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Women and servicemen excluded in electoral reform
Detail of a poster issued by the WSPU in 1910 accusing Asquith of duplicity when dealing with the issue of women's suffrage Photo: London School of Economics

Women and servicemen excluded in electoral reform

London, 16 August 1916 - There is to be no change in the law which debars women from voting in United Kingdom elections.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday at the introduction of the Bill to Amend the Parliament and Registration Act, 1916, the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith stated that there were no plans to extend the franchise to women.

The electoral register in the United Kingdom currently excludes all women and places certain restrictions (relating to property and age) on men who can vote.

Wartime mobilisation has rendered such restrictions disastrous to the completion of anything approaching a proper franchise.

Catriona Crowe discusses the battle for women's suffrage in Ireland

According to the political correspondent of the Morning Post, however, the language of Mr Asquith’s statement belies his own change of heart on the subject, and it is reckoned that he may be counted as a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

Soldiers, sailors and war workers
In his contribution to the debate,  senior Ulster unionist Sir Edward Carson stated that all men who had given war service should be included on the register of voters – if a man was good enough to fight, said Carson, he should be good enough to vote.

Asquith described this proposal as ‘simple, drastic and heroic’ but stated that this would prove practically impossible and that it would be most detrimental to the war effort that this complicated question should be reopened at the present time.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.