Franchise Bill Today


5,240,000 MORE VOTERS


(From Our Parliamentary Correspondent)

In some ways the outstanding event of the week in Parliament will be the formal presentation of the Franchise Bill by Sir William Joynson Hicks, the Home Secretary, this afternoon. No discussion is possible at this stage, but the Bill cannot be printed and circulated until it has been formally read a first time.

The official title of the measure is a Bill to amend the franchises for men and women in respect of Parliamentary and local government elections; and for purposes consequential thereon.

Its object is to ensure that in future men and women shall vote on equal terms. At one time it was thought that the Bill might be made highly controversial by the inclusion of a provision for the disqualification of electors who have been in receipt of poor relief. Wiser counsels have prevailed, however, and it is not expected that the Bill will give rise to much controversy. A section f the Conservative members may endeavour to secure an amendment to confer the franchise on women at 25 instead of at 21, but there is no prospect whatever of such an alteration being agreed to.

26,750,000 VOTERS

It is estimated that as a result of the new Bill the electorate at the next General Election will consist of 12,250,000 men and 14,500,000 women - a total of 26,750,000. Before the Reform Act of 1832 the electorate numbered 435,391, and that measure added 217,386 voters to the register. The Act of 1867 added 938,427 names to the existing electorate of 1,056,659. In 1884 the Registration of the People Act added a further 1,762,087 names, and in 1918, when women of 30 were first given the vote 13,000,000 new voters were added. Under the new Bill 5,240,000 women will be enfranchised. According to official estimates 1,590,000 will be under 25 years of age: 1,700,000 will be over 25 and under 30, and 1,950,000 will be women over 30 who are not now on the register. About 415,000 of the new electors will be women between the ages of 21 and 22 - an average of about 700 in each constituency.

The business for consideration to-day in the House of Commons is the Air Estimates. After Sir Samuel Hoare has explained their salient features there will be a discussion on a Labour resolution to be moved by Mr Barnes regretting that the Government did not advocate bolder proposals for aerial disarmament at the meeting of the Preparatory Commission at Geneva. At question time Sir Robert Lynn and Mr Otho Nicholson will suggest to the Prime Minister that the report of the Hardman Lever Committee on the Inland Telegraph Service should be submitted to the Imperial Wireless and Cables Conference, but there are other members who feel that the first duty of the Government is to make the report public. It has been in the possession of the Postmaster-General for some weeks, and there has been in some quarters an impression that it is not to be published. The report, however, is now in the hands of the printers and will be issued before Easter. It is understood that the report will provide little comfort for those who hope for cheaper inland telegrams. In fact, the Committee is averse to any reduction in the cost, and is doubtful whether the service can ever be made self-supporting even with the present high charges.

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