HC Deb 07 May 1928 vol 217 cc75-100

I beg to move, in page 4, line 33, at the end, to insert the words: and as if for the word fivepenee 'there were substituted the words four and a half pence.'


On a point of Order. May I ask whether this Amendment is not out of order, under the Ruling that was given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker on the 17th April, on the Report Stage of the Petroleum (Amendment) Bill? Mr. Deputy-Speaker then ruled that under Standing Order No. 41 no Amendment in this shape could be moved on Report where the matter had been dealt with in Committee only under an Instruction, and that it could not be dealt with in Committee unless there had been such an Instruction. On reference to the Ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, It will be found that he said that the Committee having exercised its right under the Instruction in Committee, that right was exhausted, and the matter could not be raised again on Report. I should like to know whether this Amendment is not on all-fours with the Amendment to the Petroleum (Amendment) Bill which was ruled out of Order?


The right hon. Gentleman has raised a point which has given me cause for some little consideration. The Ruling which was given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker on the occasion to which the right hon. Member refers was really my Ruling, and, therefore, the responsibility is mine, and not his. I do not think the cases are quite parallel. In this case, when Clause 5 was in Committee of the whole House, it was debated on the authority of an Instruction, as there was some doubt whether the proposal in question was covered by the words in the title "consequential thereon." The new Clause then proposed was amended by omitting the reference to the fivepence maximum scale for a borough. The Committee, therefore, did not have a chance to consider the middle figure of fourpe ace-halfpenny, because the whole sentence which included the "fivepence" was struck out. It seems to me, therefore, to be straining Standing Order No. 41 too far to hold that the House is barred from considering the proposal in the present Amendment.


I am glad to hear that Ruling, because, otherwise the House would have been prevented from giving its assent to an Amendment with which I think every Party in the House will readily agree. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is my opinion; I do not think there can be any disagreement on the other side of the House with respect to this point, that the bigger the constituency the more legitimate expenditure per head of the electorate diminishes. On another point, I think there will be general agreement, and that is that. while the scale fixed should be sufficient to enable candidates to incur, legitimately, an necessary expenditure for the promotion of their candidatures, the scale should not be so high as to permit of any sort of competition between rich candidates and poor candidates. There should be no financial bar to candidatures in the fighting of Parliamentary elections. When the Bill was in Committee the Home Secretary, fortunately, provided me with all that I need in order to ask for the acceptance of this Amendment. He told us that at. the last general election the average expenditure incurred by successful candidates in the London boroughs worked out at 4.23d. per head of the electorate; that in the English boroughs as a whole the average expenditure was 3.91d. per head, while in the Scottish Burghs the expenditure was even less. We were able to return our Members for this House in the Scottish Burghs on an average expenditure of 2½ per head.

Let us see how the position will work out under the enlarged electorates with which we shall be faced at the next General Election. Take an average constituency of 50,000 electors. Under the maximum scale of 5d. the expenditure permitted would be round about £1,050. With an increased electorate of 10,000 the 5d. scale of permitted expenditure would rise to £1,250. If the House accepts my Amendment there will be a permitted expenditure under the new law of £1,140 or £1,150. That means that on the 40. basis candidates in boroughs will be permitted to spend £100 more in their constituencies than they have spent up to now. Consider the items of necessary expenditure that will arise. I think I am right in saying that the single item of election expenditure that will be affected by the large electorate is that of printing.




Postage is a very small item. Printing is the main item. The printing of 5,000, 6,000 or even 10,000 additional election addresses is a very small matter. Practically it amounts to little more than the cost of the extra paper. Therefore, with the increased electorate candidates will be in the position to spend under the 4½. scale all that needs to be spent legitimately in a Parliamentary Election. Perhaps I might illustrate the case for the Amendment by citing my own position. In my constituency, if we pass this Amendment, I shall be permitted legally to incur expenditure, on the basis of 4½d. per elector, of something like £750. I hope that I shall fight my constituency at the next General Election, and if have the privilege of doing so I am perfectly certain that I shall fight it successfully on an expenditure of one-half that amount. What I can do in this connection every other Parliamentary candidate can do. Votes should not be bought in Parliamentary Elections. The present expenditure, in my opinion, is too high. The compromise which we suggest is a compromise proportionate to the reduction which has taken place already in Committee in the case of county constituencies.


I beg to second the Amendment.

The result will be very curious if the House does not take the opportunity of reducing the figure of fivepence, which at present is the authorised maximum for a registered elector in the borough. The House has already decided so far as county constituencies are concerned that, in view of the increased number of voters which this Bill will create, the maximum expenditure per voter shall be reduced by one penny. Nobody challenges that. There will be a similar increase in the number of voters in the boroughs, and we shall be simply stultifying ourselves if we do not recognise that the same argument, within reasonable limits, ought to prevail in regard to the boroughs as in regard to the counties. There is a good deal to be said, in principle, for the view that you should not fix the amount of authorised election expenses simply by multiplying the number of pennies into the number of voters. It was not, I think, ever done in this country until the Statute of 1918.

It is, of course, manifest that if you have an addition of something like 9,000 new electors in a constituency, whether it be a county constituency or a borough constituency, you do not thereby proportionately increase the expenses, for all the principal items of expenses will remain the same as before. The item for printing is a very small matter; 9,000 additional Election addresses will not cost much more, and 9,000 halfpenny stamps amounts to something like £18. If matters remain as they now are and if in every borough constituency the maximum amount that may be spent is to be got at by multiplying the increased number of electors by fivepence, we shall get something like 9,000 times fivepence—an additional expenditure of something like £185. There is, no justification that I can see for allowing such an increase as that, and it would be very absurd if at the same time that we recognise that in view of the increasing number of voters it is reasonable to reduce the county scale per voter, we were to leave the boroughs figure unaltered. No reason can be suggested why a, reduction of the maximum scale allowed per voter in the constituencies is right, and yet a reduction in the maximum allowed per voter in the boroughs is wrong.

5.0 p.m.

Historically, this difference between the amount that it is proper to spend in the counties and the amount it is proper to spent in the boroughs has existed for a very long time; I think it has always existed. In Sir Henry James' Act of 1883, which for so many years governed these matters, the authorised expenditure in the average county—I have looked at the average size and it was about 11,000 voters—was £1,250, whereas the average expenditure in a borough was £650, so that the difference was nearly 50 per cent. The reason, no doubt, why the difference should have been so great in the old days was that 20, 30 or 40 years ago many county constituencies were vast in extent. William Wilberforce was Member for the whole of Yorkshire; he and three others were the four Members for the County of Yorkshire. Down to 1832 each county Member for Yorkshire represented the whole county, and when the county was divided into three Ridings there were two Members for each of the three Ridings till, I think, about 1859. As county constituencies become more numerous and less extensive, the expenditure that is proper in a county approximates more nearly to the expenditure that is proper in a borough. But when Mr. Speaker's Committee considered this, they came to the conclusion that the fair ratio between counties and boroughs was the ration of 7d. and 5d. We came to the conclusion that, if we left 7d. in the case of the counties for each registered voter, 5d. per registered voter in the boroughs would be fair. I have never heard from that day to this anyone complain that that was an unfair proportion. The question really comes to be this: If 7d. is reduced, as it has been reduced to 6d. in the counties, why should the 5d. not be reduced too? The principles of the rule of three would seem to suggest that, instead of 5d., the Amendment should substitute, I think, 4.285714, all repeating. But that would be too precisely mathematical, and I submit that 4½d. is a perfectly fair figure. We all recognise that, when we are fixing a maximum figure, we must allow for certain cases where, for one reason or another, expenditure may have to be rather more than in other cases. If 5d. has stood as the figure in borough constituencies to the general satisfaction of those areas, then I do contend that the moment you add another 9,000 voters, with practically no material addition to the expenditure, it cannot be right any longer to take 5d. as the figure.

At an earlier stage, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was good enough to say that he would leave this matter to the discretion of the House. On that occasion, the proposal was 4d., and the change was defeated by a very small majority indeed, seven or eight. I hope that on this Report stage, which is the stage when the House of Commons dispassionately reviews the decisions of the Committee, it will be the view of the majority, and I hope of a very great majority, that this figure should be reduced from 5d. to 4½. That will, in fact, authorise more expenditure than is authorised to-day, which is quite right; but it will do something to prevent what every honest man in this House desires to see, namely, a discouragement to the unnecessary spending of money as a means of getting into the House of Commons.


I hope the House will not accept the advice of the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), but will resist this Amendment. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in stating that the House decided only the question of 4d. the other day, hardly puts the case quite justly, if I may say so. What the House decided was that it should leave the present figure for boroughs unaltered, and I hope the House will do so to-day. When the figure of 7d. was settled for counties and 5d. for boroughs, a distinction of 2d. was established between the two. In the course of the Debate on the Committee stage, the reasons why Mr. Speaker's Conference made that distinction was clearly given. But I see no reason why that distinction should perpetually he maintained between the two. The counties, as we know, are allowed additional officials and require certain additional expenditure. But improvements in the means of communication and other advantages have reduced the necessary expenditure in counties, and there has not been an equivalent reduction of the necessary expenditure in the boroughs. In many ways, the expenditure in the boroughs has increased. On the previous occasion, when this subject was debated, I gave the reasons for that, and I shall be very reluctant to go over the whole of the ground that was then fully covered.


Will you tell us how it has been reduced in the counties?


The answer is that the 7d. was to provide for a greater expenditure on transport purposes than is now necessary. The transport facilities in rural areas have since been greatly improved. My point is that, just because there was a difference of 2d., there is no reason, if you reduce the one, why, by rule of three, you should reduce the other. If the counties are satisfied to have the maximum figure reduced, there is no reason why the boroughs should be required to go in for a similar reduction. The figure of 5d. is not excessive at the present time in view of the large electorate to whom the candidates have to appeal, if the candidate is to put his case adequately before them. If the House were considering a reform of the franchise throughout the various matters affecting election law, there might be some case for making a change; but I submit that this Bill does not deal with the whole of those questions that might be introduced into a Bill that had a wider scope, and there is no case, so far as I can see, for a reduction in the present incidence.

There is a further consideration. We are looking at this question from the point of view of successful candidates. Critics might urge that, if we were to pass this reduction, the present House of Commons would be consolidating its own position possibly at the expense of a candidate who is not already a Member of this House, and who may have to attack a constituency which is strongly held, for instance the constituency of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment. He said that he hoped to be able to hold his seat at the next election at a lesser expenditure than the maximum. If the House were considering some possible advantage in favour of a candidate who has not sat before in this House, there might be something in the argument, or if, for instance, those who have become Privy Councillors were not required to defend their seats in the same way as the candidate who has not had such long experience of serving the House and the country. But, as things are, I hope the House will resist this Amendment. On this occasion we have heard less of the argument that there should be a reduction to prevent men of lesser means getting into the House. But it is not money, it is time that counts in this case. There is an English proverb, "Time is money." Therefore, the difference between 5d. and 4½d. is not the main consideration. On this ground, and on others, I submit that the case for reduction is not proved. The House affirmed by its decision last time the matter came before it that the figure for the boroughs should remain unchanged, and I trust the House on this occasion will agree.


I hope very much indeed that the Government will do as they did last time and leave this to a free vote of the House. But I must say frankly, whatever their decision in that matter, may be, my support will go to the Amendment, because I should regard it as absolutely disastrous, from the mere party point of view, that a certain party should indentify themselves with the suggestion that it in any way depends for its success more upon the expenditure of money than either of the other two parties. I at any rate would never for one moment assent to that proposition. I believe the Conservative party is perfectly capable of winning on its merits and its principles, quite apart from any question of expenditure. I should exceedingly regret if we as a party were to appear—I do not think it can be more than an appearance—to identify ourselves with the arguments in favour of larger expenditure. I have fought probably more Parliamentary elections than most Members of this House, and my experience is that the present scale is ample for all honest purposes in an election, and that there is no reason whatever to add to the expenditure. On the contrary I should have been perfectly well satisfied if the figure had not been put in at 4½d., but at 4d., as was proposed in the last Debate. Unfortunately on that occasion I was prevented by illness from being present and it is for that reason that I must inflict two or three remarks on the House this afternoon.

The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) referred to certain large expenditure which had been incurred at previous elections in the county to which he and I both electorally belong; but I remember a much stronger case than he quoted. Unless my memory fails me, in the City of York £100,000 was spent by two candidates in a single election. That was not at the last election; it goes a great deal further back than my personal memory would serve. I have never fought in any but a borough election; I have no experience of county elections, but I can see no reason whatever for the distinction which, if this Amendment be not accepted, will be drawn between county and borough expenditure. On that point, I agree wholeheartedly with what was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley. The Members of this House would absolutely stultify themselves if they refused to accept the proportionate reduction in the expenditure for the. boroughs. I think, if there be any argument at all in the matter, probably we ought to accept for the boroughs a more than proportionate reduction for reasons which at any rate, are obvious to a good many people. I have no desire to detain the House. The argument has been admirably put from the other side of the House, and I only desire as a single Member of the Conservative party to say how strongly I would appeal to the Government to allow a free vote in this matter and that I appeal to my fellow Members of the Conservative party not to allow it to go forth that they are in favour of greater expenditure at elections.


I am rather diffident in intervening in a Debate like this, when those who have spoken before me have been Members of considerable experience. On the other hand I feel that I must oppose the Amendment and give my reasons for so doing. I say definitely that those reasons have nothing to do with my own constituency, because I can manage very well with less than 25 per cent. below the maximum allowance. My reasons for opposing the Amendment are briefly these: We have heard a great deal in this House about the average expenditure, and if the average expenditure were pretty general, it might be reasonable to reduce the maximum. It is generally overlooked, however, that when we are fixing a maximum we have to fix it in relation to particular constituencies, where a position exists very different from that of the average constituency. I know of one such constituency and there are very many others. I speak particularly of boroughs. One or two I know perfectly well, and the conditions there are very different from those which have been suggested by previous speakers. One such constituency is in my mind at the moment. It is in a business part of a city and is gradually losing its residential voters and increasing its out-voters. As a matter of fact this particular constituency has fewer voters on the register to-day than it had at the last general election. Of course the new electors who will come in by the passage of this Bill will considerably increase the total electorate, but a large number of the new voters will be out-voters.

Although I have not the electioneering experience of many who are in this House, I can say that in organising the circulation of information on political questions at election time, there is a very considerable expense, and with the proposed addition to the electorate that extra expense will be large. We talk about the increase in the electorate that will be brought about by the Bill. It is an increase in a particular class of the electorate, and a class that in many cases has not had experience of elections, and has not perhaps taken political subjects to heart as seriously as it must now do, and as I am sure it will do, because I am confident that the Bill will be for the good of the country. At the same time it must be remembered that, when you are dealing with a new class of the electorate, you are dealing with political questions in a special way; therefore this moment seems most inappropriate for dealing with the maximum expenditure. The question might very well be dealt with when experience has shown us how things have gone, or if re-distribution were a subject for consideration.

Particularly important is it for us to bear in mind the exceptional cases which are involved. There are many cases like that I have mentioned. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who talk about the wisdom of reducing expenditure. Candidates should be perfectly ready to take the matter of expenditure in their own hands and to deal with their own chairmen at election times. I am satisfied that every one of us in a position, or ought to be in a position, to keep expenditure down by the most reasonable methods possible. I know I am speaking for quite a number of boroughs which feel the danger of being tied at a moment like this, having regard to their particular circumstances. I have every sympathy with proposals for the reduction of the cost of elections. I thoroughly support what my hon. Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) said as to the confidence that exists in every one of us on the Conservative side, certainly in myself, that it is wholly unnecessary to incur outrageous expenditure in order to forward the cause of Conservatism throughout the country. Conservatism speaks for itself and commends itself to the nation as a whole. There is no question about that side of the matter. I speak with sincere conviction when I say that it would be a mistake at this particular moment to accept the Amendment.


I understood the hon. Member who has just spoken to say that he was not connected with a borough.


Yes, I am.


Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. I, too, am a borough Member, and I would like to speak of my experience in my part of the country. The Amendment is justified by the experience I have gathered during many years. If my memory serves me right, the Home Secretary gave us some figures which proved that the amount allowed to be spent on an election has never actually been spent in recent years.


The average figures.


The average figures are what we generally use. I am speaking from my party point of view when I refer to the amount of money that we spend. This is not, however, a party question. We are a party representing a vast number of people in this country. Surely people are sufficiently educated politically at election times to be able to go to the ballot box and register their opinions candidly. In my constituency in the past election we were allowed to spend up to £800. In the three elections that I have fought I have never spent £300. My opponents have usually spent the maximum amount, because it is customary for people who are allowed to spend a. certain amount to fear that, if they take things as steadily and confidently as I do, and if they do not "go the whole hog," they are not doing all that they ought to do. It is said sometimes that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this connection I suggest that the proof of the pudding is sometimes in the amount left on the plate. It is hardly necessary to refer to the manner in which candidates provide, through political organisations, for the preliminary political education of the public. Hon. Members opposite would not say that they are doing what they are not entitled to do by using wireless. I understand that they are about to use wireless installations for political purposes. They would not say that they are not using to the full the opportunities for open street-corner meeting propaganda. In the East End of London the street-corner work of the Conservative party, done by the London Economic Club and under various other disguises, is propaganda that almost equals the voluntary work that we in the Labour and Socialist movement have done for 20 or 25 years.

Do hon. Members not see that they are doing something that is contributing to the political education of the citizens from their point of view? If so, that is an argument in favour of reducing the amount which it is allowable to spend at elections, as is suggested in the Amendment. In the East End of London generally it will be found that the Labour candidate goes to the poll after an expenditure of anything between £200 and £300. I do not want to weary the House with personal experiences of my own, except to show how little we ought to worry about this particular point. This Parliament and this country have boasted that on account of the general belief in democratic principles nothing would be done to establish a bar of gold that would preclude poor people from entering the doors of this House. I began one of the elections without a penny. I started an open-air meeting and collected a sovereign, which, so to speak, grew like a snowball, and I learned that when the public has a belief in its candidate it will support him. The last speaker mentioned the new class of electors that this Bill will add to the register. Our experience is that the new class of electors, the younger women, are as interested in general political matters as were their mothers and fathers. It is not right to assume that the new voter needs a greater degree of political education, or is wanting in political acumen.

The younger voters have received political training in the discussions which go on in their own homes. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends have had the same experience in this respect as I have had. My father was not a Socialist. In his days Socialism was a new thing and was in its infancy, and in my home I was taught something of the work of a former Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. Discussions took place in my home, and do hon. Members imagine that political discussions do not take place in the homes of the people to-day? Do they not think that those discussions lead to the younger people forming views about political questions. The younger generation of girls to-day are not as keenly concerned with the cinemas as the word "flapper" might induce people to believe. Through their trade union branches, through the guilds connected with the great co-operative movement, these young girls take an interest in social science and politics. The argument that it is necessary to spend a great deal of extra money in teaching the new class of voters falls to the ground. Our experience is that this expenditure is not necessary.

The hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan) referred to the case in which "a dead set" may be made against a Member of Parliament who has been particularly energetic and who may have engendered opposition as some of us have done. In my own case, I hope I have not done so by any discourtesy or venom, but owing to my attention to the affairs of the West Ham Union and my temperance principles, there appears to be a definite set against me. Therefore, it will be an advantage to my prospective opponent to have the power to use additional money in order to unseat me—and, I may add, he will not succeed without that advantage. If there is a dead-set against a Member of Parliament, extra money may be necessary in order to shift that Member of Parliament, but I doubt whether that is a sufficiently strong argument to warrant us imposing on prospective candidates a limit of expenditure which, in the great fracas to come, will be such as individual candidates can ill-afford. Speaking for myself, I am sure we could not find the additional amount, and I think the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) put the case quite truly and very humanly when he said that the present expenditure was ample for all honest purposes. We have had experiences in our locality in the past 20 years where the money that was allowed by Statute was not used for honest purposes and, in my opinion, opportunities for the utilisation of sums above those which are sufficient for running an honest election, attract political candidates towards the use of money in ways which this Parliament, in honour and in honesty, would not condone.

I ask that we should have a free expression of the opinion of Members of this House. This is not a party question. Party fortunes do not rest upon this Amendment. Many of us who represent boroughs feel that the experience of the past proves it is not for the general political education of the people that this additional money would be made available. We feel that the political education of the people can be carried on by the instruments that we have at our disposal, by great propaganda meetings and the utilisation of broadcasting. If the Election comes, as it should Dome next year in the summer-time, that is an additional argument for reduced expenditure. We shall then have our open-air meetings, and if the Conservative party honestly desire to get the opinion of the people, they will not as in past years have the Election at a time when the weather makes it impossible for aged or sick people to register their votes. Let us have the Election in the summer and in weather such as we are going through now. [An HON. MEMBER: "The spring!"] Yes, if you have it in the spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love, perhaps the young man and the young woman will be able to go together to the poll. But the hon. Member who interrupts is not treating the question seriously. It is a serious question. A good deal of the money which is spent in transport would be saved, and a good deal of the anxiety which seems to be felt about getting vehicles to "round up" voters who have moved into other districts would be avoided, if the timetable worked out as it ought to, and if we had the Election a year from to-day when the weather is fine. Then candidates should be able to do it easily on the figure of 4½d. I beg the Home Secretary to leave the question to a free Vote of the House, and I beg hon. Members opposite to carry out what they have preached for years, namely, that we should reduce the degree of financial obligation imposed on prospective Members of Parliament and open the doors of this assembly to poor people. The House will be registering a democratic opinion if we vote for the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir G. DALRYMPLEWHITE

I do not propose to go over the ground that was covered during the Committee stage. I rise largely because of the remarks of the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves). He and others seem to cling to the idea that we are deliberating here to-day solely for ourselves and for this Parliament, without any reference at all to future candidates and perhaps to far distant Parliaments. The hon. Member suggests we are likely to have the next Election in the summer and argues that we need not spend up to the maximum amount in that case. I quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan-Morgan), in asking what right have we to impose these conditions on future candidates. We ought not to think only of ourselves in this matter. As my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, there are candidates, and candidates. The sitting Member for a constituency has generally, though not always, some advantage over the new candidate. If a new candidate is up against a sitting Member, the new candidate will possibly have to spend more money in literature and in making himself known by having his photograph or other presentments of himself published upon the walls. In other respects, human nature being what it is, there are great differences as between one candidate and another. It is all very well, for instance, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) to say that expenditure ought to be reduced. He, with his matchless eloquence and his brilliant advocacy, can no doubt go down to his constituency, make two speeches and sweep the electors round with him, but there are others not so gifted. We may have to send round more literature. It may be composed in our central offices or by ourselves—at any rate, we have to spend more upon it.

It is well to remember, as has been pointed out, that in the Committee stage we decided definitely in favour of the figure of 5d. It was not merely a question of turning down 4d.; and on the Report stage, I submit, we ought not to vary that decision. Apparently, the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) is a whole-hogger in favour of reduction. He thinks that a figure even lower than 4d. would suit him, and he says that the present figure is sufficient for all honest purposes. We do not ask for more than the present maximum. We only ask that it should remain. I hope that after the next Election my hon. Friend will again be here as Member for York and that he will not have a pitiful tale to tell about the difficulties of covering out-door meetings and factory meetings and other forms of propaganda, in which the Labour party have several advantages in putting forward their views. I only hope he may not be in the position of saying that he was not able to catch up with the tales put about by the other side, and that he was not able to put his case before the electors. I ask the House to reaffirm here to-day what we affirmed in Committee and to retain the present maximum, which nobody is obliged to spend if he does not wish to do so.


The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken used two arguments. The first—if it was an argument—as far as I could gather, was that he proposed to rely not upon advocacy, but upon the dissemination of his photograph in the constituency.


No, I said that in the case of new candidates that would be necessary.


Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman's other argument, which he now tells us was his sole argu- ment, dealt with the new candidates, and it was an argument also advanced by the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham (Colonel Vaughan Morgan). As far as I could follow it, the argument was, "Here are we, trying to prevent prospective candidates having a fair chance by forbidding them to spend enough at Election time." Surely that argument misrepresents the situation. I think the chances of the candidates who are at present seeking to defeat us, lie in holding meetings in the constituencies while we are sitting here. It is not by spending more money at the Election that they are going to get a better chance. It is by what they do while Parliament is sitting. Any decision which we take to-day most certainly has nothing to do with their opportunities during the prosecution of their campaign as prospective candidates. My hon. Friend the Member for West Derby (Mr. Sandeman Allen) used two arguments. We have only had three speeches against the Amendment, and I think in the three there have only been three arguments. He used an argument about out-voters, and I think he led the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) into a trap. As far as I could follow the hon. Member for West Derby he said there were some constituencies where people who had gone to live further afield remained on the register on business qualifications. He said it was more difficult to reach them. Does the hon. Member propose to devote part of the money available for his election expenses, to paying for transport to bring in those out-voters? If so, I hope those who are opposing him will take note of what he has said this afternoon, and will watch carefully his proceedings during the Election.

If, on the other hand, he does not mean that, I fail to see what he does mean, because I cannot see why dealing with these out-voters, who are available by the three-halfpenny post, is not quite as easy as dealing with the rest of them. I do not think there is very much in that argument. Then the hon. Member says there is the question of personation, that it is still necessary to employ personation agents, and there he joins the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham, who, so far as the bulk of his argument was concerned, gave us the reply with which we are so familiar when we address ques- tions to Ministers. He said in effect that he referred us to the answer which he gave on a previous occasion, meaning during the Committee stage. I have refreshed my memory as to what the hon. and gallant Member said on that occasion, and I find that he said: We have not the latitude which is allowed to candidates in the counties in connection with the appointment of officials. That is an argument for a lower expenditure in the boroughs. He went on to say: We are not allowed sub-agents"— That is another argument for a lower expenditure in the boroughs— and in many ways our difficulties have been increased where the difficulties of the county candidates may have been reduced.


The hon. Member should deal with my argument as a whole.


I hope in justice to the hon. and gallant Member to deal with his argument as a whole. He went on to say In busy and densely populated industrial areas, great difficulty is experienced in obtaining suitable committee rooms, and the expense is increased accordingly. There is also the difficulty of obtaining halls in which to hold meetings. That also leads to additional expenditure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1928; col. 684, Vol. 216.] May I suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there is nothing whatever in that argument unless the proposals in this Bill are going to lead to the necessity for more committee rooms and more meetings? Our case is that under the new arrangements there will not be any need to hold more meetings or to have additional committee rooms. I have not the same knowledge of the doings of the new voters as has the hon. Member for Stratford, but I believe that they do not live in a class apart, that they do not need to have special committee rooms to themselves, and that it will not be necessary to have additional Meetings for them. All that they have to do is to come to the meetings already held, and I would ask hon. Members in all parts of the House who have been through the experience of one, two, or more elections, "Is it humanly possible for candidates at Parliamentary elections to hold more meetings than they do at present?" I sincerely hope there is no suggestion that we should hold more meetings than we do. It seems to me that there has been no case put up by hon. Members opposite against the Amendment.

The hon. and gallant Member for Southport and the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham both used the expression that they are not seeking to increase the maximum, but, as a matter of fact, they are. I am not talking about the maximum per voter, but they are seeking to increase the maximum amount of expenditure which can be incurred at a Parliamentary election in a borough, and I think that before we consent to that, we are entitled to hear arguments to show that there is a necessity for increased expenditure. Let me remind the House, as they have already been reminded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), that when the Conference under Mr. Speaker Lowther sat and considered this matter, they came to the perfectly definite conclusion that the appropriate ratio as between county divisions and borough divisions was as seven to five. There has not been a word said in the course of these Debates which suggests for a moment that the propriety of that ratio has ever been or is now seriously challenged by anyone. My right hon. Friend has pointed out already that if we go back to the year 1883, the ratio was as nearly as possible two to one.

If you take the figure at which it was left by Mr. Speaker Lowther's Conference, the ratio was seven to five, or, in terms of percentage, five is 29 per cent. less than seven. Under the proposal in the Bill as it stands now, that percentage is reduced from 29 to 15; that is to say, 5d. is 15 per cent. less than 6d. If the Bill goes through as it stands now, the House will be making a substantial alteration in the ratio which was laid down by Mr. Speaker Lowther's Conference, and against which, as I suggest, there has never been a serious challenge issued by anybody. If, however, you accept the Amendment which has been moved, it is true that you will not maintain the percentage of 29. The actual percentage will be a shade under 25 per cent.; that is to say, that although there will be a slight difference, you will maintain the ratio approximately as it was settled by Mr. Speaker Lowther's Conference. That seems to me to be the main argument for this Amendment, the two-fold argu- ment that no case has been put forward to show that the increasing of the electorate will make any considerable necessary increase in the expenditure at elections in boroughs, and that, as there has been no challenge in 10 years of the ratio set forth by Mr. Speaker Lowther's Conference, there is no case for this House to alter it now.

In conclusion, may I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this point? A good deal was done by Sir Henry James, who has already been quoted, towards reducing the expenses of elections, and in the Debate on the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Bill of 1883 he said this, which I commend to Members on all sides of the House: Apart from the fact that extravagant expenditure was so near akin to corruption, it was almost the very father of corruption, it appeared to him that even if it were not corrupt expenditure it was necessary to check it. It is in the interests of not taking a-reactionary step, of not going back, but maintaining the salutary tendency for which Sir Henry James himself was responsible, that I ask the right hon. Gentleman certainly to leave this to an open vote, and I appeal to Members on all sides to vote for the Amendment.


I do not desire or intend to repeat arguments which the House has heard ad nauseam, but I believe that 4½d. provides sufficient to meet the extra costs of the new elections. I think many hon. Members on all sides agree with that, and I merely rise to ask the Government to take off the Whips.


My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser) has made a speech worthy of commendation in this House. I wish we all made as short speeches. I think the House is now prepared to come to a decision on this Amendment. We are considering a very important question, namely, whether the expenses at the next election should be, on the average, £100, one side or the other, more than they are to-day. It is a question that really affects this side of the House and the other side below the Gangway more than it does the other side above the Gangway, because every speaker above the Gangway opposite has assured us that they do not want the money, that they are not going to spend it; and, therefore, it does not much matter to them what we decide. The hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) explained that he won by spending under £300, and, therefore, he was quite happy.


But we do not desire to be unnecessarily handicapped.


I understand he won against a great handicap and spent under £300 in doing so. I want to say a word to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Marriott), who takes a very strong view and rather puts his argument against this Clause on the ground that parties should win on their merits and not on the amount of money expended. I am very sorry to hear that my hon. Friend has any doubt about it, but I have always thought that the Conservative party did win on their merits. I do not want this House, any more than does any other hon. Member, confined to rich men. I want to see the Members elected on merits and on principles, and that, I think, is agreed on all hands. What I am asked to do today is to leave the Whips off, for the second occasion in the course of the Debates on this Bill, in order that the maximum should not be raised. It is not a question of the minimum. It has been pointed out that it is not a minimum, but a maximum figure, which need only be spent by those who desire to spend it or by those who feel that it is necessary to spend it. Members hate spending unnecessary money on anything, but I have to face the fact that there is a very strong feeling, both on this side of the House and, I think, on the other side below the Gangway, that anything like the figure mentioned by hon. Members of the Labour party is quite inadequate. It is necessary for us to spend more money. We have not quite got facilities that hon. Members opposite above the gangway have.

We need not go into those reasons, because they were gone into on the last occasion, but I have taken the trouble to make a few more analyses, as I was not quite sure about one of the figures I gave to the House the other day. I have had taken out very carefully the expenditure of the successful candidates for the London boroughs, and it is clear that the Labour party spent very much less than we did. The Labour party won 20 seats in the London boroughs at the last election, in 1924, and they spent 2.65d. per elector, or under 2¾d. per elector. The Conservative party won 34 seats, and they spent just over 4d.—4.14d. per elector. Then we come to the Liberal party, who, I must say to my great delight, spent more than anybody else. I do not mean to suggest for a moment that they have more money to spend, but they did spend on the last occasion 4.34d. per elector. It is only fair to state to the House that there were only three of them who were successful.


Did nobody spend 4½d.?

6.0 p.m.


I am speaking of the average. Of course, while we find that people spend 4.34d. and 4.14d., which are aver-ages, some would spend up to their maximum. Many members of boroughs in recent years have spent well up to their maximum. It is very largely on behalf of the unfortunate Liberal candidates that I want to ask the House not to accept this Amendment. Think for a moment what their position will be next time.


Does the Home Secretary say that the Liberal candidates now have unlimited resources upon which to call?


No, but they have unlimited policies to put

before the constituencies. I want the House to consider, before depriving them of the right to spend 5d., what the position will be. It does not affect the Labour party or this party very much. The Liberal party has to explain the policy of both wings of the Liberal party, and exactly what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the other members of the party will say, and the independent Liberal elector will want to have a choice of the two policies. I think, on these grounds, it is desirable that the Liberal party should be able to spend the full maximum of 5d. I have been asked once again to leave this matter to the free vote of the House, I agreed and the Cabinet agreed, on the last occasion, that we thought it quite desirable that the matter should be left to a free vote of the House. It was so left. We had a full discussion a fortnight ago, and the House came to a definite conclusion both in regard to the boroughs and to the counties, and I accepted the conclusion to which they came. I think it is trifling with the House to ask that there should be again a free vote after the House has gone very fully indeed into the question and arrived at a decision. I, therefore, ask the House to support the decision at which the Committee arrived.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided: Ayes, 100; Noes, 214.

Division No. 112.] AYES. [6.4 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Lowth, T.
Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Gates, Percy Lunn, William
Albery, Irving James Gillett, George M. Mackinder, W.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbra') Gosling, Harry Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Griffith, F. Kingsley March, S.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Groves, T. Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Barr. J. Grundy, T. W. Montague, Frederick
Batey, Joseph Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Morris, R. H.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hardle, George D. Naylor, T. E.
Briant, Frank Harney, E. A. Oliver, George Harold
Broad, F. A. Harris, Percy A. Owen, Major G.
Bromfield, William Hayes, John Henry Paling, W,
Bromley, J. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hirst, G. H. Ponsonby, Arthur
Charleton, H. C. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Potts, John S.
Cluse, W. S. Hudson J. H. (Huddersfield) Purceil, A. A.
Compton, Joseph Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Ritson, J.
Connolly, M. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)
Cove, W. G. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Cowan. D. M. (Scottish Universities) Kelly, W. T. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Crawfurd, H. E. Kennedy, T. Scrymgeour, E.
Day, Harry Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Scurr, John
Dennison, R. Lansbury, George Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Dunnico, H. Lawson, John James Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Foster, Sir Harry S. Lee, F. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness) Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)
Smith, Ben (Bermondsey. Rotherhithe) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley) Thurtle, Ernest Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Snell, Harry Tomlinson, R, P. Windsor, Walter
Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Wright, W.
Stephen, Campbell Viant, S. P. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Strauss, E. A. Wiggins, William Martin TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Whiteley.
Acland-Trovte, Lieut.-Colonel Frece, Sir Walter de Peto. G. (Somerset, Frome)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Galbraith, J. F. W. Pilcher, G.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Ganzonl, Sir John Pilditch, Sir Philip
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Power, Sir John Cecil
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Price, Major C. W. M.
Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Goff, Sir Park Raine, Sir Walter
Astbury, Lieut-Commander F. W. Grace, John Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Astor, Viscountess Graham, Fergus (Cumberland. N.) Remer, J. R.
Atkinson, C. Grant, Sir J. A. Remnant, Sir James
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Rentoul, G. S.
Balniel, Lord Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w. E) Rhys, Hon. C. A. U
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Grotrian, H. Brent Rice, Sir Frederick
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hacking, Douglas H. Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne) Ropner, Major L.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Hamilton, Sir George Ruggles-Brise, Lieut. Colonel E. A.
Bennett, A. J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Russell. Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Berry, Sir George Harrison, G. J. C. Salmon, Major I.
Bethel. A. Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Betterton, Henry B. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. B., Skipton) Hasiam, Henry C. Sandeman, N. Stewart
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Hendlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Brass, Captain W. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Sanderson, Sir Frank
Briscoe, Richard George Heneage, Lieut-Colonel Arthur P. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavo D.
Brocklebank, C. E. R, Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Savery, S. S.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Hopkins. J. W. W. Scott Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Howard-Bury. Colonel C. K. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Buckingham. Sir H. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd. Whiteh'n) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unlv., Beifst)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hurst, Gerald B. Skelton. A. N.
Bullock, Captain M. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Smith. R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)
Burman, J. B. James. Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Smithers, Waldron
Burton, Colonel H. W. Jephcott. A. R. Somervllie, A. A. (Windsor)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Carver, Major W. H. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Cautley, Sir Henry S. King. Commodore Henry Douglas Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Stanley, Lord (Fyide)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Knox, Sir Alfred Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Cecil. Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Lamb, J. Q. Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Cecil. Rt. Hon. Lord H (Ox. Univ.) Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Stuart, Crichton-. Lord C.
Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. Sir J. A (Birm., W.) Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Loder, J. de V. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Chilcott, Sir Warden Long, Major Eric Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Looker, Herbert William Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Clarry, Reginald George Lucas-Tooth. Sir Hugh Vere Thomson. F. C. (Aberdeen. South)
Clayton. G. C. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Cobb. Sir Cyril Lumley. L. R. Tinne, J. A.
Cohen. Major J. Brunei Lynn, Sir R. J. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Colman. N. C. D. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Conway, Sir W. Martin Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Cooper, A. Duff Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Cope, Major William Maclntyre, Ian Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hulll
Couper, J. B. Macnghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Macquisten, F. A. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) MacRobert, Alexander M. Wayland, Sir William A.
Croft. Brigadier-General Sir H. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Wells, S. R.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend) Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Margesson, Captain D. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Meiler. R. J. Williams. Com. C. (Devon. Torquay)
Curzon, Captain Viscount Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Meyer. Sir Frank Wilson, R. R. (Stafford. Lichfield)
Dawson. Sir Phillip Milne. J. S. Wardlaw. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Drewe, C. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Wolmer, Viscount
Eden, Captain Anthony Monsen. Eyres. Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Womersley, W. J.
Edmondson. Major A. J. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wood, B. C. (Somerset. Bridgwater)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Morrison. H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Everard, W. Lindsay Nelson. Sir Frank Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Fade, Sir Bertram G. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Falls, Sir Charles F. Oakley, T.
Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Penny, Frederick George TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Fermoy, Lord Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Captain Bowyer and Sir Victor
Fielden, E. B. Perkins. Colonel E. K. Warrender.
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)

Question put, and agreed to.

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