§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
I beg to move, in page 28, line 39, after "election," to insert:or otherwise of the local elections rules.Perhaps we might discuss at the same time the following Amendment—in line 40, to leave out from "that," to end of line 42, and insert:the election was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections and that the act or omission did not affect its result.These Amendments arise out of the discussion we had on Clause 12. Hon. Members will recall that, as we found during that discussion, there is in the Ballot Act, 1872, a provision which provided—I am paraphrasing it, and not reading out the whole—that if it appeared that an election was conducted in accordance with the principles contained in the body of the Act and the irregularity, whatever it was, did not affect the result, the tribunal might act accordingly. The intention of that statute was apparenly to draw some distinction between the principles contained in the Act itself and the rules which were enumerated in the Schedule. That may have been a convenient thing to do when the Ballot Act, 1872, was passed, but it has ceased to be so now, because in the Local Government Act the words "in the body of the Act" have been left out, and the whole of the election procedure was included in the relevant Schedules 1717 to that Act without any attempt being made to distinguish between provisions which might be thought to embody principles and provisions which did not. In fact, of course, however one attempts to deal with this matter there seems to be great difficulty in drawing any distinction between rules which are to be regarded as principles affecting the validity of the whole election and rules which are to be regarded as merely procedural, and which will not upset the election.
Many attempts seem to have been made to classify, on the one hand, the different classes of irregularity whch may void elections, and, on the other hand, those which, although they remain irregularities, will not upset the election. What appears to be clear from these attempts is that it cannot be done by trying to press any distinction between irregularities which are irregularities in principle and irregularities which are something less than that. The real thing, as the Government think, is to look at the whole course of the election rather than at some particular incident which may have occurred in it—some individual breach of some particular requirement—and then to ascertain whether, substantially, the election was conducted in accordance with the law. If it were—although there may have been minor mistakes—by and large, conducted in accordance with the requirements of the law, and if it is clear that such mistakes as did occur did not in any way affect the ultimate result of the election, then the tribunal ought not to void the election.
We have sought to embody that kind of principle in the new wording of this Clause. We respectfully agree with the view expressed during our discussions on Clause 12, that the phraseNo substantial miscarriage in the conduct of the election.may not have been entirely apt; but we think that we have now found words which are more appropriate than those originally used in the Ballot Act, 1872, and which do express the meaning which ought to be embodied in the Clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 28, line 40, leave out from "that," to end of line 42, and insert:
the election was so conducted as to be substantially in accordance with the law as to elections and that the act or omission did not affect its result."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.