HC Deb 27 March 1958 vol 585 cc652-4

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

When the Second Reading debate took place, Clause 3 was dealt with in rather summary fashion by the Home Secretary. He dealt with it in a few lines in col. 231 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 11th February, 1958. It is true that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) dealt with the principle of electoral quota at greater length. Unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to take part in the Second Reading debate, and, although my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering dealt with the point, I find myself at complete variance with him.

The argument that he then adduced was that on a consideration of the electoral quota it would be desirable to increase the number of hon. Members representing English constituencies. It is true that he said—and I agree with him fully on this point: Therefore, I say that the discrepancy between Scotland and Wales, on the one hand, and England, on the other is too large."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1958; Vol. 412, c. 235.] That, of course, is true, and the figures that he gave bear out his point. The English electoral quota at the moment is 56,564, the Scottish quota is 48,011 and the Welsh quota is 50,363. In those circumstances, he is putting it mildly when he says that the discrepancy is obviously very large.

The whole idea of the electoral quota was to obtain an approximation towards numerical equality. If we want to apply so far as we can the principle of numerical equality, my submission is that the number of hon. Members in this House should be reduced and not increased.

Mr. Mitchison

On a point of order. I am sorry to rise in this way, Mr. Diamond, but we are now considering Clause 3, which relates to the electoral quota. As far as I can see, it does not relate to the number of constituencies, but the first new Clause does.

Mr. Lipton

Further to that point of order. Whereas the first new Clause refers to English constituencies, it does not refer to Scottish and Welsh constituencies. To that extent, what I may have to say on the subject of the Scottish and Welsh constituencies on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," may be completely out of order on the new Clause. I do not wish my rights to be unnecessarily truncated if the submission of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering is accepted.

The Attorney-General

Further to that point of order. I submit, Mr. Diamond, that as the Clause contains nothing which has any effect whatever on the number of seats in Great Britain, whether in England, Scotland or Wales, any debate upon the number of seats there should be would be out of order in relation to the Clause.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Diamond)

Can the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) develop his argument a little further?

Mr. Lipton

My hon. and learned Friend said that a consideration of the principles involved in Clause 3 led to his forming the opinion that the number of Members of the House should be increased.

The Temporary Chairman

If the hon. Member pursues that argument, he will be completely out of order.

Mr. Lipton

In that case, Mr. Diamond, I reserve such comments as I may be allowed to make until we reach the new Clause, when, apparently, according to the points made by the Attorney-General and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering, these comments would be in order, subject, of course, to your ruling.

Mr. Skeffington

I have been a very great critic of what the Boundary Commission did on the last occasion by using what I have said is the unauthorised English quota. I dislike the Clause and I realise that in future that criticism will no longer be valid. I regret it just as much.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.