HC Deb 12 October 1944 vol 403 cc1967-85

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak at the same time to all the seven Amendments standing in my name. The first six are purely drafting and are all in the same words. The term "existing" here means exactly the same as "abnormally large," and the only reason for substituting "abnormally large" is that that phrase will be more appropriate in the context if the Committee adopts my seventh Amendment—

In page 2, line 27, at end, insert,—(2) Where— (a) any part of a county borough or county district within the meaning of the Local Government Act, 1933, is included in an abnormally large constituency, and another part thereof is included in an adjoining constituency which is not an abnormally large constituency; and (b) the Boundary Commission are of opinion that it is desirable to include both parts of the county borough or county district in the same constituency; they may, for all the purposes of the foregoing subsection, treat the abnormally large constituency as including the adjoining constituency, and the number of new constituencies into which the abnormally large constituency (including the adjoining constituency) is to be divided as increased by one; The purpose of this seventh Amendment is to give the Boundary Commissioners greater liberty in fixing the boundaries of the extra seats. It does not make any difference to the number of the extra seats, which will remain 25. I think the briefest way of explaining the point will be to ask hon. Members to imagine that these four walls are the boundaries of one of the abnormally large constituencies which is to be divided into two. Then suppose that the space on the left of Mr. Speaker's Chair comprises the bulk of a municipal borough and the space on the right of Mr. Speaker's Chair comprises the bulk either of an urban or of a rural district or a group of such districts. Also, let hon. Members imagine that part of that borough on the left or part of the district on the right overspills into the lobby behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, which is a constituency not to be divided. The Amendment will enable the Boundary Commissioners, if they think fit, to take that overspill part and add it to one of the new constituencies to be created, so as to give each entire borough or district or group of districts a Member of its own. Alternatively, the contiguous constituency, that is to say the one behind the Chair, might itself comprise the greater part of a municipal borough which overspills into the Chamber, and under this Amendment the Boundary Commissioners would equally have power to subtract that overspill part from the abnormal constituency and add it to the contiguous constituency.

I want to make it clear that the Amendment applies only where there is an overlap of municipal boundaries. The advantages of making a Parliamentary boundary coincide with a municipal boundary have always been recognised, and they are already recognised in this Bill, as I pointed out on Tuesday. But it is absolutely essential that the exercise of this power should be discretionary, because to exercise it in certain places would undoubtedly create more anomalies than it would remove. For instance, the exercise of the power might make one of the new constituencies either too small or too big, and it must be left to the Boundary Commissioners in each case whether to use their power or not. I think hon. Members will agree that the fact that it would be difficult, even impossible in some cases, to use the power is no reason for not giving the Commissioners the right to use it when it is convenient.

This Amendment was on the Order Paper on Tuesday, and several hon. Members commented sympathetically on the substance of it; in fact, nobody damned it, and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said the Government had by no means closed their minds to it. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who was himself a member of the Speaker's Conference, made the reservation that he would not support this Amendment if it involved a really substantial widening of the principles recommended by the Speaker's Conference. My comment on that is that I do not think any large number of contiguous constituencies would suffer any alteration of boundary under this Amendment. In Middlesex, if in every case where they could use the power the Boundary Commissioners did so, only four contiguous constituencies could possibly be touched in drawing the boundaries of the seven new seats. I do not know whether that ratio of four to seven would be greater or less in respect of the other 18 seats in the country, but whatever the theoretical possibilities outside Middlesex it is certain that because of the anomalies which would be created the use of the power would be less. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that under this Amendment less than a dozen constituencies would be touched. Moreover, in some cases, interference with the contiguous constituency would be very small. In Middlesex where, as I have said, only four contiguous seats could suffer an alteration of boundary, in two of the four it would mean only the transfer of a few dozen or a few hundred electors from one constituency to the other.

I think it is clear that in all cases where the power is in fact used, and the Parliamentary boundary is thus made to coincide with the local government boundary, it will effect a useful simplification and will stimulate local public spirit and unity. I go further and say, as I did on Tuesday, that in Middlesex, and probably elsewhere, this Amendment will certainly facilitate the task of the Boundary Commissioners, and that without it they would be unable to give satisfactory boundaries to some of the new constituencies to be created.

Mr. Parker

I would like to support, speaking for myself, this and the other Amendments to which the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) has referred. In the Speaker's Conference very strong views were expressed, and I think it was generally agreed that in this temporary redistribution there should be as little disturbance as possible of existing constituencies. I think all of us strongly support that view until such time as a general redistribution can take place. But it was pointed out that in certain areas such as Middlesex, Surrey and Essex, where there are large constituencies adjoining one another, it was desirable to treat them as a single unit for the purpose of redividing them into new constituencies, and that again was generally agreed. These Amendments go one point further and deal with the case of the abnormally large constituencies due to be divided up where there has been, perhaps, a reorgansiation of local government boundaries, which means that some small areas, probably in other constituencies, are brought inside those local government areas which may become new constituencies or which might more conveniently be placed in adjacent constituencies not in the Schedule.

To take an example, the Romford Division contains four large towns, each of which will be putting forward claims to the Boundary Commissioners to become a constituency of its own, but it also happens that the town of Brentwood, which is mainly within the Chelmsford division, has expanded its boundaries in recent years and includes a little piece of the Romford Division and a little piece of South-East Essex. The Brentwood Council are going to submit to the Boundary Commissioners that the whole of their area shall be in one Parliamentary division. They seem to me to have a very strong case, although it is the Boundary Commissioners who will have to listen to the evidence and to make up their minds and make recommendations. It does seem that these Amendments would enable a tidying up in a number of cases where it is desirable that it should take place, and we do not want to have a situation in which new constituencies are created and then the boundaries have to be drawn again when a general redistribution takes place. If that can be avoided without going into very wide circles of upsetting existing constituencies so much the better. The point of view I am putting forward is that one would like to see these small pieces of tidying up taking place, but they would be at the discretion of the Boundary Commissioners, and any recommendations the Commissioners made would come to the House of Commons for confirmation.

Sir Edward Grig (Altrincham)

I rise to support this Amendment and what the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) has so effectively said. We all agree that this power should be discretionary and also that it should be exercised as little as possible in the case of constituencies lying outside the Second Schedule to this Bill, but I think that by giving this discretion to the Boundary Commissioners great inconvenience may be saved to the constituencies which are to be divided at the present time. In the case of my own consituency division will be difficult. It consists of two large boroughs and includes a large housing estate and an aerodrome belonging to Manchester Corporation. It is clear that any division of that constituency which is limited to the boundaries of the constituency as it stands is bound to be upset when the Boundary Commission comes to consider the full scheme of redistribution later. I think it is agreed in all parts of the Committee that so far as possible this immediate and provisional redistribution should be made to fit as far as is humanly possible into the scheme which will ultimately be put forward, and that constituencies which have been divided up for this election should not, unless it is absolutely necessary, be divided again before the next. That is the only point that I wish to make. I think it is a strong case. The power is purely discretionary and I believe will prevent a great deal of local inconvenience, and I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider it favourably.

Captain Strickland (Coventry)

I approach this subject with great diffidence because my own constituency of Coventry will become heavily involved in this scheme. A position will arise there which may well arise in other parts of the country. In Coventry we have a municipal borough which is the Parliamentary constituency of Coventry, and radiating out into three other divisions are large numbers of municipal electors. When my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) speaks of a few dozen or a few hundred electors being concerned in such a project I should like to point out what effect it will have on the 89,000 existing electors of Coventry. It will mean the transference of 55,061 voters from Nuneaton and a transference of 10,889 from Tamworth into the City of Coventry. When that has been completed, and it is as much as this Amendment could possibly deal with, there is the problem that there will still be radiating out from the City of Coventry into the Warwick and Leamington division a further 14,929 of the municipal electorate—call it 15,000, because these are only estimated figures. Those people could not possibly be touched upon in this Amendment.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

I do not think the Committee knows what the electorate of Coventry is.

Captain Strickland

It is 89,000, though it may be 100 or so either way. That is a pretty near estimate of the Parliamentary electorate of the City of Coventry at the present time. What I would point out is that, not being merely a matter of adding a few thousands or hundreds to tidy up a Parliamentary constituency, in the case of Coventry it does mean that it would have to come under consideration again at a further date. We have another problem—and I hope the Committee will forgive me for mentioning my own constituency—but it is a matter which may easily affect other constituencies in the same way. In Coventry we have the situation which arises from the well-known fact that Coventry received the attention of the enemy to no small extent, and we have a vast population outside Coventry—not necessarily living in Nuneaton or Tamworth or Warwick—and many coming in from considerable distances, from the Rugby constituency and other places round about. We do not yet know how many of those displaced Coventry people who have been sent out of the city are coming back after the war.

Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

Are those people, to whom my hon. and gallant Friend refers as being displaced by the blitz, included in the 89,000?

Captain Strickland

They are included, but we do not know how far we can stand on the 89,000 figure. We have another problem. We have a vast number of munition factories in Coventry largely staffed by people directed by the Minister of Labour—not in hundreds, but in thousands—into the city. We do not know how many of these people are going to remain in the constituency. They will be qualified under the new registration, and the position arises that we shall be in a state of flux. The foundations of this Bill were duly considered by the Speaker's Conference and all these things were considered. The Conference came to certain conclusions. There were certain glaring examples, and these examples were taken out and put into a schedule. The Speaker's Conference said "These are the cases which we think ought to be dealt with at once." It did not mean that they were the only anomalies. It was well known to the Speaker's Conference that there were other anomalies which needed adjustment, but, very wisely, the Conference came to the conclusion that it was better to deal with those anomalies which could easily be handled, and leave the general redistribution for further consideration by the Boundary Commission. I see no reason to disturb that.

As regards equalisation between one constituency and another, let us take the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). Nuneaton has an electorate of something like 112,000, some 12,000 more than the maximum allowed, but under this scheme, Nuneaton parts with 55,061 electors, and becomes a constituency of only 57,000 electors altogether, which at once shows that if you start dealing with this thing in a piecemeal fashion, you are going to create further anomalies. I suggest—not with any sense of opposition because I think there was a lot of wisdom in what my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham said—that it would be much better to follow the Speaker's Conference and avoid, so far as possible, further anomalies, and then deal with the whole question so that, for instance, the constituency of Nuneaton could be built up to something more reasonably approaching the mean average of the constituencies of the country. I am not in a position to know how this would affect Tamworth because the Tamworth Division is being torn away partly on the Birmingham side as well. But we should have 55,000 electors from Nuneaton, 11,889 from Tamworth and still leave the anomaly of 14,929 municipal electors of the City of Coventry outside the Parliamentary boundary, who would have to be dealt with under a further Redistribution Bill. I am aware that I am putting forward a rather personal point of view, but I am also aware that there may be other cases, especially in Middlesex, which need some sort of help.

There is one thing I want to make clear finally. I think we ought to have some assurance on the difference between "may" and "shall" in the wording of Acts of Parliament. It is a matter which I have raised often, but have never been satisfied with the explanation given, although I am sure it is my lack of judgment in the matter which stands in the way. Often when I have pleaded that the word "shall", should be replaced by "may" or "may" replaced by "shall", I have been told that they mean one and the same thing. If the Boundary Commissioners are told that they "may" do a thing on this assumption, it would mean that they "shall" do it and therefore that it is binding on them to do it. I cannot support this Amendment and I hope the Committee will give consideration to it, in the sense that it would be proper not to disturb the wise conclusions arrived at by the Speaker's Conference in recommending certain principles to the Committee.

Mr. Bowles

We have all listened to the only speech so far, opposing this Amendment, and I am perfectly certain that the Committee will agree that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland) is speaking quite impartially. As far as I can see, it will make no difference to him whether this Amendment goes through or not, and, therefore, he is able to give us the benefit of his impartial judgment. But I do challenge his figures. The actual figure, as far as the Food Office registration is concerned, of electors in the Nuneaton Division who live in the municipal area of Coventry is exactly 49,217. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to something like 55,000.

Captain Strickland

May I interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment, although it is immaterial to the Committee itself. I have the figures in my hand which were given to me by the town clerk. The figure for Nuneaton is 55,061.

Mr. Bowles

My figures were based on the food registration. However, the position seems to be perfectly simple. Here you have in Nuneaton, Tamworth and Coventry two seats each of which is to be divided into two, making four, and you have Coventry, the fifth, at the Southern end. The position seems to me to be that it is absurd to have two bites at this cherry. There are 50,000 electors, let us agree, who vote in the Parliamentary division of Nuneaton, and who are civic electors in the City of Coventry. Knowing those people who live under that kind of dual allegiance, I am perfectly sure that many of them feel the position to be anomalous. I know perfectly well also that they regard themselves as belonging to the area of the Coventry City Council and the Coventry Parliamentary division. What is proposed in this Amendment is, to give the Boundary Commissioners power to examine a case which may be put to them at the time when the examination is being made in that area. There is no compulsion at all, and I do feel that if the Commissioners were refused this power, this Committee would find that a great mistake had been made.

Take my constituency, for example. We have 112,000 Parliamentary electors in Nuneaton, 50,000 of whom live in the municipal area of Coventry. If Coventry cannot be looked at by the Boundary Commissioners at all, the Commissioners will divide the Nuneaton Parliamentary division into two—North and South Nuneaton. It may be they would divide it into North-West Nuneaton and South-West Nuneaton. At all events, it will be divided and when the next regional distribution comes along—Heaven knows when that will be—the people in the Southern Nuneaton division will find, naturally and certainly, that they will, in due course, go into the Coventry area. I think the Boundary Commissioners should have the right, here and now, to decide whether it would not be a good idea to divide Coventry and make it a two-Member constituency, once and for a long time.

I said at the beginning that the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry will not in any case get in at the next General Election so that he was generous in giving us the benefit of his views. I am certain that in that part of Coventry which is the Nuneaton Parliamentary division, he will find there are a large number of good Labour voters.

Captain Strickland

May I ask my hon. Friend why he is so anxious to get rid of 55,000 electors?

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

I hope we shall pass this Amendment, provided there is unanimity, because as one who was a member of the Speaker's Conference I recognise there was an all-round agreement which we must not break. Therefore, we must pass this only if there is general acceptance. I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland) that this is a permissive power. If when they come to look at Tamworth, Nuneaton and Coventry the Commissioners think that the use of the power would produce undesirable results—and my hon. and gallant Friend and his friends in the district will no doubt have their opportunity of making representations—the door is not closed. I recognised from the beginning that the compromise we arrived at—we could only 'achieve changes now by temporarily increasing the membership of the House by 25—was bound to produce a certain number of anomalies. It would be a terrible thing to bring a constituency into being, and in five years wipe it out again. A constituency ought to have a community feeling. Members of a constituency ought to feel that they belong to the same club. If you bring a constituency into being, knowing that it is only to have a survival of five years, it is a bad thing for that constituency, and for whoever may represent it. The Middlesex problem is the most difficult of the lot. It stands out as calling for treatment rather better than that which the Speaker's Conference proposed, and I am glad to see that there appears to be a consensus of opinion among hon. Members who were not Members of that Conference and those who were, that there is a lot to be said for the Amendment we are now considering. I very much hope the Committee will agree to the Amendment because I am certain it will produce a much better state of affairs, than the Measure in its present form.

Captain Strickland

I wonder whether it will be possible for the Home Office to consider the inclusion of some words which would enable Coventry to take in municipal boroughs. My point is that you are making two bites at the cherry now if you take in Tamworth and Nuneaton electors. Surely, we must expand this Amendment so that it applies to a constituency such as Warwick, and includes the Warwick municipal voters in the Coventry area. If the Home Office would accept some such form of words, I think that would meet the case.

12.45 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I rather deprecate—although hon. Members are quite entitled to do it—the making of long dissertations about particular constituencies.

Captain Strickland


Earl Winterton

I was not referring to the hon. and gallant Member. I was speaking in general. He need not be so sensitive. He made a rather long speech. I was referring to the Committee in general, but I shall repeat what I said, for his benefit now. I do not think it is necessary to have long dissertations on particular constituencies. What I do want is the principle so well enunciated by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir II. Williams). I know the case of a constituency where considerable trouble has been caused, and a certain amount of difficulty of administration—it is a county borough—by the fact that part of that county borough is in one constituency and another part if it is in an adjoining constituency. It seems a rather ridiculous situation that an anomaly of that kind should not be redressed. I thought the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) somewhat "flummoxed" the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland)—not that that is a difficult thing to do—by his speech, which deprived the hon. and gallant Member of his case and left him naked without a single argument of any kind. I thought the point made by the hon. Member was extremely good. It would be most inopportune if the Bill were passed without giving, at any rate, permissive power to a constituency to consider this matter. I, personally, feel strongly about it and I hope that the hon. Member who put down the Amendment to which my name appeared will, if necessary, go to a Division. Otherwise I do not see how you can condone the matter to your constituents when they are in a position such as I have described, I make the strongest possible appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)

If the Government are going to concede this Amendment, as I hope they will because it is important and makes the whole matter a little more flexible, I hope they will also consider the wording a little and be quite sure that it really does what its supporters desire. The hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland) rather thought the wording meant that if you took any part of the municipal area of Coventry out of Nuneaton, you had to take all of it, but I do not think that is desirable, and I do not think it is meant. It says: (b) the Boundary Commission are of opinion that it is desirable to include both parts of the county borough or county district in the same constituency. It would be better if it said: Parts, both of the county borough or county district. I do not think that would be really satisfactory, but it would be nearer to the object of the Amendment. The last words of the Amendment say: increased by one, but it might be necessary to increase by two if you are dealing with a double constituency which is in existence at the moment. I do not want to labour the point.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)

I certainly cannot claim to speak for the Speaker's Conference. All I can do is to try to present to the Home Secretary the views that I hold and held during the Speaker's Conference, and which I imagine influenced my colleagues who sat with me on that body under the control of Mr. Speaker. These considerations were in our minds. In the first place, we realised that there might be a very early General Election and I thought it was desirable to have a quick method of procedure which could be carried out before that General Election took place. Therefore, one of the grounds on which I would examine this Amendment would be that it should not unduly delay the first re-arrangement and distribution, and thereby present the country with the dilemma of having an election on the old distribution, or having to put off a General Election at a time when it would not wish to do so. So far as that point is concerned, I should be quite satisfied if the Home Secretary desired to accept the Amendment, providing he can assure us that be does not think it will unduly delay the provisional redistribution which this Bill contemplates. That is the first point.

The second point with which we were impressed was the fact that a number of constituencies had been depleted of their electorates during the war, and that those conditions had not yet been entirely removed. Therefore, it would be quite unfair to deprive a small constituency of its position as to returning a Member just because at that particular time, 1943–44, it had an unduly small electorate. Therefore we did not wish this early redistribution should take the shape of depriving any constituency of its power to return a Member. That affects the issue in this way: if the proposal meant that one of these abnormally large constituencies was to be mixed up with some small constituency on its borders, with the result that the small constituency lost such electoral rights, as it possessed before, that would be contrary to the spirit of the Conference. I have not detailed knowledge to enable me to answer for certainty, but I gather from the arguments that have been put forward in favour of the Amendment that that would not be the case, and I imagine that the Home Secretary may be able to answer that question specifically. Perhaps I have not made quite clear what my point is. Here is an abnormally large constituency. If it had on its borders an abnormally small constituency, and if I thought the Amendment would mean that the abnormally small constituency would be deprived of its present representation and be swamped by the abnormally large con- stituency, I should oppose the Amendment as contrary to the spirit of the Speaker's Conference. If the Home Secretary can assure us that that will not be the case, or if he cannot so assure us if he will look at the Amendment with a view to ensuring that that would not happen, the objection, so far as I am concerned, would be removed.

Finally, and this point is closely allied to the first point, the Speaker's Conference did not wish the ripples of the changes that were going to be made by them to spread indefinitely over the country and thereby introduce a general redistribution in a kind of indirect way. So long as I can be assured that the effect of the Amendment, if carried out and even if the Boundary Commissioners used their power under it to the full, would go only a limited way beyond the rather narrow proposal which was agreed upon at the Speaker's Conference, and which the Bill embodies, again I should be satisfied. So perhaps, when the Home Secretary comes to reply, he can address himself to the points I have put forward. If he satisfies me that no difficulty will arise, I should offer no objection to the Bill.

Mr. H. Morrison

In this matter it would be my wish, if I can, to meet the wishes of the Committee, which have been very well stated—as were the views, in some disagreement, put by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland). Undoubtedly it is desirable broadly, if you can and so far as you can, to make Parliamentary constituencies co-terminous with local government areas. At any rate, everybody's convenience is served. It is awkward for the local authority to communicate with two Members of Parliament upon a given matter and also awkward for a Minister to get two letters instead of one. He is much happier if he only gets one. If there is correspondence between the Parliamentary division and the municipal area, or group of areas, it creates a corporate spirit. Therefore, I am not unsympathetic with the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) has presented. Probably Middlesex is an outstanding case, although I do not think that the Amendment is drafted in a way that would exclude consideration elsewhere. The hon. and gallant Member for Coventry was a little apprehensive about what the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) is up to. I do not blame him. In matters of redistribution I would not blame any hon. Member for being apprehensive about what any other hon. Member was doing, especially if he were next door. He is apprehensive that a very big reduction might be made in the constituency of Coventry and a little apprehensive as to why Nuneaton should want that large number of electors and where the others that he may have to lose are going. I do not know the geography of this area well, but I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) is quite right. This Amendment is permissive. It tells the boundary commissioners that if they are satisfied that such and such facts exist in a given area, and if they are of opinion that something should be done about them, they may so act. That is all. It is clear that the boundary commissioners in considering the matter will have to take into account the not irrelevant arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry, as they will have to take into account the arguments of the hon. Member for Nuneaton.

Earl Winterton

My right hon. Friend of course appreciates that this matter affects a great many constituencies as well as Nuneaton, Coventry and Middlesex, such as in Sussex and elsewhere. I rather deprecate being put on the basis of "any particular case." It is a very wide case.

Mr. H. Morrison

I quite agree, but the cases are confined to the constituencies that are scheduled in the Bill. Middlesex happens to be one of the areas affected. However, the argument will be clear. I do not know whether the Boundary Commissioners read the reports of our Parliamentary proceedings, but they would be wise to read the discussion on this Amendment in order to understand the spirit and the atmosphere in which the Amendment was dealt with. I shall certainly take into account the nature of the Debate which has taken place in the Committee and will try to apply the spirit in which the Amendment was carried—if it should be carried.

1.0 p.m.

On the points raised by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), I do not think that the Amendment need involve delay, at any rate any material delay. I do not think one needs to be apprehensive that it will impede the proper administration of the Bill and I think it would be right that the Boundary Commissioners should be disposed to act on the view that in so far as this is a Bill to deal immediately with the abnormally large constituencies they ought to be careful about stretching it in a way which might affect abnormally small ones. I think the Committee generally will take that view. I hope that will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the point of the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry, in which he brought in Warwick and Leamington, I agree with my right hon. Friend that what we want to do is to take this into account as far as is relevant to the real problem, and not try to take it any further, or we shall be wandering away from the constituencies in the Bill, which I agree would not be desirable. I can only say that it appears to be the general view of the Committee, with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry, that this Amendment ought to be accepted, and I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry, in the light of what I have said about us having to be reasonable and sensible about the administration of the Amendment—both the Boundary Commissioners and the Home Office—may be disposed not to proceed with his opposition. In view of the general feeling of the Committee, including hon. Members and right hon. Members who served on the Speaker's Conference, from whose recommendation this is a slight departure, so far as the Government are concerned we are perfectly prepared to accept this Amendment.

Mr. Petherick

I agree with the Home Secretary and with the majority of the Committee in this matter, but I can quite understand the fears expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland). His fears are probably felt in a number of other quarters. Therefore I wonder if it would be possible to allay those fears by introducing, at a later stage, an addition to the Amendment to the effect that, provided that in so doing they (the Boundary Commissioners) have regard to their obligations under Section 3 of this Act, that is to say to the ultimate complete redistribution. While it may be said, of course, that the Boundary Commissioners will do that anyhow—it is only reasonable to suppose they will—I do not think it would do any harm to put in words of that nature. I hope those concerned with the Amendment and also the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry will consider that suggestion.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)

In regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick), I am not at present inclined to think that the inclusion of the words he suggests is necessary, because under Subparagraph (b) the Boundary Commission will only do those things if they are of the opinion that it is desirable, and quite clearly they will have regard to their further duties under Clause 3 of the Bill. But I will have the hon. Member's point looked at before the further stages of the Bill, so that I can make quite sure that the words he proposes are not necessary.

Mr. Pritt

Would the Government look at the whole of the wording before the Report stage?

Mr. Morrison

That may be done in another place.

Mr. Pritt

In any case before the Measure becomes law?

Mr. Morrison


Captain Strickland

One cannot have listened to this Debate without realising the great weight of opinion that favours the Amendment. Although I have crossed swords with my right hon. Friend opposite who, with his usual air of superiority, thought fit to be rude, I feel there is a good deal in what this Amendment proposes. I would like again to propose that, should the Boundary Commissioners feel, in a case such as I have mentioned, that they ought to take an electorate into an already existing constituency, they should be empowered to complete that picture and draw other parts into that constituency, even though those parts were not, at that time, in an abnormally large constituency as mentioned in the Bill. That is, if the Commissioners feel it is a case which should come within their purview, they should have the power to go that step further and complete the picture and make a constituency complete in itself.

Earl Winterton

I think that in two sentences someone who is associated with the Amendment should thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way he has met us, and I should like also to thank the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). I do not know to whom the last speaker was referring. I did not cross swords with him, and his opinion on me or any other subject on earth is of no interest to me.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 2, line 9, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

In line 12, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

In line 17, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

In line 20, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

In line 26, leave out "existing," and insert "abnormally large."

In line 27, at end, insert: (2) Where—

  1. (a) any part of a county borough or county district within the meaning of the Local Government Act, 1933, is included in an abnormally large constituency, and another part thereof is included in an adjoining constituency which is not an abnormally large constituency; and
  2. (b) the Boundary Commission are of opinion that it is desirable to include both parts of the county borough or county district in the same constituency;
they may, for all the purposes of the foregoing Sub-section, treat the abnormally large constituency as including the adjoining constituency, and the number of new constituencies into which the abnormally large constituency (including the adjoining constituency) is to be divided as increased by one."—[Mr. Keeling.]

Mr. Keeling

I am advised that the last Amendment having been passed, an alteration in the Title is necessary.

The Chairman

Not at this stage.

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

Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)

May I ask, Major Milner, whether you have considered calling the Amendment down in my name and in the names of other hon. Friends—in page 2, line 28, at end, insert: Provided that, where any existing constituency is divided into three or more new constituencies or where two or more existing constituencies form a continuous area which is divided in accordance with paragraph (b) of the preceding Sub-section into three or more new constituencies, all such new constituencies shall at and for the purposes of the next general election which shall take place after the Order in Council mentioned in the next following Sub-section comes into force be grouped into one or more constituencies returning at that election not less than three nor more than seven members with a view to such members being elected by the method of the single transferable vote in manner provided by Sub-section (2) of Section twenty of the Representation of the People Act, 1918"?

The Chairman

I have carefully considered the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member and his Friends. It is clear, however, that the House, on Second Reading, having taken a decision not to include any provisions in regard to Proportional Representation, the hon. Member's Amendment—although, I agree, it only refers to a certain number of constituencies, namely, those set out in the Bill—would not be in accord with the expressed will of the House on Second Reading, and is therefore out of Order.

Mr. Harvey

With great respect to your Ruling, Major Milner, which I accept as regards the main question, may I ask whether you have considered the point that a limited experiment of a partial nature was not even mentioned during the Debate on Second Reading? It was not considered or discussed in connection with the reasoned Amendment. It was never really before the House, and therefore that might be a reason for allowing this very limited Amendment to be considered now.

The Chairman

I am sorry, but, in my view, the whole includes the part, and the Amendment is therefore out of Order.

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