HC Deb 03 November 1943 vol 393 cc806-8

(1) A person entitled to vote at a university election shall be entitled to appoint a proxy to vote for him at any such election if, at the time of his application for the issue of a proxy paper, he is a member of the forces or a seaman.

(2) An application for the issue of a proxy paper by any such person, being a member of the forces or a seaman, may be made on the same form as that prescribed under this part of this Act for use by service voters, and where such a form purporting to be signed by any person is accompanied by a declaration—

  1. (a) purporting to be signed by the same person and bearing the same date as the application; and
  2. (b) in the same form and attested in the same manner and, subject as hereafter provided, stating the same particulars as a service declaration;

the declaration shall be conclusive evidence that the said person was a member of the forces or a seaman at the time of the application:

Provided that the particulars to be stated in any such declaration shall not include particulars as to the residence of the declarant, but shall in lieu thereof include particulars of the university constituency in which he entitled to vote.

(3) The provisions of Section fifteen of this Act shall apply to any such declaration as if it were a service declaration.

(4) Any proxy paper issued by virtue of this Section shall, unless cancelled, remain in force until the expiration of this Part of this Act.

(5) Save as provided by the foregoing provisions of this Section, nothing in this Part of this Act shall affect the provisions of the principal Act or any Order in Council made thereunder relating to the appointment and voting of proxies at university elections.—[Mr. Pickthorn.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I think this Clause is clear in its meaning, that it is technically unobjectionable and, I think, wholly uncontroversial. The object of the Clause is clear on the face of it. As the Bill is drafted and if it were left unamended, the right of voting by proxy would be much less useful, much less easy to exercise by university voters than by voters in geographical constituencies. In effect, that would inflict a very considerable hardship. I do not think it is generally realised how high a proportion of university voters will be out of the country on active service if there is a general election in war time or immediately afterwards. It will be a much higher proportion than in any other kind of constituency. I and my colleague for Cambridge University, and to a slightly less extent the Members for Oxford University, and then the other university Members are, I think, the only Members in this House who essentially represent young men. Almost all the rest of Members largely represent old women. No doubt old women are just as good and useful as young men, but they are not so apt to be overseas upon active service in war or emergency; I am sure that it was wholly inadvertence on the part of the office and the draftsmen responsible for this Bill that it should have been likely to have the effect of causing far more voters in one kind of constituency than in other kinds to be practically incapacitated from exercising their votes by proxy.

Mr. Peake

We have considered this matter very carefully and in the view of the Government it does seem reasonable to provide proxy voting facilities for members of universities. Here again we are not discussing the merits or demerits of the university franchise. The fact is that the register for the universities, which is not in the least affected by anything in the Bill, is already in existence. The register is there, and if is the duty of the university authorities to maintain that register, and unless some provision for proxy voting is made it is obvious that a very small proportion of university voters would have the opportunity at the present time of exercising their right to vote in the university elections. Having given the matter very careful consideration we think it is reasonable that this Clause should be included in the Bill.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.