HC Deb 15 November 1917 vol 99 cc624-7

A person shall be qualified to be elected a member of any local government authority who is the owner of a freehold or leasehold property within the area of that authority.—[Mr. Gilbert.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move "That the Clause be read a second time."

The object of this proposal is in order to preserve a qualification which a good many people have now and which renders them eligible to serve on local government authorities in London. By the Bill as it stands now that qualification will be done away with. For election to the county council it is necessary that a person shall be on the register of voters, and for a borough council it is necessary that the person shall be on the register of voters, or be resident in the particular borough council area. Under the existing law a person who held a freehold or leasehold of the value of £10 was qualified to go upon the local government register. We have a number of people in London on both sides of politics who perhaps are members of limited companies, but who are not qualified for the local government franchise. A good many of those people are interested in various phases of local government, and are anxious to take part in the various local government areas. In many cases they live outside. This particular franchise is allowed at present, and I hope we may have the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and that they will allow the same conditions as exist now to exist under the new Bill in order that many people whom it is desirable should take an interest in local government may be qualified as now if they so desire.


I beg to second. I think the right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider this proposal. The difficulty arises under the Local Government Act of 1888, where a qualification was given to ownership of land. By owning land you obtained the right to be an elector. That right has been taken away both from Parliamentary and local government elections, and therefore there follows disqualification for membership of the local body. I am sure that no one wishes to curtail the number of men who can serve on local authorities. I know from my own experience that it would have that effect if something like this proposal were not carried. I remember very well when I was a member of the London County Council I changed my abode from one part of London to the other, and I thereby lost my electoral rights for a time. The only way by which I could qualify to be a candidate at the next election was by purchasing a small property in London, which I hold, and by virtue of which ownership I was enabled to continue my membership of the London County Council. If it had not been for that I should have been unable to stand for election. I know that similar cases. have occurred. I can see no objection to allowing ownership of land to create a qualification for membership of the local authority.


At the present time owners are entitled to be registered and also entitled to be elected members of the local bodies. While the Speaker's Conference was of opinion that the ownership vote should no longer be continued, the Conference had not, I am sure, any idea in its mind to disqualify an owner from being in a position to stand as a candidate for one of those local bodies. The indirect effect of the action of the Speaker's Conference translated into this Bill is that an owner, if he is a nonresident, will no longer be qualified to sit on any of these important local bodies. My right hon. Friend who has just spoken pointed out that it is desirable rather to enlarge than to diminish the area from which we draw our choice of members of public bodies. The right hon. Gentleman himself was very nearly excluded from membership of that body of which he afterwards became so distinguished a member, and from which he draws so much of that learning which is so helpful to this Bill. I have known on more than one occasion admirably qualified persons who had no proper qualification by which they could enter an arena in which they were ultimately to become distinguished. I think the Whole House will be of opinion that this is an Amendment which we ought to accept thereby restoring to owners the old rights of allowing them to be candidates at the election.

Question put, and agreed to.

Proposed Clause added to the Bill.


The next proposed new Clause (Interval between Nomination and Poll), in the name of the hon. Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Harmood-Banner), should come as an Amendment to Clause 18. The proposed New Clause (Provision for Polling Stations in Large and Sparsely Inhabited Constituencies), in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire West (Mr. J. M. Henderson), should come as an Amendment to Clause 32. The proposed New Clause (Saving the Existing Livery Franchise in the City of London), in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson), is a subject which I have already disposed of. The proposed New Clause (Votes for all Men or Women who have Served Abroad during the War), in the name of the hon. Member for Ludlow (Major Hunt), should come as an Amendment to Clauses 1 and 4.