§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate, [16th February] on Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I am sorry that I was unable to complete my argument when the Ten o'Clock Rule operated last night, and I will try not to detain the House for many minutes. I was referring to the redistribution of seats in England, and I made reference to the fact that in the large Borough of Birmingham, a constituency in which I have the honour to represent, there have been no prior consultations nor any response to a letter received from the Town Clerk by the Commissioners to the effect that the City of Birmingham had never been allowed to submit its objections and that there had been no inquiry.
I want to put a further point. If it had been only a question of consultation that would not have been an absolutely valid reason for an additional seat in Birmingham. I should like to tell the Home Secretary, in regard to remarks which I made about the Boundary Commission not having given the right to Birmingham to submit its objections, that I was not in any way casting a reflection upon him or upon the Government. I have been a critic of Government Departments for the way they have sometimes dealt with their correspondence, but my right hon. Friend has always dealt with us in a most courteous manner, and I have not the slightest doubt that if he had been entirely responsible for the actions of the Commissioners, certainly a city like Birmingham would have been given an opportunity to state its case.
We were not able to make any representations to the Commissioners and we were not in a position to tell the Commissioners that the rule which they themselves laid down was never applied to Birmingham. On page 145 of this Bill the rules will be found, and Rule 5A (1) makes it quite clear that 994the electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules.The rule says later:The expression 'electoral quota[...] means.. a number obtained by dividing the electorate for Great Britain,which in this case would be 57,697. The Boundary Commission in their Report in paragraph 10 made this statement:Our general aim was the creation of constituencies as near the electoral quota as practicable consistent with the preservation of local unities.I submit that in the case of Birmingham, as in the case of some other cities, that rule was not applied—a rule that the Commissioners themselves had drawn up. Furthermore, they state in paragraph 11:As a general guide to the formulation of our provisional recommendations we adopted a rough working rule, under which electorates within a range of 50,000 to 70,000 were treated as normal.If Birmingham had been given 13 seats we should be within that range, because the average would be over 58,000 for England and certainly more than the electoral quota in the country.
Earlier I made reference to Scotland, and I can only think that there is one city that is absolutely comparable with Birmingham, and that is Glasgow. I notice that the electorate of Glasgow amounts to 787,258. The electorate of Birmingham is 759,690, so that Glasgow on the date in question had a surplus of electors over Birmingham of 27,568. Yet Glasgow has 15 Members of Parliament as against Birmingham's 12. I am not attacking at all the number of seats which Glasgow has. Good luck to them. I am merely suggesting that this is not quite a fair position so far as Birmingham is concerned. I submit that important industrial constituencies ought to have been consulted, and in the case of Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford and some others, the rule was not actually applied. We are entitled to ask the Government to apply the rule to us. We are not objecting to the rule. Parliament laid down the rules, and we believe we ought to be brought within them.
I should like to make one reference to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I notice that he devoted practically the whale of his speech yesterday to a defence of privilege—a privilege of a minority.
§ Mr. Yates
The right hon. Gentleman said that brains did not matter on this side of the House, and that intellect and education need not apply, as though in centres like Birmingham we were intellectually inferior to the universities. He was pleading for a special privilege for a small section of the population, numbering 228,769, and he argued that they have a right to votes. He never said a word about Birmingham or any other places, where the constituencies were so arranged as to disfranchise, in the case of Birmingham, for instance, 47,000 electors, and many more in other cities. He never said anything about a city like Birmingham being entitled to 13 Members and being given only 12. Throughout the country there were something approaching three quarters of a million electors who were surplus to the electoral quota. The right hon. Gentleman never said a word about those people. He never said a word about a constituency which had 87,000 electors. No, they might be herded together in a great—
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Member is now attacking His Majesty's Government who have carried out the workings of the four Boundary Commissions over which Mr. Speaker presided.
§ Mr. Yates
Yes, Sir, I am well aware that the right hon. Gentleman was attacking the Government. I am pointing out to him that his defence was for a privileged minority and that he omitted to think about the large number of constituencies which are over-populated. When these large constituencies are made, we are entitled to consideration. After hearing the right hon. Gentleman, I could not help thinking of the almost classical reply that Tom Paine made to Edmund Burke. In the "Rights of Man" at the time of the French Revolution, Tom Paine said that Burke thought of the plumage but forgot the dying bird. He was thinking of the plumage of privilege.
§ Mr. Yates
We are not quite dead yet. The right hon. Gentleman came to Birmingham during the war and exhorted the people of Birmingham and the country 996 to do their best in the war effort. Today those people are entitled to a better reward than to have their Parliamentary representation interfered with in this way.
I sincerely trust that as a result of the few words I have uttered the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his hon. Friends will see their way to support those of us on this side of the House who are asking for a fairer representation. I submit these points to the Home Secretary. It was a difficult task for the Boundary Commission to plan the country on the basis of the rules set out, but they can arrive at a fairer proposition by enabling those large constituencies with an excess over the quota of electors to have additional representation. We are entitled to it, and I trust that the Government will pay due heed to the representations of such large cities.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
No one will take any very strong exception to the main purpose of this Bill, which is to bring about a redistribution of electoral areas and to put an end to the very wide disparities between the numbers of voters in different constituencies which have grown up as a result of the shift of population since the last redistribution in 1918. The necessity for redistribution has long been recognised. In the General Election in 1945 there were numerous constituencies which contained only one-third or one-quarter—in some cases only one-sixth—of the number of voters in the larger constituencies. At the same time it is generally accepted that precise mathematical equality is unattainable and undesirable, and that substantial variations from the quota must be permitted on account of the sparse population in certain areas, and because it is essential to have regard to local sentiment and tradition. As the Lord President of the Council said in moving the Second Reading of the House of Commons (Redistribution) Bill in 1944:Members of Parliament do not represent mere aggregations of individuals, bundled together in mathematically equal groups. They seek to represent areas which are identifiable and, if possible, have their own traditions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1611.]I fully subscribe to the sentiment there expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. 997 In the redistribution of 1918 the limits of variation above and below the quota were fixed at 70 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively. The four Boundary Commissions established under your chairmanship, Mr. Speaker, in 1944, were instructed on the strength of Resolution No. 10 in the first Report of Mr. Speaker's Conference to work to a limit of 25 per cent. only on each side of the electoral quota. That would have given for England constituencies varying between about 75,000 on the high side and 45,000 on the low side, but, as the House is aware, the Commission found these limits too narrow, and the Home Secretary had to come to the House just before Christmas, 1946, to secure an amending Bill which gave the Commissioners a much wider discretion. I am, therefore, a little surprised that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), speaking last night at about 9.30 p.m., should now object that the Commission had exercised their powers too widely, because he was a Member of the Government which introduced the amending Bill of 1947 which swept away the 25 per cent. limitations from the quota which were put into the Act of 1944.
I should like to join in the tributes which have been paid to the work of the Boundary Commissions over which Mr. Speaker presided and to say that taking their Reports as a whole, I think they have produced as good a plan as could have been devised. The schemes, if adopted, will result in a much greater approximation to the unattainable ideal of "one vote one value," but disparities will of course continue to exist and some of the smaller Welsh county seats will contain 30,000 electors or thereabouts compared with over 80,000 for some of the larger boroughs. We on this side of the House can also give our approval to those parts of the Bill dealing with corrupt and illegal practices, the decision to revert to the pre-war system of registration, to which we attach great importance, and those parts of the Bill which provide for local government elections being held at a more convenient season of the year. There will of course be many minor points upon which we shall move Amendments in Committee.
There are, however, three major points upon which for reasons which I shall now 998 try to develop, we shall seek to secure, if possible by voluntary action on the part of the Government, amendment of the Bill during the Committee stage. These are university representation, the continuance of the City of London as a separate constituency, and, a point which is inseparably bound up with the representation of the City of London, the retention of the business premises qualification. I do not intend today to argue the merits of these issues in detail. We shall be able to go more fully into them in Committee.
With regard to the question of the retention of the City of London as a separate constituency, I would remind the House of the solution of this question which was put forward by the Labour Party in Mr. Clynes' Bill of 1931. With a tremendous eulogy of the City of London, its history and traditions, Mr. Clynes proposed that the City should continue to return two Members, and that the business premises vote should be retained for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, as an alternative to the residential qualification. Because I feel that this should be on the record before we get to the Committee stage, I will refer in passing to the statements of the Lord President of the Council with regard to the City of London. Speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1944, he said:That brings me to the ancient City of London … It is always possible to get excited about the City of London … the City of London has a great place in municipal history. It has a great place in Parliamentary history also, and on the issue of the abolition of the City as a separate indentifiable Parliamentary constituency … the Government think it right that it should be preserved.He went on to add:It is felt that to merge the City—and I think I shall carry the House generally with me—or any part of the City, with adjoining constituencies, is not a proposal likely to receive wide support.
§ Mr. Peake
On the Committee stage he went even further. An Amendment had been moved to ensure that there should be no representation of the City after the next General Election. He ended up about a column and a half of HANSARD in praise of the City with these words:As for the other issue which arises on this Amendment—the proposal that the City 999 should be abolished as a Parliamentary constituency—I think it is emotionally, historically and Parliamentary objectionable, and I hope the Committee will not agree to the Amendment which has been moved.I hope the right hon. Gentleman will study carefully his speeches on that Bill before we get to the Committee stage of this Bill.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I have been doing it.
§ Mr. Peake
He was followed in that Debate by an hon. Gentleman who addressed the House last night, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) who was also a member of Mr. Speaker's Conference and on the National Executive of the Labour Party at the time that Conference was held. Having heard the speech of the Lord President, the hon. Member for Dagenham endorsed it in these words:I would like to say, on behalf of the Labour Party, straight away, that we support the views which have been put forward by the Home Secretary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th and 12th October, 1944, Vol. 403. c. 1618, 1619, 1994 and 2007.]There was the authentic voice of the Labour Party in the year 1944. I will not weary the House with other quotations from Socialist Members who supported the then Home Secretary both by speech and by vote on that occasion, but these things should be on record, because they will play a part when we discuss in detail this question of the City of London on the Committee stage. However, the case I put forward in regard to these three matters—universities, the City, and the business premises qualification—rests on much higher ground than those of mere merit.
Ever since 1885, when extension of the franchise and redistribution of seats were effected by agreement between the Conservative and Liberal leaders of the day, it has become accepted practice that great Measures of redistribution and reform should be brought forward only after agreement, or attempt to secure agreement, between the political parties. Examples of this are the Speaker's Conference of 1916, the abortive Ullswater Conference of 1930, and Mr. Speaker's Conference of 1944. In all three conferences the Socialist Party was a willing and active participant. We attach the 1000 greatest importance to this constitutional practice, which has grown up, of securing agreement between the parties for major changes in the electoral law. We have seen too many examples in other countries during the last generation of parties securing a majority in a democratic assembly and then proceeding, by unilateral action, to change the system of representation to their own advantage.
The Conference of 1944 consisted of 32 Members presided over by Mr. Speaker. There were 15 Conservatives and 11 Socialists, if one includes the late Mr. James Maxton amongst the latter. Most of the Socialist representatives were men of eminence, men who are liked and trusted on all sides of the House, and who are either now or have been until recently, Ministers in His Majesty's Socialist administration. They include the Minister of National Insurance, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Ammon—who is Chief Whip in another place—Lord PethickLawrence—whom we knew well in this House as Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party—the hon. Member for Dagenham, and the late Mr. Foster who represented Wigan.
The Conference came unanimously to four important conclusions. If anybody questions the word "unanimous" I will refer them to speeches by the Lord President of the Council in which he so describes their recommendations. These four conclusions were: first, that the local government franchise should be assimilated with the Parliamentary franchise; secondly, that the business premises qualification be maintained, subject to the elimination of the right of the spouse of the business voter to cast a vote—that alone would have removed 140,000 business voters from the 1939 register, at which time the business register totalled 355,000 voters. At the present time the business premises voters on the register number only 55,000 The third matter on which agreement was reached was that university representation should continue, with a new provision for automatic registration without the payment of any fee. The fourth was that the City of London should continue to be represented, at any rate by a single Member, as a separate constituency.
It is perfectly clear from the concluding sentences of Mr. Speaker's letter, in 1001 which he reported to the Prime Minister the results of the Conference, that these unanimous conclusions were the result of a bargain, by no means dishonourable to those who participated in it. May I, Mr. Speaker, quote your words?The conclusions set out in this Report, and the amount of general agreement that we have achieved undoubtedly represent for all a subordination of opinions sincerely held which would not have been possible unless all Members of the Conference had been determined from the first to tackle without bias the thorny problems which confronted us.It now appears that it is admitted by some right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but denied by others, that there was a bargain. The Lord President of the Council, in an interjection yesterday when my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was addressing the House, said:There was no bargain, either at the Speaker's Conference, or in the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 867.]That was the declaration of the Lord President yesterday, but I would refer him to his attitude on this matter when the Caretaker Government was in office. The right hon. Gentleman waxed very indignant about this matter at that time. A question was asked on 29th May, 1945, about carrying out the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. At that time the right hon. Gentleman was sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, and he knew perfectly well that there was going to be a general election in a matter of weeks. Sir Geoffrey Mander asked the Prime Minister whether it was proposed to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. The Prime Minister said there was no question of getting the Bill before the election. The right hon. Gentleman rose in his place and said:Are we to take it from the Prime Minister's answer that the labours through which the Speaker's Conference went, when they reached a large measure of unanimous agreement, are to be set aside, and that this Election is to be fought by means which the Speaker's Conference condemned as wrong, merely because the Government will not find the time to carry through these elementary reforms, including the poll card?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1945; Vol. 411, c. 28.]It surprises me now that the right hon. Gentleman should come forward and state that there was never any agreement, either in the Conference or in the Government, 1002 that these recommendations should be carried out.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The argument yesterday, which was provoked by the rather fervid speech of the Leader of the Opposition, was that it was a bargain which committed any Government and the Parliamentary parties in this present Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has not adequately quoted what I said. What I said yesterday, after having bridged the conversational gap between the Leader of the Opposition and myself, was:… but to imply by that that any party which was returned was obligated to carry out every one of those recommendations in the next Parliament"—that is this Parliament—is sheer nonsense. There was no bargain, either at the Speaker's Conference or in the Government.Clearly there is a connection between the general argument running through that and in the last argument which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted when I was on the other side of the House and the Caretaker Government were in office. There was a complaint that certain recommendations of the Speaker's Conference to be applied in that Parliament were not so carried out by the Caretaker Government in that Parliament.
§ Mr. Morrison
Certainly, in the Speaker's Conference in 1944 there were compromises, there were accommodations, that were reached, and the consequence was that I had to defend some of these compromises and agreements in the legislation on behalf of the Government of the day. I have no grievances. I did my duty. There was compromise in the Government, but it all related to action in the Parliament which ended in the middle of 1945.
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged, because in an interjection only three minutes earlier the Secretary of State for Scotland said this—I will not quote it all:But, since the election, the Conservatives have broken that agreement by using the university vote to send back to this House Conservatives whom, at the General Election, the electors rejected at the polls.I will repeat it:since the election the Conservatives have broken that agreement"—
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)
I have not said anything different.
§ Mr. Peake
The right hon. Gentleman has. I will read it once more, as the right hon. Gentleman cannot take it in.Since the election, the Conservatives have broken that agreement"—That was a year after the election. The Secretary of State for Scotland accepts the position that there was an agreement and that the agreement continued to operate after the general election?
§ Mr. Peake
But the right hon. Gentleman did. When he speaks later he must explain what his words meant. They were plain:Since the election, the Conservatives have broken that agreement by using the university vote to send back to this House Conservatives whom, at the General Election, the electors rejected at the polls."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 865–867.]
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
Will the right hon. Gentleman complete the argument by referring to the apparent acceptance and endorsement of the agreement by a statement in another place in October last, which was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Is it not perfectly 1004 clear that there is a difference between the Lord President of the Council, who says that any agreement made was automatically dissolved by the intervention of the election, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, who accuses the Conservatives of having broken the agreement 18 months after the election was over? Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland takes a precisely opposite view from that expressed by the Lord President of the Council. I will leave other hon. Members on this side of the House to address themselves to the implications, the curious implications, of this statement that we ought to deprive the universities of representation because they have had the impudence to send back one or two Conservatives who had been defeated in other constituencies at the general election. That seems to come very nearly within the laws relating to intimidation at general elections.
§ Mr. Peake
It is perfectly clear, despite what the Lord President of the Council said yesterday that there was an agreement. The next issue is, whom did that agreement bind? I submit with equal confidence that it bound not only the individual hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who attended the Conference on behalf of the Socialist Party, but that it bound the Socialist Party itself as a whole.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it bound hon. Members of the Socialist Party at the last election who voted against it?
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
I was going to be helpful. I wished to ask if the right hon. Gentleman would get away from scoring, or trying to score, party points, and 1005 put the positive case for the retention of university representation in some modified form, because I think there is a case. I hope that if I have an opportunity I might put that case.
§ Mr. Peake
I certainly do not intend to get away from a subject which is so extremely inconvenient to hon. Members opposite. I say that those 11 gentlemen who attended that Conference, Socialist Members of this House, did not go there only in their capacity as individuals. I have not the slightest doubt that they went in a representative capacity. That is, in fact, clear from Mr. Speaker's letter to the Prime Minister of 24th May, in which he said:Invitations were issued roughly in proportion to party strength in the House of Commons, and we also intended to secure as far as possible representation of the various shades of opinion, different types of constituency, and all parts of the country.Who were some of these 11 gentlemen? There were two members of the National Executive of the Labour Party, the Minister of National Insurance and the hon. Member for Dagenham. There was the Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, Lord Pethick-Lawrence; there was Lord Ammon, Chief Whip of the Labour Party in another place, and there was the Secretary of State of Scotland, who is described, I have no doubt accurately, in "Dod's Parliamentary Companion," as the "Scottish Secretary of the Labour Party."
Can it be believed that they went into this Conference merely as individuals, that they went without any instructions from the headquarters to which they themselves belonged? Is it not ridiculous to suppose that they were not acting in that Conference on behalf of the Socialist Party as a whole? I submit, therefore, that any agreement made—and it is now admitted that an agreement was made—was binding on the Socialist Party as a whole, as well as upon those individuals who attended the Conference—[An HON. MEMBER: "In the last Parliament."] Surely, the next question to which we have to address ourselves is this: If there was an agreement, which it is admitted bound both the individuals who made it and the parties they represented—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—what was the intended duration of the agreement?
§ Mr. Piratin
I made an intervention just now which I believe, in the light of my experience in this House, of both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Peake
I do not follow the precise relevance of that interruption. On this question of the duration for which it was intended this agreement should be operative, we have, first of all, the interpretation given of it at the time, or within a few weeks of the termination of the Conference, by the Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party Mr. Pethick-Lawrence, as he then was, in this House. On 12th October of that year, he said—the quotation has already been given to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford yesterday:The agreements were satisfactory as agreements, and in my view they met the situation by arriving at a solution which we thought would survive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 2045–6.]Did Lord Pethick-Lawrence mean "survive for another six or 12 months"? Does anybody really imagine that that is what he meant by those words at that time?
Moreover, the Lord President of the Council introduced the Representation of the People Bill in December, 1944, when we all knew that the war was drawing to an end and that a general election was bound to follow. That Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, and as the House is well aware, added seven million new voters to the municipal franchise and took 140,000 spouses off the business premises qualification. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing that Bill, told the House that time did not permit of dealing with the other recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference, and he spoke of "the forthcoming General Election." It is very difficult for me, knowing the Lord President as I do, to believe that when he introduced that Bill he was saying to himself as follows: "If we lose the forthcoming General Election we have secured the benefits under the bargain which was made at the Speaker's Conference, which we need, and if we win the General Election we shall be completely free to repudiate our liabilities." Was that the attitude of mind in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the 1007 Bill on 19th December, 1944? Was that what was in his mind at that time? I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was so mean as that.
In fact, I have always entertained hitherto a high opinion of the honourable nature of the conduct and character of the right hon. Gentleman; but I do not believe for a moment he would have got that Bill, which added seven million new voters to the municipal franchise, through a predominantly Conservative House of Commons, if he had said, "This bargain holds good only until the forthcoming General Election. After that, if we win the election, we shall hold ourselves free to repudiate anything in the agreement made at the Speaker's Conference which we do not like."
§ Mr. Bowles
The right hon. Gentleman's argument can be a powerful one. I have no doubt that compromises on the Education Act, which was introduced by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) were reached between various interests, sectional and political as well. Would the right hon. Gentleman think that this Government were bound by the agreement reached in the Coalition Government on the Education Act?
§ Mr. Peake
I cannot now concern myself with the Education Act. Here was a Speaker's Conference. The settlement which was arrived at by the Speaker's Conference of 1916 lasted for a generation. Lord Pethick-Lawrence, when he spoke of arriving at an agreement which he trusted would survive was, I am quite sure, not speaking of a settlement which was to last only for six, 12 or 18 months. It should, of course, last either until all parts of the bargain have been implemented, or a new Speaker's Conference has been assembled to express a different view.
What would the Lord President of the Council have said, supposing we had won the 1945 election, and had come forward at this time with a Bill to disfranchise seven million municipal voters, and had said, "Oh, yes, the agreement made at the Speaker's Conference was only binding until the end of that Parliament. Parliament is completely free"? The right hon. Gentleman says that every new Parliament is completely free. Of course, Parliament is always free, but parties are 1008 not free, nor are individual Members. If individual Members of parties are freed by the mere fact of a general election, from all their past pledges and promises, what on earth is the good of election addresses and party manifestos?
I think that by now I have satisfied the House, first, that there was a bargain; secondly, that the bargain bound not only individuals but the Socialist Party as a whole— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It did not of course bind every person in the Socialist Party, but it did bind the party.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The right hon. Gentleman says this agreement was to continue until the bargain was implemented. The bargain at this point, according to him, was to leave things as they were. How do you arrive at a time limit to leave things as they are, and to leave the university franchise in its existing condition?
§ Mr. Peake
That does not really seem to me a very intelligent interruption. The bargain was perfectly clearly set out in the letter of Mr. Speaker in May, 1944. It decided that the business premises qualifications should be retained, subject to an alteration with regard to spouses. It decided that the university representation should be retained subject to automatic registration without payment of fees. It is perfectly obvious that the recommendations of the Conference on this matter could, and should, be implemented, and it is obvious, also, that this agreement should not be varied without consent amongst the great political parties.
I think I have established three propositions. First, there was the bargain; secondly, by virtue of their representation on the Conference, the Socialist Party are bound by it; and, thirdly, in the minds 1009 of those who made it the bargain would not cease to be operative through the intervention of a general election, and any change of Government which might result therefrom. If this agreement binds the Socialist Party, it clearly binds the Members of His Majesty's Government, who are the leaders of the Socialist Party. It more especially binds those Members of the Government who were Members of the Government in 1944 which established the Speaker's Conference, and which accepted the recommendations of that Conference. I have been waiting throughout this Debate for somebody to unfold a defence to the very grave charges of breach of faith, made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford. The case of the Lord President appeared to be—or was yesterday—that no agreement had been made, but that point, I gather, he has conceded in the course of my speech this afternoon. Secondly, he says the dissolution of Parliament in 1945 dissolved the agreement made, and absolved the parties to it from its further fulfilment. I hope he will tell us how that can be so, when part of the agreement—the part he wanted to secure—had already been carried out. Moreover, if it is claimed that the dissolution of Parliament put an end to this agreement, surely that claim should have been made immediately after the General Election? We should not have had to wait two and a half years for this claim that the agreement reached in the Speaker's Conference was dissolved in July, 1945.
How came it that the Lord Chancellor was allowed to make a statement in another place, only three months ago, that the Bill to be introduced would contain the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference? Is it not clear that what has happened is that large numbers of the Socialist Members of this House, newly elected in 1945, have failed adequately to appreciate the extent to which their party had been committed in 1944 by their representatives on the Conference and by the action of the Lord President, in 1945, in securing the fulfilment of his part of the bargain? As I have said, parties, just as much as individuals, can be bound by promises and bargains made in the course of political life. I therefore make this plea, in all sincerity, to the supporters of His Majesty's Government, because I believe that they, and not Ministers, are the masters now. I feel 1010 sure that they have inadequately appreciated the extent to which they were committed in 1944.
Is there not time to think again about these matters before Committee stage? Would it not be to the credit of our democratic system if this bargain were to be honoured, even at the prospect of some slight political disadvantage to the Socialist Party? What, in fact, does it amount to? Honour would be quite satisfied if one Member were left to the City of London, whose electorate has been substantially—I hope only temporarily—diminished by the great amount of damage done there during the war years. So far as the universities are concerned, a majority of their representatives, I believe, are independent, but I honestly do not know why the party opposite should so despair of ever securing the return of Socialist Members by the most educated section of our electorate.
Let me make it clear that, in my opinion, honour would not be satisfied by leaving these great issues in Committee to a free vote of the House. That would merely afford a way out of their personal difficulties to those individuals who represented the Socialist Party on Mr. Speaker's Conference. It would not discharge the obligations of honour under which the Socialist Party and the Government stand. So far, we have not had any reply to the serious charges made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford. It surprised me that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, who spoke almost immediately after the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A Salter)—who repeated these grave charges—should have made no reference to them of any sort or kind. The only observation of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland was that the senior Burgess for Oxford University seemed to be making rather heavy weather. I hope that before this Debate concludes we shall have some clear statement, from the two Government spokesmen still to take part in it, as to the reasons which have driven the Government to take this course, of which we so strongly disapprove.
We cannot, and we shall not, vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, whose main purpose is to secure more accurate representation of the will of the people at the next Election. We earnestly 1011 hope, however, that between now and the Committee stage the Government themselves will consider introducing Amendments to give effect to the bargain struck in 1944. Nothing could be more injurious to the future of democracy than that in each Parliament changes should be made in the franchise without agreement, or attempts to secure agreement, between the great political parties. One thing is certain. If the Bill is pushed through without these vital Amendments there will remain for all time a lasting and an indelible stain upon the honour of the Socialist Party.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)
I listened yesterday to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and today to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), and I am still not clear as to what is the justification for the retention of the university vote or the City of London vote, except—
§ Mr. Woodburn
—except that they seem to claim that there was an agreement made during the Speaker's Conference which binds the Labour Party, and this Parliament, to carry out all the recommendations of that Conference. I had not intended to deal with this point, but since I was a member of the Speaker's Conference, clearly I can speak with some intimate knowledge of what happened. Both the right hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to bargains, and to give and take. I gathered from both that what the Conservatives were prepared to give was something in the way of the spouses' vote and manhood suffrage in local elections, and what they seemed to think they had got was the university vote and the City of London vote. But I am not aware that the City of London or the university vote can be considered as counters. If the party opposite are admitting that they are counters, they are admitting that both are pocket boroughs for the Conservatives to use. There is no advantage in our giving the City of London or the university votes unless they are claiming that they are privileged pocket boroughs into which they can bring in Members whenever they please. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Otherwise, the argument about 1012 a bargain does not arise. If people are making a bargain there must be give and take. They give something and expect something else in return.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I am peculiarly disinterested in this point, but surely this is a question of principle. It is not a question of pocket boroughs. It is perfectly possible that there might have been half a dozen Members of Parliament at present who were strong sympathisers with this Government. The question is one of principle.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Gentleman is dealing with a different point. He is dealing with the merit of the university vote. I am dealing with the fact that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are claiming that they have made a bargain with regard to the university vote and the City of London vote. If they are able to make bargains like that, then the universities are not fulfilling their proper function as constituencies of a special character.
What happened about the manhood suffrage vote at the Speaker's Conference was not connected with any bargain. It was a perfectly logical development from the discussions which took place. Unless we gave manhood suffrage, none of the men who were fighting in the war, who were not married and did not have houses, would be able to vote in the town in which they went to live when they came home. The first reason, therefore, was to give soldiers a vote in their home town or county. Secondly, the reason was that if we did not have the Parliamentary register used for the municipal elections, we could not have an election immediately, for there was no register at that time, except the Parliamentary register, on which an election could be held. It was also recognised then, although right hon. Gentlemen seem to have forgotten since, that it would be many years before the people of this country were housed, and that for a long time large numbers of the population would be living in other people's houses and would be disfranchised in local authority elections. Therefore, three great sections were required to be provided with votes, and this could only be done by manhood suffrage.
1013 The argument was made yesterday that these people did not pay rates. Hon. Gentlemen who put forward that argument were gravely mistaken. Though these people may not pay rates directly, nobody can live in another person's house and make a contribution to that house without paying rates vicariously. If a person purchases in shops, he is paying rates indirectly. But one of the things which governed us was that nearly 50 per cent. of some local services are paid for by national taxation. Every young man, even though he may not be a householder, has to pay national taxation, and, therefore, he is also a contributor to local rates. These were perfectly legitimate arguments for the granting of manhood suffrage. I cannot understand why the Conservatives should now try to introduce the question of a bargain, because their representatives on the Conference behaved perfectly reasonably about this. They argued the matters on their merits and this conclusion was reached on the merit, of the case.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Does he say that any agreement is not binding unless it has been exclusively constructed on the basis of competing party interests?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I will come to that later. There was a question which was completely party, and that was the redistribution of seats. The Labour Party Members, and I think the Liberals, held that there should be complete redistribution of the seats. The Conservatives wanted a partial redistribution. The pundits on both sides considered that in a partial redistribution the Conservatives would gain 30 seats. Of course, the election proved them to be wrong, but that was the general conclusion. That was agreed by the pundits of both sides, and it was certainly something upon which we might have had a bargaining point. The Labour Party gave up its demand for a complete redistribution largely on practical grounds. Eventually there was a compromise in the dividing up of the abnormal constituencies. It was a limited redistribution, but it was clearly a thing which affected the parties considerably.
The Speaker's Conference met under peculiar conditions. The right hon. 1014 Gentleman the Member for Woodford was Prime Minister at the time. He laid it down that for that Parliament no legislation which was controversial should be introduced. The Speaker's Conference was appointed with that guidance. We were asked to give agreed recommendations to the Government of the day. The Conference came to agreed recommendations. As both right hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, one cannot have agreed recommendations without agreement. We admit that right away. The Lord President of the Council has admitted, that we agreed at that Conference. There is no doubt about that fact. The point is that none of the arguments which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite have deduced from that follow at all. It is a non sequitur. The right hon. Member for Woodford yesterday made the case that there was a breach of that agreement. Since there was an agreement he said we had broken it. I simply point out that the Conservatives have broken that agreement—
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am coming to that point. It might surprise everybody to know that at that Conference the Labour Party, by a majority, agreed to support the retention of the university vote. They did that because they had become convinced—
§ Mr. Woodburn
Let me put it another way. The Labour Party representatives were not unanimous that the university vote should be retained, but a majority of them had been persuaded that they ought to agree to it.
§ Mr. Woodburn
No. In their individual capacity they had become convinced at the Conference. The reason was that during the war it had become apparent that the university vote was being used for the purpose for which it was destined. One of the factors which largely contributed was the wonderful contribution which Miss Eleanor Rathbone made in 1015 the House of Commons. There were also Professor A. V. Hill and Sir John Boyd Orr. From time to time they contributed most expert knowledge. In addition to that, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) at that time could be regarded as a non-party man contributing to the nation in its distress from his long Government experience. The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) was regarded to some extent as not quite a Conservative and, to some extent, as a non-party Member.
During that time there was a prima facie case that the universities were, for the first time, using their votes for the purpose for which they were destined. The Labour Party, therefore, were almost convinced that the universities were going to use the vote as it was intended to be used. Since the general election, the university elections have reverted to prewar form; in other words, they have become pocket boroughs where Conservatives who could not get seats at the general election can be seated at their convenience.
§ Sir A. Salter
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say, on behalf of himself and the Government, that the reason—or the principal reason—for introducing a proposal to abolish the 12 university seats permanently is that, in the last year or two, two university constituencies have elected two Conservative Members?
§ Mr. Woodburn
No. I am entitled to comment upon this claim that the university vote is to be used for carrying out the purpose of providing non-party contributions to the House of Commons. Regarding those who were returned at the general election as Conservatives, such as the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), immediately after the election took place, he took his scat alongside the Conservative Opposition and has been there ever since. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University, so far as I can see, is indistinguishable from a Conservative.
§ Sir A. Salter
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not the case that I voted and spoke against a Conservative Government when the Conservatives were 1016 in power as often as I have voted and spoken against the Labour Government, and, naturally, is not a middle-of-the-way Independent likely to be more often than not opposed to any Government, whether of the Right or the Left?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a strange phenomenon that somebody starts out by being progressive and ends up by being reactionary. It is nothing new at all.
§ Mr. Churchill
Before we leave this important point, I should like to have clearly established the point which the Secretary of State for Scotland is making. He says there was an agreement about the universities, because he was of the opinion that the university Members in the last Parliament were non-party, but that, since the election, because two Conservatives have been elected, he considers there has been a breach of that agreement. He wants, therefore, to abolish the representation of the universities. [Interruption.] Surely, that is the position which he has taken up? Is not this an attempt to affront, and even intimidate, the free voting in very large constituencies of men who have had the advantage of graduating at a university, and can this be the basis of such a change?
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman has been using the word "agreement." It can be one of various forms. He said yesterday that there was a definite agreement, a definite bargain. There was no such thing as a definite bargain at the Speaker's Conference, which discussed these things in the main, on their merits, and came to decisions on the merits, with the exception of the one question about redistribution and partial redistribution, and of the other question of the abolition of the spouse's vote, because, clearly, there could be no agreement on the business vote. The Labour Party is opposed to it, and the Conservatives are in favour of it, and, clearly, no agreement was possible. So far as agreement was concerned before the general election, it was clearly confined to that one item which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
I would like to get this point absolutely clear. Does my right hon. Friend say that the bargain or agreement at this Conference was based on the assumption that Members elected for universities would be of a special order? 1017 That is very important. The right hon. Gentleman has said that today, and he said it yesterday.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The point is that at the Speaker's Conference people were discussing these things on their merits. I was pointing out that, although the Labour Party was normally opposed to university representation, they had become, to some extent, almost persuaded about its virtues by the example of Miss Eleanor Rathbone and some other distinguished people who represented the universities during that period, and, had they continued—
§ Mr. H. Strauss
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a simple question? Is it his case that, at the postwar by-election following the death of Miss Rathbone, the Combined English Universities ought not to have been allowed to have a Tory candidate, or ought not to have been allowed to let him win?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I think I have made my point. [Interruption.] I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to agree with it; I have made it, that is all. There was no bargain in the sense which was suggested yesterday, and no agreement in the sense suggested yesterday. The Conference was composed of representatives, and I would point out that they were representatives and not delegates sent with instructions. They met as individuals to discuss the matter, to agree to recommendations to submit to the Speaker's Conference. Obviously, they could not bind all the people outside to accept this agreement, though they were able to get their party colleagues to support the decisions which had been reached.
§ Mr. Woodburn
No. We had no power to come back and command the rest of the Members of the House of Commons. We did, in our turn, try to persuade them that what we had agreed to was reasonable, and, with the exception of the City of London, we persuaded them to agree with the conclusions we had come to.
1018 If I might conclude this point about the universities, I want to refer to one misunderstanding which appeared yesterday in confusing literacy with intelligence. Merely because a person gets scholastic training does not increase that person's intelligence. Doctors may be good doctors, scientists may be qualified for science, teachers qualified to teach and dentists qualified in dentistry, but it does not necessarily make them of superior intelligence to the miners, the engineers or the black-faced workers in this country, and that suggestion of superior intelligence cannot be sustained for a moment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I want to deal now with the relation of this Bill to Scotland, though I will not go into great detail. I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Speaker, Lord Mackintosh and Sir Robert Nimmo for the admirable way in which they conducted the Boundary Commission for Scotland. It is understood that they will keep the constituencies under review, and, as was the case with the Act passed in the last Parliament, the Scottish constituencies will retain the 71 seats, although the three university seats will go, as they are going in England. We maintain that that is a reasonable minimum. We do not object, and we cannot raise any objection, if England thinks it is under represented, because we maintain that our representation is a reasonable minimum whereby a great and large country like Scotland, which wants to play its part as a nation in this Parliament, can be adequately represented.
Some criticism was made about the smaller quota which we have for each seat in Scotland. At that Speaker's Conference, this matter was discussed in regard to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and we came to the conclusion—and this was one of the reasons for rejecting proportional representation—that this was not a matter of a mere mathematical calculation to send a body of persons here representing a mathematical number. We hold that, under the democracy of this country, the constituencies of this country should he living entities, and that, if it is a town, it wants to have a representative as a town and not a representative of 36,400 individuals. If it is a county, it has a corporate 1019 entity as a county, as well as being a number of divisions and a number of people.
If we try to expand the great areas of Scotland in order to introduce a quota, they become physically impossible to work and completely detached from their Members. I am quite sure that hon. Members do not appreciate the distances that exist in Scotland. The area of Scotland is three-fifths that of England. Yet we have only about one-seventh of the Members of Parliament to cover that enormous area. Scotland has, on an average, 264,000 acres in each constituency, as against 66,000 acres in England and Wales. As a whole, of course, it has about 30,000 square miles, as against 50,000 for England.
When we come to some of the smaller constituencies, such as the Western Isles and Argyll, hon. Members who have been there will realise that one cannot talk about those parts as one can about a part of Yorkshire. I remember, at the Ross and Cromarty by-election, one of our colleagues from South of the Border was trying to arrange for somebody to go from one meeting to another. He looked at the map and calculated that the distance of 26 miles could be covered in half an hour; but that road was one of the highest in Scotland, and passed over to Applecross, apart from the fact that, at the time, it was blocked with snow. Finally, he had to go in a fishing boat round the point. That shows that anybody thinking in terms of electioneering cannot judge it by London and the Southern parts of this country. Moreover, many places in Scotland can only be covered by water transit, and while the aeroplane is performing a great service in developing that part of the country, it does not cover all the spots. I am quite sure that hon. Members representing these parts could tell some interesting stories about electioneering there.
During the Ross and Cromarty election we were away for three days and could not get in touch with the election headquarters because we were snowed up. The son of the right hon. Member for Woodford had to come along with his car in the middle of the night, and try to pull us out of the snowdrifts. Electioneering in that part of the country is entirely different from what it is in any other part. 1020 Nobody will welcome more than the people living in those parts the date for electioneering being changed to the summer. The counties of Caithness and Sutherland alone have 1,750,000 acres, and one elector to every 65 acres. Ross and Cromarty have 1,500,000 acres with one elector to every 40 acres. I am quite sure that hon. Members who think in terms of Scotland having too big a representation will realise that, if representation is to be intimate and connected with the territory, then it must be made workable and left in a convenient form from the point of view of such representation.
The local elections in Scotland will be changed for the county and district councils from the second Tuesday in November to the second Tuesday in May, and for the town councils from the first Tuesday in November to the first Tuesday in May. No election of local authorities, of course, will be held until May, 1949, and those who are already members of councils and holding office will carry on until that date.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
I hope I am not taking the words out of the right hon. Gentleman's mouth, but I should like him to say whether there were consultations between the local government authorities in Scotland before the change was made.
§ Mr. Woodburn
There were consultations, but they were not so successful as the Speaker's Conference, and we did not get absolute agreement. That is what the hon. Gentleman is concerned to ask.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
My right hon. Friend has said that those holding office on local authorities in Scotland will continue to do so until May. If a provost, a lord provost, or a treasurer was elected to office in November under this Measure, and not by the conduct of the council itself, will he retain office?
§ Mr. Woodburn
The Bill automatically carries him on until May, 1949.
This Bill is a culmination of the development begun 100 years ago of complete suffrage and "one man, one vote." As I have said, we shall regret, on personal grounds, the passing of many persons who have represented constituencies which may be abolished by this Bill. Nevertheless, on grounds of equity and of proper representation, the Government have come to the conclusion that, in the framing of the new electoral registers, the university 1021 and City of London votes should go. Naturally, there will not be complete agreement on that. This proposal is put forward in a Parliament which is different from the last, inasmuch as it is not bound by any non-controversial legislation, although we recognise, to some extent, that that fact may be controversial.
When we come to the Committee stage, the right hon. Gentleman opposite will be able to put forward his arguments in favour of the suggestion he advanced today because, so far, no arguments have been put forward to justify a retention either of the university vote or of the City of London vote. There have been arguments about something which happened in the last Parliament, but we are dealing with this matter on its merits. If there are any merits, they have not been advanced in this Debate so far, either yesterday or today. We do not want arguments to convince us of the Government's demerits, but of the merits of the case, for only by that means can they be justified. I am not convinced that there are merits in the case; I subscribe to the view that the City of London has a historic background which is going to be perpetuated in the perpetuation of the name. But, as I have said, there was no contract and no bargain made at the Speaker's Conference to the effect that the present constituencies were going to he perpetuated and that the agreements were going to be perpetuated forever, because the world is moving quicker today than ever before, and this Parliament must move with it.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
I will not follow the Secretary of State for Scotland in the remarks he made about Scotland, because that dependency lies outside my purview. I will also not follow in his remarks about the bargain at the Speaker's Conference, because I am not prepared to regard university representation as a mere counter in a bargain. That was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), and most unanswerably by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake).
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member referred to Scotland as a "dependency." I can hardly believe my ears, that such a remark should come from an hon. Member of the status and standing of the junior 1022 Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris). If he proposes to proceed with that kind of argument, one might begin to wonder whether Independents should be allowed at all.
§ Mr. Harris
I will withdraw that characterisation unreservedly and accept any substitute the hon. Member may offer. The implication emerges from the Secretary of State's speech that university Members must undergo some form of de-Nazification, in the matter of their political affiliations. I will, therefore, endeavour to establish my own credentials. I was invited to stand as an independent Member by a Committee formed at Cambridge in 1938 to endeavour to secure the return of independent Members to Parliament. For 30 years, I have not been associated with any political party. In that period I have voted alternately for Conservative, Liberal, and Labour Members. For 15 years I have edited an independent political journal, and since I have been in this House I have sometimes voted in one Lobby and sometimes in the other. If that does not constitute independence, I should like to know what further qualification I can acquire.
Like the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), I deeply sympathised with the Home Secretary yesterday in the unwelcome and distasteful task he found thrust upon him. I am especially distressed that one who has had an honorary degree conferred on him by Cambridge University should rise to propose the disfranchisement of that university.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that that was in the nature of a bribe?
§ Mr. Harris
No, it took place at a time when it was never credible that the disfranchisement of the universities would be proposed. But all that is a matter between the right hon. Gentleman and his conscience. I know that at one time the right hon. Gentleman had a conscience because, in the distant past, our lines first crossed in the terse and exhilarating atmosphere of the Cambridge University Nonconformist Union. As everyone knows, a Nonconformist conscience is something of a peculiarly high quality—
§ Mr. Harris
Both the right hon. Gentleman and I possessed one. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman's is a good deal atrophied; mine, I am glad to say is still in active operation. If the right hon. Gentleman retains any of the scriptural knowledge which I know he possessed in those days he will remember the figure in the Gospels out of whom seven devils were cast. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to improve on that by casting out 12 at a single stroke. As one of them, I have a certain personal interest in this matter, but in view of the remarks made by Mr. Speaker yesterday, about the undesirability of bandying personal Questions in the House, I will not pursue that particular theme.
I do, however, appeal to the House not to view this matter from a personal aspect. I was sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland felt it necessary to analyse, rather surprisingly, the political character of so many of my colleagues in the representation of the universities. Let it be admitted, if you will, that anyone coming to this House, and surveying well the present university Members, would decide at once that university representation had not a leg to stand on. Let us admit all that. But it is not a question of the university Members of this Parliament. The Secretary of State for Scotland himself paid a warm tribute to the university Members of the last Parliament. We must view the whole of this matter in a larger framework. We must consider the Members who have represented the universities decade beyond decade for centuries in the past, and who, when the Government have made the graceful concession which I am confident they will make on the Committee stage, will continue to represent them for further decades through more centuries still. It is in that broad setting that we must consider this question.
Listening to the speeches by the Home Secretary and others on the opposite side of the House, I endeavoured to discover what was the real reason for seeking to abolish university representation. So far as I could understand it, it came down to one principle—to the abolition of the plural vote and the establishment of the principle of one man, one vote. Surely, that is a rather slavish adhesion to a mere formula. Is it suggested that a Govern- 1024 ment which can nationalise coal and transport, which can bend the medical profession to their will, which can issue 2,916 Statutory Rules and Orders in a year, cannot say, "We will abolish plural voting with the single exception of the university vote"? Are we, out of a mere slavish adhesion to logical consistency, to avoid doing a thing which may be good in itself?
The question to which I want to address myself is precisely that—whether university representation in this House is or is not a good thing in itself? The only question we have to consider today is whether the House is better off with university Members—not necessarily with the present university Members—or without them? I believe that it is better off with them. After all, we are too few to do any harm, but we are enough to do a certain amount of good. We are too few to do any harm; for what are 12 in a House of 620, even if all the 12 are of one political colour? At the last General Election, out of the 12 university Members elected, seven were elected as Independents, and I think it is safe to predict that we shall never have all 12 university Members of one political colour, and that about 50 per cent. of that number will always be independent.
As to whether the House is better off with university Members, never was there a time more inopportune for the advancement of the proposal which is contained in this Bill. Whatever the material difficulties may be, we ate in the midst of an immense expansion of our educational system. There is the whole of the very important Education Act of 1944 to implement; there is the question of the development and coordination of the grammar, modern, and technical schools; there is pressing—and will be for a long time—the grave question of staff shortage, and the difficulties arising from the competition of more lucrative employment which draws away from the schools the men they so urgently need; there is the question of the intake of primary school children into the public schools, in regard to which I may observe that the public schools are making every effort to carry out that principle, and that the difficulty rather lies on the other side.
All these questions intimately concern university Members, although I am not suggesting for one moment that university 1025 Members have any monopoly of education. For instance, the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett), the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley), my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) and the Home Secretary himself are evidence that the interest in education is widely spread. At the same time the pressure upon a Member who represents a constituency of 60,000 voters is very heavy. He has every kind of preoccupation, and it is difficult for him to concentrate on pursuing the progress of educational effort in different fields. The university Member is left free to do that, and, to the best of his ability, he does it. Further, graduates who are teaching in various schools—there are far too few of them, and I hope the number will increase rapidly—naturally and rightly turn to their university Member in any difficulty which confronts them in the pursuit of their profession. From that point of view alone, there is an important service which university representatives can and should perform in this House.
But let us take the universities themselves. I do not intend to follow the Home Secretary, in his excavations into history yesterday, whether with the assistance of the Dictionary of National Biography or of articles by the junior Burgess for Cambridge University in the lesser Press. It is a matter not merely of historical interest but of some practical significance that Parliament and the universities should have grown up so much side by side, that the first Parliament should have been summoned and the first colleges in Oxford and Cambridge taken shape almost simultaneously in the latter half of the 13th century. Throughout history the universities have done much to make the work of this House possible. The business of the House is to carry on the Government of the country, and the universities provide the store of human material by which that Government can he carried on and the administration staffed. In the ancient Bidding prayer which precedes the University Sermon every Sunday at Cambridge—and, I fancy, also at Oxford—there occurs the passage:that there may never be wanting a supply of persons qualified to serve God in Church and State, let us pray for a blessing on all seminaries of sound learning and religious education, particularly the universities of this land.Shorten that, if you will, by eliminating God—and a good many people seem able 1026 to eliminate God nowadays. Shorten it further if you will by eliminating the Church. It still remains true that the universities are today providing a supply of persons qualified to serve the State—civil servants, scientists, doctors, Labour Members and Conservative Members in this House. The association of the universities with the Government and with this House has, throughout history, been close and beneficial to both.
It is not unimportant to remember that times are changing rapidly in regard to the universities. The wheel has almost come full circle. When the universities came into being it was because a few poor scholars gathered round gifted lecturers in Oxford and Cambridge, before even the colleges of either university had taken shape. Oxford and Cambridge began by being poor men's universities. In the meantime, it may be admitted, to a large extent they became the abode of privilege, but today that is not the case. I listened yesterday to the impressive words spoken in this House by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) when he told us how much he had hoped in his youth for the benefits to be derived from study at the University of Oxford. I gathered that the obstacle in his case was financial, but that obstacle has practically vanished. We are certainly very near the time, if we have not reached it yet, when any boy or girl whose abilities justify a university education will not be deprived of it merely because of lack of means. If university representation continues, as I hope it may, it will be from trade unionist homes that many of the university Members will come.
The universities are now facing new demands put forward in particular in the Barlow Report which laid down that the interest of the country demanded that the numbers of students at the universities should be increased from 50,000 to 100,000. That is a very serious proposition involving questions of finance, buildings and staffing, all of which concern not only the universities but this House and the respective Ministers. Let me revert to the claim which was made by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) that, while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had served the universities well in the matter of finance. I desire to endorse that claim to the utmost. I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman of the appreciation that was [...] 1027 by the universities at the broadminded and generous way he met any request from the universities for funds.
§ Sir A. Salter
Would the hon. Member allow me to interject? I believe that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) made that statement in a reference to me, because I said I thought the Government's blow at the universities a surprising one, in view of their previous record in regard to the universities. I would not like the House to think that I differ from my hon. Friend in this matter.
§ Mr. Harris
I only desire to record my personal opinion not that of my university in regard to the action of the late Chancellor and the way in which he dealt with university matters. Let it be remembered that even if the number of students at the universities is doubled, they will still stand in a far smaller proportion to the population than is the case in the United States and other countries. In all these matters the State and the universities must go hand in hand. Financial assistance from the State is needed to supplement the immense generosity of pious benefactors of the past, and of men of public spirit in the present. Let us remember what Bristol owes to the Wills family, Reading to the Palmer family, Hull to the Reckitt family, and Oxford in respect of the new college endowed by Lord Nuffield.
Both public and private effort are needed in this supremely important field of education. It is because universities play so large a part in our national life and because their destiny has been so closely associated with the destiny of Parliament that I submit it is in the public interest and in the interest of this House that that association should be continued, as the Speaker's Conference proposed. This Debate was opened by the Home Secretary. It is to be wound up by an ex-Home Secretary. No function, I believe, which has to be carried out by those who occupy the office of Home Secretary can give them so much satisfaction as does the power to grant a reprieve. I trust that the Home Secretary and the Lord President of the Council will give themselves the satisfaction of reprieving university representation from the sentence which it is receiving in the Bill.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Medland (Plymouth, Drake)
I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the subject for discussion is the Representation of the People Bill. I have sat through the Debate and listened to a great many speeches and I have begun to think that the Debate had something to do with 12 particular representatives who, under the Bill, were being displaced from their seats. The Bill deals not only with the representation of the people, but with the redistribution of seats, and it applies to something between 600 and 620 constituencies. From the Debate so far it would appear that all the important people live in 14 constituencies, of which 12 are the universities and two are in the City of London.
I support the Bill, not because I have any objection to university representation in Parliament, but because I think that the proper place for university representation is not the House of Commons but the more secluded, sheltered and quiet habitation known as "the other place."
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared, in that case, to agree that the Minister of Education, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and other Members of the Government should be provided with places in the House of Lords?
§ Mr. Medland
They have been elected for other constituencies, and not by unisersities. The discussion has been almost entirely around vested interests and their representation in this House. I would like to take it for a few minutes to the question of redistribution, as outlined in the Bill, and as it affects the ordinary people. We must, in the first place, make it very clear that more seats will be lost in the big cities and the large county boroughs by the operation of the Bill than in the universities or in the City of London. If the Bill goes through Parliament as it is, the result will be that thousands of men and women will have to accept as their representative one individual, whereas they previously had two or more representatives.
Generally speaking, this Bill will carry on the process of democracy which has been in operation ever since my grandfather walked from a country town to Exeter to demand the vote. He did not live in a house which was rented at more than £10. The process has gone on from 1029 that stage, in those radical days when the Liberals fought this battle, and I remember the talk in the homes in those days about the right of ordinary folk to have a voice in the control and the destinies of their country. This Bill has brought us to the position where every man and every woman who has come to man's and woman's estate will be allowed to take part in all national and municipal elections, through their place of residence. That is a great advance from the days I can remember, and the days which my fattier can remember before me, and it is because of the fact that the Bill deals with ordinary people that I want to give it all the support I possibly can.
There are one or two instances in which I hope the Home Secretary will, when we come to the Committee stage, have some regard to the proposals as outlined by the Boundary Commission. The Boundary Commission were given certain rules to which they should work. I particularly ask for some consideration in the application of these rules to devastated and blitzed cities. I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) for the assistance which he rendered in this House yesterday; his words will carry much more weight than mine with the Front Bench. The right hon. Member had been to see a really devastated city. We take great exception in Plymouth to the fact that, because we were wounded and devastated, we have to lose some of our representation in this House. I am sure this House will be very sorry to part with my very distinguished fellow townsmen who represent Cambridge University, but I, too, am on the way out, according to this Bill, and personally I think that is a greater calamity.
I want to appeal to the Home Secretary to have some regard to the position of towns like my own. In the rules which are issued, in page 145 of the Bill, it is stated:The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules; and a Boundary Commission may depart from the strict application of the last foregoing rule if it appears to them that a departure is desirable to avoid an excessive disparity between the electorate of any constituency and the electoral quota, or between the electorate thereof and that of neighbouring constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom with which they are concerned.1030 That means where there is a discrepancy between the quota in one constituency and that of its adjoining constituency. What does this Bill do? In the two counties of Devon and Cornwall, the most southwesterly counties of the country, where we have rather a fraternity of our own—Cornishmen are proud of their peculiarities and their county, as is the county of Devon—there are 15 seats according to this distribution. These 15 seats are approximately divided into 11 for county constituencies and four for urban constituencies. In Devon, the county seats have an average of 50,000 electors for one representative, but the urban seats require an average of 66,520 to elect one representative—or 16,000 more voters than in the county area. In Cornwall, where there are five seats—all of them county and not very urbanised—the average required is 50,860 electors to elect one representative. Situated between these two counties is a city which, I suppose, after what I have heard today, is next to London as a famous city—I am not sure whether that is quite correct. It has loomed large in the history of this country; it has a very proud record on land and sea, and in every other respect, and in its past representatives in this House. Situated between two small rivers is this city which I am very proud to represent.
Because the population of that city in four short weeks, and as a result of enemy action, dropped from 208,000 to 125,000; because, owing to the devastation there were no homes and people had to go over the borders into the county areas, the Boundary Commission now propose to take away one of the representatives from my city, leaving us with an electorate of over 70,000 in the two constituencies which are left; and that in spite of the fact that, since the date upon which the division was made and the electorate was based, the population has increased in only 12 months from about 170,000 to 187,000—an increase of over 17,000 people in 12 months, indicating that the population is returning to its normal habitation.
My object in addressing the House and the Home Secretary tonight is to put up a very urgent plea that in Committee the Home Secretary will reconsider the position of a town like my own, and of other similar towns, so that we may have our 1031 representation restored, because our population will have returned. Within 12 months the electorate of the city's constituencies will be more than 158,000, if the process of the former population returning into the city goes on, and as the number of houses we have there increases; that is, two constituencies of some 70,000 electors each; or if we retained the old three, there would be 50,000 electors in each. It is for this reason that I make this appeal to the Home Secretary and to my other right hon. Friends. I do not know that there is any special virtue in having 615 Members of Parliament or 620. I hope that when we come to the Committee stage we shall be able to adjust these differences. Whether we include university seats or one or two for the City of London, I do not mind very much. What I am concerned about is that there should be at least one more representative from my own City of Plymouth.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I must inform the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland), to whom I have often listened here and upstairs in the Committee rooms with pleasure, that I shall deal with the question of university representation. He need not be surprised that this has occupied so much of this Debate on Second Reading. Most of the other matters in which he is interested can be raised in Committee, but this matter raises a great point of principle which must be raised on Second Reading. It is wholly unnecessary for me to admit my own personal interest. It could not be greater. I agree that this proposal which I oppose may wipe me out. I shall not pretend that I do not mind. It would be insincere if I made any such pretence. Nevertheless I ask hon. Members in all quarters of the House to believe me when I say that I do not believe that that consideration is uppermost in my mind today. I believe that if they will listen to me with open minds I can persuade a number of Members in all quarters of the House that this is a foolish proposal, that it will not help in any way, and that it is, indeed, liable to injure many good causes which I hope command their assent and allegiance as well as ours on this side. I hope they will forget me and my shortcomings and 1032 consider only the universities which it is now proposed to disfranchise
I admit that I love my own University of Oxford more than I have loved any other human institution. But that love is not exclusive: it extends to all universities and to the idea of a university. Universities really are unique communities, and they and their graduates have a unique contribution to make today to every part of our national life and to our prospects of survival. The eight universities which I now represent contain schools of science, of medicine, of architecture, and of the humanities which already are famous throughout the world. Yet, these eight universities are still in the full vigour of their youth. I hope to persuade the House that they ought to continue to have representation in this House.
I think it was the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) who, in his speech yesterday, raised the question of the onus of proof. He thought the onus of proof in this matter rested on those Members who wished to retain the university seats. I think otherwise. I believe that, in view of the representation they have had in this House for three and a half centuries, in view of the unopposed recommendation of the Speaker's Conference, and in view of two decisions of the House in the last Parliament, one of which has been frequently mentioned in this Debate, and an earlier one from which I propose to quote later—I believe that, in view of all those considerations, the onus of proof really lies on those who would abolish these seats. I personally am not going to make a great deal of the onus of proof. I believe that, if the onus of proof rests where the hon. Member for Walsall said it rested, it is possible to discharge that onus. I shall say very little of the origin of these seats. Students, the more they study it, will conclude that there is some value in keeping this last survival of the representation of corporations. Originally, the rural corporations were the counties, the urban corporations were the boroughs, and King James I added the learned corporations or the universities.
I shall say little of the fame and distinction of these seats and the Members they have brought to this House, though if hon. Members make a list at random it will be a remarkable list, containing 1033 such names as Bacon, Newton, Pitt, Palmerston, Peel, Gladstone, Anson, Hugh Cecil, Eleanor Rathbone, to mention a few. The Home Secretary yesterday said that many of these men, after having sat for universities, were rejected by their universities. That is true. It may happen in any seat. Surely, however, the point is that these great men served in this House for these universities, and the House was thus enriched. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), the whole constitution of these seats was very much altered in 1918.
I would, before I pass from this general point about this franchise, answer one or two arguments that were made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen yesterday and today. I think both the Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) spoke as though it was greatly to the discredit of the universities that the whole body of graduates have sometimes reversed the opinions of the residents. I do not share that view. I believe that if university representation is to continue the right people to elect Members for the university seats are the graduates—the whole body of graduates; and that, hitherto, has also been the view of the Socialist Party, as long as and to the extent that they have approved of university seats. I do not think that, on the whole, they would differ even today, if the universities were to be represented. I think it is quite right that the whole body of the graduates should be the electors.
There was one small point made by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland that I should like to mention. He said that what he liked about universities was the youth—the young men—in the universities, and went on to suggest that the voting was by a lot of elderly men, a clergyman here, a stockbroker there, and so on. I think he ought to have informed the House of what is the most obvious fact about university electorates—that they are younger electorates on the average than any other; they are youthful electorates. They are also rapidly growing electorates, with many young men and young women being added year by year.
May I mention another matter of which I have had experience when travelling abroad? It was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the junior Burgess for Oxford 1034 University (Sir A. Herbert) in an earlier Debate. I refer to the opinion held abroad about the wisdom of our democracy in having these university seats. I experienced this in a curious way, as, indeed, did the junior Burgess who recounted his story in a Debate at the end of the last Parliament. He said that when he was on a mission abroad—I think in France—they learned that he was a Member of the English Parliament. That made very little impression. Then they asked, "For what constituency do you sit?" and he replied, "Oxford University." That thrilled them. The interesting point was that they thought this admirable tribute to the universities and to education was not some old institution that we had had through the centuries, but was part of the reconstruction then taking place.
§ Mr. Strauss
If the hon. Member likes to think it funny he is perfectly at liberty so to do. I am putting forward a case in which I believe, and I shall not be diverted by the frivolity of the hon. Member opposite.
§ Mr. Strauss
I sometimes think that there are hon. Members opposite who cannot forgive their country for being great.
Those who oppose the continuance of the university franchise have done so generally for one of two reasons. The first reason is one which is completely disreputable: dislike of the particular men whom the universities send to this House. The Secretary of State for Scotland must be included here. He seems to think that he or his party should have a veto as to those whom university electors may think fit to return to this House. When I heard the Secretary of State for Scotland use, as the justification for the alteration of policy incorporated in this Bill, the fact that the Scottish Universities and the English Universities had returned my right hon. and gallant Friend and myself respectively since the last election, I wondered whether the universities were being disfranchised to punish us or to punish the universities. I will pass from what I think hon. Members in all quarters of the 1035 House will agree is a completely disreputable argument for the abolition of the university franchise.
I come to the argument which I believe convinces many hon. Members opposite, quite genuinely, that university representation is objectionable, and which they regard as a point of principle. I believe those hon. Members object to the university seats because their existence conflicts with the hon. Members' theory of Parliamentary representation. Now, that is a ground of principle. I believe the view to be shallow and confused, and I shall try to refute it; but I admit that there are many hon. Members who sincerely believe that to be the case. Let me address to them an argument which I ask them to consider carefully. If I understand their case on this point it is based on their belief that a fair and accurate representation of the people is secured automatically by a sort of electoral machine. A lot of fairly equal geographical constituencies, each returning one Member, are provided, and they believe that that will produce automatically at Westminster a microcosm of the nation. That is the theory. Unfortunately, it is quite untrue, and will not work. That result simply does not happen.
Let me deal with the principle one man, one vote. We all admit that that would be a most admirable principle were we taking a plebiscite of the whole people on some particular question; then nobody would suggest any other mode of counting than one man, one vote. But that principle is quite unable, by itself, to secure a representative Parliament. It is quite possible to have geographical constituencies of approximately equal size, each returning a single Member; but minorities may be completely wiped out and not represented in this House at all, and some functions of the community may remain entirely unrepresented. That, of course, is why the one man, one vote principle is not even theoretically sound, unless it is accompanied by the principle one vote, one value. That latter principle cannot be secured merely by making geographical constituencies with approximately equal numbers of electors, each returning one Member. That has always been the theoretical case, and it is a strong case, for proportional representation. That is the only way in which large constituencies returning many Members could 1036 secure the one vote, one value principle. The great majority of the House—in which, I admit, I include myself—rejects, for reasons it believes to be good, the principle of proportional representation, with large constituencies each returning several Members.
Once proportional representation is rejected, the question on any particular subject such as the university vote is simply this, which I commend to the consideration of all quarters of the House: is this House with university representation a better microcosm of the whole nation than this House would be without university representation? That is the honest question which hon. Members should put to themselves if they wish to discover whether or not the abolition of the university constituencies is a good thing. I wish this question could be discussed, not from the point of view of the privilege of graduates, but from the point of view of the benefit to the community. Let me dispose at once of two misunderstandings which I think often cause people to take a certain line on this question, which they might otherwise not take. Nobody would be such an intellectual snob as to suggest that graduates are the only educated men. Nor, so far as I know, would anybody suggest that university Members are any better than other Members. I do not for a moment suggest either of those two propositions. The proposition on which I base my case is that the universities and their graduates can, by returning Members to this House, benefit both the universities and this House, and can render this House a better microcosm of the nation.
I particularly wish to refer hon. Members to a Debate in this House about 12 years ago, which I very well remember. I had only recently made my maiden speech, and was most anxious to take part in the Debate, although I was not so fortunate as to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. It was a Debate on the abolition of the university franchise, and took place on a Private Member's motion, lasting only from a quarter to four to half-past seven. In that Debate three university Members took part: Lord Hugh Cecil, Miss Eleanor Rathbone, and my hon. Friend the present senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I am sure the House will agree that they 1037 had three very dissimilar minds. But they were all completely united in their opposition to this proposal—[Laughter.] Certainly—and they all objected to it on the same ground. If there were time I should like to quote from that Debate, which took place on 26th February, 1936.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member will also mention that amongst those who voted for the abolition of the university vote was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). He was, I think, a member of the hon. and learned Member's party, and now sits on the Front Opposition Bench.
§ Mr. Strauss
He was not a member of my party. I was addressing my argument to the merits of the case, and I am not in the least interested how the right hon. and gallant Gentleman then voted. Lord Hugh Cecil so well expressed the point I am making on the microcosm of the nation that I want to read this passage:The real thing is that the House of Commons is a body representing the community. It is really the mind of the Commonality of the Realm which is spoken by this House, and from that point of view there is a good deal to be said for university representation. If we were to change our representative system at all, it would be better to pursue the model of university representation and divide our constituencies, not according to geography, but according to vocation. There is much to be said for the view that different professions, different classes of labour and so on, should each send their representatives to Parliament.He then pointed out that we should have a better microcosm of the nation, but explained that it was impracticable. I now come to the speech of my predecessor, Miss Eleanor Rathbone. It was a brilliant speech, so well expressing what I believe is the true case for this franchise, that I hope the House will bear with me if I quote what she said. She pointed out, after pouring ridicule on the so-called progressives who were so illiberal as to wish to abolish the university seats, that the professional classes would not be certain of any representation in this House if the university vote were abolished. It is perfectly true, of course, that a large number of graduates, lawyers and so on, are elected for other constituencies, but they are not elected by graduates. Let me read from the passage, because I think it puts the point very well:This helps to conceal from the public a fact, which is nevertheless a fact, that except 1038 through the university franchise, the present Constitution provides no security at all for the direct representation in this House of what are sometimes called the middle and upper classes, but are much more the professional grades and the upper grades in industry and commerce, which are mainly recruited from university graduates.Members of the professions, lawyers, doctors and people very high up in commerce, are in this House, and plenty of them, perhaps in too large numbers, but they are not elected by members of their own class, but are here by favour of the proletariat, and at any time that favour may be withdrawn. It is often argued that because the majority of the voters do return plenty of professional people, plenty of members of the learned professions and the upper grades, that we ought to be satisfied that those professions and those grades do not need any security from direct representation I am a woman and I belonged for the greater part of my life to a grade that had not at that time either votes or anything except its influence to depend upon We were always told that it was all right because we could influence men, and from men we could get all we wanted. In the same way, the middle and upper classes and the learned professions are told that they do not need the security of direct representation, because they can get representation enough through the favour of the proletarians. I suggest, if we take a broad view, if we really think of the theory of democracy, that that is not satisfactory.What we want is a Parliament which represents all the grades of the community, which represents them, not because they are wealthy, but represents every aspect that can contribute something important to the structure of society. If you have a Parliament which only represents one class, even if it is the majority class, I say that that Parliament is not a true picture, is not a true mirror of the people. It is just about as much the mirror of the people as—I remember saying this here once before—a pot of Bovril is a true representation of an oxA little later on she says:Because the members of the professional occupations are so scattered, they cannot secure even a single direct representative of their own, except through the university votes. I agree with the statement of the noble Lord that in this Parliament we want something of functional representation. I should like to see more of it; though I detest Fascism in every other respect. I think this House would be a very imperfect representation of the real people if it were not for the accident, to which I have alluded, that most of the big occupations are localised, and, therefore, can get representation without direct functional representation, but the learned professions and middle and upper grades can only get direct representation through the university vote."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, z6th February, 1936; Vol. 309, c. 485, 508–510.]The question was asked yesterday: "What about the miners? Do they not need representation as much as university 1039 graduates?" The answer is, "Certainly," and if the miners were unable to return a single Member in any constituency, there would be much to be said for their functional representation.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not want to detain the House too long, so perhaps the hon. Member will forgive me for not giving way. I want to put this argument.
§ Dr. Santo Jeger (St. Pancras, South-East)
Mussolini put it all right—the argument for a corporate State.
§ Mr. Strauss
If the hon. Member really believes that there is any resemblance between Mussolini and the late Miss Eleanor Rathbone, he is welcome to his view, but it is so fantastically silly that I will not deal with it.
The next point with which I will deal is the method of election. It was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), and it should be in the minds of hon. Members. The election for the university seats depends almost entirely on the written word. No other method is possible, because the electors are scattered throughout the world. It depends entirely on the written word, and on a continuous and reasoned argument. The candidate for a university seat can state his beliefs and his views on politics in a document running from 2,000 to 3,000 words with the knowledge that his electors will read it. The election address is his only substantial expense. There is something rather splendid in the fact that a man who has something to say can be nominated, and by putting his beliefs into a reasoned document stands a good chance of election. It is perfectly true that it enables Members to get into this House who might not be willing to stand in any other circumstances, as in the well-known case of my hon. Friend the junior Burgess for Oxford University.
Some people say that because a man of no party can enter this House by this method a man who does belong to a party should therefore not be elected to this House by that same method. If hon. Members will consider the argument for a moment, they will see that that is not really the case. I agree, of course, that a man is not fit to be a Member of Parliament unless he is capable of forming his 1040 own judgment on events and on the main issues of politics and bases his actions on principle. But is it impossible for such a man to belong to a political party?
There is no reason whatsoever to suppose that a man who belongs to no party will have a more independent mind or judgment, or show himself capable of more integrity of purpose than a man who does belong to one of our parties and tells the electors to which party he belongs. If there is anybody in any quarter who thinks that, I beg him to ask himself four simple questions: Does he wish his representative to be a man who has never thought about politics at all? Does he wish his representative to be a man who has thought about politics, but has been unable to make up his mind? Does he want his representative to be a man who has thought about politics, has made up his mind, but has never found any other men who agreed with him? Lastly, does he wish his representative to be a man who has thought about politics, has made up his mind, has found a party of men who agree with him, but thinks it better not to tell the electors who they are?
The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Secretary yesterday said that I had been returned as a Conservative and that I hold the same views as I held in the last Parliament. That is quite true. I was a Conservative in the last Parliament. I stood as a Conservative for my present seat, and it was as a Conservative that I won it.
The same applies to my right hon. and gallant Friend who won his seat for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). His case was really such that the House ought to consider it. The universities for which he stood desired his return so overwhelmingly that every other candidate forfeited his deposit. Is there any hon. Member in any quarter of the House who thinks either that the Scottish Universities ought not to be allowed to return to Parliament the man they so much wanted, or that he ought not to have been allowed to say to what party he belonged? Really, this new democracy uttered by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and implied by the Home Secretary yesterday, this doctrine that anybody outside the constituency is entitled to tell the constituents whom they shall and whom they shall not elect, implies fantastic exercise of tyranny unworthy to be put 1041 forward from the Front Bench. One hon. Member talked about these university constituencies as pocket boroughs of the Conservative Party. Do hon. Members opposite think that a pocket borough of the Conservative Party would return Eleanor Rathbone and Mr. Harvey?
I must say a word about the constitutional position. I shall add little to what was said this afternoon from the Opposition Front Bench, except that it must be absolutely obvious that if we do not proceed by attempting to get agreement in a Speaker's Conference and carrying such agreement out, the result must be that after every general election there may be a constitutional revolution. The Leader of the House the other day and the Home Secretary yesterday taunted the university Members and the universities with not having seen what was coming to them and for not having noted this threat in the papers. Several speakers have mentioned the statement by the Lord Chancellor in another place, and I do not need to refer to that again, but I wish to refer to what was said on the same day in this House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) questioned the Prime Minister about the words contained in the Gracious Speech, and expressed the hope that the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference would be followed. In answer, the Prime Minister used these words:The right hon. Gentleman raised some points with regard to the Redistribution of Seats Bill. That is brought forward from the Speaker's Conference, and I am sure he will await the Bill before he passes any comments on the details of it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1947; Vol. 443, c 33.]On the 21st of that month the Prime Minister said "await the Bill," and the Lord Chancellor in another place said that the report of the Speaker's Conference and two other documents showed precisely what it was proposed to do. Subsequently we read rumours in the Press that the seats would be abolished.
One of the graduate bodies of the universities that I represent then wrote to me and said, "You see these threats in the papers. Ought we not to take action?" In reply, I called their attention to the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference and to the answer given by the Prime Minister here and the Lord Chancellor in another place, and I said that I believed that the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the Home 1042 Secretary, who was going to conduct the Bill, were all honourable men, and that I thought it would be intolerable to believe, and act on, Press rumours. Now the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary taunt the universities and their representatives because we had some faith in their colleagues. Last Saturday the graduate body of one of the universities I represent invited graduates of that and all other universities, and, at their invitation, I addressed them on this proposal. Socialists were present and proclaimed themselves Socialists. With an insignificant minority, they were unanimously against this proposal.
I feel passionately about this matter. [Laughter.] I know hon. Members opposite think it is amusing to feel passionately about anything. I believe this threat to the university franchise is an injury to the universities and to this House; but, apart from the injury which it can do to those two institutions, I believe, above all, that the proposal is completely stupid. It is not only Tories and Liberals who now realise the threat to freedom in this country. [Laughter.] I thought it was not only the Tories and the Liberals, but perhaps it is. I thought from some recent speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he, too, held that view. The last people in most countries to go down before totalitarian ideas and threats to freedom are the universities. When one is very busy nationalising the production and distribution of most other things, it is very easy to be tempted to go on to nationalise the production and distribution of ideas. Against that the universities will always stand, in the interests of the public and of the nation, and, above all, in the interests of truth.
There are many grounds on which this proposal to abolish the universities is disastrous. I beg hon. Members, in whatever quarter of the House they sit, to realise that not only are these reasons which I have given reasons that deserve consideration, but that, if these seats remain, by no possibility can they ever seriously affect the distribution of parties in this House. By the system of proportional representation, in force in Oxford, Cambridge and the Combined English Universities, any body of opinion that can win one third of the first choices of those voting plus one automatically get their man elected to this House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. and learned Gentleman is really going into far too much detail. Many of the points which he has been raising are Committee points, including the point which he is raising now.
§ Mr. Strauss
With great respect, Major Milner, with the Bill as it stands, that point cannot be raised in Committee. However, I have only one other sentence to add on that point. In the Scottish universities—[Interruption.] I do not know if hon. Members opposite think it decent to abolish the franchise of all the universities and not even to give a decent hearing to someone who is stating their case? I will tell the House exactly what it is doing. If it is determined to abolish the university seats, a future Parliament will restore them. Then the position in the universities will be that it will go down to history that the Socialists swept their franchise away and another party had to restore it. In spite of the advantage to us, I do not want that to happen.
At the present moment, in the Scottish universities, any body of opinion that can win one-quarter of the first choices of those voting plus one gets its man into Parliament. Is there anyone in this House who believes that there is any great party in the State that cannot confidently hope to win some of those seats? Of course, if they continue, seats will from time to time be won by all parties and by Members who do not belong to any party. It is not true to say that no Socialist ever won a university seat. I believe that the Welsh university seat was once won by a Socialist. Nor is it true that no one sympathetic to the creed of hon. Members opposite has ever been elected. Sir John Boyd Orr was not unsympathetic on many points; neither was Miss Eleanor Rathbone.
§ Mr. Strauss
Who drove him out? He took another job and then resigned his seat. The point I was dealing with was whether there was any hope of a person sympathetic to the views of hon. Members opposite winning a university seat—[Interruption.] I am sorry if hon. Members opposite consider all these matters unimportant. I assure them that they are not. The contributions that the universities and their graduates can now make 1044 to the survival of this country are invaluable. They wish to make them. This attack on the university seats is interpreted in the universities to my knowledge as an insult to higher education, as an insult to the universities, and as a final undeserved blow to the professional classes.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Mackay (Hull, North West)
I think the House has listened for sufficiently long, particularly during the last 50 minutes, to the case put forward with regard to the university seats, so I do not propose to proceed with that argument. I think that the way this Debate has swung to one side in regard to the university seats is out of all proportion to the merits of the Bill as a whole, and to the many other important questions that have to be considered in connection with it.
I would like at the beginning of my speech to refer to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) yesterday, and to deal with some of the points that have been followed up as the result of what he said. We have heard a lot about the idea of "one vote, one value." I am all for showing that we get the best of what we can in a representative way in this House. The idea of "one vote, one value," is a complete illusion, as it must be when an election takes place. In Alice in Wonderland, "one vote, one value" may have a meaning because every one wins the race, but in an election every one does not win the race. If there are a hundred voting to elect two people and those two people get 35 votes each, there are 30 votes that must inevitably be wasted.
It is fantastic to listen to the speeches made today and yesterday, particularly from the other side—and I re-read the speech of the Leader of the Opposition—and to be told that the Tory policy is "one vote, one value." What does this phrase mean? Are we not, at a time like this, with so many reform Bills and so much discussion of this whole problem, entitled to have something better as a banner thrown at us? In any election that takes place there must be a number of votes that are wasted. That is the whole reason for an election taking place. If there were 1045 not a number of votes wasted, there would be no election.
The second proposition which the Leader of the Opposition put forward was, of course, the principle which the Tories delight in today, and which I say in all seriousness is completely dishonest. That is the principle that this Government is not representative of the people because they were returned on a minority vote in the general election of 1945. The Leader of the Opposition, in his broadcast last Saturday, said that the Government represent only a minority of the electors. He said yesterday that it took 30,000 votes in 1945 to elect a Labour Member of Parliament and 45,000 votes to elect a Conservative Member of Parliament. In all seriousness I ask hon. Members opposite to consider this matter properly and to recognise that the whole basis of government in this country has been that the party which gets the largest number of votes and Members is the party which governs the country. It is not a question of whether the party gets a majority of votes.
I suggest that this quibbling and dishonesty ought to be given up. It is bad for the democracy of this country and for people who take a responsible position in the politics of the country to tell the country that the Government do not in fact represent the people as a whole. Why should the Tory Party complain in 1947–48 when they have lived and benefited by this system for the 25 years between the two wars? In 1918, a Tory Member was elected on 13,000 votes to 51,000 which a Labour Member needed to get elected. In 1922, it was 18,000 for a Tory Member and 30,000 for a Labour Member. In 1924, 19,000 for a Tory Member and 38,000 for a Labour Member. In 1929, 34,000 for a Tory Member as against 29,000 for a Labour Member. Then we had a change. In 1931, it was 29,000 for a Tory Member and 144,000 for a Labour Member. In 1935, 29,000 for a Tory Member as against 59,000 for a Labour Member. The average for the parties, including the 1945 election, taking the eight elections since the first world war, was 27,000 votes for a Tory Member elected and 51,000 votes for a Labour Member elected. I think that it is sheer dishonesty for people who take part in Debates in this House not to recognize 1046 that the whole basis of Parliamentary government in this House has been that the party which gets the greatest number of votes is the majority party and carries on. It is wrong that the position should be misrepresented.
If hon. Gentlemen want to take it further, let us look at the results. The results are that in 1918 the Conservatives had a majority of 272 more than they should have had in Parliament. In 1922, the majority was 171 more than they should have had; in 1923, the majority was not so large, only 14 more than they should have had; in 1924 it was 242 more; in 1929, it was 45 more; in 1931, 246 more, and in 1935, 190 more, with an average for the last seven Parliaments of a majority of 155 greater than they should have had if the votes cast had been correctly representative of this House. I think it is time that they gave up that sort of argument.
There is a third point which I want to deal with shortly, and that is the argument put forward about a breach of faith. I find this point exceedingly difficult to follow. We have heard arguments on the matter from both sides of the House, and it has been adequately dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon. What is the position of an hon. Member like myself who had not the honour to be a Member of the last Parliament, and, therefore, did not have any part in those arrangements. The majority of the Members on this side of the House were not in that position either. At the time of the Speaker's Conference, I wrote an article in the Press, not with any disrespect to Mr. Speaker, criticising the decisions which were made. I thought they were monstrous decisions, and they were decisions which were made by a House of Commons which had long outlive its usefulness. It was a Parliament which did not represent the people of this country in 1944, as the elections of 1945 showed. To suggest that we should be bound by any decisions arrived at then seems to me completely to undermine the whole basis of the Parliamentary system, and particularly is that so when it is suggested that this Parliament should be bound by the actions of the previous Parliament, when the majority of the present Members were not in that Parliament.
1047 The Labour Party have stood for the proposals in this Bill for many years. They put forward the suggestion for the abolition of the university seats in the Ullswater Committee of 1930. It was include in the electoral Bill of that year. As I have said, they have stood for the whole of the things in this Bill and they have campaigned up and down the country against plural voting as such. I wish that the Home Secretary had not included these things in this Bill, and some of us back benchers would then have been in a position to move an Amendment. Should we then have been accused of a breach of faith, because of things done in the last Parliament to which we were not parties. The whole position is a completely ridiculous one.
§ Sir A. Salter
I did not accuse the hon. Member of a breach of faith, nor those other private Members of this Parliament who were not Members of Parliament at the time of these transactions. But surely the hon. Member would not apply his argument to the Ministers now in the Government who were in the Government of this country at the relevant time, and especially he would not apply his argument to the Ministers in this Government who were Members of the Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Mackay
I am obliged to the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), for whom I have very great respect, but I think the point which he has made illustrates the point that I wanted to make. There are two distinctions. The first distinction has been made from the Front Bench this afternoon, that the decisions of the Speaker's Conference were only for that Parliament. In point of fact, if hon. Members opposite will look at the Representation of the People Act, 1945, they will see that the provisions of the Speaker's Conference with regard to university seats are embodied. Other recommendations from that Conference, such as changes in the fee paid by university voters, were also abolished. I want to suggest quite definitely that the Speaker's Conference came to decisions which were embodied in a Bill passed through this House, but to suggest that the Members of the Coalition Government who were parties to the Speaker's Conference are bound in this Parliament seems to me to be absolutely wrong. Whatever 1048 was binding at that time does not extend from that Parliament to this. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), for whom also I have a deep respect, suggests that we took an advantage.
§ Mr. Churchill
I did not mean that hon. Members opposite took an unfair advantage but an advantage given by the arrangements, without having any recognition of the other part. That does not apply to the hon. Member, for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay), but to those hon. Gentlemen who were parties to it.
§ Mr. Mackay
That is unworthy of the intelligence of the right hon. Member for Woodford. Let us follow it out. The suggestion is that because a group of people, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, got round a table to discuss problems, including the problem of giving the vote to the people in local elections and it was decided to extend the franchise for local elections, that that was the only part of the bargain from which we got any advantage. As the Secretary of State for Scotland showed very clearly this afternoon—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but perhaps some of us looked at it more simply than hon. Members opposite.
My right hon. Friend made the point that we were confronted with the fact that people coming home from the war were without homes, and we all realised that they had got to have a vote in local elections. It was generally agreed on both sides of this House that this was a sensible, fair and proper thing to do. In so far as a large amount of the taxation which we all pay goes to the local authorities in grants, the old idea of a ratepaying qualification is completely out-of-date. I had more respect for the intelligence of the Tory Party than to think that they believed that in the fourth or fifth decade of the 20th century in local government elections the privilege of money should remain. I do not think that that goes down at all.
There was another interesting point in the speech of the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), when he argued that constitutional changes of importance should be considered by an all-party conference before the changes take place. I do not want to go through the whole of the recent constitutional changes, 1049 but the fact remains that the Tory Government of 1925 to 1929 introduced a substantial change without any Parliamentary Conference when they extended the franchise for women from 30 years of age to 21. That was not done as a result of a party conference, and, therefore, there cannot be one rule for one set of circumstances and conditions and an entirely different one for another set.
Let hon. Gentlemen opposite look at the Speaker's Conference which was held during the last war, and they will see in the Act which was passed as a result of that Conference the changes that were recommended. Moreover, they will see that the noble Tory Lords in another place voted against the things agreed to at the Speaker's Conference. These are things which should be remembered. It is all very well to say that this is a breach of faith on the part of the Labour Party and its Members, but the Tory Party Members have been doing this for many years. I do not want to argue that the Ullswater Committee was a case on all fours with the recent Speaker's Conference. It is important to bear in mind that decisions were arrived at in that Conference by majority votes, and were subsequently put into a Bill, which again was turned down by Conservative Peers in another place.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for North-West Hull must face the facts. The Ullswater Conference broke down and Viscount Ullswater told the House that it was impossible for the Conference to go on. How can the hon. Gentleman suggest, as he did, that the conclusions of a Conference which broke down were incorporated in a Bill?
§ Mr. Mackay
The right hon. and learned Gentleman should listen to what I was saying. May I go back and repeat what I did say, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has misinterpreted me. I said that I could quite agree that the Ullswater Conference was not on a par with the Speaker's Conference because of the fact that the decisions were majority decisions. Those decisions were made. The Conference only broke down on other matters. The Conference came to four decisions and four resolutions were passed, and I indicated that the resolutions were carried by majority votes. There were other matters on which the Chairman said, "I 1050 do not think it is worth while going on." That is why the Conference broke down.
§ Mr. Churchill
I understand that the hon. Gentleman said that that a Conference, which ends in disagreement, is not on a par with a Conference which ends in agreement. We are all in agreement with him on that.
§ Mr. Mackay
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman and I are agreed on something. In regard to this question all I was trying to put was that even in the last Speaker's Conference decisions were arrived at by a majority. There were votes of 29 to five and 25 to four as well as other votes of that kind. I am not asking for a moment that the Conservative Party should be bound by the majority or minority decisions arrived at in the Ullswater Report. What I am saying is, firstly, that, there have been constitutional changes in the past without an all-party conference, and the initiative in carrying them through has been taken by the Conservative Party. Secondly I am arguing that the Speaker's Conference does not bind those who have not been a party to the decisions arrived at.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy. Is his point that because one part of the decisions are accepted which suit one party, the other part of the decisions, which are correlated and simultaneous, but which do not suit this party, should be rejected?
§ Mr. Mackay
I should have thought that the whole position over P.R. in the 1918 Parliament came completely within that category. The decision was made at that time and the Bill even went through, but subsequently it was not given effect to and was scrapped. That was within the same Parliament. Here we have a completely different Parliament considering entirely new matters, and in no way are we bound. I did not intend to spend so much time on the preliminaries, but one has had a certain amount of welcome interruption from the other side.
I want to look at the fundamental point of the Bill and to make some suggestions which the Home Secretary will be able to consider in the course of time. The Ullswater Report, although it was not agreed, contained a phrase which suggests the basis on which our Parliamentary system should work. It is: 1051The aim of an electoral that the composition of properly reflect the views electors.In support of that I will quote from the Vivian Report, which in many ways is better than the other Reports referred to by the Home Secretary. The Vivian Report says:The essential basis of representative government in this country is that the main representative body of the legislature should consist of persons elected under conditions which confer upon them an equal representative status.We have had sufficient figures to show that during the last 20 or 30 years we have never had that sort of thing in this country. One of the great problems which we must really tackle is getting a better representative Parliament in that way. There are a number of reasons why we have never got that equal representative status. One factor is the university franchise, which the Home Secretary is dealing with in the Bill. The occupation vote is another, and that is being dealt with, and I welcome it. The unequal size of constituencies is another factor and that is being dealt with within the recommendations of the Boundary Commission's Report, but I suggest to the Home Secretary that it is not being dealt with adequately.
Many cases should be brought under review. I will not go into details now because they are matters for the Committee stage. I will not argue the point which the Secretary of State for Scotland raised this afternoon, which was a very pertinent one in regard to the sizes of constituencies, but if it is right that 56,000 should be the average representation for Scottish hon. Members, why should England not have exactly the same sort of representation? On that basis England is being denied 91 seats by this Bill. If the representatives of English constituencies in this House were on the same basis as the average for the Scottish constituencies, there would be 91 more Members.
There is a second aspect. The City of Norwich has 86,000 electors and one representative under this Bill. The constituency adjoining it at the south has 42,000 electors and one representative and the constituency adjoining it at the southwest has 44,000 electors and one representative. Therefore, the two constituencies to the south of Norwich with a total 1052 of 86,000 electors have two representatives in this House while the City of Norwich has only one representative. We ought to do better about representation of that sort. We could achieve something better than that, particularly as the new House will be the smallest House of Commons we have had for 100 years. One hundred years ago with one million electors we had 658 Members and today with 34 million electors we shall have 608. Surely there is nothing sacrosanct about 608.
§ Mr. Mackay
If there is nothing magical about it, perhaps the Home Secretary will meet us in the Committee stage in changing the representation in England so that that sort of inequality does not continue. The real problem, which has not yet been tackled, is that of the single-Member constituency. We cannot get a House that is representative if it is always to be on the basis of a single-Member constituency.
I know that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House at one time voted for a Commission for proportional representation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has been very eloquent on the subject on many occasions and with all of it I agree. I know that, on the other hand, there are grave disadvantages in proportional representation.
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Member says that I have been eloquent on the subject of proportional representation. It is quite true that I expressed a view many years ago, which I have not seen any reason to dismiss from the region of theoretical principle, in favour of proportional representation in great cities. I have not expressed any views in favour of proportional representation as a whole, on account of the proved ill effects it has had on so many Parliaments.
§ Mr. Mackay
I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says. What he said in 1931 he put in general terms; in 1935 he put it in more specific terms. The point I want to raise is that many of us are apt to think that proportional representation has had a very bad result in other countries. In the main we get those views without looking at what has happened in other countries. The late Mr. Lees-Smith, 1053 in this House on the occasion of the Debate during the war on electoral reform, said that France and Germany were examples of countries whose system of representative government had failed because of proportional representation. That is completely incorrect. France has never had proportional representation. She had a block vote system in which the party which got the greatest number of votes got all the seats. In 1928 that statute was repealed and a single-Member constituency system was introduced, and the French elections before the last war were on that basis. Germany's system was a list system.
This matter might be reviewed on the lines which have been suggested, that it should be confined to cities. I have the honour to represent a part of the City of Kingston-upon-Hull where there are four constituencies. On the vote cast at the general election the Conservative Party should be represented in this House. I can speak quite objectively, because if that had happened I would not be here, but I still think that is the right thing to do. Because the Conservative Party polled one-third of the vote in that city, they should have one representative. As it is, they have none because of the single-Member constituency system.
We can look at this from the other extreme. In 1935 in the eleven counties in the south of England from Kent to Cornwall, the total vote for the Tories was 2 million, for Labour 800,000 and for the Liberals 300,000. The Tories got 77 seats, the Labour Party none and the Liberals two. No one on either side of the House can justify that system of representation; yet that can come back at any future election. It will be argued, and has been argued—I hesitate to take the point at this stage in view of the fact that one has had a little Liberal support—that only small parties will get back into Parliament and that we shall create an opportunity for small groups. That is not in accordance with the facts. I took the trouble last weekend to look through the voting in the 1945 election to see whether, if proportional representation had been in operation, the smaller groups would have gained, but in no case would that have happened. In Hull, where the Liberal candidates in each constituency did not receive sufficient votes to get them in, the Liberals would not 1054 have polled enough votes to be represented under proportional representation. The same principle applies to Bradford, Birmingham, Newcastle and all the other cities of the country.
The day has gone by when in this country a system of this kind could give any assistance in three-Member or five-Member constituencies to small groups. The only effect of proportional representation at present would be to make the division between the Tory Party and the Labour Party at elections much more clear-cut and defined than it is, and to give them both fairer representation, and the more that happens the better for the politics of this country. So I want to suggest to the Home Secretary that he might consider this: you could have proportional representation in the cities, keeping the single-Member constituency, and if that were done, we would have a fairer system of representation than under this Bill.
One of the most striking facts to anyone looking at the electoral system in this country is the large number of people who do not vote. There is a by-election taking place shortly in North Croydon, and the Conservative Member who represented that constituency in this House won it on a poll of 22,000, but 21,000 did not vote. At the last general election in 1945, out of 34 million, eight million did not vote. That may be due to the fact that people could not get on to the register for one reason or another, but it is a problem that should be tackled. We cannot work a democracy properly if eight million people are either not interested or are not able to vote Anyone who produces his registration card to the returning officer should be entitled to vote after making a declaration if, by some mistake, he has been left off the register. However, I want to take the matter a stage further.
I want the Home Secretary to think about the introduction of what is called, quite wrongly, compulsory voting. This operates in our Dominions in most cases. The provision is not that someone has to vote, but that someone has to perform a specific act. He can go and vote or he can make a declaration saying he does not want to do so for conscientious reasons or because he does not like the face of the candidate, but he must perform a civic 1055 act because he is a member of the community and must take part in its political life. The result is that in perfectly free countries like Australia and New Zealand, you get a vote of 98 per cent. not by any totalitarian methods of force, but because the duty of seeing that everybody votes is thrown on to the returning officer and so is brought home to people in a way in which it is not in the ordinary methods of electioneering.
§ Sir A. Salter
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that, on the whole, the value of votes is increased by self-selective elimination of those who do not trouble to go to the polling booth?
§ Mr. Mackay
I do not think so, because the question is really one of getting people to know that there is an election and getting them to take part in it, throwing the responsibility not only on the parties to see that everybody knows about it, but on to the returning officer to see that everybody takes part. That is the effect it has in the countries where it is operated. I have lived in two of them. I have seen it work there. I have never found that there was any interference with the freedom of the individual; and it was more satisfactory to see a large poll.
So I ask the Home Secretary to think about this. The machinery of government is very important. We have seen many countries with democracies in a form in which the machinery of government has been defective. The Home Secretary said yesterday that this was the final attempt to bring about full and complete democracy in this country. With respect, I do not think that is true. We have to go quite a way yet. Democracy is not a possession we enjoy, it is a kingdom we have yet to win. Government by the people cannot mean government by 34 million people, so it means representative government. The figures I have quoted this afternoon show quite conclusively that in the main this Parliament has never been representative of the votes cast, otherwise we would not have had the large Tory majorities we have had in the past. While I realise the enormous difficulties that can be found in some methods of proportional representation, there is a case for exploring the retention of single-Member constituencies and the 1056 combining of those together for voting purposes to get a fairer representation in this House. Without that, we shall not have a full and complete representative democracy.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I hope later to follow the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Mr. Mackay) in the very interesting speech he has just made, but before I do so, may I say that I do not intend to follow the very temperate speech made by the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) and the not so temperate speech made by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) in defence of university representation. I believe that the moment has come for the abolition of university representation. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will feel sympathy for the potential casualties, and that they will think it unfortunate that the guillotine should have fallen on their heads. At the same time, I believe, there is a place for university representation in Parliament, for the representation of men of science and of letters, for educationists apart from pure politicians—and I use the word advisedly—but the appropriate place for them is in a reformed Second Chamber, and I hope that they may some time in the near future find their place there.
I listened with great interest to the allegations of bad faith made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) yesterday against Labour Members of the Speaker's Conference and the Government, allegations which were repeated today by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) and which were, in some sense, refuted by the Secretary of State for Scotland. But I do not think that his speech clarified the issue very much. I happened to be a member of the Speaker's Conference of 1944, and I think the facts and the recommendations speak for themselves. What are those facts? First, there is the fact that the Conservatives assented to the assimilation of the municipal and Parliamentary franchise. The Secretary of State for Scotland said today that they did it out of conviction; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford said yesterday that it was distasteful to the Conservative Party and greatly to their 1057 disadvantage, but they accepted it. No one will suggest that they accepted it from any altruistic motive.
The second fact is that the Labour Party who, throughout their history have been hostile to university representation, did not challenge its retention at the Conference. The Secretary of State for Scotland said today that he and his colleagues had suddenly become convinced at the Speaker's Conference of the value of university representation, and that they had come to that judgment out of conviction. Well, it was a very sudden change—[An HON. MEMBER: "A sudden conversion."] Yes, perhaps more sudden than any since that which took place on the road to Damascus. But what happened then? The Secretary of State for Scotland then asked us to believe that because two university Members were returned to this House on a party label, he changed his mind back again, and became again convinced that there was no value in university representation.
May I remind him that there was another recommendation made at that Conference to which no reference has been made at all in this Debate, that is the question of the abolition of plural voting. The motion was that no person at any election should vote more than once That recommendation was voted upon, and the result is incorporated in the letter which the Speaker sent to the then Prime Minister. That motion was defeated by six votes to 25. I would remind the House that there were only 15 Conservatives on that Conference. It becomes perfectly plain, therefore, that Labour Members must have voted against the abolition of plural voting. Is the Secretary of State for Scotland going to tell me that although they had always been unalterably opposed to that principle, they suddenly became convinced of the rightness of plural voting at the Speaker's Conference? I suggest that they had not changed their minds; I do not say they abandoned their principles but I do say that they struck a bargain. It certainly looks like it from the facts and from the recommendations. It looks as though a quid pro quo bargain had been made.
The question has been asked, if there were a bargain what should have been its duration? It has been said in the 1058 Debate that the election of a new Parliament cancelled out that bargain. Surely, in the circumstances of the case, a new Speaker's Conference should have been called to consider the whole situation. I was a member of the Speaker's Conference, but I am still completely in the dark as to the nature of the agreement. It is important that the position should be clarified and I hope that the Lord President of the Council will make a statement to clear up the matter tonight.
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said last night that many constituencies were much too large, even under this Bill in its present form, and many great cities were underrepresented. That point has been made again by the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) and the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland). It has been pointed out, on the other hand, that Scotland and Wales have more than their share. If so, it is a new thing in their history. No doubt it will be put to us that a Welsh vote counts for 14 per cent. more than an English vote. I would point out that there is more justification for that than meets the Anglo-Saxon eye. The Scottish vote is of even more value, 19 per cent. There is no doubt from the figures that England in this matter is not being given a fair deal, but I am sure no Scottish or Welsh Member would have the least objection to England being given just treatment, so long as it is not at the expense of Wales or Scotland.
A very substantial point was made by the hon. Member for North-West Hull, who asked why we should not increase the total number of seats? The Home Secretary said yesterday that there was no magic about the figure of 608, and there is nothing sacred about the figure of 615. It is really fantastic that the average number of seats for the past 47 years has been 655 and that in 1801, when there were one million electors, we had 655 seats, whereas now, with 32 million electors we are to have a House of 608 Members. I do not believe that can be justified under any circumstances, and I strongly support hon. Members who have made that complaint about under-representation of great cities and industrial centres.
The hon. Member for North-West Hull quite rightly said that the fundamental point of the Bill is to see that we secure 1059 a representative Parliament. Are we going to get that under this Bill? The Speaker's Conference condemned, and I think quite rightly, circumstances in which we have small electorates of 32,000 or 42,000 returning one Member, whilst in another part of the country 100,000 or more also return one Member. Hon. Members in all parts of the House are agreed that that is indefensible, and it is the main reason for this Bill. We agree that it is indefensible, except in unique places like Anglesey.
Whilst we condemn that as inequitable, how can we possibly accept, without any attempt to amend it, a system which means that 29,000 votes return a Labour Member, while 47,000 are required to return a Conservative, and 187,000 to return a Liberal? That surely is equally indefensible. Of course it has the advantage that it proves statistically that every Liberal Member is worth two and a half times a Labour Member. This matter affects all parties alike in one election or another. The hon. Member for North-West Hull pointed out how this system works, and how it affects every party in certain areas. He gave one instance and I will give another. Before the last election, 320,000 voters in Glamorgan returned three Labour Members, but 160,000 Conservatives had no representation in the House at all. The hon. Member also gave remarkable figures about the South of England, where Labour polled 136,000 votes and a single Member was returned, whereas the Liberals, with less than half their vote, secured the return of two Members. That is unfair. It is not just a hard luck story of the Liberal Party; it is much more than that.
I am not pretending that this is not a matter of importance to a minority party, and we happen to be in that position today. But I believe it has a wider significance than that. After all, fair representation of the views of minorities is one of the acid tests of democracy, and the squeezing out of minorities is, unfortunately, one of the first signs of totalitarianism. This has a significance for Conservatives as well as for Socialists, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for North-West Hull. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in turn have been the victims of this incalculable system, and they will be again. Unfor- 1060 tunately, all political parties forget that, and only remember it when they are in opposition, when the dice are loaded against them and it is too late. For 20 years, 20 disastrous years, the Conservative Party were in power in this country, but at the last election this system told against them unfairly. Today the Labour Party is still almost on the crest of the wave. Next time, or the time after, it may be its turn.
I think it is much more than a purely party matter. I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are prepared to consider this question from a non-party point of view—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."] We have it now perfectly clearly that the Conservative Party is only interested in the electoral system from a party point of view. It has more than a party significance. If we consider the history of the last 20 years, and the sweeping majorities which have governed this country—Governments with large Parliamentary majorities but with a minority of votes in the country—we must surely agree that that cannot make for sound representative government.
I would like to take as an illustration one election—the 1935 Election. It resulted in the Conservatives having 431 Members, the Labour Party 154, and the Liberals 21. If the number of seats in that Parliament had borne any relation to the votes cast in the country, the Conservatives would only have had 332 Members, Labour would have had 234 instead of 154, and we should have had 43. If that Parliament—and this is where the national significance becomes apparent—had been more representative of the nation, the whole history of those fateful years might have been changed, and I think would have been changed. Is that only a matter of academic interest, only a matter of interest to the Liberal Party, or has it wider significance?
I believe that the present system weakens the effective working of democracy. I wish to quote in this regard an authority who I am sure will appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that is, the authority of Mr. Middleton, the former secretary of the Labour Party, who has said:No one reviewing further electoral developments can afford to disregard the possibility of a recurrence of this distortion of democratic representation with all the consequences it may involve.1061 Certainly the consequences involved by the election in 1935 were extremely serious and disastrous for this country. In the last 30 years there have been three major Bills on electoral reform, with smaller Bills intervening. This is the only one in which no attempt has been made to rectify the position. In 1931—and I encourage the right hon. Gentlemen the Lord President of the Council and the Prime Minister to recall this admirable part of their past—the Labour Government provided for a measure of reform in their Bill by the use of the alternative vote. Of course, the Lord President may say, and I have no doubt will say, that that was not put into the Bill because of conviction; he will say that it was put in because a pistol was being held to the heads of the Labour Government at that time, a pistol fully charged, held in a purposeful and relentless hand.
Under the present system we have had a succession of Governments with large majorities but representing only a minority of electors in the country, with Socialists, Conservatives and Liberals in large sections of the country with no representation and a large body of minority opinion in this country inadequately represented. We have a system which cannot be held to represent the opinions of the electorate. I ask the Lord President of the Council if he will tell us tonight when he replies, whether he defends the present system, whether he thinks it equitable and just and whether he thinks it is even an approximate reflection of the electorate. I hope he will say it is not. He will do so if he is still the good democrat which I hope he is.
I do not intend to commend to the House or to the Government any particular system. I will only ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will undertake to institute an inquiry, either by Royal Commission or by any other method which the Government prefer, to see whether any system based either on proportional representation or on the alternative vote, or a modified system of either, more adapted to our peculiar circumstances and national characteristics, could be evolved. I would beg him in all earnestness not to turn down such proposals. but at any rate to have an inquiry into this, because after all, in these days, when democratic government is on trial 1062 in all parts of the world, it is vital that this most ancient democracy of all should have a Parliament which adequately reflects the will of the people.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) always delights the House with her speeches, and on this occasion I was sorry that the Prime Minister was not here during the early part of her speech. I hope that he will find time tomorrow to read what she said on the subject of the Speaker's Conference, of which she was a Member.
I hope that the House will not think it unreasonable for me to intervene for a short time to say a word about the City of London, incomparably the greatest city in the world, a city which I am proud to represent and the city in which I have earned my living for a quarter of a century. Before I say anything else I wish to make some reference to the wounding, and if I may say so frivolous speech, made last night by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr Bing) in which he attacked my colleague the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) who, I am sorry to say, is on a bed of sickness today and therefore cannot speak for himself. I do not need to remind this House that the influence and the value of a Member are not to be judged by the number of speeches he makes or the number of times he takes part in Divisions on Committee points. Not many Members of the House will have forgotten the speech which my right hon. Friend made on the occasion of the Debate on the iron and steel industry. I venture to suggest to the hon. Member for Hornchurch that the influence and effect of that speech on the well-being and the history of this country compares at any rate favourably with all the interesting contributions to which the House has had the honour to listen from the hon. Member for Horn-church. I do not need to add anything to what was said so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson) last night about my right hon. Friend's services to this country, because they are so well known to this House.
The House yesterday had the experience of a visit from the Sheriffs of the City of London. Very few Members in this House 1063 have seen it happen before. I do not know what impression it made upon the House, but certainly the points which the petition made were of substance and ought to be given attention by the honourable House to which they addressed them.
I shall not try to make a case for the City of London merely on the grounds of history, sentiment and tradition, though I suggest that all these things are important and should be taken into account. This House should remember the great part which the City of London played in the 17th century in support of Parliament in its great struggle with the Crown. The House should remember also that it was largely due to the City of London that later on, General Monk was able to rally the forces of democracy and restore the Parliamentary system. It is useful that the House should remember that it was the City of London that secured the freedom of the Press to report the Debates of Parliament. It is interesting that the House should remember, particularly some Members of it, that it was pressure from the City of London that resulted in Jews being admitted to full citizenship and to membership of this House. The House, I think, should remember all these things. It should remember also that the whole history of local givernment in this country derives from the history of the City of London, which established, as a separate entity, an independent unit of government at a time when such a thing seemed almost impossible in this country.
The City has, of course, been represented here since the earliest days of Parliament. It has been represented 300 years longer than any of the universities whose position also is challenged, alas, under this Bill. Quite apart from the tradition, what is the position today? London is the capital city of England, and of the Empire. It is still the greatest financial and business centre of the world. I would quote some words from a right hon. Gentleman much distinguished in this House. He said:Great new countries have been opened up very largely through the action of just this one square mile which surrounds the Mansion House. Just this little spot has had more to do as an instrument in developing these great new countries than any other country under the sun. More solid and substantial wealth throughout the world has been built up very largely by the action of this great 1064 City:"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1931; Vol. 249, c. 679.]Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman the then Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He was not a Member of my party or that opposite. Those were his views as to the importance of the City of London and its work.
Today we are in a great financial and economic crisis. I would suggest to the Government that the need for invisible exports is greater today than it has ever been. We are very short of dollars, and it is the dollars which the City of London has earned in the past that are missing at the present time—largely owing to the restrictive action of the present Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh yes, certainly. It is the present Government who are preventing the restoration of the trade of the City of London. Hon. Gentlemen opposite supported the abolition of the Cotton Exchange in Liverpool. All I am suggesting is that never was the need for the restoration of these services greater than it is today.
Is this the moment to deprive the City, with its experience, of the opportunity at any rate, to express itself in the councils of this House? Is it unreasonable that there should be one Member to represent the commercial and financial interests of the country? I would suggest to the House that it is not unreasonable that one Member should be retained and although I do not press that any man should have two votes, I do suggest that there should be a business qualification for the City of London and those who choose to take advantage of it should be registered upon the electoral roll of the City. Under the Bill as it stands the electorate will be confined to a small number of shopkeepers and caretakers. Under the Bill, as it is at present, the spokesman for the City of London as it is to be reconstituted and renamed, would hardly have a claim to speak for the interests for which the City stands in the eyes of the world. I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would really dispute that.
The small size of the electorate of the City of London has been referred to. May I remind hon. Members that a very large part of the City of London has been destroyed by the enemy and the very great reduction in the number of electors is partly due to that cause. What is more, during the time of war a new system of registration was introduced, 1065 which made it far more unlikely that the business votes, on which the City franchise had been largely based, would be registered; because, under the present system which comes to an end under this Bill each voter had to claim his vote. Knowing what most voters are, is it to be wondered at that a certain number of them did not exercise their claim in time? I am suggesting that, had that not been in operation, there would have been a considerably larger electorate than there is at present.
The Members for the City of London speak not only for those who are on the electoral roll. They speak also for 500,000 people who work in the City. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh. yes, they do. Believe me, I have considerable correspondence from those who work in die City, and who have no votes, but who are interested in what goes on, because it is their bread and butter. It is where they earn their living; and 500,000 people is 10 times the size of an ordinary constituency. Therefore, in one sense, the City of London can be said to be 10 times the size of an ordinary constituency. I would welcome a better plan for establishing the electoral roll of the City than the plan which has operated in the past. If such a plan could be devised I should be glad of it.
What is the position today? I would refer once again to the vexed subject of the Speaker's Conference, about which much has been said. I think the speech which my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) made earlier in the Debate had a very powerful influence upon the House. I have before me the initial report of the Boundary Commission for England. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that this report which, of course, is made by independent Commissioners under Mr. Speaker, was issued on 24th October of last year, within a day or two of the occasion when the Lord Chancellor expressed, in another place, his views on what was likely to be in the coming Bill—views which have proved to be so sadly at fault. I do not suggest that the Lord Chancellor was trying to mislead people. I think he must have been completely ignorant of what was proposed. About the same time, however, this Report of yours, Mr. Speaker, was issued. In it we read in Section 9 these words: 1066Before we could proceed with the formulation of our proposals on this basis, however, it became necessary to consider the effect of Rule 7 which excludes the City of London, from the redistribution procedure and leaves the decision whether its allotment shall be two seats or one to be determined by Parliament.That was the Speaker's Conference. That was what they interpreted these requirements to be, and what they stated on the 24th October, 1947.
I do not wish to go into detail on the question of the bargain that was struck. That case has been admirably put by my right hon. Friends. I would say that when the matter came to be debated in this House in 1944, as a result of that Speaker's Conference, the line which the official Labour Party took then was to support the retention of one Member, at any rate, for the City of London. Whether there should be two Members or one was left to the decision of this Parliament but one Member, at any rate, was to be left. Reference to the record in HANSARD at that time will show what the Lord President of the Council said, and also what many other Members of the party opposite said, including the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Assheton
The right hon. Gentleman says he had a rough passage. I am certain he often does, but what he said in the House at that time, I am sure, represented what he thought then and, I believe, what he still thinks; he will have the opportunity of telling us tonight. He said then:The City of London has a great place in municipal history. It has a great place in Parliamentary history also, and on the issue of the abolition of the City as a separate identifiable Parliamentary constituency—I am not talking about one or two Members at this point—the Government think it right that it should be preserved. I, as a good Londoner and a student of the City's history—centuries ago, the City of London played a great part in the establishment of British constitutional usage—would be sorry to see the separate Parliamentary representation abolished, even though the figures make a strong case for consideration the other way. We therefore lay it down that the City of London as a constituency shall be preserved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October. 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1618.]There are a great many other quotations from the right hon. Gentleman's speeches which I could make and I know he has taken the trouble to refresh his memory about them. Therefore, I will not worry 1067 him or weary the House with more of them.
It surprises me to find Ministers adopting the attitude they are now adopting. To say, as some Ministers have said that the arrangement then made is not binding on this Parliament, seems to me to make utter nonsense of the idea of the Speaker's Conference. Why on earth have a Conference to carry us on for just a few months? There was no need because the Government of that time had the power to introduce whatever they liked. A Speaker's Conference is obviously for the purpose of trying to achieve some form of agreement among the principal parties of this House; I do not think it can be regarded in any other way.
I would like to tell the House what I, personally, thought about this. A month or two ago, one or two hon. Members told me that they had heard that the universities and the City of London were going to be disfranchised. I said I did not believe it.
§ Mr. Assheton
A month or two ago, just before this Bill was issued. I said that I did not believe that was possible. I knew then that right hon. Gentlemen opposite had pledged themselves to this arrangement, and it never occurred to me for one moment that they would break faith. I had the privilege and honour of working with right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and with the Prime Minister and other Labour Ministers during the war. I came into close contact with them, and, though I differed from them on more than one occasion, on this or that, I had no reason then, nor have I till now to doubt their word. Quite frankly, it came to me as a grave personal shoc—
§ Mr. Assheton
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman—to think this could have happened. I was reinforced in my view by what the Lord Chancellor had said in another place. I do not, for one moment, believe that he would have misled the Members of another place; I cannot understand how it happened. These confessions were made, and agreement was reached, but, now, all is thrown over by those Ministers. Although they are bound in personal honour to respect the 1068 agreement, they appear, nevertheless, to have been unable to resist pressure from some quarter. To me, it is a very sorry matter, and I cannot help hoping that on reflection, they will repent.
I have put forward these considerations, and I trust that the fact that I am personally interested in this decision will not lead hon. Members to suppose that the views I have been putting forward are not seriously held, because they certainly are. It has been my duty, as one of the City Members, to put forward these views, and it is my belief that their acceptance would be in the interests, not only of the City of London and of the country, but of this House itself.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Thurtle (Shoreditch)
I only wish to make a small point, but, in fairness to my constituency of Shoreditch, it is one which I think ought to be made. It concerns the proposal that the Boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury should be amalgamated with the City of London. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday you had a Petition before you from the Common Council of the City. In the course of that Petition they said that there was not much community of interest between Shoreditch and the City of London. I think they were telling us in polite language that they did not want the City to be connected with Shoreditch. I wish to say on behalf of Shoreditch that that borough has no desire at all to he connected with the City of London.
§ Mr. Assheton
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I would like to say that a point which I think has struck the City as very strange is that Shoreditch should seek to adopt the City of London, and. also, apparently, seek to purloin the historic name of its prospective adopted child.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Shoreditch may not be as rich as the City, and may not have as much gold as the City, but it has a great deal more humanity. I also think that, if we look at the history of Shoreditch, we shall find that it is quite a long and honourable history. It does not want to have its identity submerged by amalgamation with the City of London. Of course, as Londoners, and as residents of Shoreditch, I admit that we are all proud of the history of the City of London.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
The right hon. Gentleman would not give way to me when he was making his speech.
§ Mr. Thurtle
I was saying that I hope the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) will appreciate the fact that we are all proud of the City. But that sort of pride relates more to the past than to the present. We are proud, as he said, that the City was once the defender of the rights of Parliament. We are also proud of the fact that the City once made an excellent stand for the freedom of the Press. We have not forgotten John Wilkes and the way the City stood behind him. But those are things which happened long ago, and, since that time, the City of London has changed; the political outlook of the City has also changed.
I can only speak from my own experience, but, in my political life, I think it is fair to say that I have found the City more concerned—and I say this with regret—with the power and interests of finance than with the rights of democracy. As far as the great social issues of our time are concerned, especially the issue of lessening the margin between extreme wealth, on the one hand, and extreme poverty, on the other, I have found a singular lack of enthusiasm on the part of the City of London. Nevertheless, I want to be fair to the City. It is entitled, in spite of the fact that it is now going to have only a small electorate, to play its part in the political democracy of our country. But it is not entitled, in my judgment, to have anything in the shape of privileges. It is not entitled, for example, to refer to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City of London—to expect that when the whole electoral system of the country is being changed, and the business vote is being abolished, if there is one single exception to be made it should be that of the City vote, so as to be able to return a City Member to this House I think that is asking for an extraordinary privilege. The City is entitled to its rights, but not to privileges, and there is nothing in the record of the City in the last too years—I do not go back further than that—which justifies such a claim.
1070 I have said that the Borough of Shore-ditch is not anxious to be identified with the City, nor is it anxious to have its name obliterated from the Parliamentary register, but, having said that, I must correct the City Sheriffs on a point which they made yesterday and to which I have already referred. They said that there was no large community of interest between Shoreditch and the City of London. I would agree with them to a certain extent. There is not much community of interest between the industrial, hardworking population of Shoreditch and the merchants, bankers, financiers, stockbrokers and company promoters of the City of London. There is not much community of interest between the workers of Shoreditch and those people, but that is only part of the story.
The City petitioners were wrong in thinking that there is not a community of interest between the workers of Shore-ditch and what will be the new electorate of the City, because this new electorate will not be composed of the classes of people to which I have referred, but will be composed of watchmen, caretakers, firemen, policemen and the general hewers of wood and drawers of water in this great agglomeration of offices and warehouses. That is the new electorate of the City of London, and I think that between them and the industrial workers of Shore-ditch there will be a very strong community of interest, and I venture to predict—and it is always rash to predict—that, when the voting comes to take place, that community of interest between the new City of London and the workers of Shoreditch and Finsbury will be reflected in that voting.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
It would ill become a Scottish Member representing a constituency so far North as mine to follow up the discussions between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) and the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). I have felt that one cannot regret that so much time has been expended in this Debate on university votes and representation. Obviously, it is a matter of the greatest importance, and the whole question of good faith and the other points which have been raised were bound to take up a great deal of time. I would say, however, that it seems to 1071 me a great pity that we have not got another day for this Debate, because I know how many hon. Members wish to speak, and there is a great deal in this Bill which is of more importance than mere Committee points and which should be ventilated now. I had hoped to cover a certain number of such points, but I will cut them down, because I know how many hon. Members still wish to speak.
The first point which I would like to raise is one of fairly major importance. There is no doubt that this Bill carries a good deal further the tendency which has been observed for some time past to merge, progressively, industrial interests with agricultural interests. It comes up in various ways, but, particularly over the last 50 years, in the progressive disappearance of constituencies such as my own, which is a group of burghs. There is another very good example of that in the Eddisbury Division, which is held by another Member of my party, and I would like to point out what has happened there, because I am quite certain that it is not in the best interests of the country particularly at a time like this when agriculture is of the first importance. Eddisbury, in its present form, is completely agricultural. Under the Bill, it will be split into three or four pieces, and each of these very small pieces will be dominated entirely, or very substantially, by the industrial vote. In my own constituency, the situation is exactly the opposite, and I only give this as an illustration of this major principle to which I am calling attention.
The Montrose District of Burghs, as a constituency, has existed in this precise form since 1832, and, as a burgh constituency, for 100 years before that. It is now to be merged with large areas of the county, and the point I want to make is this. I am not sure whether anything can be done under this Bill or not, but it should be considered. Today, there is great importance in increasing agricultural production, and it is equally extremely important that we should try to draw population away from the heavily industrialised areas into the small country towns. Look at the problem facing the Member for a constituency such as mine, which wants to get more industries into the smaller towns. We have been fairly successful in recent months, but, if the constituency had been in its new form 1072 as it will be under this Bill, consider the problem that faces the Member.
When it comes to moving industry and population, the interest of town and country are not identical. It may be argued that the best way to bring those interests closer together is to have one Member representing both, but I doubt if that is really the case. Some of the decisions which a Member has to make on whether to give full assistance to a town trying to introduce new industries are bound to be much more difficult if there is realisation that there may be substantial opposition from agricultural interests. There is the question of land and also that of changing the whole balance of labour in the district.
I am quite convinced that it is infinitely better if industrial interests are represented by one Member who can see their point of view and press their case, and to have another Member who can produce and argue with equal emphasis the other point of view representing agriculture. I think the advantage there is that there is more chance of getting the correct answer, but there is a very real danger if this job is left to one man to serve both interests that he will have to shirk taking a decision at all, because he has the very difficult problem of holding the balance between the agricultural and industrial elements in his constituency.
There is another general point on this Bill which has particular reference to Scotland. We have heard a great deal in the last few days about "one man, one vote; one vote, one value." I am wondering whether this is, in fact a sound democratic principle. I am assuming that one is not attempting to be completely logical in regard to our democratic constitution, because one must be clear that our system is not logical, and there is a great deal to be said for it never becoming completely logical. What is happening in Scotland now as a result of trying to be strictly logical is that we find the industrial area of Scotland—the Industrial Belt, as it is sometimes called—has no fewer than 45 hon. Members, of whom 22 are for the County of Lanark. There are four hon. Members for Fife, and I separate them because Fife is a kingdom of its own, and is likely to become more and more industrialised as the result of coal development. Then, for the whole of the 1073 rest of Scotland, there are only 22 Members. That must be wrong. This Bill has made a difference of one. My own constituency has gone, and the extra constituency has gone to the industrial belt.
Many of us have been saying for a long time that we want a redistribution of the industrial belt population; but to reduce the number of Members for other areas is the wrong way to go about it. It is a difficult matter to correct this by Amendment unless there is substantial agreement that the tendencies I have described are harmful. I would be glad if the Secretary of State for Scotland would follow up the point I have made, and see whether there is any hope of an agreement which will prevent this over-emphasis on the industrial belt of Scotland at the expense of the non-industrial areas. I admit, however, that it is not strictly logical or in conformity with the "one vote, one value" argument about which we have heard so much.
I turn to two minor points. Much to our surprise and consternation, we find that under this Bill it will once again be possible to make:… contracts for payments on account of bands of music, torches, flags, banners, cockades, ribbons and other marks of distinction.The Home Secretary rather brushed this aside yesterday saying, "Well, anyway, the election expenditure is so small that people are not likely to pay very much for a band." In that case, I wonder why it has been allowed. Now that it is allowed, somebody may do it. If someone hires a band he will start a very bad and dangerous habit. There are many minor points which arise. Will one be allowed to make use of an organ in a hall? I hope that we may be told about that. One could hire bagpipes. There are all sorts of possibilities. I know that at the moment, if one is having a meeting in a big hall, one is not allowed to pay anyone to play the organ or, I think, to allow him to play it without payment. This may seem to be a minor point, but matters of great importance could arise from it. What do these words sound like:bands of music, torches, flags, banners, cockades. …It sounds to me remarkably like Nuremberg before the war. I am endeavouring to be serious about this. We may start having this kind of show at an election, 1074 and it may be great fun for the first few occasions. But it has been a technique for working up some very ugly enthusiasm when things are difficult. For instance, one can do some very awkward things with torches. It has been one of our prides that our elections are fought on a sensible, sane basis. I hope that this permission will be withdrawn when we come to the Committee stage. There is a real danger which may not appear on the surface.
Clause 35 deals with broadcasting from foreign stations. I do not know whether I will be popular with anyone when I say what I have to say. I seriously wonder whether something ought not to be done to stop altogether broadcasting during general elections, or certainly to limit the amount of broadcasting. There is a constitutional reason for this. It may become extremely dangerous if the appeal to the people is made direct by one or two, or three or four, big names. The efforts of the ordinary candidate at elections to fight the election, possibly on a party programme, and to get his views over to his constituents may be completely vitiated by the fact that at five minutes to nine his meeting empties, if anyone has come at all, because the people want to go home to hear a broadcast. If we get into the habit of allowing the main election speeches to be made over the wireless, it could easily make nonsense of our system of bothering to have candidates at all. We could easily end up with merely a lot of lists of party candidates for an election fought over the wireless. Also the question of party broadcasts during general elections raises extremely difficult problems of who should broadcast on behalf of what parties. I can think of no fair way of deciding on what basis that should be determined. If one is trying to be logical—the Government argue in this Bill in certain other respects that they are trying to be logical—I commend hon. Members to consider most carefully the dangers implicit in broadcasting.
I have mentioned logic once or twice. I have not attempted to deal with the university or the City of London seats. Other hon. Members have dealt with those subjects extremely well. I do not think that one word too much has been said on those topics. I appeal to hon. Members not to try to be too logical. I 1075 think it is the great vice of the Socialist Party that it applies logic to things which are not capable of being solved by logic. If we try to create an electoral system or Constitution for this country which is entirely logical, I believe that ultimately we will destroy everything which has made this country great. That applies, most certainly, to the abolition of the university Members for whom, in pure logic, I am inclined to say that there is very little case; but that does not make it anything but disastrous to abolish the university seats.
§ 7.48 p. m.
§ Miss Herbison (Lanark, North)
It seems abundantly clear that the arguments directed by hon. Members opposite against this Bill arise mainly from their intense dislike of the abolition of the plural vote and, particularly, of university seats. That has not surprised me in the least. I have noted in the past two and a half years that they have opposed almost every Measure which has made an attempt to abolish privilege in one form or another. The right to vote is greatly cherished. It is not something that has come to our people as manna from Heaven. It is something for which we have had to struggle and fight through the generations. We people of Britain are proud of our democratic Constitution. We are proud that since the time of Simon de Montfort's Parliament we have been able to build up a Constitution which is one of the finest in the world. I say advisedly that the abolition of university seats is one further step in the progress we have made over the years.
I want to deal with two arguments which have been advanced in support of university suffrage. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said yesterday that he had thought of an inscription to put on that casket of social democracy to which the Prime Minister had alluded some days before. What was the inscription? Here it is, in his own words:Intellect and education need not apply.Later in his speech the right hon. Gentleman said:'No brains wanted'—this is the declaration of the Socialist Party."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447; c. 871.]Surely, the right hon. Gentleman does not believe—or does he—that intellect 1076 and education and brains are the prerogative only of university graduates? If he does, I say to him, "Stuff and nonsense." What a travesty of the truth. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was merely oratorical humbug. What an insult to those people who are not university graduates.
Let us examine for a moment or two what the gaining of a university degree means in terms of education in its widest sense. I know from my experience in a university that, apart from the arts degree, almost every other degree, particularly that of medicine and of science, provides a purely vocational training. So absorbed is the student in obtaining that degree that he has little time, if any, to get education in its best sense—cultural education. There are many people who have never been inside a university who have a much greater cultural education than many university graduates possess today. I have had the privilege of knowing men and women who have left school at the age of 14 and who, because of their brains and intellect and desire for education, have a knowledge and a love of the classics in literature, art, and music that would put many graduates to shame.
If there is anything at all in the representation of people of intellect, why should people of that sort be left out? Many people, instead of going to a university go to music, art or technical colleges. If the privilege of a second vote depends on having letters after one's name, why not apply that suffrage to these people, too? Yesterday, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said:… there cannot be anything undemocratic in classifying voters according to their personal and individual quality."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 887.]How different are his ideas of democracy from mine. Does he seriously suggest that the university vote provides for this classification?
An argument which is often used to support university suffrage is that it gives to this House men and women of independent views. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) said that the Speaker's Conference of 1918 had chosen to destroy what was to some extent the closed corporate body, and had set up a body especially designed to return 1077 to the House of Commons men of exceptionally independent views. I cannot pass an opinion on those who represented the universities in past Parliaments, but I can pass an opinion on those who are representing the universities in this Parliament. Surely, no one would say that they are all men of independent views, far less exceptionally independent views. No, the university vote has not always lived up to the lofty ideals that were expressed in the Speaker's Conference of 1918. At times, it has been used to get into this House men who have been rejected by the people in ordinary constituencies. We in Scotland were very annoyed indeed that that was done in the case of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, when he could not get himself returned to this House in his own constituency.
I have also in mind two other examples of present Members—two men, not independent, not even claiming to be independent, who were turned down by their own constituencies, yet found a place in this House. I was glad that one of my hon. Friends on this side asked the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) who got rid of Sir John Boyd Orr, who did, indeed, take an independent point of view. It was not the supporters of Sir John Boyd Orr. The hon. and learned Member might get an answer to that question if he tried to find out what were the workings of the Central Office of the Tory Party who made Sir John Boyd Orr's life so miserable that he had to get out.
We have, however, an excellent example of an independent Member of this House in the person of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). When I consider the three Members who now represent the Scottish Universities, and I try to compare them with the hon. Member for Cheltenham, I find that there is no comparison. Have the three representatives of the Scottish Universities, who sit on the opposite benches, ever, during the past two and a half years, on any business of real importance, found themselves on any occasion in any Lobby except that of the Opposition Lobby? In making this point I am not trying to say that I want to abolish university representation because it does not return Socialists. I want to abolish such representation because I think it is most undemocratic.
1078 The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities implied that men and women who represent university seats in the House take a great interest in education. Is it not the case that the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), who spoke yesterday, so far forgot his interest in education and the famous seat of learning which he represents, as to deprecate the raising of the school-leaving age for children? Indeed, from the Front Bench opposite he made out the Opposition's case against granting an extra year of learning to the mass of Britain's children. Surely, that was not what a university Member in this House would be expected to do. That is only one instance to show that if at one time there might have been a reason for granting university suffrage, those who have come here on university vote have failed to live up to the high motives of those who made it possible for them to be here. Because of that, I say to our Front Bench that I believe they are doing the correct thing in abolishing the university vote in this country. As I said at the beginning, I believe that this is one other stage towards making our Constitution, of which we are proud, more democratic still.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Lieut. - Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
I have always been in favour of the university constituencies, but having heard the length of time taken by some university Members in making their speeches today, I am beginning to be opposed to them. I am asking for some favour for Northern Ireland from the House and from the Home Secretary, and I shall have to be very careful not to make the same mistake as some of the university Members have done.
I will start my speech by referring to the withdrawal of the seat for Queen's University, Belfast. In Northern Ireland we have only 13 seats. The loss of one of them will have a very serious effect upon our representation here. During the time I have been in this House, and before, the work done by university Members has been very good. Let me take, as an example, the Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory). As we all know, he has espoused the cause of Poland. He has asked Questions upon the subject and he has spoken for those poor people. He has done his best; he 1079 has done what he could, and that is not very much, I admit. [Laughter.] Yes, he has tried to represent their case before this House and not to let it fall from the want of somebody to speak about it. We know that the Foreign Secretary has not been able to save those people from persecution, but the activities of the hon. Member for Queen's University have at any rate brought a little daylight to bear upon the subject.
The subject of Poland would not really interest the people in my constituency of County Down, or most hon. Members here. I doubt very much whether the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. E. Porter), for instance, could interest voters in his constituency in Polish affairs very much; nevertheless it is a subject in which this House should take an interest and it is probably only a university Member who could devote so much time and interest to that subject.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) mentioned Queen's University in his speech, and he made what I think was a slip. He said there were only 500 voters in Queen's University. As a matter of fact, there are nearly 8,000. That correction should be put on record. Certain figures have been mentioned in this House already. In Wales, 51,000 votes return a Member. In Scotland, it is 57,000 votes, in England 59,000 votes, but in Northern Ireland it takes 71,000 votes to return a Member of Parliament. I do not know the reason for that disparity, but it may have something to do with the fact that, prior to 1914, Irish Members of Parliament were very troublesome in this House and the House took the opportunity, at that time, to reduce their number. I think that we are under-represented in this House, and I hope that this is a matter which we shall push during the Committee stage. If extra seats were given to us, I do not know whether they would be Nationalist or Unionist. Nationalist Members hold their views just as conscientiously and determinedly as the Unionist Members, but whether Nationalist or Unionist Members are concerned, Northern Ireland is underrepresented at the present time.
It is proposed that there should be two overhauls of the register every year, but in Northern Ireland both the Nationalist Party and the Unionist Party are 1080 opposed to two registers during the year. Those who represent registration officers oppose it also. We think that one would be quite enough for us. Another point is that I would like to see British-born subjects only eligible to be Members of this House. The United States has a law of that kind. I have a young brother who has become a naturalised American citizen. He told me that he could never become President of the United States, but his son, who was born in the United States, could become President.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Heywood and Radcliffe)
Would the hon. and gallant Member apply that principle to the son of an American mother becoming a British Prime Minister?
§ Sir W. Smiles
I understand that the Prime Minister in question was born a British subject. At the present time, any British subject born in a Dominion could sit here. Mr. Jinnah or Mr. Nehru could be a Member of this House, and so could Mr. Bustamente from Jamaica. I am not quite sure on that point when I come to Eire. I can never quite make out whether the people in Eire are British subjects or not. Mr. de Valera is extremely clever. When any advantage is to be gained by declaring himself or the people of Eire British, he does so, as he did over their passports.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
Mr. de Valera said most distinctly that it was an insult to call citizens of Eire British subjects.
§ Sir W. Smiles
No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University will admit that citizens of Eire are at times in possession of British passports. Mr. de Valera being so clever, let us consider his views upon proportional representation. When the Parliaments of Ireland, one in the South and one in the North started, they both enjoyed—or did not enjoy—proportional representation. Northern Ireland abolished it first. Then we had a lot of attacks from the South for having done so. At the last election, or just before it, Mr. de Valera himself said that he was not in favour of proportional representation. It was a case of what Northern Ireland thinks today, Eire will think tomorrow.
§ Mr. Mulvey (Fermanagh and Tyrone)
Mr. de Valera did not say that he would 1081 Abolish proportional representation. I quite disagree with the hon. Member. Mr. de Valera said that it was a matter for consideration.
§ Sir W. Smiles
My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) may be right, but if—
§ Sir W. Smiles
If Mr. de Valera considers anything, well, he is in power and he will very soon make it the law.
I heard the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Mr. Mackay) speak about compulsory voting. I think it would be I very good principle to introduce into this island. It is a very good thing in Australia and Canada where every voter, I understand, must turn up at the polling booth. He need not vote if he does not want to, but 98 per cent. of them turn up. Only a doctor's certificate excuses them and there is a fine of £5 or £10 if they do not attend. Such a measure would encourage the people of this country to take an interest in their own Constitution, would make democracy stronger and not weaker, and would be more likely to unite than to divide.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Heywood and Radcliffe)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) will excuse me if I do not carry on the discussion upon the points which he raised. The time at my disposal is somewhat limited, and I want to avoid party polemics and to state very simply a point which should command general support. That point is the extent to which motorcars can be used in elections by any political party. It has been touched on only lightly in this Debate by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), and I think it is appropriate to raise it at this stage and to remind Members of the Government that it is a matter on which we, on this side of the House, have always felt very strongly indeed. They should have an opportunity of realising that before the Committee stage in the hope that perhaps before then they will be able to meet us on the points we make.
I think my case is strengthened by the fact that, so far as I understand it, the law on this matter has not been altered 1082 since 1883, when this House passed the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, and the only restriction which that placed on the use of conveyances at elections was on the use of hackney carriages. The only use to which hackney carriages could be put was for the conveyance of the owner and members of his family to and from the place of voting. When that Bill was before the House, it was suggested that it might tend to prejudice the less well-to-do candidates as against the more prosperous ones, and that the effect of the Bill would be to penalise men who could only afford two guineas to hire a carriage and not those who could afford 200 guineas to buy one. It will be generally admitted by hon. Members of this House who have fairly extensive election experience that, in fact, the Bill has tended to operate to the detriment of parties with very few prosperous or upper-class supporters.
I do not want to stress that too much, but most hon. Members on this side will be able to recall instances when, in fact, an election was lost by a very small majority because the unfortunate party to which we belong did not have the same resources in the way of cars as the party on the other side of the House. At the same time, it is only fair to state that there was one occasion when the Conservative Party was placed at an equal disadvantage. Some of my hon. Friends will remember a by-election in Lancashire in the 1924–29 Government when the Leader of the Opposition was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He made a suggestion that there should be a tax on betting and the result was, when the by-election took place, "bookies" from all over the country sent cars to support the Labour candidate, who was somewhat surprisingly elected at the head of the poll.
This is a point which is capable of affecting all the political parties in this country, and I suggest that there is no self-respecting Member of this House who would want to feel he was elected to represent a constituency either because his financial resources were greater than those of his opponent, or because he had more friends with cars, but rather that he was returned because he had some personal qualities which attracted his constituents or because the policy he was advocating was a policy of merit which commanded their support. Because I believe all hon. Members would wish to feel they had not 1083 been elected on those other grounds, I believe this is a matter which should receive general support and merit the attention of the Government spokesman tonight.
I do not want to go into detail on the various Measures to make the change I am suggesting, but I wish to recall to the memory of my right hon. Friends, that the present Deputy-Speaker introduced a Bill on these lines in 1938, seconded by the Secretary of State for Air, and supported by the Minister of Education and many Members of the party on this side of the House. Perhaps one of the most convincing arguments in its support was that it was opposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) and the present hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes). The matter was also discussed by the Speaker's Conference and by the Departmental Committee on electoral reform, and it is perfectly clear from their reports that, although this proposal was turned down, it was turned down by a very narrow majority in the case of the Speaker's Conference and, in the case of the Departmental Committee, there was obviously a substantial body of opinion in support of placing some limitation on the use of cars at election time.
I am glad an Amendment has been put on the Order Paper along these lines, but I would prefer the Government tonight to state that they accepted in principle the suggestion that either the use of cars at elections should be abolished altogether, or that cars should be used only for conveying people to the poll under the control of the returning officer. That would be the view of hon. Members at least on this side of the House, and I hope it would command the support of hon. Members opposite.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
At this late hour I do not wish to speak for more than a few minutes, for I realise that other hon. Members wish to speak. I had no intention of speaking on this Bill until I heard some of the other speeches which had been made in its defence and in opposition to it. If I may say so, I cannot support a great many of the arguments which have already been used in favour of university representation. I 1084 agree with nearly every word of the hon. Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison), especially when she disagreed with the Secretary of State for Scotland in the reasons he gave for its abolition. Quite frankly, there is no case logically or arithmetically for university representation at all, and it is quite absurd to make heavy weather out of this fairly simple case, although I think it is a case which is extremely difficult to state. I am in a little different position from some of the other Members because I have fought a great many elections as an ordinary Member, but I have fought them as a party person. I have not fought my university constituency as a party man, nor tried to represent it as such.
There have been speeches from the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), the hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) which I thought all gave reasons for better representation of minorities, although some of them were against university representation, like the hon. Member for Anglesey. I have a duty to 40,000 constituents and I have had many telegrams and a large number of letters, and I have to put before the House the opinion of my constituents. I am only third in the very short list from H. A. L. Fisher and Miss Eleanor Rath-bone, to represent the provincial universities, but I can see that it is possible, however, that there are two views on the representation of the universities. The Home Secretary has been logical in the past, for he has always been opposed to it.
There appears to be a difference of opinion, in announcing the decision, between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and I am not quite sure—I was not at the Speaker's Conference, although I was in the last Parliament—which are the true facts. I expect to find the Lord President of the Council making some better statement tonight, after the very interesting cross-examination which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), made today, and which I thought was convincing. Like many Members, however, I still do not know the answer.
The Secretary of State for Scotland said openly, what I have heard from other Members more quietly, that the decision has 1085 been affected by the views of those Members elected, and I do not think that statement has done his case any good, because anybody connected with university franchise knows perfectly well that Mrs. Stocks or Lord Simon might be sitting in this House at the present time. It was a split vote which got my colleague in. Others who might be here are Sir John Boyd-Orr, J. B. Priestley, Gilbert Murray, Lord Lindsay, or others whose views, like mine, are much more sympathetic to the present Government. If we are going to discuss the question on that basis, discussion of principle is valueless.
The Clerk of the Liverpool Convocation has sent me a telegram saying that, up to date, 758 members of the Convocation are protesting against the Bill and there are 85 in favour of it. If the rest of the universities continue on this basis, there will be 30,000 people protesting. The Lord President was quite wrong. I beg him to believe me. I had no notion about the abolition of the university representation until only the other day, although I did know about the Speaker's Conference; and it has been quite impossible to go to eight convocations and find the views of all those people within only two or three weeks. I can but report the opinions expressed in letters I have had from graduates and others. They say they would prefer to exercise their university franchise rather than their geographical franchise. My late colleague, Miss Rathbone, made the university vote a very special thing, and there are literally thousands of men and women—a very large number of women—who exercise that vote. Many of them are moving about from place to place. Some have written to me and said that they have never once exercised the geographical vote. They feel very strongly on this point.
I was to have been in Sheffield and Leeds Universities today and tomorrow, and to appear at Manchester Convocation where we have what we used to have in Scotland—an annual meeting where we, the Members of Parliament for the universities, render an account of our stewardship in this House. I appear there with views utterly different from those of the junior Burgess for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), and they hear us both. I am in fairly close touch with many aspects of university and student life, and I have made it my business to foster the principle of exchanges 1086 between students in this country and universities in Western Europe. Indeed, I have recently brought back two scholarships to enable students to go to Middle Western universities.
There are 640 ways of being a Member of Parliament. That is the glory of it all. I happen to be more interested in the whole field of education than in anything else. I may be a crank about it, but that is my interest; and I know perfectly well that I can pursue that interest and do my work for it better through the comparative freedom that a university Member enjoys, because he has a smaller amount of correspondence than Members from other constituencies. I know, because I have been a Member for a pretty tough burgh in Scotland, as the Secretary of State for Scotland knows, where the correspondence and the other demands were heavy, as they are, generally speaking, heavier in geographical constituencies than they are in university constituencies.
The geographical franchise is the basis of our representation, but in many cases there is also a very close watch being kept on the matters of interest that hon. Members generally raise—on mining, on transport, on finance, on Post Office matters, on teachers' questions, on farmers' questions and agricultural matters. There is seldom a Debate in this House in which an hon. Member does not declare his interest, but there are nevertheless interests besides financial interests. Geography and function are very closely interwoven. I remember a discussion I had once with Mussolini, who asked me, "How many people do you represent in your constituency?" I said, "Forty thousand." He said, "What do they do?" I replied, "They do 100 different things, from making 'Johnny Walker' to the best cheese in Scotland." Then he asked me, "How can you represent people who do 100 different things?" My answer was, "In our country a man is a citizen first and a miner, or whatever else he maybe, second." That is the basis of our franchise.
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
If a man is a citizen first, is not a student a citizen first? Does it not follow that he requires only one vote?
§ Mr. Lindsay
It very nearly does. I was aware of that. It very nearly does, and if our franchise were based on pure 1087 mathematics, it undoubtedly would. But what I am trying to say is that this particular function is not of less value for that. Nobody could welcome more than I do—in fact, I have written about it—a much larger number of persons on the Government side of the House who are not only distinguished academically but who have done educational work in the W.E.A. or the tutorial classes in this country. There is no monopoly here. Anybody who thinks there is any special qualification about a university Member as such is obviously missing the whole point. Anybody who thinks that there is anything special in a man having been to a university is equally missing the point. But there is a close connection between Parliament and the universities which can be represented much better by hon. Members of the House than through the official channels of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Vice-Chancellor's Committee.
It has been said that the universities are tending to become a mere addition to party interest, instead of preserving nominal independence. My own view is that graduates who exercise the double franchise—and they do not by any means all do so—prefer to vote on personal rather than party lines. I do not claim any special merit for university Members. I prefer not to discuss the personal aspects. I would add only this point. Even with the reduced maximum expenditure which this Bill introduces, it would be increasingly difficult for any but party members to enter this House.
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) does not think this is a good thing. I thought, with great respect, that he over-stated an obvious case last night, namely, that without organised parties our system would not work. On that we are all agreed. But there is no question that the university franchise offers a much cheaper method of election. I know from my previous experience in six elections. It is a cheaper method for persons of independent views without being men of independent means. I remember a discussion I had with some Germans, when I said I did not understand how they could have only one party. I always remember their reply: "What we cannot understand is how you can always have two. What is the 1088 merit of that?" The same point was put by the hon. Member for Devizes.
I think that universities will become more and more important. The problems of finance, and of recruiting, of careers and of National Service, the problems in connection with the development of the Colonial Empire and Colonial enterprises, in relation to U.N.E.S.C.O. and various other things, and of how they may be related to public policy in the future, are all matters on which university members can make a contribution. For two years we have tried to have a Debate on university education, without much success. We have had three Debates on Friday adjournments. I have initiated two, and I spoke in all three. One was about graduate salaries and one was about students' grants. I give the Government credit for the large contributions they have made to universities and to increased scholarships, but these very contributions raise in turn scores of other problems which ought to have been discussed.
In my view, the mathematics of the franchise are not important. I look to the Senate of the United States of America. That body is no worse for having two Senators from each State irrespective of the populations of the States—so that Nevada has two Senators although its population is 100,000 and New York has two though it has a population of 15 million. The Fulbright Act and many others are due to men coming from Arkansas, Idaho, and other small States. The mathematical approach can only be approximate at the best.
I ask the Lord President, in his reply tonight, to say three things. Was not the Speaker's Conference morally binding on successive Parliaments until a further Conference was held? What was the actual agreement or bargain made between the two main parties? What steps does he propose to take to retain the organic relationship between the universities and Parliament? In the process of reforming and in some cases liquidating time-honoured institutions, there is one principle which I learned at the feet of Radicals by whom I was brought up, and which was, "Do not destroy any good and growing thing merely for the sake of reform." Because institutions are made by men, they can be unmade by men. But the second process is swift and easy compared to the process of construction. I think there are ways of reforming the 1089 university franchise and of making it part of our Constitution. I doubt whether wholesale abolition will add anything good to our democracy—except to make it conform more closely to arithmetic. Is that a sufficient reason? Parties and democracies were made for man not the reverse. The spirit of man as expressed in minorities is not always wrong. Even democracy can get lost in a very special form of red tape, and the challenge of an occasional Eleanor Rath-bone against the arrayed forces is not to be dismissed lightly.When silence falls on such a voice some everlasting echo still haunts the world to break its sleep of habit or despair.So wrote the Hammonds of Lord Shaftesbury in that great concluding passage and so may the present biographer write of my late colleague who, perhaps more than anyone else, found her seat in this House but elevated it to a forum for denouncing human selfishness. There is a case for university representation, but it has not yet been answered.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
It is indeed a great pleasure to follow the senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K Lindsay), because I so largely agree with most of what he said. I want to put in a plea, in a moderate and objective way from this side of the House, for the continuance, in some form, of university representation My case would normally take me some 20 minutes, so I ask the House to bear with me if I rather compress it, in view of the tact that I understand the right hon. and learned Member opposite is due to commence his speech in 10 minutes' time.
It is not easy to deal with this matter moderately aid objectively, as I wish to do, because of the partisanship injected into it, most notably by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in his speech yesterday. Charges of breaches of faith and the stress he laid on the findings of the Speaker's Conference in 1944, as if they must necessarily be binding on a new Parliament, are not the best means of developing a spirit of sweet reasonableness—the spirit which in these few minutes, I should like to invoke. I recognise that most of my hon. Friends will be unlikely to endorse 1090 all I say, or to recognise sweet reasonableness in it, but I must risk their displeasure.
I regard myself as something of a traditionalist—although not, I hope a blind or a prejudiced one. In approaching this question of university representation I find that one's reason and feelings are inclined to take opposite sides. Reason says: iron out all anomalies and stand four-square for even and equal electoral rights. It also appears at times—as in the case of the Home Secretary's speech yesterday—to dwell somewhat mistakenly on persons and their qualities. Due regard for long-established institutions, on the other hand, dictates that one should take into account the benefits resulting from the innovation of King James I in 1603, and consider the contribution that its continuance might make to this House and to this country in the future. Perhaps I might put it another way round. The logicians seem too apt to regard the proposed change as just a neat, statistical tidying up of what they regard as the absurdity of a small block of 12 Members of this House representing 19,000 electors each, while all other Members have constituencies averaging 57,000 voters
The traditionalists ranged against them have been silly enough, in some cases, in the speeches they have made in this Debate, to use arguments for preserving the present system by throwing at our heads a list of famous figures who, they assert, would never have been here but for the university seats. I think, myself, that the approach of both these sections of opinion is the wrong one, though in preferring the latter—that is the approach of the traditionalists—I cannot forego mentioning tonight that I was privileged to he congratulated on my maiden speech in this House by the late Miss Eleanor Rathbone.
What is the context in which the two arguments I have mentioned are actually joined? What is the pictureframe into which the silly idea which seeks to equate university seats with the "Old Sarums," which long ago disappeared from the political map, is matched only by the stupidity of trying to prove that the highest talents have been invariably brought into public life and service through university representation? In the first place, as the right hon. Member for 1091 the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said yesterday, university franchise has been very greatly widened in the last century, and is no longer almost exclusively confined to parsons and schoolmasters, as it was in those days. Secondly, the increasing ease of access to the universities has so democratised them as to make it more than likely that before long one of them may have the common sense to return a Labour Member to this House.
I would like to see a compromise solution of the present impasse. Abolish the plural vote, by all means; reduce the number of university representatives if you like; and, despite the difficulties put forward by the Home Secretary, allow the electors affected to exercise an optional vote based on a residential qualification. The machinery to arrange this might be involved and complex and I know it is asserted that this would lead to Members of Parliament representing a ridiculously small number of voters.
I am not sure that that would necessarily happen. At least the idea which I commend to the Government tonight might well be tried out for one election—namely the next election. For, you know, we do want some people in this House who have a relative freedom from pressure groups, and also a freedom from the day to day claims of coping with the mass of correspondence and work, by which all Members for ordinary seats are overwhelmed in these days. For myself, since I appeared here at Westminster I have read hardly one book; and it becomes increasingly hard to give to the affairs of State that single-minded attention which those outside the party machine can, as I see it, more easily give.
As long as the present electoral system maintained under this Bill continues the series of major anomalies which will undoubtedly be preserved under it, why, I ask, should we boggle at the preservation of this particular and smaller anomaly? For example, this Bill leaves England utterly unrepresented compared with Scotland and Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think that has been proved in the course of the Debate. There have been complaints from other English Members besides myself that that is so. Also, this Bill does not provide for a fair reflection of opinion in the provincial cities, as was pointed out by the right hon. Member 1092 for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) in his contribution last night. Again this Bill maintains a system by which, at present, a Labour Member speaks for only some 30,000 voters, whereas a Liberal speaks for nearly 200,000.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
I do not want all this encouragement from the other side of the House. It is quite embarrassing. I think that I might at least be afforded a quiet hearing so far as hon. Members opposite are concerned.
This Bill also makes possible a return to this House of a huge majority party with a minority of votes in the country. These are all very big anomalies. Let us be very careful not to impoverish the quality of Parliament by removing what can become, even if it is not now—and I do not think it is—a real patch of vocational representations to break the dull monotony of an otherwise uniform pattern. Dead levelling is not the Socialism in which I believe. Rather do I agree with Milton when he wrote:Neither can every piece of the building be of one form Nay, rather, the perfection consists in this—that out of many moderate varieties arises the goodly and graceful symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
It is my pleasing duty to express my gratitude to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. SkeffingtonLodge) for having so scrupulous a regard for my interests in the matter of time, and also for the entirely unexpected support which I received from him on a section of my argument. I am very conscious that many Members feel that certain subjects have received an undue proportion of time. They will agree, I think, that when a debate centres on certain subjects, those who have to wind it up are bound to deal with them and try to give a picture of the arguments which have been presented.
I must for a moment recall the series of questions, which were put forward with great force by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), in regard to what we consider to be not only a serious breach of faith, but an invasion of one of the most important and hardworking elements in our Constitution. The 1093 Secretary of State for Scotland has very much simplified this part of my task, because he, with an intervention from the Lord President of the Council, removed any misapprehension as to the question of whether or not there was agreement at the Speaker's Conference. There is no doubt about the matter, if we add to his remarks today two of the most pregnant sentences made by the Secretary of State for Scotland contemporaneously. He will remember that on 10th October, 1944, he said, in referring to the Ullswater Conference:The last Speaker's Conference was abortive, because the Members and parties which took part in it, took the view that they must have all or nothing, and this philosophy of 'all or nothing' is really the philosophy behind dictatorship That is that, whether it is a majority or a minority, it is going to bind its will on the rest of the people It is an essential of democracy that there should be consideration of and acceptance of the reasonable propositions of minorities, and that compromise is the essential result of discussion. Our discussions would be quite futile if the majority were always to dictate its will and suppress the minority. We might as well abolish the Parliamentary system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403. c. 1623.]It is that mild cooing of the Opposition dove that I recall to the House, rather than the totalitarian roaring which the right hon. Gentleman has been led to in the balmy air of office. We start from that clear exposition. It is an admission of an agreement and a compromise, and it is a justification of the importance of compromise in the give and take of our national life.
The second point which was raised is that those distinguished and formidable persons who represented the Socialist Party at the Speaker's Conference—the Secretary of State, the Minister of National Insurance, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Lord Ammon and so on—were not representative of the Socialist Party in the sense that they were chosen because of the position and influence they had in that party, and that the results of what they did were approved by that party when they came back from the Conference. I would remind hon. Members that Lord Pethick-Lawrence at that time was not only a vice-chairman of the Labour Party, but he was the Member of the Labour Party who was in charge of the Bill for his party. The Lord President of the Council 1094 will remember that he opened the Second Reading of that Bill, and that I finished, and that we were greatly assisted by the information and argument which Lord Pethick-Lawrence brought to bear on the Bill.
There can be no question that he was in a position, with the colleagues I have mentioned, to bind in every way which honour and political decency dictate the party of which he was so distinguished a Member. I would remind the House of the way in which Lord Pethick-Lawrence approached these matters. He said:The agreements were satisfactory as agreements, and in my view they met the situation by arriving at a solution"—I ask the House to note the next words—which we thought would survive.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 2045.]Lord Pethick-Lawrence was not speaking for himself or expressing a personal opinion. He was expressing the opinion of his party, that by fair discussion and by the methods which the Secretary of State has so fairly commended, they had arrived at a lasting solution which would carry our Constitution and this country fairly on until the next time when a discussion of these points became necessary again.
It was not only a question of the fact being stressed again and again, that we were dealing with an agreed compromise which was to take us from that conference, just as in the past compromises had carried on for varying periods through our political life; but, as far as I have been able to find—and I am sure I shall be corrected if I am wrong—there was not a word in "Let Us Face the Future," although that book was published in April, 1945, which suggested that these conclusions to which the party opposite had pledged themselves were going to be upset in any way. In fact, there was not a word of any change of view right up till October of last year when the pronouncement was made, which has been referred to, that the proceedings at the Sneaker's Conference would tell us precisely what the Government were going to do.
I venture to put forward five principles of constitutional action and procedure which this country has not only followed but has found useful during the last 60 years and more. For over 60 years the practice has been that there 1095 has been a conference on electoral matters at varying intervals; secondly, at these conferences an effort has been made to reach agreement; thirdly, when the representatives of a party have come to agreement they have not, and should not, go back on that agreement without a further conference being held; fourthly, where a party have got concessions by not pushing a view at one of these conferences there is all the more reason that they should not go back upon it. The fifth proposition, which I suggest is not only consistent with history but is right and just in the working of human relations, is that if a party want to differ from a view that has been agreed at such a conference it is their bounden duty to make clear that that would he a matter of difference and something which they would take the first opportunity of reversing.
These are the constitutional conditions on which our country has made the party system work, and has avoided the squalid tit-for-tat of one party succeeding another in office, which would have made the political working of this country greatly degraded from what it has been in the past. When part of agreed conditions have been implemented in one Parliament, and the remainder postponed through lack of time, to say that these decisions do not bind the party in the Parliament in which they are implemented, is to make a futility not only of honour between parties but of the whole idea of a party conference as an instrument of State. I have put these points from the constitutional point of view. The argument can be summed up according to whether one accepts the contemporary statement of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, supported by the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whether one accepts the somewhat irritable and ill-considered interruptions which were made in the House yesterday by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. I find that all compulsion is on the side of accepting the contemporary statements.
I want to turn—and here the hon. Member for Bedford who has just spoken has made my argument easy—for a moment to the arguments on the university seats. We start there from the unanimous recommendation of the Speaker's Conference. Again, one is greatly assisted as to the view that was held by the representatives of the party 1096 opposite on this issue by that personified quarry of information the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, on this point, said:The Speaker's Conference came to a decision which it was not worth while breaking any bones or heads about, and it was not worth while causing disagreement on these little points because we were satisfied that although the universities have not achieved the distinction I have suggested, there has been in recent years an improvement in the Members which they have sent to the House, and we are hoping the best for the future.At the end of the day we are left with this reason for the abolition—the disappointment of the Secretary of State and his colleages that his own doctrine has receded from the university opinion and that there has been, as there is in undoubted truth, a swing in the intelligentsia towards the party to which I have the honour to belong. That is the only reason.
Let us examine for a moment—because hon. Gentlemen have asked that this should be done and I am anxious to do what they have asked—some of the arguments on their merits. I think that we are all agreed that, whatever differences the working out makes in our minds, the franchise should represent all the people and all the interests in the country. If hon. Members will bear with me for a moment I want to make clear what I have in mind. In this House on the geographical basis, broadly, we have great interests represented which are in contact with the living organisations of the time. This is not a party point. It is true, say, of agriculture; it is true of trade unions. With regard to the miners we do not need any corporate activity. We have 60 or 70 constituencies which return those who know, represent and are fully familiar with miners and their work through their trade union activities.
Similarly, with regard to the leaders of industry; and, if the House will not think me very conceited, the profession of the law is usually quite well represented in the House. In all these cases—and I could give many others—the argument is developed most brilliantly by Mr. Ivor Jennings in his book on Parliament and, as hon. Members opposite know, he is one of their number. The argument is sound that we do get at the moment all these various interests and aspects of our life 1097 represented. The aspect which we shall not get represented, if the universities are not represented, is the living contact with the current university organisation, administration and thought. I ask hon. Gentlemen, again looking at it broadly, whether that would not be a real impoverishment of the representation in the House. It is a remarkable achievement that, starting with an over 90 per cent. geographical franchise, we do manage to get cogent, dynamic representation. We have at the present time interests of all kinds.
A point I wish to mention, because it is a fair one, is that the electorate at universities has changed immensely in the last 50 years. The old restrictions under which, at my own university, for example, only masters of arts could vote, have been swept away, and graduates come in as soon as they have qualified for a degree. In the present day, especially since we have people coming to the universities in greater numbers, university graduates have become a real cross-section of the community. Through their occupational activities they bring to hear opinions formed in all parts of the country and the world, through their having been brought into contact with an unusual variety of interests and views. Again, at the end of the day, one must conclude that the anxiety to destroy these constituencies is based on the desire, first of all, to extinguish hon. Members whose political views are opposed to those held by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and also—and this is in many ways more worrying—there is the desire to depreciate great centres of intelligence in order to flatter the less well educated voters.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to face this point I fail to understand and I cannot reconcile, the extreme enthusiasm for education which is shown by every one on the opposite side of the House, with the utter disregard for the opinion of educated people. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) last night quoted the lines of Macaulay:Where none were for a Party and all were fur the State.I go further than the right hon. Gentleman in the abuse of that sentiment. I say it is an entirely false antithesis. I believe that the party is a vehicle of the State. I am sure that most hon. Gentlemen who, like myself, are party politi- 1098 cians, would agree with that modest view. I put this to the House as one who stands unashamedly glorying in the fact that he is a good party man. The only thing I hope is that no cynic will add to my tombstone—if they put on it the inscription "Here lies a good party man"—the words "as usual" or something of that kind. I take my stand as a good party man. I would like to put this to the hon. Gentlemen who are in the same position as myself, and who have spent all their adult life trying to inculcate the doctrines of their party all over this country. Is it not a good thing that there should be the limited approach in this House of those who do not take the same lines as appeal to us, and who are, therefore, able to view the great problems of the day from a different angle, and, it may be, in a new way? I put this to the party opposite because they ought to bear it in mind.
Let us take the people who have represented the universities in this decade. I will not speak of those who are still in the House because that would he an invidious matter and the House can form its own opinion. Let us take those who have left—Eleanor Rathbone, Mr. Harvey, Sir John Boyd-Orr and Professor A. V. Hill.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am taking the last 10 years, and those are the four who have gone. As it happens—let the right hon. Gentleman note it—three of them were more inclined to the Left and only one to the Right. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought not to be tinkering with representation. He ought to be improving his doctrine, and then tie would get the people that he wants from that representation.
I only want for a moment to deal with the general arguments, because my time is short, on the question of the business vote. Despite the eloquent quotation of the Home Secretary, there cannot be any great matter of principle involved in this point because—let me remind him—four at least of that high-powered Socialist representation must have voted against the view at Mr. Speaker's Conference that no person at any election should vote more than once. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that that was carried 1099 by 26 to five in a Conference of 32, so that even if we allow the one who did not vote to have been a Socialist and allow the five to have been Socialists, it means, if my arithmetic is right, that at least four Socialists must have voted for it. As the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) pointed out, only 15 Conservatives could have voted. There can, therefore, be no matter of principle. The right hon. Gentleman cannot for a moment be impliedly representing to the House that Mr. Pethick-Lawrence and his colleagues abandoned their principles. It is, therefore, only a matter of practice and this problem has not become any more acute since the Socialist Party supported the majority of the Conference.
The problem is this. There are some 15,000 business qualified electors left. There are seven constituencies with between 500 and 1,000 and nine constituencies with 1,000. The House is therefore free, following the Socialist Party at Mr. Speaker's Conference, to consider this on its merits. Again, I ask them to consider that a man with a business will, in the constituency where that business exists, have a great many social, charitable, club, trade and various voluntary associations of that kind to which he belongs. Is it not irrational—I confess that I have tried to appreciate the enormity which hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to find in the view—that that minute fraction of political power which is given by one vote should be denied to the person who creates and runs a business while it is given in the same area to the caretaker or watchman who minds his door?
That is the argument, and it applies with far greater force to the City of London because on this point the party opposite nave not merely to face the precedent of their Bill in 1931 which abolished the business franchise for everywhere else, but maintained it for the City of London, but they have to face these flowers of eloquence unparalleled even in his long life of oratory which the Lord President has strewn round this aspect of our political life. The one I liked best, if the House will allow me to remind them of the fairest flower in the chaplet, is where the local patriotism burst forth and he said:I as a good Londoner and student of the City's history [...] would be sorry to see the separate Parliamentary representation 1100 of the City abolished even though figures make a strong case for consideration the other wayAnd he went on to say in more measured but none the less compelling tones:… to merge the City … or any part of the City with adjoining constituencies, is not a proposal likely to receive wide support."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, cc. 1618 and 1619.]I ask him where has his missionary spirit gone? Where is the heart which did so much in London's politics so that the serried ranks behind him have not rallied to that cri de coeur with which he moved a previous House? Again I admit the right hon. Gentleman was quite right—I do not admit that often—but when he said the words I have quoted, he was quite right. He was catching the great beat of the history of London for which the City has stood, and he was also catching the importance, which I am sure at this moment in his heart of hearts he does not under-value today, of what the City of London still stands for throughout the Commonwealth and Empire and the world in the financial and commercial history and living present of our life. He is not the first, he will not be the last, of us politicians to express contrary views. The only consolation, when you have expressed contrary views, is that you are perfectly entitled to choose which of them you will pick when you come to speak for the third time. It is open to the right hon. Gentleman tonight, and I hope I have given him a clear indication of how he should speak.
I have only two minutes more, and I should be the last to prevent the House from hearing the right hon. Gentleman make this great re-recantation for which I hope, but an hon. Gentleman sitting behind him asked why we were not dividing against this Bill if, as we have made perfectly clear, we say there has been a breach of faith and a betrayal of constitutional practice? I want to make it quite clear that we believe, and are committed to, and therefore we stand by, continual re-distribution to secure the representation required by changes of population. I do not want hon. Gentlemen to think that I have not heard their speeches with great interest—I have heard practically every speech that has been delivered. We appreciate the difficulties of co-ordinating, on the one hand, the representation of large and widespread country areas without those points of 1101 contact I have mentioned in the city areas and the votes in other places. We realise that the Boundary Commission had a difficult task and displayed great labour in it. We think, despite the blemishes, despite these breaches which I have mentioned, a great step forward has been made towards better representation. We shall demonstrate by our votes in Committee exactly where we stand. We have demonstrated our support for what is good, we have also made clear our abhorrence for what we think is morally, politically and constitutionally bad.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). It is always a pleasure to hear the arguments he puts before the House. He reminded me and the House of the fact, which I confess I had forgotten, that on an earlier occasion when I moved the Second Reading of one of the Bills of this class, although it was of somewhat briefer content than this one, he was good enough to wind up the Debate. As colleagues in the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I had a lot to do with each other in various ways. He was a valued collaborator, not only on legal matters, but on constitutional questions and matters of Parliamentary organisation and procedure. Therefore, if tonight I cross swords with him and disagree with him, it is not without looking back with appreciation and gratitude to the co-operation and assistance which he extended to me in my capacity as Home Secretary in the war Government.
I was, therefore, the more sorry to be a little late in getting here and in arriving a little after the right hon. and learned Gentleman had begun. I regret very much having missed a few minutes of his speech. He has drawn attention to a number of points to which attention had been otherwise drawn, and in the course of my observations I think I shall comment on all the points, or practically all the points, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. I thought he was a little unjust in accusing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I of ill-considered and ill-mannered interruption—
§ Mr. Morrison
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon—irritable interruptions of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford yesterday. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have been influenced by Conservative headlines and by the reports of the Debate by sketch writers in certain of this morning's newspapers which seem to have scourged us into a white heat of which neither I nor my hon. Friends were conscious. When the Leader of the Opposition openly accused the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Home Secretary and myself—after all, I always thought all of us honourable and upright men—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I did, and still do—of being associated with the conduct of crooks and cads—
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman need not begin with needless misquotation. I said, illustrating the sovereign power of Parliament, that a Parliament might behave like a gentleman, or a cad. I did not say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite ever had such an option open to them.
§ Mr. Morrison
If the right hon. Gentleman argued, as he did yesterday, that the course which we are recommending Parliament to adopt was committing Parliament to act in the capacity of a cad and a crook, then surely the Government and in particular the Prime Minister and myself were associated with the caddish and the crooked conduct. I only say that the Leader of the Opposition has recourse, from time to time, to a certain degree of frankness, even of extreme observation, which beats all the stuff that I learned at the street corner years ago. And if we get up and politely intervene—and he was remarkably obtuse about agreeing to give way and sit down and let us intervene—he really must not complain, nor must his right hon. and learned Friend. After all, the Leader of the Opposition is an old warrior in Parliament. He believes in Parliamentary battle. If I may say so, he is absolutely right. This is the place where fights and struggles 1103 about matters of principle should take place, it is largely what Parliament is for, and if in the process we knock each other about a bit, it is a good thing.
§ Mr. Churchill
To make it absolutely clear, as it was to everyone who heard what I said and who read the report, I never suggested that the right hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister was behaving either like a cad or a crook. I used that phrase to illustrate the wide latitude which is given to Parliament to answer the claim that one Parliament cannot bind another.
§ Mr. Morrison
That observation is not quite what I would have wished, but the right hon. Gentleman has come a long way in absolving my right hon. Friend and myself of the charges which we thought had been made, and I would be ungracious to pursue the matter. I let it drop with gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for discharging us with a caution. I would complete the observation which I was making by saying that the right hon. Gentleman believes in Parliamentary fighting. So do I, and, therefore, if we have a bit of a scrap now and again, or an argument, the House enjoys it, and so does the country.
It has been argued that my noble Friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in the course of the Debates on the legislation of 1944, made statements which, either by what he said or by implication, made it clear that he was committing the Labour Party as a permanent matter to certain decisions of the Speaker's Conference, if not all the decisions of the Speaker's Conference generally. I am bound to say that I do not so read the observations of my noble Friend; and I did not at the time. I am perfectly sure that he was speaking within the limitations of what the Speaker's Conference had recommended for application by that Parliament which was then sitting. I am perfectly certain it never dawned on my noble Friend. it certainly did not dawn on me, and the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland have assured me that it did not dawn on them—how could it dawn upon any of us?—that we were making an agreement which would commit the Members of a Parliament which was not yet elected.
1104 This is an enormously changed Parliament compared with the last Parliament. I think it is much improved, and hon. Members opposite think the reverse, What would my hon. Friends in this Parliament say if the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary or I were to get up and say, "You cannot abolish the university representation; you cannot interfere with the City of London; you cannot interfere with the business vote, in so far as part of the business vote has survived, because we made an agreement with the Conservative and Liberal Parties in the last Parliament?"
§ Mr. Morrison
This doctrine which is being laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, is typical of his conception of himself as perpetual Prime Minister of Great Britain. In short, he is trying to impose from the last Parliament when he was Prime Minister—and a great Prime Minister in those days, as we all agree—he is trying to impose, from the very powerful position which he then exercised in the Government and in the country, a veto upon this Parliament. Sir, one Molotov in the world is enough.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am always glad to see the right hon. Gentleman who has just intervened. He was a most valued Under-Secretary of mine at the Home Office during the war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes, he was. Why should I not say so? I will go on saying so. Neither the right hon. Gentleman, nor the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby, appears to have read the evening papers. Really, they ought to read them more quickly than they have done tonight, because Lord Pethick-Lawrence himself has spoken. I call him into the box—an absolutely brand new witness. I quote him from the diary of that newspaper which is very useful to us from time to time—Lord Beaverbrook's evening newspaper, the "Evening Standard." It is only fair to 1105 say that it quotes Sir Herbert Williams the other way—not with very great conviction; but I will not bother about Sir Herbert Williams. Lord Pethick-Lawrence will do for me because, after all, he is accused of having made this statement. This evening newspaper, having asked him for his views, says:Lord Pethick-Lawrence today admitted to me there was a gentlemen's agreement, but says it applied to the Parliament of the time. He said, 'There was never any mention in the Conference, or in any of the pourparlers connected with it, of any understandings as to what the attitude of the parties should be in any future Parliament.'
§ Mr. Morrison
All right. There are another two lines. I cannot see the sense of them myself, but I will read them. This is not Lord Pethick-Lawrence; this is "The Londoner," whoever he is. He says that he, "The Londoner," does not see… why the Socialists squawked last night.I cannot see what the Tories have been squawking about all this time. Well, Sir, that finishes that. That disposes of the efforts of the Opposition to cause my noble Friend to turn King's evidence on this matter. He said exactly what I would have thought of him as saying because, honestly, why should it occur to any Member of the Speaker's Conference, in the war Government, in the Parliamentary Labour Party at the time, that we were entering into agreements of a more or less permanent character until we were released by the Conservative Party? It would be constitutionally wrong for that to be done—a denial of the rights of the electors, a denial of the rights of a free Parliament.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Our case is that his party took, in the past, when we had the power—and we gladly conceded it—their part of the bargain, which was necessary to the local elections, and when they gained the power they brushed aside all the rest of it.
§ Mr. Morrison
That, at any rate, has disposed of the point about Lord Pethick-Lawrence which was raised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—on the evidence of 1106 the witness himself. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition intervened, and will persist in claiming that these 7,000,000 additional local government electors were an exchange for some sort of bargain that we would permanently, or substantially permanently, maintain the university constituencies and the City of London. There never was any such bargain. Whether bargaining is the right word I do not know, because I was not a member of the Speaker's Conference, but there were, of course, accommodations made between the parties in the Speaker's Conference.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, certainly. The Conservatives made concessions, and the Labour people made concessions, both ways, and it is perfectly true that the same process had to happen, if I am permitted to say so, in the war Government itself; it was inevitable in the circumstances of the Coalition. That is all perfectly true; and whether it was the case that this was given on the understanding that something else was or was not pressed—may well be, because—there is nothing wrong about it—one lives by bargains and by making concessions here and there. All these concessions and all these accommodations were within the political circumstances and the political facts of the Parliament of the day, and could not be within the political circumstances and the political facts of any other Parliament.
As a matter of fact, as the Secretary of State for Scotland has said, the Government of the day would have been in the most difficult physical circumstances to have run the local government elections in any other way than they did. There was not the manpower to have made a canvass for local government elections. It could not have been done. I admit I liked it, because I thought it was right; the local government franchise had become something of a farce; anybody could walk round the law and get on the registers with a little bit of care; and I thought the action was right. But to say this was an enormous gift by the Conservative Party when, in the administrative circumstances of the time it could harldy help itself, and when there was nothing very terrible about it, is going too far. The right hon. Gentleman has said that these 7,000,000 voters enabled 1107 the Labour Party to win the municipal elections which followed the general election—
§ Mr. Morrison
If it enabled the Labour Party to win the election which followed the Parliamentary general election of 1945, how are we to explain all the paeans of triumph and the shouts of victory which went up from Lord Woolton and the Conservative Central Office last year when the same 7,000,000 apparently went wrong?
§ Mr. Morrison
By now the right hon. Gentleman can be comforted in this act of generosity which he committed as Prime Minister—and I can say he took an awful lot of interest in this business. The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman is that he is always getting on the verge of Cabinet secrets and I nearly trip into them as a consequence. The right hon. Gentleman said to the House yesterday that he was an innocent chap running around, running the war, and that he did not know much about this political business, but that I knew all about it and out-manoeuvred him.
§ Mr. Churchill
I devoted quite a large portion of my speech to explaining how worried I was when this report about assimilating the local and national franchises came up. Far from concealing the fact that I took an interest in it, I devoted two or three minutes of my speech to talking of it. I did not conceal my interest from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman knows what he said; I know what he said; and the House knows what he said; and the implication is very clear in my mind that he was the virtuous citizen concentrating on the war. It is perfectly true that he asked Lord Margesson about it and that Lord Margesson explained it; hut his attitude yesterday was that he was not over-interested in it: that he had not the time to be; but that I, on the other hand, was not too much involved in the war, and that I was involved in all this It is all untrue. The right hon. Gentleman has been very generous to me from time to time, testifying that I had an awkward part to play in the war.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am obliged. The right hon. Gentleman took a very lively interest in all this business. He was perfectly right to do it. He had his eyes on the matter all the time, and had vigorous assistance from a colleague who shall be nameless. It may be argued in some quarters—it could be argued I admit, and the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) did argue—that if we do not regard ourselves in this Government as bound by the unanimous conclusions of the Speaker's Conference in the last Parliament, we ought to have had another Speaker's Conference before this Bill was introduced. Indeed, it was implied, I think, by the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for the West Derby, as it was also yesterday in the Debate, that when such changes in the law have been contemplated there has been a universal practice of having something in the nature of a Speaker's Conference to precede them. I follow that argument; but it is a false argument. I will not say it has been the practice only in times of war or of Coalition, because I am not quite sure; but the answer to this claim, if it be made—and it has been made—is in the words of the late Lord Baldwin, before he was made a peer, and when he was Prime Minister. He used the words in relation to the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act. He said:It is quite true that it was our intention to call a conference, and the Government approached Mr. Speaker asking if he would preside at such a conference, and I have his permission to say that he decided—and I have no quarrel with his decision—that as party controversy had been renewed since 1918 he felt that, in order to preserve the impartial position of the Chair, he would prefer not to preside at such a conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1928; Vol. 215. c 1471.]That disposes of that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Surely. I cannot answer for what Mr. Speaker of this time would do, but I can quite follow the position which was adopted by the Speaker at that time in the reply which he gave to Mr. Baldwin. I think it is the case that, when we have the party system fully and vigorously working, Mr. Speaker would be in a difficult position in presiding over a conference to seek agreement on matters of this kind. At any rate, that was the view of Mr. Speaker at that time, and 1109 that was reported to the House of Commons by Mr. Baldwin, who had evidently had to meet the point.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said that the Opposition would not divide; that in Committee they would seek amendment on three main and important matters: university elections, the position of the City of London, and the business vote. The business vote was a new one, because up to now there has been no great criticism of the complete abolition of the business vote. In fact, I recall hardly a speech during the Debate which has upheld the preservation of the business vote.
Well, it is perfectly competent, of course, for these matters to be raised in Committee; but in view of the furore which has taken place in the Conservative Press, and the sharp attacks on the Bill that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition and by others, I am bound to say it is a shocking anti-climax to me that tonight the Bill should go through without a Division, and with the general assent of the House. However, it is not for me to complain; but I am bound to say that it is a little undramatic in the circumstances, in view of the speeches that were made yesterday.
I have, I think, dealt adequately with the observations of the Leader of the Opposition on the Speaker's Conference and the so-called bargaining—in which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman himself believes. True, there was an agreement, but it was an agreement which operated within the time of that Parliament. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey said that she was completely in the dark about what the agreement meant, and what it was about. If she is in the dark I do not know that I can help her, because she was a member of Mr. Speaker's Conference and I was not. If she was mystified about what happened at the Speaker's Conference—and, after all, she is a lady of considerable political knowledge and experience—I really cannot help her, and I think it would be impudent on my part to try.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The only point on which I was in the dark was about the bargain made between the party opposite and the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Morrison
Let the hon. Lady be thankful. Think of the embarrassment she has saved herself. She is outside all this strong argument which has been proceeding, and once more the Liberal Party emerges—
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes—pure, white and absolutely above the battle. I think that is a fine state of affairs, even if there are not many of them to enjoy the situation. Of course she did rather pull our legs about the compromise we made with regard to plural voting, and accused Labour Members on the Speaker's Conference of actually having voted for plural voting. I remember that, and this leg-pull has been going on ever since. But the explanation is perfectly simple. They got the business vote cut down by 50 per cent., and in order to get it down to 50 per cent. they voted for the retention of the other 50 per cent. Now my noble Friend will have the great privilege and honour of voting for the abolition of the remaining 50 per cent. under this Bill
She and others referred to 1931, with regard to certain proposals made in a Bill introduced by the Labour Government. She has referred also, to the alternative voting provision contained in that Bill. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby, and the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) referred to provisions for the preservation of the business vote in the City of London. I hope nobody will charge us with moral turpitude in connection with 1931. I was not Leader of the House of Commons at the time, and I am very grateful that I was not, for it must have taken a bit of leading in those days. There was no majority for anybody, and the poor Government had to move from one expedient to another day by day. Of course, the noble Lady put her finger on the point. Her distinguished father, whom I always remember with great respect and admiration, was a very determined man; he went with a 1111 gun to the Ministers of the day—I was not high up enough to have dealings with him in this kind of business—and the result was that they produced this not very logical nor very streamlined Bill Well, poor things, they were the subjects of force majeure That is the only defence I can make—that they had to do the best they could. But to hold up that experience against this Government is a bit rough It ought not to be done.
The noble Lady asked, as she had every right to ask, whether the Government were determined to resist proportional representation or the alternative vote. Believe me, I do not say this out of mere partisan considerations, neither does the Labour Party, but our honest view is that proportional representation is not conducive to the best form of Parliamentary government. We have come really to believe that after years of argument. There used to be a strong body of opinion in the Labour Party in favour of it, but after years of argument that is our conclusion.
The alternative vote is somewhat better, but that, on the other hand, would lead to not too pleasant bargaining between political competitors, which is not to the good. It is much better that the parties should fight, and that the party which gets the most votes, let us hope, should come out on top. I admit that that does not necessarily follow. I admit all the mathematical criticisms against the existing system. I admit that a mathematical case and a theoretical case can be made against it. I admit that governments do not always represent the majority of the electorate. That happens to both sides. On the whole, the Left have had the worst of it up to now, although at the moment we are not doing badly. It happens both ways, but, broadly speaking, the system works. I would sooner have governments with strength and power behind them—even though I do not agree with them—so long as they observe the democratic forms, than a Parliament which can only live by the making and unmaking and remaking of Coalitions and bargains of all sorts.
I am sorry to tell the noble Lady this, because I know she fervently believes in another point of view. Having said so, it would be rather hypocritical on our part 1112 to promise that the Government would be willing that there should be some sort of investigation and inquiry, because at the end of the day we should not be prepared to implement it. That, I am afraid, must also apply to the rather more modified proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay).
Now I come to the subject of the City of London, which was raised in a rather moving speech by the right hon. the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton). He has referred, as he had every right to do, to the speech that I made in 1944 on the Bill which was then under discussion. Others have also referred to it. Indeed, I am grateful for the fact that I have not heard more about this speech than I have. I thought I would hear much more about it. Well, the speech stands. It is on the record, and I cannot help it. There it is.
But I would like to say—and I am not ashamed to say it—that I am a Londoner who was brought up in the civic government of London in one way and another—the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney and the London County Council. I have read its civic history. I have read of the struggles of its civic political parties. I love this city with a deep sincerity and a deep profundity. I like its history. I said then, and I say now, that despite all the faults and criticisms that can be brought against it, I can never think of the ancient City of London, with all its history in relation to the development of our Parliamentary freedom, the limitations of the powers of monarchs, the freedom of the Press and the liberty of the individual, without having in my veins some degree of emotion and in my heart gratitude and respect for the work which that body did many years ago.
I do not like to see the independent Parliamentary representation of the City of London go. I am sorry, but I just cannot think of an argument for preserving the City's separate representation. The electorate will be between four and five thousand. Around the City there are blitzed boroughs, all of which, under my right hon. Friend's Bill, are materially injured in their Parliamentary representation. My right hon. Friend cannot help it. Bethnal Green, with over 40,000 electors is being cut from two Members to one. Stepney, including Limehouse, which my 1113 right hon. Friend the Prime Minister so worthily represents, and with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford used to be associated through the father of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey, is cut from three Members to one. Finsbury and Shoreditch would have been merged under the Boundary Commission's Report.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shore-ditch (Mr. Thurtle), whom I hope to see here for many years, is apprehensive about having the City being added to his territory. Westminster was to become mixed up with the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, Holborn gets merged with part of St. Pancras, Southwark, on the south side of the river, which has long association with the City, loses its three Members and gets one. All have electorates materially larger in number than the surviving electorate of the City of London before the changes were made in 1944. Heavens knows what is the future of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. I am sorry for all these London Members, and it is going to be an awkward personal matter to settle who is to survive and who is to be liquidated in the process.
How can I and my colleagues say that we will pick out the City of London for survival when it has only between four to five thousand electors, in view of what has been happening to contiguous constituencies, and to constituencies in the North of England and elsewhere? I am sorry, I regret it, but I have no choice. I came to the conclusion, and my colleagues came to the conclusion, that there was nothing for it but to merge the City of London with someone else. I can only say that that speech of mine in 1944 was saved by one sentence—you never know; you may have a bit of luck on these occasions. I did say that:It may be that in the future the day will come when the question will have to be looked at."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1993.]Sir, the day has come. Here, again, I am sorry about it, but I am, at any rate, technically safe and legally safe by that sentence which was in my speech. While I am concerned with this volume, there are some other things which I said at this point about the validity of the argument that the Speaker's Conference was binding on a future Parliament. There was raised the question of the degree of representation of Scotland and 1114 Wales, and my Scottish and Welsh friends were pressing for an undertaking that this guaranteed minimum of theirs in representation should be conceded to them for all time. I said "No, this time; not for all time." In the course of my speech I said that:so far as this Bill was concerned, we accepted that recommendation of the Speaker's Conference, but I could not give any undertaking about what future Governments or Parliaments might do in further legislation. I do not know whether that is regarded as carrying out the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference or not.This is not particularly relevant, but the other point is perfectly clear. I specifically stated that that Parliament and that Government could not bind future Governments. I went on to say thatThe only thing which I thought it right to tell the House was that future Parliaments and Governments must be free to consider this matter upon its merits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th October, 1947; Vol. 403, c 2054.]
§ Mr. Churchill
That raises no party issue. Here was an agreement between the parties. Scotland and Wales are a national matter. It is certainly on a different footing. This was a question agreed between the two great parties of the State.
§ Mr. Morrison
Scotland and Wales can be party matters, and if they are not, they could be something very much worse than party matters, and we ought to be very grateful to get back to party matters. That observation and others in that speech, including the observation about the City, are consistent with the view which we have insisted upon all along, that we have a right to deal with these matters.
On the question of university representation, I noticed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby said that there might be a claim for special representation of lawyers. A plausible case could be argued for that. This House makes law and it watches the action of the Government in administering the law. Lawyers could argue that they have a special case for representation of the Inns of Court in this House, and they would 1115 have as good a case to argue as the universities. What would the answer be? The answer would be in the case of lawyers the same as the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave himself, namely, that the House would say, "Good gracious, we have plenty of lawyers here. There is no need to give them special facilities." If that is true of the lawyers, we do not need to give special representation of the universities, because there are plenty of university graduates in all quarters of the House.
As to the university Members, some of them are definitely partisan. The attendance of the bulk of them is shocking. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is. The attendance of a high proportion of the
§ university Members is shocking, and the attendance of the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir E. Graham-Little) is not merely shocking, it is scandalous. Therefore, I say that the case for university representation is not made, and that the Government are reasonable in abolishing it. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, and we shall, as expeditiously as may be, carry this further chapter of democracy forward to the Statute Book. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the honour he has had in putting it before the House.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 318; Noes, 6.1117
|Division No. 78.]||AYES.||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir R||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Gunter, R. J.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Corlett, Dr J||Guy, W. H.|
|Alexander, Rt Hon A V.||Cove, W G.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Alpass J H||Crawley, A||Hale, Leslie|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Crossman, R H S||Hall, Rt Hon. Glenvil|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Cunningham, P||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R.|
|Atewell, H. C||Daggar, G||Hardman, D R|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C R.||Daines, P.||Hardy, E. A|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Harrison, J.|
|Ayles, W H||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hastings, Dr Somerville|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Henderson, Rt. Hn A (Kingswinford)|
|Bacon, M.ss A||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Baird, J.||Davies, S O. (Merthyr)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Barlour, A.||Deer, G||Hewitson, Capt M.|
|Barnes, Rt Hon. A. J||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hicks, G|
|Barstow, P G.||Delargy, H J||Hobson, C R|
|Barton, C||Diamond, J||Holman, P|
|Buchervaise, A. E||Doobie, W||Holmes, H E. (Hemswerth)|
|Benson, G||Dodds, N. N||House G|
|Berry, H||Donovan, T||Hoy, J.|
|Beswick, F||Driberg, T E. N||Hudson, J H (Ealing, W.)|
|Bing G. H C||Dugdale, J (W Bromwich)||Hughes, H D (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Binns, J||Dumpleton, C W||Hynd, H (Hackney, C.)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Durbin, E F M||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Blenkinsop, A||Dye, S.||Irvine, A J (Liverpool)|
|Blyton, W. R||Ede, Rt Hon. J. C.||Isaacs, Rt Hon. G A.|
|Boardman, H||Edelman, M||Janner, B|
|Bottomley, A G||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jay D P T|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Jeger, G (Winchester)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Edwards, W J (Whitechapel)||Jeger, Dr S W (St Pancras, S.E.)|
|Braddock, Mrs E M (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Evans. A (Islington, W.)||Jones, D T (Hartlepools)|
|Bramall, E A.||Evans, E (Lowestoft)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Brook, D (Halifax)||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Jones, J H (Bolton)|
|Brooks, T. J (Rothwell)||Evans, S N (Wednesbury)||Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Ewart, R||Keenan, W|
|Brown, T J (Ince)||Fairhurst, F||Kenyon, C|
|Bruce, Maj. D W T||Farthing, W J||Key, C W.|
|Burke, W A.||Fernyhough, E||King, E M|
|Butler, H W (Hackney, S.)||Field, Capt W J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Carmichael, James||Fletcher, E G M (Islington, E.)||Kinley, J|
|Chamberlain, R A.||Foot, M M||Lang. G|
|Champion A J||Fraser, T (Hamilton)||Lawson Rt Hon J J.|
|Chater, D||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lee, F (Hulme)|
|Chelwynd. G R||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H T N||Lee, Miss J (Cannock)|
|Cluse. W S||Ganley, Mrs. C S||Leslie, J R|
|Cobb, F A||Gibbins, J||Levy, B W|
|Cocks, F S||Gibson, C W||Lewis, A W J (Upton)|
|Coldrick, W||Glanville, J E (Consett)||Lewis, T (Southampton)|
|Collick, P||Goooch, E G.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Coll ndridge F.||Greenwood A. W. J. (Heywood)||Lipson, D L|
|Collins, V J||Grenfell, D R||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Colman, M.ss G M||Grey. C F||Longdeob/>n. F|
|Comyns, Dr. L||Grierson, E||Lyne, A W|
|Cook, T. F.||Griffiths, D (Rother Valley)||McAdam, W.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr G.||Guest, Dr L. Haden||McEntee, V. La T|
|McGhee, H G.||Perrins. W||Taylor, H B (Mansfield)|
|Mack, J. D||Platts-Mills, J F F||Taylor, R J (Morpeth)|
|McKay, J (Wallsend)||Popplewell, E||Taylor, Dr S. (Barnet)|
|Mackay, R W G (Hull, N.W.)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Thomas. D E Aberdare)|
|McKinlay, A S||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Thomas, I O. (Wrekin)|
|Maclean, N (Govan)||Price, M Philips||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|McLeavy, F.||Pritt, D. N.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|MacMillan, M K (Western Isles)||Proctor, W. T||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon H||Pryde, D. J||Thurtle Ernest|
|Macpherson, T (Romford)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Timmons, J|
|Mainwaring, W H||Randall, H. E.||Titterington, M F|
|Mallalieu, J P. W.||Ranger, J||Tolley, L|
|Mann, Mrs J.||Rankin, J||Tomlinson, Rt Hon. G.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Reeves, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Mathers, Rt Hon. G||Reid, T (Swindon)||Vernon, Maj W F|
|Medland, H M||Richards, R.||Viant, S. P|
|Mellish, R J||Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Walkden, E.|
|Messer, F||Robens, A||Walker, G H.|
|Middleten, Mrs. L.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Warbey, W. N|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robertson, J J (Berwick)||Watkins, T E|
|Mitchison, G R||Rogers, G. H. R||Watson, W M|
|Monslow, W||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Webb, M (Bradford, C.)|
|Moody, A S.||Reyle, C||Wells, P L (Faversham)|
|Morley, R.||Sargood, R.||Wells. W T (Walsall)|
|Morgan, Dr H. B.||Scollan, T||West, D. G.|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Scott Elliet, W.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J|
|Morris, P (Swansea, W.)||Segal, Dr S||Wheatley, J T (Edinburgh E.)|
|Morrison, Rt Hon. H. (Lewisham, E)||Sharp, Granville||White, C F (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mort, D. L.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Mort, A||Shawcross, Rt Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Whitely, Rt. Hon W.|
|Mulvey, A||Shurmer, P.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C A B|
|Murray, J D.||Silkin, Rt. Hon L.||Wilkes, L|
|Nally, W||Silverman, J (Erdington)||Wilkins, W A|
|Naylor T E.||Simmons, C. J||Willey, F T (Sunderland)|
|Nichol, Mrs. M E. (Bradford, N.)||Skeffington, A M||Willey, O G. (Cleveland)|
|Nicholls. H R (Stratford)||Skinnard, F W||Williams. D J (Neath)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt F E (Brentford)||Smith, C (Colchester)||Williams. J. L (Kelvingrove)|
|O'Brien, T||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Williams. Rt Hon. T (Don Valley)|
|Oliver, G H.||Smith, H N (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W R (Heston)|
|Orbach, M.||Smith, S H (Hull, S.W.)||Williamson, T|
|Paget, R. T||Solley L J||Willis, E|
|Paling, Rt Hon Wilfred (Wentworth)||Sorensen. R W||Wills, Mrs E. A|
|Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)||Soskics, Sir Frank||Wilson Rt Hon. J H.|
|Palmer, A M. F||Stamford, W||Wise, Major F. J|
|Pargiter, G A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Woodburn, A|
|Parker, J||Stokes, R R.||Wyatt, W|
|Parkin, B T||Stross, Dr B||Yates, V F|
|Paton, Mrs F (Rushcliffe)||Stubos A E||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Paton, J (Norwich)||Swingler, S||Zilliacus. K|
|Pearson, A.||Sylvester, G O.|
|Symonds, A. L||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Snow and Mr. G. Wallace|
|Bowen, R||Harris, H Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Mr. F, Byers and|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Salter, Rt Hon. Sir J A||Mr. Wilfrid Roberts.|
Resolution agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Popplewell.]