HC Deb 31 May 1945 vol 411 cc381-422

3.51 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Home Affairs (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, That the Draft of an Order in Council entitled the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats)Order, 1945, a copy of which was presented on 17th May, be approved. This draft Order in Council, as the House knows, has its origin in Section 2 of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act of 1944. The problem with which that Section dealt was the problem of abnormally large constituencies with electorates which in 1939 varied from 100,000 electors to over 200,000 electors. There were 20 such constituencies which were scheduled in the Act, and a Boundaries Commission was set up to recommend their division into constituencies of approximately 50,000 voters. The Commission was to be under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker. The Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sir Sylvanus Vivian, and the Director-General of Ordnance Survey, Major-General Cheetham, were to be members. In addition there were to be two other members, one to be appointed by the Secretary of State and one by the Minister of Health. Mr. Roland Burrows, K.C., was appointed by my predecessor in office, and he was nominated Deputy-Chairman by Mr. Speaker. Sir Harry Pritchard, who has had a long association with the work of municipal corporations, was appointed by the Minister of Health. I am sure that the House would wish me, in the first instance, to express on behalf of all of us our gratitude to Mr. Speaker, for undertaking the Chairmanship, to Mr. Roland Burrows, the Deputy-Chairman, and to all the members of the Commission.

Under the Act there are to be 25 new one-Member constituencies, and I would like at this stage to refer to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 of the Act of 1944, under which the Commission was given a discretion, where part of a local government area was in an abnormally large constituency and part in another constituency not abnormally large, to adjust the boundary one way or the other so that the new constituency boundary coincided with the local government boundary.

The House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) who moved the insertion of this useful Sub-section during the passage of the Bill through the House. In their report the Commissioners say that this discretion has been invaluable in enabling them to secure this coincidence of boundaries, and therefore, to deal with parts of the problem on lines which are likely to be permanently satisfactory, at any rate over a period. I should perhaps remind the House that this principle, that local government boundaries and constituency boundaries should coincide, which perhaps is axiomatic, was recommended by the Speaker's Conference, but, of course, what is always apt to happen if there is a considerable interval between one re-distribution of seats and another is that there are changes in local government boundaries without a consequential change in the constituency boundary.

From the report of the Commission the House will have seen—it is indeed evident—that there was very little opposition to, or criticism of, the proposals provisionally formulated and published.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

Where does one see the Opposition now?

Sir D. Somervell

I think it is evident from the report that there was very little opposition, for the reasons I am just going to state, namely that these proposals were very widely published and there was a power, which we can be quite certain was exercised in all proper cases, for the Commission to have a local inquiry if they felt that representations were of sufficient body to justify that course. There were only two cases—Altrincham and Harrow—in which the Commission considered it necessary to ask for the appointment of Assistant Commissioners to hold a local inquiry and, broadly speaking, I think the fact that the proposals were accepted with very little difficulty is the strongest evidence of the care with which the Commission carried out their duties.

My predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), considered these proposals very carefully. He had power under the Act to submit them to the House with modifications if he thought that they required any modification, but he did not consider that they required any modification and I completely endorse his decision. I am asking the House, in accordance with the view he took, to approve these recommendations as a whole.

A point was raised, as to whether there should be a single Order or a number of Orders in Council. I think, if one looks at Sub-section (4) of Clause 2, which says that: The said report shall be laid by the Secretary of State before Parliament as soon as may be after its submission to him, together with the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained therein. Without being a lawyer, one would say that the Act itself contemplated a single Order in Council. I am not saying that as a matter of strict legal interpretation, where the plural generally can include the singular and the singular can include the plural, we should have been precluded legally from bringing a number of Orders before the House, but I think that plainly the House itself contemplated a single Order, which is the course we are adopting. It would be possible—of course, it would be quite impracticable—to have a single Order for each constituency. In all 75 constituencies are affected. You could have split them up into groups and had eleven Orders in Council instead of one. The House, of course, appreciates that detailed Amendments could not be moved in any event, whether there was one Order or whether there were eleven.

Mr. Bowles

No Amendments at all.

Sir D. Somervell

No Amendments at all. All that could have been done would be to reject the recommendations as to a group en bloc. Now I submit to the House that as contemplated by the Act the procedure of a single Order is the most convenient course. In the first place, there are a number of general provisions in the opening paragraphs which have application in all cases. One could have printed them eleven times over. There is a convenience in having a single document, but the main reason, I would suggest to the House, is that this difficult question of boundaries was considered with great care by the Commission, and I do not think the House could have found a better procedure or a better body for settling this kind of question. There is, of course, in present circumstances, the further point that it is a matter of urgency that the new constituencies should be able to function in the forth-coming election, and the necessary arrangements will be required to be made as quickly as possible.

I am aware that the hon. Member for Nuneaton—indeed he presented a Petition to the House on, I think, Tuesday—has objected in particular to the inclusion of Arley in the new Sutton Coldfield Division. To retain Arley in Nuneaton, as he is very well aware, would mean that the constituency boundary would cease to coincide with the boundary of the Meriden Rural District. This matter came before my predecessor, and he told the hon. Gentleman that he did not think the circumstances that had been put forward justified him in modifying the recommendation and departing from the general principle of coincidence of boundaries. I agree with that decision, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press the matter. He stressed the fact that those who live in Arley in the main have their shopping and marketing centre at Nuneaton.

Mr. Bowles

And many other things.

Sir D. Somervell

I think all hon. Members who sit for county Divisions must be very familiar with cases where a town or marketing centre in one constituency is the shopping and marketing centre, and many other things, for the people of another constituency. If we tried to adopt the principle that a person must vote where he markets and shops, we should find it very difficult to apply that principle all round. I thought it worth commenting on that case because there must be many constituencies where it would be quite impossible to take this as a guide. I would also point out to the hon. Gentleman and to others that the boundaries which we are asking the House to approve will all come under the review of the permanent Boundary Commission which will consider the redistribu- tion of seats over the country as a whole. As the Commission made clear in their Report, they did their best to lay out constituencies which would be satisfactory over a longer period, but they pointed out that in certain cases, particularly in regard to part of the Altrincham Division, probably changes would have to be made. Nothing that I say, of course, will betaken as suggesting that the particular point put by the hon. Gentleman is one that requires rectification, but I think it is right to say that he and any others who think this difficult job is capable of improvement in some particular or another will have an opportunity of seeing that representations are made to the permanent Boundary Commission when there is a general review. In this matter I am following in the footsteps of my predecessor who adopted these recommendations. I submit the Draft Order to the House, and I hope the House will approve it.

4.03 p.m.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

I wish to congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his appointment to his present office. During his speech I felt that there was a tendency for Home Secretaries to hang together, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman took the same attitude as his predecessor as far as my applications were concerned. I realise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not had very much time to go into the matter, but I still feel obliged to put before the House what I think are important considerations. The position is this. This is a try-out, as it were, of a certain number of redistributions that will take place after the next General Election, and the considerations that I would like to put before the House may in due course, if not in this interim redistribution, affect other hon. Members who are not immediately affected to-day.

In order to make my position clear, I would point out that when I arrived in my constituency on the Friday on which the advertisement was placed in the local Press, I was immediately asked by certain local reporters what my views were. I had not had much time to go into the matter, but as I happen to know my constituency fairly well, I immediately mentioned five places—and not only Arley—which, in my opinion, ought to come back to the Nuneaton Parliamentary Division, because the people in those places have a community of interest with the municipal borough of Nuneaton. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to one particular aspect, shopping. I want here to explain that I think the Commission has been a little hasty in one respect. On my behalf, my agent wrote a letter—and I think I sent a covering letter—to the secretary of the Commission setting out certain views in broad detail. This was done within the 28 days allowed, and therefore, I argue that I staked a claim to be heard on behalf of my constituents. There seems to have been no acknowledgement of the letter, or anything of that kind. I must have had a hunch that time was running against me, and I found that the Commission had already finished their work and made their recommendations to the Secretary of State, that they had, as it were, abandoned their job and had been disbanded themselves. Although I know the reason the Commission did not have a local inquiry was that they were not asked to have local inquiries, I think they might at least have asked me what my points were. I think the reason for the attitude they adopted of completely ignoring me was that I was the only person who had complained. But surely one appellant is enough in a case of this kind, because I was able to write to Mr. Speaker and produce quite a lot of evidence from other bodies in the constituency, such as the Chamber of Trade and both the local newspapers.

I would point out that some of the places concerned are valuable from a Labour point of view and some are not—on balance they are—but I think the matter is one of principle and not of political values. I feel that a claim having been staked and an application having been made that the recommendations should be reviewed, the Commission ought at least to have communicated with me in one way or another, and I complain that nothing in the form of a communication was sent either to me or to my agent. When I discovered what the position was, and knowing that the people in Arley, which is the biggest place concerned, felt very strongly about the matter, I wrote a letter to Mr. Speaker, who was Chairman of the Commission, and I have Mr. Speaker's permission to read that letter, which was as follows: Friday, 27th April, 1945. Dear Mr. Speaker, You will remember I saw you recently upon the decision of the Boundary Commissioners not to depart from their original recommendations concerning the new boundaries of the Nuneaton Division. Whether I had any special standing as the sitting Member or not (and here I should mention that Mr. Marples, the secretary, has no trace of a letter from me although I forwarded my agent's letter and newspaper cuttings), I feel I should still be allowed to submit the case for consideration. Shortly, there exists between Nuneaton and Arley in particular a community of interest as follows: secondary education, petty sessions, shopping"— and I would point out that in the report in Hansard of my statement on Tuesday, 29th May, in presenting the Petition, there is a misprint—"shopping" is given as "shipping," and this is the heart of the country— trading and amusement. Arley is only one mile over the Nuneaton boundary. Its only 'bus service goes to Nuneaton. Out of 1,995 voters in Arley nearly 800 have petitioned against the division. More than half the voters were out when called upon. The Nuneaton Chamber of Trade support my statement that Nuneaton is regarded by the people of Arley as their main shopping centre and regular 'bus services bring them into the town to shop (letter herewith). One big shop has, in addition to the usual bread and milk deliveries at Arley, over 1,400 registrations of customers living there. The Town Clerk of Nuneaton writes confirming my statement that Arley, Astley and Wolvey form part of the Nuneaton Petty Sessional Division, and that the children from these areas requiring secondary education are normally accommodated at the King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys and the Nuneaton. High School for Girls (letter herewith). I have the petition referred to in my possession. As Member for the division I feel it is reasonable to ask you if the Commission over which you presided had all these considerations before them before arriving at their decision. If not, it seems reasonable that they should consider them before their decision is made irrevocable. Will you accordingly please seriously consider asking the members of the Commission to reconsider this part of their recommendation and, if they do, to communicate with the Secretary of State before the drafting of the Orders in Council is completed. You, Sir, handed that, letter to the Secretary of State, who wrote me the following letter: 7th May, 1945. Dear Bowles, The Speaker has passed to me your letter to him of 27th April, in which you ask the Boundary Commission to reconsider inclusion of the Parish of Arley in the Hew Sutton Cold-field Division. As I had already received the Report of the Boundary Commission it was not possible for the Commissioners to take your letter into account, but I have given very careful consideration to the reasons you advance in your letter when deciding whether in this respect I should recommend to Parliament any alteration in the proposals received from the Boundary Commission. I quite appreciate the reasons you advance for the transfer of this Parish to the new Nuneaton Division on the ground that the population of Arley is generally dependent on Nuneaton in economic and educational matters. On the other hand the boundary of the Nuneaton Division as recommended by the Boundary Commission here conforms with the local Government boundary"— This is where, with great respect to my right hon. Friend, I think he was in error, as I shall try to prove— e.g., it follows the boundary between the Atherstone and Sutton Coldfield Rural Districts. This is, therefore, in conformity with Resolution 12 of the Interim Report of the Speaker's Conference, which recommended that the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies shall, where convenient"— I want the House to bear the words, "where convenient," in mind— coincide with the boundaries of local government administrative areas. Effect is given to this recommendation in Paragraph (5) of the Third Schedule to the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1945, under which Act the Boundary Commission is set up. Paragraph (5) provides for the application of this principle 'so far as is practicable' "— I propose to refer to those five words later— and I cannot, I am afraid, feel satisfied that the reasons advanced in your letter are sufficient to depart from it on this occasion. There are, as you are doubtless aware, very many cases where an area is situated in a different constituency from the market town or industrial centre on which it is dependent, and if this in itself were considered sufficient reason to depart from the principle it would result in that principle being, to a large extent, inoperative. My right hon. Friend used the word "principle" four or five times, but it is not principle at all. The phrases, "where convenient," and, "so far as is practicable," are escape clauses, and I hope my right hon. Friend will realise his past errors. The phrase, "So far as is practicable," means, "This is where you start from; where you find a local government boundary stick to it unless the phrase 'where convenient' urges you to lean against it." Over and over again in the Schedule of this draft Order you will find that part of a rural district is in one con- stridency, and part in another. The Home Office either misunderstood the matter or that was the only ground on which they could possibly make a case. I wrote back to the Home Secretary on 11th May, 1945, as follows: Dear Morrison, I thank you for your letter of the 7th instant. You say you do not feel satisfied that the reasons advanced in my letter are sufficient to enable you to depart from the 'principle'—'that so far as is practicable boundaries. of Parliamentary constituencies should, where convenient, coincide with the boundaries of local government administrative areas.' Surely the phrases 'as far as is practicable' and 'where convenient ' have been deliberately inserted to authorise you to depart from the boundaries where the balance of convenience makes this course desirable. I claim that Arley and the other villages mentioned are clearly cases in point. With respect, I submit it is wrong for you to lean so strongly the other way, I accordingly invite you to recommend the alterations I have asked for in the proposals of the Commission which did not call for any evidence at all. A further point is that Arley has hitherto been in the Nuneaton division. In closing, may I seriously ask you to reconsider the important Parliamentary point as to the desirability of submitting the recommendations in a series of draft Orders in Council and not all together? Please refer to columns 1581 to 1583 in Hansard dated 3rd May, 1945. I suppose it would be impossible for me to persuade the House on this matter but, nevertheless, this arises through having all these things in one draft Order. If we could have had a number of them there would have been no trouble in getting them through. There would have been no trouble in asking the Home Secretary or the Government to take back a particular Order, in order to reconsider it and bring in another one the next day. I do not suppose my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary intended to mislead anybody about the printing, but I cannot accept from this Government that Executive action such as the directing of labour away from the work of printing should ever be an excuse for the Executive to hide behind their own actions. If the Government directed too many printers away so that their business was interfered with then I say that the Government stand condemned. I would like to point out that in the draft Order it states, with reference to altered constituencies: Bosworth.—The present Bosworth Division, excluding parts of the municipal borough of Nuneaton and of the rural district of Atherstone, but adding the part of the urban district of Hinckley of the parliamentary county of Warwick. The Order also states: Rugby.—The present Rugby Division with the addition of part of the rural district of Rugby in the present Nuneaton Division…. This is not a principle; it is an alibi on the part of the Home Office. They probably had the whole thing already printed, and were not prepared to do their job properly. This is a case where a Parliamentary constituency is being over spilt, and I suggest it should go back. As I have said, I do not suppose the House will support me this afternoon, although I think it should, and I hope that another time when other Members find similar causes for complaint they will, in some way, indicate to the Home Office that we require each recommendation to be put before the House in single Orders, and not in an omnibus Order. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make my protest. I am certain that there has been a miscarriage of justice, and I am sure that the present Home Secretary is very sorry at having to follow so religiously in the footsteps of my right hon. Friend his predecessor, and that perhaps he will make amends and next time, if he is still in office, see that justice is done.

4.23 p.m.

Sir Reginald Blair (Hendon)

For me this is a question of "better late than never," but, as a Member whose present electorate is being divided into at least seven Parliamentary Divisions by the Order we are discussing, I welcome it, and I hope it will go through very rapidly. It has taken a long time, because it was as far back as February, 1936, that the question of redistribution of seats was put to the then Government. I hope the Commission will get on with their work at once, and will be able to remove some of the anomalies that exist at present.

4.24 p.m.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

I would like to thank the Home Secretary for introducing this Order at the eleventh hour. It will be a great relief to those like my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Colonel Llewellin), who have constituencies which are two, three or even four times the average size, and who are to have them reduced to a reasonable size before the election.

I want to ask my right hon. and learned Friend a question. The Boundary Com- mission over which you presided, Mr. Speaker, created a number of new seats, the boundaries of which corresponded precisely with those of municipal boroughs, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said. But in their original draft they did not recommend the creation of any new Parliamentary boroughs. They kept all these new divisions, although they were the same areas as municipal boroughs, as county divisions. Some of us took exception to that, and made representations to the Boundary Commission, with the result that that was, to a large extent, corrected. Hon. Members will see, if they look at the draft Order, that in Cheshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Essex and Kent a number of new Parliamentary boroughs are to be created. They go even further, and create the new Parliamentary borough of Harrow, which is not a municipal borough at all, but an urban district. I think all that is very desirable, because there is no doubt at all that these areas are, in fact, urban and. ought to get the benefit of the lower rate of expenditure of 5d. instead of 6d. per voter which prevails in the Parliamentary boroughs. But why make exceptions to this principle? If my right hon. and learned Friend looks at page 12 of the Order he will see that Acton and Brentford and Chiswick remain county divisions although, in fact, I understand that the county division of Acton consists precisely of the municipal borough of Acton, and that the county division of Brentford and Chiswick consists precisely of the municipal borough of Brentford and Chiswick. I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to give me a reply oh this point.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)

I do not want to detain the House unduly, but I would like to support the protest which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) on the inclusion of all these Parliamentary boroughs in one Schedule. I am not rising with any hope of altering the present Order—it is obviously far too late to do that—but I am worried as to what might happen with the next redistribution of seats, in which a large number of London constituencies will, quite rightly, disappear. If we are to be presented on that occasion with a Schedule, in which all the constituencies concerned appear together, and it will not be possible for a Member to argue against one, with any hope of having that particular decision reconsidered, I think the House will be put into an impossible situation, and that Members and local interests will be severely and unjustifiably handicapped. I ask the Home Secretary to give us an undertaking, if he possibly can, that on the occasion when constituencies are to disappear—and that is an occasion when more interests are hurt and more people are disturbed—we shall have presented to us each proposed alteration separately, so that the House can deal with each one separately without being forced to vote against the whole body of the proposed alterations.

Mr. Bowles

Why does my hon. Friend limit the request to the Home Secretary? Why not have the general principle accepted by the Home Office?

Mr. Strauss

I was trying to say that on the next occasion regarding the creation of new constituencies or the disappearance of old ones the principle of separate representation should take place.

4.29 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I think part of the difficulty which my hon. Friend has just alluded to arises from the fact that we are dealing, on this occasion, with redistribution by Order whereas on previous occasions it has been dealt with in the Schedules to the Representation of the People Acts of 1918 and 1885. On the last occasion—I was not a Member of the House although I was following the proceedings with interest—two constituencies were preserved which it had been suggested, in the Schedule, should be abolished, namely, East Fife and Carnarvon Boroughs, the only district of boroughs to remain and a tribute to the work that had been done by the late Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. If that is to be the case on the next occasion, it might involve practically every county, and nearly every Parliamentary borough, in England being rearranged. If we were then faced with the position of having one order dealing with the whole country, it is clear that a substantial injustice might be done. I regret that in carrying out this work the Commission did not more strictly adhere to the local government boundaries in most cases than they did during the period since 1918. The effect of the Local Government Act, 1929, has been that a number of Review of County District Orders have been made which have altered municipal boundaries and boundaries between urban and rural districts by a couple of hundred yards or so along the road. One now has the amazing anomaly that people are in an urban district and a county electoral division, which is not included in the Parliamentary division in which they vote, or vice versa.

I find one case, for instance, in Surrey. In the fourth column of the Schedule it is proposed to include within the new Epsom County Division the small parish of Chessington. All its main roads and bus services lead into Surbiton and it is an integral part of Surbiton and has nothing to do with Epsom. I cannot help thinking that that is unfortunate. There should be a genuine effort to get people associated for all government purposes with the constituencies, whether municipal, local, county or Parliamentary. I hope when the next revision takes place that principle will be observed rather more than it has been in some cases on this. There will always be the kind of anomaly in which you have a small district which is really an overspill from another. It was for such cases as that, I imagine, that the safeguarding words my hon. Friend alluded to were included in the instructions given to the Commissioners. I hope that on the next occasion we shall not be faced with one Order dealing with the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and any other places which also by that time may attempt to interfere with the sacred principle of home rule for England.

4.35 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Hackney, South)

I find the Parliamentary methods of my successor a little embarrassing. He comes to the House with this Order and, faced with potential opposition and criticism from my hon. Friends, promptly proceeds to take me as his sole effective defence in the matter. It is very complimentary. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will always do what I should have done if I had still been at the Home Office though I am not sure that he will—as the next Business on the Paper shows. On the other hand, I am in the position that I have an obligation to defend this Order even more than the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, because it is my Order. I congratulate him on his appointment to the Home Office. It is one with which he has had a good deal of familiarity and contact in the past for many good reasons—I hope they were all good reasons—and the Department will not be wholly unfamiliar to him. I wish, him happiness and success in his office, though we will keep observation upon him and will not hesitate to criticise him when we think it necessary in the public interest. My own relations with him in the late Government were always good. Perhaps they will not be so good now, but we shall try to keep them as sweet as is consistent with divergence of political principles.

With regard to these Orders, I cannot find any adequate answer to the claim of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) that they ought to have been submitted in such a way that they could be challenged separately. Earlier in the war the Government had a practice, for which I was partly responsible, of submitting to the House Orders in Council which embodied a number of Defence Regulations, and objection was taken by Conservative Members on the ground that, if they wished to oppose a particular Order, they could not very well do so without opposing the whole Order in Council, which included a number of Defence Regulations to which they took no objection, and they could never get a really fair vote on the merits of the case that they were putting forward. We met that case subsequently by submitting Defence Regulations in one document but numbering them separately, so that each could be challenged if the House so desired. I blame myself that the point did not occur to me sufficiently early. I think my hon. Friend is on a fair point for consideration in the future because it is a bit awkward if he wishes to challenge the Order in relation to one constituency, and is driven to the position that he has to challenge the whole redistribution. In those circumstances he is beaten before he starts.

I hope the Home Secretary will give an undertaking that in future he will consider this point and see whether it cannot be met, so that Members can challenge specific constituency boundaries if they so desire. I admit that there is a difficulty about it. If a recommendation for the boundary of a new constituency is successfully challenged or is taken back by the Government, it is clear that not only the boundary of that constituency goes into the melting pot but at least one other. Indeed, it might affect two or three. Even so, the Member who is criticising or challenging has a better chance to get his point before the House if the area of challenge is limited than if it covers the whole field of the 25 constituencies, and next time it may be over the whole country. I am only saying now what I told my hon. Friend when I was Home Secretary, that he is on a fair point and has been put into a bad position. At this stage I cannot help it and he will have to put up with it. I told him he was entitled to have a row with me when the Order came. He has not had a row with me but with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. My heart is with my hon. Friend on Parliamentary grounds but my vote will have to be with the Home Secretary, because in the circumstances in which I was placed it was not practicable to meet the point, but I hope next time it may be so.

The other point is about the local government areas. I agree that the wording is not slavish. There is elbow room to ignore local government boundaries if it is expedient so to do, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that we should not lightly set aside local government boundaries. It is an inconvenience to municipal authorities' clerks and council and town clerks if they have to confer with two or three Members of Parliament. Other things being equal, there is a great deal to be said for the local government boundaries being co-terminous with Parliamentary divisions. However, I do not dispute with my hon. Friend that that should not be slavishly followed if there is a good case to the contrary, but I agree with my right hon. Friend that there is a lot to be said for local government boundaries as a bias in the shaping of constituency boundaries. I support the Motion and, in view of the fact that my successor has relied so exclusively on my wisdom and virtue in the matter, I can do no other than say I think he is right.

4.42 p.m.

Sir D. Somervell

I should like very much to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his congratulations and good wishes and to endorse fully the friendly relations between myself in my office and him in his which always prevailed in the past. I agree that in the future the relations may be somewhat different at times and I shall endeavour to give as good as I get. On the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) about boundaries, I think he might have a look at paragraph 8 of the Report. I think the difference arises from the fact that the two cases that he mentioned were existing divisions the boundaries of which were only being slightly readjusted and not new boroughs where something was being carved out afresh.

On the general point about Orders, it is intended that, if we are having to deal with a general distribution of England, Scotland and Wales, that should be by a Bill brought before Parliament. In other cases probably the problem is less likely to arise in as acute a form as it does here because, if we get local boundary reports, they will deal with a particular area and will probably come up singly. The Boundary Commission will have reviewed a particular area and we shall not get a single report covering 11 disconnected areas. Apart from that, I will take notice of what my hon. Friend says. I quite agree that it is not desirable to throw a great deal of miscellaneous matter at the House in one Order if you can separate it. On the other hand, I am sure that my hon. Friends on each side of the House will agree that one of the main ideas behind this Act was that an outside independent body is, broadly speaking, the best to decide the difficult questions which arise when it is proposed that a particular bit is taken out of one constituency and put into another. I thank the House for the response it has given to this Order. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) has put his point strongly, but I should like to thank him for the spirit in which he has spoken.

Mr. Bowles

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that I referred to the fact that, although a complaint had been lodged in time, no notice was taken by the Commission. Will he see that in future, when either Members or bodies make representations, without expressly saying that they want to be heard, they will at least be communicated with?

Sir D. Somervell

I was told that we had no information about that. It must, however, be a matter for the Commission because, if the House sets up a Statutory Commission, the matter passes out of the hands of the Minister. I am sure, however, that if there was a mistake, those who were responsible for it would regret it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft of an Order in Council entitled the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Order, 1945, a copy of which was presented on 17th May, be approved.