HC Deb 15 June 1944 vol 400 cc2130-2
22. Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new method of qualification for voting the Government proposes to adopt in view of the failure of millions of Service personnel to complete the necessary forms qualifying them to vote at the next. General Election.

Mr. H. Morrison

I cannot accept the assumption on which my hon. Friend bases his Question. The process of transmitting Service declarations to the electoral registration officers is still in its early stage, and it is too soon to estimate what proportion of members of the Forces will or will not make use of the facilities for exercising the franchise made available by the Act of 1943. I need hardly point out that the attention of all three Services is being heavily engaged at present in other directions.

Sir G. Shakespeare

In view of the fact that the machinery has broken down, through nobody's fault, would my right hon. Friend agree to receive an all-party deputation from Members who have considered this question, like my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Quintin Hogg) and others?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend will, no doubt, appreciate that the responsibility for the Service aspect of the matter rests upon the Service Ministers; but, if there was an indication that Members representing all parties in the House wished to see the Service Ministers, possibly with myself present, I would endeavour to make arrangements accordingly.

Mr. Bellenger

Although responsibility is on the Service Ministers to obtain a register of members of the Services, is there not also responsibility upon the right hon. Gentleman, as Home Secretary, to see that the register is as complete as possible? Will he take action towards that end?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend is wrong. There is a statutory responsibility on the Service Departments, within this sphere, but we cannot get into a position in which one Minister is running another Minister. I will follow my own responsibilities, which are rather different, and I will be helpful in respect of the others, but it is impossible for one Minister to be held responsible for the statutory responsibilities of other Ministers.

Mr. Ellis Smith

When the time is opportune, could not my right hon. Friend ask the Service Ministers to meet him, to see what more can be done?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly, I will keep that suggestion in mind. If the idea of an all-party deputation to the Service Ministers, with myself present, is proceeded with, I think that my hon. Friend's suggestion might well be associated with it.

Mr. Bowles

Would it not be a good idea if members of the Services who do not register could be put on the electoral registers of the Service Ministers in their own constituencies?

Mr. Sorensen

Does not the Home Secretary recognise that, normally, he would be responsible for the civilian register and that the Service Ministers are now acting in a way for him? Does he not appreciate that the fact that a large percentage of Service personnel have not signed forms, is a definite menace to the future of democratic government.

Mr. Morrison

That is a good try on, on the part of my hon. Friend, but I must point out that we have not reached the stage when one Minister bosses another, or when one Minister takes responsibility for another Minister's Department.