HC Deb 20 April 1948 vol 449 cc1714-6
Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 28, line 6, to leave out Subsection (4).

I think I can describe quite briefly the point we raise here. Under Clause with respect to Parliamentary elections, a Service voter's proxy can exercise the proxy vote even although he does not reside in the same area as the Service voter. Under this Clause it would appear that the Service voter's proxy cannot exercise the proxy vote unless he does reside in the same electoral area. We do not understand the difference, and it seems to us that it should be possible for Service voters' proxies in local government elections to have the same privilege of exercising the proxies as they have in the Parliamentary elections.

Mr. Ede

I think there is a distinction between the two. After all, at a Parliamentary election, the proxy voter will be voting on national issues, and he will be able to judge how the person for whom he is voting would like him to vote, because national issues are the same from one end of the country to the other. If he is not residing in the same local government area, he may not have any knowledge of the issues that are at stake in the local government election in the area in which the vote has to be recorded. He is not like the non-resident voter, with whom we have been dealing for a great part of the day, who has premises within the local government area, and has some connection with the place, and may be presumed, at any rate, to have some acquaintance with the issues involved. This non-resident proxy voter may have no connection with the area at all. We think, therefore, that in these circumstances it is not advisable to give the same power to the proxy of the Service voter in local elections.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

While one quite sees the force of the point which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, will it not frequently mean duplication of proxies? As the right hon. Gentleman says, it is quite open to the Service voter to appoint somebody in some other constituency, some other local government area, as his proxy for a national election. Very likely he will do that, because that one happens to be a particular friend or a relative. But this Clause as it stands will mean having a double proxy, and there will be muddle; there will be proxies for national elections and others for local government elections. Whether this will be made plain to the Service voters by the Service authorities or anyone else I very much doubt.

I am sure that any system which requires duplication of proxies will lead to quite unnecessary difficulties. Therefore, while I fully appreciate the force of the argument that the right hon. Gentleman has put forward, I do suggest that, from a practical point of view, there is even greater force in the argument for simplicity. One may take it that a man who is appointed a proxy for a local government election will not reside very far away. It is very improbable that anyone would travel a long way for a local government election. He may live just over the boundary, in which case he will probably know as much about local affairs where the election is going on as if he lived in the area. Therefore, on balance, the right hon. Gentleman need not fear distant residents coming in, because they will not travel long distances for local elections except in most exceptional cases. The people who will do the voting by proxy will be people who live only just over the boundary. Therefore, while appreciating the hon. Gentleman's argument, I suggest that there is an even stronger argument on the other side.

Mr. Ede

I have listened to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I will consult as to whether the need for simplicity—which, I admit, is very important in the question of compiling registers, and so on—outweighs the advantages which may arise in certain cases.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.