HC Deb 27 June 1944 vol 401 cc593-4
15. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are being made to give prisoners of war an opportunity of registering as electors.

Sir J. Grigg

No arrangements have been made and I am afraid that it will be impossible to make any as long as the prisoners remain in enemy hands. I am, however, considering the question further to see if there is any method of overcoming the natural and very serious obstacles.

Mr. Bellenger

While gratified with the latter part of my right hon. Friend's answer, may I ask him if he is not aware that it would be comparatively simple to send these forms out to prisoners of war just as they are being sent to men overseas?

Sir J. Grigg

It would interfere with their ordinary mail and I do not think the prisoners would like that. The Germans will not admit an unlimited amount of mail. Might I, with respect, invite the hon. Member to apply his argument to the case of Japan?

Sir Herbert Williams

Could they not be registered in the constituency in which their next-of-kin live?

Sir J. Grigg

They would have to appoint a proxy in that case, and that would mean communicating with them. It would be no good communicating with Japan.

Mr. Bowles

Could not all the soldiers be registered in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency?

Lieut.-Colonel Thornton - Kemsley

Could they not be registered through the Records Office at their known addresses?

Sir J. Grigg

This is a matter which I am afraid cannot be dealt with fully in reply to Parliamentary Questions. I understand there is a desire for a deputation of Members of Parliament interested in the general Question, and that would provide a suitable opportunity to deal with the matter more fully.

Mr. Shinwell

Are the Government afraid of the way the men may vote at the next Election?

Sir J. Grigg

Not at all.

Mr. John Dugdale

While the right hon. Gentleman says correctly that it may be, difficult to contact prisoners in Japan, is that any excuse for not contacting those in Germany.

Sir J. Grigg

I have said there are serious difficulties and those, too, I am perfectly willing to explain on the occasion of the deputation to which I have referred.

Mr. Driberg

Can we take it that if prisoners are repatriated at some future date, shortly before an Election, they will not be debarred from voting because they have not filled up the form now?

Sir J. Grigg

That certainly is a reasonable thing to ask, and I think everything should be done to ensure that they can vote.