HC Deb 07 March 1923 vol 161 cc545-6W

asked the Rome Secretary if he is aware that at the General Election, 1922, in the Northamptonshire (Kettering) division, the presiding officer at Moulton allowed an elector to vote on behalf of two absentee voters who had not made provision for proxy votes; that the elector, on his attention being drawn to the matter, signed a declaration that he had done this at the instigation of the presiding officer; that until the eve of the poll the presiding officer referred to had been actively engaged in support of the candidate to whom the elector is said to have given the two votes referred to on behalf of the absent voters; and whether the acting returning officer for Northamptonshire, on the ease being brought to his notice, reprimanded the presiding officer and informed him that his employment in future would be impossible; and will he propose such amendment of the existing law as will prevent the employment of presiding officers in districts where they reside and have local influence?


I have received a report from the acting returning officer upon this case. It appears that the presiding officer, on being informed by the elector that his two sons were absent voters, issued to him ballot papers to enable him to vote on their behalf without production of proxy papers, as required by law; but it is hardly correct to say that he instigated the elector to vote, and the acting returning officer tells me there is no ground for the allegation that the presiding officer had been actively engaged in support of the candidate for whom the two votes are said to have been given. Inquiries, which have been made by the police, show that the man had not attended any political meeting or taken part in any other way in the political campaign. The acting returning officer considers that the presiding officer's action was due to stupidity and not to any corrupt intention. The man will not, of course, be employed in a similar capacity in future, and I scarcely think that this exceptional case would justify legislation on the lines suggested, which might often cause serious difficulty in securing suitable persons to assist in the election and would, certainly, increase the cost.