HC Deb 23 April 1931 vol 251 cc1257-68

I beg to move, in page 5, line 18, to leave out the words "except as otherwise expressly provided."

This Amendment is necessary in consequence of the decision of the House to retain university representation. As the Bill stood originally, it was proposed to abolish university representation in Northern Ireland as well as in Great Britain, and that was the reason why the words "except as otherwise expressly provided," were originally included. Now that Clause 4 has gone altogether, it is necessary to omit these words and simply provide that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland at all.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 20, to leave out Sub-section (3) and to insert the words: (3) Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the principal Act from the words c but a person,' to the end of the Sub-section, is hereby repealed. This Amendment is also necessary in consequence of retaining university representation in the Bill. Part II of the Third Schedule deals with a number of points relating to university representation, and, as university representation has been left undisturbed, it is necessary to delete Part II of the Third Schedule. The position as regards Part I of the Third Schedule is rather different. Part I proposes to repeal certain words in Section 8 (1) of the Act of 1918, which relates, not to the right to vote, but to the right of voting in more than one constituency at a General Election. As Part I of the Third Schedule refers to only one enactment, it is considered convenient from a drafting point of view to introduce this single repeal into the body of the Bill, rather than to repeal it by way of the Schedule. The whole of the Third Schedule will, therefore, be omitted, and the words of this Amendment will be substituted for the repeal.

Captain BOURNE

While it is the case that, owing to the decision of the Committee to retain the university vote, Subsection (3) as originally drafted no longer operates, I would suggest that the new Sub-section (3) does not read. I have here a copy of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, Sub-section (1) of Section 8 of which reads as follows: Every person registered as a Parliamentary elector for any constituency shall, while so registered (and in the case of a woman notwithstanding sex or marriage), be entitled to vote at an election of a member to serve in Parliament for that constituency; but a man shall not vote at a general election for more than that one constituency for which he is registered by virtue of a residence qualification or for more than one constituency for which he is registered by virtue of other qualifications of whatever kind, and a woman shall not vote at a general election for more than one constituency for which she is registered by virtue of her own or her husband's local government qualification, or for more than one constituency for which she is registered by virtue of any other qualification. The new Sub-section provides that Subsection (1) of Section 8 of the principal Act, from the words "but a person" to the end of the Sub-section, shall be repealed, but the words "but a person" do not appear in Sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the original Act, and, therefore, I suggest that this Amendment had better be withdrawn and redrafted and put down again on Report.


My hon. and gallant Friend is not quite right, because, by the Act as subsequently amended, Section 8 (1) was altered so as to read: but a person shall not vote at a General Election, and so on. The Amendment, therefore, is quite accurate.

Captain BOURNE

I am perfectly willing to accept that, but I think it is a misfortune that, in referring to the principal Act, it should not have been stated that that Act has been amended, because it is a little difficult for anyone to discover it.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


Before the House gives its assent to Clause 9 in its present form, I suggest that a material passage in Sub-section (1) ought to receive the serious attention of the Committee. Sub-section (1) reads as follows: This Act may be cited as the Representation of the People Act, 1931, and shall be included among the Acts which may be cited together as the Representation of the People Acts. All the Representation of the People Acts in our history have been Acts which have made better provision for the representation of the people, but it is a mere travesty of the facts to cite this Measure as a Representation of the People Act. On what grounds can this title be aptly given? The only ground on which it can be aptly given is that the Act secures in some way or another a better reflection of the various types of character and experience which make up the nation. That ground does not exist in the case of this Measure. The Bill has four principal provisions. In the first place, it establishes the system of the Alternative Vote, and a system of voting by which the supporters of the candidate who comes at the bottom of the poll have twice as much power in selecting their member as the supporters of any other candidate cannot be described as better representation of the people. This system of election may make its appeal to States in a more backward condition of civilisation. It is said to be practised in some of our dependencies, and it has made its appeal in some foreign countries; it has had some attraction for the Portuguese. But, so far as our own people are concerned, the Alternative Vote has never had any support at all. It has no mandate from the country, and it is ridiculous to call a Bill the main proposal of which is inserted for purely tactical reasons a Representation Bill. A second feature of the Bill is that it deprives the great cities of England of what has always been a distinctive element in their representation. The whole point of giving representation to the central divisions of our great towns is that they represent centres of trade, industry, commerce and enterprise and a system which deprives—


The question before the Committee is that Clause 9, as amended, stand part of the Bill, but the hon. and learned Member now is really discussing the whole Bill, and not the Clause.


The passage that I was discussing was the first words of Clause 9, which describe how this Act shall be cited, and I submit that it is relevant to put before the Committee grounds on which I suggest that it is not only inapt, but also inept, to describe a Measure of this sort as a Representation of the People Act.


On this particular Clause, the only point would be as to whether it is inexact.


That is exactly my point, and you have put it more perfectly than I could myself. My contention is that it is inexact to describe this Bill as a Representation of the People Bill, and I was putting before the Committee the grounds on which I base that contention. I have already mentioned two; may I draw attention to a third? It has always been a characteristic of our university representation that a man who exercised his university vote was not debarred from voting also in the district in which he lived. That is based upon our idea that, if a man lives and works in a place, he ought to have a share in its representation, and that, if he is a member of a university, he ought to have his share, in deciding the representation of that university. This Bill deprives tree university elector of that right. He still has the one vote or the other vote, but he is not entitled to the two types of representation to which he has previously had the right. It is curious how the Socialist party talk so much about their belief in education, but seem to wish to put disabilities on all educated men and women. I suppose the reason is that, the more educated people become, the less sympathy they have with Socialism. The effect of this Bill is to diminish by one-half the power of university men and women to have their voice in deciding who shall represent them in the Imperial Parliament, and for that reason again I submit that it is both inapt and inept to describe the Bill as a Representation of the People Act. On these grounds I ask the Committee to take the view that the opening passage of Clause 9 as now drafted is, to use your own expression, Mr. Dunnico, inexact, and to protest against its insertion in the Bill.


Before we leave this Clause, whether it be added to the Bill or not, it is incumbent upon someone who is not a lawyer to protest against the attitude of the Solicitor-General five minutes ago in not giving the fullest information that it ought to have been in his power to give. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) pointed out that the Amendment which the Solicitor-General was moving did not exactly represent the case. The Solicitor-General had to admit that that was so, and made no apology at all for his attitude. Not having stayed to see the Clause through, it is incumbent on some one to make that protest. I am sorry that the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend was not called, because there is no doubt that Misrepresentation of the People Act would have been a much better description of the Measure, and even a better one strikes me as being the Complication of Voting Act because, if there is one thing that it will do, it is to complicate the whole system of our voting and complicate the circumstances under which any elector is going to be permitted to cast his vote. It is a very great pity that the Government should be allowed to hoodwink the country by bringing in a Measure of this kind with Liberal assistance with the grandiloquent title of Representation of the People Act. It has absolutely no relation at all to any object of that kind. It is nothing more or less than a bargain between those two parties to keep the Government in office, the Home Secretary to continue to rule us and the Attorney-General to retain emoluments of £40,000 a year.


I accept, as among the objects of the Measure, some of the provisions to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred, but it has others. I agree also that there may be something in the point of the two hon. Members who have spoken about the language of the Clause. I myself might have suggested an improvement, but it is too late now. We could make it by describing this Bill as a Bill designed to ensure greater equality in the representation of the people in this House, to cheapen elections, to make the use of motor cars more equal between candidate and candidate, to abolish the plural vote, to diminish the enormous privilege which wealth ham in Parliamentary contests, and to ensure greater equality in the representation of the people.


We are not accustomed to such expressions as have come from the Home Secretary.


The caddishness of back benchers.


I will ask you, Sir, to protect this side from the insolent interruptions of the hon. Member. I ask whether the word "caddishness" is in order?


The word "caddishness" is improper and ought not to be used with reference to any Member at all.




Out of respect to the Chair, I will withdraw the word "caddishness," and substitute for it "cheap and nasty."


When we had that most characteristic exhibition of the hon. Member opposite, I was about to say that, as Saul is among the prophets, perhaps I may attempt to make a clumsy effort at humour, not so successfully I am sure as the right hon. Gentleman. I do not share his great gifts in that direction. If the Bill were to be properly entitled, it might be called a Bill for the Relief of the Liberal party.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 223; Noes, 71.

Division No. 226.] AYES. [9.20 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Haycock, A. W. Palin, John Henry
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Hayday, Arthur Paling, Wilfrid
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Palmer, E. T.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Perry, S. F.
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Angell, Sir Norman Herriotts, J. Phillips, Dr. Marion
Aske, Sir Robert Hicks, Ernest George Picton-Turbervill, Edith
Attlee, Clement Richard Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Pole, Major D. G.
Ayles, Walter Hoffman, P. C. Potts, John S.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hollins, A. Pybus, Percy John
Barnes, Alfred John Hopkin, Daniel Quibell, D. J. K.
Barr, James Horrabin, J. F. Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Batey, Joseph Isaacs, George Rathbone, Eleanor
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood John, William (Rhondda, West) Raynes, W. R.
Benson, G. Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas Richards, R.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Jones, Llewellyn-, F. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Birkett, W. Norman Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Bowen, J. W. Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston) Rowson, Guy
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Broad, Francis Alfred Kelly, W. T. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Bromfield, William Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Brothers, M. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Sanders, W. S.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield) Kinley, J. Sandham, E.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Lang, Gordon Sawyer, G. F.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Scurr, John
Buchanan, G. Lathan, G. Sexton, Sir James
Burgess, F. G. Law, Albert (Bolton) Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Law, A. (Rossendale) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Caine, Hall, Derwent Lawrence, Susan Sherwood, G. H.
Cameron, A. G. Lawson, John James Shield, George William
Cape, Thomas Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Leach, W. Shillaker, J. F.
Charleton, H. C. Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.) Shinwell, E.
Chater, Daniel Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Church, Major A. G. Lees, J. Simmons, C. J.
Clarke, J. S. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Sinkinson, George
Cluse, W. S. Lindley, Fred W. Sitch, Charles H.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Longbottom, A. W. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Cove, William G. Lunn, William Smith, Lees-, H. B.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Daggar, George MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Dallas, George MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Stamford, Thomas W.
Dalton, Hugh McElwee, A. Stephen, Campbell
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) McEntee, V. L. Sullivan, J.
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) McKinlay, A. Sutton, J. E.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) MacLaren, Andrew Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. MacNeill-Weir, L. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Dukes, C. McShane, John James Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Duncan, Charles Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Tinker, John Joseph
Ede, James Chuter March, S. Viant, S. P.
Edmunds, J. E. Marcus, M. Walkden, A. G.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Marshall, Fred Walker, J.
Elmley, Viscount Mathers, George Wallace, H. W.
Foot, Isaac. Matters, L. W. Watkins, F. C.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Maxton, James Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Messer, Fred Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) Middleton, G. Wellock, Wilfred
Gibbins, Joseph Mills, J. E. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley) Montague, Frederick Westwood, Joseph
Gill, T. H. Morgan, Dr. H. B. White, H. G.
Glassey, A. E. Morley, Ralph Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Gossling, A. G. Morris, Rhys Hopkins Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Mort, D. L. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Grundy, Thomas W. Murnin, Hugh Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Naylor, T. E. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.) Noel Baker, P. J. Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, K.) Wise, E. F.
Hardie, George D. Oldfield, J. R. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Harris, Percy A. Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. Hayes and Mr. Thurtle.
Albery, Irving James Hanbury, C. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Atkinson, C. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd,Henley) Skelton, A. N.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Smithers, Waldron
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Somerset, Thomas
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)
Bracken, B. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Sueter, Rear-Admiral M., F.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Inskip, Sir Thomas Thomson, Sir F.
Butler, R. A. Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Tinne, J. A.
Campbell, E. T. Margesson, Captain H. D. Train, J.
Castle Stewart, Earl of Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Muirhead, A. J. Warrender, Sir Victor
Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Wayland, Sir William A.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Peake, Capt. Osbert Wells, Sydney R.
Elliot, Major Walter E. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.M.) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ferguson, Sir John Remer, John R. Withers, Sir John James
Fielden, E. B. Reynolds, Col. Sir James Womersley, W. J.
Ford, Sir P. J. Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Greene, W. P. Crawford Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Marquess of Titchfield and Captain Wallace.
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)

Question put, and agreed to.

The following proposed new Clauses stood upon the Order Paper:

(Representation of City of London.) The City of London shall only be entitled to one Parliamentary representative."—[Mr. Oliver Baldwin.]

(Business premises qualification for directors of Companies.)

"Any person who shall during the qualifying period including the last day thereof be a director of a company incorporated either by Royal Charter or by statute or registered within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929, which if it had been a person would have held a business premises qualification under the provisions of the Representation of the People Acts shall be regarded as a person entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector by virtue of a business premises qualification in any register made after the passing of this Act."—[Mr. Hannon.]

(Combination of English University constituencies.)

"The university constituencies in England shall be combined into one constituency returning seven members."—[Mr. Cecil Wilson.]

(Combination of Oxford and Cambridge University constituencies.)

"The university constituencies of Oxford and Cambridge shall be combined into one constituency returning four members."—[Mr. Cecil Wilson.]

(Application of proportional representation to elections for the City of London.)

"In the City of London any election of the full number of members shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transfer- able vote as defined in the principal Act."—[Mr. Cecil Wilson.]


With regard to the proposed new Clauses, I have decided that I must rule all of them out of order.


On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the new Clause standing in the names of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. C. Wilson) and the hon. Member for Blakeley (Mr. P. Oliver). I respectfully submit that this Clause should properly be considered by the House as consequential upon the decisions which have already been arrived at, namely, the Bill, as introduced, abolished plural voting and also university constituencies, but, as now before us, the Bill abolishes plural voting but retains university constituencies. As a result only those persons will be able to vote in the university constituencies who forgo their vote elsewhere. How many of them there will be is not known, but it would be not unsafe to assume that at least one half of the university electors will prefer to vote for the place of their residence and only perhaps one half for the universities. The consequence of that would be that, owing to the decisions already taken by the House, some of the university constituencies would only have perhaps 1,600 voters or less than 2,000. As a consequence of this decision, I venture to submit that the House should properly consider whether those university seats should not be combined together and the combined electorate elect representatives on the principle of proportional representation. That is the purpose of the new Clause.


I cannot pronounce on the general merits of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. It may well be that what he suggests might be the fit and proper thing to do, but as far as I am concerned, as Chairman, all I can do is to deal with what the Bill permits to be done. There is nothing in the title or scope of the Bill, apart from that which is expressly mentioned and provided for, whereby a reduction in the numbers of Members of Parliament can take place. Also, while it may not be actually correct to say that what the right hon. Gentleman suggests would alter the geographical boundaries of constituencies, it would amount in practice to a readjustment of constituencies, and that is surely outside the scope of the Bill.


May I point out, first, that the title will have to be amended in any case, because it provides for the abolition of university constituencies, and since the Bill does not do that it must be omitted; secondly, that this particular new Clause does not propose any reduction in the number of Members of the House of Commons; and, thirdly, that the title of the Bill includes the words: and for other purposes consequential on the matters aforesaid. My submission is that this proposal is consequential on the decisions already taken by the House, first as to the abolition of plural voting and secondly the retention of the university constituencies.


There are three points involved. On the strictly legal interpretation, for this purpose England includes Wales, and therefore proposes a reduction of the number of Members. There are eight at present—seven for England and one for Wales. The new Clause proposes only seven in all. The second point with regard to the title of the Bill being amended is a very important point, but the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that you do not alter a Bill for the sake of altering the title. You alter the title because the Bill has been previously altered, and consequently the title can only be altered if the Bill in the course of procedure through, Committee has been previously altered. I am doing my best to prevent it being altered beyond the scope of the Bill.


Then there was a third point about it being consequential.


I suppose as a result of the passing of this Bill dozens of matters may be consequential but which cannot be dealt with under this particular Bill.