Representation of the People Act 1918

Representation Of The People Act 1918

UK Legislation
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Representation of the People Act 1918

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The Representation of the People Act 1918 was an Act of Parliament passed to reform the electoral system in the United Kingdom. It is sometimes known as the Fourth Reform Act. This act was the first to practically include the majority of men in the political system and began the inclusion of women.


Following the horrors of World War I, millions of returning soldiers would, but for the passing of the Representation of the People Act in February 1918, still not have been entitled to vote. This posed a dilemma for politicians since they could not withhold the vote from the very men who were considered to have fought to preserve the British political system. By 1884 and the passing of the Third Reform Act, although 60% of male householders over the age of 21 had the vote, still only a minority (10%) of men could actually vote due to property legislation. The issue of a female right to vote first gathered momentum during the early years of the 20th Century based on the work of liberal thinkers such as John Stuart Mill. The Suffragettes and Suffragists had pushed for their own right to be represented prior to World War I but very little was achieved before the war.

The issue was raised by Suffragist Millicent Fawcett at the Speaker's Conference in 1916. She called for the age for voting to be lowered to 18 overthrowing the male majority. She also suggested that, if this would not be possible, then 30-35 year old women should be enfranchised.

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