HC Deb 03 November 1943 vol 393 cc687-8

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

Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)

Before we leave this Clause, perhaps my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary might find it possible to give the Committee more information on the question of the Dissolution of Parliament. On the Second Reading the question was raised at some length as to the desirability, in a temporary Measure, designed to meet abnormal situations, for this country to find itself without a Parliament for a minimum period of three weeks. It was argued at that time that as this was purely a temporary Measure and during its operation anything of an emergency character might arise, and as in the case of the demise of the Crown where it is necessary to extend the life of Parliament for a period of not less than six months, whether it has been dissolved by Proclamation or not, it was suggested in some extraordinary circumstances that it was desirable in the national interest that the Government should retain power in this temporary Measure to recall a Parliament which had previously been dissolved if that course was required in the national interest. The Home Secretary, in rejecting a suggestion of that kind, put forward an argument that he did not think it was fair that all candidates at a General Election which would take place under the Bill if Members of the old House of Commons were in a position to describe themselves as Members of Parliament, as indeed they would be able so to describe themselves if Parliament was not dis- solved before the date before the poll on which the new Parliament was elected. That was the suggestion which was made. I hope that before we leave this Clause the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary might find it possible to deal in a little more detail with the objections to the suggestions made on that occasion.

Mr. Peake

This matter has been discussed both inside and outside the Committee. It was discussed to some extent on the Second Reading of the Bill, and the view of my right hon. Friend, who, I am sorry to say, is absent to-day on account of ill health, is definitely that Parliament as a whole would think it proper that there should be some definite interval between the existence of one Parliament and the existence of a new Parliament; that is to say, that there should be a date as from which we who are now here cease to be Members of the House of Commons and become simply candidates for election like those who are putting up against us in the constituencies. That period hitherto has always been 17 days. It is perfectly clear that under the new system proposed by the Bill, where the space of time between the Proclamation dissolving Parliament and the election of the new House will be approximately 7½ weeks, that is too long a period for this country to be without a Parliament. At the same time my right hon. Friend thinks that it would be the general sense of the House that there should be a clear-cut period. That period at the present time under the existing law is 17 days. Some hon. Members may think that it ought to be a little more or a little less, but, broadly speaking, I think there is a case for retaining this period of 17 days in which we are not entitled to describe ourselves as Members of Parliament and during which we stand on the hustings on an exact equality with the candidates who are put up against us. I think that is the general sense of the House upon the matter, and I think it would be undesirable that we should be to the very day of the election able to describe ourselves as Members of Parliament, and for that reason I hope that the Clause as it stands in the Bill will be supported.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.