HC Deb 22 June 1967 vol 748 cc1942-3
Q1. Mr. Turton

asked the Prime Minister what action he proposes to take on the conclusions of Mr. Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law.

Q8. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding the latest recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform; and if he will arrange for the evidence on which such recommendations were based to be published.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Mr. Speaker's Conference has reported its recommendations on all those matters within its terms of reference, except that dealing with the minimum age for voting. The Government are considering these recommendations as a whole.

It is, of course, for the Conference to decide whether to publish the evidence submitted to it, although individual organisations and persons are free to publish their own evidence.

Mr. Turton

Is not the delay in the consideration of these recommendations by the House unfortunate, as there are some 17 major recommendations involving legislation, some dating back to December, 1965?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. That is certainly so. But, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, some of the recommendations were made available only in May of this year and it was felt right that we should consider all the recommendations as a whole. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need for urgency and about providing adequate time for legislation.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend give us any idea of when the Conference will conclude its investigations and recommendations? Do the Government expect to have a debate on a package deal, as it were, when we discuss these recommendations? Will my right hon. Friend press for the evidence on which the recommendation on public opinion polls was based to be published in full, as there has been singularly little research into this problem?

The Prime Minister

As I have said, publication of evidence is a matter for the Conference itself. The House can form its own view. There is a problem about the issue of the age of voting, for a separate committee is considering what should be the right age for majority and it may be thought well to wait for that committee to conclude its work. The subject of a debate and what form it should take should be a matter for consultations within the House, first both as to the kind of statement to be made and the way in which it should be made and how the House should then handle it.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Prime Minister aware that at the very first meeting of Mr. Speaker's Conference on 30th June, 1965, I proposed, without success, that all proceedings of the Conference should be published, so that when the House came to consider—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—

Mr. Speaker

I think that the fact that the hon. Gentleman was defeated puts his question out of order.

Mr. Park

Will the Prime Minister urge on the Conference the importance of an early recommendation on the minimum age of voting? Does he not recognise that many young people are not able to vote for the first time in a Parliamentary election until they are 23 or 24 years of age and that a reduction of the age minimum to 18 would rectify that anomaly?

The Prime Minister

That is certainly a fact, particularly, of course, if the person concerned comes of age fairly early in the lifetime of a Parliament. There are other problems—the problems of the Y voters—even among those who come of age. These are all matters which we should leave until we are able to debate the issue as a whole.

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