§ 10.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move:That the date of expiration of Section [...] of the Parliamentary Electors (War-Time Registration) Act, 1944, be postponed to the Thirty-first day of December, Nineteen Hundred and Forty-eight.This Motion is similar to one that was moved a year ago to extend Section I of this Act to 31st December this year. Unless this Motion is carried, the Section will come to an end on 31st December next. The effect of the Act of 1944 is to suspend any requirement as to a qualifying period of residence for inclusion in the Civilian Register of Electors, and it is proposed to extend its operation in order that next year's Register, like all the Registers published during the last two and a half years may be prepared with reference to a single qualifying date. Section 5 of the Parliamentary Electors (War-Time Registration) Act, 1943, provided for a period of two months' qualification with a qualifying date. That was found to be impracticable in administration, and, therefore, the Act of 1944 was introduced. The difficulties which made that necessary are by no means yet at an end, and, for that reason alone, it would be desirable to continue it in force.
There is, however, a further reason this year for continuing, by this Motion, the Act of 1944. It has been stated in the Gracious Speech that the Government propose, in the course of this Session, to introduce a Bill dealing with electoral matters, and, among other things, the Bill will contain permanent provisions on electoral registration. In framing those provisions, we shall have regard to the recommendations of the Committee on Electoral Registration, and it will be 821 recalled that that Committee recommended that there should, in future, be no qualifying period for registration. The provisions of the new Bill will, I hope, become operative at the end of the period covered by this Motion. It would, therefore, I think, be unwise, and a waste of the time of the House, if, for the purpose of the Register for next year, we had separate and distinct legislation which would have so short a life. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that this Motion may be passed, and I sincerely hope that this is the last occasion on which a Minister will have to stand at this Box and ask for a continuation of the Act of 1944.
Contrary to what we have just heard from the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who spoke last in the Debate on the reply to the Gracious Speech, His Majesty's Government have no anticipation that there will be a General Election during the year 1948. We anticipate that well before the time that a General Election will be held, the new legislation will be in full operation, and that registers based on the new legislation will be available.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
It is undoubtedly a practical and a sensible course which the right hon. Gentleman is recommending to the House. There could be no question, at this stage, of reverting to the registration procedure which was contemplated by the Act of 1943. As the right hon. Gentleman has stated, the Committee on Electoral Registration has recommended that for the future, registration shall be by reference to a single qualifying date. In those circumstances, we shall take no objection to the Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ "That the date of expiration of Section I of the Parliamentary Electors (War-Time Registration) Act, 1944, be postponed to the Thirty-first day of December. Nineteen Hundred and Forty-eight."