HC Deb 09 June 1955 vol 542 cc36-8
Mr. Speaker

I have received from the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery a statutory declaration from Mr. John Herwald Morris, Clerk to the Wilmslow Urban District Council, as Deputy Acting Returning Officer for the Knutsford constituency, relating to the election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the said constituency, which I now propose to read to the House:

"I, JOHN HERWALD MORRIS, of The Council Offices, Green Hall, Wilmslow, in the County of Chester, Barrister-at-Law, Clerk to the Wilmslow Urban District Council, do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare as follows— 1. THAT on the 6th November, 1950, by virtue of the powers conferred on him by section 18 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1949 and with the approval of the Secretary of State previously signified to him on the 4th day of November, 1950, Major Geoffrey C. Scrimgeour, being then Acting Returning Officer for the Knutsford Constituency, did by writing under his hand appoint me to be his deputy to discharge, and by virtue of the said appointment I am required to discharge, all the duties of the Acting Returning Officer to the Knutsford Constituency subject, however, to his general control and supervision.

2. THAT a Writ was issued on the 6th day of May, 1955, for the election of a member to serve for the Knutsford Constituency in the Parliament summoned to be holden at Westminster on the 7th day of June, 1955.

3. THAT the Member duly elected for the Constituency of Knutsford in pursuance of the said Writ was Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Henry Bromley-Davenport, T.D., of "Capesthorn," Macclesfield, in the County of Chester.

4. THAT pursuant to the said election I did on Friday the 27th day of May, 1955, duly endorse the certificate on the said Writ with the name of the said Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Henry Bromley-Davenport.

5. IN accordance with previous practice I thereupon telephoned the principal post office at Wilmslow (through which Post Office all the post connected with this election and previous parliamentary elections for Knutsford had been sent) and asked to speak to the Postmaster. In his absence I spoke to his deputy and warned him that I would be sending my clerk with an envelope containing the Election Writ and Return to his post office and that I would require a receipt therefor.

6. AT or about 4.30 p.m. on that day an envelope containing the Writ and Return, marked "Election Writ and Return" and addressed to "The Clerk to the Crown, Crown Office in Chancery, Whitehall, London, S.W.1," was handed in by my clerk at the said Post Office and a receipt obtained for it, which receipt is now produced and shown to me marked "A" and is exhibited to this Statutory Declaration.

7. AND I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835."

The Declaration is properly attested before a Commissioner of Oaths and the receipt is attached as an exhibit.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)

I beg to move, That it be an Instruction to the Clerk of the Crown that he do receive the name mentioned in the statutory Declaration made by John Herwald Morris, esquire, as Deputy Acting Returning Officer at the last Election for the Knutsford Constituency as if it had been endorsed upon the Writ as of the Member returned to serve in this present Parliament for Knutsford; and that he do attend this House forthwith to amend his Certificate to the House accordingly.

Mr. Shinwell

I think the House is justified in asking for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. After all, we are only being asked to accept the ipse dixit of the Patronage Secretary. Is this not a matter for an inquiry, perhaps by a Select Committee or by yourself, Sir, or even, having regard to the prominence of the person concerned, by a Royal Commission?

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Or a by-election.

Mr. Shinwell

Why not? I am quite willing to accept that. The whole thing seems to me to be a bit fishy. I am certain that I represent the feeling of a large number of hon. Members in asking whether there is any precedent for this action which is now proposed to be taken. Perhaps you will give us your guidance and counsel upon that matter, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The procedure which so far has been followed is laid down by Statute. For such an event as this, involving the unfortunate loss in transmission of the Return of an hon. Member to this House, there has been a precedent but the last one was before my time, in 1911, since when, I believe, there has been no similar case. I have myself examined the procedure followed and it is quite in accordance with the Statute passed by this House.

Mr. Shinwell

That was a long time ago, Mr. Speaker, and most of us are ignorant of the procedure adopted at that time. Naturally, we accept what you say, but there is something very odd about this. Has the hon. and gallant Member concerned been lost in transit? Why is he not here? Why have we to wait for him? Is there any reason why he is not permitted to enter the House?

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Where is the Postmaster-General?

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Member in question entitled to take the oath? I think we are entitled to ask these questions.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Further to the point raised by my right hon. Friend, may I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? On the occasion of the precedent to which you refer, was the evidence adduced on that occasion merely a statutory declaration or was it not oral evidence? Is a statutory declaration sufficient in the circumstances?

Mr. Speaker

I will deal first with the latter point of order raised by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). The procedure being followed today is exactly as it was followed in 1911 and the procedure hitherto is as enjoined by the Act.

In reply to the query of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) would not be entitled to take the Oath until the Certificate of the Clerk of the Crown to this House has been amended showing that he is, in fact, the Member duly elected at the Election. The Motion now before the House is to call upon the Clerk of the Crown here to attend and amend his Certificate so that the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford appears thereon. When it does appear thereon, the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to be sworn like any other hon. Member.

Question put and agreed to.

THE CLERK OF THE CROWN thereupon attended at the Table and amended his Certificate.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford may now come to the Table and be sworn.

Forward to