asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cards were sent out to men and women in the three Services notifying them that they were not entitled to vote by direct postal ballot in the recent election because their original applications to be placed on the Service Register had not been received; if he is aware that in a substantial number of such cases there is evidence that the Servicemen concerned had completed the necessary application forms many months previously; and what steps he is taking, in co-operation with the Service Departments, to trace those responsible for this disfranchisement of Servicemen.
I regret that it is not possible to supply the information in the form desired without specially circularising all electoral registration officers who are very busily engaged in preparing the October Register, but I have taken steps to obtain figures indicating how far Service postal voting was effective and these will be laid before the House as soon as available. I am aware that some postal voting qualifications were not effective, but where Service declarations made by applicants had been received before 15th March, which was the last date for receipt, this was in some cases due to the fact that the address to which an applicant declared was not stated on the postal voting application, or was stated incorrectly, with the result that the application could not be linked to the applicant's entry in a Service Register.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in very many cases the application form was filled up perfectly correctly, but seems to have gone astray none the less, and that this was a widespread scandal? Although retrospective action cannot put it right now, will he make inquiries to find out if there was any wilful obstruction, and, if so, take some action?
I am, as I stated in the answer, making the fullest possible inquiries and I hope to be able to make a statement to the House when those inquiries have been completed.