HC Deb 10 November 1964 vol 701 cc829-30
Q2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will initiate immediate all-party talks on the problem of electoral reform.

Q 16. Mr. Driberg

asked the Prime Minister if he will initiate all-party talks on electoral reform and, in particular, on the reduction of the voting age to eighteen, as recommended by the Youth Commission set up by the Labour Party and presided over by the present Lord Chancellor.

The Prime Minister

We are considering various proposals for electoral reform, and hope to arrange for discussion between the parties shortly.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that reply is a very satisfactory one, for a change? Will he realise that this is a matter of extreme urgency, as every Member to whom I have talked in this Parliament has some complaints about the antiquated law under which we operate our elections? Will my right hon. Friend undertake these discussions in the most urgent fashion possible?

The Prime Minister

It is suggested that we have informal talks first, and decide what more formal machinery should be set up, following the precedent of discussions in earlier Parliaments.

Mr. Driberg

Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that both the discussion and the implementation of any electoral reform must take a considerable time, and that if any such reform as that which I mention in my Question No. 16 is to be operative at the next General Election, it should be agreed within the next four years or so?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. That is very much in mind, but I think that there are some dozens of ideas which have been considered by all parties, and we shall want to look at them all.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement that he is favourably considering the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is greeted with applause by the Liberal Party? Is he also aware that the representation of three million people in this country by nine Members, however eminent they are, is grossly unfair, and we hope that he will move as quickly as he can on this matter?