HC Deb 17 January 1945 vol 407 cc328-9
Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I beg to move, in page 28, line 36, leave out from "register," to "unless," in line 37.

I do not see the need for individual ratepayers having to write to the registration officer in order to get their names entered on the ratepayers register. That procedure is cumbersome and will merely lead to a lot of superfluous correspondence. As the names of the ratepayers are already entered upon the valuation rolls which have to be kept up to date in order that local rates can be levied on owners, it should be simple for a registration officer to compile a list of those ratepayers on his own without having to get the ratepayers to apply individually. That is the purpose of the Amendment.

The Lord Advocate

I am afraid that the Amendment is impracticable. To begin with it would not apply at all in England. It could apply only in Scotland, but that is not an adequate reason for not applying it in Scotland if it would work there; but it would not. The position of the ratepayers register is that you are only entitled to go on it if you are an owner or occupier of property, that is, a ratepayer, but are not residing in that electoral district. For example, if you are an owner or occupier of property in street A and you are residing round the corner in street B, both streets being in the same electoral district, you do not get on to the ratepayers register at all but only if your residence is somewhere else.

If we adopted the plan proposed, we should put the registration officer in a difficult position. He would find that John Smith was either owner or occupier of a particular house and that he was not living there, and therefore did not have a residence qualification in respect of that property. The officer would not have the slightest idea whether John Smith was living in that electoral district or not. There are so many John Smiths that it is not a bit of good searching the list of voters to see where John Smith is, because you cannot tell where which John Smith you are looking for Therefore, without further inquiry and a very extensive canvass you could not decide whether a non- resident ratepayer was entitled to go on the ratepayers register or not. Looking to the great difficulty of fitting even the existing programme into the time-table and in view also of man-power difficulties it is impossible to put upon any public official the large amount of extra work that would be involved if the Amendment were accepted.

Mr. Woodburn

The officer would not find the age on the register either.

The Lord Advocate

No. You would never be able to identify the person and would have to go canvassing around trying to discover what you could. Although the Amendment appears all right on the face of it, I am afraid that it is impracticable.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I recognise that there are certain mechanical difficulties in the way of this Amendment which were not at first apparent. I, therefore, beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Third and Fourth Schedules agreed to.