asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the forthcoming municipal elections, he will circularise returning officers drawing their attention to the regulations made under the Representation of the People Act; and if he will stress the impropriety of unauthorised persons being present in premises where polling or counting of votes is proceeding.
No, Sir. Returning officers are well aware of the local elections rules scheduled to the 1949 Act under which unauthorised persons must be excluded from the polling station and from the counting of votes.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in view of the recent local election in which abuses certainly took place, it would be very desirable to issue a circular reminding returning officers of such abuses as, for example, the local provost standing in the hall although not himself a candidate and welcoming the electors, with a count taking place under the same roof as the committee rooms of one of the political parties? Surely, something should be done to remind returning officers of the proper practice.
There is a technical point which I should explain. The conduct of elections is entirely in the hands of the returning officers, as provided by the terms of the Representation of the People Act, 1949. It would be both unnecessary and improper for me to issue reminders to them about certain aspects of their duty, but doubtless the hon. Member's Question will come to their attention.