HC Deb 14 June 1948 vol 452 cc45-168

(1) Any contributory employee or local Act contributor who received remuneration in respect of work done by him in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-nine in connection with the preparation of a register of electors under the Representation of the People Act, 1918, for any area in England or Wales shall be entitled to contribute a sum in respect of that remuneration to the appropriate superannuation fund in respect of any year in which a register is prepared under this Act, if—

  1. (a) he was required to do the work in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-nine by virtue (directly or indirectly) of the post as officer or servant of a local authority which he holds in the later year; and
  2. (b) he does not receive remuneration in respect of work done by him in the later year in connection with the preparation of the register under this Act to an amount greater than that of the first mentioned remuneration.

(2) Where a person makes a contribution under this Section in respect of any year, he shall not be required or entitled to make, in respect of that year, any contribution under the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937, or the local Act scheme, as the case may be, in respect of any remuneration received by him in respect of work done by him in that year in connection with the preparation of a register under this Act.

(3) Where a person makes a contribution under this Section in respect of any year, then for the purpose of computing in accordance with the provisions of Section eight of the said Act of 1937 his average remuneration (if he is a contributory employee), or of calculating his superannuation allowance under a local Act scheme (if he is a local Act contributor) he shall be deemed—

  1. (a) to have received in respect of service rendered in that year the remuneration by reference to which the contribution was calculated; and
  2. (b) not to have received in respect of that year any such remuneration as is mentioned in the last foregoing Subsection.

(4) In this Section—

  1. (a) the expressions "contributory employee," "local Act contributor," "local Act scheme" and "appropriate superannuation fund" have the same meanings respectively as in the said Act of 1937, except that in relation to a local Act contributor the last mentioned expression means the superannuation fund in the benefits of which he is entitled to participate;
  2. (b) references to remuneration in respect of any work do not include an inclusive salary paid partly in respect of that work and partly in respect of the recipient's ordinary work as an officer or servant of a local authority.—[Mr. Ede.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When the registration of electors and local government elections were suspended during the war, those local government officers who were accustomed to receive payments for election work additional to their ordinary salaries suffered financial loss. So that their superannuation rights should not be prejudiced, Section 2 of the Local Elections and Registration of Electors (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1940, and subsequently Section 34 of the Representation of the People Act, 1945, enabled such officers to continue to make superannuation contributions at the rate appropriate to the remuneration which they received in 1939.

As a result of the redistribution of seats, some of the local government officers in question will continue to be deprived of work and remuneration in connection with the registration of electors. It seems equitable that their superannuation rights should continue to be safeguarded, and accordingly this Clause will, in effect, continue in force the provisions of the earlier enactments enabling them to contribute at the 1939 rate. The Clause will not apply to Scotland because registration work is differently organised there. It is done on a county and burgh basis whereas in England and Wales it is done on a constituency basis. The redistribution of seats will have no effect on the organisation of the work in Scotland.

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

While we take no exception to, and in fact welcome, this Clause, I am informed by the National Association of Local Government Officers that they have approached the right hon. Gentleman on the details of the Clause and have failed to get satisfaction upon the following point. They say that the drafting of Subsection (1, a) excludes from the benefit of the Clause persons who have transferred or who in future transfer to a local authority other than that whose servants they were in the year 1939, or persons who have been promoted or are in future promoted to a post not carrying with it duties in connection with the preparation of Parliamentary registers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into this point which is a substantial one and, if necessary, get some re-phrasing of the Clause when the Bill gets to another place.

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

I thank my right hon. Friend for this new Clause, which he has explained with his usual lucidity. It is correct that there is a point or two in dispute, but that ought not to detract from our appreciation of the way in which the Home Secretary has substantially met the case which has been submitted to him by the National Association of Local Government Officers. I think that association is in correspondence with him, and I would prefer that this Clause should go forward and be accepted by the Committee, leaving the finer points to be dealt with at some future date if necessary.

Mr. Ede

In reply to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) there have been negotiations about this new Clause. The people he has mentioned are those who have left one job, or will leave one job, and go to another where this kind of work is not being done. If a man leaves a job and goes to another, where, in the ordinary transaction of local government business he would not be doing this work, he has voluntarily left his first job and has no real claim against any fund in respect of work which he is no longer performing. I shall, however, consider any representations which are made to me if there is anything beyond that which the Association of Local Government Officers wish to represent, but it seems to me that what I have done meets all the cases in which any claim can be put forward.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

May I ask one question on this point, which is of considerable importance? Without in any way criticising the fact that the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) rather criticised the Clause—

Mr. Burden

I in no way criticised the new Clause.

Mr. Williams

Perhaps I used the wrong word. The hon. Member said there were points of detail which would have to be dealt with, and that would seem to be almost a point of criticism. I am astonished at the hon. Member putting his name to anything that was not quite perfect. I do not want to start any trouble in the ranks opposite, but I should like to know at what stage we shall be able to deal with these points which, it has been suggested on both sides of the Committee, should be met.

Mr. Ede

The suggestion made by the right hon. Member for North Leeds was that if I thought there was anything in the point, or if the negotiations revealed the fact that it was desirable to take appropriate steps, it should be dealt with in another place.

Mr. Williams

Then may I thank the right hon. Gentleman sincerely for his answer and also for proving the immense value of another place?

Mr. Ede

We shall wait and see if anything is done.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Bill reported with an Amendment; as amended (in Committee and on re-committal), considered.
NEW CLAUSE.—(Use of motor vehicles for conveying electors to poll.)
5 (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not, with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at a parliamentary election, either let, lend or employ, or hire, borrow or use, any motor vehicle for the purpose of the conveyance of electors or their proxies to or from the poll, and a person knowingly acting in contravention of this subsection shall be guilty of an illegal practice within the meaning of the parliamentary corrupt practices Act.
(2) Where it is shown—
(a) that a motor vehicle was employed for the purpose aforesaid; and
10 (b) that at the time when it was so employed there was to the knowledge of any person employing or using it for that purpose displayed on it or on a trailer drawn by it any placard, colours or other thing indicating a preference for or against any candidate at the election;
it shall be presumed until the contrary is shown that that person was so employing or using it with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate thereat.
15 (3) Nothing in this section shall—
(a) render unlawful anything made lawful by subsection (3) of section fourteen of the parliamentary corrupt practices Act (which relates to the use of vehicles by electors at their joint cost); or
20 (b) prevent any person employing a motor vehicle for the purpose of conveying to or from the poll himself or any member of the same household, or borrowing a motor vehicle from a member of the same household to be employed for that purpose; or
25 (c) prevent a candidate at an election or some person on his behalf employing a motor vehicle for the purpose of conveying any person to or from the poll, if the conditions hereafter mentioned in this section are complied with, or borrowing a motor vehicle to be employed for that purpose from any person; or
30 (d) prevent a person lending or using a motor vehicle in a case in which it is lawfully borrowed or employed by virtue of either of the last two foregoing paragraphs;
and (subject to the next following subsection) any expenses incurred in respect of a vehicle's employment under paragraph (b) or (c) of this subsection shall be disregarded for the purposes of the parliamentary corrupt practices Act so far as it relates to election expenses (including the purposes of section forty-one of this Act).
35 (4) The conditions under which a motor vehicle may be employed under the said paragraph (c) by or on behalf of a candidate are the following:—
(a) the motor vehicle shall be registered in the prescribed manner with the returning officer, and there shall be prominently displayed thereon a placard indicating that it is so registered;
40 (b) the number of motor vehicles so employed shall not exceed in a county constituency one for every fifteen hundred electors or in a borough constituency one for every twenty-five hundred electors;
45 (c) in respect of each motor vehicle so employed the sum of two pounds shall for the purposes of sections eight and thirty-three of the parliamentary corrupt practices Act (which relate to the maximum amount of and return as to election expenses) be deemed to have been paid by the candidate's election agent.
50 (5) Regulations made with respect to the registration of motor vehicles with the returning officer under this section may make provision as to the retention, destruction and inspection of the register and the right to take or receive copies thereof, and as to the fees (if any) payable for the exercise of any right under the regulations.
(6) For the purposes of this section—
(a) the expression "motor vehicle" means any mechanically propelled vehicle constructed or adapted for use on roads;
55 (b) the expression "member of the same household" includes a visitor spending the night before or after the day of the poll in the same dwelling house and a person employed by a member of the household at the dwelling house unless so employed exclusively for the purpose of that member's trade, profession or business; and
60 (c) the number of electors shall be taken to be the same as the number of entries in the register or electors lists by reference to which the maximum amount of the candidate's election expenses is determined, any residual fraction of fifteen hundred or, in a borough constituency, twenty-five hundred being treated as a complete fifteen or twenty-five hundred, as the case may be.—[Mr. Ede.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It will be within the recollection of the House that during the Committee stage of the Bill a new Clause was proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) on this point. I was unable to accept his new Clause but I undertook to consider the matter between the Committee and Report stages and see if anything could be suggested to the House that would deal with this subject, which has been a matter of serious contention for many years. I now submit this new Clause to the House. I think it will be found to cover the points raised by my hon. Friend, and I suggest that it deals with the matter more satisfactorily than any of the previous proposals which have been considered by the House from time to time.

Subsection (1) makes it an illegal practice to use a motor vehicle for conveying electors to the poll with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate. The prohibition, therefore, will apply to any organised use of motor cars in the interests of a candidate. Subsection (2) has the effect that where a car carries a candidate's party colours, or the like, the onus of proof that it was not used with a view to promoting or procuring his election will rest on that candidate.

Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Subsection (3) provide exemption for electors hiring cars for conveying themselves to the poll, and for the owner of a car or a member of his household using his car to take himself or members of his household to the poll. Paragraph (c) allows the use of cars for conveying electors to the poll by or on behalf of the candidate subject to the conditions set out in Subsection (4). The last four lines of Subsection (3) provide that any expenses incurred in using a car under paragraphs (b) or (c) are not to be treated as election expenses. The intention of this is to make it clear that such expenses need not be included in the condidate's return in addition to the sum required to be included by paragraph (c) of Subsection (4). This, however, will only apply to incidental expenses incurred by a person in using his own car either for his own use or on behalf of the candidate. A candidate will still be prohibited by Section 7 of the Act of 1883 from hiring cars for taking electors to the poll, or from repaying expenses incurred by another person in the use of his car on the candidate's behalf.

Subsection (4) lays down the conditions for the use of cars by or on behalf of a candidate. The car must be registered with the returning officer and must carry a placard indicating that it is so registered. The number of cars employed by a candidate must not exceed one for every 1,500 electors in a county constituency, or one for every 2,500 electors in a borough constituency. After carefully considering the numbers, we thought those appeared to be adequate in view of the largely altered conditions in which elections will be carried on in the future. We have laid it down that in rural constituencies every parish shall be a polling district unless there are special circumstances which warrant it being treated otherwise. In addition, the facilities now available for postal voting and for polling by absent voters, reduce considerably the legitimate need for cars which may have occurred in the past.

4.0 p.m.

The two conditions I have outlined are similar to those proposed in the Section dealing with this subject in the Representation of the People Act, 1931, but the scale then proposed was one car for every thousand electors in counties and one for every two thousand electors in boroughs. I think that the altered conditions which I have mentioned justify the change in numbers. The permitted numbers have been reduced to take these facts into account. A further condition is imposed that the candidate must add a notional sum of £2 to his return of expenses in respect of each car employed on his behalf. This condition is additional to those which were proposed in 1931 and is intended to deter the candidate from using cars unnecessarily. If a man wants the advertisement of cars running about he must make his choice between that and other expenditure if his expenses are approaching the maximum permitted figures.

The general effect of the Clause will be strictly to limit the organised use of cars on behalf of a candidate, without attempting to prohibit their use by private individuals for taking themselves or their families to the poll. The Clause makes no special provision for invalids, as previous Clauses have done, because none now seem necessary in view of the provisions to which I have already alluded. The Clause will not apply to local government elections. There is an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the applicability of this Clause to such elections. My own feeling is that the circumstances of local government elections differ so widely from those of Parliamentary elections that is impossible, in one and the same Clause, to lay down conditions that would be suitable for both.

There can be no doubt that over a long period of years the unlimited use of motorcars has enabled certain parties in the State to profit considerably at election times from their unrestricted use. As long ago as 1883 it was found necessary—

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

There were no motorcars then.

Mr. Ede

I am not suggesting there were any motorcars in those days. I am old enough to have participated in the first legal use of motorcars in this country. As long ago as 1883 it was found necessary, in the interests of fairness as between political parties, to impose restrictions on the use of vehicles of another type for bringing electors to the poll. The Government take the same view as that taken by the Government of 1931, when a Clause not dissimilar to the present one, bearing in mind the circumstances of the time, was passed by Parliament. We think that before the Bill leaves this House it, too, should include a Clause which will ensure that as between parties there shall be less disparity of opportunity in the future than in the past.

Mr. Peake

Would he right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer a simple question on the interpretation of the Clause? Does it, or does it not, prevent a man in a remote rural area from taking a neighbour or friend to the poll in his own car?

Mr. Ede

I should say that, on a strict interpretation of the Clause, it would not. [HON. MEMBERS: "It does."] It would not prevent a man from doing so, providing that was not part of the organised campaign for one or other of the candidates at the election. We have endeavoured to make this Clause workmanlike and to ensure that it shall not impose an undue burden on electors. With the revision of the polling districts which I have mentioned, however, there will be far less need for the use of cars in future than there has been in the past, especially in rural constituencies.

Mr. Peake

I imagine it would be for the convenience of the House to have a general discussion upon the Clause at this stage and then to deal separately with the points raised in the Amendments regarding it. I shall not go into any detail, therefore, upon the Amendments which we propose to move.

My first criticism is that the Clause is incomprehensible. It does not answer the simple question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman: does, or does not, this Clause forbid a man to take a neighbour to the poll? The position is by no means clear and I think we ought to have the presence here of one of the Law Officers of the Crown to advise the House upon the proper construction of the Clause. Subsection (1) makes it an offence for a person, with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at a parliamentary election, to either let, lend or employ, or hire, borrow or use, any motor vehicle for the purpose of the conveyance of electors … to or from the poll. The governing words appear to be, with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at a parliamentary election. At every Parliamentary election for many years past I, who live in a remote area on the Yorkshire moors, have placed my estate van at the disposal of persons living in my neighbourhood for them to go to the poll. No label is worn on the car and no inquiry is made as to which way such persons are voting. As I read the Clause, that practice would now be forbidden, and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why I think so. The question is whether, in providing a vehicle under those circumstances, I am doing it with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate. Surely, everybody who goes to vote at a polling booth goes there with the intention of procuring the election of a candidate, whether it is the Conservative, the Liberal, or the Socialist candidate; there is no other object in going to a polling station than to secure the election of a candidate.

Moreover, amongst the exceptions which are not offences under the Clause, we find in Subsection (3) that Nothing in this section shall. … prevent any person employing a motor vehicle for the purpose of conveying to or from the poll himself or any member of the same household. Later in the Clause there is a very careful definition of persons who are members of the same household. They have to be wholly employed in domestic service or must spend either the night before or the night after the election staying with the person in whose car they travel to the poll. The two Subsections are quite incompatible. It would appear from Subsection (3) that in taking to the poll anybody who is not actually a member of one's household one would be committing an offence. I think the same can be read into Subsection (1) and that it means that for the future it is an offence to convey a friend or neighbour to the poll in a motor car. This would inflict grievous hardship upon persons living in remote country districts. In many cases they have to go up to four, five or six miles to the polling station. Hitherto they have gone in motor vehicles provided by friends and neighbours and those vehicles have not carried a party badge. Under the proposed Clause all that is forbidden.

Another fundamental objection to the Clause is that it severely limits the number of motor cars to a figure which, even if operated to the full by candidates, cannot possibly take to the poll the innumerable people who are not strong enough to walk or cycle to the polling station. In all parts of the country there are many elderly people not able to get a certificate of sickness because they fall slightly ill two or three days before polling days. There are always people who will need conveyance to the poll, and the limit set by this Clause, which is about 50, or even fewer, motor cars in the most widespread of county constituencies is nothing like adequate to the requirements of the situation. This will prevent large numbers of well-meaning people going to the polls and that is a very serious thing for democracy.

Another criticism I make is of the ridiculous suggestion that while the candidate never has been allowed and will not in future be allowed, to pay for motorcars, a notional figure of £2 has to be included in the return of election expenses for every car used in an organised way to collect voters to the poll. That constitutes a breach of the agreement reached between the three parties during the progress of this Bill. This question of election expenses was first settled by Mr. Speaker's Conference. On the Second Reading of the Bill the question was raised of increasing the figures on account of the rising cost of labour and materials used at General Elections, and the party agents met. I have a copy of the agreement which they reached and which is embodied in the Amendments. The agreement is that the basic figure of £450 shall stand for election expenses, but that instead of one penny for each elector there shall be substituted 1½d. in the boroughs and in the county constituencies the figure shall be 2d. instead of 1½d. Nothing was said during the progress of the talks and negotiations—which I am glad to say arrived at an agreed conclusion between the parties—as to the limits to be set nor about the inclusion of some notional figure, which the candidate does not in fact spend at all, in respect of each motorcar used for conveying electors to the poll. On all these grounds this is a bad Clause, and we will resist it in the Lobby.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. York (Ripon)

This new Clause has been conceived in dishonour, as have a large number of Amendments made to the Bill since it first came before the House. In no respect has there previously been such a deliberate and outspoken attempt to give advantage to the party in power.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—As one of its chief objects, this new Clause seeks to prevent those in the rural areas who are sensible enough to vote Conservative from getting to the poll, and if there is any more dishonourable or disgusting trick than that, it is very difficult to conceive of it. I represent large areas where houses are literally miles apart and where in many cases one out of a number of farmers is able to take his friends to the poll, perhaps to my advantage. Am I to have my election disqualified because my friends in the Dales are organising themselves as neighbours in order to get their friends to the poll? Whatever legal interpretation the Home Secretary puts upon this proposed Clause, there can be no doubt that as it is drafted, I should be committing an offence if any of my farmer friends—and they are virtually all friends of mine—in the rural areas organised to take people to the poll.

In my own village, which is not in my constituency as I live just outside the constituency, a man complained in a recent election that he did not vote in the last election because no one came to fetch him to the poll. Is his neighbour, who is another friend of mine, not allowed to make arrangements to take him? Both of them are known to be Conservatives. If he happens to be ill he is unable to get to the polling station, which is a mile and a half to two miles away, unless taken by car. In small hamlets in the country will there be any chance for people to obtain a car to take them to the poll when a hopelessly inadequate number of cars is to be allowed in the rural areas? This is the most disgusting exhibition of party politics I have ever seen, and I am ashamed and disgusted that a Home Secretary of this country should demean himself to such low levels as to put forward this new Clause.

Mr. Parker (Dagenham)

I believe I am speaking for many hon. Members on this side of the House in welcoming the proposed new Clause. Whenever there is a question of compensation being paid to rich people we have arguments from the Opposition about the poor widow and the orphan. Today we have the story of the poor sick lady being trotted out when it is a question of removing an advantage provided by ownership of wealth. I hope the case made by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) is based on fact and that it will be impossible for people to take neighbours to vote in rural areas, because I feel that if a loophole is allowed means will be found to drive a coach and horses through the Clause.

The whole point of tightening up the law is to see that the advantages of wealth are removed and it is essential that there should be no loophole. As the law will stand if this Clause is passed, surely it will be possible in any legitimate case for people to be taken to vote, because there will be a large number of cars available for one candidate or another. The election organisers will be sadly lacking in their job if they do not notify one party or another of the need to pick up such people and take them to vote.

With the increase in the number of polling stations also there should be no cause for grievance of that kind.

In my constituency during an election quite a number of people who own cars are prepared to allow their use at some particular time of the day, when they are off duty, provided that they can drive the cars themselves. They are not prepared to lend their cars to someone else to drive in the hours other than those in which they themselves are free. Would it not be possible, when such a car is available for two or three hours, for arrangements to be made officially for the right to use a car to be officially transferred from that to some other car which is available say from four to six p.m. when someone else who would be willing to be a part-time driver has his car available.

I do not want to press the point but it seems to me that it should be possible to issue regulations, provided that only the requisite number of permits were given, to permit them to be transferred if necessary at different periods of the day from one car to another. That would mean that only the stipulated number of cars would be out at any time on behalf of a particular candidate. I should like to know what the position would be in that kind of case, which is likely to arise extensively, where there are people who own their own cars and who are prepared to drive them for the benefit of a candidate at an election during certain hours of the day?

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)

The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) does not seem quite satisfied with this Clause himself. I am perfectly certain that in large areas of England none of the electors will be at all satisfied, whatever their political party is. Labour electors will possibly be more dissatisfied than any others in the country districts. I am trying to look at this Clause from the point of view of the elector. I do not think that the Government who introduce this Clause will be at all popular at the General Election or when the full implication of this proposal is understood.

During and since the war people have, under petrol rationing, become accustomed to sharing cars, to getting lifts from their friends and to knowing when people are going to the market town and going with them. That has developed greatly and if, as it seems to me is clear under this Clause, that is made illegal at elections, the public will think it exceedingly curious and will not understand its purpose. It will be a great hardship to electors. Anyone who has done any canvassing or has worked on polling day knows of the objections and difficulties which people have in going to the polling station. There are mothers with young children whom they cannot leave except at a particular time and for a short period; there are wives who have to make meals for their husbands and who have to arrange to go to vote at a particular time. It will be very hard on those people if they have to make their own arrangements or walk, and it will be much harder on the country electors than those in the towns.

After all, in any town there is a bus or a tram service; there are frequent public services available, and people can go to vote when they wish to do so. It is no answer to say that there will be a polling station in every parish. Parishes I know in the North of England are often five miles across and the polling station can be two and a half miles away. Suppose it is a wretched day, as it often is in my part of the world as well as in the rest of England; suppose it rains, the people will just not vote, and the result of this provision will be substantially to reduce the number of people who succeed in recording their vote. Why should they not be taken to vote? Ownership of a motor car is not a rich man's privilege nowadays; it is widespread. In elections and by-elections in which I have taken part recently I have not noticed the Labour Party was particularly short of motor cars. They seemed to have just as many as the other parties.

I do not know what the position is in other parts of England, but we quite recognise that anyone can go in any motor car to vote; there is nothing improper about that. If a motor car comes round for people they go in it to the polling station; the ballot is secret and they can vote as they please. There is no compulsion upon them, because the car happens to belong to a supporter of a particular party, to vote for the candidate of that party. This Clause will cause a lot of hardship, and it will be a hardship to country people, not to townspeople. It is an example of what is said against the Labour Party, that they do not understand conditions in the countryside.

Let us take the question of allocating £2 per car as election expenses. I was not here when the proposal in this Clause was originally discussed, but if I had been I should have said that the added expense of rural elections is much greater than is recognised either in the original Bill or in the Amendments which are now to be made. If we in the country are already penalised with regard to expenses, we shall be further penalised by this allocation to expenses of £2 per car. Let me take as an illustration my own constituency, which I believe will be one of the largest in England when this Bill becomes law. It covers approximately two-thirds of the county of Cumberland, and runs into the Lake District and the Pennines and to the Scottish border. Cumberland is well known as a scattered constituency. The election expenses of any candidate there are bound to be high. It is covered by a multiplicity of papers, so that one's advertising is duplicated. If any constituency needs motorcars mine does. Yet the total number of cars which will be available under this Clause is approximately 33 to 35 to cover 600,000 acres. It will be impossible for any candidate to make the provision which is required. That will be an equal hardship on all candidates.

Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)

Will the hon. Member state whether the 33 cars to which he referred means 33 per candidate? If it means that there will be 33 for each candidate, that means that the total available will be 100, and the hon. Gentleman's case is very much weakened.

Mr. Roberts

I do not think it is weakened at all. In my constituency we have considered about 200 cars to be the right figure, and there is nothing extraordinary about that; everybody has had cars available to that extent. In country constituencies adjacent to mine the Labour Party has used a large number. As they did not run a candidate against me at the last election, I cannot give the number which they would have used had they run a candidate, but to run elections as we have done and to serve the electors and provide them with cars, means that about that number is needed.

It may be that the public has been spoiled, but the change from 200 to 33 cars is bound to affect each candidate equally and it is bound to inconvenience the electors enormously. That is the case I wish to make. Further, the fixing of £2 per car to count as election expenses—and we must have these 33 cars—means that it will be increasingly difficult to put one's case over to the electors. I believe that it is the business of a party and of a candidate to spend as much as is necessary to put over the case or the candidate and his party to the electors. This Clause will make it more difficult for the elector to form his opinion as to how he or she should vote, and will make it, in some cases and in bad weather, absolutely impossible for some types of electors to vote.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Collins (Taunton)

My only reason for intervening in this Debate is the remark made by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) that we on these benches have no knowledge or experience of conditions in rural areas. I do not know whether my constituency rivals the hon. Member's in size, but it is about 45 miles long in one direction, 15 miles wide at the widest part and contains most of Exmoor in its area of something over 600 square miles. It may therefore be taken as fairly representative of the larger rural constituencies. The hon. Member for North Cumberland suggested that it was almost impossible for a candidate properly to run an election if his number of election cars, in a constituency like that, was as low as 33 or 35. I should have been very happy indeed at the General Election if I had had anything like 35 cars. At the peak period I think the number did not exceed 16. I may not have had as many farmer friends as the hon. Member opposite, but friends or not, they seem to manage without a large number of cars. Apparently some were even willing to walk.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

The hon. Member has said he had 16 cars. Is he saying that only 16 cars were employed at all, at any time? Surely, many more than 16 cars gave an odd lift here and there.

Mr. Collins

I am always interested naturally that people should go in the most convenient way they can manage. But the only cars of which I had cognisance, and which were carrying colours or cards of the Labour Party, were 16 at the most. I can speak only of cars of which I have knowledge.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

Does not the hon. Member appreciate that, under this new Clause, it is to be an offence for any farmer to pick up a friend?

Mr. Collins

I can be responsible only for the remarks I am making. The point has been made and will be left for the Home Secretary to deal with. I hope that the point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) will be confirmed, because in my view this Clause puts right an injustice under which the Labour Party has suffered for a long time. It was suggested that this Clause was conceived in dishonour. I suggest that the idea that anything coming from the Home Secretary could be born in sin is rather ridiculous.

The whole core and basis of the objection of the Conservative Party to this Clause is in the fact that it removes an overwhelming advantage which they have enjoyed for far too long. Therefore, do not let us have any suggestion that, in the rural areas, we cannot run our elections on the permitted number of cars, or that very serious hardships are suffered. Under this Bill there is provision for a much larger number of polling stations, polling stations in every parish. Last time we did not have that in my division, and it should make matters easier. I fully agree that these cars should be used wherever possible to conduct elderly people and invalids to the poll, and they will be so used. But the whole point is that there will be now an equality. Surely, what hon. Members should demand of this Clause and this Bill is that elections should be run as fairly as possible, and that conditions for all sides should be as equal as possible. The ferocity of their attacks do give one the impression that that is what they are frightened of.

The hon. Member for North Cumberland made the point that he could not get his message over effectively. I would submit that if the candidate has not got his message over by the eve of the poll, it is not much good trying on polling day and that, if we are to depend for success in elections on the number of cars we have, as has been the case in the past, one party has had an overwhelming preponderance. In my division, for a Labour candidate in a rural area, I was considered to be very well off for cars, although out-numbered by five or six to one. I do submit that, whatever minor adjustments it may need, this is a fair Clause.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

It must be a very long time since a Government has introduced or attempted to introduce legislation to reduce the number of people who can vote in an election. Surely Socialists must believe that their Socialist policy should be sufficient to influence the people to vote for them, and to seek by this Clause to reduce the number who can vote seems to me to be an intolerable thing to do. I speak on behalf of a rural area in the same way as the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins). The only difference between us is that while he has a large town in his constituency, the biggest town I have in mine has only about 8,000 people in it. That is a considerable difference. My area is the same and my district is scattered. A "parish" often represents one or two large farms with the farm workers round about, and it has been the custom in that part of the world at election time for whoever in the district has a car to take the whole lot.

Last Saturday I was having supper with a farmer and I was talking about this Clause. Before I had even started to criticise it, my friend's wife said, "But I do not understand. I take in all our people. I have not the slightest idea how they are going to vote. How are they going to get there?" [Laughter.] There is no point in laughing. Hon. Members opposite should listen to this, because it happens to be true, and they obviously do not understand very much about the country if they do not think that it is right. Surely, they do not think that a farmer throughout the five years between general elections knows or cares about the politics of every man working for him or allows politics to interfere with the friendly relations between him and his men which are so essential for efficiency. Such a man would be an extremely incompetent farmer.

Mr. Collins

I fully agree with the hon. and gallant Member, and disagree with some of my hon. Friends. In the rural areas there are a large number of people who do use their cars to give lifts, irrespective of how the people given a lift will vote. There are a far greater number of people who use them on behalf of one side than the other, but the point is that under this arrangement there may be an equal number of cars for both sides and thus people will use the cars impartially.

Commander Maitland

I am not talking of the actual number of official cars. I am attacking this Clause on the ground of its unworkability and in particular in regard to the case of a car belonging to somebody who may not be a member of any association who cannot carry people living in his district to the poll. I would ask a specific question of the Home Secretary. If somebody is driving down to the poll in his own car to vote for himself, and somebody whom he does not know, stops him and asks for a lift to the polling station, would that car owner, under this Clause, be breaking the law if he gave such a lift? It seems quite ridiculous that we should waste our time passing legislation of this sort when there are so many more important things to do.

Considerable stress has been laid on this question of the extra number of polling stations, or polling stations in each parish. The Home Secretary, in his reference to that, said that in certain circumstances there would be exceptions. I would ask whether sparsity of population would not be just such a circumstance. I should have thought that in those parishes where there are very few people living, that might well be a reason why there would not be a polling station there. If this is so it would only make matters worse. I sincerely hope that Members on all sides of the House will consider this matter very carefully.

I oppose this new Clause not so much on the detailed proposals which it makes but because I cannot see how the rules that it makes can be enforced. I cannot see how it can be brought into force on election day. Legislation which imposes on the people obligations which cannot be enforced is bad legislation. We are suffering from far too much of it now. We were a law abiding people a few years ago, but now people are breaking the law right, left and centre. There are too many laws. Why should we impose another entirely unnecessary law which cannot be enforced?

Mr. Bramall (Bexley)

The objection raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) is typical of the objections raised by the Opposition to much of the legislation of this Government. The argument that the Government have turned people into non-law abiding citizens always follows the same course. They argue that people have been law-abiding as long as the law has not affected them in any way; but that as soon as their section of society, their class or party are affected by a piece of legislation, then it is not the citizens but the Government who are to blame because those citizens then proceed to break the law. That is a common argument, but I think that we must give the Opposition the benefit of the doubt in this Debate in their opposition to this Clause by saying that they have no conception of the difficulties under which the Labour Party have laboured in the past in this matter of cars. They argue, I think quite honestly, that voters will be prevented from going to the poll because there are not cars at the disposal of the Conservative Party to fetch them. I do not think that in any great measure that will be so, but if it is true it must also be true that in the past many thousands of Labour voters must have been prevented from going to the poll.

It is true, of course, that there is nothing to prevent a voter of any party travelling in a car belonging to supporters of any other party and carrying the colours of that party. From such short experience as I have had in fighting two elections, I would say that the electors, certainly those who vote Labour, by and large, will not travel in Conservative cars. I have often endeavoured to persuade voters for whom I have been unable to provide a car, to travel in one of the cars run by the opposition. Generally speaking, they took the stand, "We are not going to travel in somebody's car and then vote against him." That is a commendable point of view which is held by many people on both sides. I have no doubt that many Conservative voters take exactly the same view. They would not travel in a Labour Party car and then vote Conservative when they got to the polling station. We must contend with that point of view.

Naturally, this matter is of most importance in rural areas; though it is of no small importance in urban areas. I speak as one who fought a hotly-contested by-election in which I had something like 25 cars at my disposal. An outside organisation supporting the Opposition sent in something like 250 cars run, I suspect, on petrol allocated for other purposes. They swamped the constituency with cars and, naturally, they were able to get a very high proportion of careless voters—the voters who do not much mind whether or not they go to the poll but who are willing to go if they get a ride.

Obviously, none of us can be indifferent to the position of the people who are infirm or too sick to go to vote; but let every one of us who has contested an election search our minds and say what proportion of our cars, whether we have had many or few, has been used only for carrying such people to the poll. In fact, the main purpose for which we have used our cars has been to get at the unwilling voter, the voter who cannot be bothered to go to the polling station but who may go if he is given a ride in a car. In future, we will not be able to do that. In future, the election organisers on each side will have to ensure that they use their cars for the purpose of taking to the poll people who cannot otherwise go. I believe that if the cars are used for that purpose, the numbers which will be available under this new Clause will be quite adequate.

4.45 p.m.

There are only two doubts about this new Clause which I would like to express. The first is the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle, who asked whether the Home Secretary was certain that this provision could be enforced. We will all agree that one thing which we want to avoid in election campaigns is any growth of suspicion between the parties about crooked dealing. In the past, with the level of election expenses which we have had, there has been very little suspicion that people have been conducting crooked elections. There have been very few cases in which there has been an appeal against an election decision. Probably that was partly due to the expensive nature of that operation, and, in general, there has been good feeling between candidates as to the conduct of elections. But if a regulation of this type is difficult to operate, the position may change. I am sure that the Home Secretary has gone into the question and satisfied himself as to the manner in which this provision will be enforced. I hope that he will be able to give the House a categorical assurance that he is satisfied that there will not be any great difficulty in the enforcement of this new Clause.

The other question is, what is the point of having this notional figure of £2 per car? It does not seem to me that it is in any sense an adequate sum to deter people from putting more cars on the road than they should, or that it is reinforcing the application of this Clause by adding a financial incentive to the ordinary incentive of honesty. It does not seem that it has any particular purpose of that kind, and it is open to the objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) that it diminishes the amount of money available to candidates to spend on other purposes.

Subject to that last point, I must say that this new Clause appears to do substantial justice which has been long overdue. Hon. Members opposite cannot appreciate the difference that there has been between the two parties. If it is true that a lack of cars in future will deprive voters of the right of going to the poll, then that means that, in the past, without any protest from hon. Members opposite, voters have been deprived precisely in that way. I do not believe that that will be its operation. I think that it will lead to a fair application on both sides and to election campaigns being fought on an equal basis.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

The speech of the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) exposed the attraction which this new Clause has for the Socialist Party. Never before in this House have so many hon. Members got up and protested that what they want the law to be is party legislation. Hon. Members opposite pretend sometimes that they are a democratic party. Here they are applauding a provision which will prevent electors from voting. That is the whole object of this new Clause. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] I ask the hon. Member who said "Rubbish" what other object this Clause has than that of preventing certain people from voting. It says that in the average constituency 33 cars shall be run for each candidate. That means that in the average rural constituency some 1000 to 1,500 electors will be carried to the poll. Those of the rest who have not got cars must walk.

Mr. Cecil Poole (Lichfield)

If the hon. Gentleman's argument is that the operation of this Clause will prevent people from voting, a matter on which he has worked up so much synthetic indignation, inasmuch as this Clause sets out what has been about the average number of cars that have been available to hon. Members of this party when contesting a constituency, does he not realise that many thousands of supporters of this party in the past have been denied the right to vote, and why has not the hon. Gentleman been indignant about that?

Mr. Turton

The hon. Member reinforces the argument I am making. Apparently, the Socialist Party have been able to muster only an average of 36 cars in the constituencies, and therefore they put that figure into the Bill. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins), who found only 16 cars at the time of the last election, had to agree that these figures are completely out of date. I was present at a recent by-election which the Socialist Party were contesting, and I noticed that they had a large number of numbered cars. I saw the number 50 and then 60. Some of them were hearses, though I do not know the reason for that. They had at least 60 cars. We ought not to try to draft party legislation, but try to secure that as many people as possible can go to the poll.

As this Clause is drafted, it will create new offences and will work to the great disadvantage of the scattered rural districts as opposed to the town areas. If one wanted to fight an election in South Kensington, one would not need a great fleet of cars, and yet the Home Secretary is providing for South Kensington 28 cars per party. If one is fighting a scattered rural area of 600 square miles, one must have cars to get the voters to the poll. The ordinary elector does not want to be guilty of an illegal practice or cause the election to be invalidated. I appeal to the Home Secretary to realise that, while this Clause may work out very well in South Kensington and Dagenham, it will not attempt to solve the problem with which we are trying to deal in the rural areas.

The Home Secretary said, "That is all right; I have some other Amendments to this Bill that will enable a polling booth to be provided in every village." I welcome that, but may I tell the right hon. Gentleman again that that really will not deal with the problem which we have to face in the rural areas, where we may have parishes which are four or five miles across and from which we have to get the people to the polling booth. The only way we can do that is by having a car organisation. At present-day elections, we must organise in order to get the electors to the poll. Let us be perfectly frank about it. Under the proposals of the new Clause, if the total is exceeded an offence will have been committed. I do not want to see that.

The hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) jeered at my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) for protesting that too many offences were being created at the present time. I am very worried about the extent of black market offences and the sapping of the morale of the electorate. People do not want to become criminals, but they are being forced to become criminals by the legislation which this Government is producing. [Laughter.] If hon. Members laugh at that, it shows they do not care a bit about it. In fact, the whole object of some—not all—hon. Members is to create a criminal mind because the criminal mind lends itself to Socialism. [An HON. MEMBER "Rubbish."] I have seen members of the Socialist Party come into my constituency and dabble in the black market.

Hon. Members

Name them.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)

On a point of Order. Should not the hon. Member, unless he is prepared to substantiate that statement,—which might easily have been a slip which he regrets—withdraw it, and, if he will not withdraw it, should he not substantiate it?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

That is a matter for the hon. Member to decide. It may be unfortunate that he mentioned it.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

It must have escaped your notice, if that is your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that an hon. Member opposite made a most wounding statement, when he shouted out "You know all about the black market." Whether he meant you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or not, I do not know, but I suggest that your complaint that the remark was unfortunate would be better addressed to that hon. Member.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not hear the statement made. If I had, and if I thought that it was directed to the Chair, I would have challenged the hon. Member. I think the bandying of such statements is undesirable.

Mr. Turton

I never said a Member of the Socialist Parliamentary Party. I said that Socialists were coming there as black marketeers. I did not accuse any hon. Member of the party opposite; I never intended to do so. That type of person is coming in as a black marketeer, and that type of person has voted Socialist in the past.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)

On a point of Order. Will the hon. Member either substantiate his statement or withdraw it?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is entirely a matter for the hon. Member itself.

Mr. Turton

Let us proceed from that. As I see it, at an election the first thing that an agent provocateur will do is to pour red petrol into the car of one of the candidates, and, thereby incriminate him in an offence. The next thing he will do will be to placard his car with posters exhorting people to vote for his opponent, and take his own friends to the poll in that car. Under this Clause, he will be rendering his opponent guilty of an illegal act. I do not know that he could go to prison for it, but he would be making it almost impossible for his enemy to be elected. I believe this to be a highly undesirable type of legislation. Another point which I hope the House will appreciate is that, where we have two candidates, and only two, in a constituency, they will be at a great disadvantage as compared with the constituency where there are four or five candidates. If the object of the Clause is to get voters to the polling station, as I believe it is, they will be hampered by something like 50 per cent. in comparison with the other constituency.

May I say finally that, if this problem is to be tackled, the way to tackle it is on quite different lines. I want to see as many people as possible going to the poll. If it is true today—and I do not believe it from what I have seen of Socialist candidates—that there is any difficulty in getting sufficient numbers of their friends to lend cars to take voters to the poll, I suggest that the Home Secretary should think about getting the returning officers to use requisitioned transport for that purpose—either to requisition military transport, or to make an arrangement with the local bus services to get sufficient to bring the voters to the poll. We claim to be a democratic nation fighting for democracy, but if we accept this Clause we shall be robbing the electors of their right to vote.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. C. Poole

Until today I have had a fairly high regard for the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), but seldom in my 10 years in this House have I heard an argument so lowly based as that which he adduced in his speech just now. I do not know whether he realises, but I hope he will when he reads HANSARD tomorrow, how closely akin is his argument to the arguments of certain totalitarian States which his party professes to dislike. The way in which a political party is discredited in some parts of the world is, first of all, to accuse its members of some breach of the law, and then to suggest that they have some criminal intent.

Today a charge has been made in this House which ought never to have been made, and for which not one iota of proof has been brought forward, that members of the Socialist Party go into the constituency of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton and dabble in the black market. I submit that there is not a shred of evidence for the suggestion. The hon. Member has not the decency to withdraw it, nor has he the facts with which to prove it; and if he were really an honourable Member of this House he would either prove it or withdraw it. If he has seen members of the Socialist Party dabble in the black market in his constituency it shows that, at any rate, he himself has a very close association with the black market.

Mr. Turton

May I explain that I sit with the magistrates when black market cases are being heard?

Mr. Poole

I presume that in his capacity as a magistrate the hon. Member makes it his business to find out what are the political views of the people who come before him. I would seriously suggest that the hon. Gentleman leaves that point alone.

Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South Western)

And leaves the bench, too.

Mr. Poole

The argument of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton is on a level with the majority of the political utterances of the party opposite.

Mr. Oliver Poole (Oswestry)

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that he started this matter?

Mr. Poole

No, it did not start on this side of the House. It started with the suggestion that this Government is introducing legislation which is making criminals of people, and that it is the criminals who are voting for the Socialist Party. That was the suggestion. [Interruption.] We hear quite a lot from the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), and I suggest that he restrain himself for a little while. I have blood pressure; I do not want him to have it as well.

Mr. Nicholson

I assure the hon. Gentleman that he will not silence me. He contributed to the ill-feeling by accusing the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) of synthetic indignation. For an hon. Member to make such a suggestion is deplorable, and I think it would be much better for the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite to assume that hon. Members on this side of the House are speaking sincerely.

Mr. Poole

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that what I am saying is not based on any synthetic fury about the remarks passed by hon. Members opposite. I feel that anything I said in reply was fully justified. On any occasion when hon. Members opposite dare to make foul charges against members of the party to which I belong, I hope I shall always be willing to come to the defence of the members of my party. When I am not willing to do so, I shall regard myself as no longer fit to sit in this House. Hon. Members opposite have been going about the country spreading this sort of story for a long time. The slimy trail which follows every Tory politician to and from every meeting he attends is evidenced in the weekend Press, and has been for a long time. I am afraid that the electorate which they are hoping to woo will be wooed very unsuccessfully until they are prepared to produce some sort of alternative—

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

On a point of Order. Are we not supposed to be discussing a new Clause to this Bill?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think the hon. Member may be getting a little wide. I was waiting to see how far he was going.

Mr. Poole

I was on the point of coming back to the Clause from which, unfortunately, I had been led away, I admit, by interruptions from the Benches opposite. The only point I want to make in reply to the argument from hon. Members opposite is this. While the number of cars allotted in country areas is small, I represent 400 square miles of England, so that I know something of the problem of getting the rural electorate to the polls, and I have never found that it has been necessary for the Tory Party to plan how they were going to get the farmers to the polls. Under this Clause the farmer will still be able to go to the poll in his own motor-car, and he will still be able to take his wife, and the cowman if he lives in the house. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Clause says: a member of the same household. An enormous number of people own cars. In fact, I should say that 99 per cent. of the people who vote for the Tory Party must own motor cars. Therefore, there is very little likelihood that they will be adversely affected. What hon. Members opposite fear is that, for the first time in history, elections in this country will be put on a basis of equity, and that the party to which I belong will have an equal chance of getting to the poll its own adherents along with those of the Party opposite. This Clause is long overdue. There will be no reduction in the number of people who will go to the polls at the next election. Those who want to go to the polls will be able to get there, and there will be greater equity in the facilities to enable people to go to the polls. Therefore, I hope the Clause will be put in the Bill; then, at the next election, we shall see whether there is any difficulty in people voting.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

As I happen to have fought more elections in a country constituency than any other Member I should like to say a word or two. I am also desirous of pouring oil on troubled waters. I would like, first of all, to make an observation about the speech of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole). I do not wish to follow him in the political speech which he made, but if he accuses hon. Members on this side of the House of having said something wounding to Socialist feelings, he should remember what he said about an hon. Friend of mine which, fortunately, you did not hear, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

I want to make two observations about this most calamitous Clause, as I think it is. It is symptomatic of the general trend of so much Socialist legislation at the present time. It illustrates two of the most common characteristics of Socialist policy. I think hon. Members opposite are genuinely unconscious of the lines that that policy follows. This Clause has its two tap roots in class dislike and in an inferiority complex. The class dislike has been plainly shown by the speeches to which we have listened for some time past—stop the wicked squire in the country districts from marshalling his frightened and obsequious tenants to attend the polls. A horrible man, the squire; he, or his son, has fought in every war, and he has probably never heard of the London School of Economics. He is blamed in every way by hon. Members opposite for having fought in the wars and also for not having heard of the London School of Economics.

I should have thought that if hon. Members opposite took an impartial view of this matter, they would agree that it is fantastic nonsense to say that in the ordinary country constituency the Labour voters suffer from the present state of affairs. Everybody knows that when motor cars are conveying voters to the poll, they will take anybody who wants to go. The idea that Labour voters in a country district are put at a disadvantage because the Conservative candidate happens to have more cars than the Labour candidate is absolute and complete nonsense. Nobody knows that better than hon. Gentlemen opposite. To say that the Socialist voter in the ordinary country district is prevented from voting because the Conservatives have a larger number of cars is a charge which should not be made.

The other feature of this Clause is the inferiority complex which hon. Gentlemen opposite have shown throughout the Debate. An hon. Member, referring to the "wicked Tories," said that 95 per cent. of the car owners are Tories. That is a very useful point for the next election and I personally propose to quote it in my constituency—that, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Lichfield, 95 per cent. of the people who own cars are Tories. Perhaps that explains why they have been so badly treated.

Mr. C. Poole

I said 99 per cent.

Earl Winterton

Well, 99 per cent.—that is even better from my point of view to quote in my constituency. Unfortunately, nobody in my constituency has ever heard of the hon. Gentleman. That is the sort of argument by the Socialists, that because there happen to be a lot of Conservative motor cars in a constituency in some way that is bad for the Socialist candidate. The only thing which is bad—and hon. Members opposite will never recognise that fact—is a lack of motor cars in any country constituency in these days when it is so important to get people to vote. It does not matter what is the party colour; the bad thing is a lack of motor cars and, therefore, a lack of ability to get people to the polls, because in country constituencies they have got into the habit—it may be unwarranted—of assuming that there will be some way by which they will be conveyed to the polls. A great many country electors think they have a right to be taken in a motor car in some way so as to be able to vote. The fact is that this Clause, by cutting down the numbers of cars which will be available, will make it less likely that people will vote.

Another serious aspect of the Clause, which has been well described by my hon. Friends, is that it creates obviously new electoral offences, and that is the most serious thing of all. In our history in the past—it has not been so prominent in the last 50 years—there have been electoral petitions on questions of electoral laws, and it has happened both to unfortunate members of the Liberal Party and of the Conservative Party in the past. There have been electoral petitions because of some uncertainty in electoral law or because of some small breach by the candidate's agent of electoral law. By this Clause we are making the position worse.

There is only one reason for which I feel enthusiasm for this Clause, although like my hon. Friends I shall vote against it, and that is that it will be deeply unpopular in country districts. I can assure hon. Members opposite that their speeches this afternoon have been a great asset to us. We shall quote them in our constituencies. I believe they show most electors, not for the first time, the hatred of the town Socialists for the country people. They are largely an urban party; they know nothing about country districts or country likings; they are concerned here, for what I can only describe, by and large, as partisan reasons, to do their best to prevent the rural elector from going to the polls.

Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)

From the speech of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) it was interesting to note the trend of thought of most hon. Members opposite, particularly because, since that incident, it has been said that we on this side were the first to say something unpleasant. If hon. Members who hold that view will look in HANSARD tomorrow, they will find that long before any interjection was made on this side, we were being accused of wanting to create criminals. It is legitimate for hon. Members opposite to make criticism as to what will be the effect of our legislation, but to allege that our motive is a desire to create criminals and then, when we protest, to say that we were the first to say something nasty indicates a state of mind which does not look at things in an impartial manner. I do not think the Opposition look at this question of cars in an impartial manner, either.

May I clear up one point about by-elections, since I believe the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, in recalling something he saw in a by-election, was recalling something at the by-election in which I was elected—

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Turton


Sir R. Acland

The hon. Member was looking pointedly at me at the time and I confess that in that by-election cars were numbered, and that, on our side, we had all the cars we wanted. On the other hand, a by-election is a different matter, because in a by-election, particularly when the Conservative Party takes the initiative in saying, "This is an unusually important by-election," naturally even the Labour candidate receives support in Labour Party cars from a large number of adjoining constituencies. Therefore, in a by-election such as that which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton mentioned, there are, roughly speaking, an equal number of cars on both sides. If we were dealing only with by-elections there would not be much to be worried about.

Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox (Henley)

Would the hon. Member say how many cars he found to be enough?

Sir Richard Acland

I am dealing with the main point before we come to any details. The position is different in a General Election. In a General Election seven-eighths of the cars which came to help on our side in the Gravesend by-election would have been in their own constituencies, and really it astounds me that any hon. Member opposite with any experience—and I have been engaged in elections and by-elections off and on for the last quarter of a century—could have failed to realise that in all General Elections, Conservatives can out-number their opponents in the number of cars by four or five to one. In the majority of cases the outnumber us by at least 100 cars per constituency.

Now we on this side believe that the majority of working men vote for the Labour Party; hon. Members opposite may dispute that. But they will not dispute the fact that the majority of rich people vote for the Conservative Party. Indeed, they would claim it and we would admit it. By and large, the rich own more cars than the poor. It is as simple as that. If we are to say that riches are something which entitles a man to expect a greater weight to be given to his political opinions than that given to the political opinions of the poor—if that is the argument—let us say so and let us argue on the basis of giving the rich man two votes, or ten votes, or even 100 voes, or whatever it is thought he is entitled to. But if a man is entitled to one vote irrespective of his money, do not let us say, "Give a vast advantage to wealth by the back door of motorcars."

At the risk of wearying hon. Members on this side, I will try to present the case to hon. Members opposite almost in words of one syllable in the hope that they may understand it. The situation arises from the fact that in all political parties there are members with varying degrees of enthusiasm. There are citizens of this country whose enthusiasm for Toryism is so great that they would walk miles, through blinding snowstorms, to vote for the Tory candidates. In my opinion, those people are politically misguided, but I enormously admire their enthusiasm. Similarly, there is in these days much the same position with regard to the Labour Party, and hon. Members opposite no doubt regard these people as politically misguided, but I hope they admire their enthusiasm as I admire the enthusiasm in the opposite case.

Next, we have the rank and file voters, who are quite keen about their party, who know which party they want to vote for, and who will normally walk a reasonable distance on a nice day, but who will think twice and three times before they walk very long distances or before they go out to the polls in the pouring rain. There are, in fact, people with only one suit of clothes, and if this is drenched they have nothing else to go out in. Lastly, there are the indifferent or marginal voters who probably will not come to the poll at all unless somebody makes it quite easy and convenient for them to do so. We have them, and so do hon. Members opposite. If in any election the contest had to lie between the enthusiasts on the one side and the enthusiasts on the other the result would probably broadly represent the state of opinion in the country. If we had enthusiasts and the rank and file on both sides voting, and the indifferent on both sides left out, again the result would, broadly speaking, represent the will of the country and would be a fair result.

What happens, however, because of the Tory preponderance of cars is that, in very adverse weather conditions and we have had recent General Elections in very adverse weather conditions—the Tories are able to poll their enthusiasts and the main bulk of their rank and file against only the enthusiasts on our side or, on a day when the weather conditions—are reasonably good, the Tories are able to poll their enthusiasts, their rank and file and their indifferent supporters all against the Labour enthusiasts and rank and file supporters.

I know that the importance of motor cars can be over-rated. Motor cars very likely would carry to the poll a certain number of people who, if not taken by car, would vote in any case. But I have reckoned—and I do not think this reckoning can be very far out—that a motor car is worth somewhere between 10 and 20 votes to the side for which it is being used, because it brings to the poll on a pouring wet day some 15 rank and file voters who would not otherwise go, and it brings on a decent day some 10 to 20 indifferent or marginal voters who would not otherwise go. If a motor car be worth about 15 votes to the side for which it is being driven, and if I am right in saying—as I think I am right in saying after 25 years' experience—that the Tories, because of their money, outnumber their opponents by, roughly speaking, 100 cars per contest in a General Election, then that means that motor-owning is worth an average of 1,500 votes to the Tories per constituency, because that is the number of indifferent voters that they can bring in their cars, while we cannot do the same thing on our side. It does not surprise me in the least that the Tory Party are thoroughly on edge about this new Clause and that they want to discover all the reasons they can for making it unpopular.

The Tory Party put up the question of neighbours. That is like bringing in the question of the widow when really they are arguing for big compensation for the biggest shareholders. The neighbour whom one often drives to church or to the shops or to the football match, and so on, perhaps, one could be allowed to take to the poll. Perhaps, the Home Secretary would look at that, to see if there is a way administratively of pro- viding for that sort of case. However, the thing that always interests me is what an awful lot of people have an awful lot of neighbours on polling days, who do not have neighbours on any other day.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

I should like to substantiate what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York) and the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). I represent a division which is, roughly, 400 square miles in area, contains about too inhabited places, and has an electorate of about 50,000. It is a constituency the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) knows very well indeed, because he ran an election there against me in 1943, though he fled from the constituency before polling day—very wisely. I have made it a rule, laid it down explicitly, that whatever cars I have been able to summon to work for me are to take anybody to the poll, of any party whatsoever—Conservative, Liberal, or Socialist—because I believe that, in a democracy, the vital thing is not so much to get votes for oneself, as to get all the people to vote, whether their sympathies are for or against one.

I may say, incidentally, that on the evening of polling day at the General Election I heard that half a dozen Socialist friends of mine in the next village had not been able to get to the poll, so I raced my car up to them and got them to the poll just before it closed. They told me that they had voted against me; but that they were much obliged to me, and afterwards, as the Lord President of the Council would say, "A good time was had by all."

This new Clause is aimed at the rural areas, not so much, I think, through malice, as through sheer ignorance. I also want to suggest to the House that there is a very considerable loophole in it which, it seems to me, makes nonsense of the whole Clause. In Subsection (1) the governing words are "to or from the poll." What does that mean? In my submission it can mean only one thing—to and from the polling station. There is nothing whatever to prevent people arranging excursions to visit an interesting old church in the neighbourhood of the polling station, or to do a little communal shopping at the village stores; and if, by any conceivable chance, members of such an excursion care to take the opportunity of wandering on to the polling station, they may, if they will; and no one will have committed any offence. I should like to have the attention of the Home Secretary, who seems somewhat rapt in thought. Perhaps he could enlighten me, and say if my reading of the Clause is correct. If it is, I do not see much purpose in the Clause at all.

I can perfectly understand the feeling among hon. Members opposite that they may be denied cars while other parties have access to them. I can understand that feeling, though I believe that in the majority of cases it is entirely unfounded. Nevertheless, this is not the way to deal with it. The way to deal with it would be, in my judgment, to make it legally obligatory on all cars working in an election to take anybody and everybody to the polls. Do not let us limit the number of cars. In an age of transport, that is obvious nonsense. I hope some Amendment to this Clause on that basis will be found acceptable by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Charles White (Derby, Western)

It is not often that I intervene in Debates in this House, and I should not have intervened today if I had not heard three or four speeches from the other side of the House. I have heard Toryism in varying degrees in the mining districts of Derbyshire, and in the other part of Derbyshire four years ago in a by-election but I have never heard such utter nonsense about the conduct of elections as I have heard today from the so-called experienced politicians on the other side of the House. I can realise why the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith) has been such a success in writing fiction, now that I have heard him speak it. I congratulate him on being successful in both. Let us get down to the typical county constituency—

5.30 p.m.

Mr. E. P. Smith


Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member does not give way then he has the Floor of the House.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)

On a point of Order. When a personal attack is made by one hon. Member on another hon. Member is it not customary and courteous to give way?

Mr. White

If, by my remarks, I am getting under the skin of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith), I may get a little deeper before I have said all that I am going to say about county constituencies. I sit for a county constituency 60 miles long and 30 miles wide. Two-thirds of my constituency is owned by two dukes, which makes it all the worse. It is remarkable, at a time of a by-election or a General Election, what a tremendous number of cars are controlled by the occupants of those ducal castles. I fought a by-election in 1938. There were 600 cars for the Tory candidates, despite the fact that it was a by-election, and all we could muster was fewer than 60. The number of votes which that meant to the Tory candidate must have been tremendous. With that number of cars they could scour the constituency and pick up all the widows about whom hon. Members opposite are so fond of talking. That by-election disturbed not only the dukes of Derbyshire but the Press lords of London. One of the Tory papers said that the Tories had over 700 cars. I had fewer than 20, because I broke the truce, and in everybody's mind but those of the working classes to break the truce was criminal. I should have won by 10,000 votes instead of 4,000, if I had had the equivalent number of cars.

Then we come to the General Election. The Tories again had a great preponderance of cars. It was wonderful where they got all their cars. In each one of those elections the poll against the Labour Party was greater than it would have been if there had been equality in the use of cars. If the number of cars which can be used in an election shows equality between party and party, it is a sensible state of affairs that is long overdue, but to permit the unlimited use of cars by one side is a disadvantage to the other side which should not be tolerated. I have had experience not only as a Member of Parliament but as an election agent, and I suggest to the Minister in charge of the Bill that the more he can tie up the irregularities in the countryside during elections, the more good he will be doing for democracy generally.

Let me give one illustration that happened in my own division at the last election. In a small village on the western side of the county, a school teacher was acting as presiding officer. A Rolls Royce car rolled up with a lady in the back and a chauffeur at the wheel. The poll box was taken out of the polling station and across the school yard, and this illustrious lady voted in her own car on a ballot paper which she put in the poll box which ought never to have been taken out of the polling station. If things like that can be tightened up under this Bill, it should receive the full support of the House. I say quite frankly that the more control there is of election machinery, especially of the use of cars, the better the results will be in the elections.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I am sure that the House was glad to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Western Derby (Mr. C. White). Let us welcome the opportunity of listening to him while we can, because it was he who succeeded at the General Election in reducing his own majority of 4,000 to a little over 100. Let us, therefore, gaze on him while we can and listen to him before the sands have entirely run out.

Mr. C. White

I may be a Member for a Yorkshire Division next time.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

If the hon. Member is already evacuating his position in Derbyshire and proposes to come to Yorkshire, we shall know how to deal with him. The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) described this new Clause as incomprehensible, and so, I think, it is, so far as its drafting is concerned; but we can no longer be in any doubt, after listening to the speeches of hon. Members opposite, as to its intention. Here, I think, for the first time by statute, the Government are endeavouring to prevent registered electors from recording their votes. That has become clear over and over again during the course of the Debate. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), in his interesting speech, said that the difficulty was that too many people were voting Tory, and that we must try to equalise these things because it was really not fair.

Sir R. Acland

I did not say anything of the kind.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. C. Poole) took much the same line. Is it really in the interests of democracy that so called fair play shall be achieved by preventing the exercise of the franchise? Surely, if there is a difficulty here, the solution is on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith) a few minutes ago. It is obviously wrong, and will be so regarded in the country, that we should endeavour to prevent people going to the poll and voting at an election, be it a General Election or a by-election. That is an obsession with hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Lichfield told us a few minutes ago that 99 per cent. of the Tory voters owned motor cars; at the last election which went badly for us, we polled 9½ million votes, so that is really a tall order.

Mr. C. Poole

I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member has interpreted my remark correctly because the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) had it the wrong way round. I think that the hon. and gallant Member has got it right. I said that 99 per cent. of the people who voted Tory.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I did have it right. As a matter of fact, I wrote it down at the time. What the hon. Member is saying is that of 9½ million people in this country, 99 per cent. own motorcars: a very remarkable piece of statistical information, even from a Socialist.

I urge the Home Secretary once again to look at this matter from the aspect of the rural areas. It is quite true that provision is to be made for polling stations in every parish; but last weekend, when I was in my own division, I made some inquiries, and I find that there will be some four or five parishes where, in spite of that provision, a five-mile walk will be entailed—2½ miles in each direction. That occurs over a very wide area, and will undoubtedly mean that large sections of the community—the disabled, who have not yet been mentioned in the course of this Debate, the aged and infirm, and the like—will have great difficulty in recording their votes.

I turn to the notional figure of £2 for the use of a motorcar. This really is a very strange proposal. If I persuade someone, either the owner of a hire service car or a friend, to lend me a motorcar on polling day and pay £2 for it I can be unseated at the present moment for an improper practice. The Home Secretary is getting into this habit rather. Here again we are condemned to death but not hanged if we commit the offence. It is now to be made quite proper. At the moment, if I pay £2 for the use of a motorcar on polling day I can be unseated. This Clause means that there has to be a notional figure put in our election expenses, although we do not pay the £2.

Mr. Ede

indicated assent.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I see the right hon. Gentleman now agrees. This will cause a very serious situation, and one which is to my mind quite fantastic, and I hope that it will be looked at again. I thought I heard the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend express some doubts about the notional figure of £2; he certainly introduced it into his speech. I only fear that his mentioning it may strengthen the Home Secretary's mind in favour of his original proposal.

This new Clause is yet another step on the Government's downward path. They began by fiddling with the powers of another place. They want, in the words of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to disfranchise certain constituencies on the ground that they have never returned a Labour candidate.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)

indicated dissent.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Oh, yes. It is on record. The right hon. Gentleman said they had not returned Labour candidates.

Mr. Woodburn

indicated dissent.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

The right hon. Gentleman can shake his head till it comes off—as politically it will come off—but that statement is on record. Now having fiddled with the powers of the Second Chamber, they disfranchise constituencies for not returning Socialist candidates. They are now taking the next step upon the totalitarian road, which is to prevent people they suspect of being Tories from getting to the poll at all. This course of action will not go unnoticed in the country; nor will it save the Government. All through the speeches from the Government benches this afternoon has been the recognition that Nemesis is on the march, that a General Election is getting near. These proposals will not save the Government from the wrath to come; they will be swept away just the same. When the Government have been swept away one of the things in this Act, as it will then be, which will be repealed will be this fantastic proposal to prevent electors from registering their votes.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Kendall (Grantham)

I have listened with a great deal of interest to all the arguments from both sides of the House, and it seems to me that the Government and those who have spoken for the Labour Party have not made out a case at all. It cannot be right to work on the assumption that most of those who have cars will automatically use them to advantage the Tory Party. The hon. Member for Western Derby (Mr. C. White) contradicted himself, because he said that in a by-election when he had 20 cars his majority was about 4,800—and I had the pleasure of helping him in that by-election, so I know something about it—whereas at the subsequent General Election he had 60 cars but received a much smaller majority.

I must support those who have spoken for the rural constituencies. In my division there are about 640 square miles to cover—something like 30 miles in each direction—and a great deal of hardship is caused there, necessitating some people having to travel by car to the polling stations; that hardship will now be greater than ever. It cannot possibly be said that most of those who have cars will automatically vote Tory, because at the last General Election I could well imagine that I probably had more cars than both the Labour candidate and the Tory candidate put together. True, I had a tremendous number of enthusiasts, and the result of their enthusiasm was that I got a very big majority.

This Clause cannot possibly be necessary on any argument. I must agree with others who have spoken on these lines, and especially the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), that those who use their cars voluntarily, and with enthusiasm, do not stop to ask for whom those they pick up and take to the polling station are going to vote. I know perfectly well that they do not. In fact, a prominent member of the Tory Party in my division—I shall not give his name, because it would not be fair in view of what happened—took all his household to the polling station by car, but I am pretty sure that they all voted for me. I think that this new Clause is ill-conceived, and I shall certainly vote against it if we go to a Division.

The only people who will suffer are not the Tory Party as such, nor the Labour Party as such, but just the general public. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that in this day and age the general public is so comprised that all sections of political thought have the same number of cars. It just does not happen that the Tory Party, or we who stand as Independents, have the cars. I think it is general throughout the country that people of all shades of political thought have their fair share of automobiles today. This new Clause is just a lot of nonsense, and the Home Secretary would do well to withdraw it and to forget all about it.

Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)

The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall) expressed doubt whether one political party had in fact greater resources in cars than another. I should have thought that was indisputable. But if it is not indisputable, if it is open to question, then surely he has given away completely the case of those whom he was ostensibly supporting; because the argument was that this new Clause was a partisan measure; that it was directed against the Tory Party; and that it hurt the Tory Party because hitherto they had enjoyed a preponderance of cars. Now, along comes the hon. Member for Grantham and says that that is not the case, and so the existing law should be left as it is. Whether it be the case or not, surely the hon. Member will not dispute for a moment that in given constituencies, as opposed to the country as a whole, there are and must obviously always be some candidates with greater resources than their opponents. It is inside a given constituency that the inequalities can be ironed out by means of this Clause.

Sir, this is one of the occasions when hon. Members of the Opposition are at their high-minded best. Similar occasions are when they find themselves combating high Income Tax, Surtax, capital levies, or seeking to preserve advantages which they have enjoyed from their friends' veto in the House of Lords. On all such occasions I am always lost in admiration for the public-spirited, vigorous and righteous manner in which they defend their sectional interests. This is one of those occasions. It is surely humbug and hypocrisy to pretend in one breath that this is a shameful partisan Measure directed against the party opposite, and yet to deny that the party opposite, as admitted by the very argument, have enjoyed advantages in the past to which on any reasonable or ethical grounds they have no entitlement. They cannot have it both ways. The logic of the case put up is quite astonishing. At the same time as maintaining that this is a partisan Measure designed to help the Labour Party at the next and subsequent General Elections, Members opposite have been at pains to explain that it would in fact be an extremely unpopular Measure in the country.

The second argument may have been adduced because the balance of favour in the agricultural districts has been changing very remarkably. Hon. Members opposite may have had the same personal experience that I have had in talking to agricultural workers and farmers lately, who have volunteered without being asked that at the next election there will be a change in their political allegiance in favour of a Government which for the first time has really served the interests of agriculture. [Laughter.] That wry affectation of laughter carries very little conviction, but if there has in fact been this change in political opinion, the Clause will operate against the Labour Party. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has advanced an argument which I do not think can be sustained for one moment. He said it really does not matter who owns the car provided there is a car and an abundance of cars. That is based on an assumption which was illustrated by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith) in a personal anecdote to which I give full credence, because, though he may take it which way he likes, I say that in many ways he is not altogether a characteristic member of his own party. To suggest that anyone can travel in any party car is completely wide of the mark. It may be foolish, but it is certainly a fact that Labour voters are not disposed to travel to the poll in Tory cars. It may be snobbery, and snobbery of course is always reprehensible; or it may be due to the much more reputable feeling, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) has suggested, that it is not decent to travel to the poll in a Tory car and then to vote against the owner. It is undoubtedly true that, by and large, when people travel in a car they vote for the owner's party.

The only argument advanced by Members opposite which has even a simulacrum of respectability, even though it is very thin, is to be found in the suggestion summarized by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) that by this Clause we are preventing registered voters from going to the poll. That sounds a little plausible, but it is plausible only for a moment; and I cannot believe that Members opposite who have jumped at this specious argument, clung to it, repeated it and exploited it to the full cannot really see through it. They surely know that this Clause does nothing of the kind. It prevents no one from going to the poll. All it does is to say that the electors shall have an equal convenience or inconvenience in getting there, and that I suggest is an ample and adequate justification for it.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) did not conclude the agricultural argument. He brought us up to a certain point, and then left us in a state of bewilderment as to what he meant. There are those who take the view that part of the agricultural vote will swing to the Socialist Party at the next election. I do not hold that view myself, but if that is the case, then why do the Government bring forward a Clause of this kind. It is obviously not in the interests of the Socialist Party that the agricultural labourer in rural areas should be prevented by this Clause from casting his vote at the poll.

Mr. Levy

The hon. Member is admitting that the Clause is not partisan.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I think there is something in both arguments; it is half a partisan argument and half a non-partisan argument. I quite agree that there are marginal voters who might be persuaded to go in cars either belonging to the Socialist Party or to the Tory Party, but I hold the view that 50 or 60 per cent. of the voters more readily go to the poll in cars belonging to their own party.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

May I ask a question?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

No. The hon. and learned Member interrupts constantly at all times, and within my experience he has never led the argument to any conclusion. Therefore, so far as the agricultural voters are concerned the Socialist Party are cutting off their nose to spite their face, but what about the situation which we are hearing about of the Socialist Party claiming "We are the masters now"? What about the fleet of a thousand cars which is at the disposal of Sir Ben Smith in the North-West Regional Area? Are they not to be put at the disposal of the Socialist voters? What about the civil servants in their hundreds of thousands who will probably vote Socialist at the next election in order to maintain themselves in jobs. Have they not got cars? Of course they have cars, and they will readily drive themselves and others to the poll to vote for the Socialist Party.

This is a fantastic situation, and the only argument I have heard which makes any sense at all is the one that cars are used at General Elections in increasing numbers in order to take increasing numbers of people to a highly democratic poll. Why should we turn against the appurtenances of the age, be it cars, motor cycles, aeroplanes or anything else, to make democracy work more effectively? I hope that we are reverting to the traditional situation of two-party politics, where the division between parties is not on lines of class and wealth. This is a Clause which is not applicable to the new situation that is coming about; it is applicable to the politics of 1931 and 1935, and not to 1945 and 1950.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)

I want, if I can, to bring the House back to a sense of reality. It is useless for either side to be too concerned about the political aspects of his matter, and I shall try to explain why. I represent one of the largest country constituencies in the country and I admit, frankly, that there was a time when I could have accepted wholeheartedly the proposals which have been put forward. I am, however, now at a complete loss to understand why anyone who represents a country district believes that the number of cars suggested will suffice, and that the method of allocation will be fair and equitable. The suggestion that in a county constituency there should be one car for every 1,500 electors leaves me wondering how any political party will allocate the cars.

Some of those who represent county constituencies also represent towns of considerable size. Are we to allocate the small number of cars to the country polling districts, and starve the towns and the outlying districts associated with those towns? On what basis will the political parties organise the allocation of these cars? I am disappointed, as I thought that the new proposals to be put to the House would have allowed the number of cars to be entirely unlimited, but that control of allocation would have been completely in the hands of the presiding or returning officer. This might have meant that the Tories would have been able to say to the returning officer, "Here are 1,000 cars," while the Socialist candidate said, "I have only 10 cars," but I think it would have been more fair and just to have placed on the returning officer the responsibility for the allocation of the cars. I believe that Members of all parties would agree to that.

Had that been done I think two effects would have been noticeable. We must remember that despite what has been done by this Bill to provide more polling stations many people will have to walk two or three miles to vote. I ask the Home Secretary to think of men who have, for instance, been engaged in agricultural work all day. In the past, they have been taken to the poll, but I believe that these proposals will cause injustice to them and to large numbers of people who live in remote areas. I do not know how it would have been possible, in my constituency, to get anything like the number of people to the poll that we did get if it had not been that we were well placed for cars. I would like an explanation of Subsection (6, b), as I am not happy about it. It says: The expression 'member of the same household' includes a visitor spending the night before or after the day of the poll in the same dwelling house and a person employed by a member of the household at the dwelling house unless so employed exclusively for the purpose of that member's trade, profession or business; … I realise that in county constituencies and the areas I am most concerned about the people who own cars are not, in the main, agricultural workers. That is the fact, and if that is so, the privileged people who do own them will, in the main, be members of the Conservative Party. The result will be that by granting this facility the car owner will be able to carry employees to the poll. That means that the Conservative Party would be given an advantage. I do not know why this paragraph has been put into the Clause. As one who has been operating in a county constituency for 33 years, I say that the electors will be disadvantaged if facilities are not provided to get them to the poll. I ask my right hon. Friend to overhaul this machinery, which will affect both the main political parties.

If we on this side have complained in the past that an unfair advantage has been given to the Conservative Party because they have been allowed to have an unlimited amount of cars, we must recognise that we may find ourselves in an unfortunate position as a result of this Clause. I believe it will penalise those Socialist candidates who have to fight in the rural constituencies. I have never been one of the lucky people who have had to fight a constituency in which the majority of the people had to walk only a short distance to vote. The proposals of this Measure seek to give all political parties a fair deal. I hope the Home Secretary will reconsider this matter, and will allow the presiding or returning officer to make the allocation from any number of cars. If he is not prepared to do that, I ask him to look at the wording of Subsection (6, b), which I believe will be of advantage to only one party.

Mr. Nicholson

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Tolley) began his speech by saying he intended to call the House back to a sense of reality. I thought that that was rather a bold claim to make, but I must admit that he has justified the claim. I do not want to preach to the House, but this should be considered from the practical point of view and not merely from the party point of view. I am perfectly certain that everybody in this House wishes elections to be conducted on as fair a basis as possible. My objection to this Clause is that it is unworkable and that it will actually hinder rather than conduce to the proper conduct of elections.

We all look at electioneering from the point of view of our own constituencies. I represent what is called a dormitory constituency. Hundreds of thousands of my constituents work in London and are away all day long, sometimes setting off very early in the morning. They come back late at night and the problem before an electioneering agent is to provide enough cars at the station to rush them to the polling booths before they shut. If we are really quite honest and anxious that people should have the opportunity of voting, the solution is a very simple one indeed. There is no need for an elaborate Clause of this nature, but the suggestion that was advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith) should cover the point. It should be made illegal to have rides in motorcars on condition that those getting the ride vote for any particular candidate, and, even more important, I should lay it down that no motorcar should bear the posters or the names of any candidate. That would be the solution of this problem without the multiplication of offences contained in this new Clause.

This Clause seems to me to be very bad drafting. It it goes through as it stands, it will become a classic example of bad legislation. I can scarcely believe that the Home Secretary is in favour of it. I know the Home Secretary to be a moderate man, and if I may say so, an intelligent man, though we differ on various subjects from time to time. I ask him to reconsider this matter in the light of what I have said. I suggest that in electioneering it should not be made a condition of carriage in a car that persons would have to pledge themselves to vote for a particular party, and no vehicles should bear a candidate's labels. That should achieve as effective a result as the new Clause now proposed.

6.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)

We have had a very interesting Debate and a great many political points have been covered on both sides of the House. The party points have been adequately covered and I need not make any particular reference to them. I should like to deal with one or two smaller points that have been raised as to the inability of people to vote as a result of this clause. Sudden illness was raised as one of them. I quite agree that there is nothing in this Clause which could specially cover sudden illness, but sudden illness is not epidemic at times of elections, and it is part of the purpose of having cars under the direction of election agents, that they should be able to furnish them for people who are taken suddenly ill. Then, there are people who are not taken suddenly ill, but who, in the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut. Commander Braithwaite), are aged, infirm, disabled or have some other permanent disability. The Bill provides for them voting as absent voters so there is no need for these issues to arise in their cases.

The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) raised what he called another breach of confidence. That is a hobby of his on this Bill. He said that the agents had reached an agreement whereby certain limits should be raised. As he knows, that suggestion has not been accepted. I would respectfully suggest to him that the mere fact that a Speaker's Conference sits or that agents meet does not deprive the House of Commons of its right to suggest alterations in legislation nor to improve Bills when they come before it. The Clause now being put forward is the result of the pressure of the House during the Debates on this Bill. Suggestions in this connection were made during discussions on the Committee stage to which the Government listened. In response to those discussions this Clause has been brought forward. It should be remembered that nothing decided outside of this House can ever deprive the House of its right to carry out its duty. Whether this new Clause is perfect or not is altogether another question.

The question about the allocation of cars has been raised by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Tolley) and other hon. Gentlemen from the other side of the House. The idea has been put forward that cars should be put in charge of the returning officer and he would allocate them to the districts most needing them. That is a very attractive idea, but I should like to point out that at the time of the Speaker's Conference—I cannot recollect whether it was discussed at the Conference—this whole subject was gone into with a view to finding some means of making the thing fairer during elections. This question of returning officers called in for consultation, and it was found that it would be quite impossible for them to add this duty to the many duties they have to perform during an election.

I should like to remind the House that the principle is not a new one. It was agreed to by the House in 1931, and at that time the Government did not have a complete Labour majority. The House at that time carried a Clause which limited the number of cars to one for every 1,000 in the town and one for every 2,000 in the county areas. Therefore, this Bill is actually improving on that allocation.

Mr. Peake

The right hon. Gentleman must have got his figures wrong. Surely the limitation on cars cannot have been more severe in the county districts than in the urban districts?

Mr. Woodburn

I beg the House's pardon. One to every 1,000 voters in the towns and one to every 1,500 in the counties. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it is the other way round—2,000 in the towns and 1,000 in the counties.

The question of the allocation of cars by other means such as £1, £2, £3 or £4 per car was canvassed at that time. The whole purpose of this new Clause is to get some sense of fairness in elections. One hon. Gentleman suggested that it was the Labour Party which wanted to cut down everybody's expenses at election times. At the Speaker's Conference the Conservatives were equally anxious with the Labour Party to see that there was no exorbitant spending on elections, and much to the surprise of some people outside the figure carried at the Speaker's Conference was carried unanimously. I can understand this as far as the Conservatives are concerned, because in some sections of the country some Conservative Members are expected to pour money out like water and they want this limitation as much as the Labour Party who have not got the money to spend. [Interruption.] It is perfectly comprehensible. There was complete agreement on that.

At elections there should be the utmost fairness and candidates should fight elections with equal strength and equal weapons. What is the good of having an equality on the one side if there is a loophole left like cars which can be used as an extra inducement, or, to put it another way, as a pressure group to bring about a certain result. I want to say quite frankly that at times the Labour Party have benefited from this as well as the Conservative Party. I can recollect when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was Chancellor of the Exchequer he proposed a very unpopular piece of legislation. A by-election was taking place and hundreds of cars came from all over the country to help in the return if possible of the Labour candidate as a vote against the right hon. Gentleman.

In more recent times elections in this country went sweepingly against the Labour Party because of a peculiar and particular agitation against one item that was proposed in this House, and there was that pressure grouping in order to compel this House to do something which was other than in accordance with its proper sense of judgment. Therefore, it is quite wrong to allow pressure blocks, through the use of cars or by other means, to influence electors at the polls.

The object of the whole proposal is to see that there is fairness. Some Members opposite, like the noble Lord the Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) seemed to think that the proposal will be to the disadvantage of the Labour Party. Some Conservatives think like that and feel very sorry for us. They are protesting against the Clause on that account. Some people outside think that the operation of this proposed new Clause will be to the disadvantage of the Conservative Party. The noble Lord the Member for Sandwich—[Laughter]—I mean Southern Dorset, but he has rather sandwiched himself between the two points of view. In any case, the views I have mentioned have been cancelling each other throughout the Debate.

If fairness is to take place there must be some limit to the number of cars. Every party that fights an election obviously cannot find the same number of cars. There are not only two parties. There is still a Liberal Party. We think that the only way to secure fairness is to limit the number by some method. There is no more reason why we should not limit this form of inducement to people to go to the poll than other forms of inducement which have been limited by law in the past. This proposal is simply another item that is being limited in that way. I have been asked whether it will be possible to transfer the registration of a particular car to another car so as to have as it were an afternoon shift and a morning shift, but that would not be permissible under the Clause and we do not think it would be desirable.

Mr. Keeling

Why not?

Mr. Woodburn

Because it would be rather difficult for the returning officer to control. From the aspect of practicability, I should think the arrangement would be difficult to work.

Mr. Keeling

Surely it should be possible to issue a disc or a permit for a car and to allow that disc or permit to be transferred to another car while the driver of the first car went to have his dinner?

Mr. Woodburn

We shall look at that suggestion. At the moment it does not seem very practicable.

The Debate has gravitated round the question of giving lifts to friends in country districts. We think that much of the discussion has been beside the point. It has arisen from misunderstanding of the drafting of the new Clause. We are willing to consider any points raised where it is suggested that the drafting could be improved. We are not adamant upon it. So far as we can see, the Clause does not preclude friendship lifts or the lifting of people to the polls. The right hon. Member for North Leeds was perfectly correct. In our view the governing words of the Clause are in the first line; and are these: With a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at a parliamentary election. Unless the lift is given in the interests of a particular candidate, there is no offence against the law. If people are lifted without any condition applying to the lift, such as that the person lifted is going to vote for a particular candidate, the Clause clearly does not apply.

Mr. Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying as I hope he is, that when in a dormitory constituency there is a rush of people coming from a late evening train, it will be legitimate to send all the cars there, provided the cars have no indication of party and people are not asked which way they are going to vote, and to rush the people off to the polling station?

Mr. Woodburn

There are two quite separate questions. There are cars used by a party organisation as a deliberate and purposeful way of seeing that people go to the poll and—

Mr. Hollis

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that if the drivers do not make the suggestion that passengers should vote for a particular candidate, they can do what they like?

Mr. Woodburn

Let us deal with what the Clause says. It implies, and is meant to say, that if cars are used by a party, with labels and other indications in the interests of a particular candidate to take people to the polls with the object of getting the particular candidate returned, there is a limitation to the number of cars. The Clause does not include any one giving a lift to a friend unless there is an implied condition that the friend is being taken to vote for a particular candidate.

Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

Is it not the intention of the Clause to devise some limitation of the use of cars? Is my right hon. Friend saying that a driver can go into a constituency under the pretext of being a friend and then take anybody he likes to the polling station, provided he does not ask his passenger to say whom he intends to vote for?

Mr. Woodburn

I have been asked whether, if a person is going from a village to a town to vote, and his neighbour says, "We are going down there too," it would be an offence under the proposed new Clause to give those persons a lift. If there are no labels on the car, no condition as to voting is implied, and no question is asked to discover whom they propose to vote for, clearly there would be no breach of the law in that case.

Miss Bacon (Leeds, North-East)

Does my right hon. Friend mean that people in a constituency who own cars can go on giving friendship lifts all day long?

Mr. Woodburn

Perhaps that becomes a different question. That, of course, becomes a question for the courts whether those friendship lifts are really friendship lifts or not. The question asked concerned people going to the poll themselves and taking with them friends who were going in the same direction.

Mr. W. Roberts

Let us suppose that a person who had taken a friend to the poll met another friend when he got back and the friend said: "I hoped to get a lift with you. Can you take me down now?" Would that lift be legal?

Mr. Woodburn

You never know. The policeman may give them a lift if they do too much of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am surprised. I gather that hon. Gentlemen opposite are disappointed because the Clause is not as strict as they thought it was. I do not know what they want.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)

I speak as one who wishes to see equality in a matter which, in some ways, has been a scandal in the past. The right hon. Gentleman is creating offences against the law the whole way through an election. The answer he is giving on this point is as unsatisfactory as his answer was upon another occasion on the Bill. It is monstrous.

Mr. Beverly Baxter (Wood Green)

Before the Secretary of State for Scotland replies to that point, would he consider the definition of "friend"? Would there have to be some long association, or only possibly a friendship made that morning?

Mr. Woodburn

If a Liberal is driving his car down to vote for a Labour candidate, and he was my friend and cared to give me a lift, clearly that would be a case for consideration whether there was an implied condition about voting for any particular candidate.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

This is really a very important point and my right hon. Friend has caused some confusion. Would he not agree that it would be a question of fact in each case, on the wording of the Clause, whether a particular lift had been given with a view to procuring the return of a particular candidate at a Parliamentary election?

Mr. Woodburn

Certainly. I say that it is a matter for the court to determine.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Keeling

In explaining Subsection (1) the right hon. Gentleman imported a great many words which are not in the Subsection. It is no good his saying that it is a matter for the interpretation of the courts if he seeks now to import into the Subsection words which are not there. What the Subsection says is: Either let, lend or employ, or hire, borrow or use, any motor vehicle for the purpose of the conveyance of electors … to or from the poll … with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate"— not "a particular candidate," but "a candidate"—at a Parliamentary Election. Is it not perfectly obvious, as the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said, that nobody is going to lend his car on polling day for the purpose of conveyance of electors to the poll unless it be his idea that they shall vote when they get there for a candidate?

Mr. Woodburn

This is not a question of lending cars; it is a question of the use in elections by parties of cars in an organised way for bringing people to the poll.

Mr. Keeling

It does not say so.

Mr. Woodburn

The hon. Gentleman's point has been put half a dozen times more ably by other hon. Members during the Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then answer it."] I cannot answer it if several hon. Members are on their feet at one time.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

Or at all.

Mr. Woodburn

I cannot make it clear to the hon. Gentleman. He is perhaps beyond that, but, being a legal pundit, he will probably have different ideas from all the other legal pundits when he comes to speak. The point is, as was read out by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling)—"promoting and procuring the election of a candidate." He says that does not mean a particular candidate. His knowledge of English is different from mine. "A candidate" means "a particular candidate." Of course, it means a particular candidate.

Mr. Kendall


Mr. Woodburn

I cannot give way. I must get on. The purpose is to eliminate an element of inducement, pressure or even bribery in elections. There is no question at all that cars have been used improperly in the past to take people to the poll with a condition that they voted for the particular person whose name was on the car. I agree entirely with some of my hon. Friends that most people in this country have a certain reluctance—in fact, repugnance—at the idea that they would go in a car bearing the name of some other candidate than the one for whom they are going to vote.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

Do not believe it.

Mr. Woodburn

I can only base my opinion on the conscience of my friends. I cannot speak for the Tories. It means that in the country districts in many cases the Tory candidates take all their own people to the poll and the other people do not get to the poll unless they are able to walk, or find some other means of conveyance.

Mr. Kendall

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer this question, because it is important? He raised it. He said that some of these matters might be for the courts to decide. Does this mean that somebody with no labels on his car who picks up various people and takes them to the polling station without any condition whatsoever, might be liable to prosecution?

Mr. Woodburn

No. As I say, any interpretation of this law is a matter for the courts, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that not even the most learned gentlemen in this House—and I challenge the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) who will be speaking after me to say—that any learned gentlemen in this House would ever anticipate what the decision of a court would be. [Laughter.]

Earl Winterton


Mr. Woodburn

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say when he speaks whether any learned Gentleman in this House would be prepared to declare in advance, with any certainty, what the result of an issue when it comes before the courts will be. He knows perfectly well that he cannot. Everybody here has had some experience of that.

Mr. Levy

I am sorry to press this point, but it seems to me just possible that the whole Debate has been turning on a false assumption, namely, that it is not possible under this New Clause to give lifts to the poll. In other words, the whole Debate has accepted, rightly or wrongly, the proposition of the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) that the words "a candidate" mean "any candidate." If that is wrong and if we have all been misunderstanding the purpose of the Clause, we on this side have been supporting it when we should have been criticising it, and the Opposition have been opposing it when they should have been supporting it. Although I quite accept that my right hon. Friend cannot anticipate with any complete and absolute certainty what may be ruled in the courts, can he at least tell us quite clearly what is the Government's intention?

Miss Bacon

Before my right hon. Friend replies, does he recollect that when this matter was discussed on the Committee stage I objected to the proposed new Clause moved by some of my hon. Friends because it left a certain loophole, and that the Home Secretary agreed with me and said that he would draft a Clause which would not leave a loophole? Apparently this still leaves one.

Mr. Woodburn

I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) that a great deal of the Debate was beside the point because evidently everybody listened to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) and nobody listened to the Home Secretary, who, in reply to a specific question, rose and assured the right hon. Gentleman that the Clause did not debar such lifts. Everybody now knows that, but we have had a long Debate about something which the Home Secretary stated at the very beginning quite clearly and with no ambiguity at all.

Mr. Hollis

But the right hon. Gentleman has now denied it.

Mr. Woodburn

I have done nothing of the kind. I have pointed out that the Clause, so far as it is drafted and so far as it is intended, is to rule out the organised use of cars for the purpose of returning a particular candidate except under the conditions laid down in the Clause. Therefore, the organised use of cars is restricted in this way to what is fair and decent in electioneering. I quite agree that at all times people can break through the law if they are clever enough, and, of course, whether or not they are punished, depends on whether they are caught. I hope that the rejoicing and excitement on the other side of the House is not an indication that the Opposition are hoping that the law is going to be broken wholesale as a result.

The Bill only seeks to remove the undesirable use of cars and not any legitimate or desirable use of cars. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Miss Bacon) that of course a Bill has to be practicable and it must do something. It must make a law which can be carried out—and as far as this part of the Bill is concerned, it can be carried out. It is practicable and it will be carried out. In addition to this, the Bill has given greater opportunities by providing more polling stations and more favourable conditions by which absent voters can reach the poll. People with physical incapacity can vote by means of absent voters' privileges. Therefore, the need for cars to bring incapacitated people to the poll is no longer so great and the cars can be set free to do the other necessary jobs which come under the guidance of an election agent.

Many suggestions have been made as to other rather different methods which would secure this object. We have, of course, listened very carefully to the Debate, and where there are constructive suggestions they will be considered, but nobody has shown any reason why there should not be a limitation on cars used for the purpose of returning a particular candidate at the poll. The only objection has been to people in the country districts taking others down to the poll without any conditions as to voting. I agree that might be subject to abuse, and obviously any law that is made is subject to abuse—I hope the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is not thinking of abusing the law, because he seems delighted about it. Definitely the mass of the citizens of this country are law abiding, and once a law is made they observe it. I regret the suggestion that seems to have come from the other side, with the ribald laughter, that when this law is passed everybody will become a crook and break the law. I do not believe it. I can only say that we on this side of the House believe the law will be kept.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I submit to you that the right hon. Gentleman is leaving the House in a state of confusion. Therefore, I submit that the Attorney-General ought to tell the House precisely what is meant.

Mr. Woodburn

I agree that the House has got into a state of confusion, and the reason is that hon. Members did not listen to what the Home Secretary said in reply to the right hon. Member for North Leeds. [HON. MEMBERS: "We have been listening to you."] The mere fact that it is being unravelled from that confusion has thrown it into further confusion. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) unties himself from time to time, so perhaps he will do it mentally as well as physically now.

Earl Winterton

I have never seen such indignation and confusion as there is on the faces of the Secretary of State's followers behind him.

Mr. Woodburn

I take it that what the noble Lord is worrying about is that the whole picture he built up has fallen into smithereens because it was built on an illusion and was smashed by the Home Secretary in his first few sentences. The Clause is drawn quite clearly, it means what it says, and we cannot be responsible if hon. Gentlemen opposite have misread it, or have not taken the trouble to listen to what the Home Secretary said when he explained very clearly what was the point.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I think we will all agree that this has been a most revealing Debate, and not the least revealing of the speeches to which we have listened is that which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman. His contribution has been most valuable to us because it has made quite clear that the Government do not know what they want to achieve by this Clause and, therefore, it is not surprising that the Clause is drafted in such a form that no mind can say what it means. The right hon. Gentleman was pressed again and again to tell us what this Clause means. He failed, as he was bound to fail, because he does not know what he wants it to mean, nor does the Attorney-General know what it means, so far as I know, but perhaps we shall hear later.

6.45 p.m.

It is relevant in this connection to look at the reason we are having this Debate at all this afternoon. The Home Secretary told us, in opening, that there had been a similar Clause in a Socialist Bill of 1931. The party opposite now have complete power at the end of the day to pass any legislation in this House that they see fit. Why, then, was there no Clause on this subject in the original Bill as produced to this House? It was not a novelty that came up only during the Committee stage; it was something that had been part, apparently, of Labour gospel for the last 20 years. Yet the Home Secretary deliberately omitted anything to do with this topic from the original Bill. There can be only two reasons, and he can choose between them, why that was done: first, because he realised that it was unfair and undemocratic to put in any Clause of this kind or, secondly, because he realised that any Clause of this kind could not possibly work or, at least, could not possibly work with the least shadow of freedom. He can explain in any way he likes why the original Bill did not contain a Clause.

And then what happened? A large number of hon. Members opposite, whose minds are entirely in the past, in the days when they were acquiring Labour doctrine 20 or 30 years ago, thought there had been an unfairness. They did not bother about, present-day conditions, still less the future, and because there had been that unfairness, they compelled the Government to bring in something which the Government themselves had deliberately omitted from the Bill at the beginning. It is not the first time the Government have been compelled by their back-benchers—or the right hon. Gentleman, for that matter—within recent weeks and months. It is within our knowledge what has been the fruits of this revolt: Any person who with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate … uses his motor vehicle for the purpose of conveying electors to or from the poll is guilty of an illegal practice, and if the candidate knows it is being done, he may be unseated. So I understand the law.

What does this mean? There are certain excepted people who can be taken—the owner himself and the members of his domestic household—but beyond those, nobody. It obviously does not apply to cars which profess their political allegiance by putting on a placard of some sort, because the number of placards is limited. What we are talking about here are cars which are not registered and not placarded and which, therefore, are not in any way under the control of the party organisation. What is the owner of such a car entitled to do? He is not entitled to take any person, other than someone in his own family, if he takes them with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate. What does that mean? If it means what it says—"a candidate"—of course, every voter is taken to the poll for the purpose of procuring the election of a candidate, otherwise he would never go there, and every person who uses his car to take someone to the poll presumably does it with a view to getting some candidate elected, or giving the voter a chance to do so. Does it mean, then, a particular candidate? That is possible. It would have been well to say so if that is the meaning. One of the few things that emerged from the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that he thought it meant a particular candidate. Let us, therefore, take it that on this point at least the Government have a mind and a proposal that we can criticise.

Now, any person who takes anybody to the poll with a view to promoting the candidature of his favourite candidate is guilty of an offence; so that if I see somebody going down the street who I know is a member of the Conservative Association, or who has told me that he intends to vote Conservative, if I pick him up I am plainly doing it for the purpose of forwarding the election of my candidate. On the other hand, if I see somebody going down the street who I know is a member of the Socialist or Liberal or Social Credit or any other party organisation, or who has told me that he intends to vote for some other candidate, and I pick him up, that is all right, because I am not doing that for the purpose of forwarding my man's candidature. But what about the immense number of others about whom I have no certain knowledge? Am I quite all right, even though I have a shrewd suspicion that this particular person is likely to vote for my man? I do not know, I have no positive knowledge. Let us hear whether that is all right. There is no limit to the number of times this can be done. If it is all right to pick up one man, it is all right to pick up 100 in succession.

What is the meaning of this Clause? Does it mean that I can pick up wherever, whenever, and as often as I like, any person who has not promised me that he will vote for the Conservative candidate, if I am a Conservative—or for the Socialist candidate if I am a Socialist? I do not think that is what it means, but it is a possible meaning. On the other hand, I think it imposes—and this is very much more in line with the general run of the Clause, and seemed to be the view of everyone who spoke before the Secretary of State for Scotland—a general prohibition against picking up anybody who is going along to vote. There may, of course, be the marginal case of the man who is picked up to go to the fish shop, and not to vote. He may say that he is not going to vote, but it so happens that he does vote. I do not think that is the sort of thing the Government are trying to catch.

The right hon. Gentleman says it is not for him to answer these questions because the courts will answer them. That is a good way to draft Bills—so that there is no idea of certainty about their meaning. The more we leave to the courts to decide, and the more completely hon. Members opposite profess their ignorance of there being any meaning at all, the easier it is to get through speeches and to reconcile opposing points of view on the same side. That may be a good political line, but it is very bad for getting good legislation. The right hon. Gentleman next says, "Well, is not a court case always speculative?" Surely the object of draftsmanship is to reduce to the narrowest possible dimensions the region in which there is doubt and which, therefore, is appropriate for the decision of the court. I agree that in many cases it passes the wit of man to draw up a Bill which will give certainty in every one of a thousand cases. It may give only 900; if it is a well drafted Bill, it may give 990 or even 999, That is no reason why we should not have at least 900 certainties out of the 1,000, but the right hon. Gentleman tells us he cannot give even one of the whole 1,000 cases which may be left for the courts to determine.

I really must ask the Home Secretary whether he or the Attorney-General will tell us, at last, what the Bill is intended to do. Then, we may resume the Debate with more knowledge than we have at present. I think the result of the intervention of the Secretary of State for Scotland was to show that the House had wasted two and a half hours. If his view is right it ought to have been put to us at the beginning; if it is wrong it would have been an equally good plan to tell us at the outset.

Let us, however, go on. Having got some idea of what the Clause means, let me say a few words about the general underlying principle. Whatever it means, it is a restrictive Clause. What is the purpose of any restriction? It can be only to prevent or to hinder people who otherwise would vote in comparative ease or comfort. It can have no other possible meaning. If it does not do that, it does not do anything. What, therefore, is its object? Up to date the theory of our constitution and our democracy has been at least that it is a good thing for as many people as possible to vote—

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

On both sides.

Mr. Reid

—and that it is a bad thing to put hindrances in their way. What does the Clause do? If hon. Members opposite are to be taken at their word, the object of the Clause is to prevent a number of people from voting who otherwise would have voted Conservative. It can have no other purpose. If it does not do that, perhaps somebody will tell us really what it does do. I do not think it will prevent very many people from voting, but what it will do is to inconvenience an immense number of people. Throughout the speeches on the other side, the emphasis has been all on the party point of view—of fairness as between the parties or candidates—but hardly anybody opposite has considered the convenience of the voter or the individual. In order to achieve some theoretical equality between the parties, the voters are to be put to all this inconvenience without any thought for them whatever.

Let us look a little further at what must underline the views of hon. Members who advance that point of view. They take the view that because in the past Socialist candidates, on the whole, had not enough cars, they are never going to have enough cars. What a light upon their views on the future of the country and of themselves! If they had the slightest hope, either that the Lord President would be successful in his wooing of the middle class, or that the working people of this county would ever achieve anything like the prosperity of, say, the United States, there would be no point in all this. The whole basis of their argument is that in future those who own cars are unlikely to be Socialists. That is the basis of the Clause and it must mean that those who already own cars, in so far as they were converted by hon. Gentlemen opposite at the last election, are coming back to us again; and that those who do not own cars now are never likely to own them. Probably that will be true if hon. Gentlemen opposite remain in power.

Can we imagine any Socialist-minded party—let us say in the United States, where every worker has his car because the people live under a capitalist economy—can we imagine anyone in the United States producing a Clause of this kind? Of course not. This is a confession of economic defeat by the party opposite. They say, "We quite understand that if we remain in power there never will be enough Socialists with cars to take our voters to the poll. We know quite well that people who have cars will never vote for us and that we will never get cars for our voters. Therefore, we must see that those who have cars are not allowed to use them. Incidentally, if those who have to vote are put to gross inconvenience, that is neither here nor there, as far as we are concerned."

7.0 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

I am very sorry not to have been present during the earlier stages of this interesting discussion. I say that not by way of apology but because, when a good time is obviously being had by all, I like to be present to take part in the fun. I am told that I must at present address myself only to the legal aspects of this matter; unfortunately, that will restrict to some extent the fun which one can have. My task is simply to see whether the provisions of the new Clause as drafted are apt to achieve what I understand their purpose to be. Their purpose, as I understand it, is to prevent owners of motorcars from having any disproportionate influence on the number of electors going to the poll, and, thereby, having any disproportionate influence on the result of the election.

I am bound to say that it seems to me that the Clause admirably achieves that result. The provisions of the Clause appear to be perfectly clear and to raise no kind of legal difficulty whatever. There is no excursion here into those esoteric fields so beloved by some hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite. Under this Clause the use of a motorcar for the purpose of conveying voters to the poll in order to promote the candidature of a particular candidate—[Interruption]—if the hon. and learned Member will allow me, he will see that I am going to deal with that point—for the purpose of conveying voters to the poll in order to promote the candidature of a particular candidate is rendered illegal. I think there is no doubt—and I do not understand that the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) said that there was—that the words as at present drafted refer to a particular candidate. As a matter of fact this expression "a candidate" is used throughout this code of law in regard to corrupt and illegal practices at elections and throughout this Bill, and refers, as the courts have decided, to a particular candidate.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoting a fair analogy? Surely one cannot act corruptly in conveying supporters of more than one candidate?

The Attorney-General

That is exactly why this Clause hits at a particular candidate. When a particular course of conduct does not favour one candidate more than another, is not calculated to favour one candidate more than another and is not intended to favour one candidate more than another, the law usually regards that course of conduct as not being one which is illegally corrupt under this code of conduct, and, moreover, where the offence is created by the words "a candidate" it is assumed by the courts that those words mean a particular candidate. There is no doubt about that. The House may accept from me that that is the way in which that expression has been used throughout this code of law. To depart from a form which has been used in this and other Statutes would cast doubt on the words "a candidate" in all such sections of the law in which one finds that expression.

That being the position, the court—in the first instance it may be the police—would have to inquire what was the purpose in a particular case for which a motor car owner gave a lift to a particular person. That is entirely a question of fact for the court to decide. I repudiate in the strongest possible terms the suggestion which someone appeared to make that it was possible, or should be possible, to anticipate in advance, with certainty, what the decision of the court was likely to be. If that were possible in every case, there would be no work at all for the lawyers. It is because there are usually two possible views, one or the other of which may be adopted by the court, that the legal profession offers the attractions which it does. It will be for the courts to decide on the evidence in each particular case whether the motor car user was using the car for the purpose hit at by the Clause, or not.

There will always be marginal cases, whatever form of words is used. In the ordinary case the court would have very little difficulty in deciding whether, for instance, the right hon. and learned Member for the Hillhead Division who occupied himself on polling day in using his motor car and driving persons, friends or not, from different places, but always to the same place, the polling station, was doing it out of pure altruism and actuated only by the milk of human kindness, or because he had some slight interest in the political result of the election.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

Then I understand the position to be that if one even takes a single person whom one knows to be going to vote for one's candidate, that is an offence, but that one can take as many as one wishes if they are going to vote for someone else, or if one does not know for whom they are going to vote. Is that right?

The Attorney-General

I did not say that. I said that in a particular case in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was so disposed as to occupy his time on election day in taking numerous people from different places to the same polling station, I should think the court would assume—and the court cannot ascertain the actual intention the right hon. and learned Gentleman may have—from the facts that he was intending to promote or assist the candidature of a particular candidate. Of course, if it happened to be an attractive young lady whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman was picking up, the position might be different, but if he were devoting the whole of his time to taking people to the polling station, I think the court would have no difficulty in coming to a proper conclusion as to what really was the object of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's activities.

Mr. Reid

Then the whole thing depends, does it, on the court's assumption ex post facto of a certain person's motives and intentions? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us of any reasonably recent legislative provision where the criminality of a man depends not on what he did, but purely on what he intended doing?

The Attorney-General

I am not sure whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put the question in the way he really intended to put it. Of course, there are a number of cases where criminality depends on actual intent. There are also a very large number of cases—and this is the general rule—where intent is presumed by the court. A man is presumed to intend what is the natural and probable consequences of his acts. If it were found in a case like this that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was taking a large number of voters to the poll, I think the court might well find itself justified in presuming that he intended to affect the result of the election by promoting the candidature of a particular candidate. I, for my part, would leave that quite happily to the good sense of "The twelve men on the Clapham omnibus."

Mr. Nicholson

I asked his right hon. Friend, but could not get an answer; will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer this question? If a motor car goes to a station at which people are arriving and the owner says, "No questions asked, I am going to the poll. Anyone can come with me, and it is a matter of indifference for whom they vote," is that an offence?

The Attorney-General

If it were a fact that it was a matter of indifference for whom they voted—

Mr. Nicholson

If in giving a lift I said it was a matter of indifference to me how they voted, but in my heart of hearts I might wish them to vote for me, or for someone else?

The Attorney-General

Of course, it would always be difficult for the court to ascertain what may be in the hon. Gentleman's heart of hearts. It has been said, The devil himself knoweth not the mind of man. I apprehend that if the hon. Gentleman were to go in his car to the railway station when the 5.30 from London Bridge was coming in discharging loads of stockbrokers in his constituency, the court might come to the conclusion, despite what he said, that the real purpose was to promote the candidature of a particular person, and if the court came to that conclusion, despite his outward denial of what his intention was, they would be justified in convicting him and of imposing the penalty which, in his heart of hearts, he had already earned.

Mr. Nicholson

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is getting into very deep water. Let us forget the candidate and say that it is someone who is undoubtedly public spirited who says "I wish people to vote at this election. I may or may not think that the majority will vote one way or another. I am prepared to send my car to the station and take as many people as possible to vote." The motive might be the belief that the more people voted the more people would vote for a particular candidate, but it could not be held as an offer of a lift was an inducement to vote in a particular direction. Surely, it would be ridiculous to place such an interpretation upon such an action?

The Attorney-General

I am bound to say that I think that in that case an offence would be committed. If one gave lifts indiscriminately but in the belief that the more lifts one gave the more likely was the candidature of a particular candidate to be promoted, that is exactly the kind of offence which would be hit at by this Clause. It is the kind of offence which might occur when a motorist selected a district from which he gave those lifts or when it was a particular train he met at the station. Where considerations of that kind arise, the intention is to hit at that kind of thing.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

The Attorney-General said, "when a motorist selected a district." May I put to him the case of a remote hamlet of 60 to 80 people, some distance from a polling station? If anyone living in that area were to provide cars to take the whole of those people to the poll without asking how they would vote, and supposing that the person who did that was a Conservative and most of the voters voted Socialist, would he have committed an offence?

Mr. K. Lindsay

May I put a similar case? If a member of the Hansard Society met constituents of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) coming down by train and did so in the interests of getting more citizens to vote, would he equally be liable?

The Attorney-General

I have made it clear that if that is his true purpose—if it is not, as the hon. Member for Farnham said, a question of hoping in his heart of hearts, and intending in his heart of hearts, to promote the candidature of a particular candidate—if his object is simply to bring all possible voters to the poll, with serene indifference to what effect that will have on the election, no offence will arise under the Statute. The court will decide that, after having heard the evidence and deciding whether they can believe the word of the person who has been using his car in that particular way.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Does not the Attorney-General recognise the difference between actually bribing a voter to support a particular candidate and the driving of a voter to the poll? In view of what he has said, will he reconsider the insertion of this word "particular," which would make a considerable difference? It is established on both sides of the House that it is a comparatively normal practice to carry voters to the poll, whichever way they are to vote. If that is recognised, as it is—it may not be by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—surely that puts the man who drives voters to the poll in quite a different category from the man who, for example, offers a bribe to an elector to support one particular candidate. In that case, there is no need to use the word "particular." Such a person would not be bribing an elector to support several different candidates, but only one.

The Attorney-General

I think that the insertion of that word is quite unnecessary to protect the motorcar owner in the case envisaged by the hon. Member. There may well be people—I have not come across many of them myself—who use their motorcars on election day in the way the hon. Member suggests, and who are serenely indifferent as to the way in which their passengers vote and do not mind at all which way those passengers vote, and who do not carry them to the polling station in order that they should vote in a particular way. In that case, they would not be caught by this Clause. I can assure the hon. Member—and I do

not think that anyone disputes this—that the words used here, considered as they have to be considered, in conformity with the construction which has been placed upon like words in similar Clauses in this Bill and in other Statutes, would cover only the case of a motorist who uses his car to give lifts in order to procure the election or to assist the election of a particular candidate.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 269; Noes, 114.

Division No. 219.] AYES. [7.16 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Daggar, G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)
Adams, Richard (Balham) Daines, P. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Alpass, J. H. Davies, Harold (Leek) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Attewell, H. C. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jenkins, R. H.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Deer, G. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)
Austin, H. Lewis de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Awbery, S. S. Delargy, H. J. Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Ayles, W. H. Diamond, J. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Dobbie, W. Keenan, W.
Bacon, Miss A. Dodds, N. N. Key, C. W.
Balfour, A. Dumpleton, C. W. King, E. M.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Durbin, E. F. M. Kinley, J.
Barstow, P. G. Dye, S. Kirby, B. V.
Barton, C. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lang, G.
Battley, J. R. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.
Bechervaise, A. E. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Lee, F. (Hulme)
Belcher, J. W. Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Benson, G. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Leslie, J. R.
Berry, H. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Lever, N. H.
Beswick, F. Ewart, R. Levy, B. W.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Fairhurst, F. Lindgren, G. S.
Bing, G. H. C. Fernyhough, E. Lipton, Lt.-Col, M.
Binns, J. Field, Capt. W. J. Longden, F.
Blackburn, A. R. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Lyne, A. W.
Blenkinsop, A. Follick, M. McAdam, W.
Blyton, W. R. Foot, M. M. McAllister, G.
Bottomley, A. G. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) McEntee, V. La T.
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W. Freeman, J. (Watford) Mack, J. D.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Freeman, Peter (Newport) McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Maclean, N. (Govan)
Bramall E. A. Gibbins, J. McLeavy, F.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Goodrich, H. E. Mainwaring, W. H.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Grenfell, D. R. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G. Grey, C. F. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Burden, T. W. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Mayhew, C. P.
Callaghan, James Gunter, R. J. Mellish, R. J.
Carmichael, James Guy, W. H. Middleton, Mrs. L.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hale, Leslie Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.
Champion, A. J. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Mitchison, G. R.
Chater, D. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Moody, A. S.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hardy, E. A. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Cluse, W. S. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Cobb, F. A. Haworth, J. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Coldrick, W. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Mort, D. L.
Collindridge, F. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Moyle, A.
Collins, V. J. Herbison, Miss M. Murray, J. D.
Colman, Miss G. M. Hicks, G. Nally, W.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Hobson, C. R. Naylor, T. E.
Cove, W. G. Holman, P. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Crawley, A. House, G. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Hoy, J. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Noel-Buxton, Lady Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wadsworth, G.
Oldfield, W. H. Rogers, G. H. R. Walkden, E.
Oliver, G. H. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Orbach, M. Royle, C. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Paget, R. T. Scollan, T. Warbey, W. N.
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Segal, Dr. S. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Palmer, A. M. F. Shackleton, E. A. A. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Pargiter, G. A. Sharp, Granville White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Parkin, B. T. Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Silverman, J. (Erdington) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Paton, J. (Norwich) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Wigg, George
Pearson, A. Skinnard, F. W. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Peart, T. F. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham S.) Wilkins, W. A.
Perrins, W. Snow, J. W. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Soskice, Sir Frank Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Poole, Cecil (Lichfield) Sparks, J. A. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Popplewell, E. Steele, T. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Porter, E. (Warrington) Stross, Dr. B. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Porter, G. (Leeds) Stubbs, A. E. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Price, M. Philips Sylvester, G. O. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Pritt, D. N. Symonds, A. L. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Proctor, W. T. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wise, Major F. J.
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Randall, H. E. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Woods, G. S.
Ranger, J. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Wyatt, W.
Rees-Williams, D. R. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Yates, V. F.
Reeves, J. Thurtle, Ernest Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Reid, T. (Swindon) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Rhodes, H. Turner-Samuels, M.
Richards, R. Ungoed-Thomas, L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Vernon, Maj. W. F. Mr. Simmons and Mr. Hannan.
Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Viant, S. P.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Grimston, R. V. Odey, G. W.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Baldwin, A. E. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Baxter, A. B. Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.) Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Birch, Nigel Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Pitman, I. J.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hogg, Hon. Q. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Bower, N. Hope, Lord J. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Raikes, H. V.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Keeling, E. H. Renton, D.
Butcher, H. W. Kendall, W. D. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Byers, Frank Kingsmill, Lt -Col. W. H. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Carson, E. Lambert, Hon. G. Robinson, Roland
Challen, C. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Channon, H. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lipson, D. L. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Sanderson, Sir F.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Low, A. R. W. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Cuthbert, W. N. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Darling, Sir W. Y. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Smithers, Sir W.
De la Bère, R. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Spearman, A. C. M.
Digby, S. W. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Donner, P. W. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Drewe, C. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Studholme, H. G.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Sutcliffe, H.
Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Land.) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Duthie, W. S. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Touche, G. C.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Turton, R. H.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Marlowe, A. A. H. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Fox, Sir G. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Mellor, Sir J. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) York, C.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Gammans, L. D. Nicholson, G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Major Conant and
Major Ramsay.
Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 2, after "parliamentary," to insert "or local government."

In moving this Amendment I am sanguine and very hopeful that it is one that will meet with complete agreement on both sides of the House. We have had a long discussion on the pros and cons of the new Clause, but the Amendment has the same reference and the same intention no matter what interpretation may have been put upon the wording of the new Clause.

The Amendment is moved for one purpose only. I was about to say that it was being moved in spite of, but I should rather say because of what the Home Secretary said in reference to it. He suggested that the only reason why he could not accept it was that the new Clause has reference only to the first part of the Bill. We do not necessarily want him to accept the actual Amendment as put down. If he is prepared to accept the intention and to provide means whereby what is provided in the first part will also be provided in the second, we shall be satisfied.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Heywood and Radcliffe)

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland placed such a wide and, indeed, generous interpretation upon the meaning of this Clause that one might have supposed that it applied as well to local government elections, although it specifically referred to Parliamentary elections. In his opening remarks, however, the Home Secretary did say that local government elections were not included in the terms of this Clause. I hope that the discussion—at least as far as we are concerned—will not be very long. I feel that the onus does not lie with my hon. Friends and myself to prove that the provisions of this Clause should also apply to local government elections. It is upon the Home Secretary to tell the House why the principle which he has accepted in the case of Parliamentary elections does not apply with equal force and validity to local government elections.

My right hon. Friend said that he believed that this Clause would cover the points raised by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) on the Committee stage of this Bill. I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Bradford is not here, because I should be very surprised if this Clause did indeed completely satisfy him. In his speech on the Amendment which he moved on the Committee stage he said that he wished also to include municipal elections. For the greater accuracy of the record I have brought with me a copy of HANSARD for 21st April containing the speech of the Home Secretary in reply. On that occasion he used these words: … between now and the Report stage I will endeavour to see if it is possible to do something which will very strictly limit the number of motor cars which can be employed in a Parliamentary or local government election and the way in which they can be used even in the cases where they are permitted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1948, Vol. 449, c. 1933.] I think that it is up to my right hon. Friend to tell the House why he has not carried out the second part of his promise and introduced a new Clause relating to local government elections.

I appreciate his point that it is not possible in one and the same Clause to include Parliamentary and municipal elections. That was why we framed the Amendment in this way—so that we could raise the issue of local government elections which we had expected would have been raised by my right hon. Friend himself. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should remember the undertaking which he gave on the Committee stage and should see that a Clause is introduced when this Bill goes to another place, making provision for restriction on the use of motor cars at municipal elections.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

As a Scottish Member, I ask the Home Secretary to consider the intention of this Amendment. Today we have discussed the provision of motor cars at Parliamentary elections. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not take the view that town council and county council elections are in some way subsidiary to, and not as important as, Parliamentary elections. I have served a good deal of time on a Scottish town council and a Scottish county council. I am strongly of opinion that what is done on those bodies is of great importance, affecting as it does the operation of legislation passed by this House. Whether we like it or not, party politics have entered into the field of municipal administration. In the elections for county councils, the political parties organise in the same way as they do for Parliamentary elections. There are precisely the same issues. This is a question whether or not the people in the country districts should be taken to the poll by the local laird and whether he should organise a large number of cars for that purpose.

I disagree with those hon. Gentlemen who argue that the Conservatives were the party of good Samaritans, purely concerned with taking electors to the poll from a desire to help the farmer, the gamekeeper, the butler, the local roadman, or others who live in the country. We know how the organisation of cars in country districts can influence the result of elections. When the county council elections come along, we are faced with exactly the same factors and the same organisation on political lines which we find at Parliamentary elections. In the case of the county council of which I was a member for a number of years, at the last election we secured a Labour majority of one. In one division a candidate was returned by one vote. In a situation like that in a rural area, it is easy to organise a concentration of cars in a way which would put the Labour Party at a hopeless disadvantage. The county councils are authorities where important administrative decisions are made on housing, education and other problems. The use of large numbers of motor cars can change the composition of a council. In some of the rural areas, it can effectively put the brake on progressive legislation.

If we allow motor cars to operate in the interests of the Conservative Party in the unlimited way in which they have operated in the past, it is possible that the county council which I have mentioned, instead of having a Labour majority of one, might have a Conservative or anti-Socialist majority of six. That would effectively put back the clock and delay the application of the social legislation which we pass in this House. I know that someone will say that the municipalities do not matter and that this is a parish pump point of view. To them I would say that the parish pump is a most important utensil. Local government democracy is of great importance. I do not see any reason that the Home Secretary has advanced for Parliamentary elections that cannot equally be applied to elections in large county council areas. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to turn a deaf ear to the plea which has been made.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I very much hope that the Home Secretary will turn a deaf ear to everything said by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on this point. As representative of the constituency next to that of the hon. Gentleman—a constituency of which he has some slight cognisance—I can assure him that, as they affect my Division, his remarks concerning the way in which local government elections are run are entirely wide of the mark. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to contradict me. I cannot speak with the same knowledge as the hon. Gentleman of the great County of Ayr, but, at all events, I am satisfied that the hon. Member has given a caricature of what goes on in his own county, particularly in the more rural parts. I represent a constituency in which there are two county councils and nine town councils. There are 11 local authorities and not one of them, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well, is run on political lines. There is not one member in either of the two county councils or any of the nine town councils who is elected on a political label. It is all very well for the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to shake his head. He knows that what I am saying is correct.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

When the hon. Gentleman says that local authorities are not run on political lines, is he also saying that the elections are not fought on political lines?

Mr. McKie

If the hon. Gentleman will wait and allow me to develop my argument, I will come to that point. If he cares to say that the people who are returned are opposed to the kind of political philosophy which is so dear to his heart, he will be right; but these bodies are composed of men and women who go there to do their best in the interests of the locality concerned.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

indicated assent.

Mr. McKie

I am glad of confirmation on that point. I challenge the hon. Member for South Ayrshire to gainsay me. He knows full well that what counts in local government elections, particularly in the rural areas of Scotland, is the moral calibre of the various people. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to laugh. What counts in the view of the electors is the moral calibre of the people who come forward. I can understand why what I am saying now does not appeal to the heart of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, because, with his well-known political bias, he would like everything to be run on hard and fast political lines in the local government elections. He wishes to see—and I am glad to have his assent—no line of demarcation between local government elections and Parliamentary elections.

I must dissent from what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire said about the comparative importance of local government elections and Parliamentary elections. I dissent from the view that the local government elections are of equal importance with Parliamentary elections to this House of Commons. Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that he has the temporary honour of being a member of the greatest legislative assembly in the world, and I think that, on reflection, he will withdraw the remark about the equal importance of local government elections and elections to this House of Commons. I assure him that his words will not meet with that acceptance in South Ayrshire which he thought they would. I agree with him on the great importance of local government elections, because local authorities are charged with the interpretation of the legislation which we enact, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman to think again when he attempts to put these municipal and county authorities on a par with this House. I hope the Home Secretary will turn a completely deaf ear to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about the use of motor cars in local government elections.

Mr. Ede

It is not my habit to turn a deaf ear to any plea made on either side of the House, and I have very carefully considered this matter. It is true that when I spoke on the subject in April, I was hopeful of being able to devise a Clause that would cover both Parliamentary and local government elections. I have devoted a considerable amount of time to seeing if it is possible so to do. Local government constituencies vary so much in size, from a few tens of people to many thousands, that any attempt to frame a Clause that would enable reasonable, comparative justice to be done has proved more than I can manage. I am bound to confess my disappointment in this matter, and I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.

In most local government constituencies, the application of this Clause would leave any candidate with only one car, but, in addition, it would have a very astonishing effect in certain urban and rural council elections, where more than one seat is vacant in the election. It would enable a candidate, let us say, where there were four seats vacant, which is a not uncommon thing, to use four cars for the same number of votes as in a borough would permit the use of only one. The matter is so complicated and so difficult of solution that I am bound to say that I find it impossible to prepare a Clause which I could commend to the House. I want to assure my hon. Friends that it is not for want of trying that I am unable to achieve the ambition which I had when I spoke in April.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Would my right hon. Friend consider, before the Bill goes to another place, the possibility of introducing, in respect of local government elections, a provision that the numbers of motorcars that can be used shall come under the jurisdiction of the returning officers?

Mr. Ede

I should have preferred that solution for the whole of the case, both Parliamentary and local government, namely, an arrangement whereby there would be a specified pool of motorcars under the control of the returning officer, and that no other cars should be used at all. I regret to say that, in our negotiations with the returning officers at an earlier stage, they were quite unable to accept that responsibility. If that is so in the case of a Parliamentary election, I think the case is even stronger in the case of local government elections, where, very often, the returning officer and his assistants are employed on a part-time basis.

Mr. Greenwood

Will my right hon. Friend consider it?

Mr. G. Porter

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, purely on the grounds that the Home Secretary has given an assurance that he has made every investigation into the possibility of this proposal, and that it would be ridiculous in those circumstances to force it upon him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 20, after "household," to insert: or any person in his employment or the husband or wife of such person. If there is no objection, I think it would help the argument if the Amendment in line 58—after "business," to insert: or the husband or wife of such person —could be discussed at the same time. It is not easy to try to improve this new Clause because we are still in some doubt what it means. I was not clear at all after the learned Attorney-General had given his definition, and I was very confused after that of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think the Home Secretary's explanation was the one which I could really get hold of best, and, if I am right, I would like to work on that basis.

This Clause is drawn to apply to any organised use of motor cars, and I can see that, if one holds the views which the Home Secretary holds, in drafting this Clause one would want to make exceptions to that rule, in the case of a placarded car going from a household to a polling station and allowing it to carry a member of the man's household. In country districts, it will be necessary for this Clause also to include the wives of such persons and also those employed with him. In a great part of the North of England, we still have the system of living-in for farm workers. The farm workers are living in the household and would normally be described as being members of the same household. As the Bill is drafted, they would not be allowed to be taken to the poll in a placarded car. That may seem to South country Members to be a very small thing, but it would create very great hardships in the Northern parts of England. It is not really reasonable, if we are to have one car taking the farmer, his wife, and his visitor for the night, to provide that, if the man who works on that farm and who lives in the same house gets into the same car, provided it is a placarded car, the farmer is committing an offence, and that, if the candidate knows about it, he can be unseated.

I ask the Home Secretary to address his mind to this one definition which I seek to introduce here, so that line 20 will read: any member of the same household, or any person in his employment or the husband or wife of such person. The Home Secretary may prefer to do it by altering my definition from "member of the same household," to include people who are employed by the man who owns the car, and I see a difficulty there and want to face up to it. What I am talking about particularly concerns the rural areas. The problem is quite different in the urban areas. I assure the Home Secretary that, if this Clause is to be of any use at all, it must deal with this question of persons employed. It is remarkable the long distances that people have to go to get to polling stations in the country, even with a polling station in every parish. We do not want, as the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Attorney-General would seem to wish, a huge crop of cases in the courts at election times. We want people to get to the polls as easily as possible, without any trouble. We want the man working on an outlying farm to be brought in with the farmer and his wife. One usually finds that the man with a car likes to show his colour on the polling day, whether it is a Socialist placard or a Conservative placard. I hope the Home Secretary will accept this Amendment or, if he is unable to do so, insert a similar Amendment at another stage.

I have not dealt with the position as it affects the husband and wife. The Home Secretary in his own draft includes "a person employed," and therefore I submit that his wife should also be included. The definition in Subsection (6) of the Clause will have this effect if these Amendments are not accepted: a man can, take his own wife or daughter; he can also take along his butler, or any domestic servant or a visitor spending the night there, but directly he takes the poor cowman, who has borne the heat and burden of the day, and his wife, an offence is committed. It seems to be an odd piece of drafting, and I hope the Home Secretary will look into it.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Does the hon. Gentleman want the state of affairs which these Amendments would imply, namely, that the provisions of this Clause would be extended to any person in the employment of the owner of the car? In that case, it might apply to an employer of thousands in the same district, and he would be able to take every one of them to the polling station.

Mr. Turton

That is the point I was touching on when I said that these Amendments might have different implications in urban constituencies. I was presenting to the Home Secretary a problem of the rural constituencies, and I was saying that that problem in the rural constituencies must be solved either by accepting this Amendment or by placing on the Order Paper an Amendment with the same effect in rural constituencies. I believe that this problem concerning members of the same household is confined mainly to rural constituencies, where people live long distances from the polling station and where there are small households living in remote areas.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I ask the Home Secretary to give very careful consideration to this Amendment, because after this Clause has been passed, as I presume it will be, and this Bill becomes law, from the point of view of the rural constituencies the law will not make sense at all. The confused thought in this House about the conditions in rural areas, as we have heard expressed today, is most remarkable. What happens in any village in a sparsely populated area is that those who happen to have cars arrange for the inhabitants of the village to be taken to the poll. There is none of this waiting to take one's own supporters in placarded cars, or any of the sort of ideas which have been thrown out from the other side. I have been in this House for nearly 20 years, and when I assure the House that I have never even had a political meeting in my own village during a General Election, it will show the sort of atmosphere that exists in rural areas. I have no more idea how the various people in my village vote than the man in the moon.

How ridiculous it will be if in a rural district a man is able to take members of his own personal household to the poll, and yet is unable to pick up his gardener and his gardener's wife on the way to the polling booth, which may be as much as eight or 10 miles away. I agree there may be an improvement under the provisions of this Bill if there is a polling booth in every parish, but that will not make the position nearly as easy as it would appear to be at first sight. In these country districts there can easily be a walk of two-and-a-half or three miles from the outlying farms or homesteads to the place appointed for the poll.

Let us turn from ordinary village life to the farmers. As was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), farmers often have living with them people who are definitely employed on their farms—not relations and friends, but employees. How ridiculous it is if a farm worker is not to be permitted to go to the poll with his employer. I see the force of the question put by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), particularly in a big industrial centre where an employer might have a thousand employees, but I hope the ingenuity of the Home Secretary and his Department will enable him to frame some form of words which will meet the intentions of this Amendment, namely, that in the rural areas, in our villages and among the farming community it will be possible for those in a particular locality to be taken to the poll by the owner of the car.

Mr. E. P. Smith

I support the principle of this Amendment. The more I consider this new Clause, the worse I realise is the morass into which the Home Secretary is getting not only himself but the whole electoral law. In these matters one is naturally prone to take personal cases, because they leap most readily to the mind. I happen to be one of those old-fashioned people who cannot drive a motor car, for the simple reason that I have a defect of vision which renders me unfitted to do so. Therefore, I have to employ a chauffeur. I take it—and I believe I am right in my interpretation of this Clause—that, if my chauffeur were to drive me to the polling booth, I could go in and vote, but, if he also went in and voted, he would be committing an offence because he does not live in my house but a house some little distance away.

If that is so the Home Secretary must realise what an idiotic state of affairs this is. Must my chauffeur, having taken me home, go down again to the poll on his own to vote, or what? And can he go in my car? That is a small but important point. As we are some considerable distance from the polling booth, may not this man also take his wife, since she happens to be delicate and lame, at the same time as he takes me, or shall we all be committing some offence? Where are we? I think we are entitled to be told. This is a point which affects many rural households, if the sort of people to whom I am referring cannot be regarded as members of one's household, although to all intents and purposes they are members of one's staff.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

If what we were told earlier was correct, there seems to be no necessity for this change at all. If, as I understood the Attorney-General, he was correct that a casual pick-up was in order and would not be an offence, if it is all right to take somebody down to the poll unless one is doing it with special reference to the candidature of one particular candidate, I do not see that this additional protection is necessary. The fact is, surely, that there is a confusion in this Clause. One can pick up somebody casually without working for a particular candidate, and, in addition to that, one can take one's housemaid down to the poll. It does not seem to me that both these things are necessary One contradicts the other.

Mr. Turton

Surely this is an organised pick-up that we are talking about.

Mr. Roberts

This is an organised pickup amongst the persons living in one's house. This is an exception to the rule about the organised pick-up. One might organise the members of one's household or the visitors to the household That can be organised. That is the point I want to make. If the Attorney-General is right, surely, casually to take down the people of the household would not be an offence. If I am wrong in that interpretation, I would support the Amendment, because we do not happen to have many squires in the North of England—at any rate, not squires who bully their employees and workers as to how they should vote. We have a few, a very few.

What we have is a considerable number of people who, because of the great shortage of houses, still live in the farmhouses in which they work. They work long hours, especially in the summer— and I think the Government favour summer elections—and when the work is over and the cows are milked, the farmer and his wife and household go down to vote. It will be considered a great hardship by the hired worker in the house if he may not accept a lift to the poll from the farmer because he is a full-time employee concerned in the business of the farm. I do not believe the farmer is going to bully him as to how to vote. He is a very independent person, is this agricultural worker of the north of England and Scotland. But the farmer has a car and the worker would like to take a lift. I hope the Home Secretary will consider allowing him to have that lift.

Mr. Ede

This Amendment, of course, would have a far wider application than that which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) when he moved it. It would mean that an employer of several thou-stand people would have the right to use all the motor vehicles belonging to the firm to take all his employees and their wives to the poll—it might be in a large number of different constituencies. That would be the effect of accepting the Amendment as it stands. I think the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton realised that the Amendment was weak in that respect, but, in any event, with any limitation I can think of, it would really make a complete breach in the whole idea of the clause. For that reason it would not be possible to accept it.

I am advised that the point put to me by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith), concerning his chauffeur, is answered by the fact that his chauffeur would, as matter of fact, be covered by the Clause. He is covered by Subsection (6, b). He is a "member of the same household" employed—

Mr. E. P. Smith

But living in another house.

Mr. Ede

He is a member of the household employed at the dwelling house of the hon. Member.

Mr. Turton

But is there not a similarity in the case of this man and the man employed in connection with a trade or profession?

Mr. Ede

That was not the statement made by the hon. Member for Ashford. The hon. Member says he cannot drive a car and does not, in fact, drive a car because he suffers a defect of vision. I understand that this chauffeur is not connected with the hon. Member's trade or business, but goes down to his dwelling house, picks him up, takes him to the station or wherever the hon. Member wishes to go. I am advised that in such circumstances that chauffeur is covered by the Clause. I am dealing only with the specific instance put to me by the hon. Member for Ashford.

It is not possible to accept this Amendment. I think any effort to deal with it would open too wide a breach in the Clause and would to a very large extent nullify the intention of the Clause. I must say therefore—with regret in regard to some of the cases put to me—that I am compelled to ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)

Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Ashford. The paragraph to which the Home Secretary is referring says: Employed by a member of the household at the dwelling house.

Mr. E. P. Smith

Would the Home Secretary consider defining more clearly what is meant by a "member of the same household," so that we can get some wider definition? I do not think the layman will understand that any "member of the same household" really means what the right hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to say he thinks it does mean.

Mr. Peake

As the discussion on the new Clause and the Amendments proceeds, I am afraid we do not get any more lucid idea as to what the Clause, in fact, does. We seem to be getting into greater confusion as we proceed. We are now getting into discussion of a number of highly technical terms such as "friendship lifts" and "organised pick-ups" which are not to be found in the Clause. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made use of these terms. As I understand it, having listened to the explanations of the Clause given by Ministers, it is now clear that anybody can give anybody else a lift to the poll if they do so out of mere friendship or mere public spirit, whether or not that other person resides in their household or is in their employment. "Friendship lifts" are apparently perfectly legal, and so are lifts given out of pure good will, because the essence of the offence, as laid down in Subsection (1), is that the carrying of the other person to the poll must be done "with a view to promoting or procuring the election" of a particular candidate. That is the essence of the offence, we have been assured by the Attorney-General.

In the light of that, we have tried to give some meaning to the words of Subsection (3), to which my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is now moving an Amendment. That Subsection lays down that Nothing in this section shall— That is, of course, including the words in Subsection (1), which creates the offences— prevent any person employing a motor vehicle for the purpose of conveying to or from the poll himself or any member of the same household. Since it is open to anybody to give a lift to anybody else out of friendship or public spirit, the only possible effect of those saving words in Subsection (3) is, to excuse one from the committal of an offence when one carries to the poll, with a view to securing or promoting the election of a particular candidate, someone of the persons mentioned in Subsection (3, b) and defined as members of the houehold. Those are the persons one may ask, "How are you going to vote?" Those are the persons to whom one may decline to give a lift, unless they give one a satisfactory answer. That is to say, Subsection (3, b) lays down the class of persons whom one may intimidate in this way, and that class naturally includes one's wife, children, husband, and, for some reason unknown to me, anybody one employs in one's house for purely domestic purposes. Those are the persons to whom we can apply this form of intimidation. If we do not know which way he is going to vote, and if we do not ask him which way he is going to vote, then we can take anybody to the polls whether he is one's gardener, or friend, or a complete stranger.

Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)

I would ask the Home Secretary to give sympathetic consideration to the case of the farmworker. The Clause undoubtedly excludes him from the category of persons mentioned in Subsection (6, b), because he is, of course, employed exclusively for the purpose of the farmer's "trade, profession or business." In the Summer, as I well know, the farmers and their men want to be with the sheep or other animals until the very last moment of the day; and they rush down to the polling stations only at the very last moment. It will be very hard indeed if the farmers cannot take their workers with them. It will be particularly hard in constituencies in North Wales, where the farmworkers are employed high in the mountains miles from the polling stations. I do not think there is much intimidation of the farm-workers by the farmers. I do not think that any farmer in these days of shortage of labour would try any intimidation. I think this case is worthy of further consideration by the Home Secretary.

Mr. Turton

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 41, to leave out "fifteen," and to insert "five."

This raises the question of the number of cars allowed in rural constituencies. I think it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time the next Amendment in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), which raises, although in a somewhat different way substantially the same point. It is in line 41, leave out "one for every fifteen hundred," and insert: two for every polling district with not more than one thousand electors and three for every polling district with more than one thousand. The Home Secretary, when moving the Second Reading of the new Clause, said he had very carefully considered the number of cars, and then he went on to indicate, without, I think, committing himself in any degree, the way in which he had arrived at the conclusion at present contained in the Clause. He said that in the Socialist Bill of 1931 it was proposed that there should be one car for every 1,000 electors in a county district and one car for every 2,000 in the boroughs; and that now, apparently because of the extra provision being made in this Bill for polling stations, he thought it right to reduce that number to one car for every 1,500 in the counties. I hope I have correctly stated his argument.

The argument depends, surely, upon the extent to which the power of creating new polling stations, is, in fact, exercised in these county districts. There is no definition in the Bill of those limits. He quoted the provision that every parish should have a polling station unless circumstances warranted its being otherwise treated. But is it really to be the case—and this is the question I think he must answer in connection with this Amendment—that there will be a polling station in a parish with, say, 152 inhabitants or even 42, a polling station which is open from seven o'clock in the morning to nine o'clock in the evening? I should have thought it would have been certain that in those instances there will not be a polling station, and that the inhabitants of those parishes will, as they have up to now had to do, have to go elsewhere to record their votes.

If that is the right conclusion to be drawn it means that in an area such as the one I represent a very considerable number of people living in small hamlets will have to travel anything between four and five miles to register their votes. I can give the right hon. Gentleman a number of instances. So far as I can work it out on the last electoral register, this affects something over 1,300 electors. I am excluding in that calculation all those who will have less than two miles to go to poll, all those in parishes with a population of over 270. In connection with those parishes this question does arise. The right hon. Gentleman and his supporters have argued very much against the use of cars organised for one party for the purposes of that party, but in the case of hamlets such as those to which I am referring, in the constituency which I have the honour to represent—and I have held it now in two elections—it is the common practice on both sides for people living in those hamlets to join together to assist in getting the voters to the polls.

I remember that at the last election a well-known Socialist told me that he had spent the whole day driving voters in from one of the villages, and that I asked him how it had gone, and that he hold me that he thought he had brought in as many to vote for me as to vote for my opponent. I am sure that our Con- servative drivers did the same thing for the villagers. I do not quite understand what the position is after the Attorney-General's explanation of the effect of the Clause. Is it to be legal in future, for instance, for car owners in or about those hamlets to pool their cars, and announce beforehand that from the village green their cars will take anyone who likes to turn up to the polls and back?

Many of the people living in hamlets are old; in many cases there are no public travelling facilities. In one village which I have in mind there is a long walk of 2½ miles to the polling station, and the whole of the way back is uphill. Will it be legal for those who have cars in that village, or in the neighbourhood, to announce beforehand, "We propose to make our cars available for the use of anyone from this village going down to the polling station"? That is what has happened in the past. I listened very carefully to the Home Secretary's explanation, and as I see it, that practice, if followed in future, would be fraught with serious possibilities for those who tried to facilitate the exercise by people of their right to vote.

This Amendment depends upon the answers given to those two questions. In each of these small parishes, with populations varying from 42 to 300, will there be a polling station? If a polling station is kept open from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening for, say, 42 people to vote, then the requirement for cars will shrink. If the answer is, as I think, that there will not be polling stations in all these small places, then there is a need for transport to take voters these long distances to the poll. No provision is being made by the State to take people to and from polling stations. If it be legal for car owners in the neighbourhood to pool their cars for the purpose of taking people to the poll, then again there is not such a need for a higher proportion per head of population per car as would otherwise be the case. This Amendment increases the proportion to three times that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. Maybe that is a bit too much on the high side; it depends on the answer to those two questions. It may be, as I think is the case, that his proportion is too much on the low side, and that there is a case here for compromise.

We each know the circumstances of our own constituencies best, but in an area like the Daventry Division, consisting of a quarter of a million acres, there really is a need for cars to take to the polling stations people who do not know the formalities of getting on to the absent voters' list, or voting by post, and to whom it is difficult to bring home the situation. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to give us satisfactory assurances upon this, and to make clear, if he can, that the intention is for such organised transport to be legal, and to say further that in order to allow adequate provision to be made for people living in isolated places, in small numbers, he will increase the proportion of cars.

Mr. C. Williams

I beg to second the Amendment.

Does the Home Secretary, who has a capacity for seeing other peoples' difficulties, really think that in a large country area one motorcar is enough for every 1,500 electors? In the area of the Lizard Peninsula, which I know fairly well, there are probably half-a-dozen polling stations, the average number of electors to each being about 500 to 600. In many of the villages throughout the West Country, the North of England, or Wales, there are districts with probably 1,500 people, with many scattered polling stations, covering an immense mileage. Does the Home Secretary not think that 1,500 electors is much too large a number for one car, bearing in mind the purpose of this Amendment?

The right hon. Gentleman had to put in some figure; but as we are all working in a very kind and friendly way I am sure the Home Secretary will see, with the assistance of that clarity which the Secretary of State for Scotland can give him, how necessary it is to extend this provision. I will not enlarge on that, because undoubtedly Scottish Members will be able to speak of the enormous areas on the west coast of Scotland and in the Highlands where it will be impossible to operate adequately with only one car for 1,500 electors. Let me give as an illustration an area intimately connected with my own Division, but just over the ferry—that of Dartmouth, which is very cut up. That area has about 4,000 voters and the necessary work of transporting the voters from the outskirts could not possibly be performed with two motorcars, or two and a half, or two and three-quarters, whatever the proportion may be. If one car is allowed for 500 voters that area would get half-a-dozen motorcars—probably rather less than the Socialist Party had in Dartmouth at the last General Election.

I am not asking for anything ridiculous or extreme. I am asking the Home Secretary to exercise reasonableness in this matter. After all, if he made this concession to the rural areas he would not be doing any great harm; he would not he breaking into the main provisions of the Clause. I am not speaking from a purely party point of view on this issue. At any rate, the Socialists in my division will be severely cut down on their transport under this Clause. What will they do? They will come to me and say, "Why did you not talk to the Home Secretary?" I shall then have to say, "But I did." I do not want to have to say to them that the Home Secretary is a cruel, hard-hearted individual who would never think of helping his own friends in my division. For that reason, if for no other, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment.

I have not attempted to elaborate the difficulties about which we have already heard. I ask the Home Secretary to look at this from the practical point of view, and to consider what would be the most reasonable and easy unit to work. I cannot conceive that there was anything particularly sacred—especially after the history which has already been recounted—in the figure of 1,500. On the other hand, 500 would be a much easier unit to handle in rural areas. From that point of view also I ask the Home Secretary to consider the position. If he will not give us the entire concession, he might at any rate on this occasion go some way to meet us, because he has not done very much to help the countryside so far, and I do not think he really wants to make it quite so difficult for people to get to the poll as might seem to be the case at the moment.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

I suggest that while we are considering this Amendment, we should also consider the next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), in line 41, to leave out "one for every fifteen hundred," and to insert: two for every polling district with not more than one thousand electors and three for every polling district with more than one thousand —the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), in line 41, after "electors," to insert: or one car for every ten square miles, whichever is the greater. —and the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), in line 42, to leave out "twenty-five hundred," and insert "thousand."

Mr. C. Williams

Are we discussing boroughs as well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I did not think we were. I thought we were dealing only with the first two Amendments. If we are dealing with boroughs, I have an awful lot to say about them if I am allowed to do so.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Not now. We shall wait and see what opportunities there are.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

My hon. Friend cannot speak twice.

Mr. Williams

That is the trouble. It I had known that the other Amendments were to be considered, I would have said something about boroughs.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will see me, and we will see what we can do in the matter.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

On a point of Order. When I moved my Amendment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I referred to the two following Amendments but not to the fourth Amendment because I did not know whether it was the desire of the House or the Chair that the fourth Amendment should be considered with the others. I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) should be allowed to speak about boroughs if the further Amendment is to be considered now.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are making something of a difficulty. The hon. Member has naturally exhausted his right to speak, but perhaps an accommodation can be arranged. I think that would be the best way.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

On that point of Order, I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with respect, that the first two Amendments which we have been discussing are in a somewhat different group from the others. In view of the limited approach of the speeches which have already been made, might it not be for the convenience of the House to take the first two Amendments at this stage and the others afterwards?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps it would simplify matters to discuss the first three Amendments together. The fourth Amendment will be taken afterwards.

Mr. Turton

As my Amendment comes second, perhaps it would be more convenient if I now put the case for it so that the Home Secretary can answer both. I do not quite agree with the points put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). We have two things to think of in the matter of the yardstick for permitted cars. First, one has to think of what is an adequate amount for the rural area. Secondly, one has to compare the rural area with the urban area and see whether one's proportion is fair. In order not to disfranchise the electors in the scattered rural areas, I believe we must have our yardstick based on the polling stations rather than on the size of the population.

I say that because if we have a compact congested constituency, we find that bus services have been provided already, in peace time, between the elections. In some cases there are tube services. In such cases it is easy for the elector to get to the polling stations. On the other hand, in remote rural areas there are not the bus services, there is a scattered population and we require a greater number of cars. I therefore ask the Home Secretary to discard the population yardstick. Later on, I will give him some examples which I hope he will agree—he is a reasonably fairminded person—show his own system to be unworkable or not compatible with justice. It may be worked, but it will cause an injustice.

The right hon. Gentleman may say that owing to the new Amendments in his Bill, he will increase the polling stations to such a great number that my suggestion of two per polling station would make the number too large. However, he will perhaps recall that in my Amendment as originally drafted, I asked for one per polling station, and then as we did not yet know how many polling stations the Home Secretary was going to introduce, I thought I had better make the figure two in order to get the right relationship at the present time. I can see that there will have to be a reduction if more polling stations are introduced. Surely the position is untenable if all sides of the House admit the need for a certain number of permitted cars? The organisation must be based on the polling stations. If we have one party car picking up the selected voters from the remote areas and taking them to the one polling station, directly we get a position where the permitted number of cars is less than the number of polling stations, we shall have an impossible position for the harassed election agent, to whatever party he belongs. He will have to try to switch his cars about, very much like the position in battle when the tanks are switched all round one's front to meet the changing situation.

I maintain that the polling station should be the yardstick. I have suggested in my Amendment that where the polling station is over 1,000, there should be an increase in the number of cars. That would specially apply in certain mining constituencies where we have rural conditions and yet where some of the polling stations are very heavy. In such a case one would probably require more than one motorcar. I have worked out my suggestions for a number of constituencies. They seem to me to bear the right relationship to one another.

I want now to discuss the relationship in the Home Secretary's proposals between the rural and the urban constituencies when he adopts his alternative of basing it on population. I will take, first, the largest constituency in this country, that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale). It is a record area for England. My hon. and gallant Friend has 59 polling districts. The area goes right up to the Pennines and down very nearly to Middlesbrough. Hon. Members who know the North of England will realise the extent of its area. Under this Bill he will get 35 cars to manage the 59 polling districts. Let us take the other extremity, an area in which I spent last weekend—the Isle of Thanet. There we have a compact rural area where there are very good bus and train services; they are all ready to convey people because they have to convey holiday makers in the Summer months. There are only 23 polling districts there because it is a compact area. On my basis they would get comparatively few cars, but under the proposals of the Home Secretary that area would get 43 cars instead of the 35 of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond. I suggest to the Home Secretary that that is an untenable proposition for him to put to the House.

Again, Westmorland, which is a scattered, semi-mountainous area with some 49 polling districts, will be allowed only 33 cars under the Home Secretary's proposal and yet the City of York, which is a congested, compact area, will get 32 cars under the Home Secretary's proposal. Richmond in Yorkshire, far the largest constituency in England, will get only three more cars under the proposals of the Home Secretary, and it seems to me that the anomaly is even greater in the London constituencies. For instance, North Hackney will be allowed 32 cars and yet South-West Norfolk, which has 70 polling stations, will get only 29 cars

I have given these examples not from a party point of view, because some of the constituencies are represented by Socialists, and some by Conservatives, but to show that the present yardstick and the yardstick suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry will not create justice between constituencies. We have to think out another, and I suggest to the Home Secretary that the yardstick should be that of polling stations. A great many anomalies will he created in the rural areas where one constituency is being fought by two candidates and another by four. Our job is to get the voters to vote, whoever they vote for when they get there. Why is it that in my constituency, the third largest in the country, where we usually have a straight fight, there will he available on both sides only some 70 cars, whereas, in a constituency like North Newcastle, which has four candidates, there will be 96 cars to serve a compact urban area? I am quite certain in my own mind that until the Home Secretary moves to polling stations he will not secure the justice which I feel sure he desires. I believe that he has to increase largely the number of cars, not for the urban constituencies around London, but for the remote areas in the country, in order to see that men and women are not disfranchised.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

I want to add a few words, before the Home Secretary speaks, about the need of rural areas, and, particularly, of the rural areas in Scotland, one of which I have the honour to represent. I wish I could be quite as sure as my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that the polling station arrangement is the best one. I think it is. I have thought over this most carefully, ever since the Home Secretary put down his proposal and I must admit that I favoured at first a distribution on the basis of so many cars to the square mile, as is proposed in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie). I thought about that but realised that there are great administrative difficulties about taking the number of square miles. A square mile in the Fenlands is very different from a square mile in the Cairngorms.

My own constituency is 80 miles from the coast to the Linn of Dee inland, and 70 miles from the South to the North. There is a range of mountains right through it, and I know what it is to cross that range of mountains every night, coming back between twelve and one in the morning, after having addressed four or five meetings during an election campaign. It takes a long time in those conditions. I venture to mention my own constituency because it must have occurred to the Home Secretary that in these rural areas, particularly in Scotland, the set up is often a long lonely glen with a road running through it. The Secretary of State for Scotland knows many of these places well. The polling station is the village school, right away at the head of the glen, and the glen road has running off it, as it were from the backbone of a fish, accommodation roads running up into the hills, and away up at the heads of the accommodation roads are lonely farmhouses. All those people have to be brought down to the glen road and up to the head of the glen before they can record their votes. We take in everybody, we do not bother about their party, we do not suggest they should vote in any particular way, but we take pride in getting as high a poll as possible. We send our cars up into those accommodation roads, particularly to get the farm workers.

Let me say this to the Home Secretary: if we have not enough cars, the people who will not record their votes will be the farm servants. They are the difficult ones because they have a great sense of pride, they do not like going down to vote in their working clothes, and they will have a shave first. They make it rather an outing. They will not go and vote when they have finished their day's work until they have washed and changed and shaved, and unless an arrangement has been made with the farmer to let them off at a certain time and a car comes and takes them down to vote. The Under Secretary of State for the Home Department knows Scotland better than I do, because he was born there and I was not, and he will know the difficulty of getting these folk to vote. I do not know whether they will vote for me or not, but we make a great point of getting everybody in to vote if possible. That is why we must provide more cars in the rural areas. I believe, therefore, that the polling station basis is the right one.

My hon. Friend has spoken about the difficulty of switching over. The difficulty is that the drivers from the south if switched to the north will not know the country, and it will be necessary to put a guide beside them to take them up to some shepherd's house to get a man and his wife. A car seat is lost in that way, and every seat is valuable because there is an immense area to cover and little time in which to do it. I appeal to the Home Secretary on the ground of justice, on the ground of bringing in people who otherwise would not record their vote, to consider this Amendment.

Mr. Ede

If these cars are bona fide available for anybody, and nobody will be rejected, they do not come within the Clause. That provision has to be bona fide, however, and I think that that is the answer to the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). There might be a pool of cars on the village green, to which any voter could go and be conveyed to the poll, with no questions asked, but if the cars bore placards and such things it would be taken as an indication by the car owners to the people they were carrying; I would not say that in such circumstances they would be exempted. The hon. and learned Member said he knew that his opponents did such a thing, as did his own people, in a genuine effort to get as many people as possible to the poll.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to placards, does he mean a placard which merely says that the car will take people to the poll?

Mr. Ede

No. If, however, the placard were calling upon people to vote for Smith or Jones, for instance, there might be grave difficulty. In such a case an arrangement might be made with the clerk of the parish council or of the parish meeting, or with the vicar or with someone else, to take the names and times at which people would want to go to the poll. If no questions were being asked and it was understood that all the cars would be available to take persons of any political colour, then I think that on such a bona fide public pool no question would arise.

Mr. Turton

On the first Amendment the right hon. Gentleman used the words, This Clause is designed to apply to any organised use of motor cars. Does he now say that that is not so?

Mr. Ede

I believe that at that time we were discussing the organised party use of motor cars and I do not think anyone could have misunderstood me. Here we have a case which is not of the Conservative, the Labour or the Liberal agent arranging for cars to be at a certain place to pick up people to take them to the poll; it is being organised not by political parties but, as I understand it, by public spirited persons who say, "We desire our neighbours to have as good facilities for getting to the poll as we have, irrespective of their views." That is the case which was put to me by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley).

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my interrupting to try to make clear a further point. Does he exclude the case where the three agents—Socialist, Liberal and Conservative, for instance—got together to arrange for transport to be available to everyone from a particular village?

Mr. Ede

No. All these things will have to be judged on the facts of each case. It might be found, however, that cars were to be available from six o'clock until 8.30 and that the heaviest Labour poll might be expected from 7.30 onwards; if, mysteriously, at 7.30 the cars that had been promised did not turn up, considerable doubt would be cast on the bona fides of the arrangement. I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman would say that anybody who tried a trick of that kind would deserve to be caught by the Clause. Each case will have to be tested by the facts.

If the original arrangement was that cars should be available from 6 o'clock until a particular hour clearly there would again have to be a test. If it was found that all the people providing cars were staunch Conservatives, and that their cars conveniently disappeared at the moment when Labour voters might be willing to use them, it would be difficult to prove there had been a genuine pool. We are asked to believe, however, that these are the cases of people who desire that as many electors as possible shall get to the poll, irrespective of their party views. I fought four elections in county divisions and, by a miracle, I won one of them. In any of those elections I should have been very glad to have one motor car for every 1,500 electors. Indeed, I think I should have had a considerable job in organising the use of them, so novel would have been the situation.

Mr. Keeling

When was that?

Mr. Ede

Between 1918 and 1929.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In which year did the right hon. Gentleman win?

Mr. Ede

I won an election in 1923, but I really do not see that the last question is at all relevant.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is because the number of cars available varied very greatly in the last 20 years.

Mr. Ede

We are asked to accept the view that this arrangement should be based on the polling station and not on the number of electors. After all, it has been no uncommon thing for agents to arrange for cars to be available for one polling station at one time of the day and for another for the remainder of the day, and I am certain that any agent worth his pay would be able to arrange that. The more we get away from the simple formula that we have in the Bill the more likely we are to get just the type of abuse against which this Clause is designed. The more would it encourage those goodhearted people who desire to see every elector get to the poll to hand over their cars to the party agent, who may not be quite so high-minded as the candidate, and who is more anxious to secure that his candidate shall get in, than that people who are going to vote against his candidate should have an opportunity of getting to the poll.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Surely it is going to be much easier under the new arrangement for the owner to drive the car himself, without a name on the windscreen, to get voters there?

Mr. Ede

Then it does not become a bona fide arrangement. The moment it is not an arrangement by which any voter can use the car, quite obviously it goes outside the arrangement which I described earlier. I understood from the hon. Member that no one in his area ever thought of asking a person how he was going to vote before he picked him up. I begin to understand that the hon. Gentleman went a little further than the facts warranted him going before. We feel that one in 1,500, having regard to what I said about bona fide polling, and having regard to the statutory requirements in the Bill that there will have to be at least one polling station in every parish, unless there are special circumstances—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

What are they?

Mr. Ede

I thought the numbers which were quoted were not so special, having regard to the distribution of the population as a whole, as to warrant those numbers being quoted as a special circumstance. I could see the case where the population is situated in a parish so close to the border that it is probably as convenient for those voters to vote in the adjoining parish, and occasionally more convenient, than in their own parish. In those circumstances, which would be special, I think it might be possible to dispense with the requirement. But we intend to see that this requirement that there shall be a polling station in every parish is carefully observed by the county council when it is drawing up the list of polling stations.

9.0 p.m.

I feel that the two things taken together—one car for every 1,500 persons at the disposal of the party agent which he can use as he likes and in regard to which he can decide whom they shall pick up and not pick up—make an arrangement which will provide a sufficient number of cars for the circumstances which will arise after this Bill becomes law. While we hear a lot about the aged and infirm, it should be remembered that they are all entitled to claim to vote as absent voters, and when the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) says that they will not have known about it I would ask, what are party agents for? I should have thought that one could be pretty well assured that certainly so far as the Conservative Party is concerned, their agents will see that every person who is entitled to be registered as an absent voter will be so registered. For those reasons, I am unable to accept either of the Amendments which we are at present discussing.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am deeply disappointed at the speech to which we have just listened. I cannot help feeling that the Home Secretary has shown a quite unnecessary amount of party bias. Equally, I feel that if he had had the honour to contest a rural Division later than 1923 he might have discovered that the spirit in the countryside is very different from that which he remembers. I live in a parish which is cut off, in which there is no polling station, and in which I do not think that even the Home Secretary would like to see one, because the population of that parish is 56. Does he intend to have a Polling station in every parish of that size? He will obviously find considerable difficulty in not recognising that as a special case.

If he can tell the House now that the mere incidence of numbers of electors will not affect whether he considers the matter as a special case or not, my mind will be considerably relieved, but why can he not make that statement now, and not shuffle behind the screen of "certain special cases" that would be allowed? Why is the House not to be told the special conditions which would rule out a polling station in any rural district? I feel that the Home Secretary has not been quite open with the House. In the village in which I live there is no polling station, and there is none in the next hamlet. The inhabitants of both these hamlets have to go a considerable distance—some three and a half to four miles—along the road to the nearest polling station. That is not the end of the matter.

The Home Secretary said, "Of course we will allow the pooling of cars on the village green and in the case of everybody who says 'We will take all to the poll,' there will be no questions asked." But supposing that, at dinner time, someone who has been driving goes off for a snack and the car "mysteriously" disappears. Then there is a case at once against the driver of the car—the fact that he was not there when a heavy Labour poll was coming along would prove the case and the matter could be brought before the courts. As the Home Secretary said, that would provide evidence. That is not a satisfactory arrangement either, because to use again as an illustration the case of these two villages which I know very well, it is not only a question of cars being collected on the village green. There are no village greens. These are scattered villages. [Interruption.] We have not got an awful lot of village greens in the particular part of Somerset about which I am speaking. My hon. and gallant Friend was talking about the villages in his part of the world. I am talking about mine.

May I describe the position as it would arise in my village? The houses are scattered, and there are no particular centres in a great many of these small parishes in Somerset, to which people can go without walking one or two miles. If anybody goes round to organise it, outside the parish priest, the vicar, the rector, or somebody or other—it must be nobody who has to do with the politics of either side. If somebody, about whose politics nothing is known by the inhabitants of that village, can be found, who will organise this and say to electors, "You will be picked up at a certain time"—and he must have a car for he cannot walk it—it is all right. But if he has the slightest taint of party propaganda, either red, white, blue, yellow, green, and goes round and says, "A car is going to pick you up at one o'clock, there will be another to bring you back," or, if the chap is having his dinner, "There will be a car to take you to the poll later on,"—if he is well known to be a member of the Socialist or any other party—that will be an offence.

Could any greater nonsense be heard? Could there be any greater cause for trouble being manufactured by those people who are out to make trouble and who are really not very pleasant people, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree. I say that the Home Secretary is opening a door to a vast number of petty little complaints which is the last thing we want in any Parliamentary election and I do ask him to think over this matter again.

What we are asking in this Amendment is for a reconsideration of the number of cars that may be used. We ask that the number should be based, not on 1,500 but on 500. That will be the same for all parties. No party will get any advantage. We know perfectly well that the Socialist Party is not all that short of cars. I know from my own experience at the last election. My Labour opponent was far smarter as regards motor cars than I was. He had two enormous cars, whereas I had only one very small one. It really is rather novel that the Home Secretary cannot come to this House and give any answer to the case we are giving but merely makes suggestions for the interpretation of his own Clause, which are bound to lead to trouble and disputes, and which will deter people from helping electors to go and vote. I must oppose what the Home Secretary has said.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

I have much sympathy with what the Home Secretary said. I supported the principle of the limited use of motor cars, and for that reason voted for his new Clause; but I submit to him that the basis on which the limitation is worked out, if it is based on population, is too rigid. One must be forgiven for referring to one's own constituency, because that is the area one knows best. I think my constituency has the smallest electorate of any set out in the Representation of the People Bill. It is an electorate of just under 30,000. At the same time, in area, it is over 400 square miles, one of the largest areas in the country. If motor cars are to be limited on the basis of population, then for that huge area we shall have only 20 cars. I suggest that that is entirely inadequate. That is particularly so in a mountainous area where so many farms are in the folds of valleys. People have to walk to the roads and then be brought to the polling stations. It is particularly so where there are a large number of villages without any polling station at all, except it may be nine or ten miles away. It is making a travesty of limitation if it is limited as strictly as that.

Mr. John Paton (Norwich)

Could the hon. Member say, with regard to farmers, what portion of them are without a car?

Mr. Emrys Roberts

If I were to ask the Minister of Agriculture that question, he would reply that the figures were not available. In any event, I hope we shall not penalise farmers who are without cars. It is difficult to find an alternative formula. I am approaching this matter as a friendly critic. The 1931 Act provided that the figure should be one motor car for every thousand of the population. It is difficult to base this matter on population alone. If the figure is too big, like 1,500, there will be insufficient cars in a meagrely-populated area, whereas if the figure is that suggested of one car for every 500 of the population, there will be far too many cars in a densely-populated area. It is necessary to tie up the population formula with some alternative.

The only alternative put forward is that advanced by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). That is not entirely satisfactory, but it is the only alternative. The 1931 Act provided as a further alternative that the limitation should not apply to constituencies which covered more than 400 square miles. The Amendment which introduced that provision was accepted at the time without a Division. I ask the Home Secretary to look at this problem again. If the Amendment is not accepted, it will be most difficult to convey people adequately in sparsely-populated areas unless we have an alternative to the population formula.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) has stressed, as others have done the importance of considering this matter not on a mere counting of noses but also from the point of view of the geographical element. I do not rise to develop that point, because so far, the Debate has only gone to emphasise how difficult it will be to work this proposal. I want to put one question to the Government before we part with this Amendment. In the main discussion on the new Clause, the Secretary of State for Scotland was asked whether it was possible to transfer the authority or Licence from one car to another within an allocation when somebody only had three hours available. The right hon. Gentleman then said that he thought that it was administratively unworkable to transfer the licence within the allocation.

The point which I wish to put is that in these rural areas where there is to be a party car allocation of one per 1,500 of the population, working perhaps in a hilly district climbing steep lanes and driving on difficult roads, it may be that a car will develop some defect, mechanical or otherwise. [Interruption.] This may be an important point to the hon. Member for Merioneth. Suppose, for instance, the Liberal Party car in Merioneth—if a volunteer can be found—were to develop some defect or undergo some accident. Would it be possible to transfer that allocation to some other vehicle for the remainder of the polling hours? If not, any one of the candidates might find himself under an almost insuperable disadvantage in that kind of area. I see no reason why the official in charge of the polling station should not have authority, working under the returning officer, to allow the transfer of the allocation from one vehicle to another in circumstances like that. This is not a party point. This is something which may affect any one of us. I would like to know whether the Government can do anything to meet that possible difficulty.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

The Home Secretary did not make any attempt to answer one of the points put by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). There is the absurd anomaly that under the provisions of this Clause, a compact borough can have many more party cars at the disposal of a party than a scattered rural constituency. The right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to answer that point. If we take a constituency of 45,000 electors, the allocation will be 30 cars. That is in theory, and it assumes that 30 cars will be available the whole of the time the polling booths are open. Of course, in practice, that will not be the case at all, as some people will not be able to provide the drivers for the necessary period, and there may be breakdowns, as my hon. and gallant Friend suggested, so that it may well be that in practice, the 30 cars for the 45,000 electorate in a rural area may be reduced to 20 or even less.

The Home Secretary says that the position may, and possibly will, be looked after to some extent by what he calls bona fide pooling, but he went on to elaborate that in such a way as to make it quite impossible to tell whether anyone would be acting within or without the law in organising one of these pools. I understand that, if the agents of the political parties got together and got the vicar or the schoolmaster to run a car pool, provided that there were no labels on the cars and that no questions were asked, that would be legal, but if, by accident, some Conservative or Socialist driver did not turn up at the right time, it might then be construed that this was a sinister method of trying to do down one of the parties over their rights in the pool.

The whole business has become so wrapped up in nonsense as to suggest that what, in fact, will happen is that nobody will be organising the cars because nobody will know where they are, and that seems to be the simplest reason for increasing this allocation, which is far too small at present. The Home Secretary said that in 1923, by a miracle, he won a county seat. It is quite absurd to compare the car position in 1923 with what it is today. I imagine that many of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters got lifts in Liberal or Tory cars, but in any case the number of cars on the roads per head of the population in those days was nothing to what it is now. Although the Socialist Party may not realise it, we have advanced since 1923. That was before the day of the cheap car, or even of the cheap second-hand car which many people bought in 1938 and 1939, so that the illustration of 1923 which the Home Secretary gave bears no relation to the facts of the present day.

For all those reasons that I have given—that the proposed quota will be far less in practice and that the difficulties are such as to make it virtually impossible to organise any other scheme, because nobody will know their position under the law, I shall ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to go into the Division Lobby in support of this Amendment.

Question put, "That 'fifteen' stand part of the proposed Clause."

The House divided: Ayes, 271 Noes, 108.

Division No. 220.] AYES. [9.19 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Maclean, N. (Govan)
Adams, Richard (Balham) Evans, John (Ogmore) McLeavy, F.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Ewart, R. Mainwaring, W. H.
Alpass, J. H. Fairhurst, F. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Attewell, H. C. Farthing, W. J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Fernyhough, E. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Austin, H. Lewis Field, Capt. W. J. Marquand, H. A.
Awbery, S. S. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Ayles, W. H. Follick, M. Mellish, R. J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Foot, M. M. Messer, F.
Bacon, Miss A. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Middleton, Mrs. L.
Baird, J. Freeman, J. (Watford) Mitchison, G. R.
Balfour, A. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Moody, A. S.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Barstow, P. G. Gibbins, J. Morley, R.
Barton, C. Gibson, C. W. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Battley, J. R. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Bechervaise, A. E. Goodrich, H. E. Morrison, Rt. Hon- H. (Lewisham, E.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Mort, D. L.
Benson, G. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Moyle, A.
Berry, H. Grenfell, D. R. Murray, J. D.
Beswick, F. Grey, C. F. Nally, W.
Bing, G. H. C. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Naylor, T. E.
Binns, J. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Neal, H. (Claycross)
Blackburn, A. R. Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Blyton, W. R. Gunter, R. J. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Bottomley, A. G. Guy, W. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Han. P. J. (Derby)
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W. Hale, Leslie Noel-Buxton, Lady
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Oldfield, W. H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Oliver, G. H.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hardy, E. A. Orbach, M.
Bramall, E. A. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Paget, R. T.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Haworth, J. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Palmer, A. M. F.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Pargiter, G. A.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Herbison, Miss M. Parkin, B. T.
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G. Hewitson, Capt. M. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Burden, T. W. Hobson, C. R. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Holman, P. Pearson, A.
Callaghan, James House, G. Peart, T. F.
Carmichael, James Hoy, J. Perrins, W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)
Chamberlain, R. A. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Popplewell, E.
Champion, A. J. Hughes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Chetwynd, G. R. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Cluse, W. S. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, M. Philips
Cobb, F. A. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Pritt, D. N.
Coldrick, W. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Proctor, W. T.
Collindridge, F. Jenkins, R. H. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Collins, V. J. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Randall, H. E.
Colman, Miss G. M. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Ranger, J.
Comyns, Dr. L. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Rees-Williams, D. R.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Jones., J. H. (Bolton) Reeves, J.
Corbel, Mrs F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Cove, W. G. Keenan, W. Rhodes, H.
Daines, P. Kenyon, C. Richards, R.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Key, C. W. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) King, E. M. Robens, A.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kinley, J. Rogers, G. H. R.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Lang, G. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lee, F. (Hulme) Royle, C.
Deer, G. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Sargood, R.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Leslie, J. R. Scollan, T.
Delargy, H. J. Levy, B. W. Segal, Dr. S.
Diamond, J. Lindgren, G. S. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Dobbie, W. Longden, F. Sharp,-Granville
Dodds, N. N. Lynn, A. W. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Donovan, T. McAdam, W. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Dumpleton, C. W. McAllister, G. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Dye, S. McEntee, V. La T. Simmons, C. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mack, J. D. Skeffington, A. M.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Skinnard., F. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Smith, C. (Colchester)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Turner-Samuels, M. Williams, Rt. Hon T. (Don Valley)
Soskice, Sir Frank Ungoed-Thomas, L. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Sparks, J. A. Vernon, Maj. W. F. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Steele, T. Viant, S. P. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Stross, Dr. B. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Wise, Major F. J.
Stubbs, A. E. Warbey, W. N. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Sylvester, G. O. Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Woods, G. S.
Symonds, A. L. Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Wyatt, W.
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.) Yates, V. F.
Taylor, Dr S. (Barnet) White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Wilkins, W. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Mr. Snow and
Thurtle, Ernest Williams, D. J. (Neath) Mr. George Wallace.
Tolley, L. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Head, Brig. A. H. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A E. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hogg, Hon. Q. Pitman, I. J.
Birch, Nigel Howard, Hon. A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Boles, Lt.-Col D. C. (Wells) Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bowen, R. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Raikes, H. V.
Bower, N. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Keeling, E. H. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Kendall, W. D. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Kingsmill, Lt-Cal, W. H. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Butcher, H. W. Lambert, Hon. G. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Byers, Frank Lancaster, Col. C. G. Robinson, Roland
Carson, E. Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H. Ropner, Col. L.
Challen, C. Lipson, D. L. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Clarke, Col R. S. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Low, A. R. W. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col U. (Ludlow) Lucas, Major Sir J. Sanderson, Sir F.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Cuthbert, W. N. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
De la Bère, R. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Smithers, Sir W.
Digby, S. W. Maclay, Hon, J. S. Spearman, A. C. M.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Drewe, C. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Sutcliffe, H.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.) Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Duthie, W. S. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Touche, G. C.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Marlowe, A. A. H. Turton, R. H.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. Marsden, Capt. A. Vane, W. M. F.
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Wadsworth, G.
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Matson, A. H. E. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Williams, C. (Torquay)
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Nicholson, G. York, C.
Grimston, R. V. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Odey, G. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) O'Neill, Rt. Hon Sir H. Commander Agnew and
Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Mr. Studholme.
Haughton, S. G. Osborne, C.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Keeling

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 42, to leave out, "twenty-five hundred," and to insert "thousand."

The purpose of the Amendment is to increase the number of cars allowed in a borough constituency. The case for this Amendment is every bit as strong as that for the Amendments we have just discussed, which referred mainly to rural constituencies. The case for extra cars in an urban or a surburban constituency is at least as strong as in a county constituency, for this reason, that many cars are required by both parties in an urban constituency, not only for taking electors to the ordinary polling stations but also for taking them to a polling station in a district to which they have removed. That may be quite a long way from the polling station for which they are registered, and they may have no means of getting there unless they are provided with motor transport.

As the Home Secretary knows well from his experience of Kingston, the number of removals in urban or suburban constituencies is exceptionallly great. In my own constituency of Twickenham, in spite of the scarcity of houses, I am informed that not less than one house in 20 changes hands every year. Because of the delay in preparing the register, a very large number of the people who thus move may be a very long way from the polling stations for which they are registered. Under the Clause as drafted, for a town or suburb of 50,000 there are to be only 20 cars, which will be quite inadequate to take those people to the polling stations for which they appear on the register. The effect of the Clause will be to deprive a very considerable number of people of the ability to vote.

I hope the Home Secretary will not use, in his reply to this Amendment, the argument he used on the Amendments we have just discussed, namely, that the parties might club together to facilitate transport to a distant polling station. That is not how the provision of cars for removals is worked at all. As hon. Members know very well, this provision for removals can be worked only on a party basis. Only parties have records of who have moved and to where. The parties alone can organise cars. No pool is possible. I ask the Home Secretary to consider again whether this limit of one car for 2,500 electors in a borough constituency will not mean that a very large number of people will be unable to exercise their vote.

Mr. C. Williams

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so with the knowledge that, at any rate, the last reply of the Home Secretary has made my job very much easier. I do not know whether my constituency is to be reckoned a county or a borough constituency; until this Bill is through I shall not be quite sure where I am. The Home Secretary turned down anything that might help rural Divisions, and in doing so made out a case for the borough constituency with such completeness and thoroughness that I need only remind the House of it, and suggest that, if the Government follow their most logical and clear-headed member, they will be able to accept this Amendment. The Home Secretary indicated a few minutes ago that 1,500 was the real number, and that that had nothing to do with areas, but that what mattered was the proportion of cars to the electorate. So 2,500 must be completely and utterly wrong.

From that point of view alone of the Home Secretary's argument, we come to the conclusion that 2,500 is utterly wrong; and that if we have 1,000 here, it will be much nearer the ideal rightness of 1,500 than 2,500 would be. As an illustration, let me take a borough in a comparatively flat area, such as in the Thames Valley, or a hilly and scattered borough such as mine, which, because of the distances to be covered, becomes very nearly a county constituency, with Paignton and Brixham, some four or five miles away from the main centre. They present a much stronger argument for a lower percentage than the type of borough used by the Secretary of State for Scotland on the distance argument.

Most of my constituents are ordinary artisans, whose working day ends at five o'clock, and who have a comparatively short time in which to get home and go to the poll. I cannot conceive it to be right to have such a small number of motor cars as is laid down in the new Clause. A man working in the dockyard at Dartmouth may have to go to Paignton or Brixham to vote. Take the extremely difficult case of getting people to the poll in an area such as Plymouth, which does not seem to be represented in the Chamber at the moment. Most of the men there work in the dockyards; many of them are on ships, and it takes them a considerable time to get ashore. Plymouth is not like a town such as York, with country all the way round, but is on a peninsula. In Plymouth they have to go long distances to get home and then to go on to the polling station. I do not believe any hon. Member would want to see the good voters of Plymouth oppressed in this way just because there is no one here to put their case at the moment. I ask the Home Secretary also to bear in mind the Clydeside, an illustration which strongly emphasises the point I am putting. I ask him on this occasion, as on the last, to go on the basis of figures, and only figures, and to accept our Amendment.

Mr. Woodburn

The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) spoke so persuasively that he almost convinced us that there was a real case for this Amendment. However, I think he will agree, especially after listening to some of his hon. Friends on the last Amendment, that if that last Amendment was unjustified—and the House did reject it—there can be no possible justification for multiplying by two and a half times the number the cars to be used in borough constituencies. I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), one of whose arguments sounded as if it was a good one, namely, to bring in the people who had left the constituency.

Mr. Keeling

Not necessarily. I said that they might have to come from four or five miles away in the same borough.

Mr. Woodburn

The impression I gathered was that he wanted to bring in people who had left the qualifying address and gone to some other address. I would recall that under Clause 9 a person can apply for an absent voter's vote on the ground that the applicant no longer resides at the qualifying address. If the voter has moved, there is no need to send a car for him. I am sure the hon. Member will agree that that would be a waste of petrol when the voter could do the job quite easily by post.

Mr. Keeling

How long before has he to apply?

Mr. Woodburn

He will know very well where he is living.

Mr. Keeling

The point is that he may have moved.

Mr. Woodburn

The Clause is quite reasonable in that respect. Clearly it could not be done after a certain time; but most of those about whom the hon. Member is speaking will be covered by the Clause. Any exceptions can be dealt with in the ordinary way.

Mr. Keeling


Mr. Woodburn

There is another point; they still have a supply of cars under the new Clause. More than that, in most boroughs there is a far greater amount of passenger transport than in the county districts. One must have some sympathy for the case of the county district. A number of hon. Members pointed out that under this Clause the boroughs would be cluttered up with cars. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) actually mentioned that.

Mr. Turton

I thought I had made it quite clear that in my view the boroughs had a reasonable allotment of oars in some cases, but that, compared with the county districts, they had none at all. I instanced York, which I said I thought had a reasonable number of cars. I did not say that it was cluttered up.

Mr. Woodburn

The hon. Member has confirmed my impression that he thought that the boroughs—

Mr. Turton

Some of them.

Mr. Woodburn

—some boroughs were fairly dealt with compared with the county districts. To accept this Amendment would make the whole Clause nugatory. I am very sorry, but for the same reasons for which the Home Secretary rejected the Amendment about the county districts, I must ask the House to reject this Amendment about the boroughs.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)

I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would produce some facts to justify the computation of one car per 2,500 electorate. He referred to the availability of transport in boroughs. I feel sure that he cannot have considered such boroughs as the one I represent, where it is absolutely impossible, unless one has a certain number of cars, as the Labour Party themselves have found, to get the people conveyed to the polling station. My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) referred to his constituency as a very hilly district, and my constituency, which is a very large borough, is extremely hilly and many of the people cannot get to the polling stations unless a reasonable number of cars are provided.

On this basis we get boroughs split into wards, and all over the country we have this basis applied, an average of one car to one polling station in every borough. It is my experience, and the Labour Party will also know, that the average number of people one can convey to a polling station is 50 per day. It is no more. One has the difficulty of getting ill and infirm people out of the car and carrying them in, and other complications arise. Statistics which have been carefully taken show that on an average 150 people on either side have to be conveyed to the polling station. How shall we do it on the basis of one car to 150 people?

The suggestion about the boroughs as put forward is completely impracticable and the Government know it as well as we do. The Amendment provides a reasonable basis on which to operate the cars in order to get the people to the polling stations. On a previous occasion I complained bitterly of other snags put in the way of people casting their votes. As far as the borough polling stations are concerned, we shall be in a very serious position if the Government's proposal goes through. On an average we need three cars to a polling station and that is realised by the Government. Let the Government justify their figure, let them give us the reason, based on statistics, which has made this possible. I say without doubt that there is need to convey to every polling station throughout the country on an average for every borough, 150 people. On the basis put down here on an average under this new Bill, we are given only one car to do that. It is impossible. Therefore I say it is a deliberate attempt to see that certain people particularly the aged and the ill, are not in a position to cast a vote. I hope sincerely that this Amendment will be considered.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)

I think the hon. Member for North Croydon (Mr. F. Harris) must have overlooked in his reading of the Bill the fact that those people who are physically incapable of getting to the polling booth need not make the journey. Provision is now made that those people can apply for the postal vote and even those who have moved away can apply for it within three weeks of the voting taking place.

Mr. F. Harris

Does not the hon. Member appreciate that it is impracticable?

Mr. G. Thomas

I believe that the talk we have heard from the other side is quite fantastic. I estimate that in a ward of 12,000 in a county borough constituency where there are two candidates and there is a car for each candidate, 24 cars running round the ward for a day's voting is ridiculous. We are not expecting an epidemic in a ward so that everybody will be incapable of getting to the booth. In the county boroughs we have our transport services. This appears to me to be a last urgent appeal from those who are anxious to have the privilege of the extra car, and not anxiety that people should get to the polling booth. In a county borough or in a borough constituency one car per 1,000 is ample, as we have proved and, indeed, as I proved at the last election.

Mr. Peake

I entirely agree that one car per 1,000 electors is a reasonable allo- cation, and that is in fact exactly what we are asking for.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and allowing me to correct what I have just said. Obviously, all my argument was for the one car to 2,500 voters, not 1,000.

Mr. Peake

The Home Secretary under this Bill is creating 16 constituencies in boroughs with only 40,000 electors approximately apiece. According to his projected allocation of motor cars under this Clause the allowance to a candidate for such a borough constituency will be 16. We say that is fantastically low. It is quite ridiculous, and for that reason we shall vote in favour of the Amendment.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)

I support what has been, said by the hon. Member for North Croydon (Mr. F. Harris). It so happens that my constituency, being not far from his, had a certain amount to do with his car and transport arrangement in that by-election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ha, ha."] Yes, hon. Members say, "Ha, ha," but who won the by-election? [HON. MEMBERS: "Cars."] I am much obliged to hon. Members opposite for the cheer on our great success. However, the point is a more serious one. What the hon. Member said was that, by and large, he had worked out that a car could take about 50 people a day, and that tallies to a large extent with my own experience in the General Election. I had some experience in transportation during the war, and it is a fact that those numbers do not vary greatly. It is also my opinion that the number of people who need conveying to a poll is greater than 50. I believe the figure would be around that of 150 which has been suggested.

The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) said that these people can fill up forms and apply to register as absent voters, but it is my experience—practical as opposed to theoretical experience—that people do not do that. It would be very nice in a much better world if people filled up forms long before an election and made their arrangements with great planning for the future; but, like the Government, they do not plan for the future—they leave it too late. I suggest most strongly that in effect, as far as the boroughs are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is disenfranchising on an average about 100 people for every car he removes. Whatever hon. Members may shout, and even though they may say that we have more cars than they have, that will be the effect of a refusal of this

Amendment. For that reason I support it.

Question put, "That 'twenty-five hundred' stand part of the proposed Clause."

The House divided: Ayes, 276; Noes, 108.

Division No. 221.] AYES. [9.51 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McAdam, W.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) McAllister, G.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) McEntee, V. La T.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Mack, J. D.
Alpass, J. H. Evans, John (Ogmore) McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Attewell, H. C. Ewart, R. Maclean, N. (Govan)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Fairhurst, F. McLeavy, F.
Austin, H. Lewis Farthing, W. J. Macpherson, T. (Rumford)
Awbery, S. S. Fernyhough, E. Mainwaring, W. H.
Ayles, W. H. Field, Capt. W. J. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Bacon, Miss A. Follick, M. Mann, Mrs. J.
Baird, J. Foot, M. M. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Balfour, A. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Marquand, H. A.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Freeman, J. (Watford) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Barstow, P. G. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mellish, R. J.
Barton, C. Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Messer, F.
Battley, J. R. Gibbins, J. Middleton, Mrs. L.
Bechervaise, A. E. Gibson, C. W. Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mitchison, G. R.
Benson, G. Goodrich, H. E. Monslow, W.
Berry, H. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Moody, A. S.
Beswick, F. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Bing, G. H. C. Grenfell, D. R. Morley, R.
Binns, J. Grey, C. F. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Blackburn, A. R. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Blyton, W. R. Griffiths, Rt. Hon J. (Llanelly) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W. Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Mort, D. L.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Gunter, R. J. Moyle, A.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Guy, W. H. Murray, J. D.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hale, Leslie Nally, W.
Bramall, E. A. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Naylor, T. E.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Neal, H. (Claycross)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hardy, E. A. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hastings, Dr. Somerville Noel-Baker, Capt F. E. (Brentford)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Haworth, J. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Noel-Buxton, Lady
Burden, T. W. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Oldfield, W. H.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Herbison, Miss M. Oliver, G. H.
Callaghan, James Hewitson, Capt. M. Orbach, M.
Carmichael, James Hobson, C. R. Paget, R. T.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Holman, P. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Chamberlain, R. A. House, G. Palmer, A. M. F.
Champion, A. J. Hoy, J. Pargiter, G. A.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Parkin, B. T.
Cluse, W. S. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Cobb, F. A. Hughes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.) Paton, J. (Norwich)
Coldrick, W. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Pearson, A.
Collindridge, F. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Peart, T. F.
Collins, V. J. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Perrins, W.
Colman, Miss G. M. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)
Comyns, Dr. L. Jenkins, R. H. Popplewell, E.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Corbel, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Cove, W. G. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Price, M. Philips
Crawley, A. Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Pritt, D. N.
Daines, P. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Proctor, W. T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Keenan, W. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Kenyon, C. Randall, H. E.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) King, E. M. Ranger, J.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Kinley, J. Reeves, J.
Deer, G. Lang, G. Reid, T. (Swindon)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lee, F. (Hulme) Rhodes, H.
Delargy, H. J. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Richards, R.
Diamond, J. Leslie, J. R. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Dobbie, W. Levy, B. W. Robens, A.
Dodds, N. N. Lindgren, G. S. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Donovan, T. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Rogers, G. H. R.
Dumpleton, C. W. Longden, F. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Dye, S. Lyne, A. W. Royle, C.
Sargood, R. Symonds, A. L. White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Scollan, T. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Segal, Dr. S. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Sharp, Granville Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Thomas, George (Cardiff) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Silkin Rt. Hon. L. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Silverman, J. (Erdington) Thurtle, Ernest Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Tolley, L. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Simmons, C. J. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Skeffington, A. M. Turner-Samuels, M. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Skinnard, F. W. Ungoed-Thomas, L. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Smith, C. (Colchester) Vernon, Maj. W. F. Wise, Major F. J.
Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Viant, S. P. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Walkden, E. Woods, G. S.
Soskice, Sir Frank Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Wyatt, W.
Sparks, J. A. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Yates, V. F.
Steele, T. Warbey, W. N. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Stross, Dr. B. Watkins, T. E. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Stubbs, A. E. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Sylvester, G. O. Wells, W. T. (Walsall) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Snow and Mr. Wilkins
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Osborne, C.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.) Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A. E. Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Haughton, S. G. Pitman, I. J.
Birch, Nigel Head, Brig. A. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bowen, R. Hogg, Hon. Q. Raikes, H. V.
Bower, N. Howard, Hon. A. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Butcher, H. W. Keeling, E. H. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Byers, Frank Kendall, W. D. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Carson, E. Kingsmill, Lt-Col. W. H. Robinson, Roland
Challen, C. Lambert, Hon. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Sanderson, Sir F.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Low, A. R. W. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lucas, Major Sir J. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Cuthbert, W. N. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Darling, Sir W. Y. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon M. S. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Smithers, Sir W.
De la Bère, R. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Spearman, A. C. M.
Digby, S. W. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Sutcliffe, H.
Drewe, C. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lord.) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Touche, G. C.
Duthie, W. S. Marlowe, A. A. H. Turton, R. H.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Marshall, S. H. (Sullen) Vane, W. M. F.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. Nelson, A. H. E. Wadsworth, G.
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Nicholson, G. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. York, C.
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Odey, G. W.
Grimston, R. V. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Mr. Studholme and
Major Conant.

Question put, and agreed to.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Peake

I beg to move, in line 43, to leave cut paragraph (c).

This paragraph which the Amendment seeks to delete is the one which compels the inclusion of a notional figure of £2 for every motor car employed under the Clause in the candidates' return of election expenses. I mentioned this matter when we were discussing the Motion, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I ventured to point out that there was no justification for a provision of this kind in the Clause. By his Clause, the Home Secretary severely limits for the future the number of motor cars which may be employed in an organised manner. Over and beyond that he goes on to provide that in respect of the 30, 40 or 50 cars which may be permitted to be employed there shall be included in the candidate's return of election expenses a figure of £60, £80 or £100 as the case may be.

I pointed out that on 28th April last the chief agents of three great political parties met and agreed upon what was for the future a reasonable maximum of election expenses in the light of the increase in the cost of labour and materials since the report of the Speaker's Conference, which was unanimous on this matter. The three chief agents reported to the Government as to what the future scale was to be, and that scale is embodied in Amendments which now stand upon the Order Paper in the name of the Home Secretary. It is hopelessly unjustifiable now to try to cut down that agreed maximum by compelling the inclusion in the return of a purely notional figure.

No one is allowed to pay one penny for the hire of a motor car for election purposes, and the only result of including this notional figure in the election return must be to curtail the amount of money which a candidate can spend in other ways to put his views before the electors. In view of the fact that only two months ago the chief agents of the three parties came to a unanimous agreement upon what the maximum scale was to be for the future, I see no justification for the Government now coming forward and arbitrarily curtailing that agreed maximum.

Mr. Ede

I do not accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman that because the four party agents reached this agreement—the National Liberals were included in these conversations but the right hon. Gentleman may not include them among the great political parties—and because they agreed on certain figures, that would prevent the House from imposing limitations on election expenses in the way proposed. I had at one time thought that perhaps it might be an acceptable alternative to the party opposite if, instead of limiting the number of cars as we proposed in the earlier part of the Clause, we had said: "Have as many cars as you like provided that you include this notional figure of £2 for every car which you use." I think that the numbers we have inserted in the Clause are such that undue use of motor cars cannot take place and the disparity of which we have formerly complained will have disappeared. In those circumstances, I shall be justified in accepting the Amendment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I quite agree with the Home Secretary when he says that the fact that the four chief agents have agreed a figure is no reason to prevent this House, if it thinks fit, from altering that figure. That undoubtedly is sound constitutional doctrine, but surely the fact that those four gentlemen on behalf of their four parties have agreed a figure is strong argument against altering it unless some very good cause is shown for so doing. We have not had the slightest good cause shown for what amounts in some constituencies to a reduction of between £40 and £50 on an agreed figure. It is true we have had so many variations of agreements during the course of this Bill that, I suppose, one is becoming fastidious if one resents even one more, but we have had no argument put forward for the inclusion of this additional £2. Not only that, but we have had the £2 included although—

Hon. Members

The Amendment has been accepted.

Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)

It is not in the Bill.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Lady says it is not in the Bill. I hope that her knowledge of Parliamentary Procedure will permit her to realise that even now we have not reached the stage where a Minister's ipse dixit automatically becomes law. It was quite wrong to include this figure, and I am asking why, in the face of the agreement to which my right hon. Friend has referred, those figures, which are quite clearly in violation of the agreement, were put into the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Proposed Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.