§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I shall try to cover the ground as far as Glasgow Corporation is concerned. This may be very familiar to those Members of this House who at one time were city councillors of Glasgow, and I appeal to them to bear with me if I cover ground familiar to them. I propose to do so because there is some information which I think it very 1686 desirable that those who were not councillors should have.
It has been my privilege to be a councillor for twenty years, a Deacon of one of the Incorporations of Glasgow, and a member of the Merchants House, and, therefore, I have a very intimate knowledge of these two great institutions and also experience as a councillor for very many years which enable me to oppose the Bill. I do so because I believe that if this Bill were passed something would be done which would certainly not please the citizens of Glasgow and which would be a blow to two great institutions with a wonderful record of local and charitable work.
The draft Bill provides that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener shall cease to be members of the town council and that the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, so far as providing that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener shall be constituent members of the town council, shall be repealed as from the first Tuesday in May, 1956.
1687 The Glasgow Corporation is thus seeking under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, by means of a Private Bill applicable to Glasgow alone, to reverse the policy of Parliament declared and established by a series of public Acts which deal with the corresponding rights in the five large cities of Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth.
In 1833, when the Municipal Reform (Scotland) Act was passed, the position of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener in Glasgow, of the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener of the Guilds of the other four cities, after the most careful Parliamentary inquiry, was expressly recognised and confirmed, as were also the rights of jurisdiction of the Dean of Guild Courts. Parliament again preserved these privileges in the Municipal Elections Act, 1868. In 1900 the Town Councils (Scotland) Act again confirmed the rights of the Deans of Guild and the Deacon Conveners to be constituent members of the councils of their respective cities.
It is within the recollection of many Members of this House that it was provided in the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, that the persons elected by the Merchants House and the Trades House, respectively, in the City of Glasgow should, by virtue of their election, be constituent members of the town council and should exercise all functions exercised immediately before the commencement of that Act by such office bearers.
There were previous attempts to unseat these two distinguished members of two great institutions. In 1935 the Glasgow Corporation promoted a Bill seeking that the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener should cease to be members of the corporation, and again, after the most careful consideration and debate, the House refused a Second Reading by 190 votes to 52. Then, as I have already indicated, it came before the House in 1947, when the Local Government (Scotland) Act expressly confirmed that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener should be members of the Corporation of Glasgow.
For the twenty years that I was on the Glasgow Corporation, on no occasion has there been the slightest allegation 1688 that these two men of intrinsic character, whose honesty was never disputed or questioned—these men who have by their office been singled out from their fellow men as being of outstanding ability—did not worthily fulfil the functions of the city council.
There is a very close connection between the city and the Merchants House and Trades House, and it has always been to the advantage of the community of Glasgow as a whole. The Deacon Convener and the Lord Dean of Guild are non-party men—[Laughter.]
§ Mr. Henderson
I say to those hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), who do not know the first thing about Glasgow, that they will have their opportunity to deal with what I am saying. I can give instances of occasions when both the Deacon Convener and the Lord Dean of Guild voted with the Socialist Members of the City Council of Glasgow.
§ Mr. Henderson
On one occasion, long before the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central was a member of the Glasgow Town Council, there was a proposal that the electricity supply for one of the departments of the Corporation of Glasgow should be generated at Pinkston. The Tory Party—the Progressive Party—[Laughter.] I do not want to be unfair, but I should perhaps call them the Progressive Party. The Convener of that Committee—and this is all for the benefit of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central—was a gentleman called Mr. James Newman and he was a Socialist Convener while the Moderate Party was in power. The Moderate Party in those days was big enough to give a fair share of convenerships to the opposition party. On the Committee which was set up to go into the matter was the Deacon Convener of the Trades House. He was a very distinguished and able man, Mr. Robertson of Cornbooth. Not only was he the Deacon Convener of the Trades House Council but he was also the Chairman of the Clyde Valley Electricity Company which was so efficient and highly organised that within a few years it supplied the whole of the area 1689 outwith Glasgow with current. Glasgow was like a penny in the middle of a plate. It was such a wonderful organisation, and this man was its chairman. He was put on this committee. I was present. In a very able speech he appealed to the then Moderate Party to support the Socialist Convener, and he won. That is one of the instances when the Deacon Convener voted with the Socialist Party.
§ Mr. McInnes
Will the hon. Member accept from me that the amazing regularity with which the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener voted with the Conservative Party on the Glasgow Corporation, as recorded in the minutes of Glasgow Corporation, was in the ratio of 100 to one?
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Member makes that statement, but I hope that during the course of this debate he will give us something more than a mere statement of figures.
What I want to emphasise is this. So far as I know, when these two distinguished gentlemen cast their vote it was an honest vote. I believe they were sincere. I have no doubt that these men were honourable men of the highest integrity who could be trusted to do the right thing.
Both these Houses have played a leading part in the development of Glasgow for three and a half centuries. There has been a continuous representation on the Town Council of Glasgow for something like 350 years. The two Houses are the most important charitable institutions in the West of Scotland.
The Dean of Guild and of the Merchant House is also the President of the Dean of Guild Court, which is a very important body indeed, and which has a very close relationship with the Corporation. The Dean of Guild presides over the Court and decides all petitions for the erection of buildings, the formation of streets and other matters connected with the city. At a glance one can see how important it is that in a city with a great housing problem, with a population of 1,250,000, ever building, rebuilding and clearing slums, a man who sits on the Court and passes the plans for all these buildings should have a seat on the council and be able to give the benefit of his superior knowledge. The average 1690 yearly value of the buildings authorised in recent years has been about £13,800,000 and the applications for authority to build or construct have averaged about 600 per annum. In addition, there have been over 1,000 applications for minor warrants. These are all dealt with in each year.
In his consideration of all these applications, the Dean of Guild is assisted on legal matters by a highly-qualified legal assessor, but the composition of the Court is this: four from the Trades House and four from the Merchants House. They are called syners, or perhaps a better word would be assessors. These men are selected by these two great bodies, the Merchants House and the Trades House, because of their special knowledge of building. I ask hon. Members opposite, who a few years ago were councillors, whether they could find in Glasgow Corporation at the moment eight men, experienced, highly efficient, brought up in the building industry, who could take the place of these eight men who constitute the Guild of Court.
§ Mr. McInnes
Does not the hon. Member realise that if the Bill is passed those eight people to whom he refers will still function and that the Dean of Guild will still function? He will deal with all plans and all the data to which the hon. Member has referred. The Bill in no way interferes with the function of the Dean of Guild or the eight people. All it asks is that they should not be allowed to be elected as ex officio members of Glasgow Corporation.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am grateful to the hon. Member, but his intervention strengthens my argument. I recognise that the Bill does not affect this man in such a way, but I think at the moment he is a member of the general finance committee. How important it is that a man in such authority, presiding over this court, should be able to assist the corporation. How important it is that the corporation should have the benefit of his knowledge and undoubted business ability and his great efficiency, which is outstanding and of which the Corporation of Glasgow should gladly avail itself.
Like the Merchants House, the Trades House of Glasgow is an elective body of sixty-four. It has representation on most 1691 of the public and philanthropic institutions in Glasgow, including the Clyde Navigation Trust and Dean of Guild Court. If I had time to go over the important part which these two distinguished people have played in the city of Glasgow, I think hon. Members who are not aware of their wonderful record would think twice before supporting the Bill promoted by the Socialist majority in Glasgow Corporation.
For many years the man who presided over a large hospital in the city of Glasgow—the Victoria Hospital, a great institution—was a gentleman known as Mr. James Gilchrist. He had been nominated by the Trades House of Glasgow to represent them on that board, by virtue of being a member of the Trades House. He began as an ordinary member of the board, but his presence was soon felt and he was recognised as a man outstanding amongst his fellows. Eventually he became chairman of this great institution.
Almost every philanthropic institution in Scotland has a member of the Merchants House and Trades House on it. These people have rendered wonderful service and have been unsparing of their time and substance.
By far the most important relation between the House and the crafts was that concerning the granting of supplementary pensions to needy members and their families, first, in the early days of its existence, by means of the Crafts or Trades Hospital, and later by means of pensions. The Trades House Incorporated Pensions are from £40 to £100 per year. These, added to those of the fourteen Incorporations, distributed a total of between £55,000 and £60,000 each year.
Very large sums of money have been voted during the years to assist in every good cause, such as the Sunday school movement, to assist infirmaries, asylums and hospitals, Anderson College, now out of existence, the University and other educational bodies, and on many occasions these institutions have given vast sums of money for the relief of the general poor of the city, for the unemployed and for national distress.
If I had time I could go over the list of some of the gifts and legacies which have been received by both houses. The list is long and imposing. Let me give 1692 a few. There were the gifts from two brothers Pettigrew, Burgesses of the town. The money was left to provide two pensions for deserving Burgesses in no way connected with the Trades House or the Merchant House. There was a legacy of £10,000 by James Buchanan. He started life as a boy in a blacksmith's shop in the Stockwell. [Interruption.] I am sure hon. Members opposite will have their opportunity to speak. I am trying to state a case showing how important has been the work of these great institutions, which have existed for 350 years. It is up to hon. Members to justify doing something which has never been done during those 350 years—to unseat two distinguished men.
This gentleman left a legacy of £10,000. He started as a boy in a blacksmith's shop and within 25 or 30 years was the head of a merchant's house. This money is administered in providing the sons of members with a good technical education and training. Hundreds of lads in this country and in the Commonwealth have benefited from this assistance to enable them to have a technical education.
Another gift, known as the Drapers Fund, is unique and the attention of the House should be drawn to it.
§ Mr. Henderson
That suggestion is quite unwarranted. These men are far above that sort of thing. I thought these facts would be of interest to the House.
Another gift, the Drapers' Fund, places in the hands of one person, the Deacon Convener, the sum of £550 which he can expend during his year of office in any charitable fashion he thinks fit. The gentleman chosen is not bound to keep a note of his intromissions. No questions can be asked of him, and he need not give any account of his stewardship unless he desires. That cuts across a lot of our red tape in connection with Government allowances. This man is entrusted with £550 to do what he thinks fit in charitable causes.
In the discretion of this same gentleman the three awards of £50 each annually to people in any station in life who have adopted a child and have kept it in residence with them for a period of not less 1693 than five years. Here the administrator of the fund has absolute power, and he can award the adopter's bounty to peer or peasant, irrespective of creed or colour. The donor augmented this fund by a gift of heritable properties bringing in a yearly income of £3,000, which is sufficient to supply 60 grants of £50 each per year. Administration is in the hands of a committee of three, with the manager.
The Commonweal Fund is one of the most precious jewels in the whole history of benevolence in Glasgow or anywhere else. It was set up in 1924 and now amounts to more than £206,000. It was constituted to encourage generous donors and testators to remember the duty imposed upon the early craftsmen to devote part of their common belongings togood and pious uses for the commonweal of the burgh.I do not want to weary the House by mentioning further details. These funds help those who are passing through a time of stress and strain. Registered nurses in Glasgow who are temporarily incapacitated by illness are, by the generosity of the Perry Nurses' Trust, founded by a great citizen of Glasgow, able to have a holiday to restore their health again. There are many more such bequests, which are jewels in the work of benevolence and charity in Glasgow.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Would the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) agree, on the basis of his argument, that Sir Andrew Carnegie should have been Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. Henderson
No. He should have been made Lord Dean of the Guilds for Kilmarnock.
The Bill in no way represents the views of the people of Glasgow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I attended a church service on Sunday, and I spoke to a number of magistrates all of whom expressed the view that the Bill would be thrown out neck and crop. There is no sympathy for it. Glasgow would blush for shame to think that the elected heads of these two great institutions which go back 350 years, men of the calibre I have mentioned, anxious to play their part in trying to make the lives of the people of Glasgow happier in future than they are at present, irrespective of creed or party, should be barred from being 1694 constituent members of the Glasgow Corporation, a privilege which Lord Deans of Guild and Deacon Conveners have enjoyed continuously for 150 years.
Glasgow has heartily condemned this House, for fear that the party that supports the Bill will do something which will have a detrimental effect upon the good government of the city of Glasgow. Hon. Members of the Opposition who support the Bill should think again and refuse to vote for a Bill which has not the slightest justification and should not be read the Second time.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I support the Bill, and in doing so I am voicing the view of the great mass of hon. Members. It is a real privilege to have listened to such a mass of irrelevancies as was advanced by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) in advocating the rejection of a Measure which for twenty years has had the support of the majority of the citizens of Glasgow.
The hon. Member managed to introduce the other four large cities of Scotland but it should be made clear that they are in no way concerned with the Bill. He managed also to introduce a personal note into his argument, but I am certain that it will not be pursued. We have nothing against the present holders of these two offices, and we are not concerned with the matter in a personal sense but as an issue of principle.
The hon. Member seemed to fear that if the Second Reading were carried the Merchants House and the Trades House would cease their philanthropic work, which we do not dispute they do.
§ Mr. J. Henderson
I did not intend any such thing by my remarks. The Merchants House and the Trades House are far too big to think that anything would in any respect retard their great work of benevolence.
§ Mr. Rankin
If that is the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what he said his remarks were even more irrelevant than I feared. He did create in the minds of many of those who heard him the idea that the future of the Merchants House and the Trades House was in peril. He can be assured that the Dean of Guild Court will still function and the Lord Dean will still preside and that building 1695 plans will be passed in the future as they have been in the past. I assure him and others who have been misled by the argument that there is no attempt or intention to interfere with the benevolent work of these two Houses.
The Bill is concerned with two issues—one that these non-elected persons will no longer be members of the Glasgow Corporation and, secondly, that the principle of "one man, one vote" shall be introduced into local elections in the City of Glasgow. That principle will apply in Glasgow as it applies to the election of the House of Commons.
If the Government say tonight that hon. Members should go into the Lobby to oppose the Bill they must clearly understand that they are opposing the application of the principle of "one man, one vote" in local government as it applies to Glasgow in particular. Further, they are supporting the principle that persons who are not elected by popular vote should continue to exercise functions for which they have no electoral mandate in the Corporation of Glasgow, and for which they have no responsibility.
The hon. Member for Cathcart pointed out that the position of the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener had been confirmed by the Municipal Reform (Scotland) Act, 1833. He made a passing reference to the fact that a Glasgow Corporation Bill had been before the House of Commons in 1935 and that after the question which is now before the House had been thoroughly examined the House had defeated that Measure.
I say here and now that the hon. Member never read the debate which took place in this Chamber on the occasion to which he referred. That debate dealt with a Bill which covered many other matters. It covered the manufacture of omnibus bodies, it covered the sale of abondoned properties, it covered the election of the Lord Provost, and other matters in addition to the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener. Mr. Herbert Williams, as he then was, who moved the rejection of the Bill, never made a single reference in the whole of his speech to the question of the Lord Dean of Guild or the Deacon Convener.
There is no reference to and no careful examination whatsoever, in the speech 1696 of the hon. Member whom most of us who are here tonight knew, of the question of the Dean of Guild or the Deacon Convener. Mr. John Lockwood, who seconded the rejection of the Bill, made a passing reference to the Dean of Guild and when challenged about the Deacon Convener said he would return to that aspect of the matter later in his speech. HANSARD shows that he never again made any reference in his speech to the Deacon Convener.
§ Major W. J. Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
The hon. Member will agree that although English Members speaking in the debate on that Bill may not have mentioned the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener, Scottish Members—among others Sir Robert Horne and Mr. George Buchanan—made considerable mention of them.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member has said that, because that was my next point.
The Glasgow Corporation Bill was defeated in 1935 because the Corporation of Glasgow was seeking to invade realms which are sacred to hon. Members opposite. The Corporation wanted to do things which hon. Members opposite thought the Corporation should have no right to do, and the Bill was debated largely on those issues. Little consideration was given to the question which is now before us.
The hon. and gallant Member mentioned that Sir Robert Horne spoke. Sir Robert on that occasion said that the Houseought to grant a Second Reading to a Bill if there is a prima facie case for examination …The case submitted by this side of the House and by Glasgow Corporation is that there is a prima facie case for examination. If that case exists, then, in the view of Sir Robert Horne, a former Member of the House, the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Major Anstruther-Gray) ought to vote tonight for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member compels me to ask him to bear in mind, when putting words into the 1697 mouth of Sir Robert Home, that he finished his speech by saying,I cannot on this occasion do anything but oppose the Second Reading of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th March, 1936; Vol 299, c. 1855–61.]
§ Mr. Rankin
That is so. There is no discovery in that. It is scarcely worth intimating to the world a discovery which most of us knew about twenty years ago. Sir Robert opposed the Bill but I am saying that he laid down that night that if there was a prima facie case for examination, the House should give the Bill a Second Reading. I submit that there is such a case here.
First, the Bill has the undoubted support of Glasgow Corporation. By 62 votes to 29, on 17th March, 1955, the Corporation decided to proceed with the Measure which is now before us. Fourteen members on the Tory side did not even take the trouble to vote against it, that is 14 out of 43. Only 6 members of the Labour Party did not vote.
There are 68 Labour and 43 Tories in a total of 111 members in the corporation, and by 62 votes to 29 the corporation decided to proceed with the Measure which we are now considering. At all subsequent stages the necessary majorities laid down by the Corporation's own standing orders and by the provisions of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, which the hon. Member for Cathcart quoted, were secured.
I know that, because other cities have been dragged into this matter unnecessarily, some hon. Members may say that since something of this nature is not provided in their cities, Glasgow must not have it either. I hope that no one on the other side of the House will be influenced by such a narrow attitude.
There is another reason which might weigh with some hon. Members. Opposition would have some proper argument if it could be shown that the Bill is injurious to the general body politic. There was not one word in what was said by the hon. Member for Cathcart which led to such a conclusion.
We shall be interested to hear whether the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) will oppose this Bill tonight against all his own beliefs. The Bill proposes to terminate the existing right of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener to be constituent members of the 1698 Corporation of Glasgow. It proposes that and nothing more. We on this side of the House say that this desire is the clearly expressed wish of the majority of the citizens of Glasgow over the last twenty years. There can be no argument on that point.
The majority of the citizens of Glasgow return a majority of Labour Members to this House. This is a factor which ought not to be disregarded when the House conies to take a decision on this clearly expressed desire. In addition, the citizens of Glasgow send an overwhelming majority of Labour Members to the city corporation, so that a decision not to give a Second Reading to the Bill will be a decision to impose the will of the minority on the majority in the interests of maintaining privilege and nothing but privilege.
On this side of the House we maintain that that privilege is now outdated. The Dean of Guild is head of the Merchants House, which has a membership of 1,000 people who want to cling to the right of sending a non-elected person to the counsels of the City Chamber of Glasgow, the average ward electorate for which is 19,000 members returning three councillors, an average of 6,000 per councillor, then it means that a body which has a membership of 1,000 at most wants the right that 6,000 people possess only on an elective basis. The Deacon Convener is the head of the Trades House, which has a membership of about 9,000. Both claim the right to non-elected status in the Corporation of Glasgow on the ground that they represent the business community.
The hon. Member for Cathcart who is opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, and who has had a long association with the Corporation of Glasgow, knows that the business community of Glasgow is already well represented in this corporation apart from these two non-elected persons.
If we were to apply the argument advanced by the hon. Gentleman that business interests, as such, have a right to representation on the Corporation, then the Co-operative movement, one of the greatest business organisations in the City of Glasgow, with a membership of 200,000 persons, would on the argument of the hon. Gentleman, be entitled to have 1699 twenty-non-elected persons in the Corporation of Glasgow but, put on that basis, the hon. Gentleman will immediately run away from his argument.
§ Mr. Henderson
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree with me that there are members nominated by the Co-operative movement?
§ Mr. Rankin
It is so simple. I should not be asked to answer an elementary question and so waste the time of the House. The Co-operative political section nominates people to stand for election, and they can only enter the corporation if sufficient people in the ward for which they stand vote for their return.
§ Mr. Rankin
Of course, and they are elected, but the two posts under consideration tonight are not tenanted by elected persons who submit themselves for election; they are tenanted by unelected persons who never seek a popular mandate at any time. The hon. Gentleman wants the House to maintain that position. The Co-operative movement would not at any time make such an absurd claim as the hon. Gentleman has made because it accepts the principle of one man, one vote, which those who oppose this Bill tonight are proposing to reject.
In addition, there is this further reason. I have referred to the fact that the hon. Gentleman said that the position of the two offices in dispute had been confirmed by the Act of 1833. Yet he skilfully refused to pay attention to the fact that two years later a Royal Commission, which inquired into the municipal corporations of Scotland, went into the matter thoroughly. It sat from February to September, 1835, and came to this conclusion:We have been unable to discover any reason why these particular Corporations should be endowed with this extraordinary privilege. The practical result will be to bestow on them a double share of representation in the General Council of the Burgh.1700 Therefore, it recommended:We therefore beg leave to recommend that these seats ex officio should be taken away.It should be noted that the offices will remain. The Deacon Convener will remain Head of the Trades House, which will continue to send its four representatives to the Dean of Guild Court. If at any time either of the gentleman concerned in these honourable offices desires to attain the dignity of a city councillor, he will submit himself to the democratic process of public election as do the 111 Members of the corporation, assuming that this Bill becomes law.
In my view there is no argument against the Bill. Hon. Members should keep in mind the fact that it applies only to Glasgow. It has the support of the citizens of Glasgow. It has the blessing of a Royal Commission, and it fulfils completely the democratic precept as applied to all local government in the City of Glasgow, that one man shall gave only one vote. On those grounds, therefore, I hope that the House will see fit to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
It may seem a little strange that a Member for Edinburgh should intervene in a debate on a Measure which, as the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) said, is entirely confined to Glasgow. I agree that technically that is so, in that this is a Bill promoted by Glasgow Corporation. Nevertheless, the substance of the Bill does bring forth certain matters which may indirectly affect the position of other cities in Scotland.
Under Section 330 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, which, incidentally, is a consolidation Measure, provision is made that there shall be certain ex officio members of the town councils of various cities in Scotland. For example, in Glasgow there is the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener, in the City of Edinburgh there is the Lord Dean of Guild and the Convener of Trades, while the Cities of Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth have Deans of Guild.
It therefore follows that if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, a precedent will be created which may well have repercussions in other cities where there are also these ex officio members. I want 1701 to make it clear that I have had no representation from any quarter in the City of Edinburgh asking that there should be any change in the present system, or that the Lord Dean of Guild or the Convener of Trades should be excluded from the deliberations of the town council.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, those two respected and responsible citizens take a useful part in the work of the town council. I know that that was so in the days between 1935 and the outbreak of war, when I was a member of the town council, and I well remember the useful part they played in the work of the council. I am certainly not aware of there having been any movement in the City of Edinburgh in recent years to bring about a change. I have made some inquiries to make sure of that.
I find that the most recent occasion on which this matter was raised in Edinburgh was as far back as 1932, almost a quarter of a century ago. For the information of the House, I will just quote an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting of the Town Council of Edinburgh of 4th February, 1932:After discussion, Councillor Gilzcan, seconded by Councillor Hardie, moved:'That this Town Council is of opinion that the continuation of the offices of Lord Dean of Guild and Convener of Trades as Members of this Town Council constitute an anomaly which can no longer be justified. Further, that Parliamentary Powers be asked to abolish the existing rights of the Guildry and the Incorporated Trades to elect a representative to this Town Council, and to elect a Lord Dean of Guild from among the regularly elected Members of the Council.'Councillor Fortune, seconded by Councillor Hastie, moved as an amendment that no action be taken on the motion.On a division, by a show of hands, fourteen voted for the motion and forty-six for the amendment.The amendment was therefore declared carried, and the Magistrates and Council resolved in terms thereof.That was in 1932, and there has been no subsequent action with regard to this matter, which shows that there is satisfaction in the City of Edinburgh with the present composition of the town council. I therefore feel that I am echoing the wishes of the City of Edinburgh in trying to prevent any encroachments or repercussions which may arise from the passage of the Bill, and I am therefore opposed to it.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is the hon. Member not aware that the matter was raised in the House in 1947, fifteen years after that?
§ Sir I. Clark Hutchison
There is no record of its having been raised in the town council of Edinburgh. The people of Edinburgh and not hon. Members are the persons directly concerned in this matter.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I had some difficulty in understanding the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Sir I. Clark Hutchison) and the relevance of his speech to this Bill which is concerned with Glasgow. It is only in respect of Glasgow that it is asked that action should be taken. The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) seemed to have as little to do with the problem as the flowers that bloom in the spring, because although he was speaking about a quite worthy object, the administration of charitable institutions, he failed to tell the House in what way the Bill will interfere with them.
In justification for his opposition to the Bill, he said that he was at a church service on Sunday when the Lord Provost, the magistrates and others were present and that he was quite emphatic that not one of those present was in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. Henderson
The hon. Member must not mis-quote me. I said that I spoke to a number of magistrates and that every one to whom I spoke indicated that in his opinion the Bill would get thrown out.
§ Mr. Hannan
That is different from what the hon. Member first said. Certainly the impression he conveyed was that all the people who were there were opposed to the Bill.
§ Mr. Hannan
As he has now made it clear, I am content to leave it at that. I am very surprised to hear that the Lord Provost, for example, was opposed to the Bill.
The Bill asks that these two historical offices should be abolished, because in principle it is wrong that two people 1703 should be sent to the council to have full voting rights, without going through the electoral process to which all other members are subjected once every three years. That is the kernel of the Bill. If in these modern democratic days any hon. Member wants to justify some people having a dual vote and a dual representation, let him say it on those grounds and not on the evidence and on the speech of the hon. Member for Cathcart.
Glasgow elects 111 councillors from 37 wards. Its full membership is 113. Two members, the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener, are added to the elected membership to make up the full corporation. The Dean of Guild is elected by the Merchants House, which claims to represent the mercantile community of Glasgow. It goes back to the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries. They have the privilege—not a right—to elect from amongst their own members someone to go on to Glasgow Corporation. My hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) stated that the Merchants House has a membership of 1,000. The average number of persons in a Glasgow electoral ward is 19,000.
In these modern days, who would justify such a situation? All members of the Merchants House already have votes in the city or in some other electoral area and can elect a councillor somewhere in the country. Therefore in electing a dean who is a councillor these people are exercising a dual franchise.
Originally, the functions of these two representatives were to issue licences, and I am surprised that hon. Members on the other side who are great believers in free enterprise should support, perhaps unwittingly, those who dispense licences still in restricting mercantile business within the limits of the city today. They also had certain judicial functions and certain duties in the administration of charitable funds, but the monopoly was abolished as far back as 1846. They still exercise minor jurisdiction through the Dean of Guilds Court, but nowadays most people recognise this office to be effete and quite ineffectual outside the charitable function which has been mentioned.
Membership of the Merchants House is not easily come by; there are heavy fees 1704 to be paid for the privilege—£20 for membership of the Merchants House. I want particularly to draw the attention of the House to a very important statement made in paragraph 2 of the objects of this association. Membership is open to men "of known substantiality"—what a horrible word—"and good repute established in Glasgow or Western Scotland with Glasgow connections". The operative words are "or Western Scotland". I take exception, and so do many of my hon. Friends, to people who reside in Helensburgh, Prestwick and Whitecraigs coming into the city and, through their membership of one of these bodies, electing someone to vote—as they always do—against the representatives of the Labour Party in the city chamber. I object, for example, to Sir Hugh Fraser, who is a millionaire and whose Rolls-Royce was recently asked for at the circus at Monte Carlo, residing in Milngavie and travelling into the city of Glasgow to one of these organisations and by virtue of his membership sending someone to the council chamber.
It is claimed that since companies have no vote, businessmen are not fully represented in the affairs of the city. Reference to the diary of Glasgow Corporation should soon help to dispel any fears on that score, because the record shows that nearly 30 of the members are company directors. That, I think, ensures that businessmen have a fair share; but in any case, is it not said by these very representatives that they are not there representing business interests? Always they represent, as it is said, the overall interests of the community, and not businessmen at all. I will later show that they do very much represent the businessman's point of view. My hon. Friend did make the point that the Co-operative Movement and the trade unions as organisations would have the same right as corporate bodies to have representation on the corporation.
With regard to the Trades House, it similarly was vested with judicial and charitable functions many years ago. It consists of representatives from 14 incorporated trades in Glasgow. Their representatives here are only 64 in number, and these 64 elect the Deacon Convener who automatically goes to the corporation. It is true that the total membership was just over 9,000 in September, 1955, but here again one 1705 becomes a member of this organisation only on payment of a fine. A man must be entered in the burgess book of the corporation and must pay a fee to get into these close corporations.
I have here a table of the fees which are payable. To be entered on the burgess book of Glasgow, which is the first condition before acceptance by one of the incorporated trades, whether a man knows anything about a trade or is interested in it or not, the fees are these. First of all, for a far hand—which means, I think, that he can be far removed from being a weaver or hatter or gardener, or whatever it may be—the fee for entry is £5 14s. 6d. For the eldest son of a previous member, with his father still living, the fee is £1 16s.; but, if the father happens to be dead, then the fee is £1 7s. 6d. So it goes down to the younger son, eldest daughter, younger daughter, till even the son-in-law can become a member on payment of the appropriate fee. Registration on the burgess book is a condition precedent to membership of one of these incorporated trades.
That is not an end of the matter. To be accepted at all, a man must pay a fee for entry of from £80 to £90. That is the fee for entry into one of the incorporated trades, the hammermen, cordiners, maltmen, skinners, masons, barbers, bonnetmakers, tailors, weavers, bakers, wrights and coopers, fleshers or gardeners. Of course, the members may not know very much about those trades. A hammermen, for example, can be connected with the shipbuilding industry, but he might not know the sharp end of the ship from the blunt end. A bonnetmaker may know no more about bonnets than that they are an alternative to bowler hats when going to mix with the motley crowd. For that privilege of being a member, the fee is £80 or £90.
The bill for Royal Burghs of 1833, as my hon. Friend has mentioned, made no provision for this purpose. It was another institution, another place—if I may mention the House of Lords—which inserted the Clause which restored the privilege and put matters right.
§ Mr. Hannan
Yes, put matters wrong. One would expect just that kind of thing 1706 from another place, since this is privilege of the first order. It is certainly not in keeping with the feelings of a democratic people.
The Royal Commission, in 1935, said:In the recent Act of Parliament relative to the election of burgh councils, a certain anomaly has been adopted in reference to a few burghs, the expediency of which we feel ourselves compelled to question. In each of the burghs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth the Dean of Guild, elected by the guild-brethren, and, in each of the two former burghs, the Deacon Convenor, elected by the convenery is, by that Act, declared to be, in virtue of these elections, a constituent member of Council.The Royal Commission concluded that it could not understand why these offices should be continued, and it recommended that they should be dispensed with.
It seems to be perfectly clear to most people that this is certainly not in the interests of equity and fairness, and the Bill would go a long way to assuage the feelings of many people in Glasgow who suffered a great sense of injustice as the result of the 1949 elections, when these two offices were used to bolster up the minority party. The result of the elections was that the party of which I am proud to be a member was in the majority by one—56 to 55: The Deacon Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convenor were consequently in a position to decide who should be Lord Provost. The Glasgow Herald of 4th May, 1949, said:These non-elected members have usually voted with the Progressives, but now, when they hold the balance, they may hesitate to use their powers.It might have been a reasonable expectation that they would not act in a provacative fashion, but party dogma was too strong and party whips were exercised in local government. Yet many members of the Conservative Party decry the introduction by the Labour Party of politics into local government. An urgent telegram was even sent abroad—
§ Mr. Hannan
—to bring one of the representatives back in time to vote. By that means, the minority party became the majority party. Over-weening ambition carried the day. Many members of the then majority party were ashamed of this action, and at first they threatened to abstain, but party pressure was applied and they voted.
1707 That situation will never recur, because, with or without these two offices, my party will be in control in Glasgow for many years to come. Nevertheless, it is the principle of the thing which is wrong, and I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading because it will restore equity and fairmindedness and a greater pride in democracy than there is in the present situation.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) has forgotten two things. He said that for many years Glasgow would have a Socialist majority. He has forgotten that the same sort of thing was said in this House in 1945—that the Labour Party was here for thirty years. Things do not always work out that way.
When talking about the election of the Lord Provost in 1949, the hon. Member also forgot a similar happening in London, the other way round, in 1947.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
Yes, it is true. The hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity to speak later. If he is called, he can then give his views. If hon. Members look up the records of the London County Council and the Glasgow Town Council they will find very great similarity between the two cases.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
That is my opinion, and I have expressed it. Other hon. Members can say what they think later if they are given an opportunity to speak.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
I do not wish to proceed with that point because it seems to have raised rather a stishey.
All I want to say is that, as representing the City of Perth where we have a Dean of Guild only, I think that, indirectly, the passage of the Bill would certainly affect that city and other cities which have been mentioned. I believe the Bill is based on party political prejudice. That is unfortunate. However, Parliamentary authority was given to 1708 these honourable offices being maintained and having representation on the town council. Consequently, a Private Bill is not the means for withdrawing that authority.
If it is wrong to have that situation in Glasgow, it is wrong to have it elsewhere, and it is Parliament which should decide, as it decides all representation in local and Parliamentary government, what the situation should be, and that should be done in a Government Bill. This Bill, being a Private Bill, should not be given the weight that attaches to a big Measure like a Government Bill affecting the representation of the people. I hope that the House will reject the Bill on those grounds alone. If it is thought right that those offices should be done away with as representative offices, Parliamentary authority should start with Parliament and not with an outside body.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. and gallant Gentleman made a very pertinent point about the comparison between the London County Council and the Glasgow Corporation. I put it to him that there is a fundamental difference in the case which we are discussing. In the case of the London County Council all the persons concerned had fought their way to the council chamber through elections, but in the case of Glasgow that was not so in respect of these two members. Does that not change the situation?
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
The hon. Gentleman is at fault. The aldermanic bench is not subject to election in the same way as the councillors are, and the election of the aldermanic bench is done by the elected councillors. The aldermen themselves are not elected. Therefore, the case is very apposite.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I do not wish to detain the House tonight because hon. Members with a more intimate interest in this Bill than I have desire to speak. But we have had speeches from hon. Members representing Edinburgh and Perth who have intimated by their arguments that they are against this Bill because the position in relation to Glasgow Corporation is similar to that which obtains in their cities, and what the Glasgow Corporation does may adversely affect the cities they represent.
1709 I represent the City of Dundee, which is one of the cities affected by this matter. We have one unelected member, the Lord Dean of Guild, and there have been occasions when we have reached a position similar to that described by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), and where there was a danger of an unelected member ruling the city because he held the balancing vote. I wish to inform the House that Dundee Corporation, far from feeling affronted by the Bill brought by Glasgow Corporation before this House tonight, is in fact in process of bringing forward a Bill of its own. I hope that the precedent set by the House tonight will make clear the way for that Bill.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollock)
I have not had the advantage enjoyed by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) of serving for many years on the Glasgow Town Council, but I have spent a great deal of my life in association with the industry of the West of Scotland and I now represent a Glasgow constituency, so I am interested in this matter.
To the issue raised in this Bill I apply only one simple test. Will the expulsion of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener from the Town Council improve the government of the city? Will their banishment mean that the Council will be better informed? Will it reach wiser decisions, and will their removal take away a handicap for the good government of Glasgow? To that simple issue I turn my mind.
In my view, the passage of this Bill will have a deleterious effect on the government of the city. To remove two widely experienced men, fully informed of the practice and intentions of industry and business in the city, and upon which the city depends so heavily for its prosperity and progress, cannot in my mind fail to therefore I shall oppose this Bill.
damage the work of the corporation, and, therefore, I shall oppose this Bill.
The historical concept of the two houses, the Merchants House and the Trades House, have been adequately dealt with, but it is worthy of note that, as these two house grew in membership and importance, so did the great city of Glasgow grow. When the city first got its charter the population of Glasgow 1710 was just over 7,000; now it is over 1¼ million. Today and in the debates on this subject which have taken place in the House, hon. Gentlemen opposite have never hesitated to say how much they appreciate the value and the integrity of men sent to the corporation by these two bodies.
The Merchants House and the Trades House have played an important part in the great progress of the city of Glasgow, and the rights which they have enjoyed since 1605 went unchallenged until the Royal Commission on Municipal Corporations in Scotland reported in 1833. I mention this because great play has been made with that Report this evening. Certainly, that Royal Commission said some scathing things about these unelected members at that time. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) quoted from this Report. He said, in effect, "We have been unable to discover any reason why these particular corporations should be endowed with that extraordinary privilege. In fact, it gives them double representation on the council." Roughly speaking, that is what the hon. Gentleman said.
But that is not the whole quotation. It is only a part taken out of a paragraph on page 94 of the Report. What that body said was:Members of these Corporations are also with a few exceptions qualified electors and thus the practical result will be to bestow on them a double share of representation on the general council of the Burgh.That was true in 1833, but it is not true today.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman said that the rights of these bodies had not been challenged between 1605 and 1833. That would have been true had they only sent these two people from time to time. But the actual fact is that from 1605 until the passing of the Burgh Reform Act they formed the whole council. They picked the Provost and did everything.
§ Mr. George
The fact is that the position of the Lord Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener on the Town Council was not challenged from 1605 until 1833. That is a fact, and I was dealing with the quotation.
Before I was interrupted I was saying that what was true in 1833 is not true today. Since that date we have seen many changes in the business life of the 1711 country and in methods of travel. We have seen the growth and expansion of limited liability companies, the coming in of the railways and the introduction of the motor car. Now, with few exceptions, we see train loads of businessmen leaving Glasgow for Ayr and Troon and other districts. We see hundreds of motor cars leaving Glasgow with businessmen for places outwith that city. It is no longer true to say that what the Commission said in 1833 applies today. With few exceptions, it said, the electors then had a double vote in the City of Glasgow. That is not true today. There is a vast number of electors who leave the city and have no vote in the city but who have great interests in the city and have played a tremendous part in the progress and prosperity of the City of Glasgow.
It is vital that Glasgow Town Council should retain the continuing interest and loyalty of these people in the affairs of the town council and of the city. It is not putting it too high to say that the advance of Glasgow depends in great measure upon the energy, enterprise, zeal and loyalty of these people who do not reside within the city.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
The hon. Member is putting forward an interesting argument. Would he be logical about it and go on to argue that the workers who invest their labour in Glasgow, but who happen to live outside the city boundaries, should also be given a second vote?
§ Mr. George
I am arguing that these businessmen, with the growth of the limited liability company, leaving Glasgow every day but leaving within the city their vital interests, play a tremendous part as the years go by in the progress and prosperity, not just of the city, but of those workmen to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, and it is essential that we keep the continuing loyalty of these people in the affairs of the Glasgow Town Council.
§ Mr. George
I am not giving way any more. I am saying that it is vital for Glasgow Town Council to keep the continuing interests and loyalty of these business people in the town council's affairs. It is vital, I believe, that the council should be in reception of their 1712 advice and that of the representatives we send to the town council from the Trades House and the Merchants House. I honestly believe that the retention of these two gentlemen, bringing their information as to the prospect and progress of the industries in the city, will be of benefit to the town council and not a detriment to it.
§ Mr. George
I have given way three times and will not give way again.
This was not challenged again from 1833 until 1900, when Dundee put forward an Amendment to withdraw it, and no opposition was put forward to the officers of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener in that Bill of 1900. In 1934. Glasgow raised this issue but was refused permission to put forward a Bill. In 1935, they again raised this issue, and it was defeated in this House by 190 votes to 52.
The hon. Member for Govan made some reference to Sir Robert Horne's speech on that occasion. In reading the speeches made in the course of that debate, I find that they ran to 55 columns of HANSARD, and not more than two columns are devoted by Labour and other Members to the question of the Deacon Convener or the Dean of Guild. That surely does not show great excitement or indignation. To my mind, it shows a half-hearted opposition to the principle of the Bill at the time.
§ Dr. Mabon
May I point out to the hon. Member that in that debate in 1935 we were concerned with at least three other major projects, one of which was in connection with the municipal bank? With all those matters mixed up in one debate a considerable discussion could not be devoted to this matter, particularly when there were three other Bills to be dealt with that night.
§ Mr. George
I quite agree that many matters of great moment and contention were included in the Bill, but it is not illogical to think that a small portion of the time would be allocated to the issues now before us—and two columns out of more than 55 does not seem to show great excitement or indignation about this issue.
The hon. Member for Govan quoted from Sir Robert Horne's speech. I tried 1713 to find the words he used, but I could not do so. I am not suggesting that the hon. Member was trying to mislead the House. All I can find Sir Robert Horne saying upon the subject is:There is the question of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener. I would say to members of the corporation: What are they making all this pother about? Cannot they bear to see two people who are in general of a different political colour from their own? Are they going to sacrifice the reputation of the Corporation as a great business organisation for such good as they may get from a mere paltry prejudice. I would ask my hon. Friend opposite to revise his point of view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1935; Vol. 299, c. 1860.]That is what he said, and it is very sound, and applies equally tonight as it did then.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry that other matters prevented me from hearing what the hon. Member said about me. Is he disputing that the quotation I used earlier was not taken from Sir Robert Home's speech in the Second Reading debate in 1935? If so, I can assure him that I extracted that quotation today.
§ Mr. George
I said that I could not find it. I said that I was sure that the hon. Gentleman did not want to mislead the House. All I could find was what I have quoted, and I have read through the whole speech. I have read the whole reference by Sir Robert Horne to the issue which is now before the House.
That small allocation of time given to the issue of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener does not tally with the hon. Member's statement that for twenty years the town council of Glasgow had the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the people of Glasgow for the removal of these two officers.
§ Mr. George
That is what happened in 1935. The matter was raised again in 1047. I admit that it was in a Consolidation Bill, and that it was therefore difficult to move Amendments, but the Secretary of State for Scotland then said that he would have tackled this issue but for the fact that he was sure that he would not get unanimity, and would be raising a very contentious issue. Two 1714 hon. Members representing Glasgow constituencies and one representing an Edinburgh seat raised the issue, but the result of that Bill confirmed the rights and sustained the position of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener on the Glasgow Town Council.
It has been said that these two great institutions, which once exercised a very important part in the life and trade of Glasgow, are declining and are no longer of any great importance. It is necessary to be fair about this issue and to examine the work done by these two great houses. They are an almost inseparable part of the life of the people and the institutions of Glasgow. If one goes anywhere in Glasgow—to the hospitals, technical colleges and universities—one finds that these men are giving their time, experience and ability to furthering the good of Glasgow.
It is true, perhaps, that the charitable side of their business is not now so active because under this Government it is difficult to find poor people anywhere, but that is not to say that they will not, as other charitable institutions have done, find new avenues for their work, regain their former importance and, indeed, outstrip the work which they have done in days gone by. Many charitable institutions have found, owing to the lack of poor and the improved circumstances of today, that their previous activities are not required, but new avenues are opening up and I have no doubt that with the foresight and the policy of these two great institutions—and, of course, the necessary funds—they will have a future even greater than their past.
If one sticks closely to this question of not electing members and sticks slavishly to the belief that the ballot box will always provide the right man with the right job, then we have a very narrow argument on which to go forward. If we want to be fair to the Dean of Guild Court let us look at the work which it has done for Glasgow in the past. In recent weeks, we have listened to a new slum clearance policy being devised and driven through so that the conditions remaining in many of our large cities will be rapidly improved.
One has only to look at a report in the Glasgow Herald to see what has been done over the last hundred years. That newspaper made a special point of reporting in full the improvements made during 1715 that time. It will be seen from the article the steps taken and the expenditure involved in the city's own great slum clearance activities. In those days, the Dean of Guild Court did not have architects coming along with plans all nicely arranged giving the size and strength of the building. The members of the Court had to see the job themselves after the application came before them. They cleaned up Glasgow. If some hon. Members opposite would take the trouble to read the history of the city which some of them represent they would see that the Dean of Guild Court gave instructions for large numbers of buildings to be immediately demolished. Those were its instructions, the buildings were immediately demolished and Glasgow was cleaned up.
§ Mr. George
I will quote one instance which is both interesting and amusing to illustrate the type of buildings which existed in the Gorbals at that time.
§ Mr. George
It is reported that an Irish tenant had died, and, as was the custom then and is, I think, the custom still, a number of his friends—in this case twenty of them—entered his wooden house and ascended three storeys. The corpse was lying in the corner of the room with a bowl of salt on its chest and the Bible and candles around it. The twenty men began to enjoy themselves. They became rather noisy and started to dance. The floor gave way and the whole building collapsed in front. They had to shore it up. It is reported that the next morning the Dean of Guild arrived on the scene with his men only to find to their astonishment that the twenty men were still there drinking away and seeing their friend happily into the other world. The Dean of Guild at once ordered the demolition of the house and of all the houses around.
The Dean of Guild Court has done great work for Glasgow in the past in ordering demolitions and the erection in the last twenty years of those majestic new buildings in the city.
§ Mrs. Cullen
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member to decry the Gorbals constituency in the way that he is?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) cannot intervene unless the hon. Member in possession of the House gives way.
§ Mr. Rankin
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I requested the hon. Member to allow me to read the quotation from Sir Robert Horne's speech to which I referred.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As I understand it, the hon. Member who has possession of the House has not given way, and that being so, the hon. Member for Govan cannot now intervene.
§ Mr. Rankin
I referred to the speech of Sir Robert Home on 26th March, 1935. The hon. Member said that he had read the whole of the speech and could not find the words that I had quoted. He said in column 1855 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 26th March, 1935:… the House ought to grant a Second Reading to a Bill if there is a prima facie case for examination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1935; Vol. 299, c. 1855.]Those words are in that speech.
§ Mr. George
I still maintain the position that I originally adopted. I read every word that Sir Robert Home said with regard to the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener, and I stand by every word that I read out. The reference from which the hon. Gentleman quoted does 1717 not apply specifically to the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener.
I should like to read a few lines from Crawford on Sketches of Trades House, page 83:The Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener were yearly and continuously elected under the provisions of the Letter of Guildry' and took their seat at the Council Board; and as these persons were in some respects the representatives of the Burgesses their presence tended to remove the odium which attached to the town council as a self-elected body.A full circle has been turned. Their presence removed the odium which attached to a self-elected body. This evening their presence excites the resentment of a popularly elected body. If we stick slavishly to the worship of the ballot box and depend on the ballot box turning out the right man for the right job every time, we may find, as we have found elsewhere in this country, that we have not the right man in the right job at the proper time.
It has been said that they are non-elected members. It is true they are not elected by popular vote, but these two men who sit on the Glasgow Town Council reached their position by an extremely arduous method of selection, election and service to the city. They have come through an extremely arduous route. They then exercise that privilege which has been condemned—the privilege of giving their time, ability and experience to the furtherance of the good of the city in which we have the greatest interest.
It is at this time of particular importance that we should study the state of local government and see whether this is the right time to take away undoubted benefits to any council. Each council should study its own position. The present state of local government causes us deep concern. We have here a picture of eager, willing candidates backed up by anxious excited electors taking up this issue among the many issues, and putting their whole heart behind it. That is not the truth today. In Scotland, including Glasgow, I am sorry to say, we have apathetic candidates. The parties have got to go and look for candidates and entice people to stand for the town council. We have apathetic electors.
To talk about having the support of the vast majority of the people of Glasgow is nonsense. Many candidates are elected by only 30 per cent. of the 1718 electorate. This is not an issue along those lines; this is a party political issue which is being raised. I want to see local councils keeping whatever candidates they have. They have none to give away. Local government is in danger of dying through lack of appropriate candidates. This Bill would be a means of weakening the Corporation of Glasgow. I hope the House will support the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I lost my phrase; I meant that I hoped the House would not support the Bill.
The Merchants House and the Trades House have been intimately identified with the growth of the city and have contributed to its prosperity. They have shared in its municipal government and generously supported its voluntary institutions. They have-furthered the cause of education and expanded industry and have spread its commerce over the globe. They still maintain a healthy and vigorous existence and exert a valuable influence for the good of Glasgow, and I trust that their responsibilities will not be diminished by the House accepting the Bill.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. J. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I have listened with interest, to a number of speeches made by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) paid a very fine tribute to men who, if they had been attacked individually in the House, would have been justified by the speech which he made. But no attack was being made on the individuals at all, and no criticism was being made of them.
The hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) has paid a fine tribute to the employing classes of Glasgow. This has nothing to do with the question at issue in the Bill. A fine point arises here, whether or not democracy is to prevail or whether we are to retain the old idea of non-elected persons on our public bodies.
There has been a gradual struggle in this country and in other countries throughout the world towards complete democracy, and in the onward march to democracy we have had to root out all these non-elected positions and all the time to support the popularly elected person in local and national assemblies.
1719 In the onward march in recent years we have got rid of the plural vote, university representation and business representation. The City of London had its financial representatives sitting in the House. All these have been steadily eliminated, because the one answer which we have to totalitarians throughout the world is that of complete faith in democracy, not only in words but in action and in carrying it through at every level.
One hears continually from hon. Members opposite and from the Press in this country about shop stewards' movements dominated by Communists. It is said that those movements do not represent the people in the workshops because those people have not turned out for the meetings of their trade union branches in the workshops. It is said that they represent a minority in the industries of the country.
Here we have something less than that. We have two gentlemen who represent the trades in Glasgow and nothing but the trades. Nobody disputes that those bodies are carrying on a great deal of work within their own sphere, and are assisting people in need. Many of us know of cases which have been treated in a very generous and decent manner. Many homes may have been saved and many a breadwinner assisted during illness and in particularly bad circumstances by those bodies. That is no reason for coming here and putting up a case for a continuation of that representation on the Glasgow Council.
What does all this mean? Hon. Gentlemen say that the present position has never been challenged since 1932. All that means is that a completely Conservative-dominated Council did not desire to challenge representation of that character, but with the growth of democracy and of Labour representation there have been times when it was difficult to justify these two gentlemen operating in the sphere of what is called "non-political work". When a man says to me, "I am not interested in politics" I always know that he is going to vote against me. That is his defence against getting into an argument with me about his political point of view.
I have respect for people who have a point of view and defend it, but I have 1720 no time for defending this type of representation. One thing I have discovered in going round the world is that the British desire to hold on to a privilege has been responsible for bringing us to the mess in which we are at present. We have tried to hold on to every form of material power through domination and dictatorship.
If we accept this type of corporate representation many other bodies in Glasgow will be entitled to claim such representation, bodies like the Co-operative society, the trade unions, the trades council, the Labour associations, the Salvation Army, the Celtic Rangers Football Club and the Masonic order. If we embark upon that kind of representation we go back to the period in history when we had what exists at present in Spain, corporate representation of the trades and interests of the country.
Members of the Conservative Party prate of democracy with their tongues in their cheeks, and yet, when they get an opportunity of staking a claim for representation of a dictatorship kind they will back it to the very death. We hope that there are members of the Conservative Party who recognise democracy and who will say in the House tonight, "We realise that this kind of representation is outmoded, and although it may have served a useful purpose at one time, should not now be encouraged. In the Conservative Party we stand for democracy, and therefore we are out to eliminate this form of representation in the local authorities".
My hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) mentioned the time when we had a controversy in Glasgow about the election for the lord provost. I was at the corporation meeting, and I heard the story, the most diabolical story of the press gang in operation that I have ever heard. They followed one of the men to Paris and brought him back by aeroplane. They threatened him that unless he voted for the provost they would deal with him. Two men, just as if they had been Bulganin and Khrushchev, on each side of him, marched him into the corporation chamber and he had to vote for the election of a Tory lord provost. There was an elected majority of one on the Labour side for the election for a Labour lord provost. Such behaviour did not 1721 only harm the Conservative Party but harmed democracy itself. It should not be encouraged by any decent thinking man or woman who wants to have real democratic representation in our life.
I will accept what has been mentioned about these two gentlemen—that they are honourable men and good men who do a great deal of good work in their general lives. At the same time, the hon. Member for Pollok told us that there is a dearth of candidates. We all know that. There is a dearth on both the Conservative and Labour sides. If these men are so good—and I have no reason to think that they are not good—the Conservative Party should find seats for them on the Corporation, on an elected basis, to give their time and energy and what is more, according to the advertisements which we have heard tonight, their money to assist the City of Glasgow and to help its citizens in their dire need and distress. These men could find their place in the democratic set-up; and, therefore, we shall not waste any time or any tears on whether or not the Dean of Guild will be eliminated.
What does it matter to us whether Perth. Edinburgh or Dundee or some other town has not yet made representations? Here is the voice of democracy in Glasgow asking the House to use its judgment, intelligence and good sense to pass the Bill and to eliminate this travesty of representation in Glasgow. I am amazed to find that any hon. Member coming from Glasgow as a democrat should come here tonight and encourage this form of representation. I have nothing against the men. I do not want to discuss them. I am discussing the principle. The principle is bad. It should be opposed, and I find myself 100 per cent. with the Glasgow Labour Corporation in its demand that this anomaly should be ended tonight.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
I am sorry to inflict two speeches on the House in one day. I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) will be as accommodating and friendly tonight as she was this afternoon.
§ Captain Duncan
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) spoke about the onward march of democracy as opposed to the dictatorships of this world. He said that the whole philosophy of Socialist thought was to have complete and utter democracy as the best method of opposing complete dictatorship. He said that in all local and national assemblies that should be the democratic aim.
Let us examine that proposition. This Parliament is not democratic. There are three elements in the British Parliament—the Monarchy, another place and this House. Only this House is elected. The other two are not. We have not complete 100 per cent. elected democracy in our own Parliament. We have nothing like it.
Let us look at the local assemblies. It is true that, broadly speaking, in Scotland we have complete democracy, with only four exceptions, but aldermen are not elected in England. They are elected by a council after the election of the council. I fall back on my own experience, because I was a member of London County Council at one time. In those days we had 124 elected members and 20 aldermen. The aldermen were elected for six years and the councillors for three. When I was elected it was generally considered a good thing that there should be a body of people who would continue the administration from year to year. The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) is here, and he will agree with me that the idea of having a period of service of six years for the aldermen gave a measure of continuity in the administration of the council, which was of benefit to the council and to the inhabitants of London.
It has been said that this is a party political move, and I shall not contradict that statement. If it is, I warn those who are indulging in it that it will not necessarily benefit the Labour Party. Let us take the case of the London County Council election of 1949, although the numbers have altered since I was on the council.
There were elected then 64 Conservatives, 64 Socialists, and one Liberal. At that time, assuming that the Liberal was anti-Socialist the anti-Socialist majority was one. But there were also the aldermen, and aldermen can vote for the election of the chairman, 1723 The effect of the aldermen being there, most of whom were Labour, gave the Council a Labour majority, a Labour chairman and a Labour council. That can be vouched for by the hon. Member for Clapham. So I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that if this is a party political move it may redound to their discredit in the future.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) tried to make the point that the Bill affected Glasgow alone. That statement was contradicted by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) who, in his short speech, said definitely that Dundee was watching this Bill and was in process of bringing forward one of its own to deal with its own Lord Dean of Guild in the same way as is proposed in this Bill.
I have had a letter from the Lord Dean of Guild of Dundee. It is not private, and it is written from the Guild Clerk's office. It starts with the usual reference to the historical importance of the Lord Dean of Guild of Dundee and to the great work that the Dean of Guild Court has done in the past. This was ably described in the case of Glasgow by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson), I quote:The Deans of Guild of Dundee and Glasgow have for centuries been men of outstanding merit and experience in business affairs and are admitted on all sides to have been really useful members of their respective Corporations. Therefore to abolish their seats in the Town Councils of the two Cities is obviously a political move on the part of the Socialist majorities of these Councils who, upon the excuse that ex officio membership of a Town Council is undemocratic, seek to remove a Town Councillor whom they regard as likely to hold moderate views.That letter is signed by the Lord Dean of Guild, who is personally known to me as having himself done a great deal for the City of Dundee and, in particular, for its higher education. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) would acknowledge that if he were in his place. He was chairman of one of the main committees of the Dundee Institute of Art and Technology, and is a thorough and worthy citizen of that great city.
I cannot do less than mention that tonight, because I believe that even though his party, if he has a party, is in a minority, the minority's views are entitled to be heard in the House just as much as 1724 are the majority views as expressed by the hon. Member for Dundee, East.
I conclude by saying that I do not believe that this complete 100 per cent. elected majority idea of the hon. Member for Shettleston is necessarily the right answer to dictatorship. There is a middle course—the system which we have evolved in this country, where we have partly elected and partly nominated or hereditary organisations; so that we have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) said, in this Glasgow case, people who have been elected, selected and elected again before they go through the sieve and reach the high office of Lord Dean of Guild or Deacon Convener.
That compromise solution is typically British. I believe that this Socialist logic is not the British answer. Socialist logic does not work. The great thing in the British Constitution is compromise and making a thing work. However illogical in theory a thing may be, the great principle in British politics, history and tradition is that if it works, it should remain. It has been abundantly proved on all sides tonight that these two offices are honourable historical offices of great importance, and that their council representation should not be abolished.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Reid (Glasgow, Provan)
I rise to support the Bill. Owing to the lateness of the hour and because of the request of the hon. Members who are to conclude the debate, I shall speak for not more than a few minutes, but there are some statements which must be answered. The first statement with which I wish to deal was made by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) who, to show how fair the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild were, said that during his membership of Glasgow Town Council twenty years ago both of those men voted with the Labour Party in favour of generating electricity at Pinkstone.
He was most unfortunate in using that illustration, because I then happened to be chairman of the Transport Committee. There was no such proposal twenty years ago to generate electricity at Pinkstone. In fact, electricity has been generated at Pinkstone since 1898, fifty-eight years ago, so that I am afraid that in the twenty years during which the hon. Member was a member of the town council he must 1725 have got mixed up with his dates. I happen to have been a member for thirty years, both before the hon. Member entered the council and after he had left it.
The next point with which I want to deal, and that very briefly, was made by the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George). He said that if we wanted to know something about the good work done by the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild, we had only to look at the housing conditions of Glasgow. I ask any hon. Member to pay a visit to Glasgow and to look around at their handiwork.
Look at housing conditions in Glasgow. They are a disgrace to civilisation. Glasgow is the worst housed city in the United Kingdom, and if housing conditions in Glasgow, according to the hon. Member for Pollok, are to be taken as a criterion of the good work done by the Dean of Guild, then the sooner the whole thing is wiped out of existence the better.
As the hon. Member for Maryhill Hannan) and the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) said, in 1949, a lord provost was foisted on the Glasgow Corporation against the will and votes of the elected representatives. As has already been said, one representative had to be brought back from France in order to bolster up a minority vote to put in the civic chair someone who was not wanted by the elected representatives. The feeling of disgust in Glasgow was so great that three years later the city saw to it that a mistake like that should never happen again; the people of Glasgow increased the Labour Party's membership to such an extent that on the next occasion a Labour representative was elected as lord provost of the city.
I have no desire to detain the House any longer. I sincerely trust that every fair-minded Member of this House will support the Bill promoted by the City of Glasgow, which is a fair Bill, having the support of the vast majority of Glasgow's citizens.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
It will be admitted by all that we have had a very interesting debate tonight; it has been all the more interesting since it has not been confined narrowly to the affairs of Glasgow alone, but has embraced the affairs of many 1726 other cities of Scotland and, indeed, has gone back, as we have a habit of doing in Scotland, to first principles on the subject of representative assemblies.
Of course, there have been arguments affecting Glasgow alone. I think the hon. Member for Provan (Mr. W. Reid) was a little rash, if I may say so, in referring to housing conditions in Glasgow after twenty years of Socialist rule. If that is the state of affairs after twenty years of elected Socialist rule, it is high time there were some other nominated representatives on the council. If the hon. Member appeals to the record of the Socialist majority in Glasgow in the matter of housing, he is leaning upon the very frailest of broken reeds. The housing record of the Socialist majority in Glasgow is one of sabotage, destruction and incompetence. I think it would be more kind to pass rapidly from that aspect of the matter.
We have, after all, to consider first principles. Those first principles were discussed by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) and they were vigorously re-emphasised by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). The hon. Member for Shettleston went so far as to say that he thought it was terrible that persons not elected by popular vote should continue to exercise functions for which they had no popular mandate and no responsibility.
I must quote powerful opposition if I am to overcome a verdict such as that. I am sure I shall have little difficulty in doing so. I shall quote the former leader of the Socialist Party, Mr. Attlee, now Earl Attlee, who sits in our Parliamentary assembly, in another place, exercising functions for which he has no popular mandate—and with universal acceptance. When the Socialists claim that it is a scandal for people, who have no popular mandate and no responsibility to do so, to sit in legislative assemblies, they had better first address their complaints to the former Leader of their party. So far as I know, there has been no suggestion either by the former Leader or the present Leader of the Socialist Party that the other place should be abolished. In any case there, in that place, the former Leader of the Socialist Party now sits, by universal consent and general acclamation, exercising functions for which he has no popular mandate and no responsibility.
1727 Next, there was the powerful argument in favour of "one man, one vote", which was brought forward with great strength by the hon. Member for Govan. Again, I must seek very strong authority if I am to counter the argument. Therefore, I will appeal to Caesar in the form of Mr. John Rankin, M.P. I have in my hand his testament of faith. It is called "Though Cowards Flinch", and it is signed by himself and a number of other eminent and vigorous exponents of the Socialist faith. In particular, the views of the hon. Member for Govan are very vigorously stated, and I would call them to the attention of the House. The hon. Member is here speaking of voting; he speaks of the "multiple voting" in the Labour Party. His view is this:The principle of multiple voting is firmly embedded in the Labour Party constitution. Most Labour Party members have two votes cast in their names—one by the constituency party and one by the national trade union. Many have two or three others cast by such bodies as the Fabian Society, the Royal Arsenal Co-op. or the Socialist Medical Association.Also:We believe that the attempt to remove this at the present time would be resisted tooth and nail …What is their verdict?We suggest that it remains.That is the view of Mr. John Rankin, which I commend to the hon. Member for Govan.
When we have dealt with those two points of principle, we come to the practical question at issue, which is whether or not certain members should be removed from the Glasgow Town Council. It is a very odd thing that no one has suggested that these members, either now or in the past, have been unworthy members, that they have performed their duties unsatisfactorily, or that they are anything but admirable members of that assembly. Indeed, it would be very difficult to argue otherwise.
One can quote name after name—Mr. Daniel Duncan, of the Clyde Trust; Mr. James Legget, who served with the Ministry of Food; Colonel Walter McFarlane; Mr. Allan Dickson; Sir John Train; and Mr. Francis Beattie. A number of those men graduated from other positions to the two responsible offices, and, indeed, the last two became 1728 respected and useful Members of Parliament. In the case of the Dean of Guild, there was the Convener for Special Areas, Sir David Alan Hay. There was also Lieut.-Colonel Norman MacLeod, a name well known in connection with the Church of Scotland and the Boys Brigade and other very important activities, and also Mr. Norman Sloane. I need not weary the House with a recital of these members.
First, then, there is nothing contrary to principle in these persons holding office without actually being elected. Secondly, we have proved that the principle of "one man, one vote" so far from being repugnant to the Labour Party, is firmly embedded in the very constitution of the party itself.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is true that I only read out one of the Labour Party's confessions of faith, but it is the confession of faith of the hon. Member who was put up to open the case for the Bill. It was he who said that this principle is firmly embedded in the constitution of the Labour Party and ought to remain, which is good enough, I think, for this House; and we must take it as the opinion of some at least of the Labour Party.
We not only have the instance of good members which I have quoted, but we have proof by common consent of the hon. Members of this House that members of the Glasgow Town Council so chosen have been good representatives and have honestly done a good job in the civic assembly of our city.
The final point is, that it was said that on one special occasion these two representatives exercised a decisive vote in choosing the lord provost for the city. It was said even that one representative came back from abroad to vote. I must say that when one considers the lengths to which the Whips on both sides in this House will go, to suggest that it is wrong that someone in full exercise of his health and strength should return from abroad to vote is a queer accusation to make against anyone.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that these two positions are automatically the prerogative of 1729 one party in Glasgow and that one representative may have come back from abroad?
§ Mr. Elliot
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have known better than to make such a point. The suggestion that this gentleman came specially back from abroad was made by hon. Members opposite. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would not suggest that this gentleman, who had a right to vote, and who was voting in a responsible way for a particular candidate, should not have the right to return to cast his vote.
It was not simply a case of casting an automatic vote for a party candidate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. The Labour majority on the town council, as we all knew, had the opportunity at that time of choosing several candidates for the post. It is common knowledge that there were candidates that they might have put forward who would have commanded much wider general support than the candidate they actually put up.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not think it is denied by anybody.
But I will come simply to the actual choice that was made. Did these gentlemen suggest that the lord provost of Glasgow who was selected, Victor Warren, was not a good lord provost of Glasgow? He was as good a lord provost as the town council has ever known, and it would have been a great scandal had Victor Warren gone to his death, kept from office by the party intrigues of his opponents. None of his opponents ever succeeded in surpassing the personal heroism which Victor Warren showed. [Interruption.] Questions of self-sacrifice, questions of bravery and the saving of life are important qualities in civil life just as in private life, and I should certainly bring them forward.
I am not pressing Victor Warren's war service because, I know that to some that would be like a red rag to a bull. But to say that it is unjust or invidious to state that a man, by his own personal exertions, saved two fellow creatures from drowning is a good man full of courage is to say what it manifestly wrong. To claim that courage is not of value in civic service also is obviously untrue.
Now we are all agreed that a good provost was chosen, what has become of the gravamen of the charge? This lord 1730 provost was chosen, and he continued to fill the chair of the Town Council of Glasgow throughout his term of office with the utmost success. He was a man of great courage, both civic and physical. He was a man who brought added distinction to the chair of the Lord Provost of Glasgow, and who, at the end of his term of service, was applauded by all, even by his opponents as a worthy and dignified man. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Indeed, he was, and tributes were paid to him on all sides. I am echoing tonight the tributes paid by opponents, as well as supporters after his term of office; which he gained by the votes of these two representatives whose actions we are investigating tonight.
§ Mr. James Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
We are not discussing a former lord provost. We are discussing the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am delighted to hear that we are not discussing the former lord provost. I have listened to nearly all of the debate, and the main argument brought up again and again was the argument of the 1949 election and the choice of lord provost made then. It will be within the recollection of the House that that was the only abiding point of argument brought up by hon. Members opposite; because they admitted that the precedents were good and the principles on which these gentlemen were chosen were principles to which they themselves had given support. Now the only point that they can make against them is that on one occasion their votes had been decisive in a certain way.
Now they say that they quite agree with the choice that was made on that occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It seems there is nothing left at all in the case in favour of this Bill advanced so confidently at the beginning of the debate.
The last argument that Members opposite can bring forward is that these seats represent an anomalous state of affairs; that they are not in accordance with the strict rules of logic.
Not only does this House flourish on anomalies, not only does the British Constitution flourish on anomalies, but we are actually about to add another great 1731 anomaly to our existing representation in the House—with the enthusiastic support of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. What is the proposal which I had the honour of commending to the House, admittedly certainly queried by a good many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side? It was the suggestion that three Members should be added to our body here from Malta. Admittedly, an anomaly would arise when they had a voice in our affairs which we would not, in turn, exercise over their affairs, and when they could vote on every aspect of our domestic work, though we could not on any of theirs. That was supported and commended enthusiastically to the House by the very same hon. Members who are now objecting to a much smaller anomaly in another part of our own country.
Let us see whether they will rule out all the other anomalies before they come to this one. Let us see if they will refuse to accept the anomaly which has recently been recommended to them and, which, as I say, most of them enthusiastically accepted. Let us see the other anomalies ruled out. Then let us see if it is necessary to remove this anomaly also. If we remove all the anomalies of the British Constitution, we shall change it from a live to a dead thing.
That is the fault of the constitutions on the Continent—that they are over-ridden by logic and those unyielding principles commended to us tonight by hon. Members opposite. They are strait-jacketed until they are stifled and die. Ours is a live constitution, perfectly capable of absorbing and flourishing upon anomalies which will live on long after those other constitutions have been thrown into the wastepaper basket.
We do not want a rigid mathematical constitution, either in this House or in the great local authority assemblies which are also a glory of this country. This is certainly not the time to imitate some of the constitutions on the Continent, which, though far more logical, are less successful in practice than ours.
The main accusation brought against the constitution of the Glasgow Town Council, with these added representatives, is one of the strongest reasons for rejecting the proposal to remove them. Hon. Members opposite say that it is 1732 anomalous. Very well; it is anomalous. We glory in the fact. And we confidently recommend to the House the rejection of these proposals to steam-roller this and all other evidences of life out of our British Constitution.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
It is a long, long time since I heard the right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot) being so entirely irrelevant. We are not discussing the personality of the lord provost, as he suggested, but the right of non-elected people to decide whom the lord provost is to be. I regret to say it, but the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the election of Victor Warren as lord provost, was dealing with an issue the facts in relation to which he was not conversant with, since he was not a member of the local authority and never has been.
At the time of that election I was the leader of the Labour group in the council. The Labour nominee for the position of lord provost was the unanimous choice of the Labour Party, but there was a division in the Conservative ranks, and they had to dragoon the Tory members into voting for Victor Warren. Those are the facts of the situation. Any hon. Member opposite who has been associated with Glasgow Corporation will confess that of all the lord provosts of Glasgow within the last 50 years Victor Warren did not merit their approbation.
In his irrelevancies the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the various elements which constitute the Labour Party, and also with the method of voting within the Party. I could point out to him that members of the Kelvingrove Darts Club have votes, but that is nothing to do with the Bill.
I can well understand the right hon. Gentleman being so sore about our insistence upon democracy, because he was a victim of the one-man-one-vote question when he represented a university seat. We all know why he feels so sore about the position. He then went back to Kelvingrove.
§ Mr. McInnes
That shows that of all the areas of Glasgow the most unintelligent is Kelvingrove.
We have had an interesting debate, which has covered a wide range of subjects—so wide that almost all the speeches from hon. Members opposite have had absolutely no relation to the Bill. In fact, the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) dealt with almost everything but the Bill, and even when he dealt with the Bill he made entirely inaccurate statements. He was challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), and I want to deal with one or two of the points he made.
The hon. Gentleman said, for example, that the Bill of 1833 expressly preserved the right of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener to be ex officio members of Glasgow Corporation. What actually happened was there was no such. Clause in the Bill when it left the House of Commons. The Clause was inserted in another place.
§ Mr. McInnes
The hon. Gentlemen went on to deal with the question of the importance of the position of the Dean of Guild and of the Deacon Convener—particularly the Dean of Guild—in relation to the passing of plans for housing, streets and all types of building. But the hon. Gentleman fails to realise that the functions of the Dean of Guild would in no way be swallowed up by the passing of this Bill. That gentleman would still retain all his rights and privileges. All that the Bill does is to ensure that he shall no longer be a non-elected member of Glasgow Corporation.
§ Mr. J. Henderson
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that I sought to emphasise the importance of having on the Corporation the Dean of Guild because of his great experience of presiding over the Dean of Guild Court?
§ Mr. McInnes
The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the functions of the Dean of Guild are rarely discussed by the Glasgow Corporation, or by any other corporation, but particularly by the Glasgow Corporation.
The hon. Gentleman then went on to refer to the fact that this Bill in no way 1734 represented the views of the citizens of Glasgow. What a statement to make.
§ Mr. McInnes
Surely the hon. Gentleman is conscious of the fact that the Labour Party on the Glasgow City Council represents over 300,000 of the electors, whereas the Conservative Party, of which, incidentally, only 55 per cent. of its members voted against the Bill, represent no more than 120,000 electors. Yet in spite of that fact the hon. Gentleman had the audacity to suggest that this Bill in no way represented the views of the Glasgow Corporation.
Let me remind the hon. Gentleman—if he has to be reminded—of the undemocratic action of the two non-elected people in not giving effect to the views of the citizens of Glasgow when they appointed the Lord Provost by their casting vote. The hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) made the somewhat startling statement that the Dean of Guild cleaned up Glasgow. Let him indicate in what century that was done. It was certainly not in the last two centuries. The only man that I know who made an effort to clean up Glasgow was Billy Graham, and he did not have very much success either. What is the position? My hon. Friend the Member for Govan said that Glasgow is the worst housed city in Britain. I will go further and say that it is the worst housed city in Europe.
I will deal with the observations made by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove. He asked: what can one expect after twenty years of Socialist rule? In twenty years of Socialist rule we have had to contend with two centuries of Tory neglect. It is an incontrovertible fact that there is not another city in the whole of Great Britain which has built more municipal houses—over 100,000. Despite having built 100,000 municipal houses in Glasgow, we still have the legacy of the Tory Party—91,000 slums in that city.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) contended that so far as the aldermanic bench was concerned there was a degree of continuity. That is a point of view. There are at least six years' experience in the council for the aldermanic bench. But in the case of the Dean of Guild and the Deacon Convener, what is the position? They are 1735 elected for only two years. There is not even continuity so far as their election is concerned.
It has been suggested from the benches opposite that this is a political view, that when the Socialists seek to abolish these two non-elected people it is Socialist propaganda and a Socialist viewpoint. But when the Tories seek to retain them, it is not a Tory point of view, it is always neutral or indefinable.
I want briefly to give the historical background to this matter. These two gentlemen have enjoyed the rights and privileges of sitting on the Glasgow Corporation for the past 350 years—and some of them look like it. I confess that in the seventeenth century the jurisdiction of these two gentlemen was very extensive indeed. In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries they dealt with trade, commerce and manufacture in the City of Glasgow. They had widespread responsibilities and they were very influential men.
I also confess that in that period local government generally was very restricted in its functions and operations. I would not deny that in the seventeenth century there was some justification for the election of these people to the local authorities. But today—and it is the situation of today with which we are dealing—the situation has drastically altered.
The Merchants House and the Trades House which nominate these gentlemen no longer deal with the trade and commerce of the city. They deal merely with the question of the administration of charitable funds and endowments. They have no other purpose in the life of the city. Local government, on the other hand, has expanded and extended, and today its functions and ramifications are enormous. Therefore, against that background there is no justification for the undemocratic principles that these ex officio members carry with them in their appointment to the Glasgow Corporation.
The right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove argued about the business interests of the city being represented on the city council. If we argue that businessmen
§ have a right to sit on a local authority to represent their business interests, we must logically argue that such organisations as trades councils which represent the workers, ought to have the same right to sit on local authorities.
§ As I have said, the situation has drastically changed. No longer do we stand for the sectional representation of any section, whether it be workers or employers. The situation today demands that people who stand for local government and accept the responsibilities of local government must be prepared to face the ballot box for the decision of the citizens in a democratic way. That is the only possible approach to the question. Even Parliament tidied up its own machinery when it decided to withdraw the restricted representation of universities. If that could be done in the case of Parliament, we ask that it be done in respect of local authorities.
§ We ask for a Second Reading of the Bill in order that the proposals contained in it shall be examined by a Select Committee. There is nothing unreasonable in that. Hon. Members opposite want to deny us even the opportunity of having the Bill examined. If the House agrees to the Second Reading and, if, in its wisdom, following its examination of the proposals in the Bill, the Select Committee recommends that the Corporation's proposals are unjustified, we shall accept that, but we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the Select Committee has made a thorough examination of it. The House could not possibly devote the time for the full and wide examination which the situation demands. We have only two or three hours at our disposal.
§ I beg the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and to allow the Select Committee to make that examination. I know that the result will undoubtedly be the abolition for which we ask. At all events. I ask the House to give us the opportunity of that examination.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 110, Noes 167.1739
|Division No. 148.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Blackburn, F.||Brockway, A. F.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blyton, W. R.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Boardman, H.||Burke, W. A.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Randall, H. E.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Rankin, John|
|Clunie, J.||Kenyon, C.||Reid, William|
|Coldrick, W.||King, Dr. H. M.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lindgren, G. S.||Royle, C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Logan, D. G.||Short, E. W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McGovern, J.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Deer, G.||McInnes, J.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Dye, S.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Finch, H. J.||McLeavy, Frank||Steele, T.|
|Forman, J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mason, Roy||Thornton, E.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Timmons, J.|
|Hannan, W.||Moody, A. S.||Wade, D. W.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, A.||West, D. G.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Oram, A. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Holman, P.||Oswald, T.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Holmes, Horace||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pargiter, G. A.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Parker, J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pearson, A.||Woof, R. E.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Probert, A. R.||Dr. Mabon and Mr. G. M. Thomson|
|Irving, S. (Dartford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Agnew, Cmdr P. G.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fisher, Nigel||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Godber, J. B.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Madden, Martin|
|Barber, Anthony||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Green, A.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Biggs-Davidson, J. A.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mathew, R.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Body, R. F.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Neave, Airey|
|Braine, B. R.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hirst, Geoffrey||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Bryan, P.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Page, R. G.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Carr, Robert||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Partridge, E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Channon, H.||Hurd, A. R.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Pott, H. P.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joseph, Sir Keith||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Keegan, D.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kershaw, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lagden, G. W.||Robertson, Sir David|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Leavey, J. A.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Leburn, W. G.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lindsay, Marin (Soilhull)||Shepherd, William|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Llewellyn, D. T.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Touche, Sir Gordon||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Studholme, H. G.||Vane, W. M. F.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Teeling, W.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wall, Major Patrick||Mr. J. Henderson and Mr. George.|
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
Question put and agreed to.