HC Deb 21 April 1948 vol 449 cc1830-2
Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 42, line 43, to leave out "at that election," and to insert: to fill the vacancy or any of the vacancies for which the election is held. This is a drafting Amendment. The Clause lays down that a candidate shall be incapable of being elected at an election which is voided because of certain misconduct on the part of the candidate. The purpose of the Amendment is to make it clear that he is also incapacitated from filling any of the vacancies for which the election was held. This is a clearly desirable provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move in page 42, line 45, to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert: (2) For the purposes of section eightyseven of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, and section thirty of the Elections (Scotland) (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act, 1890 (which provide that an election may, on the grounds there mentioned, be questioned by petition, and not otherwise) a person declared by this section incapable of being elected shall be deemed to have been disqualified at the time of the election; but a vote given for such a person shall not, by reason of his incapacity under this section, be deemed to be thrown away so as to entitle another candidate to be declared elected, unless given at a poll consequent on the decision of an election court that he was so incapable. This is rather an interesting Amendment. We propose to leave out the existing Subsection (2), and to insert a new Subsection. We do this for two reasons. The first is that it is necessary to bring in the reference to Scotland because the Municipal Corporation Act, 1882, which solely relates to England and Wales, does not apply to Scotland. The second reason is a very interesting one and gives some insight into the way in which elections were conducted in the days of smaller electorates. If a person voted for a candidate who was disqualified, and knew that the person was disqualified, it was possible to get the votes of all such persons taken off the original poll of that candidate and then his opposing candidate, if he could reduce the number of votes polled below the number he polled, claimed the seat.

Let us say that in the contest the voting had been 1,000 to the winning candidate, and 950 to the other. If the losing candidate could prove that more than 50 of the people who voted for the winning candidate knew at the time that they voted that he was disqualified, he could claim the seat. I am told that such cases actually occurred. Exactly how it was proved that people knew they were voting for a disqualified candidate, I do not know. We say that in any such case where a candidate is disqualified there should be a fresh election, and the electorate should have the opportunity of pronouncing between two candidates whom they may assume to be validly qualified. I hope that the Committee will think that in this departure from ancient tradition we are making a reasonable reform of election law.

Mr. C. Williams

I do not quarrel with this Amendment. I am indeed glad to see it on the Order Paper, but again I am astonished that it was not in the original Bill.

The Chairman

Anything the hon. Member has to say must be at least relevant, and I ask him not to continue that form of argument, but to deal with the merits of the Amendment, and not with the question of whether or not it should have been put in at an earlier stage. That might be said of many Amendments.

Mr. C. Williams

Of course, if you, Major Milner, rule that it is not in Order for me to say that I am astonished that it was not in the original Bill, I willingly accept your Ruling, but I must say that if I am not allowed to express astonishment at the Bill not being perfect when we have very long Amendments, which I think should have been in the Bill originally, I must regret your Ruling. This Amendment is one of considerable importance, and I am glad that it has been put down. I support the Government and the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion, and feel sure that if the Amendment had not been put in we should have had the additional trouble of an amending Measure in future. I welcome this provision most sincerely in every way.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.