§ 5. Mr. Dormand
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce legislation to permit postal voting at parish council elections; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor)
The Government are considering possible changes in absent voting arrangements, including the introduction of postal voting at parish and community council elections.
§ Mr. Dormand
Is it not obvious, especially in view of the correspondence that we have received, that the 433 councils are not enthusiastic about this proposal? Does the Under-Secretary agree that it is an anomaly that electors can vote by post at every election except that of parish councils? Is the cost not of secondary importance and, indeed, negligible? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that parish councils play a big role in local affairs and that it is simple democracy that people should have a right to vote at such elections?
§ Mr. Mellor
I accept that that is the only form of elections at which postal votes are not allowed. That is why we are examining this matter and have asked the National Association of Local Councils to look into the practicalities of such voting. The hon. Gentleman said that the cost was negligible, but I must point out that as long ago as 1980 it was estimated that the cost would be about £250,000 and would add 50 per cent. to the cost of running these elections. We are looking at this matter and will make our views known.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
Is the Under-Secretary aware that this is an urgent and important matter for many disabled people, because without postal votes they are disfranchised? Moreover, should we not consider making it illegal for any building or structure which is inaccessible to disabled people to be used as a polling station?
§ Mr. Mellor
I have every sympathy with the problems of disabled people and the right hon. Gentleman's point is one that we would want to bear in mind. I hope that returning officers, who have the responsibility of selecting polling stations, will always bear in mind the need to ensure that disabled people who wish to vote have ready access to polling stations.