HC Deb 21 January 1941 vol 368 cc17-8
41. Mr. Wodburn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether official intimation has been made to town, county and district councils in Scotland that, in suspending elections for the war period, it was the express wish of Parliament that in the filling of vacancies the persons co-opted should, as far as is practicable, be the nominees of the bodies responsible for promoting the former candidature?

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ernest Brown)

Yes, Sir. By a circular issued on 30th December last the attention of all local authorities in Scotland was drawn to the Government's view that when vacancies on local authorities occur and new councillors have to be co-opted in accordance with the provisions of the Local Elections and Register of Electors (Temporary Provisions) Act, the vacancies should be filled as far as possible by persons belonging to the same political party as the outgoing members.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in certain instances since the passing of the recent Act there have been authorities in Scotland which have indulged in what amounts to sharp practice in connection with co-opting members? Will he take some steps to reinforce his circular of December and bring to their notice that unless something is done the Government will seriously consider taking steps to curtail their liberties in this matter?

Mr. Brown

I issued the circular because of the difficulties to which my hon. Friend refers, and since it was issued one case has been brought to my attention. There were difficulties in that case, and I shall be glad to talk it over with my hon. Friend. A suggestion was made when the recent Act was under discussion that powers should be taken by the Government to provide for a fresh election if the status quo was not being observed, but the difficulties were explained to the House, and the Amendment was, by leave, withdrawn. The House will agree, however, I am sure, that you cannot have a truce that is not a truce.

Mr. Robert Gibson

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider taking steps to annul co-options that have been taken in flagrant breach of the gentlemen's agreement?