HC Deb 19 October 1939 vol 352 cc1107-9
Mr. Peake

I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, to leave out from "until," to the end of the Clause, and to add: six months after the expiry of this Act, unless Parliament otherwise determines. This Amendment is moved to meet a point made on Second Reading by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). What he was afraid of was that an alderman, for instance, who was co-opted under this Bill might remain in office for a further period of four or five years. In any event new legislation will be necessary on the expiry of this Bill, because we are continuing in office councillors and aldermen whose period would otherwise have expired, and the Committee will see that by the end of the year 1940 there will be two vintages, so to speak, of councillors who have been retained in office when they would normally have fallen to be reelected. In consequence, in the elections to be held in the autumn of 1941 we should have the whole of a council falling to be re-elected. The Bill, as drafted, was indefinite upon this point, and what we propose is that all these time-expired councillors and aldermen shall remain in office for a period of six months after the expiry of this legislation on 31st December, 1940, and no longer. The object is to give Parliament the time in which to build up the necessary machinery for untying the knots into which this Bill will get the machinery of local government elections.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I can understand that the Minister has the intention of preventing further complications, but I cannot understand his reference to the complications which have arisen. A little earlier in the Debate the Solicitor-General suggested that this was a standstill order, and I was taken to task by an hon. Friend below the Gangway for opposing what it was suggested was a democratic action. I contend that this Bill is democratic and it can remain democratic if we agree to the standstill, and I see no necessity for this Amendment. I see the necessity for making the last Clause do what the Solicitor-General suggested ought to be done. All that is necessary is that the Clauses as they now stand should be in operation, and that in the case of every individual who is at present a member of a council or becomes a co-opted member his time should expire as it would expire in the normal course of things. I grant that under the present arrangements every few years we should require a new election of councillors, but it would take six years before the present councils, including councillors and aldermen, expire, because of the fact that they are elected for six years.

If we put this Bill as it stands under the expiring laws continuance legislation at the end of the year and extend the service of every councillor or alderman for that one year the necessity for any remedial legislation afterwards will pass. Then we should continue with the elections in the normal way. The man who would retire in 1941 either as an alderman or a councillor would automatically go to 1942, if the war lasted so long, and a man who would retire in 1942 would automatically go on to 1943. I know that these things are complicated, but there is no reason why we should give the impression that they cannot be remedied by every day commonsense. If the Government are in a difficulty I suggest that one or two of our lads who work in the mill will get them out in a few minutes.

5.46 p.m.

Major Milner

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlin-son) is under a little misapprehension. Under the Bill as it was originally drawn it would be the case that in the event of an alderman being elected his term of office would not expire by the effluxion of time and would only expire at the date fixed under the law in force for the next election of aldermen, and it would be possible for such an alderman to sit for five years if not, indeed, almost for six. That being so, it is obviously better to limit the term to six months after the expiration of the Bill, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for accepting my suggestion.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered; read the Third time, and passed.