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Second Schedule—(Proxies)

Volume 393: debated on Wednesday 3 November 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made:

In page 25, line 24, leave out paragraph 2, and insert:

"2. Where an application is made by a voter for the issue of a proxy paper, it shall be the duty of the registration officer, on being satisfied that the voter is entitled to appoint a proxy, to issue a proxy paper to the person appointed as proxy, unless the registration officer is satisfied that that person is not willing to be appointed or cannot lawfully be appointed by virtue of the following provisions of this Schedule."

In page 26, line 1, leave out "this Part of."

In line 4, at the end, insert:

"Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to a proxy paper issued on an application made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 1 of the First Schedule to this Act."

In line 6, leave out from "force," to the end of the paragraph, and insert:

  • "(a) in the case of a paper issued on an application made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 1 of the First Schedule to this Act, until the conclusion or abandonment of the election at which the voter is entitled to vote by proxy;
  • (b) in the case of a paper issued on an application made by virtue of sub-paragraph (b) of the said paragraph 1, until the expiration of the period as respects which the application is made; and
  • (c) in the case of a paper issued on the application of a service voter, so long as that voter remains entitled to appoint a proxy by virtue of the same service declaration."
  • In line 12, leave out from "that," to the end of the paragraph, and insert:

    "this paragraph shall not apply to an application for the issue of a proxy paper made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 1 of the First Schedule to this Act."—[Mr. Peake.]

    I beg to move, in page 26, line 46, to leave out "two voters," and to insert "one voter."

    The object of this Amendment is to limit the number of persons for whom a man or woman can act as proxy, not being members of the same family. An hour or so ago the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Wilmot) said that none of us felt altogether happy about proxy voting, though it was the best we could manage and we had to put up with it. His words were greeted with a general cheer. We want, I think, to narrow the scope for abuses and that is what my Amendment is designed to do. It would be the worst thing that could happen if this Bill were to breed a race of people who went round cadging for proxies. Under the Bill any person, by taking a certain amount of trouble, can treble the value of his vote. If he makes the necessary inquiries and writes a sufficient number of letters to his friends or acquaintances, he can pick up two proxies outside those of members of his own family. I entirely agree that a man or woman should be enabled to act as a proxy for their own families, but there is no real necessity to allow as many as two outside proxies. If my Amendment were inserted no one could act as proxy for more than one person, that is to say, could do more than double the value of his own vote. We want as far as possible to minimise the risk of any abuse of this system of proxy voting.

    We are all agreed with the motive that actuates my hon. Friend in moving this Amendment, but in a question of this sort we have to consider where does the line of reasonableness fall and whether we come, on what is really a question of degree, to a point where we require alteration of the existing procedure. As my hon. Friend probably remembers, the paragraph of this Schedule, in allowing a proxy to act for two voters, merely re-enacts the law which is contained in Clause 7 of the Third Schedule to the principal Act. I was relieved, and I am sure the Committee were, to find that my hon. Friend was not resting his argument on any ill results of the existing law.

    I should like to put this point to him. It is quite obvious that some degree of limitation is necessary. On the other hand, some latitude is also necessary so that the voter who is appointing a proxy may have less chance of finding that the appointment is nugatory because the person whom he selects has already been chosen by somebody else. I do not think it can be suggested that if a proxy can be appointed by two persons and no more, apart from the designated relatives, there is any serious chance of abuse. We have drawn the line very low and I shall ask my hon. Friend to remember that we on our side have given attention to this point and not to press this Amendment.

    Amendment negatived.

    I beg to move, in page 26, line 47, after "parent," to insert "grand-parent."

    Many Services voters have their parents already in the Services. The call-up has created that position, and the grandparent, in some cases, is keeping the home. Many grandparents have more than two grandchildren, and if this Amendment is not passed, the Committee will be doing an injustice in some of these cases. If you are to have this proxy vote, to which I personally do not attach so much importance as other hon. Members, then we must make it workable and where the household is being held together by grandparents that is a reason why the grandparents should be able to act as proxies for their grandchildren. I have been so unlucky hitherto in my appeals to my right hon. Friend that I hope he will agree to this small proposal.

    My hon. Friend has worked hard all day, and here he finds his reward. We can think of no objection either in principle or in detail to this Amendment, and therefore we are willing to accept it.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 27, line 12, after "parent," insert "grandparent."—[ Mr. Turton.]

    I beg to move, in page 27, line 23, after the first "person," to insert "other than a Service voter."

    This is a drafting Amendment, because the Schedule as drafted appears to conflict with Clause 9 (2). Under that Sub-section, a Service voter, whether appointed a proxy or not, may vote in an election, but if we then turn to the Schedule we find that any person who has been chosen as a proxy and who votes himself is liable to heavy penalties. I think the insertion of these words is therefore necessary.

    I do not think that the words suggested by my hon. Friend are necessary or that they have any meaning, because the absent voters' list will contain only the names of civilian residence voters and business premises voters. My hon. Friend will see that by referring to Clause 7. It will not contain the name of any Service voter, which means a person who has made a Service declaration. My hon. Friend will see that on reference to Clause 9 (1).

    I hope my hon. and learned Friend will consider putting in the words "civilian," or "business voters' lists," if he means that. The absent voters' list hitherto has always included both civilian and Service voters, and it is because that word "civilian" was not put in, that I thought he was referring to what we are more accustomed to, namely, the absent voters' list.

    I think my hon. Friend can accept the statement that the absent voters' list will not contain any names of persons who are on the Service register.

    Amendment negatived.

    Schedule, as amended, agreed to.