HC Deb 06 December 1922 vol 159 cc1731-3

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that a number of naval men were prevented from voting at the recent General Election owing to the returning officers for their constituencies not receiving the necessary information from the Admiralty that such men were either serving in home establishments or in ships in home waters, thus preventing returning officers from despatching ballot papers to them; whether a census of such men has been taken by any of the naval authorities; if so, what is the number of such men who were unable to vote in each of any of the several divisions of Portsmouth; and what action he proposes to Take in the matter?


Before this question is answered, may I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that the statement in this question is not correct? Is it not a fact—


It is for the Minister to say whether it is correct or not.


It is not correct.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Commander Eyres-Mon-sell)

Under the naval procedure, accountant officers are required, when a General Election is announced, to furnish returning officers with addresses to which the ballot papers for all naval ratings should be sent unless serving abroad, and telegraphic instructions for this to be done were issued from the Admiralty on the 26th October. From reports received, it appears that about 300 men of the Portsmouth Command were unable to vote in the Central Division of Portsmouth. There were various contributory reasons, but a complete analysis of the reports has not yet been made, and I will communicate further with the right hon. Member when the investigation has been completed.


Is it not a fact that it is not so much a question of returning officers doing their duty as that the system is wrong? Will the right hon. Gentleman revise the system, or have a new system inaugurated before the next General Election?


That is being inquired into. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that the machinery is entirely new, and has not been properly tested, but I should not like to say that it has broken down until an analysis is made.


Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether any complaints have been made?


There are a good many contributory causes, and one is that people do not take interest in Elections until they are upon them, and then it is too late.

20. Sir B. FALLE

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, whereby officers and men of His Majesty's forces are entitled to be registered as absent voters for any constituency for which they would have had the necessary qualification but for their service, the procedure laid down in A.F.O. 1,500/1918 and subsequent amendments is adequate to insure that correct information is forwarded from time to lime to the various registration officers to enable them to include naval ratings in the periodically revised registers; whether there is any method other than the annual routine of reporting the next-of-kin to insure that the correct shore address of naval ratings is known and recorded; whether the correct shore address of naval ratings is noted on all service certificates after it is inserted in the September quarter ledger; whether forms S. 1,355a or S. 1,335b are kept corrected with the latest, shore address of naval ratings; what method is adopted and who is responsible that this should be done; and whether it could be arranged for the home ports, which have a large number of absent voters, to have proof copies of the absent voters' register corrected in the depot drafting offices for each periodical revision of the registers and on the declaration of an Election?


The registration of naval voters is based on the completion by each officer and man of the prescribed card (form S. 1335A). Fresh cards are available on board ship and are issued on application when a man desires to change his constituency as the result of alteration of address. Fresh cards are also prepared when regis- tration officers notify changes of address as the result of local canvas. Provision is made for changes of address to be noted on Service Certificates. I may add that in view of the experience gained at the recent General Election the whole question of naval procedure is under consideration.