§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
This Bill has had a very thorough consideration by the House, and it will, when enacted, effect many changes in the electoral system of the country. In the first place, it restores to the country the compilation of a register by canvass, but differing from the prewar compilation of a register by that means. It is not based on a qualifying period, but on the provision that a person shall be qualified in respect of his residence in a particular place on a qualifying date. There will be two registers a year instead of one, and the right to be registered will be extended by the Bill to Crown servants abroad and their wives residing abroad, and, in addition, to the troops or other members of the Forces residing abroad and to the wives of members who are so residing in order to be with their husbands. The last-mentioned provision has been advocated for some time in this House by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), and I was very glad, during the later stages of the Bill's progress, between Commitee and Report, to be able to make this concession, which I know will give great satisfaction to a number of people, and particularly, to the wives of Service men who have gone abroad to be with their husbands.
The Bill enacts that for the future the qualification shall be residence, and that only the residential qualification will be recognised. It abolishes plural voting, and ensures that both in Parliamentary and local government elections, there will be one vote only in respect of each person—one vote only, nationally, in Parliamentary elections, and one vote only for each local government unit in the country. That is to say, a person will be able to vote only once in respect of any county, borough, district or parish election. There is a considerable extension of the provision by which postal voting can take place. This will enable a great many people, who 1368 in the past from one cause or another have been debarred from participating in elections, to take part in such elections. One of the provisions in the Bill which excited some comment during its passage through Committee is a new provision by which in the event of a tie at the count, the decision is to be made by lot and not by the casting vote of the returning officer. At the same time, this has enabled us to ensure that the returning officer shall have the first vote if he is an elector in the constituency.
When we come to the provisions dealing with local government, one register will be provided in future as it has been during recent years. As a general rule, by Clause 24 the same polling facilities will be available for local government elections as for Parliamentary elections. In the past there has sometimes been confusion because the polling arrangements for these two types of elections have not been the same, and persons accustomed to going to one place for one type of election have sometimes been inconvenienced when they have found that they have had to poll elsewhere for the other type of election. Postal Voting is introduced for the first time at local government elections other than rural and parish council elections. For county borough and urban elections the postal voting facilities will be available on the same scale as for Parliamentary elections.
In Part III of the Bill a new provision is made with regard to the scale of election expenses at Parliamentary elections. The Speaker's Conference recommended that it should be £450 plus 1½d. for each elector in a county constituency, or 1d. for each elector in a borough. During the Committee stage the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) asked whether the increase in the cost of the labour and materials likely to be employed at an election might not make those figures which had been put forward in 1944, out of date. I was reluctant to consider an increase in the cost of elections, but the agents of the four political parties—the Conservative, Liberal National, Liberal and Labour parties—met, and as a result of their joint and unanimous recommendation it was decided to make the figure 2d. for each elector in a county and 1½d. for each elector in a borough.
The question of agency in local government elections has also received attention in the Bill. In future a candidate at a local government election, except a parish election, will be required 1369 either to appoint an election agent or himself to assume the responsibilities of an election agent. A limit to the expenses of local government elections is also imposed by the Bill. Hitherto in local government elections, only county council elections and borough council elections outside London have been conducted under a requirement that there shall be a limit on the candidate's expenses and a return made after the election has been decided. This Bill extends that requirement to all local government elections and imposes the limit that now exists for county council and borough council elections of £25 plus 2d. for each elector above the first 500.
I recall being told as long ago as 1911 by an opponent of mine that an urban council election in those days had cost him £70; under this proposal his expenses would have been limited to £40 16s. 8d. with an electorate of 2,400 persons. It is high time that in some of these elections a limit was imposed. Further limitations are imposed on expenditure by unauthorised persons, but in other respects, some restrictions on expenditure which have become archaic have been repealed, and the payment of speakers at election meetings will be permitted, but any such payment will have to be shown under a separate heading in the return of election expenses.
We make it the duty of the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute for election offences, and this is extended so as to require him to inquire and if necessary to prosecute wherever information is given to him that a corrupt or illegal practice has occurred at an election. The county courts are given the same jurisdiction as the High Court in respect of applications for relief relating to minor errors or omissions in connection with the payment or return of election expenses, in respect of injunctions restraining false statements as to the character or conduct of a candidate, and in respect of the inspection of ballot papers and counterfoils in connection with legal proceedings. This will enable some of these questions to be decided more quickly and economically than in the past when, for quite trivial reliefs, application has had to be made to the High Court with, on occasion, quite unnecessary expense.
Part IV of the Bill deals with matters again relating to local government, and 1370 arranges for all regular local government elections to be conducted in the Spring of the year. This is a reform which has long been asked for, particularly by borough councils, and will, I hope, enable both electioneering and voting to take place in more congenial circumstances than has sometimes been the case in the late Autumn. The London County Council constituencies will remain the Parliamentary Divisions for London, but in view of the decrease in the number of constituencies the number of councillors to be elected for each constituency has been increased from two to three.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the suggestion which was put forward the other day by, I think, the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Howard) that in view of the fact that the Cities of London and Westminster between them contribute more than half the rates of London, they should have a larger representation than three members on the London County Council?
§ Mr. Ede
Representation is not based on ratepaying capacity. I do not think it would be possible to alter representation on that basis either in London or elsewhere.
It will be possible in county and borough elections in future to require the poll to be kept open until nine o'clock in the evening. The time for delivery of nomination papers of Parliamentary elections has been extended to cover a period of several days. This was discussed very fully both on Committee and Report, and I think the conclusion we reached was that this would be for the convenience both of candidates' agents and others concerned with the election. The hours of poll at a Parliamentary election will, in future, be from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening in all cases. It will not be necessary in future, when this Bill becomes operative, for a demand to be made that the poll should be extended either before eight in the morning or after eight in the evening.
One fundamental reform which has been made is the new form of ballot paper. In future there will be no margins. The whole of the ballot paper will be divided in proportion to the number of candidates, equally between them; that is 1371 to say, if there are four candidates, each will occupy a quarter. There will be no margin either at the top or at the bottom and so it will be far easier to see, in the case of doubtful votes, exactly for which candidate the voter intended to cast his vote. Anyone who has watched a count will realise the wisdom of seeing that as little doubt as possible should exist on that score.
An official poll card will be issued which will give information as to the place and time of the poll. It will not include the candidates' names. It is quite clear that no official poll card could be issued in the form in which poll cards have generally been issued in the past, indicating the way in which the persons issuing the poll card desired the voter to cast his franchise. Therefore, a leaflet showing the way in which the issuer of the leaflet would desire the voter to exercise his franchise will not be a copy of the official poll card. I think that will enable the matter to be arranged with the maximum of convenience, from the point of view of both the candidate and the returning officer.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Does that prohibit the various party organisations from issuing their own polling cards?
§ Mr. Ede
They may not issue a duplicate of the poll card, that is to say, the document on which are set out the few particulars which I have mentioned, but the requirement was amended in Committee so as to ensure that if a candidate or his agent likes to issue a leaflet saying, "If you desire to vote Conservative, Labour or Liberal, as the case may be, please mark your ballot paper thus," that will not be illegal. As the Bill was originally drafted it probably would have been illegal, and it was thought desirable, in order to remove all doubt, that a leaflet such as that should not in any way be something which could be confused with the official poll card.
I have dealt with matters which I think we may assume are, on the whole, non-controversial. They represent a substantial improvement in the convenience with which elections can be conducted and they also ensure a greater possibility of persons being able to record their votes. We have enacted, for instance, that in rural areas, where in the past polling facilities 1372 have sometimes been very inadequate and voters have been put to considerable inconvenience, every parish shall, except in the special circumstances to be provided by the Secretary of State, be either one polling district or more than one polling district. We desire to see that the rural voter shall get, as far as can be secured—
§ Mr. Ede
I will come to that in a few moments. We desire to see that he should have adequate opportunities for recording his vote in reasonable comfort.
There are four controversial points points which occupied a very considerable part of the time of the Committee and of the House on the Report stage. They are the question of the university seats, the future representation of the City of London, the disparity between the size of borough and county seats in England, and the use of motor cars. These four matters are probably more certainly contro versial than some of the other matters which I have mentioned are non-controversial.
§ Mr. Keeling
Would it not be more correct to describe the third point not as the disparity between borough and county seats, but as the difference between the seats which the Labour Party think they have a chance of winning and those they think they have not a chance of winning?
§ Mr. Ede
No, Sir. I should not have thought so, because it does not happen to be accurate. I should have thought such a remark would far better have been made in a speech than in an interruption to my speech, which I am trying to keep, at any rate up to this stage, as factual as I can.
The main contention about this Bill has been about the extent to which this House of Commons is governed by incidents which happen during the existence of the previous House of Commons. It has been contended by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this House of Commons is bound in these matters by decisions which were taken during the lifetime of the last House of Commons. We do not accept that suggestion at all. It would mean that when this Parliament was elected, in these matters its 1373 actions had been predetermined by its predecessor, that Members of the previous House had reached certain decisions on matters some of which have been controversial for several generations and that that precluded this House from dealing with them. We believe that this House of Commons is perfectly entitled to deal with these matters of its own volition, and we do not accept the idea that there was any bargain or other arrangement made in the last House which precludes us in this House from dealing with these matters along the lines which this House deems best in all the circumstances.
In the case of the university seats we hold the view, which is embodied in the Bill, that the proper basis for being registered is residence in a particular constituency, and that a person has no right to be registered in respect of some qualification which does not identify him with that territorial constituency but has regard to some other circumstance peculiar to himself. The hon. Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) the other night gave us a very entertaining, historical account of the way in which the university seats were saved in 1884. He suggested that this was due to a private interview between the then Marchioness of Salisbury and the late Mr. Gladstone, and that the effects of the blandishments of the Marchioness on the Grand Old Man were such that he abandoned his scheme for abolishing the university representation. I find that in the recollections of the first Earl of Midleton, better known in this House as Mr. St. John Brodrick, he says this was a bargain made between the Conservative and Liberal Parties by which the issue of the over-representation of Southern Ireland would not be raised, if the Conservatives were allowed to keep the nine university seats which then existed.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consult the best authority on the subject, that is, the "Life of the Marquis of Salisbury" by his daughter Lady Gwendolen Cecil?
§ Mr. Ede
I wanted only to bring to the notice of the hon. Gentleman that there is more than one way of accounting for what happened in regard to the university seats in 1884. The university seats have 1374 been a matter of controversy, I think, at every redistribution of seats since 1867. I have given the reasons which we have for saying that the time has come when this particular form of representation should be ended. We do not regard ourselves as precluded from doing it by anything that happened in the previous Parliament.
Now I come to the question of the City of London. There again, it is impossible in these days for anyone to defend the giving of separate representation to the City of London with 4,600 electors at a time when the average size of the electorate in England is well over 50,000. I do not deny the fact that in the past the City of London has sent distinguished Members to this House. Since 1906 it has been used far too often as a refuge for a Conservative candidate who has been rejected by one of the more popular constituencies. But if we proceed on the basis that in the past it has returned great and historic figures to the House, then we say that that is true of a large number of other boroughs and places which, in the course of years, have had to be amalgamated with other areas in order to ensure something like reasonable equality in the representation of the people.
We had a discussion on Report on the use of motor cars. This Bill provides—in Clause 33 now—for a severe limitation on the number of motor cars that may be used in support of a particular candidate at an election. But I gather from the remarks that were made by several hon. Members opposite that this really will not lead to any reduction in the number of cars, for I understand from what they said that most of their motors are engaged on polling day in bringing voters to the poll irrespective of the person for whom they are going to vote. Indeed, during one or two of the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite I came to the conclusion that Conservative candidates would have a very severe shock if they found that anyone they had taken to the poll had actually voted Conservative when he or she got inside the polling booth.
This Bill does not prevent arrangements being made by which, if cars are placed at the disposal of voters irrespective of party allegiances, they may be used to convey voters to the poll; but it does impose a very severe limitation on those which are used to further the candidature 1375 of a particular candidate. Judging by what we heard on the Report stage, I should not, therefore, think that this will lead to any great loss of convenience to the electors. It has to be borne in mind that, by the provision we have made for additional polling places in the rural areas, and by making the arrangements that we have by which local authorities and 30 electors can complain if the polling facilities are not adequate, the need for conveyance to the poll should be very considerably reduced. In addition to that, the need for taking sick and infirm people to the poll in future will have entirely disappeared, because they will all be able to vote under the postal voting facilities.
It was said by one hon. Member that this was the first time that any restrictions had been placed on the use of vehicles taking people to the poll, but I find, quoting from the same book to which I referred just now, that in the 1880 election in West Surrey the chief expenses of the Conservative Partywere due to our agents having, according to the custom of the day, engaged every conveyance in the Division for the day of the poll in order to ensure our voters reaching the limited number of polling places and the creation of a corresponding difficulty for our opponents.The comment made by the Conservative candidate involved was this:These and similar manoeuvres were properly frustrated by Sir Henry James's Corrupt Practices Bill in 1884.
§ Mr. Ede
So this is not the first time that steps have had to be taken to ensure that the use of vehicles in an election shall be so controlled as to give reasonable facilities, and not more than reasonable facilities, to any one party using them as an organisation in support of the candidate.
I come to the fourth of the points which I suggested were controversial. When the Boundary Commissioners submitted their report they obviously had misgivings about the size of some of the constituencies that they recommended. They had provided in England for eight constituencies each having a total electorate of more than 80,000. They submitted to me, about the time that they sent their 1376 report, entirely unsolicited and without my having approached them either directly or indirectly in the matter, schemes for the division of those eight constituencies into two separate constituencies each, if that was thought desirable. I suggest that this House is the proper body to determine what should be the maximum size of a constituency. After all, Members of Parliament and not Boundary Commissioners have the task of serving the electors when the constituencies have been constructed. I think that the House has quite rightly come to the conclusion that the oversight of more than 80,000 electors is too much to impose on any Member of Parliament as his duty whilst sitting in this House. We therefore recommended to the House that those eight constituencies should be divided.
I notice that the Opposition, in the Amendment to the Third Reading suggest that in this and the other matters in which we have departed from the Boundary Commissioner's Report, we have been actuated by a desire to serve the interests of one particular party. I only wish that they could convince some of my hon. Friends who have been to see me about this matter that that was the case. A number of them almost suggested that this was a conspiracy on my part to remove some of them from the House. At the time that the matter was debated, I gave the basis on which the House was recommended to reach that decision. We took whole great areas which could be subdivided without taking the constituencies outside the limits of tolerance observed in the report, and without creating any new difficulties with regard to local government boundaries.
The House approved the proposal that we placed before them in Committee. As a result of representations that were made by some of the localities, the wards assigned to various constituencies under the new scheme were amended in the same way as some of the original proposals of the Boundary Commissioners were amended when they held their local inquiries and, in other ways, consulted local opinion. We feel that we have done something to get a little nearer to the plea of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when we had the Debate on Second Reading. We have got a little nearer to "one vote, one value" in those constituencies, and it is desirable that that should be the case.
1377 On the introduction of the Bill, the disparity in England between the borough and county divisions was no fewer than 6,082 votes on the average. By the action that we have taken, that disparity is reduced to 2,700.
§ Mr. Ede
The Government are not inclined to apologise, and they have no intention of apologising, for the action that they have taken. They believe that what they have done has made the representation of the people in the next Parliament more accurate than would otherwise have been the case.
In conclusion, I want to say this. We are assured—we were assured the other night by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden)—that when the party opposite get the opportunity they propose to restore the university franchise and the university seats. We were assured several times that they will take steps to restore the City of London as a separate and new constituency, irrespective of the number of electors that it may contain. I can only say this afternoon, as I said the other night, that that is a proclamation that the Conservative Party still stands for the retention of every privilege, no matter how archaic it may be, so long as it suits their ends. They have given the country timely warning that that remains their principle in application to this Measure. They throw such a challenge down, and they can rest assured we shall unhesitatingly and with the utmost pleasure accept it.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add:this House, while recognising the necessity for an equitable scheme of redistribution, declines to give a Third Reading to a Bill which repudiates agreed recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference, 1944, and disregards for the purpose of Party advantage the findings of the Boundary Commission, thereby bringing discredit on Ministers of the Crown and lowering the traditional standards of our public life.1378 I rise to move the rejection of this Bill by a reasoned Amendment. Whatever may be thought of the harangue or oration to which we have just listened, no one will suggest that it was calculated to raise either the level or the temperature of our Debate. We have heard several speeches of this kind from the right hon. Gentleman, the greater part of which consists in reading out long extracts from the non-controversial passages of the Bill, which is already fully before us, with a few party gibes thrown in to ingratiate him self with his supporters. I shall not myself attempt this afternoon to inject undue heat into the discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on."] How do you mean, get on? I have only just begun. I propose on the Third Reading to make a calm, general survey in order to present the episode in which we are now concerned to the House in its plain and simple light.
In our Parliamentary system, to which the Socialist Party pay frequent lip-service, and from which they have derived their power to rule the State, it is necessary from time to time to have a 'redistribution of the constituencies in accordance with the movements of population. This is particularly true after the disturbances of great wars. We, therefore, in the National Coalition Government, took the appropriate measures, by mutual agreement between the parties concerned, and by agreement between the individual Ministers concerned. The basis on which we acted was broad and plain; it was ordinary British fair play as between parties; and we thought that this should be achieved and ensured by a Speaker's Conference and an impartial Boundary Commission. Accordingly, all the proper steps were taken; each side gave up some of its party claims and interests, and a definite agreement was reached between parties and Ministers, involving, I say, the personal good faith of those directly concerned. We had a great majority—150 over all parties—in that Parliament, but we accepted the broad agreement.
No one knew then how the impending General Election would go. No one knew then what would be the report and plan of the Boundary Commission when they had examined the whole matter according to the principles laid down. We could not have had anything more simple or more straightforward than the plan that was made by the National Coalition 1379 Government for bringing our electoral system up to date in view of the many changes that had occurred. However, as hon. Members are well aware, the Socialists won the election by a great majority, and our colleagues in the War Cabinet—including particularly the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council, then Home Secretary, who were bound by the previous agreement—decided eventually to break that agreement and see if they could get some additional party advantage to themselves, although this did not become immediately apparent. The Home Secretary now claims that nothing that happens in one Parliament should affect or bind the decisions of another. But in those circumstances, when it was a National Coalition Government, those arguments are even less effective than they would be in other circumstances. I contend that both persons and parties were bound by what was then decided.
But the matter does not rest there. It does not rest at all in the atmosphere of the last Parliament. When the assent of the new Parliament was required for the preliminaries of electoral reform, and so forth, for which there had to be temporary legislation, the Socialist Ministers concerned all spoke of the matter as one that had been settled by agreement between parties, and as if all that remained was to carry out the agreement. A great many quotations have been flung from one side of the House to the other in the course of these Debates, but let me give these, which I do not think have been quoted before. For example, on the Second Reading of the Elections and Jurors Act, 1945, the present Home Secretary said on 21st November, 1945:… as soon as we get the report of the Committee, whose names I hope to be able to announce in the course of the next three or four days, we shall be able to proceed with a permanent Measure of legislation which will bring us back, I hope, to the compilation of the register by canvass, publication, claim and objection, and"—these are the words to which I wish to draw the attention of the House—will enable us to implement the remaining recommendations of the Speaker's Conference.Could anything be more clear than that the Speaker's Conference decisions were carried forward by the Government, after its victory, armed with its great majority, 1380 from the last Parliament to this? Again, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—who distinguished himself in this Bill almost as much as his chief—said, when winding up:But, as has already been stated, this is a temporary Measure"—that is the Elections and Jurors Act—and, as far as I can see, when the present Government introduce legislation implementing all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference that are found practicable"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I suppose by "practicable" he meant "All that we can get our people to vote for"; but it was not understood in that way by the House at the time—there is no likelihood of any opposition in the House whatever. Members from all parts of the House have been pleading with the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon to implement the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November. 1945; Vol. 416, c. 503.]That was how the matter was opened to the House in November, 1945, after the General Election. Clearly, when the Government spokesman said there was no likelihood of any opposition in the House, he cannot have been contemplating the abolition of the university seats, or even of the business premises vote. The one minor qualification he made referred to people being registered for only one residence and one business qualification. Taken together, these quotations which I have read, which have escaped the searching examination of these Debates, make it perfectly clear that the Government felt themselves bound after the General Election—I emphasise, after the General Election—to implement the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference; and further, that after the General Election it was in their minds to retain university representation.
After some months it appeared that the report of the Boundary Commissioners, on what they thought was a fair redistribution, might cost the Socialist Party as much as 35 seats of its enormous majority, already so disproportionate to the votes cast by the electors. For a Socialist majority to carry a Bill conceived on democratic principles for the representation of the people, which might cost them 35 seats, was more than their virtue could stand. They wanted to be fair; they wanted to keep their agreements; they wanted to submit to the decision of the impartial umpires; they 1381 wanted to respect the Speaker's Conference and maintain Parliamentary redistribution upon a higher plane than the mere decision of majorities in the House of Commons; but the loss of these 35 seats was driving them too far.
The Socialists had about 20 seats in London which returned some of their leading Ministers, including the Prime Minister, which seats averaged only about 20,000 electors. These obviously must be liquidated by any redistribution Bill. They are, indeed, a good example of the unequal and unrepresentative character of the majority which gained the election of 1945. Obviously, these seats were going to be lost to the party opposite anyhow. Although the principles on which the Boundary Commission operated over the whole country sometimes hit one party and sometimes another, these very small London boroughs certainly represented a dead loss to the Socialists. Also, the reports of the Boundary Commission did not give them any compensation for this, because they were also found to be over represented in other parts of the United Kingdom as well.
We must admit it was an awkward situation for well-meaning men to find themselves in. They wished to do what was straightforward and fair, and in accordance with what had been agreed upon between both parties and also personally agreed upon between the Ministers in the Coalition Government and between me and the present Prime Minister as leaders of the two parties. They had the natural British instincts of good faith and fair play. If it had been a matter of a half a dozen seats the Lord President of the Council might have taken it, but 35, however equitably and fairly awarded, was too much for his political fibre to bear. In these matters the right hon. Gentleman is like those road vehicles which have a label on their back, "Load not to exceed five tons." We quite understand his attitude; those who know him best and his intense interest in party electioneering understand it best. As Oscar Wilde said, "Ican resist anything except temptation."
And so, with great reluctance, long hesitations and with a natural repugnance, it was decided to cheat. I am sorry to have to use that word, but it is the only one which fits exactly the process which 1382 we have witnessed in the last few months. I must admit that the fall from grace was accomplished by gradations. At the Speaker's Conference it had been agreed that the university representation and that of the City of London should be maintained. Here were 13 seats held, as it happened, by Conservative, Liberal or Independent Members. The Labour Party had not got one of them—I wish to do full justice to their difficulty. The Secretary of State for Scotland—I do not think he is in his place today—I dare say precautions have been taken to keep him out of the Debate—was very frank about this. As none of the universities had returned any Labour Members but only Conservatives, Liberals or Independents, they had, in his opinion, shown themselves unfitted to exercise the franchise and therefore should be deprived of it. Let me quote his actual words. In a really remarkable intervention in a speech I was making on 16th February, he said:As one of the members of that Conference, I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman has made several statements about a bargain. One of the reasons why the university vote was retained was because it was returning to this House distinguished persons of a non-political character But, since the Election, the Conservatives have broken that agreement by using the university vote to send back to this House Conservatives whom, at the General Election, the electors rejected at the polls."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 865.]Clearly this quotation shows that the Secretary of State for Scotland admitted that the bargain continued after 1945. How otherwise could the bargain be broken by the Conservatives 18 months after the election? How do the Conservatives break a bargain when universities or other constituencies choose to return the people for whom the great majority wish to vote? The proposition advanced by the Secretary of State for Scotland is, of course, absurd. If, as is probable, he had particularly in mind the result of the by-election in the Scottish Universities when my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for those universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) was returned—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"] Well, he is a Scotsman, and they often think of their native land. There is nothing wrong in that. I wish there was more of it. His proposition is absurd, because if he had in mind this Scottish business, his complaint appears 1383 to be that my right hon. and gallant Friend was a Conservative.
But there were five candidates at this election—a Conservative, Socialist, Liberal, Liberal National and Independent—and all except the Independent were party men, and, with the exception of my right hon. and gallant Friend, all lost their deposits. The Socialist candidate was Dr. Joad—[An HON. MEMBER: "He lost his ticket."]—an avowed adherent of the Socialist Party. If the objection is to party men, it would have been equally wrong for the university electorate to have returned Dr. Joad. Therefore, the only candidate for whom they could have voted was the Independent. Such was the perverted logic of the Secretary of State for Scotland, but it constitutes a clear admission that 18 months after the General Election his opinion was that there still had been an electoral bargain, and that the university franchise stood; if it had not been upset by the fact that the Scottish universities quite freely chose to return by an overwhelming majority a gentleman who supported the Conservative Party.
So it was decided, because they returned a Conservative Member, to abolish the university representation, and one of the City seats has also been wiped out. That was 13 out of the 35, and it may well be that the Ministers whose honour and good faith is specially concerned in this matter wished to stand on these 13. But the party opposite could not rise to their level. They could not see how a Redistribution Bill which still left them with a loss of 20 seats according to the basis of population and the principles applied by the Boundary Commission, could possibly be considered democratic.
It is my belief, from what I gathered in the earlier stages of this discussion, that the Home Secretary was genuinely shocked at the suggestion of making alterations in the ordinary constituencies of the country contrary to the recommendations of the Boundary Commission, and that he resisted these proposals in his own characteristic way—that is to say he resisted them on conscientious grounds until the party feeling got too hot. Then of course he had to bow to the storm. What is an honourable Socialist to do when asked to do a dishonourable thing? 1384 It is a dilemma and an extremely difficult problem. Obviously he must resist it as long as he can, but the party feels that there must be reason and a sense of proportion in all these matters. A Socialist Minister cannot push these questions of good faith, fair dealing and settled agreement beyond a certain point. If there is enough pressure below the Gangway, the Minister must give way. Are they not all pledged to toe the party line?
We saw the same process with the Home Secretary over the death penalty. We shall come to that later in this Session. I am sorry for the Home Secretary, because I still believe he feels his various humiliations acutely. It would be to his credit if he did, and my sincere advice to the right hon. Gentleman would be to retire from an office for which he is plainly unfitted by his qualities, as well as by his defects, and to return to private life, where he had previously shown himself quite a decent sort of fellow.
In this case, I must admit that the party pressure was severe. It was expressed by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Chancellor of the Duchy, whom, I believe, some persons have been glad to see back on the Front Bench. I have no wish to overstate the case. Party pressure was expressed by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in his brief interlude of potential opposition. He demanded that another group of constituencies should be so handled as to give the Socialist Party, according to their calculations, an additional 17 seats. Another 17 seats added to the 13 already secured, would very nearly make the Redistribution Bill harmless from a Socialist Party point of view. That is to say, the readjustment of the representation in proportion to the movements of population would take place without inflicting any injury upon them. It was near enough, 30 as against 35.
It only remained to throw in the Amendment about limiting the use of motor cars in elections so as to hit the Tories in the rural areas and make them walk—which, I can assure hon. Members opposite, they certainly will do, and walk with their boots on—to enable the whole process of redistribution to be accomplished without prejudice to the party interests of the Socialist Government and 1385 of their majority. Thus the broad principle would be established that redistribution in accordance with the movements of the population may be effected from time to time, provided that the Socialists are no losers by it.
That is where we are now. Indeed, I suppose we ought to think ourselves fortunate and even favoured that the process has stopped there and that the gerrymandering of the constituencies has not been carried further than merely maintaining existing balances. In Communist or satellite countries they go much further, and hold that the will of the people can only be expressed in the way in which the party which have got hold of the offices desire and resolve. In Czechoslovakia, they manage it all in a much more thorough-going fashion. This is also true of Yugoslavia. In Soviet Russia, 95 per cent, vote for Stalin and the Communist Government and the other 5 per cent. are given the tip to vote the other way, to show how fair and free the election has been. I quite agree that His Majesty's Government have not gone as far as that. They believe in free democracy fair play and good faith, so long as you do not try them too high.
Let me repeat that I am not comparing conditions in Czechoslovakia with any that the Government are establishing by this Redistribution Bill. I wish to give them full credit for their moderation. They have not sought, and they have not dared, to deprive the British people of its free representation. They have only executed this small, minor, pinching, piece of chicanery which they call the Representation of the People Bill. They have not committed a crime, but only a small, mean, shabby trick. On the whole, I think they will lose in reputation more than they will gain in seats by what they have done. I wonder if it was worth it, having regard to the scale on which they are doing business? They are rather like a wealthy man who travels on the railway and ingeniously avoids paying for his ticket for part of the journey. It shows a lack of sense of proportion, but we for our part must not rate the matter too seriously.
If there is a strong popular tide flowing against the Socialists at the next election, the petty swindles the Government have perpetrated will be all swept away. 1386 What will not be so easily washed away, however, is the stain on the character of Ministers, who were definitely bound by agreement as individuals—or on the good faith of a party, which was also bound by agreements entered into in good will and in good faith by its responsible leaders—and who, because they could not bear to suffer the comparatively small disadvantage which normal redistribution would have inflicted upon them, have revealed their moral limitations to their fellow countrymen.
I leave the past and come to the future. It is quite certain that the conduct of the Socialist Government in this matter has deeply impaired the principle of settling necessary redistribution measures by a Speaker's Conference and an impartial Boundary Commission. The precedent has been established that a Socialist Party may break all previous engagements if they obtain a majority in the new Parliament. The continuity and decorum of our national life as far as the representation of the people goes, has been broken, and it may take a generation to build it up again. Nevertheless, we on this side of the House will do our best to labour for that end. This compromise settlement of the Speaker's Conference was disadvantageous to us in some points. But, in protest at the conduct of Ministers we have decided to vote against this Bill. We do not regard it as an honest Measure of redistribution. Should we obtain a majority at the next General Election, we shall not, however, hold ourselves free to make any changes in the representation of the people so far as concerns constituencies which are not comprised within the ambit of the Speaker's Conference of 1944. I have the strong view that voting should be compulsory as it is in Australia and in Holland and that there should be a small fine for people who do not choose to exercise their civic duty.
Let me say why I introduced the words "so far as concerns constituencies." We have no intention of acting outside the limits of what was agreed between the two parties at your Conference, Mr. Speaker. Some things in that Conference hurt us very much or we thought that they would hurt us very much. Others were advantageous, but in the future we shall take the rough with the smooth and 1387 make no departure from the general basis there reached. Up to that limit, however, we hold ourselves perfectly free so far as the next Parliament is concerned to repair and redress the injuries and breaches of agreement which this present Bill now contains.
For example, as the right hon. Gentleman apprehends, should we gain a majority we shall immediately introduce a Bill to restore university representation. We say that it was agreed upon by all parties at the Speaker's Conference. The 12 university seats, should our Bill become law, will be re-established and the elections for them will be held at once with results which will become effective in the next Parliament. There is nothing like putting it plainly, and we shall be judged in the country by our decision to take that step. Future Parliaments may see other Redistribution Bills, but I can only hope that by that time our standard of public life in this country will have been so far restored as to lift the whole process of redistribution to levels above the electioneering interests of rival parties and direct it solely with the desire of basing our ancient Parliament upon the broadest, freest and truest expression of the people's will.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
There is very little that I can say on the subject of university franchise after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I feel bound in duty, however, to make a short speech on this subject before the end of this Bill. I represent 40,000 constituents from the universities of Durham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Reading and in overwhelming numbers these constituents have expressed their opposition to this so-called reform. Therefore, I am bound to bring this matter before Parliament on its Third Reading.
I stated my views on the Second Reading and I put one or two reasoned questions to the Lord President of the Council. He relegated his reply on this issue to the last few minutes without adducing any further arguments except that some university Members are definitely partisan and there are plenty of university graduates in all quarters of the House. The Home Secretary was more blunt when he 1388 said that he wanted nothing but geographical representation associated with a specific area. He admitted that men and women of distinction had been elected but he said there was no guarantee about that in the future and that Cambridge once turned down Dr. T. E. Page. I could have retorted that Oxford turned down Gilbert Murray and G. D. H. Cole, while London turned down Mary Stocks. Almost every Labour leader except the Prime Minister and George Lansbury were rejected in 1931 and the Leader of the Opposition has been several times defeated. I cannot see what that has to do with the question. Perhaps we can leave constituencies, both university and otherwise to do what they will. So far, in this country, subject always to the permission of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the electors are free.
But the Home Secretary produced a last and most astonishing argument when he said that no other country has adopted this system. The British Parliament is distinguished by scores of anomalies, customs and ceremonials that are the envy of the world. Apparently, the Home Secretary now demands that the Mother of Parliaments must conform to other popular assemblies and destroy everything that is unique and is not formed on the basis of logic and arithmetic. I can assure him that many friends of mine on the Continent, where the "list" system is the order of the day and where the universities have become the battleground for party rivalry, entertain feelings of admiration for this interesting and harmless survival.
I want to state a case today which has not been stated before. In my opinion, the general case has been over-stated by some of my colleagues but they can speak for themselves. I am not a party man: I am independent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was far more generous and liberal on this matter. He does not share my political opinions, but unlike the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) he was not only educated at a public school but he knows something of a modern university. Indeed, he is the chancellor of one of the universities I represent—the University of Birmingham—and he has once in his lifetime resigned, 1389 which is another ancient custom of this House. My first and most positive point, then, is that the overwhelming majority of my constituents are opposed to this so-called reform, even though, like myself, they are opposed to plural voting.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
As a constituent of the hon. Gentleman, may I ask him how he gauges opinion, in view of his statement?
§ Mr. Lindsay
Of course, I can. We had no notice of that, in spite of what the Lord President said, but since then questionnaires have been sent out from the universities. Figures are available and the figures are nine to one against.
§ Mr. Lindsay
My hon. Friend will know that when we send out this type of questionnaire, it is a sample. It is bound to be. There could not be a survey of this kind any other way, even if we were trying to get the maximum number. The figures are nine to one against. I cannot give the figures for each university, but there are eight of them, with roughly about 5,000 electors in each. I should say the number of replies was between 40 per cent. and 60 per cent. Of those replies, nine to one were against. Of those who were against, there were quite a large number who desired to retain the vote for the universities and not the geographical vote. I tried to bring this before the House on a previous occasion, but the Lord President of the Council did not give me time. We had to get these things analysed and we had to consult with the universities, but my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) will know the figures as well as I do. Neither they nor the hon. Member had any notice of this. Both they and other universities—I have recently come back from Sheffield and other places, where I sampled the opinion—are impelled to suspect, from the evidence at their disposal, that this reform is not based on principle. I am not saying that hon. Members opposite are not opposed to university representation.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I hope the hon. Member will listen to what is a reasoned case. They came to the conclusion that it was 1390 not based on principle, or upon the Speaker's Conference, or on the Boundary Commission, but on a calculation of electoral chances. That is what they say. That case has been made this afternoon. Is this suspicion not well founded? I certainly was given no notice, and only now, when these returns have been sent in to the various questionnaires, do I know what their views are. I knew nothing about this matter at the last General Election. I did not know, having heard what the Lord Chancellor said in another place and what was said in this House on various occasions, that this was to take place. They do not like the odour of it, even though it has been wrapped in the sanctity of democratic verbiage.
My second point is one which can be conveniently expressed in an answer to the specious case put forward by the hon. Member for East Coventry the other night. Here I speak for myself. The case for university representation does not rest on any theory about the middle or professional classes. It does not rest on the personality of Members—much less. It does not rest on whether professors should be party men or, as the hon. Member for East Coventry said, spineless Independents. There are a number of hon. Members in this House elected on geographical interests and special interests, as in the case of the miners and landowners, whose interest is co-terminous with their constituencies. There are others, as in the case of railway clerks and other trade unionists, and of commercial and financial interests, unconnected with any one constituency. It may be that there are scores of Members who are graduates, and even ex-professors like the hon. Member for East Coventry. I have not noticed any great concern among those graduates over university reform, over the position of students, over the lamentable attack on graduates' salaries, over the present position of U.N.E.S.C.O. or over scores of problems arising out of manpower needs, and similar questions. It is to the credit of a few Members who occasionally attend here on Friday mornings that some of those grievances have been ventilated.
Personally, I wish that we had that "spineless Independent," Professor A. V. Hill here, to make those informed and 1391 objective speeches on scientific and medical matters, and that "spineless Independent," Miss Eleanor Rathbone; or that those other "spineless Independents," Sir John Boyd-Orr, T. E. Harvey, were here along with the "spineless" Members for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) and Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). After the dogmatic and professional speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry, whose unflinching attitude of uncertainty on foreign affairs has been a feature of this Parliament, I am rather pleased to hear the products of the public schools coming to the rescue of the Labour Party.
How often I have wished during the last three years that some "spineless Independent" would speak for the refugees of Europe without being dubbed either a Fascist or a fellow-traveller. That is what Eleanor Rathbone did for many years. How often have I wished that someone would espouse the cause of the Food and Agriculture Organisation without being called a crank or a bad party man, or would persuade the Government that books are not pots and pans but a vital vehicle for European reconstruction. How I have wished that some "spineless Independent" had, since 1945, stated the unstated case for Arab-Jew co-operation and thus saved this country from the ignominy of the present crisis; or, to come nearer home, that some "spineless Independent" had stated the case against the present Children Bill, to which so many hon. Members opposite with experience are genuinely and rightly opposed. There are scores of unpleaded causes in this House, partly because private Members' time has been stolen by the Executive and partly because of the inevitable partisan approach to everything, so that legislation has outdistanced administration.
I am not objecting to party government. On the contrary. I have fought five tough seats and I may do so again. I am objecting to the ruthless doctrine which seeks to root out all the inconvenient minorities, the doctrine of the right hon. Member the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and of the hon. Member for East Coventry. It is not merely that Independent Members have been responsible for reforming the divorce laws, introducing family allowances, creating the Hansard Society and a lot of other useful additions to our national life, but 1392 that this Bill virtually closes the door on Independents who are not blessed with worldly goods, party funds or trade union support. In future, they will not be allowed to enter this Chamber and to plead causes against the tide of mass opinion. Every now and then a genius will emerge and defy his party, as did the right hon. Member for Woodford, and change the course of history, as has happened in recent times.
I do not believe, with some of my hon. Friends, that the Bill is a blow at university education, or that it is a blow at the professions or even a blow at the electoral chances of the present Government in 1950. I believe it is a petty, stupid act of aggression upon an ancient franchise which worked well at its best and was admired in many countries. It gave a chance more than once to minority views. In fact, of course, it is a blow at common sense. I am fortified in this submission because many hon. Members opposite happen to agree with me. This House is always a generous assembly. I thank it tonight for its indulgence in listening to a speech which in many ways is very distasteful for me to make. I think it is right that I should represent the views of my constituents. It is time that this case was stated.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
I do not accept the view of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) that his views represent necessarily those of the vast majority of people who poll the university vote. I am certain, and I say this to him, that if this principle were debated fairly in the university with which I am connected in a humble way, the hon. Member would not get that overwhelming majority. I am certain that in Durham, in a fair debate, if this matter were debated as a principle, there would perhaps be a majority the other way. I am prepared to challenge the hon. Member in his own constituency on that issue to come to a university debate at Durham to debate this very important matter.
I believe that it is wrong, too, to infer that a large section of graduate opinion has come to the conclusion that we have introduced this reform because we seek to have some special political arrangement which will give us some benefit at the General Election. I believe that is a wrong 1393 inference. More than that, I welcome the abolition of the university vote. I do so as a matter of principle. I accept the view of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities that it has sent to this House many people who have achieved much in other fields and who have added great distinction to our Parliamentary Debates. I am very proud that I should have been a constituent of Eleanor Rathbone, but surely that is not an argument? We could argue that this House of 600 Members and more should only have returned to it Members who had dark hair or were short in stature. No doubt if we had that as part of our law, out of those 600 short men we might have a few Members of ability.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
I have not made the case tonight about the distinction of any individual. I have only spoken about Independents. The hon. Member must not put into my mouth words which I did not say.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I must get this straight. I have never stated, and I was not stating, the case that there is a particular distinction about university Members. I would not do it anyway. All I was doing was talking about Independents. If they happen to have distinction, that is another question.
§ Mr. Peart
Throughout his speech the hon. Member emphasised the point that Independents have made great contributions to our Parliamentary life, and I would agree, but that is not an argument to retain something which I believe to be undemocratic in principle. I cannot accept the view that because a man has a qualification in mathematics or a degree in geology he has some superior civic knowledge to a non-graduate member of society. Why should we say that because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has a degree in Oriental languages he should have two votes, and that because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is not a member of a university he should have only one vote? That is undemocratic, and for that reason I believe that if we are to evolve our democracy and make it more complete, 1394 we must remove these last vestiges of undemocratic procedure which are not in keeping with our 20th century needs.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
Does not my hon. Friend recognise that the Bill still allows the continuation of a great many other anomalies? In view of that, does he not think it absurd to fasten on this particular one when there is considerable feeling on these benches in favour of retaining the university vote?
§ Mr. Peart
I am glad that my hon. Friend admits that it is an anomaly. I agree that it is an anomaly, and we are altering it. I hope that at a later period we may have more legislation to remove other anomalies, which I hope to deal with in my speech. However, this is an anomaly, and we are removing it. I am quite certain that if this became an election issue, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford would make it—we have had the second indication of Tory policy this afternoon—all sensible people will accept, generally speaking, our view that there should be "one citizen, one vote." I welcome this Bill because it removes an anomaly which cannot be justified in any modern democracy.
We have had from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford a very interesting knockabout speech. He said that my right hon. Friend had delivered a few party gibes. If we look at his speech and read it very carefully, we shall find that his speech was full of party gibes. There were the usual phrases which we expect—that we have broken agreements, and that we have an unrepresentative majority in this House. I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman that he reminds me of a person who is prepared to play a game and accepts the rules of the game, and then condemns the rules under which he has played.
§ Mr. Peart
That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has been doing this afternoon when he made another gibe against the representative character of this House and the Parliamentary majority which we obtained in 1945. Indeed, I am 1395 certain that if it had an opportunity, the Tory Party would even claim the referee.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had come here this afternoon to make a constructive case. They could have done so had they wished. There is a sound argument in the view that we should have delayed this Measure, first reformed the local government structure and the local government boundary system, and then dealt with our Parliamentary boundaries. There is a sound argument for such action. We could have delayed this Measure for a period of time. There are many reasons. We are experiencing the aftermath of war, with drifts of population as our people return to our blitzed cities, the erection of new housing estates and in other areas the development of new factories leading to the growth of new communities. It would perhaps have been better if we had delayed this Bill and waited for the settling down of our population. We could then have carried out a major reform of local government and afterwards, upon that reformed local government structure, built a really representative Parliamentary system. That would have been the sensible course to take. I am sorry that we did not do it. I am certain that if we had done that, the right hon. Gentleman for Woodford would still have come to this House and made the same party speech which he has made today.
§ Mr. Peart
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman admits that it would have been a similar speech. There is good sense in the suggestion which I have made, for already the proposals of the Boundary Commission are out of date. It seems strange to me that alongside the Boundary Commission we should have another Commission dealing with local government boundaries. It seems absurd. Already in many areas some of the mathematical calculations of the Boundary Commission in relation to constituency populations are out of date. I could give specific examples.
That is why I wish to ask certain questions of my right hon. Friend who will reply to the Debate. After this Bill has become an Act, how shall we tackle the 1396 numerous anomalies which have already been created through our out-of-date local government structure? Will the Boundary Commission sit as a permanent court? Will the Boundary Commission continually make recommendations to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? Will we have to initiate legislation in order to deal with those anomalies? Will local authorities, Members of Parliament and political parties be able to make still more representations to the Boundary Commission after this Bill has become an Act? It is important that we should have answers to those questions.
After all, during the Committee stage there was some degree of ambiguity on that matter. I believe that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) quoted the words, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave." It is important to know what will be the power and functions of the Boundary Commission when this Bill becomes law. More than that, as the Home Secretary said during the Committee stage, we still have to deal with the overrepresentation of Scotland. On the basis of population, Scotland has 90 seats more than England and Wales. I prefer to call it the under-representation of England. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have a bit of healthy English nationalism. After all, we are treated so often to dull Scottish nationalism in this House, if I may say so without attempting to insult my Scottish colleagues. I hope this matter will be looked at carefully. The Home Secretary said on 15th June:I share to some extent the views of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that part of the difficulty which confronted the Boundary Commissioners and which has since confronted everybody has been the fact that there are too few Members allowed to England and Wales in this Bill. I have no doubt that in some future redistribution something will have to be done to bring about a lessening of the disproportionate representation of the three parts of Great Britain in this House. I am quite certain of that. That, however, is not a matter which can be dealt with at the present time in the Bill, but for what it is worth I place it on record."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 321.]Surely that anomaly will not alter with time. How will we deal with this problem? Will it mean major legislation? I believe it is important that my right hon. Friend who is replying should give an answer on that point. I welcome this 1397 Bill, even though one could perhaps criticise the timing of the Bill in relation to the tendencies in local government. This Bill removes certain privileges which cannot be defended if we seek to build up a real democracy in this country. There is the question of the university vote, which has been debated so often in this House. There is the representation of the City of London. I wish on those issues that the Opposition had been constructive. I offer them a suggestion. Perhaps, if they had wished to preserve the association of the City of London with the dignity and tradition of this House, they could have reserved the City of London seat for Mr. Speaker. This would necessitate a by-election in another constituency every time a new Speaker was elected. Perhaps hon. Members would like to see Mr. Speaker associated with the City, which did play an important part in Parliamentary history through its association with "that devil Wilkes."
I know that hon. Members would not oppose the removal of the City of London representation, if the City had not consistently returned Tory Members of Parliament to this House. They are playing the Party game, and they know it. This Bill should be welcomed by all people who desire to improve our democracy. The university vote, the City of London and other anomalies in this Bill, cannot be defended. This Representation of the People Bill, even though it is bitterly attacked by the right hon. Member for Woodford and the hon. Member for Oxford—who wished to call it the "Representation of the Labour Party Bill"—and despite the snarls of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch), who is not in his place today, will help to complete the long evolution of Parliamentary democracy. It will be welcomed by all sections of opinion outside this House.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I desire, if I may, with the indulgence of the House, to endeavour to point an argument, I think a little different from what has hitherto been put, upon the main constitutional question involved. In order to put it I hope the House will bear with me if, in order to try and make clear what it is specifically that I am especially approaching, it will be necessary for me to begin by indicating—not quite to begin, 1398 but to go on—by indicating the more general case which has already been made, in a way infinitely superior to anything I will even attempt, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I shall do my best to be as little repetitive as possible, but I hope it will be understood, if I am to some slight extent repetitive, why I am permitting myself so to be.
I should like to begin with a word or two about one or two speeches we have had today. I thought it was rather unfortunate that we should have the patronage about the amusing knockabout speech from our Front Bench, from the hon. Gentleman opposite. I thought it was unnecessarily patronising, and I shall continue to think so. It is not necessarily true, as is frequently assumed, that those who are always dull and dreary are necessarily more serious or more deeply moved than the rest.
I want to begin my main argument with this, by asking the House to agree that the main division in the politics of the world, at present, is not, as we most of us have thought until fairly recently, between the Socialists and the individualists, but that the main division is the division between those who believe in constitutionalism and those who do not. I hope that that will be generally agreed. Secondly, I hope it will be generally agreed that the Constitution of this country, so far as it can be put in a very few words, is pretty correctly indicated in this manner: that we have now an elective assembly almost, but not quite arithmetically an exact microcosm of the electorate, an elective assembly which is all powerful, except that there are other elements in the Constitution which may exercise a very slight delay on the action of this omnipotent, and as the lawyers say omnicompetent elective assembly. That is the Constitution of our country.
If that were all, if that were all the Constitution of this country, it would not really be a Constitution in any continuous and useful sense, because if that were all, then at any given moment whoever had got 51 per cent. of the votes of this House, if he felt himself not in the least controlled by the habits of the House, by the actions and decisions of previous Parliaments—if that were so we would be left with no Constitution at all, with the mere arbitrariness of any occasional majority. 1399 I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite really to ask themselves, to consider within themselves, whether that is what they would wish to happen; and if that is not what they would wish to happen, I ask them to admit that so far we have not from this side really pitched our claim on this matter of obligation as high as we might have, because almost all the speakers from our side, I think at this stage and earlier stages of the Bill, have been willing if only for the sake of argument to admit that hon. Gentlemen elected in 1945 are not at all bound by the understandings which were in existence before.
My submission is that that is an excessive and unnecessary admission. I wholly disagree with the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) who spoke the other day about the minor question of obligation as contrasted with the major question, which, in his view, was the abolition of the university seats, and the erection of the 17 new seats. I wholly disagree. I think the major question is the question which I have just tried to indicate, and I will now endeavour to show what seems to me to be the right and indeed, I think the irresistible answer to that question.
What do right hon. and hon Gentlemen opposite owe their position to, owe their power, owe such glory as they have, all the authority and joy of the whole situation? They owe it to the history of hundreds of years before, but most particularly to the history of the last few years before. Therefore, those who entered the Socialist Party—I mean the Parliamentary Socialist Party—at the last General Election, are not less bound than those who were in the Parliamentary party already before 1940, for example, or from then on until 1945.
There must be something special about franchise and distribution Bills or else we are left with no Constitution of any kind at all. The extremest stretch of this House's power is when this House alters its own nature, and the most clearly objectionable stretch—I do not mean that the objection is not rebuttable, but the most clearly objectionable stretch of this House's power in that connection—is when it stretches the power, not to create some new seat or to extend the franchise, but to destroy some seat or class of seats 1400 and to destroy some thousands of franchises. That is the extremest thing that this House can do.
If it is demonstrated—and I say that it is demonstrated by the way in which this Bill has been pushed through and, presumably, will be pushed through this evening—if it is demonstrated that there is one great Party in the State which does not consider that that matter of franchise and distribution needs wider thought, less partisan motive, a more careful endeavour to get the maximum of agreement from both sides; if there is one of the two great Parties in the State which does not think that those things are requisite to franchise and distribution Bills, as to no other; if there is one of the two great Parties in the State which does not think that, then I say that the whole constitutional nature of this country is in the gravest danger. That is the charge—the main charge—against the Party opposite, and the main objection to what they are doing.
The Home Secretary, as you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will remember—and perhaps you will forgive me if I remind other hon. Gentlemen of the words with which the Home Secretary began these Debates. I cannot find them now, but if we look at the first sentence of the speech on the Second Reading we shall see that he began his Debate, near enough, by saying:This Bill completes the progress of the British people towards a … complete"—he used the word twice,complete democracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 839.]I thought, when he said that, that it was a dangerous thing to say. It is an old and, I think, a reasonable superstition—if there can be reasonable superstitions—that it is very dangerous to finish anything right off. One form of it is the theatrical superstition, that one never utters the tag—the final words—when one is rehearsing. One of the few things quite certain about great human development is this: That when a great human development is complete, it is finished, it is over. When this country, if ever, reaches a complete democracy, that will be the end of democracy in this country. I dare to prophesy that and I dare to say—although I do not think I often come the professor, so to speak, in these matters—that there are few, if any, 1401 people, who have professionally studied the history of political development who will deny it. I thought it was a dangerous theme on which the Home Secretary began. We had almost the same words again just now from the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart).
I beg them to believe that this Bill, so far from completing democracy in any desirable sense, is highly destructive of constitutionalism; and that it is only upon the basis of constitutionalism that it is possible for democracy to continue. It is destructive of the Constitution because it denies and degrades that "system or body of fundamental principles according to which the body politic is constituted and governed," whose "gradual establishment by precedent has been the essential characteristic of the British Constitution." That is not an awfully good sentence, I know. I copied it from the Oxford English Dictionary because I wished to avoid any dispute about whether I was using the word "constitution" in its exact sense.
It is destructive of that and, for that reason, it is bad. It is worse, because it comes at the end of a long line of constitutional outrages. They—the Party opposite—are the masters now. And what are they the masters of? They are the masters of a great Constitution, as of a great Empire, visibly getting less in entity and essence and even more rapidly less in prestige with every day they sit in office. It is worse for that reason, on, top of the ways we have had Bills forced through this House; on top of the demonstration that the Home Secretary does not follow the constitutional decency of our time and of many previous generations—that Ministers are responsible for initiating legislation on any matter of importance—in the matter of hanging, for instance, in the matter of conscription, and of supporting national existence, for example in the matter of foreign policy. These were the great things which previous men who were, even if they did not boast of it, the masters, thought their great care; those great things these men care nothing for. If they bother to hope to see those things managed at all, they trust to a majority from this side of the House to get them managed. The purpose of passing this Bill is unconstitutional and, because of what went before, 1402 not simply unconstitutional but that much worse.
And thirdly, it is worst of all because it makes infinitely difficult any negotiation in future. How is anybody ever again to negotiate with the Secretary of State for Scotland? His incapacity to understand anything is equalled only by the infinity of his capacity to remember anything. Anything which will be useful he will remember. He remembered, for instance, the Debates on the university seats in the Speaker's Conference, and has endeavoured to influence the conduct of this House by reporting those Debates. By my memory and of those I have consulted there were not any Debates—the thing went through "on the nod." How ever again are we to negotiate with men like that?
When we are told that the Speaker's Conference was to be only for the last Parliament, then why on earth did the majority party go into it? Why did not the majority Party do then what would suit it? Why did it not, for instance, disfranchise the little seats, the safe little seats which the senior members of the Socialist Party mainly sat for in this House, by flinging them into the ones next to them and saying, "They are not neatly arithmocratic?" What reasons could there have been for any reasoning or discussion in the Speaker's Conference but the assumption that there was to be continuity, there was to be consent, there was to be tolerance, there was to be some vestige of honour in this part of our Parliamentary arrangements, if nowhere else?
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
I am rather surprised at the concluding remarks of the hon. Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn).
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)
The hon. Member for Cambridge University need not be rude.
§ Mr. Maclean
Surprise is one of the things we have in common. The hon. Member spoke about this Government's doing their best to gerrymander seats by getting majorities in the smaller safe seats 1403 for Ministers. But I want to point out to him that very few seats have been safe seats for Labour until recently.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member had better be careful in case he should lose his own seat. I sat in a safe seat—or have been sitting in a safe seat—for 30 years but, prior to my winning it in 1918, it had never before been won by Labour although it had been fought for on five different occasions.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member for Cambridge University is completely wrong. It was immediately after the 1914–18 war that I won the seat, and I have held it ever since. I made it a safe seat through my work in this House and in my constituency, and lam certain that there are other Members on these benches who will retain their membership of this House because they made their seats safe, too. I also believe that some of my hon. Friends who came into the House at the 1945 Election will, in all probability, be safe at the next election because of the work they have already done here.
I want to put a personal point of view, and I take this opportunity to refer once again to the manner in which the redistribution of constituencies has been gerrymandered without an opportunity for the seat or the political parties concerned to be consulted. Half of my constituency, parts of which date back to the year 400, has been put into another constituency, evidently to make it a safe place for someone else. When I raised this matter in the House with the Secretary of State for Scotland, he suggested that we should come to an agreement with the adjoining constituency. I said that we had tried to come to an agreement, but that they had declined. No notice was given to any of the political parties in the constituency of Govan. No request was made to us to hold a conference so that the new boundaries might be settled by agreement among all parties. Now, half the constituency is to be taken away, the historical part of it, and merged into another constituency. When we tried to come to a mutual agreement with the other constituency 1404 they refused. They were satisfied to get away with their division without our being consulted. Because of the manner in which all this has been done, because of the way in which a safe seat has been practically given to the Opposition, I intend to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon Thames)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), who is so respected in all quarters of this House, should have begun his contribution to this Debate by references to what would or what would not create safe seats for members of one party or another. Surely, that is a point which should not be considered from any point of view in our discussion of this matter—
§ Mr. Maclean
I was replying to something which was said by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn).
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It seems that the hon. Gentleman misapprehended the argument of my hon. Friend, and I am very glad that he has cleared up the impression, which he certainly created in my mind, that he was concerning himself with the creation of safe or unsafe seats for members of any party. Surely, that is the one consideration which this House of Commons, when it takes it upon itself to redistribute seats and amend the electoral law, should not consider. The fact that this point has been brought in is one of the evil consequences which have followed from the manner in which the Government have conducted the lengthy proceedings on this Bill. It has been a depressing and disillusioning experience, particularly for those of us who still thought that some members of the Government, notably the Home Secretary, had certain standards of decency in politics—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Yes, and honour. It has been depressing to watch the way in which discussion on the contents of this Bill and the Amendments to it has been conducted by the Government. I for one thought the Home Secretary was in heart and mind, a constitutional democrat. 1405 I have always profoundly respected and admired him as a man. It has been very depressing to me personally to see that that faith has been so wholly disproved, that those of my hon. Friends who warned me not to place confidence in the integrity of the right hon. Gentleman were right, and that the confidence I had in him was misplaced.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said, there is much more at stake here than the question of advantage for one party or another. We are concerned with constitutional arrangements, and, as one of the few free democracies left in the world, and with the picture of what is going on in other countries in our minds, it is still more incumbent upon us to insist that the standards of constitutional decency and personal integrity in British politics should be preserved. It has been made clear that the central idea behind the Government's handling of this Bill, from its initiation onwards, has been that any fair redistribution of Parliamentary seats must inevitably cause a disadvantage to the Socialist Party. That must be so if we consider the fact that there are Members on my own side of the House, such as myself, who represent over 100,000 electors, while there are three Members on the Benches opposite who represent the 63,000 electors of the borough of Stepney.
Faced with that problem, someone in the Government decided that if redistribution were to be effected at all compensation measures must be taken to ensure that the Socialist Party were at no electoral disadvantage. I have a fairly clear idea of who that influence was. It may not have passed your notice, Sir, that the surprisingly fertile imagination of the Minister of Transport has portrayed, in public print, a creature described as a "Jimp" which is designed to lead motorists into doing what is wrong. It is no coincidence that that caricature bears an astonishing facial resemblance to the Lord President of the Council, particularly in its taste in hair dressing, and I feel that while the Lord President has been the "Jimp," jumping on the bonnet in front of the windscreen whenever the Home Secretary was trying to drive on the right side of tin road—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right and the correct side. I would remind the hon. Member that in politics the Right is always the right side. I am convinced that the Home Secretary has been dragged unwillingly by this representative of the Socialist Party machine into doing what is a very considerable wrong to something that matters a great deal more than advantages to the great political parties in this House. Wherever we look at the provisions of this Bill—apart from the purely technical ones, over which the Home Secretary, for good tactical reasons, concerned himself so much today—we see that the central and co-ordinating theme is the political advantage of the Socialist Party at the next election.
I do not propose to say much about the university seats since the university Members are more than capable of saying it on their own behalf. However, it is right that it should be made quite clear to the House that the objection to the cynical repudiation of a pledge in this connection is not confined to those Members who sit for university seats Any of us who have studied for one moment what has been said on this matter are forced inevitably to the conclusion that there is here an absolutely open breach of a perfectly clear understanding. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referred earlier this afternoon to one of the observations with which the Secretary of State for Scotland has graced our Debates in this matter. I should like to refer to another on this subject. He said:I was prepared to accept that"—a retention of university seats—and indeed, in the case of some hon. Members I still accept it—as being a possibility; but—and I am not making any reflection on hon. Members who have been returned by the universities—when the universities can be used to return purely party Members … without their having a specially independent character in this House, then I suggest that that is a breach of the arrangements we came to in the Speaker's Conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, C. 187.]That is to say the Secretary of State for Scotland says to the House of Commons that he will keep his word for just so long as it is to his advantage to keep it and that he will break it just as soon as it becomes manifestly to his advantage so to do. That is an aspect of the matter by which the people of 1407 this country who are not in the slightest degree concerned with the merits of university representation have been able to apprehend and appreciate perfectly clearly the motive which the Home Secretary has so sedulously attempted to conceal and which the Secretary of State for Scotland has been so active in revealing.
I should like to turn to two other matters, the first of which is what is intended to be the main object of the Bill, the redistribution of Parliamentary seats. I believe that the principle adumbrated on Second Reading by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), that the detailed redistribution of Parliament seats is a matter much better left to a Boundary Commission than effected on the Floor of the House, is the right principle. I believe that it is trying hon. Members on both sides very high if they are called upon to decide and vote upon changes in the constituencies which cannot but affect their own electoral chances favourably or unfavourably. I believe that the right view is to accept the findings of the Boundary Commission as they are made and stand by them, taking the rough with the smooth. The Government did not follow that course.
The Government saw fit, on the Committee Stage, to introduce 17 additional seats to increase the representation of areas which they regarded as underrepresented. Even at that stage some of us took the Home Secretary at his word, some of us believed that he was acting for reasons other than party advantage and that there might be a case on the merits for doing what was proposed. To take him at his word we also went through the same procedure which he had followed. We asked the Boundary Commission to consider the under-representation of certain other areas and we put the results of that consultation with the Boundary Commission before the House.
It seems to me to be important to consider the reaction of the Home Secretary to this step, not merely because five extra constituencies were concerned, but because the matter applied an acid test to the sincerity of the Home Secretary and the Government on this matter. The five cases were, on their merits, overwhelming. The hon. Member for North-West 1408 Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) was good enough to say that he had been convinced by the argument which I put forward in connection with part of Surrey. I will not recapitulate those arguments save to say that as the Bill stands today, and in respect of which we had sought to amend it, there are eight constituencies in northeastern Surrey with an average of 67,000 electors. That is only a defensible position if it is impossible to introduce more seats without violating local government boundaries. The Amendment put forward from this side of the House did not violate a single local government boundary, and if accepted it would have left that part of Surrey with an average electorate of 4,000 more than the average for the country as a whole.
That Amendment, like the other four with equally conspicuous merits, which my hon. Friends put forward, was not even discussed in detail by the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman merely got up and said that he had listened to the arguments and that as a resultI think that, merely by taking corners of countries to deal with, the Opposition have not, in fact, followed the same procedure as did the Government, where we took the whole of large units. For this reason, in addition to those which I gave in detail when I spoke previously, I am not prepared to accept the Amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPPORT, 15th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 322].Five cases which had been fully argued were rejected on the ground that they dealt only with corners of counties. The corner of the county to which I had invited the right hon. Gentleman's attention has a population of a half a million, and if that is too small to merit the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman it is a little curious that he was able to add an additional seat in Battersea, where there are only 80,000 people in all, and another additional seat in Hammersmith, where the figures are the same.
It is perfectly obvious that the only consideration which distinguished Battersea and Hammersmith on the one hand from Surrey on the other, is that the Government know that in Surrey their political chances are extremely poor and they believe, wrongly I think—I consider that they are under an illusion—that their chances are better in the boroughs. That can be the only possible distinction between the two. I must 1409 say that that action of the right hon. Gentleman finally convinced me—unwillingly, I ask the House to believe—that the object of this Bill was not to secure a fair distribution of Parliamentary seats but to secure, on the contrary, the possibility of a return to power by the Labour Party.
The other matter to which I would now invite the attention of the House is Clause 33, which the right hon. Gentleman introduced on the Report stage. That Clause—the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly frank—is intended to assist the Socialist Party. As will be seen from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 14th June, column 53, he made a frank admission as to that. So did his hon. Friends the Members for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) and Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), in column 67 and column 79. His point, as I understood it, was that the Conservative Party obtained an advantage by the large scale use of motor cars. That advantage, as I apprehend it, is obtained by reason of the fact that the Conservative Party are able to get to the poll supporters of theirs who would otherwise not get there. I take it that it is not suggested that any elector in this country is so venal that the offer of a lift in a motor car causes him to change the way in which he would vote. I take it that the Home Secretary does not suggest that. He is suggesting that the Conservative voters go to the poll more easily. His solution of that difficulty is characteristic of the present Government; not as one would have thought, that everybody should get to the poll as easily as possible, but to take away the advantage which he thinks that some people have, a perfect example of the policy which in other matters is pursued with undeviating consistency by the Minister of Food.
There is, of course, a case, if one party is by reason of material factors obtaining an advantage over another, for doing something to remedy that; I fully concede that. I should, however, like to put to the right hon. Gentleman the question, Is the use of motor cars the only material factor which assists one party compared with another? Is it not a fact that one party obtains assistance from the use of trade union organisations, trade union organisers and trade union premises? If the right hon. Gentleman is really sincere in his desire to remove material advantages from one side or the other, it cannot 1410 stop at motor cars. It is perfectly clear that he is seeking to take away what he regards as an advantage to the Conservative Party, while holding on like grim death to such material advantages as his party has.
When this matter was raised by his hon. Friends, speaking from a somewhat significant eminence on the mountain opposite, the Home Secretary expressed doubt as to whether it was possible to devise a Clause which would do what they sought to do. If I may say so, the Clause which the right hon. Gentleman himself produced showed how well-founded those doubts were. The Secretary of State for Scotland subjected himself to, I thought, the unmerited derision of my hon. Friends when he said that interpretation of this matter must be left to the courts and that one could not forecast how a court would construe the Clause. I wholly agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Clause is so drafted that it is almost impossible to forecast how any court will construe it, and the only objection to that argument of the Secretary of State was that he seemed to think that this was an argument in favour of the Clause.
Let me invite the attention of the Home Secretary to this: persons concerned in fighting a hotly contested election are people for whom the law should be as simple and clear as possible. It is highly undesirable that harassed candidates and harassed election agents should be compelled to operate in a world of uncertainty, never knowing that some action they may take may or may not involve them subsequently in all the expense of an election petition. If there be a branch of the law in which clarity is essential, it is surely election law, and yet here we have a Clause put forward in which Ministers of the Crown, having admitted frankly their incapacity to interpret it themselves, have added the additional comment that they do not know how the courts will construe it either.
Let me put one further difficulty to the right hon. Gentleman. The thing which is legislated against is conveyance to the poll. I should like to ask the Lord President, who is to reply, how that is to be understood. Must it be completely to the poll? Is conveyance half way to the poll made an offence under this Clause or not? Is conveyance to the party's offices, from 1411 which a shuttle service of legitimate cars can operate, barred by this Clause or not? Is conveyance to the market town in which the polling station happens to be located barred or not? We really are entitled to be told the answer to this here and today, and not leave it for anxious election agents and harassed candidates to settle when the time of the election comes. It is quite obvious that this Clause either means a great deal too much or a great deal too little. It is perfectly clear that it will cause the greatest trouble and the greatest hardship because of its vagueness, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, for once, he was not right when on the Committee stage he expressed a doubt as to whether it was possible to draft a Clause that would deal with this.
This Bill will, whatever my hon. Friends and I are able to do about it, be pushed through with the usual automatic majority by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I have no doubt that even those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have the courage to denounce certain aspects of it at 10 o'clock will trip obediently into the Lobby in support of it. However, perhaps I may be allowed to say this to the Government: this Bill is designed for their party advantage and I have little doubt that in the short run it will conduce to that; I have equally no doubt at all that in the long run it will do them much harm, for this reason, that the party opposite have climbed to their great majority and to their positions of power and influence in this country in surprisingly few years because they were borne upwards in their climb to power by the simple, honest faith of their pioneers who believed that they stood for something higher, finer and more idealistic than the older parties. By this Bill the Government have made it perfectly clear that that simplicity and that idealism are gone, and gone for ever. I believe that in making this abundantly clear to their own sincere and honest supporters in the country, the Government have today settled their own fate.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides are extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston - upon - Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) for joining with others in 1412 setting down this Amendment, because he thus enables us at this late stage to nail once and for all the reckless charges of bad faith that so often throughout the discussions of this Measure have been thrown against my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. It also enables us to look at a perhaps even more interesting question, whether these charges of bad faith were thrown out by the party opposite, carelessly and recklessly, not caring whether they were true or false, or did they—perhaps not all hon. Members opposite but some of them—have a very good suspicion when they were making these charges that they knew that they had no basis in fact whatsoever. I hope we shall have the presence again of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) because he played a considerable part in the Coalition of 1917, and what this Government have done in regard to this Speakers' Conference is exactly the same as that which the Coalition Government did in 1917 in regard to that last Speaker's Conference.
Let me make the position quite clear. The first charge made against my right hon. Friends is that there is obligation on the leaders of a political party who enter into a Speaker's Conference, to carry out the recommendations of that Conference in every respect and, if they do not do so, they can be charged with a breach of faith. That charge was made again by the hon. Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), and if I do not quote him it is because, while he has great scholastic eminence, perhaps he has not that clarity of speech which is possessed by his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank), who put the point rather more shortly and succinctly when he said:First of all, that when there is a Speaker's Conference of this kind, it is implicit, before we go into the Conference, that if recommendations are made, and particularly unanimous recommendations, they will be carried into effect over a period—not reversed in two or three years' time; and that these obligations are the personal, direct responsibility of the people who entered into them—nothing to do with a new Parliament. … That is the technique of the Speaker's Conference, which has grown up; this was not the first."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1948; Vol. 448, cc. 2116 and 2117.]It is quite true that this was not the first Speaker's Conference, it was the 1413 second one. Before right hon. Gentlemen opposite referred to the precedents of what took place, did they not look to see what took place at the first Speaker's Conference? Did they not look to see what was the attitude of their own party? Did not the right hon. Member for Woodford look to see what was the attitude of his then party? Did they not consider what their attitude was towards these recommendations of the Speaker's Conference? Because what was decided was exactly the contrary of the case put up by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. What was decided was that it was the right and the duty of Parliament to consider each one of the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference separately, without considering any bargain which might or might not have been made. That was exactly the point which was put up by the Minister in charge, by Mr. Walter Long as he was then, and that was the point of view which was upheld by Parliament. He said, in language which might be adopted today by my right hon. Friend the Lord President:The second argument, used outside this House,"—because in those days perhaps there was such a high standard of debating that people did not think it worth while using it inside the House—is that there is an agreement over the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference which makes our action not consistent with the rules of the game. … A more outrageous statement could not be made. … I repeat on this occasion that we have an absolute right, in whatever quarter of the House we may sit, to vote as we think fit upon this question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1917; Vol. 95, c. 1239.]There was, of course, a very definite understanding between the two parties at the Speaker's Conference. In those days there were many Conservative Members who were in favour of proportional representation but who were against the granting of votes to women.
I might remark in parenthesis, that that shows the degree of Conservative progress. There are now many Conservative Members who are in favour of votes for women, but who are against the granting of proportional representation. These Members entered into an arrangement on the Speaker's Conference. There is no doubt about it. If there is any doubt in the minds of any hon. Members of the Opposition, I will read what the 1414 Attorney-General said in regard to the bargain that was made. The Attorney-General was then Lord Birkenhead—quite distinguished in his way. He said:I for my part made up my mind that I would abandon my objection to the question of the vote for women in return for the acceptance by the House of Commons of these proposals as a whole. It was to me a great concession, but one of the things that reconciled me to it was this particular question of proportional representation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1917; Vol. 94, c. 797.]He saw that there was a bargain; he admitted it. But the House decided, quite rightly, that while there was an open admission of a bargain the House was perfectly free, if they so desired, to depart from it.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
I think that, to complete his story of the Speaker's Conference of 1917, the hon. Gentleman ought to inform the House that the Government of the day honoured their obligation by putting into their Bill every single recommendation of the Conference.
§ Mr. Bing
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct, but they subsequently left it to a free vote of the House to decide whether or not it should be taken out. It comes ill from the right hon. Gentleman, who has just been criticising my right hon. Friend for leaving other questions to a free vote of the House, to cite a parallel in which a free vote was employed.
It might be of interest to look again at what one or two of these figures who have cropped up so often in these Debates thought about this question of relying on the Speaker's Conference. We have continually had references to Lord Quickswood. He has been produced as the ideal University Member, the one just man—the one man who could form an independent opinion on any question. His name has been coupled with the name of one or two others, including the late Miss Rathbone, as the ideal type of University Member. What did he think on this subject? This is what Lord Quickswood said:The Bill NN as based on an elaborate arrangement entered into by the Speaker's Conference. That Conference was called by the Attorney-General, 'That assembly of patient and sagacious men.' I shall call it rather 'that ominous consultation of doves and serpents,' which produced the present Bill. … The Bill was based upon it. That basis was destroyed. It is certain to have all 1415 sorts of other effects on it, which really should be a warning against this whole procedure of basing your action on hole and corner conference. … I earnestly hope that we shall not be drawn into a continuance of all that procedure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1917; Vol. 94, c. 1492.]It is not my job to defend Lord Quickswood, but I can only suppose that if he thought that his authority was now being evoked to defend the Speaker's Conference, it would make him turn—in another place.
The really interesting point is not whether Lord Quickswood was right or wrong, but what was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford doing at this time? That is why I am so sorry that he is not at present in the House. I feel that if charges of this sort are made even right hon. Members ought to be here to listen to criticism of their remarks. I should like to ask him, and give him an opportunity perhaps to interrupt and reply, why he has waited over 30 years to make this protest. If it was wrong to disregard a bargain made at the Speaker's Conference in 1917, why did he not do it then? Why has he waited until 1948 to discover that a constitutional error has been made?
§ Mr. Bing
He had an excellent opportunity. He was not at that time in the Government. He was, so to speak, as someone has said of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, an influential back bencher in a brief interlude as potential Opposition. In fact, he had just ceased being Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster himself. He was present in the House. HANSARD records that he was asking, very properly, at that moment, questions about the necessity and the arrangements for secret Sessions. It still leaves the mystery why he did not at that time protest. Did he not think that a departure from a bargain made at the Speaker's Conference was a great constitutional wrong? If he did not think that then, when did he come to the conclusion that it would be a great constitutional wrong? Was it just when the Labour Party came into power, or was it at some period in the interval that his views changed? The House is entitled to the advice of the right hon. Gentleman on this matter.
1416 Really, is not the truth of this matter that the abolition of the franchise has always been a party matter? It has always been a party matter, because the party opposite has always opposed it. Any attempt to extend the franchise has always been opposed by the party opposite and, therefore, there is no particular point in having a Conference to discuss it. Nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, because—
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Without a Speaker's Conference.
§ Mr. Bing
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that his party refused to allow a Speaker's Conference on that occasion. I say again that I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford is not here. It has always been agreed in this House that redistribution is a technical matter and, therefore, a matter for which it is proper for Mr. Speaker to take part. It can be seen in that sense that Mr. Speaker is the Chairman of the Boundary Commission. The technicalities of redistribution have always been regarded as a matter on which it is possible to have an all-party, and non-party, agreement. That is why, when in 1928 Mr. Baldwin was discussing this very matter, he said that there was no point in having a Speaker's Conference, and, what is more, Mr. Speaker himself said that he would not like to preside once party conflict had been resumed. Where there is a question of redistribution, then Mr. Speaker would come in.
What has happened here is that all these reforms—the removal of the university seats and the removal of the City of London seats—spring from an alteration in the franchise, the abolishing of two votes for one person and the granting of a single vote to one person. Once we make that change then it is impossible to continue either the university or the City of London seats, because the electors have disappeared. I understand that the case in regard to the City of London is that 1417 the worst thing that could happen from the point of view of the party opposite would be that the Members for the City of London should be elected by the inhabitants. That, they consider, would be grossly improper. There was no more need for a Speaker's Conference on this question than there was need for a Speaker's Conference 40 years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman supported with his vote and his voice a Measure to abolish the university franchise and, thus, the university seats. Indeed, the only reason why we are debating this question today is that, in another place, the Measure supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was turned down. We can, on another occasion, deal with the views of the right hon. Gentleman on the conduct of another place on that particular Measure. The only point to be made clear is that a Speaker's Conference has never taken place in any circumstances when the only issue was the question of the extension of the franchise.
If I may turn briefly to the second charge, it is that this House has disregarded the findings of the Boundary Commission. It has always been agreed that it was the duty of the House so to do if it so desired. My right hon. Friend the Lord President has been quoted on a number of occasions, and perhaps I may quote him again. He was speaking, not on behalf of this Party alone, but on behalf of the Party opposite, in the days of the Coalition, when introducing the Measure which set up the Boundary Commission. My right hon. Friend said:… at all stages of the procedure Parliament must be on top … Therefore, Parliament will settle the principles, Parliament will deal with the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners as modified or not—obviously, by the Government——and submitted by the Government of the day, and at no stage will there be any situation which is not entirely under Parliamentary control. I am sure the House will attach importance to that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1614.]That was a speech made not only on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House, but on behalf of hon. Members opposite, and now it is said that this Bill ought to be rejected because the Lord President carried out a principle agreed to by both sides. There may be something to be said for that in some cases, but 1418 this does not seem to me to be one of them.
If, in fact, it was to be the criterion that no reform should take place which was not in accordance with the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, we should still have exactly the same distribution and exactly the same electoral law as we had in 1887, because the only way in which the redistribution of 1918 could be got through was by vote of the House to disregard, first, the views of the Speaker's Conference on this most important question of Proportional Representation, and, secondly and even more important, the views of the Boundary Commissioners, not in regard to a few constituencies, but in regard to 100 seats. What happened then? There were instructions given to the Boundary Commission and they proceeded with their work. Parliament decided, contrary to the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, to give a new set of instructions which affected 100 seats. I think we are right to ask why, in that case, was there no protest from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. If it was wrong in 35 cases, as he said, why is it not wrong in 100? What is the difference?
This, after all, is a serious question. Nobody in the House can allow the credit and the good name of this country to be attacked with impunity. I am sorry that the senior Burgess for Cambridge University took the opportunity of a Debate on this subject to denigrate his own country. There is no more serious act of a politician than to make a charge of ill-faith against the Government which he is not prepared to come here and justify. Nothing can do the credit of this country more harm than these entirely ill-founded and unjustifiable charges. If, in fact, I am right, and this Government has done nothing more than was done in 1918, then, at least, the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his supporters who added his name to the Amendment, should get up and explain to us the difference in circumstances between 1918 and today.
§ 6.34 p.m
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene in support of the Amendment which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) placed on the Order Paper, and which 1419 also bears my name. I wonder whether the Government altogether welcome the speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). He introduced a doctrine regarding the Speaker's Conference that not a single Member of the Government has yet put forward—the argument that it does not matter in the least what the Speaker's Conference decided, that it might just as well not have been held, and that there was no point in it whatever. That is the doctrine of the hon. Member for Hornchurch.
§ Mr. Strauss
No, I shall not give way to the hon. Member until he has heard more of my argument. If he then desires to interrupt, I will give way, as the House knows is my custom.
I wish to make clear certain very important matters. Of course, this House is not bound. Nobody has ever said that this House is bound. The people who are bound by honour are His Majesty's Ministers and the party which supports them. I am going to make quite clear what my charge is against His Majesty's Ministers and against the honour of the party which they purport to lead. Of course, this House is not bound. Back benchers opposite, if they disagree with their Front Bench when their Front Bench is acting honourably, are entitled to throw out the Government. What they are not entitled to do is to claim that they are honourable men in demanding that their leaders shall act dishonourably. Nobody has ever disputed the question—[Laughter.] I would remind hon. Members opposite that dishonour is not funny. In any case it has not hitherto been so regarded. If hon. Members opposite laugh at charges of dishonour to which they are unable to reply, it will not be my party that is injured.
I believe that this Measure marks the lowest depth to which even this Government has yet sunk. I believe the injuries which it does fall into two classes—injuries that are remediable and injuries that are irremediable. I believe in common with the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and the Hebdomadal Council of that university and with other distinguished men from other universities, that this proposal is injurious to the universities. I am quite certain that it is injurious 1420 to this House, but I do not believe that either of those injuries is the most important injury that it does, because a wiser Government can recreate what a foolish Government is seeking to destroy.
Even a temporary interruption of an institution that has enriched the House of Commons for three and a half centuries and has won great praise from the admirers of our Constitution in foreign countries—even an interruption of such an institution is distressing to those who love the continuity of our history and have some knowledge of that wherein the greatness of our country consists. Needless to say, that which troubles the intelligent delights the fool. The fact that hon. Members opposite are destroying a characteristic invention of English political genius is one of the things that gives those hon. Members a special pleasure, who can never forgive their country for being great. I have spoken of those injuries which I believe to be remediable. I believe that the injury to the universities and the injury to this House will be remedied. The injury which I believe to be irremediable is the damage that is done by the constitutional outrage and breach of faith by His Majesty's Ministers and the injury to the standards of our public life which they involve. That, I believe, no subsequent restoration of the university franchise can wholly remedy.
I want to put the constitutional argument which I regard as of great importance, but which I can put the more briefly because of the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) this afternoon. He spoke as a great student of the Constitution, and I speak perhaps primarily as a lawyer in this part of my speech. I think that every constitutional lawyer and every student of our institutions knows that the most striking and important feature of the British Constitution is the omnicompetence of Parliament. That means that Parliament can change the Constitution of the country by exactly the same legislative procedure as suffices for the least important and most transient Act of Parliament. There is, perhaps, no other great Constitution of which that is true. Every student is familiar with the various difficult and special procedures needed under other Constitutions for making constitutional change.
1421 The fact that we have an omnicompetent Parliament gives great advantages of flexibility and power as long as we are wise. But that very fact constitutes its characteristic danger. The only means by which we have avoided those dangers hitherto is by the observance of certain conventions. One of those conventions is that we should avoid radical alteration of the composition and constitution of the House of Commons except at longish intervals and with a maximum of consent.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Does not the doctrine of the omnicompetence of Parliament which the hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking to advocaten mean that one Parliament cannot bind aother, and is not his argument tending to show that one Parliament can bind another? Is not his argument contradictory?
§ Mr. Strauss
I must not be diverted too much. The hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) is quite wrong in thinking that I was advocating the omnicompetence of Parliament. I was merely stating that that was the most striking feature of our Constitution, and I was coming to the point with which I think the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes me to deal. As to the details of the 1917 matter, I should prefer not to deal with it without looking it up and making myself completely familiar with it. I believe that it constitutes no exception whatsoever to the doctrine which I am about to describe and which I advocate.
I say that it is quite obvious—and all great parties of the State have hitherto agreed—that we should seek the maximum of agreement in bringing about constitutional change. Otherwise, if it could be brought about merely by a bare majority in this House, it is quite obvious that we should never have achieved that continuity which has been the prime condition of the fame, the efficiency and the 1422 long survival of our Parliamentary institutions. The modern method has been to seek such agreement through a Speaker's Conference. I am not saying that agreement can always be secured. There have been extensions of the franchise which were not secured by agreement but by a General Election fought on the specific change. But the modern method has been to seek agreement by a Speaker's Conference.
In the case of the present Speaker's Conference, agreement was not only sought but obtained. Not only were all parties represented, but individual figures, or figures representing small minorities, important in our Parliamentary life, took part also, with the result, of course, that the Conservatives who had a great preponderance of the then House of Commons had not the same proportion, quite rightly, of the members of the Speaker's Conference. It has been suggested that the Speaker's Conference was not intended to bind a future Parliament; but, of course, as has been pointed out by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, if it were only the Parliament which formed that Conference which was concerned, there would not be a Speaker's Conference at all. There would be no point in it whatsoever, if the decisions were not intended to last for a long period. That is the whole point of a Speaker's Conference.
In this case the fact was made amply clear by the express terms of the recommendations which that Conference made. Not only was every member of the then Coalition Government himself bound—and, of course, the Socialist Party had large representation in that Government—but the Socialists who were not in the Government were led at that time by Mr. Pethick-Lawrence as he then was, and he accepted and commended the merits of the unanimous recommendation for the retention of the university franchise, and advocated it as a solution that should last.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Will not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that any such agreement by one set of Ministers to bind another set of Ministers in a later Parliament would be completely ultra vires and unconstitutional?
§ Mr. Strauss
I always think that the hon. and learned Gentleman would be 1423 much wiser if he would intervene at the right point. I am about to deal with that very question. The hon. and learned Gentleman could not be more wrong. At least, nobody else could be more wrong; I do not like to anticipate his further efforts. The hon. Members who came to that agreement were and are absolutely bound in honour. It has nothing to do with the powers of Parliament. Of course, Parliament can do anything, but I am talking of the honour of Ministers and the honour of members of the party supporting those Ministers. They, the back benchers, attained power, enjoying the benefit of every arrangement that their then leaders had made, and the express acknowledgment that they were bound in honour to carry out the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference was made not only in the last Parliament but, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, in this. Let me invite hon. Members to consider this very simple question.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The hon. and learned Member has made some very serious and sweeping allegations and has said we entered into express commitments. Will he quote those express commitments?
§ Mr. Strauss
I did not say "express commitments." What I do say is that the Speaker's Conference made certain recommendations nemine contradicente, among those being the recommendation, sufficient for my purpose, to retain the university vote. Some of the recommendations of that Speaker's Conference were, as was shown by the terms of the Report, to be carried out in the last Parliament and some were to be carried out in this Parliament. By declarations in both Parliaments the Lord President of the Council and others have made it absolutely clear that they thought that they were in honour bound to carry out the unanimous recommendations of the Speaker's Conference.
§ Mr. Morrison
What are these declarations which have been made? I would like the hon. and learned Member to quote them.
§ Mr. Strauss
They were all quoted, I think without exception, by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who is to wind up this Debate, when he was speaking at an earlier stage of this Bill. I do not want to 1424 weary the House by reading all the same declarations, but of the declarations in the present House it is sufficient to rely on two—that which was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon and the declaration made, in replying to the Address on the King's Speech, by the Lord Chancellor in another place. These are quite enough for the present purpose.
§ Mr. Strauss
I really do not want to detain so many who wish to speak by yielding too often. I ask hon. Members, in whatever quarter of the House they sit, to think of this. It is quite obvious that in a Speaker's Conference there are many decisions which may be reached by way of honourable compromise. If one party, having accepted the benefit of every unanimous recommendation which it regarded as advantageous to itself, is subsequently to turn round and reject unanimous recommendations which it then says it dislikes, but to which the utmost importance is attached by the other great party in the State, I say it is quite obvious that never again will it be possible for parties to enter a Speaker's Conference in the hope of deciding constitutional changes by agreement.
What must be the consequence of that? The consequence of that must be the liability to a constitutional upheaval as the sequel to every General Election. I say there is no one but the enemies of our democracy who will have any reason to rejoice by reason of this precedent. I want to prove up to the hilt my allegation with regard to dishonour. On this particular issue the Secretary of State for Scotland has intervened not on one day but on three days. On three separate occasions the Secretary of State for Scotland has intervened to express the view that the bargain has rightly been broken by the Government on two grounds. The first ground was that university seats had returned my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and myself at Elections to this Parliament, and the second ground was that my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) and my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) had frequently voted against the Government.
1425 Those were the reasons given by the Secretary of State for Scotland for the fact that what he himself described as a bargain was no longer to be operative. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) threw over the Secretary of State for Scotland the other night. I thought myself that these interventions of the Secretary of State for Scotland touched the lowest depths of intellectual and moral degradation which I had ever heard in this House.
What is involved in these statements? First of all, we are asked to believe that my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, sitting on the Speaker's Conference, announced that never again would he stand for Parliament, which is rather a tall order. Secondly, we are asked to believe that a party candidature against Independents was wrong at the last General Election. It so happens that Oxford University was represented by two Independents, so Professor G. D. H. Cole stood against them, and the first of his supporters was the present Prime Minister. I agree on this, and almost only on this, with the hon. Member for East Coventry: it is impossible to defend the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has, however, blurted out the truth as to why these seats are to be abolished. Nobody would suppose him capable of the intellectual effort needed for any prevarication. Those are, in fact, the reasons why the seats are to be abolished.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Coventry has left because, in his speech the other day, he made it quite clear that he regarded this question of the honour of Ministers as a rather unimportant side issue. Let me quote two passages. After throwing over the Secretary of State for Scotland, in which I agree with him, he said:It would be outrageous if the Ministers did not accept their high obligation, which is to represent the movement which sent them here and the vast movement of public opinion which has occurred since the Speaker's Conference.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 192.]Later, he said—[Interruption.] I am sorry if hon. Members object to the manner in which I am quoting. I am reading out each sentence. I will read a passage further on, and we shall see if hon. Members like that better:It is really a side issue, at this stage of the Bill's progress, to raise the precise 1426 behaviour of individual Ministers who were placed in an extremely difficult situation by the fact that they had made a pledge in certain conditions, and to say that when entirely different conditions came within a few months they should be made to stick to that pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 194.]If hon. Members and right hon. Members like that code of morality, I do not envy them their consciences, nor do I envy the prospect of the survival of democracy in this country if any great party is long allowed to hold those views and to get away with them.
It is not only a question of the honour of Ministers: it is a question of the honour of the party. Before I leave this question, I must deal with a point mentioned by the Lord President of the Council in his frivolous speech on this subject on the Committee stage. He said:I should be willing to submit to any impartial body that the Opposition had not proved their case that the Government are guilty of a breach of faith or that the proceedings of the Speaker's Conference in the last Parliament or the proceedings of the last Government in any way bind the present House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 1926.]Nobody ever said that they bind the present House of Commons. We say that they bind Ministers and bind those whom the Ministers lead. The offer, if it were meant to be an offer, of the Lord President of the Council was at once accepted and welcomed by the senior Burgess for Oxford University. I hope we shall still see whether it is true that the Lord President of the Council is willing to leave the matter to any impartial tribunal.
There is only one other thing I want to say. I was reproved at one stage of these proceedings, not today, by an hon. and learned Member who said that I had not exhibited academic detachment. I agree entirely, and I welcome that tribute. Neither the universities I represent, nor any other universities, nor their graduates, nor their undergraduates, nor their Parliamentary representatives feel in the least detached as they watch the ruin of their country under the maladministration of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. Universities I believe to be unique and glorious institutions, and I believe it is because they are such institutions that the young, as well as the graduates, recognise the source of their greatness, and resent what is being 1427 done to them now by this colossal breach of faith. I do not doubt for one moment that right hon. Gentlemen opposite can lead their obedient supporters into the Lobby tonight to give them a great majority. They will not, however, be voting that the Government is not guilty of great dishonour: they will be voting in favour of the proposition that dishonour does not matter.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Medland (Plymouth, Drake)
I listened with some interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), but I find some difficulty in understanding his declaration of a theory of democracy which gives two votes to a man or a woman because he or she has been to a university and only one to a man who has spent his lifetime in creating the wealth of the nation. I cannot understand what is meant by democracy in that sense. It is because for some 30 years I have been battling in the country for what I regard as true democracy—and that is an old standard that was defined in many speeches in this House in times gone by, the standard of "one man, one vote, one value" that I so profoundly disagree with the representations and arguments that have been made by the representatives of the universities here in consideration of this Bill.
I listened with great interest to the two opening speeches of this Debate. We were informed in the peroration of the Home Secretary that we had drawn nearer to the idea of "one vote, one value." The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), after declaring that the first plank in the Conservative Party's policy—the first we have heard of in this House—was the restoration of university seats, said that what he wanted was a better, freer and truer expression of the people's will. So, after all the wordy arguments, it would seem that right hon. Gentlemen on the two Front Benches are after very much the same thing.
One of the arguments used by the Opposition, and expressed in very strong language—some of the strongest I have heard in this Parliament—is that this Bill gives an unfair advantage to the Labour Party; and so we have been charged with cheating. I submit that this Bill does 1428 nothing of the sort. Considering the South-Western part of the country as a yardstick, I find that this Bill makes Parliamentary representation safer for the Tories than ever before. My complaint against the Bill, and the reason I shall not be able to support it on Third Reading is that it does that very thing—it gives an undue advantage to the people who live in county divisions as distinct from the people who live in county boroughs or urban areas with large populations. The test, so far as we are concerned, is the fact that in the Western counties the average number of electors required to elect Members in the vastly more numerous Conservative constituencies is something in the region of 50,000 electors, whereas in the industrial areas, particularly in the Cities of Bristol and Plymouth, the numbers of electors required to elect one Member are anything between 65,000 and 75,000—that is, in areas where the Labour Party is stronger. It is very curious that in the conurbations the populations happen to be Labour Party supporters, but that in the county divisions, most of the electors happen to be Tories. Yet we have had all this argument today about the disadvantages to the other side of the House. I want to object to that very strongly.
One other objection I have is to the fact that no consideration seems to have been given to the position of areas which, at the time when the figures were set, had lost their populations temporarily owing to enemy action. The result is that the city which I have the honour to represent is disfranchised, and that on a basis of population which could not live in the city because there were not sufficient houses after the bombing. I make my strongest protest that, in spite of the fact that the House indicated that it thought a great measure of injustice had been done to my city by its being thus disfranchised, the Home Secretary has not seen fit to make provision for the adequate representation of the people already living there. As a matter of fact, the electors already there inside the city would give us above the average for all the county divisions immediately surrounding us. I cannot understand why the Home Secretary urges the doctrine that one vote should have one value, when, because a man lives on one side of the river, he is in a constituency that has 48,000 electors, 1429 while another on the other side of the river is in a constituency of 75,000 electors. I make my strongest protest against this inequality. I hope that there may yet be time for the Home Secretary to put right this most glaring injustice, and to restore to something like fair representation in this House one of the oldest cities in the country—a city with great historical interests, and a city which has contributed to the well-being of this nation.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
I would like to say a word or two as to the number of Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland and their reduction from 13 to 12. In the Boundary Commission's Report for Northern Ireland, the Commissioners pointed out that 71,000 electors were required to return a Member from Northern Ireland and only 57,000 to return a Member from Great Britain. We have there a population of 1,300,000, and when this Bill is passed, we shall return only 12 Members to Westminster. Belfast alone, at the present moment, has a population of 500,000, and returns only four Members. It is expected that the boundaries are to be extended within a year or two. If the boundaries were extended in Belfast and if we were given another Member, I do not think that anyone can tell me what party would be returned to this House for the new constituency. At present, in Belfast alone, there are three Unionists and one Socialist returned, but it is possible that even Nationalists may be returned if there are five Members.
We Unionists never wanted a Parliament in Ireland. We have always fought against it. We have wanted to remain at Westminster, and we still want to remain at Westminster, in spite of all its faults. We honour, value and appreciate being represented here, and we feel keenly the reduction of our numbers from 13 to 12. At the present time there are 13 Members for Northern Ireland—10 Unionists, one Socialist and two Nationalists. I cannot speak for the Nationalists, as they often say that they are far more drawn to a Parliament in Dublin than to one in London, but I believe that the best representation for Northern Ireland would still be a university seat.
I was questioned on a speech which I made on the Second Reading about the 1430 smallness of the numbers of graduates at Queen's University. That is quite true, but the numbers are increasing every year. It is a small university but a very active one. It has been said that the most valuable exports of Northern Ireland are not ships—I was at a launching yesterday of a new aircraft carrier in Belfast—and not linen, ropes or tobacco, but our graduates and our doctors. They are working all over the world. Only yesterday I was speaking to the Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University about the activities of the university. He pointed out to me that at the present time there are many African and Indian graduates at Queen's University, and they are by no means the least valuable, the least hardworking or the least distinguished members of that university. Indeed, the Vice-Chancellor had nothing but good words to say about them. I would like to feel that when those undergraduates qualify and go back to their own homes they will still feel that they have an interest in their old university and that they are drawn to this country through the representation of their university at Westminster.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give us the total number of voters on the Belfast University register, and the total number who voted at the last election?
§ Sir W. Smiles
I am sorry that I cannot give the number who voted at the last election. I believe that the number of voters today is just over 6,000, but I would not like to take an oath on that point. A knowledge of history is a thing which every Member of Parliament should have. An hon. Member said that most of us between the ages of 16 and 24 were too busy earning our living to be able to study history. From some of the speeches which I have heard today it is not only graduates who have made a study of history and who are able to quote the intimate details of how some charming countess influenced the Front Bench and influenced this or that policy of Government. I can quite understand the ambition of people now on the Front Bench, because that sort of luck never came my way.
The question of motor cars has been raised a good many times in this Debate. Like most Members, I have driven myself 1431 in several elections. In Northern Ireland, it is more difficult than ever to get voters to the poll because the bus routes run direct from the country districts to the capital city, Belfast, and the bus is often of little use to get electors to the poll. I think that the concession which the Home Secretary spoke about today concerning motor cars will be a valuable one. I have driven in many elections, but I have never asked voters who have got into my motor car for whom they were going to vote. Of course, I admit that the car was marked with the candidate's name or colours. I understood the Home Secretary to say today that any car could take voters to the poll legally, provided that it was not marked in any way and that no pressure was put on the voter as to how he was to vote. I think that parts of this Bill are good. I think that some of the constituencies were out of proportion—the smaller constituencies in relation to the larger ones—but I must say that I regret the abolition of the university seats and the reduction of the representation of Northern Ireland.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
I do not propose to devote much of my time to the general attack on this Bill, other than to associate myself with all that has been said on this side of the House about its bad points. There are one or two particular points which I should like to raise as to the effect of the Bill in respect of Clauses 7 and 33 on voters in Scotland. When the Bill came before the House on Committee stage, Clause 33 was not then a part of it. Clause 7 was discussed only in very rough outline, as the Clause which sets up or empowers the setting up of new polling stations. I was interested at the beginning of the Debate to hear the Home Secretary say that any difficulty that might occur in transport through the restriction of motor cars would be overcome by the setting up of additional polling stations. This is a very important point, and I raise it because I want to make sure that the Government realise the extent to which additional polling stations will have to be set up in the rural areas.
In my own constituency of Central Aberdeen we had about 40 or 50 polling stations at the last election. If we were 1432 to allow those constituents to work on a smaller travelling basis, of four or five miles instead of seven and 12, and 14 in some cases, we should require an additional 70 or 80 polling stations. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary now, if he will give it, that where the appropriate recommendations are made by 30 people for an additional polling station to be set up, that polling station will be set up, because the Clause as drafted is permissive, in that it says:the Secretary of State shall consider the representation and may, if he thinks fitset up additional polling stations. I do not know if we can get an assurance from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, if he is to speak later in this Debate. It is a matter of vital importance, in view of the withdrawal of certain motoring facilities which we had at the last election. What has been said today about Clause 33 does not coincide with what is in the Bill. The Home Secretary, when moving the Third Reading today, said that the private individual could drive a friend, or pick up a friend and take him to the poll, as long as he did not solicit for a particular candidate. He used the words "a particular candidate," and my difficulty is that those words are not in the Clause, which at the moment says that one shall not drive someone to the pollwith a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate.If a person drives someone to the poll he is obviously helping to procure the election of "a" candidate, and unless the word "particular" can be inserted the interpretation which the Home Secretary gave today is incorrect. I wonder whether he would look into this matter, and give an assurance that the Clause will be corrected in this respect, perhaps in another place?
Turning to the general aspects of the Bill, and the feelings that I have in being asked to vote on its Third Reading, I am chiefly impressed by the time-table of the planning, and the way in which this Bill was presented to the House. It came along bit by bit. After the university seats had been hacked off, we were told about the 17 additional borough constituencies; then there was the new Clause 33 regarding the use of motor cars; we had the Bill one little bit after another. On the Report stage we were told how desirable some such provision as that contained in Clause 1433 33 was because it had been mooted in 1931. Surely, if it were desirable it should have been in the original Bill. I am convinced that the Clause was merely put in as an act of surrender by the Minister to the irresponsible, partisan and vindictive Members who sit behind him.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
I should like to support the plea of the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) for the most generous interpretation of the regulations providing for polling stations in rural areas. I hope the Home Secretary can give us some reassurance on that point, which I regard as one of the most valuable and important provisions of the Bill; it is one which will go a long way towards assisting in that equality of voting which the Bill intends to provide.
I should also like to congratulate the hon. Member on being one of the, if not the, first speaker from the Opposition Benches today who has not devoted almost all of his speech to a consideration of university representation. Throughout the whole passage of this Bill one of the most painful features to me has been that Member after Member representing the universities has spoken to plead a special cause. I admit that in a Bill of this kind inevitably there must be a good deal of special pleading, because different Members are particularly affected. One quite understands it. But this afternoon we have had three speeches—ranging from the heroics of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) to the painful pedantry of the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—none of which concentrated on stating an objective view, but all of which were infused with a kind of personal bitterness which abrogated all possibility of any reasoned view of the situation.
The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities outdid all his colleagues in his description of the Bill, by saying that this Bill, which apparently will deprive him of his present seat, is the lowest depth to which this Government has yet sunk. I feel that remarks of that kind, and of the kind made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) with regard to the personal integrity of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary are not merely totally uncalled for, but 1434 show how completely the real essence of this Bill is misjudged by the Opposition. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said that Members on the Government Front Bench had lost completely the simplicity and idealism of the Socialist pioneers. Well, some of them at least, are Socialist pioneers.
In my submission, the real essence of this Bill lies in the core, which the Home Secretary quite clearly defined as embodying the principle, "one man, one vote, one value." No one would pretend—and certainly I do not—that after this Bill becomes law every vote will have an equal value; but within its terms of reference, and in so far as it is humanly possible in a constantly changing electorate, the various provisions of this Bill will provide that. It has been said, rightly, that there is no finality in democracy. And there can be no finality in a Bill of this kind. Things are constantly changing, and there must be constant and continual adjustment; but at least the basic principles which have governed the various decisions in this Bill are sound, and should not in any case be altered.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the redivision of certain constituencies, and of the provision of 17 extra seats with the denial of five additional seats demanded by the Conservative Party. Yet in every case these same principles apply and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, who said that an undeniable case had been put forward for the five seats, conveniently forget that an almost identical if not better, case was put forward in respect of Plymouth, and was also denied. So the treatment in that respect is quite equal. Similarly, the hon. Member spoke of three Socialist Members formerly being returned with a total of only 69,000 electors; but hon. Members opposite have made speech after speech demanding that we should continue the iniquitious practice of sending to this House two Conservative Members for the City of London from about 5,000 electors. There is no consistency in such arguments.
If university graduates had been here at the various stages of this Debate, and heard the speeches made by their representatives, then, quite apart from the question of principle, and quite apart from whether they believed that "one man, one vote" was a right principle, 1435 after hearing their representatives they would have said that in any case we were right in the decision we were taking in regard to the university vote.
The same principle applies to the business vote. It is difficult to understand how Members opposite can continue to defend the business vote. It is possible—and this has happened in my own case—to have six different votes in respect of six different business premises. That kind of thing is indefensible. Once it is admitted that the business vote must go, then there is no possibility of continuing with the City of London constituency in its present form. The same principle of endeavouring to give equality of treatment is responsible for the new regulations in regard to cars. I think that what hurts the Conservative Party most is that the provisions in this Bill are fair to everyone, in so far as it is possible for them to be so, and that the privileges which they have for so long enjoyed are now going. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) gave fair warning that if the Tory Party should secure a majority at the next election, one of the first things they would do would be to restore those very privileges and inequalities which have stood in the way so long of equality in voting power as between the electors.
It has been said several times that the steps which have been taken will militate against the Labour Party because they violate some essential principle of equity. It is this principle of reasonable equality which hon. Members opposite sneer at. Whenever one of their special privileges is done away with, they say it is unfair and we are subjected to abuse of this kind. I believe that the provisions in this Bill, within the terms of reference and within the limits of the lowest and highest numbers of electorate in a constituency, ensures that all electors have an equal chance of casting their vote, and that the votes will be approximately equal in value. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has called this Measure a "Representation of the Labour Party Bill." But anything which makes for justice must improve Socialist representation in this House, and since this Bill does make for justice by giving the people a reasonable and equitable chance in exercising their franchise, it improves, just as progress in 1436 education improves, but not in any unfair way, Socialist representation in this House.
All that has been said by Members opposite has been in favour of the preservation of those things which they have enjoyed for so long, and these are the things, the business vote, the university vote and matters of that kind, which have interfered with reasonable justice in these matters and are quite indefensible on any basis of fairness. No one who represents a university has attempted at any time to justify the university vote, but the right hon. Gentleman, despite all this, says that the first step the Opposition will take, if they are returned at the next election, will be to ensure that these privileges are returned. I submit that that exposes the whole case of the Opposition and the purpose of this Amendment. Because I believe that the Government have attempted in all respects to do justice, and that this Bill will result in a great improvement in the exercise of the franchise, I shall gladly support it.
§ 7.35 p.m.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) need not fear that he will have to listen to another speech about the universities, but in defence of my hon. Friends I would point out, having listened to three speeches from university Members, that none of them deserves the epithet of "painful pedantry." I am wondering what sort of painful, pedantic speech we might have heard from the hon. Member for Taunton if this Bill had happened to abolish his constituency.
§ Mr. Collins
If this Bill had abolished my constituency, I should not have spoken at all. The position is that my constituency is unchanged—it has not been altered by one vote.
After that claim to modesty, perhaps the hon. Member will agree with what I have to say about representation in the rural areas. The Home Secretary claimed, rather too highly I thought, that under this Bill he had improved the possibilities of electors in rural areas being able to record their votes. I agree that the provision in Clause 7 that in normal circumstances a returning officer will establish a polling station in each parish is an advance over the previous discretionary powers, but I do not think that that is 1437 the entire answer. I do not wish to be too tedious about this, but I will give an example from my own constituency. We have 100 rural parishes in Westmorland. At the last election we had 65 polling stations, and in future will have more under the provisions of this Bill. But I say that this provision will not be the entire answer because we have parishes that are 12 miles long and even longer and with poor communications. I can give one example of a farm which is 35 miles from a polling station, unless one chooses to walk a number of miles over a very rough footpath across the fells.
I see that under this Bill special concessions are made if an elector is expected to have to make a journey by sea or air, but I submit that some of the journeys which people in remote districts have to make by land are just as deserving of concessions. To show that I am not exaggerating in any way, I noticed that when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster carne into my constituency for his Whitsun constitutional and walked along the Pennines with his aides-de-camp, he thought it was such a manly feat that it ought to be recorded by a troop of photographers.
The establishment of polling stations in each parish is not the real answer. The real answer is the intelligent use of modern transport. What little the right hon. Gentleman has given with one hand, he seems to have take away with the other. I wonder whether Clause 32 is really going to be sufficiently understood for anyone to dare to use a car at all. I am wondering, too, if my relations with my prospective opponent at the next election are as good as those with my opponent at the last election, whether we might share cars. And then, if we use a car in some of these remote districts with two labels, whether it could be described as being employed to aid the return of a candidate, and if not whether it will count as half a car or no car at all. If we are to be limited as strictly as this Clause appears to limit us in an area like Westmorland, a very large number of persons in remote areas will find it a great deal worse to get to the polling station than it was before. I would like to ask whether it is possible under the Bill for mobile polling stations to be set up. That might be the answer in districts such as ours. Nowadays we are so used to having everything 1438 delivered on our doorsteps that surely it is not asking too much that perhaps the poll might be brought to us, instead of compelling us to walk to the poll.
Some Members have referred to the Speaker's Conference of 1918. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has refreshed his mind as to what took place in 1653—a very important date in history—when a Representation of the People Bill was being considered? On the occasion of its Third Reading, that Bill was thrown out not as I hope this Bill will be tonight, by Members voting for the reasoned Amendment, but by actual, physical force. Oliver Cromwell and a group of soldiers entered the Chamber towards the end of the Debate, and after he had bandied words with your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, and made rude remarks about the Mace, the House was cleared of all Members, and nothing more was heard of that Bill. Afterwards, by a Resolution of the House, the entry in the journals was expunged. I hope that tonight there will be no need for any physical force, but that we shall be able to defeat this Bill by mustering sufficient Members in the Lobby to do so. I also hope that the Debate tonight, and the Debates on previous stages, as recorded in HANSARD, will be extremely widely read so that the public will be able to realise the strange twistings and turnings which have led the right hon. Gentleman to his place on the Treasury Bench tonight.
Perhaps I may be excused if I claim a special interest in the incident which took place on that day in April, 1653, because an ancestor of my name found himself in the position of the Home Secretary today, facing very similar charges and endeavouring to pilot through the House a Bill which was represented at that time, as this Bill is considered today, as an attempt to favour the Government party. The majority party was then just a Rump, a timid Rump, which had lost its popular backing. There were the same strange meetings, charges and countercharges of bargains made and bargains broken. I have looked up the part my ancestor played then and although I am not proud of it, I think the charges against him were a great deal less well-founded than those we are bringing against the Home Secretary today. When Oliver Cromwell came in to put an end to the 1439 Long Parliament and Sir Harry Vane rose in his place and said:This is not honest, Sir. Yea, it is against morality and common honesty.I think I am justified in using those same words tonight to the Home Secretary: "This is not honest, Sir. Yea, it is against morality and common honesty." From that moment the political fortunes of Sir Harry Vane declined; he wended his way through various prisons and ended his days on Tower Hill. While the death penalty remains part of the law of this land, the Home Secretary should beware.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I would like to say a few words in reply to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). If he were here at the moment I am sure he would agree that he who makes a charge must prove it. That is true before any tribunal. It is certainly true where the charges are of a very gross nature. The hon. and learned Gentleman made charges of a very gross character against the occupants of the Government Front Bench. He used such words as "dishonour," "lowest depths," and "breach of faith," and where such charges are made, not only is the onus of proof on the person who makes them, but he should be put to a very strict proof.
The charges of alleged turpitude and obliquity which have been levelled against Ministers today are based on (a) an alleged agreement and (b) an alleged breach of that agreement. I have no doubt that the onus has not been discharged. Not only has an agreement not been proved, but it has not been shown that if there were such an agreement it subsisted from Parliament to Parliament and that it would be constitutionally right to attempt to carry it out now. If we look at the terms of the Amendment, on behalf of which the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities spoke, we see that it alleges that the agreement has been repudiated for party advantage, and not as a constitutional right. I submit that none of these things have been proved. When the hon. and learned Member was speaking, I intervened and put to him the dilemma in which his argument placed him, but he 1440 sailed away from it by saying that he did not wish to delay later speakers. I asked him to specify the charge that the agreement could be carried on from Parliament to Parliament, and I put to him the question, "Does not your argument mean that one Parliament can bind another?" I have no doubt that those who are lawyers here will agree that it would be an alteration of the British Constitution for one Parliament to attempt to bind or even to influence a succeeding Parliament. That is what the Amendment seeks to do.
On another aspect, I was rather astonished to hear the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) express superstitious awe about observations which fell from the Home Secretary on Second Reading. I have looked them up since. It is quite true that my right hon. Friend said, on the Second Reading of this Bill:This Bill completes the progress of the British people towards a full and complete democracy begun by the great Reform Bill of 1832.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, C. 839.]The hon. Member was shocked at the use of the word "completes." He said that no actor ever completed his recital of his part at rehearsal lest it might mean the completion, the end of all things, the end of the play. The hon. Member was shocked that my right hon. Friend should use the word "completes," lest superstitution might lead him to an unfortunate end of the Bill he was espousing. I have no doubt that it will not mean the end of the Bill. This Bill, like all national progress, has proceeded degree by degree, step by step, against opposition. That was so in the case of the great Reform Bills of 1832 and 1866, and is so today, in 1948. The Opposition seek to stop the march of progress. They do so in vain. Social forces march onward in their might and the worn-out views of the Opposition will not stay the progress of this Bill. Why? Because it is fair and just and right, because it abolishes privilege, redistributes seats on the basis of the population and makes for fairer representation of the people.
The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), when arguing in favour of the retention of separate university representation, said that this Bill aimed seven blows. He said that one was at an historic part of the structure of this 1441 House. What part? If a limited and privileged franchise is part of the structure of this House, then surely the Bill is right in abolishing it in these democratic days. He said that it was a wanton and unprovoked blow at the professional classes. I submit it is nothing of the kind. Other constituencies return members of the professional classes. Professors are not the only members of the professional classes, and other constituencies return Members of various branches of the learned professions. There is no special virtue in the professional classes, and Members of this House who are not members of the professional classes have made very useful and valuable contributions.
The senior Burgess for Oxford University said that the third blow was one at learning and education. That, I submit, is a complete fallacy. Learning and education is one thing; political representation is quite another. One has nothing to do with the other, and this Bill does not in any way affect learning and education. The fourth blow he described was a blow at the Constitution itself. That is a gross exaggeration out of all proportion to the argument he was attempting to support. I submit that no case has been made out by the Opposition and on those grounds I oppose the Motion and support this Bill, which I hope will pass.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
With the exception of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), who was obviously speaking to a brief, there have been six speeches from the back benches opposite and only two have been in unqualified support of this Bill. The arguments of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen could be summarised by saying that they consisted of saying, first of all, that the Government never made a bargain; secondly, if they did it was not intended to last; thirdly, if it was intended to last the Government should not be bound by it; and, fourthly, that if they were bound by it the Opposition broke it first. The hon. and learned Member, who is a member of the same profession as myself, realises that these sophistries, of which we have every day experience in the courts, are all right in the courts, but it may-dawn upon him that when we step out of our wigs and gowns and try to appear as men who represent the things in which we really 1442 believe, such inconsistent sophistries are a little ridiculous and sometimes a trifle dishonourable.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. Member, like his colleagues, uses the word "dishonour" with great facility. Am I to take his observation as an attack upon the learned profession to which he and I have the honour to belong?
§ Mr. Hogg
No. I was venturing to argue that what may be legitimate in a pleading becomes less legitimate when speaking on oath, or when the person who utters it has to make himself responsible for its truth.
I should like now to turn to the other part of the case which was presented to us by other hon. Members opposite. Of those hon. Members only two, the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr, Collins), expressed unqualified support of this Bill. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who was going to vote in favour of it, thought it would have been better if it had been postponed until after the local government inquiry, a theme with which I respectfully agree although I think it is the least of the Bill's deficiencies. The hon. Member for Workington and the hon. Member for Taunton were both, however, in general going to vote for the Bill. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) was going to vote against it, while the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland) did not feel able to go into the Lobby in its support.
I sympathise with the hon. Member for Drake. He complains of the fact that one of the constituencies for Plymouth—indeed, the one which he represents here—is to be obliterated and he also complains of the fact that the distinguished city of Plymouth is to have an average quota of 75,000. Poor man, he does not realise that he and Plymouth are cast in this miserable comedy in the part of Uriah the Hittite. He has to leave us to ensure that Kingston shall still be a constituency of 108,000 or Oxford created into a constituency of 75,000. He does not realise that one or two Socialists must disappear to make it possible for Labour seats of 40,000 to be created in the rotten boroughs of the Metropolis and elsewhere and so that Tory seats of 100,000 shall be allowed to continue. Uriah the Hittite 1443 is placed in the most dangerous part of the battle and the object is to make him disappear. I sympathise with the hon. Member for Drake but I am amazed at his ingenuousness in not realising that he has been made a cuckold.
That leads me to the assertion of the hon. Member for Taunton and the hon. Member for Workington, both of whom said that in supporting the Bill they were actuated by nothing but principle. I once heard a litigant who had lost a court action, having the result of the proceedings explained to him by an unsympathetic managing clerk. That managing clerk was seen to take him aside, and in a stentorian whisper, which rang through the building, he told him, "'E didn't believe yer." Distasteful as it is to say it, my answer to the hon. Gentleman when they say they are actuated by principle is, "I don't believe yer." The evidence against it is so overwhelming that nobody in his senses would. One can believe that a man once or twice has found the path of duty which was also the path to glory, but when a man acts again and again—not once again but again and again—in his own interests and all the time mouths the plea of moral principle as the actuating motive behind it, every sensible person is driven to realise that the man is a hypocrite. He may deceive some people and he may continue to deceive himself, but the real situation is quite different.
In this case, each of the significant changes which the Government have made in the basis of the franchise in this country has inured to their own advantage. No doubt they have been actuated by the highest principles. They have abolished the business vote, a thing which they claim to be obviously to their advantage. They have abolished the City of London constituency to their own advantage. The have abolished the university seats to their own advantage, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has practically admitted that in doing this they are actuated by that reason alone. They have created 17 new constituencies, the motive behind which is painfully obvious and they have tried to abolish, or at any rate to limit, the elector driving to the poll by motor car, unless, of course, he is rich enough to afford one of his own which he can 1444 go in—another change which is admitted by Members opposite to be to their own advantage.
Of these five reasons based on the highest principle two have been discovered since the Second Reading of the Bill, one after the plea based on the highest principle was asserted in loud terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) whilst he was still a voice crying in the wilderness and one after a similar demarche from the gang below the Gangway. These concessions to principles deceive nobody. To pretend that they are actuated by principle, or by anything else than mere party expediency, is humbug.
Our objection to this Bill is that it is a dirty business and nothing but a dirty business. It was a dirty business when it was brought in and it has become the "Dirtiest of the Dirty"—if hon. Members remember their Surtees—since it went through the Committee and Report stages. It is, in fact, one of the characteristic productions of the political morality of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. In the first place, it is based upon no obvious principle of public advantage. Secondly, it is clearly actuated by the plainest motives of party interest. Thirdly, it embodies a distinct breach of pledge.
That brings me to the characteristic speech of the hon. Member for Hornchurch. His argument, at any rate, was directed to the point which has been made against the Bill today that it involves a breach of faith by the Government. It is a pity that he did not manage to deal with the criticism which was made. This is not a difficult or pedantic question of precedents and past examples. It is something which is within the living recollection of every Member of this House who was a Member of the previous Parliament. We know that a bargain was made because we were parties to it. We know that the distinct arrangement was made that the Speaker's Conference should be honourably regarded if it arrived at a conclusion. Nor is it of the slightest possible plausibility to suggest that the bargain was not intended to last. It was obvious, and was agreed from the very content of the Speaker's Conference negotiations, that only part of them could have been carried out in the lifetime of that 1445 Parliament—namely, that part which dealt with the purely interim arrangements for the creation of a purely temporary number of constituencies. The greater part of the discussions, in fact, concerned general constitutional questions which were never within the contemplation of anyone to be enacted in the last Parliament.
It is said—without very much appearance of conviction—that this House is not bound by the Speaker's Conference. In a sense that is perfectly true, and if the hon. Member for Hornchurch had simply been asserting the constitutional rights of this House to disregard its leaders and for hon. Members to vote as their conscience tells them to, I imagine he would have received the support of every hon. Member, at any rate of those not on the Front Benches. That, however, is not the point. Hon. Members and right hon. Gentleman who are parties to an agreement must keep that agreement. That is the meaning of a bargain. Right hon. Gentlemen who make a bargain of this kind in plain terms must, when they come to this House afterwards, seek to honour it. They must recommend the House to accept it. That is their plain duty. When they do not do that, they are dishonourable. When the Home Secretary, in a previous Debate, solemnly came here and said to us, "You do not know my back benchers," he was using an argument which no political leader ever would have accepted.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way. I have given way to him once and am pressed for time. The truth of the matter is that when the right hon. Gentleman introduces a Bill, he does not wait for his back benchers to disown it. He does not leave it, as he has left other things, to a free vote of the House. When he introduces a Bill—backed with all the authority of the Government Whips—containing the opposite of what he agreed to do, that is something which no honourable man would do—and, I must add, which no honourable party would accept from its leaders. If he had been afraid that his back benchers would have disowned him, as he pitifully had to admit the last time he spoke to us on this subject, his duty was to wait until they did so 1446 and then to resign, and to give them the opportunity, if they liked, of reinstating him by taking his advice, or, if he preferred, of going back into the wilderness and retaining his reputation as an honourable man. What he has chosen to do, however—to adopt a phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch)—is to ''eat dirt." This is not the first time he has done so. Let me warn him that a man who has once been made by his supporters to eat dirt will not have to cease eating dirt until the end of his political days.
We come from the principle of the breach of faith to the question of the constitutional principle involved in the Bill. As I see it, this is the very clear and simple constitutional principle which is involved. Democracy cannot be made to work—and I think this is generally conceded on both sides of the House—unless there is a certain basis of agreement about first principles and a certain basis of good faith between the two major parties in that democracy. This is a question which supremely ought not to have been forced through by a party majority. Differences in the franchise, differences in the basis of representation, can constitutionally be introduced in one of two ways. Either they can be introduced into an election programme and sanctioned by the people direct, or they can be made the basis of an honourable agreement, honourably carried out, between the two parties which differ about principle in the House of Commons. But there is no third way in which it can honourably be done without destroying the very basis upon which constitutional democracy is, based. It is precisely because the Government have chosen a third way—a third way which, in this instance, involves a distinct breach of a clear pledge—that I am not in the least going to accept the criticism that we have been indulging in mere abuse when we describe this as a dirty business of which any honourable man ought to be ashamed.
A great deal of humbug has been talked about the principle—[Interruption]—at any rate from the Benches opposite—about the principle of "one man, one vote" and "one vote, one value." Such an argument is the plainest hypocrisy because it is not that which the Bill either effects or seeks to effect. A vote in Battersea will be treated as worth about two 1447 and a half times a vote in Kingston, because one is likely to return a Socialist and the other a Tory. It will count about twice as much as a vote in Oxford because Oxford happens to have a Tory representative in Parliament. People returning a Conservative Member are being disfranchised by the party opposite in the name of "one vote, one value." But where they find an area which they can dominate with their lying propaganda they give that area extra seats. But let me tell the party opposite that they will be mistaken even in that, because, even in the most backward areas of the country, the follies and inconsistencies of the Government are very rapidly coming to be seen.
The principles behind a true Representation of the People Bill ought to have been considered rather on these lines: First, the manner of its introduction according to the principles of which I have spoken; secondly, as to the underlying constitutional principles according to the answers given to this question: how can this House of Commons be made a better and more representative place; how can our debates be raised in value and how can the various segments and sections of opinion be better represented? These are questions to which the right hon. Gentleman has never directed his attention. He has chosen, instead, to deprive those unique bodies—the universities—of their special representation, he has chosen to break the pledges which he solemnly made and to depart from the acknowledged principles which hitherto have guided constitutional reform.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I do not think that the wild excesses of language of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) will deceive even his own supporters on this occasion—
§ Mr. Fletcher
Or himself. We are accustomed to hearing extravagant language of that kind from the hon. Member but he has not said a word in reasoned justification of the Opposition Amendment for the rejection of this Bill. I want in the brief time available to me to give my answer to the most serious charges which have been made by the Opposition. We 1448 have been charged with bad faith, with dishonour, with cheating, with chicanery, with having rotten constituencies and so on.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I want to repudiate the offensive and malignant suggestions that have been made because I believe they are quite unwarranted. We are accustomed to hear language from hon. Members opposite which suggests that they and they alone are the custodians of constitutional principles and that they and they alone understand the basis on which constitutional democracy should exist in this country. We on these benches are just as zealous to preserve the essential basis of British constitutional democracy as those who sit on the benches opposite. I do not think there has been any violation—as they suggest—of any of the fundamental bases on which constitutional democracy depends.
I resent as most mischievous those remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in which he alluded to Soviet Russia and to elections in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and his innuendo that this Bill so far deviates from the principles of constitutional democracy which we follow in this country as to have introduced elements of totalitarianism. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and the Opposition know that. That which distinguishes a free democracy from a totalitarian country is a constitution which enables the electorate to express its opinion at free and periodic elections and either to support the Government of the day or to return a new Government. The object of this Bill is to preserve that essential democratic freedom, by making improvements in our electoral arrangements, designed to secure the most just and equitable machinery for democratic representation.
It is no use hon. Members attacking this Bill because it may incidentally produce some advantages for this party. All great Reform Bills and all changes of the franchise have been made by progressive parties against the opposition of reactionary parties like the Tory Party. If they had not been carried through by progressive Governments, we should never have had the Reform Bill of 1832, the subsequent Reform Bills of the nineteenth 1449 century and the Ballot Act, whereby there were successive extensions of the franchise and successive removals of disqualifications. It does not vitiate the value of those progressive Measures that they were incidentally of advantage to progressive Governments. That is inevitable. It may well be that the abolition of the universities franchise may be of some slight benefit to the Labour Party but that in itself is not a reason why the Government should not carry out this or any other reform if it is justified on the merits of the argument. I have already given my reasons for the abolition of the university franchise on the merits of the argument.
I turn to this charge of bad faith. This fundamental principle of good faith between parties, as it has been expressed from the benches opposite, is so important that if I thought there had been a breach of faith, I would not support the Government on the Third Reading tonight; but I do not think there has been a breach of faith. I have listened to most of the speeches, including that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford; I have heard the arguments, and I have heard the suggestions made that there was a bargain and denials that there was a bargain. I have yet to find anybody who has been able to say that there was a clear, definite, precise bargain proclaimed and published, about which the electorate knew and which was understood in the country. I do not regard these fundamental matters as something which can be conclusively arranged between parties. After all, Parliament has its rights and the electorate have their rights.
I am perfectly convinced that if in my constituency at the General Election, I had been asked my views about the abolition or retention of the university franchise, I should have said that I was against the university franchise I am quite sure that if it had been put to them at any of their election meetings—in a great many constituencies it was—the majority of hon. Members sitting in this House of Commons on these benches would have said that they would vote for the abolition of the university franchise and the business vote, and they would have been supported because that is the policy for which this party has stood for a number of years. It is also a policy for which the Liberal Party has stood for 1450 a great number of years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford himself voted for the abolition of the university seats as long ago as 1912.
In case anybody should be misled by the violent, venomous language in which the Government have been attacked on this Bill, it is desirable that we should remind ourselves that this kind of abuse is no new thing when a progressive Measure dealing with the franchise is introduced. I have looked up the Debates on some of the earlier Bills, particularly that of 1912 when the Liberal Government introduced a Bill for the abolition of plural voting and the university franchise. I find that the Tory Party—true to form—made precisely the same kind of charges in those days against the Liberal Government. They said that the Bill was introduced only for party advantage and was introduced in a partisan spirit. They said it was gerrymandering and so forth. The truth of the matter is that whenever any progressive Government, be it Liberal or Socialist, has introduced a Measure for bringing the franchise and the distribution of constituencies more into line with the requirements of the times and to a pitch which makes the House of Commons a truer approximation to an ideal representation of the people, it has been abused and opposed by the Tory Party.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
I intend to occupy the time of the House only for a very few minutes. My purpose in intervening at this stage is solely to make my own position clear on an aspect of the matter with which I did not deal when I spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill. I did not deal with it then because it had been dealt with so fully and so effectively shortly before by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).
I refer, of course, to the charge—for that is what it is—that in promoting this Bill, so much at variance with the agreed recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—not all—have been guilty of a wanton breach of an honourable obligation. In saying that I am choosing my words very carefully. I am in general agreement with what has been said on the subject on this side of the House, and, in particular, I associate myself 1451 entirely with the remarks of my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) in the most impressive speech, as I thought, which he made on the Report stage. It seems to me perfectly clear that it would be quite purposeless and futile to have a Speaker's Conference or any conference of that kind, unless it involved an implied obligation on all parties to any arrangement to which they might come to do their best to put that arrangement into operation. It was perfectly clear from the outset that the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference could not all be carried out at once. It was clear that some of them would require a considerable period of preparation; and when part of the recommendations had been carried out, as they were in the lifetime of the last Parliament, the obligation on those concerned to do their best to see that the remaining recommendations were brought into effect, was surely all the stronger.
I can give point to my remarks by referring to what I think is a precisely analogous case. It must be well known to certain hon. Members on both sides of the House that in the lifetime of the last Parliament informal inter-Party discussions were held to see whether agreement could or could not be reached in regard to some amendment of the Trades Disputes Act. What was in mind, and what was under discussion, was a partial amendment dealing with the position of civil servants and officers of local authorities. Agreement was not -reached as a result of those conversations. I personally regretted that it should be so, but I am quite sure of this, having been in close touch with right hon. Gentlemen who are now members of His Majesty's Government who were concerned in those discussions, that if agreement had been reached upon a partial amendment of the Trades Disputes Act, those right hon. Gentlemen would have considered it a matter of honour to do their best to dissuade their followers—they might not have succeeded, no undertaking was given—from pressing, on some subsequent occasion, for a more radical amendment. Of that I am absolutely certain.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Just a moment. I hope the hon. Member for East Islington 1452 (Mr. E. Fletcher), who seemed to find no substance in the arguments put forward from this side of the House, will ponder what I have just said, because I think the case is exactly analogous.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Would the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting? Would he not appreciate that if any agreement of that kind had been reached, it would have become general knowledge, and there would have been no reference to the amendment of the Trades Disputes Act in the programme of the Labour Party at the General Election.
§ Sir J. Anderson
That may be perfectly true, but if an agreement of that kind had been reached, I am perfectly certain that right hon. Gentleman with whom I was associated at that time would have considered it a matter of honour to see that that agreement was put into effect, and would have tried to dissuade their supporters from pressing for anything more radical. I am certain that the last thing they would have tried to do would have been themselves to promote legislation departing radically from the agreement arrived at.
I have listened to a good deal of the Debate at various stages of this Bill and it has seemed to me a most remarkable fact that no serious attempt has been made, so far as I have been able to gather or judge at any stage, to make any effective answer to the grave charges put forward from this side. The Secretary of State for Scotland admitted that there had been an agreement but he said quite simply, "The other side had broken it first." That is the whole of his argument in a nutshell. As if the other side had anything to do with or had any power to control, the action of university constituencies, and particularly a university constituency in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, pressed again and again, kept on using this one argument, that an agreement come to in one Parliament cannot bind a subsequent Parliament. No one has suggested that it could and no one has suggested that any arrangement or honourable understanding arrived at was binding on persons who were not parties to it. The charge lies against those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were parties to the arrangement.
1453 I recognise that the Home Secretary occupies a rather special position because, so far as I know, he was not a member of the Speaker's Conference and he occupied a minor ministerial office at the time when the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference came before the Coalition Government. Therefore, in that respect, he occupies a rather special position, and that may conceivably have something to do with the situation we are in today, but he, in attempting to answer the arguments put forward from this side, merely gave us his own view on the merits of the case for various provisions in this Bill. He was entitled to do that, but he was not attempting to answer the charge of breach of faith.
Other hon. Members, in attempting to meet the charge, have sought to ride off on side issues by asking, for example, on whom is it suggested that any understanding arrived at in the last Parliament is binding; for how long is it suggested that any obligation resulting from any such understanding is operative? These are questions to which there is a simple answer. Obviously no understanding imposes an obligation of honour on persons who were not parties to the arrangement. As regards carrying the arrangement into effect, I would say the obvious answer is that the arrangement is carried into effect when it is embodied in a statute. Those are the answers to those questions.
I do not charge right hon. Gentlemen opposite with deliberately and wantonly breaking faith. I have worked with them, I know what they are. My belief is that they slipped into an unfortunate position without fully realising at first what they were doing. I have often said that I thought hon. Members were trying to do so much that they could not give proper thought to what they were doing, but when the situation was made clear to them, as it was at an early stage of the proceedings on this Bill, I certainly think they should have had the courage to withdraw, that they should have done their best—they might have failed, experience shows that sometimes they do fail—to convince their supporters that the only proper and honourable course was to bring the Bill into conformity with the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference.
I, for my part, say quite deliberately that I consider that in what right hon. 1454 Gentlemen have done in this Bill they have, in the words of the Amendment on the Paper, lowered the standards of our public conduct. If this Bill passes into law, they will have done something which will reflect lasting discredit on the first Socialist Government that has been in a position to make its will effective by the use of a large Parliamentary majority. I have made my position perfectly clear, and I will certainly go into the Lobby against the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Bing
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, could he deal with a point which I raised—I do not think he had the advantage of being here? How is it proper that the Coalition Government should disregard the unanimous decision of the Speaker's Conference in 1917, and how is it improper, even if that be right, that the same thing should be done now?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to forgive me. I had to fulfil a speaking engagement in Manchester today, and I had not the advantage of hearing him, but I can assure him that my right hon. Friend will deal faithfully with that.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
As one of the "gang below the Gangway" facetiously described by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), I should like to say a few words. I listened with the greatest pleasure to the Leader of the Opposition. I enjoyed his wit and humour as we all did, but I did not agree with a great part of his speech. He seemed to have a knowledge of the internal affairs of the Labour Party, which I, for one, do not possess. I do not know whether the Tory Party have the new X-ray apparatus for seeing through our party in a way that we cannot see ourselves, but I can assure the House that the right hon. Gentleman conjured up vast illusions about us and about what went on behind the scenes in regard to this matter.
The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) has just stated that our Ministers should have persuaded us to postpone the Bill or not to bring in certain Clauses. I think the Lord President of the Council will reply on that point. I had nothing to do with the so-called agreement so I shall 1455 not deal with it; but to suggest in this House and in this Parliament that because of what took place—honourable or dishonourable I leave others to decide—in a previous Coalition Government, we cannot bring in this Bill seems to me to be unconstitutional. As regards the Speaker's Conference my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has made it perfectly clear from a number of precedents that the Speaker's Conference is not a necessary procedure in the changing of electoral law. I do not think that the point can be controverted. Electoral law has been changed before without a Speaker's Conference. Precedent is one of the guides in our Constitution. Moreover, recommendations of a Speaker's Conference have been set aside by Parliament before and it would be unconstitutional to suggest that we cannot now set aside the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference under the Coalition Government.
The Leader of the Opposition said that if ever the Tories came to power again they would lift the standard of policy in regard to the representation of the people. Let us see how the right hon. Gentleman—I am sorry he is not in his place—proposes to lift that standard. He told us explicitly that his party will restore the seat or seats to the City of London; that is to say, that if they come back to Westminster they will give a Member of Parliament to a constituency in which only 4,000 or 5,000 voters are resident. Is that lifting the standard of policy in regard to the representation of the people? Will anyone believe that in this country?
The right hon. Gentleman also said that they would restore the university seats. I know that we have been accused of trying to abolish university seats because it does not suit us to let the Independents or Tories win those seats. I can exculpate myself. I was engaged in devising a constitution and an electoral law for another country some years ago. A draft came before me in which English law was followed, which provided for representation of the universities. I asked: "Why should universities be represented? What on earth makes it right for them to be represented? Are they the only learned people in the country? Why should not the legal or engineering professions be 1456 represented? Why should we start the corporative state of Mussolini?" I could not get any answer to my questions from my assistants, nor from the Law Officers of the Crown, so I struck it out and it was never raised again and so there is no university representation in that country—nor in any other country of the world save Britain.
I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I, and practically every hon. Member on this side of the House, want to abolish the university seats because we regard them as a relic of the age of privilege and because we believe in "One man, one vote" and "one vote, one value," and also in election by residents. We therefore have the conviction that university seats should go. If hon. Members opposite think that we are doing this thing in order to win seats at future elections, they are just living in an illusion. We are perfectly honest and sincere about this matter. The hon. Member for Oxford used a lot of epithets that do no harm to anybody but himself. He alleged that we were bringing in a Bill which would be to our advantage. One can never see how elections will go in the future, but if the Bill were law today and we had an election, I think it would be to the advantage of the Labour Party. Let us be frank about it. That is because previously there was a law which was unjust and undemocratic and which was to the advantage of the Tory Party. We are destroying privileges which existed and which should not have existed. We are doing something today which should have been done long ago. That is the answer I make to the hon. Member for Oxford.
Another hon. Member for a university seat talked about the preservation of picturesque anomalies and ceremonials. I am entirely with him. I think that most hon. Members on this side of the House are entirely with him. We do not want to abolish picturesque ceremonies or anomalies which relate the history of our time to the history of the past, and I have not heard one hon. Member suggest that we should abolish those things. But when an anomaly gives two seats to the City of London with 5,000 voters in it, that is a different question altogether.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
As the hon. Member is apparently quoting me, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I said that I was against plural voting.
§ Mr. Reid
Anyhow, when the anomalies are contrary to fair play and democracy, and give a great bias to one party in the State, it is right that those anomalies must go, whether they are picturesque or not. I think the same hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was a "petty, stupid act of aggression." No doubt he will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Mr. Reid
I know how sincere the hon. Gentleman is. I know him very well, and I have a great respect for him. I believe he meant what he said, but let me say that the Bill is not a stupid act of aggression. We are acting upon our democratic convictions and are trying to secure that the subject has fair play in the State between parties. The Bill is long overdue. The Party opposite have said they are going to use it against us at the next election to do us harm. I hope sincerely that the Conservative office will give instructions to their candidate in Swindon to put these items "Vote for a Member for the City and for the restoration of the university vote" into his programme. I hope sincerely that they will tell their candidate in Swindon to put those items foremost in his election campaign. I guarantee that they will lose him 1,000 votes.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
Throughout this Debate, one of the vital points has been the question of the Speaker's Conference, what was agreed at that Conference and what should be the consequences arising from it. I think it is generally understood that when circumstances change, other things change with them. We ought to try to picture the circumstances in which the Speaker's Conference met. When it met, the people of this country over a long period had 1458 not had an opportunity to express their desires in this matter. Another point that has been developed in this discussion is the question of mandates. Throughout this Debate I have never heard anyone from either side of the House indicate that his party has had a mandate to adopt a certain course in this matter. There is no mandate. The whole point is that certain Members of Parliament who were assembled together thought that there was some need to revise the state of affairs, and came to certain conclusions.
We have listened to speeches from responsible Members on the other side, including the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) who, with all his eloquence and command of language, referred to the Speaker's Conference. The Speaker's Conference itself had no mandate. It received no expression of opinion from the people. No programme at any election had proposed how this matter should be dealt with. Does the Speaker's Conference tie any new body of Members who are elected by the people? Even the Opposition admit that this House is not tied either constitutionally or in any other way, except by the responsibility which they say was undertaken by those who were at the Speaker's Conference. Even if we assume that that argument holds good, the fact that undermines it is that those people who assembled at the Speaker's Conference and came to certain conclusions, are not here now.
§ Mr. McKay
Some of them are here, but many of them are not. Therefore, the whole argument is weakened. There is no responsibility upon the House, and no handful of men who were at that Conference have any right or authority to restrict the policy of this House. That is the whole logic of the situation. Why do we have elections? What are mandates? Have they any authority? If we have not got a mandate, what have we to do? Anyone who watches the work of this House knows that during any Session or any period in which any party holds authority, there are any amount of things with which the House has to deal and for which there is no mandate. As a House, we have to use our judgment.
1459 That is the position in which we are now placed. When there was an election the question of the people's representation was not raised by any party. There is no mandate from the people, and a new body quite different from the previous House of Commons assembles to deal with the policy of the country. Therefore, logically that new House which is elected has the right to use its judgment on this matter, and if it thinks that some things which were agreed upon at the Speaker's Conference ought to be adopted or amended or abolished, there is no question that the Members then assembled have the right to act accordingly.
Then we had the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), with his command of language, trying to tell the public, through HANSARD, that the Socialist Party are playing a dirty trick. How can anyone say that? Who are the people who can pass judgment on our actions? For whom are we acting? We are acting for the people, and if we are playing a dirty trick it is a good thing for the Conservative Party, because at the next election the people will turn against the Socialist Party. We are not afraid to go back to the people. The Conservatives would be very annoyed if we were to have another election on this issue of the representation of the people. This House, of course, has its party issues, and, as a matter of tactics and policy, on occasions we say that Members on the other side are dirty dogs, but that carries no weight in the country at large, certainly not among the people who understand politics. Therefore, hon. Members opposite are not benefiting their party in making such statements.
What does this Bill do, after all is said and done? The purpose of this House is to try gradually to move to a better economic standard, nearer and nearer to a position of equality, in so far as it is possible to obtain equality. Of course, nobody with any intelligence will suggest that it is possible to get absolute equality, but, although it is not possible to get absolute equality, we can get equality in some things. We can secure equality of opportunity in education. We can get equality in the franchise. We have an opportunity to try to rise to another stage. Whatever may have been our past history, whatever rottenness may exist and 1460 despite the many dirty tricks which may have been played by the people who were in power in the past, we have reached a stage in our evolution when the people are sufficiently educated and interested and have sufficient intelligence and training to decide the simple issue who should represent them in this House. We are simply attempting to say in this Bill that we have now reached that stage. We, the Labour Party, say that the people in general have a perfect right to ask, so far as the franchise is concerned, that equality should be established and placed upon the Statute Book so that we can claim that we have reached a higher stage in life.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
We have now come to the concluding stages of what have been very long Debates, and I think that on this occasion the Government might have treated us to a change in their batting order. No one can question the wisdom of the decision to keep the Secretary of State for Scotland back in the pavilion, after his unfortunate innings on the opening day, on 16th February, but I think it is a bit thick that we still have to bowl all our deliveries at the Home Secretary—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)
But that criticism also applies to the Opposition.
§ Mr. Peake
When bowlers are being successful, one very often keeps them on, but when the batsmen are being so singularly unsuccessful it seems to me it might have been wise to try a change. I should have liked to see the author of some of these proposals, the Chancellor of the Duchy, who has worked his way back into the team, given an opportunity to defend these matters for which he has had a large degree of responsibility.
§ Mr. Peake
He certainly would not have put the wind up me. I can assure hon. 1461 Members opposite that if there is one emotion which we on this side do not feel the Chancellor of the Duchy, it is fear. We experience a great many other emotions about him. I think that when a Motion is put on the Order Paper which amounts to a Motion of censure on His Majesty's Ministers, then the Prime Minister, who is himself involved in these charges, might have come down to the House to defend his Ministers. Throughout all these long Debates, we have never once had a word from the Prime Minister, and this is a most important Bill.
The Government cannot complain that they did not have adequate notice of the charges that we make against them. They were first made more than four months on the Second Reading, and during the Second Reading Debate I established, I think to the satisfaction of practically everyone in the House, three propositions. First, that a binding agreement was made at the Speaker's Conference in 1944; and secondly, that that agreement bound political parties as well as the individuals who made it. I quite see that hon. Members opposite are experiencing some difficulty in drawing a distinction between an agreement which is binding on a political party, and an agreement which is binding upon every individual member of that political party, but, of course, there is a distinction. The Lord President of the Council himself has admitted—and there is, therefore no need to argue the matter again—that the agreement made in 1944 was binding on political parties.
§ Mr. Peake
As it seems to be questioned, I will read a passage from HANSARD, col. 1930, of 16th March, when we were in Committee on the university representation. The Lord President of the Council spoke as follows:The right hon. Member for North Leeds, in somewhat extravagant language at times, accused us of a breach of faith. He argued that there was a bargain which was binding on the parties. Up to that point there is some truth in that, but when he went on to bay that the bargain is operative today I absolutely, flatly and categorically deny it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 1928.]The only statement challenged by the right hon. Gentleman was that the bargain continued in operation after the end of the last Parliament.
§ Mr. Peake
Of course, in that Parliament—binding upon the political parties. I went on to say, to the satisfaction, at any rate, of my own supporters, that the bargain made in 1944 was intended to constitute a continuing obligation until it was either fulfilled or dissolved by the mutual consent of the contracting parties; and at the end of my speech I appealed to the Government to think again before the Committee stage, and I appealed to them to follow what I conceived to be the path of honour.
§ Mr. Peake
This Debate has to conclude at 10 o'clock, and I am most anxious to give the right hon. Gentleman adequate time to reply, and if I am continually interrupted I shall be compelled to take time properly due to the right hon. Gentleman. A month later we entered the Committee stage, on 16th March. I appealed to the Government again to think upon this matter. It has now been subsequently divulged that, when we were debating the breach of faith on 16th March and 17th March on the question of the universities and the City of London, the Government had already, 10 days earlier, taken a Cabinet decision to add 17 seats to the boroughs, and that they had secretly referred those proposals to the Boundary Commission—acting, of course, in an unofficial capacity—for detailed examination, as early as 9th March.
The House will be interested to recall that in winding up the Debate on 16th March on the question of the universities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) challenged the Home Secretary, and asked what it was intended to do about the big 1463 cities, whose case had been pressed on Second Reading by the Chancellor of the Duchy. The Home Secretary, knowing perfectly well that 10 days earlier the Cabinet had decided to add 17 seats to the boroughs, never gave any reply of any sort to that question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It was not until 11 days later, on 19th March, that for the first time we saw upon the Order Paper Amendments which would add 17 seats, mainly to the advantage of the Socialist Party.
The Government had their last chance of taking a decent course over this question when my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) put forward certain claims for additional representation in areas which, as a result of the Government's decision, became under-represented. Those claims were put forward in a letter to the Boundary Commission, which was published at the time. The Home Secretary, with a great show of impartiality, referred these claims to the Commission, and in the case of five seats for which we subsequently pressed on the Report stage, the report of the Commission was entirely favourable. The case for additional representation in those areas was conclusive and complete. The acceptance of those proposals would have done a good deal to save the face of the Government over this matter. Nevertheless, they were rejected on Report by the Home Secretary, without any reasons being stated. That action must have convinced even those who were most charitably disposed towards the Government that the Government had one motive, and one motive alone, in the handling of this Bill, and that was the partisan electoral advantage of their own party.
We have observed with interest the change of attitude from time to time of hon. Members opposite towards these charges of breach of faith. When they were first made on 16th February, they were greeted with anger and resentment both by back benchers and Ministers alike. They were greeted also with mutually contradictory interruptions by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council. That was on the first occasion they were made.
On the second occasion which was during the Committee stage, there were 1464 no more Ministerial interruptions. The charges were greeted with silence from the Front Bench and cynical laughter, which the right hon. Member for Woodford likened to the crackling of thorns under a pot, from the Members behind them. There were signs on both the Front and back benches of a certain loss of nerve, and when ten days ago we came to the Report stage, there was a stony silence on the part of Ministers and back benchers alike. Today, these charges have been repeated more than once, and have been received and accepted apparently without protest of any sort or kind, except for an intervention from the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hughes), who evidently had not been here on the previous occasions.
Discredit to His Majesty's Ministers, which we allege in our reasoned Amendment, attaches, in my view, primarily to the leading Members of the Government who served in the Coalition and who accepted the report of the Speaker's Conference. It attaches also in a special degree to the Socialist representatives on the Conference, that is to say, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of National Insurance, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) They knew what they were about when they made that agreement. It has been admitted that they acted there in a representative capacity. It has been claimed by the Lord President for them that they made the best bargain possible for their party. It has been claimed also that at the time the settlement was made it was hoped that it would be a lasting settlement. All those representatives on the Conference knew perfectly well that legislation in a future Parliament was essential to the fulfilment of the agreement which they had made.
What is the use of the Home Secretary maintaining, as he does, that he is under no personal obligation? He cannot exculpate himself. Of course, it is true that he was only a junior Member of the Coalition Government, and, as Mr. Tim Healy said, "Under-Secretaries do not resign; they wait until they are fired." That was rather a cynical observation of Mr. Healy. But the Home Secretary must recall that one of his first declarations after he became Home Secretary, 1465 on the Elections and Jurors Bill, was that he intended to implement all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. That was stated quite categorically, and further quotations were given by the right hon. Member for Woodford this afternoon. What are the excuses given by Ministers for the breach of faith and the departure from the agreed recommendations? The Lord President has repeated, time and time and time again, that Parliament is always free, and his back benchers have apparently been much comforted by that thought. Of course, Parliament is always free. Parliament is a sovereign body; it can repudiate the National Debt tomorrow if it pleases.
§ Mr. Peake
We are not discussing the rights of Parliament. What we are discussing are the duties and the personal honour of Ministers. The freedom of Parliament to do what it pleases does not mean that individual Members, whether Ministers or not, can repudiate their personal obligations; it cannot justify Ministers in going back upon their word; still less can it justify them recommending their followers to support their own dishonour, and then driving them into the Lobbies to enforce it.
The Home Secretary has put forward two quite different excuses for the breach of faith relating to the university seats, the City of London and the business vote. And, be it noted, both these excuses assume a continuing obligation. He says, first, that although he said he would implement all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference he is not slavishly bound to fulfil the obligation in every particular—
§ Mr. Peake
Surely, the whole point about debts of honour is that we are slavishly bound to fulfil them in every particular; that is their special peculiarity. In the second place—and this also 1466 assumes a continuing obligation, an obligation continuing after the General Election of 1945—he maintains that his back bench supporters would not have allowed him to honour his obligation. On two occasions, both in Committee and on Report, we have had it said to us that back bench Members would not have allowed the right hon. Gentleman to honour his obligations. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said in Committee, referring to what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) had said:He said it should have been the duty of the Lord President, the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, to have brought in a Bill which slavishly followed the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, and that when my hon. Friends who were not Members of the last Parliament said to us, 'We do not like this Bill, we want to carry out the long-declared policy of our party to abolish the university seats and to deal effectively with the problem presented by the City of London,' we should have said to them, 'You vote in our Lobby.' At once they would have been accused of being Lobby fodder."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1948; vol. 448, c. 2143–4.]The right hon. Gentleman advanced the same argument upon the Report stage. I really think that the Home Secretary takes too low a view of his own supporters. I think he underrates them, and insults them, if he thinks they would not have respected him for at least making an attempt to carry out his honourable obligation.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) tried to find some comfort in what happened at the Speaker's Conference of 1916, and in the proceedings upon the Representation of the People Bill of 1917. Let me deal quite shortly with that. At the Speaker's Conference of 1916 there was never a unanimous view upon any of the major issues. Every important issue which came before that Conference was the subject of a division in the Conference, and sometimes it was a very close division indeed. The Government of that day, however, acting, as I think, rightly and honourably, embodied in their Bill every one of the majority recommendations of the Conference, but, equally rightly and with equal judgment of what was the fair and proper thing to do, wherever there had been a division in the Conference they did not put the Whips on to enforce the majority view upon the minority of the House.
§ Mr. Peake
If the hon. Member will allow me to finish this part of my argument. I will then give way. That cannot be claimed as any precedent for what the Government are doing today, because today the situation is entirely different. The Speaker's Conference of 1944 came to a series of unanimous agreements without a single dissenting voice. The Government are just as much bound, and in fact they are more bound than the Government were in 1918, to endeavour to secure implementation of the agreements arrived at. Moreover, in this case, seeing that these agreements were unanimous and binding on all political parties, it would have been the duty of the Government to try and enforce them by putting on the Whips, because in this case there was no dissenting voice in the Conference. But the right hon. Gentleman has not given Members an opportunity on these matters at all, because he has never put these agreed measures in his Bill, and therefore the question of whether there should be a free vote or not has never arisen.
§ Mr. Bing
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to mislead the House. If he looks at the speech of Lord Birkenhead, he will see that the one decision that was unanimous was the decision in favour of proportional representation. Does he deny that that agreement was repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, who was in a position to speak on that and did not do so, and is he now in a position to offer any explanation?
§ Mr. Peake
I have read through all the proceedings of the Conference of 1916, and I am quite clear in my own mind. I shall be ready to apologise if I am wrong, but my recollection is quite clear. There was a party of diehards at that Conference who would agree to nothing, and I am quite convinced that upon all important issues in that Conference a division was taken.
§ Mr. Bing
Lord Birkenhead said:I find that whereas the Committee only recommended by a majority that the vote 1468 should be given to women, and in circum stances which will certainly require most careful consideration of the Committee when we approach that part of the Bill, the recommendation in favour of proportional representation was an absolute recommendation of the Commissioners.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT 12th June, 1917; Vol. 94, C. 798.]
§ Mr. Peake
What the hon. Member has quoted does not in any way bear out the contention he has made. There is no suggestion of a unanimous decision. All he tells us is that it was an absolute recommendation, whatever that may be. Presumably, there was a majority; it was carried by a majority, and that is the reason the Government of that day allowed a free vote of the House upon all those issues. But have the present Government allowed a free vote of the House on any of these issues? On each occasion when the Government have sought to dishonour the agreement made in 1944, they have sent out a three-line Whip, and put the Whips on. Can the hon. Member for Hornchurch defend that on any precedent whatever? Of course he cannot. I say that the least the Government could have done would have been to have allowed a free vote of the House on all these matters, so that Members opposite who support university representation would have been free to express themselves in the Division Lobby. What results from the policy of the Government upon this matter? It is this: that discredit, like everything else must, if possible, be equally shared. If it cannot be equally shared it must be as fairly shared as possible.
What are the excuses put forward for the addition of the 17 seats in the big boroughs? Ministers have been very shy about accepting responsibility for the proposal to add 17 seats. The Lord President of the Council, in the Debate on 24th March, continually referred to the proposals of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He spoke of the recommendations of his right hon. Friend. He was very shy, quite unusually shy, about claiming the authorship of these proposals. But when the Home Secretary wound up the Debate, he was equally modest. He did not claim originality for the proposal to add 17 seats. He referred us to a decision taken by the Cabinet; he "passed the buck" back to the Cabinet, although it had been handed to him by his right hon. Friend the Lord President.
1469 The excuses put forward for the addition of these 17 seats are as follow: first, it is an endeavour to get nearer to "one vote, one value," and bring the county quota for England closer to the borough quota. If the county quota for England is to be brought closer to the borough quota, why not apply the same principle to Scotland and Wales, where the differences between the borough and county quotas are far wider than they are in England? It seems rather late in the day to start to alter the rules after the umpire's verdict has been given.
The Home Secretary seems most conveniently to forget that he came to the House on 13th December, 1946, with a Bill to enable us to gut farther away from the principle of "one vote, one value." The whole purpose of the Bill he then introduced was to get rid of the 25 per cent. limit on the variations from the quota, to get rid, as he said, of the harsh, unyielding, mathematical formula which had been laid down by his predecessor, the present Lord President of the Council. On 13th December, 1946, we were asked to weep for certain large boroughs which, under the Boundary Commissioners' proposals of that time, were to have wards lopped off them. The right hon. Gentleman said that these large boroughs would far rather be under-represented than suffer in this way, and he came forward with proposals which got rid of the 25 per cent. limit of variation. The whole purpose of that Bill was to get farther away if we could from the principle of "one vote, one value," and the right hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well. He only thought of this excuse ex post facto for the addition of the 17 seats.
As a second excuse the Home Secretary says that Scotland and Wales are over represented and England ought to have more seats. That was debated at length at the Speaker's Conference, 1944, and it was debated again in this House in the Autumn of 1944. The Lord President himself will be well aware that we had that Debate, and he must also remember that the present Secretary of State for Scotland and the present Minister of National Insurance, speaking for Scotland and Wales respectively, told him from this side of the House that if he did not maintain the existing degree of overrepresentation for Scotland and Wales, he must expect a row.
§ Mr. Peake
The right hon. Gentleman says he has not had a row. He ought to have had one. I was going to observe that the present Secretary of State for Scotland always spoke much better sense when, in the last Parliament, he was on this side of the House.
I regard this proposal to add 17 seats as a deliberate affront to the impartiality of the Boundary Commission. We shall now have to wait five years for a further review to secure an equitable scheme of redistribution, that is, if the Commission are prepared to act again after the way they have been treated.
What is the real reason for the Government's action? It is transparently clear. They know they cannot win the next Election on a fair and equitable redistribution. I referred in one of my earlier speeches—and I apologised to the Lord President of the Council for my ignorance—to a certain Mr. Shepherd, chief agent of the Labour Party. The right hon. Gentleman informed me that that gentleman had been ennobled and that in 1946 he went to another place. That left the Labour Party temporarily without a flockmaster, but I am informed that Mr. Shepherd's crook has been handed on, and it is now wielded by a gentleman named Mr. Windle.
There is no doubt that the Lord President is in almost daily touch with the chief agent of the Labour Party and I have no doubt that a conversation took place between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Windle. Probably the Lord President said, "What is this Bill going to cost us, Windle?" To which Mr. Windle replied, "Thirty-five seats"—whereupon the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House and invited us to deplore the disappearance of all the old pocket boroughs and said, "Heaven alone knows what is going to happen to my dear old friend, the Minister of Labour." I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has been advised that his chief agent of the Labour Party cannot guarantee that they will again get a majority, as they did in 1945, with a bare minority of the votes cast. Hence these devices and tricks to try to make good the loss and the unfair advantage which the Socialist Party enjoyed at the last election.
1471 I said just now that the Secretary of State for Scotland talked better sense in Coalition days, when he was in Opposition, than he has done as a Minister. Let me conclude with a short quotation from a speech which he made in this House on 10th October, 1944. Speaking of the Speaker's Conference in 1930, he said:The last Speaker's Conference"—that was the Ullswater Conference of 1930—was abortive, because the Members and parties which took part in it took the view that they must have all or nothing, and this philosophy of 'all or nothing' is really the philosophy behind dictatorship. That is that whether it is a majority or a minority, it is going to bind its will on the rest of the people. It is an essential of democracy that these should be consideration of and acceptance of the reasonable propositions of minorities, and that compromise is the essential result of discussion. Our discussions would be quite futile if the majority were always to dictate its will and suppress the minority. We might as well abolish the Parliamentary system.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1623.]The majority in this House now are riding roughshod over the minority in this matter. Their trickery will not save them from defeat or from the doom which awaits them, but will rather contribute to it. These pathetic attempts to queer the pitch and to rig the market will not avail them. From millions of leaflets and a thousand platforms the people shall know of their dishonour. When we return to power the necessary steps will be taken to see that political bargains are honoured and that the standards of our public life are restored.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
We have been debating an Amendment to the Motion for the Third Reading of the Bill. The Amendment recites that, in the judgment of the official Opposition, they recognisethe necessity for an equitable scheme of redistribution,but they object to the Bill on the grounds that itrepudiates agreed recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference, 1944, and disregards for the purpose of party advantage the findings of the Boundary Commission, thereby bringing discredit on Ministers of the Crown and lowering the traditional standards of our public life.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, it is quite right that the Opposition 1472 should applaud the terms of their own Amendment.
I have listened to pretty well the whole of this Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes. Hon. Members should not raise that point at all. I have had reports upon the remainder of it. I am bound to say that I do not think that the Opposition have succeeded in any way in establishing the allegations made in the Amendment to the Motion for the Third Reading. Quite frankly, there is only this difficulty in replying to the Debate, that we have heard it so often before. [An HON. MEMBER: "You will hear it again."] I dare say. It was complained that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not adequately, or possibly did not at all, reply to the last series of complaints about a breach of faith. We had it on the Second Reading, we had it on more than one issue on the Committee stage, we had it on the Report stage, and we have had it on Third Reading. With great respect, there really is a point, especially when one has not the slightest consciousness of being guilty—as we have not—at which it becomes rather boring. To tell the truth, that point of being bored arose quite a time ago, and I do not at all blame my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, Who is the author and the champion of the Bill, if, as time went on and the charges were monotonously repeated without any adequate evidence for them, he began to disregard them.
I am sure that the whole House, irrespective of party, will agree with me in expressing the thanks of all of us for the ability, the courtesy and the patience with which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has conducted the various stages of the Bill. We have spent a long time on the Bill, I think quite rightly, and the Committee stage was taken on the Floor, I think quite rightly, because it is an important constitutional Measure. We have devoted a good deal of time to it, and my right hon. Friend has had pretty heavy labour on it, together with other legislation for which he is responsible. I am sure that everybody would wish me to express the thanks of the whole House to him for his consideration and courtesy. I am not speaking of his opinions—opinions are another matter—but, as always, he has been considerate, able and courteous in conducting the Bill through the House.
1473 The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition nailed his colours to the mast and told us that if and when the Conservative Party returned to power they would hold themselves free—indeed, he went further and declared his intention—to bring in legislation which would confine these reforms to the limits of the Speaker's Conference recommendations of 1944. We have always been seeking for declarations of Conservative Party policy for the future, and I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's entry, for once, into the field of specific undertakings as to what his party would do if and when they were returned to power. He is coming along, because a week or 10 days ago he declared that he was not in favour of making any material declarations of policy as to what a Conservative Government would do. He was just warning off his right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) for messing about with the Industrial Charter, of which the Leader of the Opposition is obviously not too fond. He said he was against being committed to any details of policy for a Conservative Government if it comes into power, but we now have this detail of policy in the field of electoral legislation.
What does this declaration of the right hon. Gentleman mean? It means that the business vote—not the double business vote of the voter and the spouse, but the original business vote—is to be restored. Let that be understood. This is declared to be an issue of the next Parliamentary General Election. The restoration of the original and basic business vote—that is to say, property voting as property voting—is the official policy of the Conservative Party. O.K. by me—except that we do not agree with it—but as a matter of electoral tactics that is fine, that is Conservative policy. It is their intention that although the City of London, the ancient City of London, for which, as the House knows, I have much sentimental regard—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh."] Yes, I have—and historical feeling, both as a Londoner and as a Parliamentarian—[An HON. MEMBER: "Of the wrong kind."] It means that the Conservative Party now declares that although the residential electorate of the City of London cannot be more than in the region of 4,000 or 5,000, the Conservative Party will restore one Member of Parliament to the City of London for 4,000 or 5,000 electors.
1474 That is item No. 2 of the constructive policy of the Conservative Party. Certainly it is their firm intention to restore the 12 university Members. That is to say, they will confer upon the universities of the country, with which we certainly have no quarrel—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have no quarrel with the universities, none whatever, and they have no quarrel with us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will show hon. Members opposite. As a matter of fact the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford was quoted as being against the university provision in this Bill. I accept that such may well be the case, but do not let it be said that there is a state of war or friction between the Labour Government and the universities of our country. The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University has said this:I do wish to say how grateful we are, as I imagine all other universities are, for the far-sighted and unprecedented generosity which has been shown to us by the Government in finance, and that without any attempt to interfere with academic freedom. No Government before has shown anything like the appreciation of the value of universities as the present Government. As one who doesn't always come to heel at the crack of Mr. Attlee's whip, I should like to express my admiration and respect for your leader and our Prime Minister. I have no fear for the future of England while such men are at the helm, men whose honesty of purpose and singleness of mind are so universally recognised as his.Let the Opposition get away from these delusions that there is a state of conflict and of war between the Labour Party and the universities.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who has been so eloquent about university representation, should be so abysmally ignorant that he does not know.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who has at last found a eulogy that he can read out with so much gusto, had not even taken the trouble to find out the name of the man who wrote it.
§ Mr. Morrison
Now the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely in the soup, because I do know the name, and I will now enlighten the right hon. Gentleman at whose ignorance of our cultural and university life I am shocked. It is extraordinary that I, the humble product of 1475 the School Board for London, should have to teach the right hon. Gentleman. The name of the Vice-Chancellor of the University whose words I have quoted, is Professor Stallybrass.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what was his name before it was Dr. Stallybrass?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not see that there is any obligation, even on the Leader of the House of Commons, to know what everybody's name was before it was what it is. If I may say so, I am hardly the appropriate Minister for that kind of business. That falls to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Going on to this list of constructive policy of the Conservative Party, it means that they are determined, as part of their electoral policy next time, to stand for the restoration of the university seats. That means they propose to give, if they get the chance, a special privileged position to persons who have had a university education. We have no prejudice against people who have had a university education. As has often been pointed out, quite a proportion of Ministers on the Treasury Bench and of my hon. Friends on the back benches have had a university education. Let me say that we are all keen that a reasonable and proper proportion of the people—working class as much as any other class—who are mentally fitted for a university education should have the chance of that education. Therefore, we have no prejudice against university education as such.
What we do say is that because a person has had a university education and has attained the status of a graduate, he should not, therefore, have a second and additional vote for Parliament, special representation in Parliament, and a special representation based upon a constituency electorate much smaller on the average than anything to be found in any other class of constituency. We say that this whole conception is antediluvian, cut of date, silly, prejudiced, and based on class superiority—or, at any rate, intellectual superiority—and ought to be abolished.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman need not be apprehensive that I shall avoid that, which is, indeed, the main point of the Debate. I wish the Debate had been about the Bill but it has been about something else, and I will come to that something else in due course.
Of course, this declaration of policy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman means that the restrictions on motor cars are to be removed and that motor cars without limit shall be one of the tests of electoral power. Presumably the 17 seats which have been referred to will be liquidated.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman should not say that. I carefully confined my statement to what we should do if we had power, which is a hypothetical issue. I carefully confined it to the university representation. As to a general re-shuffle of the situation, that can only be undertaken when another Redistribution Bill comes before us.
§ Mr. Morrison
On that point I would make two observations. One is that I took a note of the right hon. Gentleman's words. They were that the Opposition would not be bound by anything beyond the Speaker's Conference Report of 1944 and that, therefore, the rest would be repudiated when they took power, and they intended to eliminate it. I quite agree it is disputable and arguable whether or not that is intended with the 17 seats. The other list is good enough for me, and I say it was a shocking declaration of sheer Tory reaction—
§ Mr. Morrison
—which is well worthy of the reactionary tendencies that have characterised the political life of the right hon. Gentleman over many years.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) went over very much the same ground, but he had a tussle with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). His defence of the 1916 Speaker's Conference situation was that the recommendations were not unanimous. I think he implied that that was the general rule, that they were not unanimous, if indeed he did not go so far as to say that none of them was unanimous. I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch 1477 He made one of his very able speeches, and it was well documented. I warn the right hon. Member for North Leeds to be careful about crossing swords with my hon. Friend because he has a remarkable speed in the Library in looking things up from time to tame. My hon. Friend has given me the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Commons of 12th June, 1917, in which it is reported that Sir Frederick Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, said this:The Commission arrived at a conclusion which was unanimous, with one single exception.
§ Mr. Morrison
That exception war the question of the female franchise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1917; Vol. 94, c. 797.]That is a very different account from the account of the right hon. Gentleman who either said that it was not unanimous about nearly everything or that it was not unanimous about anything, whereas Lord Birkenhead, who was knocking about at that time in 1917, and who is likely to be right, said that they were unanimous about everything with the exception of the question of the female franchise.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
What is the Commission to which Sir Frederick Smith was referring? It was not the Speaker's Conference, presumably.
§ Mr. Morrison
I gather it was. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I cannot see what else it was. [An HON. MEMBER: "Look it up in the Library."] [Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members laughing unless they know what they are laughing about. There are references here to Mr. Speaker being responsible for the body. I have only just had this Report put into my hands.
§ Mr. Morrison
So it is quite clear that the right hon. Member for North Leeds was entirely wrong in his historical facts. But suppose he had been right. The Opposition ought to make up their minds on what is their line of argument. When we say in respect of the franchise and 1478 electoral reforms of 1929 or 1928, or thereabouts, there was no Speaker's Conference, they say "Ah, there was no disagreement; therefore, a Speaker's Conference was not necessary." If, on the other hand, it is argued that the Speaker's Conference disagreed, then the argument is, surely, the other way round. The Opposition hops about from one argument to another—as to whether it is unanimous as to whether there is agreement or disagreement. The fact is that they are attaching far too much long-scale historical importance to the existence or the non-existence, the acceptance or the non-acceptance, of a Speaker's Conference. So far as I know, there have been only two Speaker's Conferences on this matter. One was the Speaker's Conference over which you, Sir, so ably presided in 1944, and the other was the Speaker's Conference set up in 1916, which led to the Representation of the People Act of 1918. I do not think there were any others. They were both set up in time of war; they were both set up by recommendation of Coalition. Governments to Parliament.
§ Mr. Morrison
An ex-Speaker's Conference is not a Speaker's Conference, as the right hon. Member knows, and it is silly to make the point. Historically, therefore, I am right in saying that there have been only two Speaker's Conferences, so far as I remember—and I am open to correction. The other great franchise reforms have been carried through by the Government of the day on their own responsibility, sometimes despite great party conflict and sometimes, I agree, by agreement between the two Houses.
Indeed, it is the case that there is nothing new in charges of bad faith. It seems, indeed, to be a fairly common characteristic of debates about electoral reform bills. For instance, when Mr. Disraeli, who was a great Conservative leader, was passing his Reform Bill in 1867, which I think he introduces on the responsibility of the Government of the day, without any Speaker's Conference, 1479 there was a Mr. Low, who was a well known Radical, I think, of that day, who described this Bill in these terms—and they remind me of something of the language which has been used today. This was used against Mr. Disraeli:Never was there tergiversation so complete. Such conduct may fail or not; it may lead to retention or loss of office; but it merits alike the contempt of all honest men
§ Mr. Morrison
Well, all right. Here breaks out the old Liberal who could not forswear a declaration. It was also the case that Lord Cranborne, an earlier Lord Cranborne, who was later Conservative Prime Minister as Lord Salisbury, called the same thing apolitical betrayal that had no parallel in out Parliamentary annals, and that struck at the very root of that mutual confidence which is the very soul of our party GovernmentAll this abuse of the unhappy Disraeli did not prevent him from again becoming Prime Minister, did not prevent him from again becoming the idol of the Tory Party, with Lord Salisbury his own chief colleague in party battles. The truth is that there is a good deal of nonsense about it.
With regard to the 17 constituencies, it is alleged that my right hon. Friend invented them, having been egged on, incited, bullied, by the present Chancellor of the Duchy. Far be it from me not to let the Chancellor of the Duchy have any credit to which he is entitled in this matter, because it was a creditable operation and nothing for him to be ashamed about, but there were other minds than the mind of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at work on this, including that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary himself, but as a matter of fact—[Interruption.] The Opposition are really out of their depth when they get within the domestic hierarchy of the Labour Party. Those of my hon. Friends who had a recent association with a certain telegram know much more about the hierarchy of the Labour Party than they do. They had better try to understand their own hierarchy first, before trying to understand ours. The Home Secretary referred to his intention—I will not say his "intention" but to the possibility—that his mind was open to consideration of certain modifications 1480 in the Bill as he introduced it. He said about some of these constituencies established with more than 80,000 electors,They are too big for one Member upon a mathematical basis, and too small for two. They undoubtedly give rise to an anomaly. I have no doubt that, in the course of our proceedings, we shall hear something about them and about other constituencies where the average rule appears to have been departed from."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February. 1948; Vol. 447, cc. 841–2.]That was a clear intimation to the House that he was willing to consider the arguments and representations in Committee. Therefore, I say that there was here no departure from the general line which he pursued.
I would say a few words about the alleged breach of faith. The issue really is perfectly simple. The war Government over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford presided, and of which the Prime Minister and I and others were Members, agreed that a Speaker's Conference should be set up if Mr. Speaker were willing to preside over its proceedings; and you, Sir, kindly did, and we expressed our thanks at the time. The parties were represented on a fair, proportional basis, and the Labour Party, I agree, was considerately treated. The Conference met and deliberated. In the course of the discussions accommodations were made. That is one of the things the British are good at.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, and it is very fortunate for our country that they are. Some people conceded some things, other people conceded other things; and they sought to arrive at general agreement.
§ Mr. Morrison
They achieved remarkable success. The whole of the agreement was based upon the intention that it was accepted by the representatives of that particular Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, that Parliament. The proposals became the subject of consideration by the Government of that time. It never entered the mind of either the Prime Minister or myself—I assure the House that this is so, although hon. Members may say we were wrong if they like—it never entered our minds that this report was anything other 1481 than a guide to the Parliament and the Government of that day. The agreement was to run up to and to last until the Dissolution.
§ Mr. Morrison
If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford had not been in such a hurry to dissolve Parliament, some further legislation might have been passed in that Parliament. But as all the ground had not been covered, we have had to cover the rest of the ground in this Parliament. I say there was no intention, no undertaking, specific or implied, that we were permanently committed in any particular to what took place then. I affirm in the second place that it would have been constitutionally monstrous if we had sought to commit an entirely different Labour
§ Party, another Government and an entirely different House of Commons. I entirely repudiate, with sincerity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and with conviction and with indignation—I entirely repudiate—these allegations of dishonour and of bad faith. We are not conscious of them. We do not deserve them. In all the circumstances, I ask the House by a great majority to pass this great scheme, this great Bill for constitutional reform.
§ Mr. Churchill
I would only place on record my conviction that what has been stated as to what happened in the National Coalition Government is quite untrue.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 338; Noes, 193.1485
|Division No. 243.]||AYES.||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Cocks, F. S.||Gallacher, W.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Coldrick, W.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Collindridge, F.||Gibbins, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon A. V.||Collins, V. J.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Colman, Miss G. M.||Gilzean, A.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Cook, T. F.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Cove, W. G.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Crawley, A.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Daggar, G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Griffiths D. (Rother Valley)|
|Baird, J.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Barstow, P. G.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Gunter, R. J.|
|Barton, C.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Guy, W. H.|
|Battley, J. R.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Deer, G.||Hale, Leslie|
|Belcher, J. W.||de F eitas, Geoffrey||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Delargy, H. J.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Benson, G.||Diamond, J.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Berry, H.||Dobbie, W.||Hardman, D. R.|
|Beswick, F.||Dodds, N. N.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Donovan, T.||Harrison, J.|
|Binns, J.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Haworth, J.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Dye, S.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hicks, G.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Edelman, M.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Holman, P.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Horabin, T. L.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||House, G.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hubbard, T.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Ewart, R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G.||Fairhurst, F.||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Burden, T. W.||Farthing, W. J.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Burke, W. A.||Fernyhough, E.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Field, Capt. W. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Callaghan, James||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)|
|Carmichael, James||Follick, M.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Foot, M. M.||Janner, B.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Forman, J. C.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Chater, D.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St Pancras S. E.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T. N.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Stokes, R. R.|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||O'Brien, T.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Keenan, W.||Oldfield, W. H.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Kenyon, C.||Oliver, G. H.||Swingler, S.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Orbach, M.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|King, E. M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Symonds, A. L.|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Kinley, J.||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Parkin, B. T.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Lang, G.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Pearson, A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Peart, T. F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Tiffany, S.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Popplewell, E.||Timmons, J.|
|Lever, N. H.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Levy, B. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tolley, L.|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Price, M. Philips||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pritt, D. N.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pryde, D. J.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Longden, F.||Pursey, Comdr H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Randall, H. E.||Walkden, E.|
|McAdam, W.||Ranger, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|McAllister, G.||Rankin, J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Warbey, W. N.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reeves, J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|McGovern, J.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Watson, W. M.|
|Mack, J. D.||Rhodes, H.||Weitzman, D.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Richards, R.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Robens, A.||West, D. G.|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gb, E.)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rogers, G. H. R.||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Royle, C.||Wigg, George|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Scollan, T.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C. A. B.|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Segal, Dr. S.||Wilkes, L.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Marquand, H. A.||Sharp, Granville||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Shurmer, P.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Messer, F.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R.||Simmons, C. J.||Willis, E.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Skeffington, A. M.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Monslow, W.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Moody, A. S.||Skinnard, F. W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Morley, R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wyatt, W.|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Snow, J. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Moyle, A.||Solley, L. J.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Murray, J. D.||Sorensen, R. W.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Nally, W.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Neal, H. (Clay Cross)||Sparks, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Steele, T.||Mr. William Whiteley and|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Mr. Robert Taylor.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Challen, C.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Channon, H.||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Eccles, D. M.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col G.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cole, T. L.||Erroll, F. J.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Corbet, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Fox, Sir G.|
|Birch, Nigel||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Crowder, Capt. John E.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Gage, C.|
|Bower, N.||Davidson, Viscountess||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||De la Bère, R.||Gammans, L. D.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Digby, S. W.||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr, J. G.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Donner, P. W.||Graham-Little, Sir E.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Grant, Lady|
|Carson, E.||Drayson, G. B.||Gridley, Sir A.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Robinson, Roland|
|Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Salter, Rt. Hon, Sir J. A.|
|Houghton, S. G.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marples, A. E.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Herbert, Sir A. P.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hollis, M. C.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Maude, J. C.||Spence, H. R.|
|Hope, Lord J.||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Stoddart-Scott, Col M.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Mellor, Sir J.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Molson, A. H. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Moore, Lt.-Col Sir T.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hurd, A.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'cester)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Teeling, William|
|Jarvis, Sir J.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Nicholson, G.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Kendall, W. D.||Nutting, Anthony||Turton, R. H.|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Odey, G. W.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Langford-Holt, J.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Osborne, C.||Ward, Hon G. R.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Pickthorn, K.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Pitman, I. J.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Lipson, D. L.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Prescott, Stanley||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Low, A. R. W.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Lucas, Major Sir J.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||York, C.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Raikes, H. V.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Rayner, Brig. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon M. S.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Mr. Drewe.|
|McFarlane, C. S.||Renton, D.|
Question put, and agreed to.