HC Deb 05 August 1924 vol 176 cc2759-64

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the prevention of vexatious candidatures for local government authorities. I would not now have intruded on the time of the House but for representations made to me by a local authority in my constituency. My Bill is one to deal with vexatious candidatures for local government authorities. It is a very simple Bill, and its object is to extend to county council, borough council, and other local authority elections the same provision as exists at the present time with regard to Parliamentary elections. It provides that for a county council election a candidate shall deposit a sum of £20, and for an election for a local authority a sum of £10, but only in a district where the population exceeds 20,000 people. If the candidate withdraw s in pursuance of the Ballot Act of 1872, or if before the poll commences he dies and thus has a walk over for another place, his deposit is returned to him—[Laughter.]—I have not finished yet—or to his legal personal representative. If, on the other hand, he goes through the election, and he fails to poll more than one-eighth of the total number of votes, then he forfeits his deposit, as is the case in Parliamentary elections.

I would like to give one or two illustrations of how hardly the present system bears upon people at the present time. For instance, an undertaker in the borough of Holborn had been away for a period of five years and returned on the eve of a by-election for the board of guardians for which he got nominated. He went to the Town Clerk and got a free nomination paper, and that was all he did in the election. A friend said to him, "Why are you standing? You have not an earthly chance." "I know that perfectly well," he replied, "but I have been away for five years, and have come back again. My name now will appear on the church door, with my occupation, and will go round among the electors, and I shall get a very expensive advertisement free of cost." That was all very well, and it showed a very keen business capacity on the part of the undertaker, but it involved a cost of about £20 on his opponent and a cast of £30 on the unhappy ratepayers. In another case, in St. George's, there were six candidates for six vacancies, and at the last minute one man came along and forced a contest. He polled only 64 votes as against over 1,000 for each of the other six candidates. Ten days ago, in Shoreham, in a rural election, the man at the top polled 31 times as many votes as the man at the bottom of the poll.

I think those illustrations are sufficient to prove that a hardship falls not only on the candidate but upon the ratepayers, because, unlike Parliamentary elections, the cost of Borough and County Council elections falls not only upon the candidates but also upon the ratepayers. There is no limit to the expenses of Metropolitan Borough Council candidates, but in the case of the London County Council the average expense of a candidate amounts, roughly, to £200, and the expense to the ratepayers to a little over £310, and in the ease of Borough Council elections in London the average cost to the ratepayers is £50. I think I have given sufficient figures to show that this is a burden which ought not to he imposed upon the ratepayers by irresponsible and over-optimistic candidates who can go all over the country and force an election upon anybody without spending 1d. themselves and give their opponents a lot of trouble and expense. The Bill proposes to limit its activities to districts where the electoral area amounts to 20,000 and over, so that there is nothing in it to prevent the small man in a small place from standing as he does at the present time. It is an entirely non-party Measure. It is not aimed at any party, because the same thing might happen to any of us to-morrow. Therefore, I hope that the House in its kindness will give the Bill a First Reading.




Does the right hon. Member rise to oppose the Bill?


I do. I have listened very attentively to all that the hon. Member had to say in placing the Bill before the House, but on this side of the House we have had considerable trouble in the past in finding candidates to contest local elections, and from our point of view—and I think I speak for the majority on our side of the House—the Bill, if it were passed, would accentuate the difficulty with which we are already confronted. If the plea advanced be good so far as the large areas are concerned, the same principle could be well applied to the smaller areas. Many of us on this side of the House have contested local elections, and we have had considerable difficulty in finding even among a number of 100 £20. I feel that we ought to do nothing to discourage the best men and women we can get to come forward to serve on local authorities. We want the best. We want those who are imbued with the best possible civic spirit, and it frequently happens that in many areas we have had the poorest of our members to serve on boards of guardians and local governing authorities. From that point of view alone I would appeal to the Members of this House to refuse to give this Bill a First Reading, because I am convinced that, if they do so, they will be taking a step prejudicial to the best interests of the country from the standpoint of local government.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the prevention of vexatious candidatures for local government authorities.

The House divided: Ayes, 130; Noes, 160.

Division No. 192.] AYES. [4.16 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Butler, Sir Geoffrey Gates, Percy
Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.) Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham
Alstead, R. Chapman, Sir S. Gilbert, James Daniel
Atholl, Duchess of Clayton, G. C. Gorman, William
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cobb, Sir Cyril Greene, W. P. Crawford
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Cope, Major William Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Barclay, R. Noton Curzon, Captain Viscount Gretton, Colonel John
Barnett, Major Richard W. Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Dean, Arthur Wellesley Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Dodds, S. R. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Becker, Harry Dunn, J. Freeman Harland, A.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Eden, Captain Anthony Harris, John (Hackney, North)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Eyres-Monsell, Corn. Rt. Hon, B. M. Harris, Percy A.
Berkeley, Captain Reginald Falconer, J. Harvey,C. M. B.(Aberd'n & Kincardne)
Blades, Sir George Rowland Falie, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)
Bourne, Robert Croft Ferguson, H. Henn, Sir Sydney H.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Finney, V. H. Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Briscoe, Captain Richard George Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H. Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Franklin, L. B. Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)
Bullock, Captain M. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy
Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.) Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Huntingfield, Lord Moles, Thomas Somerville, Danlel (Barrow-in-Furness)
Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Murrell, Frank Starmer, Sir Charles
Kay, Sir R. Newbald Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Stewart, Maj. R. S.(Stockton-on-Tees)
Keens, T. Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Kindersley, Major G. M. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Sutcliffe, T.
King, Captain Henry Douglas Perking, Colonel E. K. Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Lamb, J. Q. Pilkington, R. R. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Laverack, F. J. Raffety, F. W. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Linfield, F. C. Raine, W. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Lord, Walter Greaves- Rankin, James S. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Lumley, L. R. Rathbone, Hugh H. Vivian, H.
Lyle, Sir Leonard Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel Wells, S. R.
Lynn, Sir R. J. Reid, D. D. (County Down) Winfrey, Sir Richard
M'Connell, Thomas E. Remer, J. R. Wise, Sir Fredric
Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Rentoul, G. S. Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
McLean, Major A. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Wragg, Herbert
Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey) Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Robertson, T. A. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Roundell, Colonel R. F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Meller, R. J. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Sir Kingsley Wood and Mr. Cooper Rawson.
Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)
Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Healy, Cahir Pringle, W. M R.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hillary, A. E. Raynes, W. R.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield. Hillsbro') Hirst, G. H. Rea, W. Russell
Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.) Hobhouse, A. L. Richards, R.
Ammon, Charles George Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Aske, Sir Robert William Hoffman, P. C. Robertson, J, (Lanark, Bothwell)
Attlee, Major Clement R. Hodge, James Myles Rose, Frank H.
Baker, Walter Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie Royle, C.
Barnes, A. Hudson, J. H. Scrymgeour, E.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Isaacs, G. A. Scurr, John
Bondfield, Margaret Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Sexton, James
Bonwick, A. Jewson, Dorothea Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Sherwood, George Henry
Broad, F. A. Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bromfield, William Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Simpson, J. Hope
Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.) Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Buchanan, G. Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Snell, Harry
Cape, Thomas Kenyon, Barnet Spence, R.
Charleton, H. C. Lansbury, George Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)
Church, Major A. G. Law, A. Spero, Dr. G. E.
Clarke, A. Lawrence, Susan (East Ham. North) Stamford, T. W.
Close, W. S. Lawson, John James Stephen, Campbell
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Leach, W. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Comyns-Carr, A. S. Lee, F. Stranger,Innes Harold
Cove, W. G. Lessing, E. Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lunn, William Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Dickson, T. Macfadyen, E. Thurtle, E.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Mackinder, W. Wallhead, Richard C.
Duncan, C. Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Walsh, Rt. Hon. Steven
Dunnico, H. Manse), Sir Courtenay Warne, G. H.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) March, S. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Foot, Isaac Marley, James Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Masterman, At. Hon. C. F. G. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North) Maxton, James Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.
Gibbins, Joseph Middleton, G. Welsh, J. C.
Gillett, George M. Mills, J. E. Westwood, J.
Gosling, Harry Montague, Frederick White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)
Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome) Morel, E. D. Whiteley, W.
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Morris, R. H. Wignall, James
Greenall, T. Mosley, Oswald Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Muir, John W. Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kenningtn.)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Groves, T. Nichol, Robert Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Nixon, H. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Oliver, George Harold Windsor, Walter
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Owen, Major G. Wintringham, Margaret
Harbison, Thomas James S. Paling, W. Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.
Hartshorn, Rt. Han. Vernon Palmer, E. T. Wright, W.
Hastings, Sir Patrick Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)
Hastings, Somerville (Reading) Perry, S. F.
Haycock, A. W. Phillipps, Vivian TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hayes, John Henry Potts, John S. Mr. Charles Dukes and Mr. Viant.

Bill read a Second time.