That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £750,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenses under the Representation of the People Act, 1918.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. KING
I think we ought to have some explanation of this Vote. Is this going to be an annual Vote, or is it brought forward now because the representation of the People Act has been passed and because a General Election is imminent? There will always he by-elections, and, therefore, there will be some expenses each year falling upon the public funds to meet returning officers 1897 charges. May I ask, also, whether there is any particular constitutional difficulty in making this Vote effective, as I suppose it is, for a General Election? It is quite possible, though not likely, that a General Election might not come within the financial year.
§ The JOINT FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Baldwin)
The whole of the Supplementary Estimate is due to the cost of preparing the voters' lists under the Representation of the People Act. At the time of the passage of that Act it was quite impossible to estimate accurately what the cost of printing the registers would be, for the very simple reason that no exact estimate could be given of the number of names which would be required to go down on the lists. As a matter of fact, the rough estimate, on that totally insufficient data that was prepared, proved to be insufficient, because the names have been enormously in excess, as I am sure my hon. Friend will understand, and especially of women voters, than what we could have had any idea of. Then, again, the cost of printing has constantly increased, and the difficulties of the printers have been very much greater, while the preparation of the absent voters' list was a very much more serious matter than was contemplated. At the time the Act was passed, so far as the preparation of the registers was concerned, it was very much a leap in the dark. Now, I think, we have put in quite a sufficient Estimate to cover the whole of the expenses we shall have to meet. I should think, as far one can see, that we must have touched the high-water mark in this Estimate, because it is always more expensive when you have got to work under the difficulties of printing and constantly increasing prices, which we have had to face, and also when we have had to begin the work without seeing clearly when we began it, to what extent it would lead. These are circumstances peculiar to this occasion, as the hon. Member recognises, and I hope with that explanation he will rest satisfied, and that the House will agree to the Resolution.
§ Question put, and agreed to.