HC Deb 27 July 1972 vol 841 cc2033-5
8. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has completed his review of the law affecting postal votes; and if he will now make a statement.

30. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce legislation to enable all electors who are going to be absent from their houses at a time of an election to qualify for a postal vote.

Mr. R. Carr

I am proposing that the question of absent voting generally should be included in the terms of reference of the forthcoming Speaker's Conference.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he recall Early Day Motion No. 1 and his right hon. Friend's words when closing the debate on 24th July, which showed the extent to which disfranchisement was suffered at the last General Election? Would he therefore undertake that some action will be taken to put this right before the next General Election?

Mr. Carr

I will refresh my memory about an Early Day Motion as long ago as No. 1 and about my right hon. Friend's remarks. However, I know that this is a serious matter, but it will be for the Speaker's Conference to recommend any change, although of course hon. Members may put their views to that conference.

Mr. Tilney

Having raised this matter more than two years ago, and having received a statement from the then Minister of State that many people had been disfranchised at the last General Election through being on holiday, may I welcome what my right hon. Friend said and ask that as well as those on holiday, Service voters shall be taken into account especially as at present they have to register every year?

Mr. Carr

I hope that that, too, may be taken into consideration in the forthcoming Speaker's Conference, for I am sure that we must all be concerned about the possibility of anybody being effectively disfranchised.

Mr. Leonard

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the last Speaker's Conference had put to it a proposal for an electoral register which would be kept permanently up to date by the use of computer techniques, which would remove the necessity for postal votes for the great majority of people moving home during the course of a year? Although the Speaker's Conference recommended a feasibility study, the feasibility study was confined to investigating the use of computers for laying out the electoral register and completely ignored the proposal that the register should be kept constantly up to date. Would the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the next Speaker's Conference will have this proposal put before it with a high degree of urgency marked against it?

Mr. Carr

I expect that matters of registration and so on will also be considered by the Speaker's Conference. I will certainly keep this in mind and of course the conference will be open to receive the views of hon. Members.

Mr. Baxter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it has been alleged that students get a vote in their univerity town and a vote where they reside? Should not this be looked into at the same time as other matters are considered?

Mr. Carr

Problems of multiple registration and the basis of residence are also matters which should be considered.