HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1412-4
Mr. Speaker

I told the House on 16th March that I would announce when final agreement had been reached on the terms of reference of the Conference on Electoral Law over which I preside.

The terms which are now agreed are these:

To examine, and if possible submit agreed resolutions on, the following matters relating to parliamentary elections:

  1. 1. The franchise, particularly in relation to British subjects normally resident in the United Kingdom but temporarily living abroad.
  2. 2. Electoral registration, particularly—
    1. (a) the registration timetable, and the frequency of publishing the register;
    2. (b) multiple registration and the definition of "residence";
    3. (c) registration of Service men.
  3. 3. Minimum age for election.
  4. 4. Election expenditure generally.
  5. 5. Conduct of elections, particularly—
    1. (a) candidates' descriptions;
    2. (b) problems relating to committee rooms;
    3. (c) absent voting;
    4. (d) appointment of polling day as a public holiday;
    5. (e) day of the week for polling day;
    6. (f) polling hours;
    7. (g) marking of electoral numbers on ballot paper counterfoils;
    8. (h) timing of by-elections.
  6. 6. Cost of election petitions.
  7. 7. Rules 4–7 in Schedule 2 to the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949.
The House will be aware, from my announcement on 16th March, that the Conference has already been considering Items 2 and 3—"Electoral Registration", and" Minimum Age for Election "—and has reported its conclusions on some of the issues raised.

Communications relating to the other items will be welcomed by the Conference. They should be addressed to one of the joint Secretaries, Mr. Pring, The Journal Office, House of Commons, in order to reach him before the House resumes on 16th October.

Mr. Edward Short

The House will be grateful for that statement, Mr. Speaker. You used the expression" final agreement." Will you confirm that in a sense this is an interim agreement and that, provided that the parties can agree, there is nothing to prevent items being added later?

Mr. Speaker

The words "final agreement" were not intended to mean agreement excluding anything else. It was the wrong use of the word "final". What I really meant by the use of the epithet was that it was an agreement that had taken a very long time to reach.

Mr. Short

Will you confirm that additional items can be added later?

Mr. Speaker

Certainly—if there is agreement and if the Conference also agrees.