HC Deb 12 March 1957 vol 566 cc977-8
48. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to provide for the election of one-third of the Members of the House of Commons every two years, thus ensuring that Parliament more nearly reflects public opinion.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that reply was not entirely unexpected? But has he any suggestion for remedying the blatantly unrepresentative character of the House at the moment? Does he not acknowledge that he has been told recently in the bluntest possible terms to get out, and no one cares very much whether he gets out on tiptoe or on his flat feet?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in assuming that the Answer must necessarily be in the negative. I have thought a good deal about this matter. At first sight the hon. Gentleman's proposal seemed to be not without attraction as a protection against the danger, however remote, of another Socialist Government; but when I reflected that of four such Governments no fewer than three foundered within twelve to eighteen months, I thought perhaps that the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions were too alarming.

Mr. N. Nicolson

Does the Prime Minister not agree that if the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) were to be accepted, hon. Members would be eating out of the hands of their local associations and as a result the representation of public opinion in this House would be less and not more effective?

The Prime Minister

I think that this is a very interesting topic. Perhaps we might discuss it on one of our Private Members' Motions. There were times when annual Parliaments were asked for and then triennial Parliaments. When I was a boy we had them for seven years and now we have settled down to five years. There is a great deal to be said—I quite see the hon. Gentleman's fear.