HC Deb 01 March 1951 vol 484 cc2280-1
31. Mr. Vosper

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds his Department based its ruling given at the time of the last General Election that detention in prison could be regarded as residence for the purpose of claiming a postal vote.

Mr. Ede

The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The ground on which a registered elector who is detained in prison may apply to vote by post, under Section 12 (1, e) of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, is that he no longer resides at his qualifying address. It is for the registration officer to whom the application is made, or the courts on appeal from his decision, to determine whether such an application is valid, and I have no authority to give any ruling on the matter.

Mr. Vosper

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Act gives rise to a peculiar situation whereby if a man is sent to prison in his home area he cannot vote, but if he is sent to prison outside his home area he can vote by post?

Mr. Ede

I have previously dealt with that, but I must say that no prisoner has yet made any complaint about being confined in a prison near his home.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is absurd that enclosed religious orders are not allowed to vote but that enclosed criminals are, and would he put the matter right?

Mr. Ede

That is a matter for an Act of Parliament, and I have already promised that when the opportunity occurs I will bear it in mind.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Can the Home Secretary say whether, as the Act now stands, remission of sentence on grounds of good conduct constitutes a disqualification and cancellation of the postal vote in view of the possibility of a prisoner being released before the register is completed?

Mr. Ede

I would like to see that question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Keeling

Is not it a fact that but for the rule that if you go to prison in your own electoral area you cannot have a vote, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department might have got a clear majority over his opponents?

Mr. Ede

I do not know why it should be suggested that you. Mr. Speaker. should go to prison.