HC Deb 02 May 1928 vol 216 cc1726-8

I beg to move, That leave be given to introduce a Bill to extend the hours of polling at local government elections. In 1913, when the franchise in this country was very limited compared with what it is to-day, it was found necessary to pass a Measure into law which gave the candidates at Parliamentary elections the right to be able to say that the hours of polling might be extended till nine at night or from eight to seven in the morning, and I think the experience of every Member of this House has shown that the result of the passing of that Act has been an immense advantage to the electorate in giving them greater opportunities for recording their votes at Parliamentary elections. Since 1913 the electorate has been considerably extended, and it is also in many ways of a different character. Anyone who has taken part in elections knows that, especially in London and other great industrial centres, where members of the public have to travel long distances from their work to their homes, it is often very difficult for many of them to get the opportunity of recording their votes. During the recent elections in London we have had taken at the various polling places the number of persons who polled at each hour of the day, and so far as the last election for the London County Council was concerned, we found that in most of the districts no less than 33⅓ per cent. of the electors who voted polled in the last hour, between seven and eight, and that from six to eight o'clock nearly 50 per cent. of the persons who voted polled, and when the poll closed at eight o'clock there were large numbers of people in the polling stations who had got in, but for whom no time had been given for the issue of ballot papers, and as it was after eight they were unable to record their votes.

Of course, there are some districts in which there is no necessity to extend the polling hours, but if I might take the example of someone living in Poplar and working, say, at Ealing or at Acton, that person has to get right across London. He may get home at about 7.30, and when he gets home he is not going to rush immediately to the polling station. He is tired after his journey, and desires to have his tea and after that to record his vote.

The opportunity of this extension of an hour will be a great advantage to him. Something else has taken place by the extension of the electorate. By reason of women having the vote many wives desire to go to the polling station with their husbands, so that they can record their votes together. This is the experience of many Members of this House, who have found how difficult it is to get women to vote in the middle of the day, for they prefer to wait until their husbands come home. Then, when their husbands come home, they want to have their tea first, and no woman who likes to keep her home nice, will leave the tea-things on the table. This means that large numbers of them cannot get to the polling station by 8 o'clock, and 9 o'clock would give them that opportunity. I am certain that the House will be prepared to extend the same facilities to local government elections that have been extended to Parliamentary elections

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Scurr, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Barnes, Mr. Tinker, Mr. Gardner, Mr. Thurtle, and Mr. Batey.