HC Deb 01 April 1943 vol 388 cc318-9
18. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that Parliamentary by-elections are permitted during the war period, and that the war has extended for nearly four years, he will consider taking steps to amend the Local Elections and Registered Electors (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1939, which has been renewed each year, to permit of the holding of local government elections; and on what grounds, having regard to the duration of the war, the continued suspension of local elections is justified?

Mr. H. Morrison

As I stated when the Local Elections and Register of Electors (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1942, was in Committee last October, the position will be considered when the time comes to prepare a further Bill next autumn, but hitherto Parliament has not taken the view that the possibility of holding Parliamentary by-elections is a reason for holding local elections during the war, and there would be many difficulties in doing so. One of them is that the depleted and overburdened staffs of the many local authorities concerned would not be able to undertake the heavy additional work which would be involved.

Mr. De la Bère

Nevertheless, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the present method is undesirable and very undemocratic? Many of these people are co-opted, and the number of members co-opted is getting larger than the number elected. This matter wants reviewing.

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate the difficulties, but one of the reasons why British democracy survives is that in critical times it can adapt itself to the difficulties.

Mr. De la Bère

This is going on too long.

Mr. Thorne

When a Member passes away or resigns are not his constituents entitled to have a by-election?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir, the vacancy is filled by co-option.

Mr. De la Bère

There is too much co-option.

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