HC Deb 03 October 1944 vol 403 cc740-2
47. Mr. Hugh Lawson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement showing by what processes members of the fighting forces stationed overseas at the time of any general election will be enabled to inform themselves of the main political issues raised at the election and of the names of the candidates for whom they or their proxies can vote.

The Prime Minister

Personnel—that is jargon for officers and men—are able to keep themselves informed of the broad political trends by listening to the wireless and by reading the ordinary newspapers and journals. At the time of a General Election the information given in these ways on political questions will no doubt increase considerably. The short interval between nomination day and polling day will in most cases preclude personnel overseas from receiving in time literature specially prepared in support of particular candidates. This was one of the reasons for the provision made in the Parliament (Elections and Meeting) Act for facilities for voting by proxy.

Mr. Lawson

Does not the latter part of the reply indicate that special steps should be taken to see that those whom we in this House have taken such trouble to see are registered are given the opportunity of getting to know what the issues of the election are?

The Prime Minister

Everything possible will be done, subject to the limitations of time and space.

Sir H. Williams

Was Mr. J. B. Priestley's symposium last night the first part of the Common Wealth campaign?

Mr. Shinwell

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government know what the issues at the next General Election are likely to be?

The Prime Minister

I should think that broadly we can see how matters are shaping themselves. As to the broadcast referred to, I was fortunate in having other engagements at the time.

Mr. Bellenger

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, in order to get the proxies back to the registration officers from men serving overseas, especially those in distant theatres, they will have to send them far in advance of any election, and that that will mean they can only give their intention to vote for a party? Is that what the Prime Minister wants, rather than that they should vote for a particular candidate?

The Prime Minister

I cannot think that an election is imminent in the sense of what you call impending, but I can assure the House that no one is more anxious than I am that every facility possible and practicable, having regard to the fact that fighting is still going on on an increasing scale, should be given if possible to the troops to understand what are the issues for which the opposing candidates stand and for recording their votes on the largest possible scale. That is our intention. It would be disgraceful if, through any lack of care and forethought on our part, these men, who have, in my opinion, the first right to express an opinion, were deprived of their opportuunity to do so. I say all this under the reservation which may be imposed by the force of physical events.

Mr. Lawson

In view of the impossibility of continuing such an important matter by question and answer, I beg to give notice that I will raise it on the Adjournment.