HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1191-3
18. Mr. Fell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will amend the Representation of the People Act to allow postal votes to all those normally entitled to a vote, who are on holiday at the time of a Parliamentary election.

30. Mr. Russell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will amend the Representation of the People Act so as to enable electors who know they will be on holiday on the day of a Parliamentary election to appoint a proxy to vote for them.

Mr. Vosper

No, Sir. I think we should find that this would involve allowing anyone who wished to vote by post or proxy to do so. Such an extension of absent voting would, I think, be open to objection.

Mr. Fell

This question of votes is not very satisfactory. Surely, our aim must be to make it easy for people who are on the electoral register to cast their vote. Can we not have another look at these difficulties of which we have been told? We have sufficient time now to do it and we have brilliant Ministers. Can we not look at this question again and see whether we cannot come to a more satisfactory conclusion, because a lot of the electors are angry about this, particularly when an election is sprung on them quickly?

Mr. Vosper

It is a long-standing principle that electors should vote in person except where circumstances more or less outside their control prevent it. What my hon. Friend suggests would be a far-reaching and dangerous proposal—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but my right hon. Friend has, of course, said that he is always prepared to look at the electoral law again.

Mr. John Hall

If my right hon. Friend is not prepared to make a change such as has been suggested, will the Government in future give sufficient advance notice of forthcoming General Elections to enable people to make their holiday arrangements?

Mr. Mawby

Concerning the recent election, is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many people, particularly in the resort areas, who normally cannot take their holidays until later in the year? Either they were denied a holiday this year because they wished to give their vote for whichever party they supported or they had to travel many hundred miles back to their constituency on a certain day to register their votes. Will not my right hon. Friend consider particularly the resort areas, where, for reasons of their livelihood, people must take their holidays at a different time of the year?

Mr. Vosper

From my own experience, I am aware of the difficulties expressed by my hon. Friend. At the same time, the difficulties in defining "holiday" are very real. If my hon. Friend thinks about it, he will, I think, agree that it would be difficult to find a solution.

Mr. Bevan

Does not a much more important grievance consist in the fact that in many instances the electoral register is compiled so incompetently that large numbers of people who ought to be included on it are not?

Mr. Vosper

There is another Question on the Order Paper on that matter.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Biggs-Davison.

Mr. Nabarro

It would not have made enough difference to give the party opposite a majority.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There must not be so much noise that I cannot hear the question and the hon. Member cannot hear the answer.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

My right hon. Friend has mentioned the long-standing principle that people should, if possible, vote in person. Will he take into account that since that long-standing principle has been established, many more people are having holidays, thank goodness, and much longer holidays at that?