HC Deb 08 December 1949 vol 470 cc2069-71
42. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement as to how the total number of electors, excluding Service voters, on the new registers compares with the number on the last registers prepared before the re-introduction of the house-to-house canvass.

Mr. Ede

As I informed the hon. Member in answer to a Question last week, the number of electors on the Civilian Residence Register for 1948, the last compiled under the old law, was 31,122,555 in England and Wales and 865,917 in Northern Ireland. The provisional return, which will be published tomorrow will show that the approximate number of Parliamentary electors, excluding Service voters, on the October, 1949, register, the first under the new law, is 30,047,945—a r eduction of 1,074,610—in England and Wales, and 863,663—a reduction of 2,254—in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Keeling

As the population has increased during the 12 months, could the Home Secretary express an opinion whether the new system, which has produced a smaller total, is better than the old, or vice versa?

Mr. Ede

I think the new system is better than the old. The registration officers, whose advice I take in regard to the arrangements, anticipated that the change from the old system to the new would probably result in a reduction of about 5 per cent., owing to the more faulty method of compiling the registers under the old system. As a matter of fact, the reduction is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3 per cent.

Mr. Bramall

Can my right hon. Friend say the reason for the reduction, in view of his statement that the new system is better than the old? Is he aware that the old system omitted quite a number of people from the registers and, in view of this large fall, does he not think there must be many omitted from this register?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I think what happened under the old system was that certain people whose names ought to have been removed because they had left the district, or for other reasons, were in fact continued on the list and that led to a very considerable inflation of the registers.

Mr. Scollan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some parts of Scotland the registrar has sent out notices asking persons to fill them in and send them back? Those notices frequently have not been filled in and sent back and a reminder has been sent and that is the only method they have at the moment in those places and consequently is there not bound to be a tremendous number left out?

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend should address his remarks in regard to Scotland to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. My experience is that when what my hon. Friend has described has occurred, there is a personal canvass of the property in question.