Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928
|Long title||An Act to assimilate the franchises for men and women in respect of parliamentary and local government elections; and for purposes consequential thereon.|
|Citation||18 & 19 Geo. 5 c. 12|
|Territorial extent||United Kingdom|
|Royal assent||2 July 1928|
|Repealed by||Representation of the People Act 1948|
The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This act expanded on the Representation of the People Act 1918 which had given some women the vote in Parliamentary elections for the first time after World War I. The 1928 Act widened suffrage by giving women electoral equality with men. It gave the vote to all women over 21 years old, regardless of property ownership. Prior to this act only women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications could vote. Similar provision was made for the Parliament of Northern Ireland by the Representation of the People Act (Northern Ireland) 1928 (18 & 19 Geo V, Ch 24 (NI)).
This statute is sometimes known informally as the Fifth Reform Act or the Equal Suffrage Act.
Passing of the act
The act was passed by the Conservative Party without much opposition from other parties. This was unsurprising given that the Liberal Party had been behind most reform in the nineteenth century.
The bill became law on 2 July 1928, having been introduced in March. The leader of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies who had campaigned for the vote, Millicent Fawcett, was still alive and attended the parliament session to see the vote take place. She wrote in her diary the same night "It is almost exactly 61 years ago since I heard John Stuart Mill introduce his suffrage amendment to the Reform Bill on 20 May 1867. So I have had extraordinary good luck in having seen the struggle from the beginning."
On 5 August 1928 Millicent Fawcett obtained a letter from the prime minister Stanley Baldwin. He points out, that even though there were obstacles in passing the bill, he always believed it will be ratified in "in the simple and complete form it ultimately assumed". He finishes the letter by expressing a hope that equal vote would be beneficial for the country and it would serve for the greater good in England.
- Hansard, House of Commons, fifth edition, vol 219, col 1035
-  Baldwin, Stanley. Letter to Fawcett, Millicent. 5 Aug. 1928. MS