HC Deb 07 March 1923 vol 161 cc500-7

I beg to move, That leave he given to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to Parliamentary Elections. This Bill provides for single member constituencies only, and it thus preserves that personal contact between the constituency and its member which has been advocated so eloquently by opponents of proportional representation. It provides that each voter shall place the numbers 1, 2 and 3, and so on, opposite the names of the candidates in the order of his choice, and in that way it makes each vote effective. Thus if a voter votes for a candidate who cannot win, his vote is not thereby lost, as there is a transfer of the vote to the next candidate of his choice, and he thereby participates in the final election. The Bill also insures that an absolute majority candidate shall be returned in every election. If a candidate cannot win the support of more than half of those who vote he cannot be returned. A similar Bill has been introduced by Lord Beauchamp in another place, and this Bill is on exactly similar lines, with one exception only, and it is this: that whereas Lord Beauchamp's Bill strikes out the bottom candidate, where one of the candidates has not received an absolute majority, and redistributes that candidates votes amongst the remaining candidates, this Bill deals with the candidates by a mathematical formula by which the preferences of each are distributed amongst all alike. Of that mathematical formula Sir Joseph Larmor, who was a Member in 1917–18, and one of the most distinguished mathematicians that ever sat in this House, said: The Schedule of this Amendment "(that was this formula)—" improved in details, has my staunch support."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1917; col. 1679, Vol. 99.] The formula is one that any schoolboy can use. The value of it is that it assures the success of the absolute majority candidate, which we all desire and which might have been desired in the recent election at Mitcham. The formula is as follows: If three candidates stand for one seat the returning officer is instructed to multiply the first preference votes by two and the second preference votes by one. [Laughter.] I am glad that hon. Mem- bers appreciate the simplicity of it. The returning officer adds these two totals together. Ho then finds the average of the totals for each candidate and rejects every candidate who has not received a greater number than this average. The rejected candidate's votes are distributed amongst the remaining candidates. This is becoming more and more necessary as the parties increase in number and as women candidates are added to the list. I must say a word about the aims of the Bill. The first aim is to give the constituents the widest choice of candidates. It eliminates the caucus and the party and leaves the choice to the constituency. It assures majority rule, but it does no injustice to the minority. It preserves personal contact and responsibility between an individual member and an individual constituency. Each constituency is small and of manageable dimensions both for candidates and members. It cures the present evil, which is minority rule. It promotes confidence in Parliament, because a majority and a majority only secures the representative and sends that representative to Parliament. It fulfils the purpose of democracy of which minority rule is the very negation. It tends to over-emphasise majority representation and to give a working majority. It tends, on the other hand, to under-emphasise, the minority. The minority is allowed to express its views. which is the function of a minority. It is not the function of a minority to rule or to effectively obstruct rule. The majority ought to be strong enough to overpower the minority. The Bill aims at guaranteeing that in every constituency the majority shall rule. and that in Parliament the majority shall rule also.


I hope that the House will not give any welcome to this proposal, which, with all respect to the. hon. Member, cart clearly be characterised as an absurdity. It combines all the disadvantages of the present system and all the disadvantages of proportional representation, without any of the advantages of either. The hon. Member proposes to subvert what has been one of the most important characteristics of our Constitution for over 600 years. We are slow in making these changes, and it is absurd to make them unless some good ground, something beyond mere mathematical formulæ, is adduced in their support. At present our system is that the political faith which commands the greatest adherence in a constituency secures its representative. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is so. No keen Conservative or Labour man or Liberal wants to have an order of preference. He votes for his own man, and he does not care in the least what happens to either of the other parties. If he is keen on Conservatism and on the great causes of stability and economy, he votes for the Conservative candidate. He does not want to give a second or third vote to other parties. If a man believes in that wonderful combination of Mitcham methods with Poplar finance, which has made the Labour party what it is, he votes for Labour. If, on the other hand, he is one of those old-fashioned folks who want to vote Liberal, because the Grand Old Man said this or did not say that in 1880, he will vote Liberal, and he does not care what happens to the Conservative or to the Labour man.

What the hon. Member is inviting us to do is to abolish this preponderance of belief in political faiths and to substitute the organising of victory by compacts and bargains No one who really believes in his own political creed can tolerate the idea of these bargains. I cannot help thinking that, no doubt quite uncon

sciously, the hon. Member had in view at the back of his mind, some compact between his party and the Labour party, or, perhaps the prospect of a compact between the Conservative party anti the more enlightened elements of the Liberal party. There is also the possibility of a bargain between the Liberals with long memories and the Liberals with short memories. All these things are in view. If you believe in a definite political creed and want to make that political creed win, you will have no truck with all this log-rolling and wire-putting. I use the expressions "log-rolling" and "wire-pulling" because they are American and they came into being as the natural corollary of the alternative vote and other methods of gerrymandering the constituencies which have been adopted in America. Here in this House, with six centuries of tradition looking down upon us, I ask hon. Members to vote for the system which is simple, which everyone understands, and which has given the House of Commons as we see it this afternoon, and not to fly to evils which we know not of.

Question put, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Law relating to Parliamentary Elections."

The House divided: Ayes, 178; Noes, 208.

Marks, Sir George Croydon Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Marshall, Sir Arthur H. Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland) Waring, Major Walter
Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.) Royce, William Stapleton Warne, G. H,
Millar, J. D. Saklatvala, S. Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Scrymgeour, E. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Moreing, Captain Aigernon H. Sexton, James Webb, Sidney
Morel, E D. Shakespeare, G. H. Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock) Weir, L. M.
Mosley, Oswald Shinwell, Emanuel Westwood, J.
Muir, John W. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John White, H. G. (Birkenhead. E.)
Murnin, H. Sinclair, Sir A. Whiteley, W.
Murray, R. (Henfrew, Westurn) Smith, T. (Pontefract) Wignall, James
Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Snell, Harry Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
O'Connor, Thomas P. Snowden, Philip Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Oliver, George Harold Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Leslie O. (P'tsm'th, S)
Paling, W. Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Parker, H. (Hanley) Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K. Wintringham, Margaret
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Stephen, Campbell Wolmer, Viscount
Phillipps, Vivian Strauss, Edward Anthony Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Ponsonby, Arthur Sullivan, J. Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Potts, John S. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby) Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)
Pringle, W. M. R. Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Riley, Ben Thornton, M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Ritson, J. Tout, W. J. Dr. Chapple and Mr. Hope Simpson.
Roberts, C. H. (Derby) Trevelyan, C. P.
Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich) Turner, Ben
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
Apsley, Lord Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Dixon, C. H. (Rutland) Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)
Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover) Doyle, N. Grattan Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Astor, Viscountess Du Pre, Colonel William Baring Jephcott, A. R.
Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence Edmondson, Major A. J. Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Ednam, Viscount Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Ellis, R. G. Joynson-Hicks, Sir William
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Erskine-Boist, Captain C. Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel
Barnett, Major Richard W. Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M. King, Captain Henry Douglas
Barnston, Major Harry Falle. Major Sir Bertram Godfray Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Bell, Lieut. Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Fawkes, Major F. H. Lamb, J. Q.
Bennett, Sir T, J. (sevenoaks) Formor-Hesketh, Major T. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.
Berry, Sir George Franagan, W. H. Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)
Blundell, F. N. Ford, Patrick Johnston Leigh, Sir John (Clapliam)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Fraser, Major Sir Keith Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Frece, Sir Walter de Lloyd-Greame, Ht- Hon. Sir P.
Brass, Captain W. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Furness, G. J. Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)
Brittain, Sir Harry Ganzont, Sir John Lorden, John William
Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham) Garland, C. S. Lougher, L.
Brown, Brig,-Gen. Clifton (Newbury) Gates, Percy Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)
Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.) Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R. Lumley, L. R.
Bruford, R. Gibbs. Colonel George Abraham McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)
Buchanan, G. Con, Sir R. Park Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)
Buckingham, Sir H. Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Margesson, H. D. R.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Gray, Harold (Cambridge) Milne, J. S. Wardlaw
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Greaves-Lord, Walter. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N) Molloy, Major L. G. S.
Butcher, Sir John George Groves, T. Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)
Butt, Sir Alfred Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E. Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Cadogan, Major Edward Gwynne, Rupert S. Murchison, C. K.
Cairns, John Hacking, Captain Douglas H, Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Camplon, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Hal,, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) I Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J.(Westminster)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (LIv'p'l. W.D'by) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Halstead, Major D. Nield, Sir Herbert
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham) Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John
Chapman, Sir S. Harmsworth, Hon. E, C. (Kent) Ormshy-Gore, Hon. William
Clayton, G. C. Harrison, F. C. Pease, William Edwin
Coates, Lt-Col Norman Harvey, Major S. E. Pennefather. De Fonblanque
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Honnessy, Major J. R. G. Peto, Basil E.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Herbert, S. (Scarborough) Phllipson, H. H.
Cope, Major William Hilder. Lieut.-Colonel Frank Pilditch, Sir Philip
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Asshuton
Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hood, Sir Joseph Privett, F. J.
Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page Hopkins, John W. W. Raeburn, Sir William H.
Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Ralne, W.
Crooke. J. S. (Deritend) Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.) Rankin, Captain James Stuart
Curzon, Captain Viscount Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Hudson, Capt. A. Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)
Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstoad) Hughes, Collingwood Remnant, Sir James
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Hume, G. H. I Reynolds, W. G. W.