HC Deb 22 February 1945 vol 408 cc948-9
36. Sir Wavell Wakefield

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ask the directors of the B.B.C. to give publicity to the fact that it is necessary for the professional and business vote to be claimed before the end of February in order that professional and business men may be included in the new register.

Mr. H. Morrison

In a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Abbey Division (Sir H. Webbe) on 15th February, I indicated that the business premises vote had to be claimed by the end of February. The B.B.C. gave publicity to this requirement in their report of Parliamentary proceedings.

Sir W. Wakefield

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that further publicity could, with advantage, be given in view of the shortness of time there is for those concerned to get on the register, and also because of the shortage of staff and the very heavy pressure of work on business men, who are now engaged in the war effort?

Mr. Morrison

I fully recognise that, in view of the fact that for the first time the business voter has to claim his vote instead of the local authority putting him on the register, there was an onus on the Government to obtain all the publicity we could. I suggest that, from previous answers I have given, the Government have taken every practicable step in that direction. This was not the first reference to the matter on the B.B.C.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it suggested that business men are not intelligent enough to know their rights in this matter, and must depend on the B.B.C. to give them a special privilege, which is denied to others?

Mr. Morrison

There is the fear, I gather, that they may be somewhat apathetic, as electors of all classes quite commonly are. For the first time we have, in this matter, got to the basis with which my hon. Friend is familiar, of contracting in instead of contracting out.

Mr. Shinwell

Does my right hon. Friend understand that all the publicity that is given to the rights of business men to vote in their constituency, and in constituencies where they ought not to vote, will have no appreciable effect on the next General Election?

An Hon. Member

Then why worry?

Mr. Petherick

In view of the fact that Parliament has recently maintained the business vote, would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the question of approaching the B.B.C. again, in view of the fact that, so far, the announcement has only been made in the Parliamentary news, which is not necessarily listened to by everybody in the country who is entitled to this vote.

Mr. Morrison

I do not think I can very well add much more. I have no particular right to instruct the B.B.C; the Minister concerned with the B.B.C. is the Minister of Information.

Mr. Driberg

If the right hon. Gentleman is considering broadcast appeals to those who are backward in claiming their right to vote, will he bear in mind the deplorable fact that only six per cent, of the men of the Merchant Navy have bothered to register to vote at all?

44. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will arrange for application forms for entry on the business premises register in a county division to be obtainable at borough and district council offices in the division, as well as at the office of the county council.

Mr. H. Morrison

The duty of dealing with business promises applications falls in most cases to the clerk of a borough or urban district council and, where it does, the application forms will be available in his office. Advertisements in the local press have made it clear from whom the forms are obtainable in each constituency.