to-house canvass the names of those soldiers and sailors entitled to be on the register.


The first part of this Amendment corresponds with Rule 13 of this Schedule. I am advised that Rule 13 is not in its right place now, and would come in better after Rule 16. I think, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, we might direct the printer to transfer those words after Rule 16. As regards the latter part of the Amendment, I am afraid it is sur- plusae. I think the matter is covered by the words which deal with the making up of the absent voters' list.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: In Rule 8, leave out the words " whose name" [" and whose name is "] and insert instead thereof the word " who."

Leave out the word " incorrectly " [" incorrectly entered."]

After the word " entered" insert the words " in an incorrect place or manner or with incorrect particulars."

Leave out the words " in the correct manner " and insert instead thereof the word " correctly." —[Sir G. Cave.]


I beg to move, in Rule 8,, to leave out the word " fifteenth " and to insert instead thereof the word " eighteenth."

The object of this Amendment is to extend the time within which any claimant whose name is not entered or is incorrectly entered on the electors' list may claim to be registered. I think that the Home Secretary will see that some extension of the time, at any rate, is needed. Three days is perhaps in this case the fit time. I beg to move.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It will be in the remembrance of the House that on the Committee stage I raised this point. We had a fairly long Debate, and eventually the proposal was withdrawn because the President of the Local Government Board was, I think I may say, favourably impressed with the arguments used, and so he would favourably consider the matter between then and the Report stage. We were hoping, in view of that promise, that the Government would have put down an Amendment giving these three extra days. I do not want to repeat the arguments used in Committee, but those of us who know everything about registration know quite well that there may be an immense number of objections lodged at the last moment. We plead for the extra days in order to allow people who have simply their name wrongly put down on the registration officer's list, or spelt with a wrong letter, to meet that kind of objection. It will be, I think, within the recollection of the House that the President of the Local Government' Board said that we were anxious to enfranchise everybody. If this Schedule goes through in the manner in which it is drafted it will be possible, in any particular constituency, on the last day to object to everyone whose name is wrongly printed or given a wrong number in the street, and that person will have no chance of amending his claim. The three extra days will give such a person objected to an opportunity to amend his claim, and thus save a grant deal of work before the registration officer and many of the appeals which otherwise might come before the County Court. I appeal to the Ministers in charge of the Bill to grant us this concession, which, I think, will greatly facilitate, as we believe, the ,carrying out of the provisions of the Bill.


Under the existing law if a man's name is "John" and it appears on the list in error as " James," if there is no doubt that he is the person referred to, the Court, as a matter of course, amends the claim. Similarly with an error in the number of the house. The Amendment, which is designed to give relief in cases of this kind undoubtedly strikes the point, and contemplates giving the necessary time, if there is an error, to correct that error. This particular rule provides two claims: One is where the voter's name has been entirely omitted and the other where there is an error in the entry. The difficulty this Amendment strikes at is that in a large number of cases the fact that there is an error in the list will never come to the knowledge of the voter until he receives the objection, and, under the Bill, it would then be too late to lodge a claim to have the error corrected. I do not particularly care how the Government do it, but they certainly ought to do something to provide for the difficulty in question. If they do not it appears to me that, under the new state of things, those who get their franchise under the existing law will lose it when this rule comes into Force. I cannot see any possible objection to this proposed Amendment. It cannot injure anybody. Accordingly, as there is an undoubted grievance and as I think we really had a promise that something would be done, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that it is carried out.


I do not agree that a promise was given, but I did give a promise that I would carefully consider the arguments, and I was impressed at the time with the case made out for an alteration in the Bill. I am still impressed with the object aimed at, and I am prepared now to consider it. I think the case given to-night as to inaccuracy and misnomer will be met by Rule 36, which says: No misnomer or inaccurate description of any person or place on any list or on the register or in any notice shall prejudice the operation of this Act or these rules as respects that person or place, provided that the person or place is so designated as to be commonly understood.


That does not enable the Amendment to be met? It says a man may vote in a certain name.


Quite so. I say that some of these cases mentioned are covered by the rules which already exist in Nos. 36 and 22. The hon. Gentleman has made out quite a good case, but we have to look at it from the point of view of having to move other Amendments in the Schedule. I think there is a good deal to be said for giving these three extra days. Those responsible for guiding the House with regard to the Bill have always shown the same spirit, and have tried to give to those who are entitled to the franchise a ready way of obtaining it. I will accept this Amendment extending the date from the 15th to the 18th of February on condition that we alter the other dates dealing with publication of the lists from the 21st of February to the 24th and alter the 21st of August to the 24th.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In Rule 8, leave out the word "fifteenth" ["fifteenth day of August "], and insert instead thereof the word " eighteenth. "—. Gilbert.]


I beg to move, at the end of Rule 8, to insert the words " any person claiming to be entitled to be so registered may authorise any other person to make such claim."

It has been said that the desire is to make the franchise as wide as possible, and the object of this Amendment is to give every facility for voters to get their names on the register.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not know whether the words are really necessary, or whether this is already provided for in the Bill If what is pro posed here is not meant by the words of the Bill, then I think my hon. Friend's Amendment ought to be put in to make the point clear.


I am advised that these words are not necessary, and that this can already be done under the provisions of the Bill. Therefore I think it is undesirable to add these words.


May I point out that after the list of claims has been published no one can inquire whether the claims have been signed or not? The existing claim to vote is merely a claim to vote, but the claim that is to be necessary under this Act is both a claim and a declaration. The Irish Courts have held that in the case of any claim which involves a declaration it must be signed by the claimant himself. The Irish Courts have also held that that fact differentiates the lodger claim from the ordinary claim, and, inasmuch as the document is not merely a claim but is a declaration of certain facts, that creates the qualification of the claimant that makes it necessary that the claim should be signed by the claimant himself. Anyone who takes the trouble to go through the numerous decisions in registration law will find that it is now settled law that the signature of the lodger himself is not only necessary, but is part of the lodger's qualification. The decision of the Irish Court completely binds the Courts, at any rate in Ireland, to hold that under this Schedule the signature of the claimant will be absolutely necessary. It would be a great inconvenience if the claimant were compelled to sign his claim personally, and I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has called attention to what is undoubtedly a defect in the Schedule as it exists. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider this very serious matter, and will see some way of yielding to the demand made by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will not steel his heart against the Amendment. I assure him that there is substance in it, and that in Ireland at any rate, the judges would be bound to hold under this Schedule that the personal signature of the claimant was absolutely necessary.


The hon. and learned Member is absolutely right, that unless these words are put in here the claim must be signed by the claimant; but his argument goes much further and, in my opinion, makes it impossible to accept the Amendment. If one looks at the Rule he will see, as the hon. and learned Member has said, that the form is not only a claim, but it goes on to say that it shall contain a declaration of the qualification of the claimant to be registered and a declaration of other things which justify his registration, and that a vote shall be added warning the claimant that any false declaration will involve a penalty. It is quite clear that the framer of this rule intends it to be a personal declaration and that if a false declaration is made the person who makes it is to be liable to a penalty. It seems to me, under those circumstances, that it is quite impossible to accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In Rule 9, after the word " age " [" the claimant has attained the required age "], insert the words "and is a British subject." —[Sir G, Cave.]


I beg to move, in Rule 9, to leave out the words " or in case such person has no settled residence an address to which communications may be sent."

If these words remain in the Bill, it may lead to serious difficulties in the future, because a man who has no settled residence and is a roaming individual may give the address of his banker in one constituency, of his solicitor in another, of a resident in a third, and so on. It seems to me that is rather a serious objection to these words remaining in the Bill. It will be almost impossible to check these various entries. There will be no means by which you can ascertain whether a man was the man who had three different addresses in three different constituencies. The main point of the Bill is to tie down a man so that he shall say what is his residence. The residential qualification in his constituency can be given, because he must surely have some place he regards as his residence and to which he would naturally go when he returns home. It is essential in order to get a residential qualification. If the Home Secretary cannot see his way to omit these words he should find some means by which the would-be voter is compelled to give some address in order to obviate the difficulties I have mentioned.


I beg to second the Amendment.

These words open the door to faked claims. It is very desirable that a person should have a place of residence so that he can be checked in some way or, at any rate, seen by somebody at some time. If you leave these words in, you allow a man to give the address of his bankers, or of some firm, or of shipping agents, or some other address, and it will be very difficult to find out where the voter is. I hope the Home Secretary will reconsider these words, and so prevent a person from putting in a false claim by using any address he may think fit.


Is not this rather hypercritical? We are dealing with the nonresidential qualification, a qualification which may be held by having business [...]emises. It may be that a man who has business premises may not live there —indeed, he may not have a settled residence anywhere. He must give some address to which notice of objection and matters of that kind may be sent. There is no crime in not having a settled residence. It must be some address at which communications will reach him, so that if you send a notice of objection there it shall be deemed to have reached him, and he shall not he able to say it did not reach him at all. Surely that is common sense. It would be a great pity to strike out these words. Some business people have no settled address, because their occupation causes them to move from place to place. I do not see. why we should not retain these words.


I agree with the Home Secretary. I think you are bound to leave an opportunity for a person who has no residence, and has an occupation qualification, to give some address to which communications may be sent. That is the reason why I thought it better to try to solve this difficulty by an Amendment to the effect that it shall be an offence on the part of any claimant to give different addresses in respect of different qualifications. I am anxious to meet this difficulty all round. There are persons who will have occupation qualifications in many places, and, in order to prevent abuses, it is essential if possible to find out who these persons are, and therefore any man who has an occupation qualification ought to be obliged to identify himself by giving one address only. The right hon. Gentleman realises that anyone looking through the lists of duplicate voters, which it is important for the agents to do to prevent personation, could only discover them by finding that a man has given his residence. It would be comparatively easy for a man having several occupation qualifications in different counties or boroughs to give a different residence —he might have two residences or he might invent some for the purpose of fraud. I hope the Home Secretary will see the importance of the suggestion I have made that every man should give one address only.


May I support what the right hon. Gentleman has said? The Home Secretary's criticism of the present Amendment is very strong. I should be perfectly prepared to support him in voting against it provided we have an. assurance that the substance of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Dickinson) is accepted. All we want is that these provisions shall be loyally and honestly carried out. A man who has several business qualifications should not have it made too easy for him to multiply his business votes by giving different addresses in respect of different claims for business premises votes, and so make it extremely difficult for his fraud to be found out. I hope that the Government will indicate now that it is prepared to accept my right hon. Friend's Amendment, in its substance at any rate. That will make it easy for a number of us to, vote against the present Amendment.


I quite agree with the Home Secretary as to the necessity of giving a person who is claiming a nonresidential qualification some opportunity of receiving any communication in connection with it, but I also think you want to qualify the means whereby this gentleman can receive his communication, not necessarily by this Amendment but by that of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Dickinson); otherwise, seeing that you are limiting the plural vote to one business qualification only, you will have difficulties arising —you will have people trying to get votes for more than one business qualification, and we shall get back to the old state of things, the faggot vote. I ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider whether he cannot qualify this so that the spirit and letter of the Bill may be thoroughly carried out.


I cannot help feeling that my hon. Friends are exaggerating the amount of fraud which it may be attempted to perpetrate. I think there will be very little fraud and very few attempts to obtain votes without proper qualifications. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered this, that after all the Bill gives power to anyone possessed of the qualifying property to be registered in many constituencies, but of course only to use his vote at a General Election in respect of two qualifications? It is more than possible, it is probable, that there will be many people who would be registered in different constituencies in respect of their different qualifications with a view to exercising those qualifications at a variety of by-elections. Would the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that we should make it compulsory on a man who has qualifications, say, in the North to have communications in connection with all his qualifications in Southern counties sent to the Northern address, where he may only be living for three months in the year? He would not desire all the communications in connection with a qualification for Scotland to be sent, say, to Bournemouth, where he might have a qualification in respect of a residence. It is really unfair to put a man in a penal position if he desires that the various communications connected with his various qualifications shall be sent to the appropriate addresses. To make him a criminal because he has not taken care to have all the communications in respect of his claims sent to one address is not an acceptable proposition.


The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman have been based on false premises. Under the new law a man will have only two kinds of votes —a vote for his residence and a business vote.


He may have twenty votes at twenty different by-elections provided he has qualifications.


Where you have property in fifty shires you can have qualifications in fifty shires and vote in fifty shires, but how many business people have businesses in fifty shires? It is quite true people may have votes at different by-elections under the new law which they could not exercise at a General Election, but the number of those cases will be comparatively few. In the case of residence, a man may have a town and a country residence, and it is quite possible that he may appear on the register in two places in respect of residence, and in the case of very wealthy people they may have three residences, in all of which they may be said to reside, and for which theoretically they may have a vote, but those cases are very limited, and not at all comparable to that which exists under the present law. Passing from the residential vote we have the business vote, where there are branch businesses in many towns —they are mostly in the hands of limited companies. While it is possible that one person may have a number of businesses, the number of persons who will have a large number of business votes scattered all over the country will be exceedingly small and need not be taken into consideration. I think the arguments of the right hon. hon. Gentleman are quite unfounded, and is not a valid answer to the Amendment.

Notice taken that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present —

Mr. HEALY (resuming)

Some such precaution as is pointed at in this Amendment is very necessary to prevent the improper exercise of such duplicate votes as will exist. I cannot see what object a voter would have, except a fraudulent one, in giving one address in claiming a vote in one constituency and another address in claiming a vote in another constituency. I, at any rate, would assume that he made the difference for the purpose of concealing his identity and making it possible to make two claims. Accordingly, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment or will give some protection of a corresponding character.


May I point out that the Mover and Seconder and the hon. and learned Member quite forgot the university voters, and that such men, men with university qualifications, may well not have a settled residence?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in Rule 8, after the word " sent " ["communications may be sent "], to insert the words, " It shall be an offence on the part of any claimant to give different addresses in respect of different qualifications."

This applies simply to those persons who have non-residential qualifications, and every such person should be compelled to state either his recognised residence, which should be the ordinary residence, about which there is no question, or else,

when he has no residence, he must state an address to which communcations may be sent to him. I move this Amendment, because I am anxious to prevent any possibility of abuse arising under this Clause. I do not suggest for a moment that there is going to be fraud by the respectable portion of the community, but the occupation qualification under this Bill is going to be very small qualification. There is no limit to the occupation qualification. Therefore, it is possible that persons may get various occupation qualifications in different parts of the country, and the only way in which we can check that is to know who the individuals are who have these qualifications, and you cannot know who they are unless from the register of the names and the addresses of these individuals. It happened already in my own experience —

It being Eleven of the clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.