§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a short and simple Bill. It may not on that account be uncontroversial, but I hope that we shall, as far as possible, look at the issues raised by the Bill from as factual and objective a viewpoint as possible. At least, that will be my object in commending the Bill to the House.
I need hardly remind hon. Members that Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, which we are inviting Parliament to repeal, restricts the number of cars that may be used by, or on behalf of, a candidate to take electors to or from the poll at a Parliamentary Election. The limit is one car for every 1,500 electors in a county constituency and one for every 2,500 electors in a borough constituency; and all cars so used must be registered with the returning officer and carry a placard indicating that they are so registered. A contravention of these provisions is an illegal practice.
May I also remind the House briefly of the history of this provision. The Representation of the People Act, 1949, was, of course, a consolidating Measure and the provisions of Section 88 were first introduced as Section 33 of the Representation of the People Act, 1948. The Act of 1948 was a comprehensive Measure of electoral law amendment which was based largely, though not, of course, entirely, on the recommendations of the 1944 Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform, and also on the recommendations of a Committtee on Electoral Law Reform, under the chairmanship of Sir Cecil Carr. This Committee's membership included the chief agents of the main political parties.
The question of restriction on the use of cars by candidates for conveying voters to the poll was considered both by the Speaker's Conference and the Carr Committee. The Speaker's Conference rejected the idea of such restrictions by 15 955 votes to 14. The Carr Committee had this to say about the proposal:We realise that restrictions would have to deal not only with candidates and their agents but also with individuals and perhaps with groups unconnected with the organisations of the chief parties. We are at one in thinking it neither proper nor practicable that anyone who uses his car in order to record his vote should be debarred from taking with him to the polling station his neighbours or the members of his family. Not all of us feel able to support a system of limitation which cannot easily be protected from evasion. In any case, some of us are not convinced that any restriction on the gratuitous use of conveyances is either needed or desirable, particularly in these days, when the motor car has become so common a mode of transport.That comes from paragraph 41 of the Final Report of the Committee on Electoral Law Reform in 1947, Cmd. 7286, and that, I think, the House would regard as a pretty definite opinion.
The Government of the day, when introducing their Representation of the People Bill in 1948, had, therefore, before them the evidence of both the Speaker's Conference and the Carr Committee that the parties as a whole were not agreed that there should be this sort of restriction on the use of cars by candidates, and the 1948 Bill, as introduced and read a Second time, did not, in fact, include any such restriction.
During the Committee stage of the Bill, however, some Labour back benchers, including the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), put down an Amendment which would have had the effect of completely prohibiting the use of cars by candidates for taking voters to the poll and requiring returning officers to establish a pool of cars which could be used for transporting voters in case of what was described as "casual illness."
The Home Secretary of the day, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), indicated that he could not accept the Amendment as it stood, but that between the Committee and Report stage he would see whether it was possible to do something which would very strictly limit the number of cars which could be used at an Election. In pursuance of this undertaking the right hon. Gentleman introduced, on Report, a Clause which, with certain subsequent minor Amendments, became what is now Section 88 of the 1949 Act.
956 The Clause was strongly objected to at the time by the Conservative Opposition, and powerful speeches against it were made by a Liberal and an Independent Member, the then Member for Cumberland, North and the then Member for Grantham, but the Government of the day ruthlessly used their substantial majority in the House to carry the Clause through all subsequent stages.
Nobody can deny that the Labour Government of the day were fully within their parliamentary rights in making this late alteration to the Bill which they had introduced and, if they so desired, to use their majority to carry it through. But we thought at the time, and we still think, that it was a matter for a little regret that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues made this unilateral alteration in the Election law; and we cannot deny, and I do not think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would wish us to deny, that we regard this Section 88 as being misconceived in principle and unsatisfactory in practice.
It may be asked why we did not take the opportunity to repeal this provision soon after the Government's formation. This was due to the following considerations—apart from our preoccupation with more urgent problems. When we were returned to power, in 1951, these restrictions had been in force for only about two and a half years even though this somewhat agitated period had included two General Elections, and having regard to the general undesirability of frequent changes in the electoral law we thought that we ought to give these restrictions, totally wrong though we consider them to be, a run.
The restrictions having now been in force for nine years and three General Elections as well as numerous by-elections—and, in passing, the House will remember that they are not in force in local government elections at all, which take place just as much in country districts as they do in borough areas—there has now been ample time and opportunity to test how they have worked or not worked in practice, and we are confirmed in the following views.
First, that the restrictions are quite out of accord with present social conditions; secondly, that they are unnecessary to secure fair play between the parties; thirdly, that they cause inconvenience to 957 candidates of all parties and to the electorate; fourthly, and perhaps as important as any other, that they bring the law into contempt.
We had hoped that Her Majesty's Opposition might have come to a similar view in the light of their experience of the restrictions. At any rate, unlike our predecessors we did not want to alter the law without first consulting the Opposition—[An HON. MEMBER: "Insulting the Opposition."] No, consulting. That may follow, but it follows consultation in any case. And before the end of the last Session of Parliament, indeed, in the summer, consultations took place, some months ago, with the Leader of the Opposition and with his hon. Friends.
These consultations indicated that we should not be able to carry the Opposition with us. We were made clear about that. My colleagues and I regret this very much, hut, after further consideration, we feel that this must not deter us from asking Parliament to remove what we consider to be an excrescence on the electoral law.
In further developing the Government's case against Section 88 1 will mention two self-evident propositions. The first is that it is in the interests of democracy that it should be made as easy as possible for people to record their votes; and the second is that, I think to most of us, at any rate, and to the general opinion of the public, the motor car nowadays is a common means of transport.
It follows that there must be very sound justification indeed for restricting the use of cars to take electors to the polling station. We must remember that much of the electorate consists of busy housewives, old people, people who are indisposed on polling day but whose indisposition may not be serious enough or did not occur early enough to qualify them for a postal vote, and particularly people in country areas who may have to walk long distances in bad weather in the absence of transport. Those of us who have for many years represented country districts know precisely how badly this restriction works in the country areas.
In the light of these considerations I submit that the only possible justification for the restrictions in Section 88 would be that the ownership and facilities for 958 the use of cars is confined so exclusively to one political party or one social class that the use of cars must be restricted. notwithstanding the hardship it may impose on many voters, in the overriding interests of fair play between the parties If motor cars are restricted to one social class—which I do not accept—
§ Mr. Butler
—are we to understand that the party opposite confines its members to one section of the population? I do not believe that to be true, and if it is true it indicates that that party is not making the progress with the belief in Socialism as widely among the people as it would wish.
Reduced to precise terms the alleged justification for Section 88 is the assumption that a motor car is a Conservative privilege. This, I submit, is complete nonsense. It was not true in 1948, when there were just under 2 million cars on the road. Since then, the number of cars has increased to nearly 4½ million, and it is common knowledge that the number is increasing week by week.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
If that is so, and we do not dispute it, is it not a good reason for having fewer cars to convey people rather than more cars if there are now more cars about?
§ Mr. Butler
I think it likely that the great growth of motor cars makes the operation of these restrictions even les well observed than they are at present.
Here, it is worth recalling another point about the restrictions introduced in 1948. The right hon. Member for South Shields explained that they were based on provisions contained in the Representation of the People Bill, which was introduced by the Labour Government in 1929–31. The scale proposed in that Bill for 1931 was one car per 1,000 of the electorate in counties and one car per 2,000 in boroughs at a time when there were only 1 million cars on the road. In 1948, we find that the Labour Party was, as usual, going backwards, because the scale then proposed was one car in 1,500 in the counties and one car in 2,500 in the boroughs. If we were going along at that rate we would be going absolutely backwards in all our social progress and social arrangements.
959 Therefore, it seems to me that we should face the situation. Can anyone maintain that in modern times this large and increasing car ownership of which we know is confined to one party and one social class? In any case, were the l3¼million people who voted Conservative at the last Election all members of the privileged classes? If so, we have never had it so good. Even if we assume for a moment, for the sake of argument, that Conservative voters are more likely to own cars than Labour voters I would still say that Section 88 was misconceived.
If they examine Subsection (3, a) as literally arranged hon. Members will see that the Section does not stop a person using a motor car to take to the poll himself or members of the same household; and subsection (6, b) says that a member of the same household includes a visitor spending the night before or after the day of the poll in the same dwelling-house, and a person employed by a member of the household at the dwelling-house, unless so employed exclusively for the purposes of that member's trade, profession or business.
This means that the restrictions in Section 88 do not prevent the rich man, if there be any left, in his castle if there be any left, using his car or fleet of cars to take to the poll himself, his wife, all the adult members of his family, his resident domestic staff, if any, and, if he should have a house party staying with him a few days, all the members of that party who have votes at polling stations within a day's car drive. The people whom the restrictions in the Section affect are not, in fact, the so-called rich. They are not the car owners, wealthy or otherwise, and their families or their retainers, if any, but the people who have no cars and who want to go to the poll. They are the voluntary workers of all parties who want to organise cars to take to the poll voters who do not possess cars.
There must be some among the 12,400,000 people who voted labour at the last Election who can produce a supply of cars for that purpose. There certainly are in my area. I have seen them at the county council elections. These cars can be easily produced. But the Section tells these people that the number of cars they can use must be kept within strict limits.
960 I have seen suggestions in the Press, including a second leader in The Times of 30th October, that the Labour Party's difficulty is not that it has not enough cars, but that its organisation is not so good that they can take as much advantage of this position as can the Conservatives. It is not for me to express an opinion on whether or not this is a correct view. I will only say that if that is the case, or the excuse, the remedy lies with the party organisers. Let them improve their organisation and not look to Parliament to continue to give statutory sanction to what amounts to a restrictive practice in modern times. From any point of view, these restrictions are ill-conceived, silly and, I think, anti-democratic.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the evidence from the public Press of the working of Section 88 indicates that these restrictions have been ignored by both main parties. [An HON. MEMBER: "When?"] I cannot myself give actual instances. I can only give reports which have come to us from all parts of the country that these restrictions have led to recriminations and suspicions between the candidates or agents. We may make a great deal of fuss of this in public and on the Floor of the House, but some hon. Members opposite have told me in private how difficult it is to make these restrictions work. I have also obtained some information about proceedings for contravention of the Section, and it is possible for the public to see some indication of its nature because supporters of this or that party have to be brought up and have to appear.
During the nine years in which Section 88 or the corresponding Section of the 1948 Act has been in force there have been proceedings against 24 persons in all and 20 have been convicted. It would appear from our information, judging from the identity of these people, that the greater number of those are members of the Labour Party supporting Labour candidates, namely 21; and three were Conservatives. Of the 20 persons finally convicted, 18 would appear to have been Labour and two Conservative. The Liberals will be glad to hear that they had a clean bill of health and no proceedings or convictions are recorded against them. These figures may be regarded as too small for any very firm conclusions to be drawn from 961 them, but they do at least suggest what I have ventured to state in general terms—that the party opposite is finding it more difficult than any other party to live with the restrictions which itself invented, and we may be doing what is really in its best interest by repealing the Section.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I appreciate the advice that I am receiving from the Attorney-General and I correct myself.
The Home Secretary is in charge of the London police, and he has great influence on other areas, judging by the influence that is brought to bear when appointments of chief constables are made. Therefore, I would say to the Attorney-General that I am not very far wrong. I understand that the Home Secretary has great influence with the police. Will the right hon. Gentleman then ask the police to acquiesce in the workers on Election day taking the same action as students take on their rag day? If it is correct for students to take that action we shall see, as has been done in the past, that not many cars are moved on certain days if this "Misrepresentation of the People Bill" is passed by the House.
§ Mr. Butler
First, the hon. Member must get the constitutional position right. He is right in saying that I am the authority responsible for the Metropolitan Police, but he must not exaggerate the position of the Home Secretary, in this or any other Government, vis-à-vis the police in the areas of other authorities in the country. If the hon. Member is using a threat, and there is to be some abuse of law and order in the provinces or in any part of England, I can only say that I must leave him to the mercy of the authorities of law and order. I do not think I, as Home Secretary, could accept any such statement as he makes or could accept responsibility for any such statement.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I should think that the whole House knows me sufficiently well now to understand that I was not 962 making a threat of disorder. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was the hon. Member doing?"] I will say what I was doing. I know who is for the people and who is against the people. I am saying that if it is correct for the police and the Home Secretary to acquiesce in what the students do on rag day, then it will be correct for the working class to take certain action in regard to the cars being used against the people on Election day.
§ Mr. Butler
If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman is the last person we in this House would expect to make a threat, nor do I expect him to carry it out, for his reputation is far too well known. I am disappointed in him imagining that the workers have not, many of them, got motor cars of their own. If there are any workers with cars who vote Labour, I should imagine they would use their own cars to take their friends without cars to the poll. The hon. Gentleman is living in the wrong age. If he goes to any council estate he will see cars there, for they are used widely throughout the population.
Those are the arguments with which I recommend this simple Bill to the House. The present legislation has been causing the law to come under contempt. Frankly, I do not believe that it will aid either side in the next Election if we remove this restriction. I simply think that it will make it easier for people to come to the poll.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It is false to say that there is no advantage in this Bill. Two quite reputable Conservative papers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have both come to the conclusion that it would be in the highest degree unwise to push this Bill through, because it would look like sharp practice. I put this argument to the right hon. Gentleman and he has made no effort to reply even to a serious argument. We do not expect him to be fair to us, but might he not take the advice of those on the other side of the House who are saying, "Take care, or you will look as though you are playing about with the Constitution".
§ Mr. Butler
In his concluding words the hon. Gentleman has come precisely to the point. I read the article in the Daily Telegraph, and as far as I 963 remember its point was that the Government might be better advised not to deal with this matter now as our motives might be smeared by the party opposite.
§ Mr. Butler
I did not happen to read the article in the Daily Mail that day although I usually read that paper daily. There was doubt, however, and there has been doubt expressed by some members of our party—I tell the House frankly—whether it was a good thing to take this action now. My own view is that your action depends entirely on what your motive is. Our motive is—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We would have liked to carry through this reform of repealing Section 88 in the previous Session of Parliament by agreement with the Opposition, but we found, during the course of the summer, that agreement was impossible. We decided to think about the matter again and to postpone it until this Session. The merits of our action in this Session are just as good as if we had taken action in the previous Session.
We have never been in doubt that this step would have to be taken. We are taking it now because we think it is in tune with modern conditions and that the Labour Party is out of date. That is why we are taking this action. I do not believe that in a single country district I know it will make any difference to the final result of the Election, which, in any case, we are going to win.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
The Leader of the House said a word about the exchanges between the parties. It is true that we were approached. It is also true, of course, as he said, that we made our opposition to this proposal crystal clear. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that we took the opportunity to propose a number of other amendments which, if the Act were to be amended at all, could be made and which, if taken all together, would make this action, at any rate, not quite as unfair as it would be if done in isolation. We were told that our proposals would be considered, but we were not even informed by the Government 964 that they had been rejected—I suppose they were not even considered—and that this Bill was being put forward in isolation for this one matter.
The right hon. Gentleman said that in these matters your action depends entirely on what your motive is. This is a Bill the intent of which is to alter the rules of the game to the advantage of one party. It is very typical of Conservatives in this matter, and this tendency of the Conservatives to act in this way was denounced—
§ Sir R. Grimston
The right hon. Gentleman says that this Bill is introduced to benefit a party which has a majority. Surely the converse was the case when his party introduced legislation previously?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The purpose of our Bill, like the restrictions upon expenditure, which certainly benefited us as compared with the other party, was to keep equality between the parties, and it was, therefore, agreed on by both sides.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I have certain things to say which will annoy hon. Gentlemen still more.
This tendency of the Conservatives to cheat in this way was denounced by no less a person than Lord Hailsham in a fairly recent speech. On 8th June he made a speech at Nottingham in which he criticised what he called the cardsharpers in the Conservative Party. He said:The cardsharpers are so terrified of a Labour Government that they would have us alter the rules of the game in order to avoid a Labour Government. They go about…saying that since we have no chance of winning under the existing rules we must rid the rules in order to prevent our being beatenHe went on to say:Now, the answer to the cardsharpers is that although politics is not a game, like life it must none the less be played honourably if we do not wish to bring public life into absolute contempt.965 The same point was made by Lord Tenby, who was then Home Secretary, during the Bournemouth Conference of the Conservative Panty in 1955. The passage in his speech which I will quote was significant because he was, in fact, speaking in opposition to this very proposal now before us, which was being pressed upon him by the back benchers of the Conservative Party. He said:It is—and I cannot emphasise this too strongly—of the greatest consequence to us as a country to ensure the continuance of general confidence and a respect for election law as something that is above party.Lord Tenby used that argument in this specific connection, resisting pressure for the very change which the Government are now making. In those days the Conservative leaders had sufficient sense of politcal principle to stand up to their rank and file on this matter. Since then, however, we have had a new Prime Minister, who attaches different relative values to party advantage, and to what Lord Tenby called…a respect for election law as something that is above party.The Conservative arguments for this Bill have been sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman and no doubt we shall hear them a great deal during this debate. All speakers opposite will say that whatever else may be an example of cardsharping, this is not an example of it, that it will make no difference to the parties, that it is necessary to secure fair play, that the parties are equal in respect of cars, and that the Government's whole purpose is the disinterested aim to get voters to the poll without any regard to party advantage. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that he was doing this in our interest.
This is all sanctimonious humbug. If the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite are disinterested, why was there so strong a demand at Blackpool to alter the provision of the law in this respect, a provision which was described in a leading article in The Times of 30th October as onewhich has been rankling with Conservative constituency workers"?I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is too much for us—whatever his motives may be—to believe that what is rankling with Conservative constituency workers is a matter of no party advan- 966 tage to the Conservative Party or is, indeed, something which will help the Labour Party.
The right hon. Gentleman said that cars are no longer a Conservative privilege. Certainly, there is today a greater distribution of cars, but what he did not add, and what is a Conservative privilege, is that it is a privilege to be able to use your car all day. There are far fewer members and supporters of the Labour Party who can use their cars in the daytime, and, in any case, they have not so many cars as the supporters of the party opposite.
Had the Government really wanted to make it easier to get voters to the poll, there are other things which they could have done. One, which we would have looked at, would be to increase the number of cars permitted, without taking off the restrictions. Or. better still, and something which I think provides the only real solution in the matter, provide a pool of cars under the returning officers for the use of all the voters who cannot get to the polls.
Here, there is another consideration It is that the use of cars to get voters to the poll is not the only issue. As was said in the leading article in The Times, the purpose of Section 88 was to stop the organised use of unregistered cars. If this Bill becomes law, it will be possible to use cars, not only for conveying voters to the polls, but for purposes of demonstration, and even for intimidation. Cars flying party colours which appear in enormous numbers in a constituency can have an effect on the run of an Election and the public mood. Even worse, is when 10, 12 or 20 cars all descend together on a village flying the Conservative Party colours. These things—
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Surely the restrictive effect of the present Section 88 is 10 inhibit the carrying of persons to the poll. There is nothing in the present state of the law which restricts 967 anyone using motor cars for party propaganda and flaunting a particular advertisement for a particular candidate.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Certainly, since Section 88 has been part of the law, this practice of using cars for demonstrations and intimidation has been much less than before. I have no doubt that it will become very much greater again now that this Section is to be repealed.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman do his homework before he starts to make a speech?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The Conservatives claim that their intentions are fair and honourable in this matter, but if they really had the slightest concern for fairness they would not have produced this Bill dealing with this one Section in isolation. They would have combined it with other things to help to get the voters more easily to the polls; for instance, the provision of more polling stations, and mobile polling stations in greater numbers, particularly in country districts, as was recommended at the Speaker's Conference.
Another matter is the use of cars for electoral purposes in respect of which initial allowance or Income Tax rebate has been granted. It is wrong that firms should be able to put numbers of cars at the disposal of the Conservative Party at the expense of the taxpayers. That certainly should not be allowed.
We object to this Bill also on other grounds; because, for instance, it does not contain any provision—as it should if we are amending the main Act—to strengthen Section 63 dealing with Election expenses. The aim of this Section, and, indeed, the long-standing aim of our Election law has been to exclude the too great power of moneyed interests in an electoral struggle.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we have your guidance at this early stage in the debate? This Bill is a very short and simple one, the terms of which are to repeal Section 88. Is it in order to talk about such matters as Election expenses, which are dealt with in Section 63 of the main Act?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is quite in order during a Second Reading debate on a Bill to 968 say that one objects to the Bill because it does not contain certain provisions. The situation would be different in a Third Reading debate, but the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly in order, during a Second Reading debate, in saying what he has said.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The aim of this provision regarding Election expenses in our Election law has for a very long time been to exclude the over great influence of moneyed interests in an electoral struggle and to ensure that Election expenses should be made public and be limited. I think that we should now consider whether the definition of Election expenses in the main Act is wide enough, and whether, in the light of very disturbing features in our political life, we should not consider a wider definition of the meaning of Election expenses and include it in this Bill.
One example of these disturbing developments is the continued refusal of the Conservative Party to publish its accounts, as the Labour Party does. The public has a right to know the sort of means used to try to influence their views. This is particularly needed in view of the immense expenditure being embarked upon by the Conservative Party in the form of advertisements in many papers and a huge poster campaign. The whole purpose of that is, of course, an electoral purpose. If the law is left as it is, as it will be left by this Bill, all these expenses which are for an electoral purpose escape all restriction on election expenditure.
It is not only a question of the money that passes through the Conservative Party accounts, though that is shrouded from the public view. There is also the vast expenditure by commercial concerns in the interest of the Conservative Party, with which we should deal. Here again, the whole purpose is electoral. People would not waste their shareholders' money were they not trying to influence the way people vote at a General Election. This is an electoral expense in this sense—
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the fact that there has always been a distinction between the position of a local political party or association, designed permanently to organise the opinion of 969 the country on behalf of that party, and the specific organisation of a candidate and his agent at a General Election?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am now calling in question whether this distinction has any longer any real relevance. It has been broken down by the kind of developments we have seen since about 1948.
The most notorious of these expenditures was that of Messrs. Tate and Lyle with "Mr. Cube". This was an abuse of their relationship with their customers which forced propaganda into everyone's home. In two years they spent £240,000. Even worse in some ways—and typical of the new methods of electioneering and political work—was that the management of this campaign secured the insertion of stories and news items which filled 15,000 column inches in 400 newspapers. This was not paid for. This was daily news that we were reading, but it had been put in the newspapers by the management of the Tate and Lyle campaign. We shall see "Mr. Tube" and many others all using this vast expenditure for electoral purposes and this same devious and roundabout method of influencing public opinion.
It is all the more necessary that we should think about Strengthening Section 63 because the clear intention of this Section has been called in question by the Troonoh Mines case of 1952. It seems that under this decision it may be legal for general political propaganda to be made by outside interests, even during an Election campaign and however party-political, so long as the names of candidates are not mentioned.
If that is so, the law should not be left in this state. It is really shocking that the opportunity of this Bill has not been taken to amend the law in this respect. It is, of course, greatly to the advantage of the Conservatives that it should be in this bad state; but it really is shocking that the opportunity presented by the Bill has not been taken to reinstate the clear intention of Parliament when passing Section 63 of the main Act.
Another reason why we oppose the Bill is that it has missed the opportunity to strengthen and widen the Election Law in a matter which goes to the very root of our democratic system. That is the use 970 of the State publicity machine for party political advantage. It is all the more necessary to deal with this now, in the light of the Bill before us, because of the increasing and alarming tendency of this Government to ignore the strict distinction between the State and the party in power. Unless this is prevented, it will undermine our whole Election law. This thing may even go on during an Election campaign. It is much more fundamental and urgent than this one matter of cars, which the Government have decided to put into the Bill, and it should have been dealt with in the Bill.
There are many examples of increasing Government laxity in this vital matter. One is the dragging in of civil servants into political controversy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a Written Answer on 23rd October, said that there had been in a period of three months,…13 appearances by civil servants on B.B.C. television and 15 on I.T.V. Of the I.T.V. appearances, seven were by officers of the Treasury on economic matters.The debates of the last two days have shown that judgment of statistics and economic trends are the very essence of politics today. They are political issues, and with the best will in the world we cannot keep above the party struggle, as civil servants ought to, when we are discussing the interpretation of statistics and economic trends. It is very unfair to civil servants that this should be done. It is against our whole party political tradition.
The second example was provided by the speech of Lord Poole at the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool, where he said:I would like to pay tribute to the really tremendous work that Dr. Hill and his small organisation are doing. We certainly could not do our job in Central Office at all if it were not supplemented by what Dr. Hill and his organisation do and I would, therefore, like to pay a real tribute to him for his work in the last two years.That is a really extraordinarily alarming thing. Lord Poole certainly knows what is going on. What he is telling us is this, that the Chancellor of the Duchy, who is not overburdened with public duties, is giving so much help to the Central Office of the other side that without that help it could not function, according to Lord Poole. He says that the Chancellor of the Duchy, who is, after all, drawing a public salary, is supplementing the work of the Central Office. That must 971 mean doing the same sort of work and that must be doing party political work.
Worst of all is the reference of Lord Poole to the Chancellor of the Duchy's organisation. This must be his Department, his civil servants. It must mean that the Chancellor of the Duchy is using his Department to supplement the work of the Central Office of the Conservative Party. That is really outrageous. It is a flagrant abuse of the established principles of British public life and it ought to be stopped at once. I hope that the Attorney-General will be able to tell us tonight that it has been or will be stopped.
The most serious reason for looking at the possibility of putting further provisions in the Bill to deal with this matter is that there is evidence now that the facilities of Government Departments are being used for party political purposes. That is a very grave charge. I have gone very carefully into the evidence and I gave notice to the two Ministers concerned—the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Health—that I would be raising this matter.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The evidence is this. There is an organisation called the Rented Homes Campaign, with an address at 9, Cavendish Square, W.1. It says in its aims and objects that it hasNo connection whatever with any political party …and that it is:an independent body wholly supported by voluntary contributions".However, let us consider the aims and objects a little more closely. The Chairman of the Council of the Rented Homes Campaign is Lord Dynevor, one-time Conservative Member of this House, P.P.S. to the Prime Minister, 1927–29, and now Chairman of the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association.
The Times, of 19th September, described the composition of the leadership of this Rented Homes Campaign. It stated:The Campaign Council includes … leading members of the Association of Land and Property Owners, the Property Owners' Association and other landlords' organisations as well as estate agents, surveyors and lawyers.972 It has published a pamphlet called "A Nation of Council Tenantry". The first sentence of the pamphlet reads:The object of this booklet is to discuss and attack one particular feature of the Labour Party's enunciated housing policy.There can be no doubt that this pamphlet is a party political pamphlet. It says so in the first sentence. Its purpose is to attack the Labour Party. It is aligned with the Conservatives and against the Labour Party on a major political issue of the day. It says so. This pamphlet has been distributed with the direct aid of Government official facilities. I have here, first, the envelope sent out in the normal course by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I have here, also, the envelope in which the pamphlet is set out.
Both of these have stick-on official labels; both these labels have an identical address, identical type and are produced by the same addressograph with the identical code reference HLG K.19. HLG means Housing and Local Government. They have identical Stationery Office imprints on the bottom—"(Lablest) Code 21". There is one single, significant and damning difference between these two. The envelope in which the pamphlet was sent out had one inch cut off the top. The cutting off of bits of incriminating documents has become habitual with this Government. In this case one inch was cut off of the top.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
In view of the grave constitutional importance of this disclosure, ought we not to have the Prime Minister present?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I hope, as I shall say later, that the Prime Minister will take this mater into urgent and immediate consideration.
In this case one inch was cut off the top and it was quite clear what was cut off. The words "On Her Majesty's Service" were cut off. There was a deliberate attempt to conceal the official origin of this label.
I have identical evidence from the Ministry of Health—the same official envelope which was sent out with a normal enclosure and a second one, containing this party political pamphlet. 973 Again, both are exactly the same, except that this time the code on both is H.SPO. 278. "H" stands for Ministry of Health and "SPO" for Special Press Officer, Mailing List. This evidence shows that actual labels provided by the Government Stationery Office must have been used for party political purposes. The Government addressograph was used and, worse still, official mailing lists have been used for openly party political publication. There may be some innocent explanation of this. If there is an innocent explanation, it should be given at once.
§ Mr. Bevins
The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give advance notice to my right hon. Friend of his intention to raise this matter this afternoon. Naturally, my right hon. Friend has made such inquiry as has been possible during the course of the day so far. Speaking for my right hon. Friend, I want to tell the House quite categorically that there is no evidence at all that this communication was issued from or by any person in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I entirely agree, on the basis of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that a label, which some time or other must have been in the Ministry, has been used in the case of this communication, but that in itself is no evidence that it issued from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
If the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to let me see the envelopes, my right hon. Friend will make the fullest investigation into the allegations which have been made. The communication to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was received, as I understand, by a London County Council staff association. I have made inquiries of the Rented Houses Campaign Council and I am most emphatically assured that no communication of any sort was sent to that organisation.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I was not alleging that these documents had been sent out by the Ministry. I was saying something 974 quite different. I was saying that the facilities, the labels addressed by the addressograph and, therefore, the mailing list, had been put at the disposal of somebody else who sent out this document. I have the address to which the document was sent. It is absolutely clear, and the document is inside the envelope with all the accompanying literature. It certainly was sent to this organisation with a Government label provided by the Government—and it is a Stationery Office label at that. This is not merely a case of the use of the addressograph. The addressograph and Stationery Office labels have been used, and exactly the same thing applies to the Ministry of Health.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has made the most serious allegations. From the information which has been given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, it appears that this letter was never sent by the organisation referred to. As the letter may be a complete forgery, with an attempt being made to blacken the reputation of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, may I suggest that it should at once be handed over to the Minister so that there may be an investigation?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I did not think that the defence of forgery would be produced as early as all this.
There may be an explanation, and if there is, it certainly needs to be found. This cannot be passed off as a slip-up. There is too much coincidence. Two Departments are concerned and Die methods used are similar and the publication, on stationery provided by the Department, was sent out in both cases on the same day—the postmark is 17th September.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
No, to different addresses.
This cannot be put off on to officials. Ministers are responsible for what happens in their Departments and the decision to make Government facilities 975 for mailing available to any organisation whatever—let alone a party political organisation—is very grave and can be taken only at high level.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
In the interests of the two Ministers concerned, to whom I gave notice, and in the interests of the decencies of public life, the Prime Minister should have an immediate, public and independent inquiry. When such an inquiry is set up, I will hand over the evidence to it.
If we are properly to consider what ought to be in the Bill, we have to look at another aspect of the use of political funds for electoral purposes. We have to consider whether the law should have been strengthened in this Bill in respect of the use by political parties, either during an Election campaign, or even over a wider period, of the paid services of commercial advertising agents.
Whether this practice should be carried out during Election campaigns or not, it is a new development and we should certainly consider whether the electoral law should not be strengthened in this respect. It is generally agreed that there are great dangers which, again, could undermine the purposes and the intent of our electoral law. The Economistsaid, on 25th October:Real dangers are present and both politicians and advertisers need to be warned periodically to watch their step.The only politicians who need to be warned are Conservatives, especially the Prime Minister, and the advertisers who need to be warned are Colman, Prentis and Varley. I understand that the Conservative Party has been one of its commercial accounts since 1948. Colman, Prentis and Varley has deliberately entered politics and allowed itself to be used as a major force designed to shape public opinion. It must face the consequences of its own acts, and I hope that the name of Colman, Prentis and Varley will become known in every constituency. People have the right to know what subtle and shrouded devices are being used to try to mould their opinions.
One object which the firm has set itself is to put over the Prime Minister 976 and it has turned him into a varnished man.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
On a point of order. Is it not incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman at some stage in his speech to show that what he is complaining of can be safeguarded by an Amendment to the Bill? Mr. Speaker has ruled that very wide topics may be considered, provided that they show a substantial omission from the terms of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has now spoken on the aspect without explaining, after having revealed this information, in what way he could introduce an Amendment to safeguard against this kind of thing. He is now about to embark on another topic doing the same thing.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Further to that point of order. You were not in your place, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when Mr. Speaker ruled at the beginning of the debate, in reply to an invitation from my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), that it was incumbent on any right hon. or hon. Gentleman, in addressing the House—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
—to relate what he said to the contents of the Bill, or to show that there were certain omissions from the Bill which could be covered by subsequent Amendments. What the right hon. Gentleman has so far revealed is not related to either of those things, nor does what he is about to say relate to them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If I answer one point of order at a time, we shall get on better. The right hon. Gentleman is showing reasons why he does not want the Bill to be given a Second Reading and why he thinks that it should not have been introduced. He is entitled to do that on Second Reading.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is not this Bill entitled Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill? Is it not in order for 977 my right hon. Friend to say what he has said about this Amendment and to urge that other Amendments should have been introduced? Did not Mr. Speaker rule that it was common on Second Reading to go wide of what was in the Bill and to urge what ought to have been in it? Is the noble Lord in order, having got this smart Bill before the House, now to wish to gag the Opposition?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend.
Before the noble Lord interrupted me, I was saying that Colman, Prentis and Varley has set itself to "put over" the Prime Minister and to "sell" him like the other branded goods it handles. The Prime Minister finds himself in rather curious company amongst the other accounts of Colman, Prentis and Varley. He finds himself rubbing shoulders with Chocolate Penguins, Lyons Ready-Mixes, Munchmallows, Payne's Poppets and Amplex.
What I find particularly disturbing about this development is that the employment of a commercial advertising firm to "sell" the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party and to "sell" political ideas as if they were packaged goods is bringing about in this country the worst sort of Americanisation of our public life. This process of Americanisation seems to have been carried to completion by the Conservatives. Lord Poole, in the speech at the Blackpool Conference, from which I quoted earlier, said:When our Vice-Chairman, Mr. Donald Kaberry, went to the United States to get first-hand experience of the propaganda methods used during the Presidential Election of 1955, we found that really we had, when it came to applying their methods, very little advantage that we could derive from what we learned.This is from the horse's mouth. The Conservatives set out to discover and copy American methods and then gloried in the fact that they carried these methods to perfection. That is the measure of what Colman Prentis & Varley has done to us.
I am quite sure that these tricks and devices will be self-defeating. No decent 978 person in Britain wants to see us brought down to the level of American electioneering with all its high-pressure salesmanship. This is just what the Conservatives are doing [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]. I can understand that the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) does not agree with every word that I am saying. I am confident that when the people wake up to the cynical, commercial and high-pressure advertising devices which are being used to put over the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister there will be a great revulsion of feeling.
We will, of course, divide against this Bill, not only because of the specific provision in it, which, taken by itself and in isolation, is a dirty bit of politics, but also because it is part and parcel of the process which was described by Lord Hailsham as bringing our public life into absolute contempt.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I rise to give my right hon. Friend full support for the Second Reading of the Bill.
I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), because the comparison between the constituency which he represents and that which I represent, though they are only a few miles apart, is most marked both in geographical character and in the composition of the electorate.
I want to deal at once with the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, that if there had been dissatisfaction among Conservative supporters about the present Statutory arrangements for motor cars in Parliamentary Elections the proper recourse. should have been to increase the number of motor cars.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the proper recourse should have been to increase the number of motor cars to deal with this complaint. The present arrangements are that there is one motor car on polling day at a Parliamentary Election for 2,500 electors in a borough constituency and one motor car to 1,500 electors in a county constituency. That is a ratio of roughly five to three. But there is an extraordinary 979 comparison between borough constituencies and the counties, and I claim that an increase in the number of motor cars, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, would have been very far from fair and could not possibly have met the case.
In 1945, I contested the West Bromwich Division of Staffordshire. I am pleased to see my opponent in his place today. He knows that his constituency has 7,180 acres in it, for an electorate of 60,932. In my constituency, 6,948 acres cover the four rural parishes of Alfrick, Lulsley, Doddenham and Knightwick, with an electorate of only 1,070. There are fifty times as many people in West Bromwich a built-up area in the Black Country, as there are in roughly the same acreage of a rural district in my constituency. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) nods his head and apparently questions the relevance of this statement, but the plain fact of the matter is that in his constituency he is allowed to have about twenty-four motor cars on polling day while I am allowed to have thirty-six motor cars on polling day—50 per cent. more—yet in one little part of my constituency the number of electors is only about one-fiftieth of the number in the entire area of his constituency.
It follows that any rearrangement of the number of cars permitted could not operate equitably and satisfactorily through all the differing types of constituency which there are up and down the country. Although my constituency is a very large area and, in parts, is relatively sparsely populated, it still does not compare with certain county constituencies in Scotland. The Argyll division, for example, has an area many times bigger even than that of my constituency. The electorate may be approximately the same. Therefore, the requirement under the present law that the number of motor cars available on polling day shall be approximately the same in all county constituencies makes it nearly impossible to bring all rural voters to the polls.
Every hon. Member taking part in this debate will no doubt quote from his own voluminous experience of procedure on Election day. In those four parishes to which I alluded just now, with 1,070 electors in an area of 7,000 odd acres, 980 something of the order of 50 per cent. only of the electors voted in 1951. I went to that district in the 1951 General Election. The circumstances were that in that part of the country there was a very bad fog. There was only one motor car available over 7,000 acres to try to bring more than 1,000 electors to the poll on a very foggy day. The result was that only about 50 per cent. of the people in that area were able to vote, although the national average was 82.6 per cent.
I believe that in a democratic society the purpose of an election is to get as near as possible 100 per cent. of the electors to the polls. I have argued this issue publicly with Socialist Members. All of us, I believe, have been opposed to adopting the Australian system whereby people who do not cast a vote at an election are fined. I do not believe that there should be any form of compulsion, but contrariwise; I do not believe there should be any artificial restriction or inhibition against getting electors to the polls. I have made a comparison between a packed industrial borough constituency, West Bromwich, and my own constituency. That area represents only a small part of the area of my constituency. I have deliberately selected two extreme cases, one area heavily populated and one sparsely populated, but that serves to show that the present arrangements, restricting the use of motor cars is thoroughly inequitable and could not be improved by the manipulation of the numbers or ratios of cars as suggested by the right hon. Member for Smethwick.
A second matter on which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House touched only lightly and did not underwrite in the later passages of his speech is the unfair situation which exists and the anomaly, as between county council, municipal and Parliamentary Elections. My right hon. Friend did not mention that there is a common register for all three types of elections. It is the same register used at county council elections as at municipal elections and Parliamentary Elections. I wonder if a Socialist supporter later in this debate will explain why, in 1949, this invidious distinction was made between county council and municipal elections on the one hand and Parliamentary Elections on the other? I have asked Labour supporters to tell me publicly why that 981 distinction exists and why they legislated so that differing conditions apply. As yet I have not heard a satisfactory explanation of this deliberate discrimination against Parliamentary Elections. I hope we shall hear one today.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
The hon. Member will appreciate, surely, that local government elections are restricted to a ward, or two wards, for a county council election. The area is smaller, and the number of voters smaller. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There are a number of county council seats in one Parliamentary division, except in the case of London, and London County Council is a special case. Another point is that in Parliamentary Elections it has been obvious in the past that firms in particular have been much more prone to supply cars and chauffeurs than for individuals taking part in county council elections.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall deal with both points made by the hon. Member in the course of my speech. I respond shortly now, because the hon. Member has made an interesting point. I could quote several county council divisions in my constituency which are larger in area geographically than a whole Parliamentary constituency represented by certain hon. Members opposite. I am glad to see that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) nods in agreement. Of course that is so.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The hon. Member should not be so clever. I never made the slightest response. I always try not to make any response to what he says.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am always pleased to tickle the right hon. Member in the right Spot.
I pass to the third question to which I want of allude, the matter of the ownership of motor cars. In 1931, only a matter of 25 years ago, there were about 1 million vehicles in this country. When the 1949 Act reached the Statute Book, there were fewer than 50 per cent. of the number of motor cars there are today. The private motor car population has doubled in ten years. I am in no doubt that in the next ten years it will double again [An HON. MEMBER: "God help us."] An hon. Friend says "God help us," but we ca mot legislate to keep private cars off the roads. Within that short period of 982 two decades the number of motor cars in this country will have quadrupled between 1949 and 1969.
There is today about one motor car to four families. One family in four owns a motor car and in ten years time, at the present rate of growth, the proportion will become one in two. Under the present restrictions, in a county constituency one official motor car is permitted, on an average taken over the whole country, to deal with the conveyance of 350 families, yet the number of motor cars available to the community as a whole is one to four families. I hope that this argument is not unduly complicated, but it is undoubtedly the fact that one motor car is provided officially for 350 families in the electorate, whereas the ownership of cars is one to every four families. Surely that is a shocking disparity which ought to be remedied.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The flaw in the argument of the hon. Member is that under the present law there is nothing to stop a man taking his family to the poll. That applies both ways, but it destroys the hon. Member's statistics. Apart from any other consideration, perhaps he will deal with the abuse by which at present an owner of a car may include in the family nonexistent in-laws, a sort of legion of people who are not in the family at all.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall deal with both those points. I do not believe we should ever permit an important provision of a statute to remain on the Statute Book if it is unenforceable. The hon. Member called this an abuse. At present there is one motor car for four families. Can he tell me whether it is possible in present circumstances for the police to enforce the law about the use of motor vehicles on polling day? The right hon. Member for Smethwick ought to listen to this, because he got his homework all wrong. The present law is that a person may take to the polls in his motor car members of his own household. As I understand the law, there is no restriction upon the use of motor cars at Elections for any political purpose so long as it does not include conveyance of persons to the polls. That means that under the present law 50 motor cars carrying emblazoned upon them for demonstration purposes the popular slogan in West Worcestershire, "Nabarro Again", on Parliamentary 983 Election days can go into any part of my constituency so long as they do not convey electors to the polls. But I repeat: how does one enforce the rule that only members of the household may be conveyed to the poll in a motor car owned by the person concerned? How is it possible to enforce it when motor cars are already so ubiquitous as to be one to four families in the land? The proportion is rapidly rising to one in two families.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
The hon. Gentleman keeps on referring to this proportion of one in four families. Averages can be misleading. Can he tell us how many individuals possess more than one car? Has the hon. Gentleman any private experience to draw upon?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Yes, I have private experience to draw upon, but I am not covered under Section 88 as a Parliamentary candidate. I drive my car around to the committee rooms and my wife drives another car to the committee rooms. There is no law against that. [Interruption.] I see that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South is now above the Gangway acting as a sort of shadow Parliamentary Private Secretary. If he wishes to interrupt me, will he get to his feet and do so?
I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are arguing against the provisions of the Bill, will tell us how the police can possibly enforce the law in its present state requiring that only members of the driver's household may be driven in a car to the polls, when at every Parliamentary General Election in which I have taken part—they may not be quite as many as some hon. Members, but I have taken part in three, the General Elections of 1950, 1951, and 1955—
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
Since 1949 there have been only three General Elections.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Yes, and as I am a consistent sort of chap I have taken part in all three of them. In my experience of those three Elections there were complaints and counter-complaints by both the major political parties. They were widespread. The Tory Party alleged that Socialist cars were conveying persons, other than members of the drivers' households, to the polls. Contrariwise, there were Socialist complaints of the same 984 general character against the Tory Party. In the constituency of West Flint the police were called in, and a police officer was asked to arbitrate in a quarrel outside a polling station. He said, with complete aplomb and was faithfully recorded that there is no restriction in this matter, and that anybody could use any car and take anyone he liked to the polls.
It is a fact that the agents of both major political parties know the provisions of the 1949 Act, but the general public hardly knows that these restrictions exist. Particularly, they do not understand the logic or the illogic of saying that there shall be no restriction upon the use of cars at county council and municipal elections, whereas these drastic restrictions must apply to Parliamentary Elections.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sympathetic to some parts of the hon. Gentleman's argument. In his private experience of General Elections, did the hon. Member find that in his talk with anybody it was suggested that to abolish the restriction altogether would give a benefit to the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I will tell the hon. Gentleman, who is sympathetic to certain sections of my argument. I am not so dogmatic as to believe that anybody can be completely right in this matter, but of one thing I am quite sure. I used the word "ubiquitous" just now; I am using it again. There is a practice, which is quite ubiquitous, of Labour supporters riding in Tory cars. [Laughter.] Oh, I am all for it. I do not mind. My philosophy is one of total freedom, but not anarchy. If my political organisation in the Kidderminster Parliamentary Division of Worcestershire is so poor as to allow my fervent supporters, working on my behalf on a Parliamentary polling day, to take Labour voters to the polls, and if that is sufficiently widespread, 1 deserve to lose the Election because I should be proved an incompetent person. Does not the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) entirely agree with me that the practice of Labour supporters riding in Tory Party cars is ubiquitous?
§ Mr. Crossman
I think it is a growing practice with the growing political intelligence of the electorate, but the hon. 985 Gentleman did not answer my question. Did he find any person in his constituency who said that it would advantage us and not advantage the Tories to abolish this restriction? The hon. Member is fair-minded; if he were to find that the overwhelming public opinion in his constituency was that the Bill would only favour the Tory Party, would he not agree that it would be unfortunate for such a Bill to be introduced?
§ Mr. Crossman
I think that argument was met from our Labour Front Bench. The aim is to reduce the unfair advantage accruing to one side, to wealth.
§ Mr. Nabarro
May I answer the hon. Gentleman's first question? The Bill was published a few days ago. It was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the debate on the Address.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The plain fact is that I have not yet had time to test public opinion in my constituency in the matter, but I am sure that, though there might possibly have been some advantage to the Tory Party 20 or 30 or 40 years ago in having no restriction on the use of motor cars on polling day, there cannot he any such advantage today because of the proliferation of motor vehicles and their wide ownership, throughout every section of society in this country.
Surely the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who sits for one-third of the premier motor-vehicle manufacturing city in the country, understands that factories everywhere in Britain are faced with the problem of where to park the cars of their workers? Men and women of every degree go to their work in hundreds of thousands of cars, and they create for factory managements a growing: parking problem. I only mention till; to illustrate the proliferation and the wide ownership of motor vehicles of every description. I say nothing about mopeds, scooters and motor cycles. [An HON. MEMBER: "And helicopters."] 986 There may be helicopters in the years to come.
A huge number of vehicles is available, far greater than ever before, and it is surely ridiculous for us, the Conservative Party, responsible for the Government at this time, to allow to remain on the Statute Book a totally unenforceable and illogical provision. [Interruption.]—It is certainly unenforceable, and any attempt to enforce it might create a truly ridiculous state of affairs.
I want to wind up by a reference to the Conservative Party conference. I missed it this year for the first time. I could not go to the conference, so I did not see the incident to which reference has been made. I have noticed in earlier years, on many occasions since 1950, resolutions passed by the conference with overwhelming majorities calling for the removal of this motor car restriction on polling day at Parliamentary Elections.
§ Mr. Nabarro
No, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to complete what I was going to say, I will come to that matter later.
I had referred to the fact that many times during the last few years resolutions have been passed by a large majority at the Conservative Party conference calling for the repeal of Section 88 of the 1948 Act. I have noted that on radio, television and on public platforms. Socialists constantly jibe at the Tory Party saying that the annual party conference is of little value because the Prime Minister takes no notice whatever of the resolutions passed there. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) cannot have it both ways.
We have had these resolutions year after year, and, talking as a party man, if the Conservative Party's annual conference passes by a large majority a resolution to the effect that a particular provision in a Statute should be repealed, I 987 see no reason whatsoever why the Conservative Parliamentary Party, which has a majority in the House, should not implement what is recommended by its political conference. The hon. Gentleman has always supported a system whereby if at a Labour Party Conference a provision is built into a resolution his leadership is bound to act upon it. Surely, he cannot—
§ Mr. Crossman
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that what we are here dealing with are changes in the constitutional representation of our country. The Representation of the People Act has constitutional repercussions on how we run our Elections. To justify this change in the Act by saying that it is called for in a resolution put forward at the annual conference of one of the main parties is really to say something which is extremely dangerous to the House. It means that the party outside has the right to dictate how Elections should be run, and that is a very unwise thing for the hon. Gentleman to say.
§ Mr. Nabarro
When I want any wise advice or guidance I shall certainly not go to the hon. Gentleman for it.
For a variety of reasons, which I have endeavoured to explain this afternoon, I strongly support this Bill. Many of my reasons have been listened to by hon. Gentlemen opposite in complete silence, and none has been entirely rebutted by anything which they have said, particularly about the size of constituencies and the number of motor cars available. An added reason for the change is that the Conservative Party annual conference has wholeheartedly supported this provision in earlier years.
I do not believe that the Bill will be regarded in the country as a partisan Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] It is useless for hon. Members opposite to scoff because they are in no closer touch with public opinion than I am, and I have not yet had an opportunity in just seven days to test opinion in my constituency. I am perfectly sure that the Conservative Party ought to proceed on the general basis of requiring that new legislation suits and matches conditions which exist in the country today. With 5 million motor cars available—
§ Mr. Nabarro
No, 5 million motor cars approximately, and with the possibility that the number will double within the next decade, it would be quite unrealistic as well as illogical to continue a restriction introduced in 1949 for bigoted, dogmatic and partisan purposes by the party opposite.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I think that the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will, when read in the cool light of tomorrow, be felt even by his own side not very substantially to have helped the case, if there is one, for this change in the law.
As far as my knowledge leads me to believe, the House has always proceeded in matters of electoral reform by getting the greatest possible common agreement between the parties. This was certainly the case with the Speaker's Conference of 1944, many of the recommendations of which were subsequently implemented both by the all-party Government and by the Labour Government. That is true of what happened on many occasions before that—in 1918, for example.
I am not suggesting that legislative amendments of either party when dealt with on the Floor of the House have always been universally welcomed. What I am saying, and it is a principle to which I hope we shall stick—that is why so many of us feel very concerned about this departure—is that I trust that every effort will be made to get agreement between parties before Measures changing Election practice are introduced. In this case, that has not been done. The hon. Member for Kidderminster gave one of the reasons why it has not been done. He said that what is now proposed had been demanded time after time by the overwhelming majorities at the Conservative Party conference and that, therefore, in his view, it was right that the Government should give effect to what their supporters seek. If that becomes the accepted principle, then something that has been for long an established principle in the House will be broken. That, I think, would be regrettable in the interests of Parliamentary democracy.
§ Mr. Osborne
I rather agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but is it 989 not true that the Speaker's Conference in 1944 did not recommend this specific point about the limitation on motor cars and that it was only inserted during the 1945–50 Parliament in face of fierce opposition and contrary to the recommendation of the Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Skeffington
There are two points in reply to that intervention. First, an attempt was made to get agreement in 1944. No attempt has been made to get agreement about the matter with which we are dealing today. We knew nothing about the Bill until a few days ago. There was an earlier suggestion about the limitation on cars, which was rejected, but there has been no general attempt to reach a compromise. Secondly, even in the Carr Committee the recommendation to limit cars was lost by only one vote. which shows that there was a very real division of opinion about it.
I agree that when these matters come to the Floor of the House they may not always receive universal approval. But an attempt ought to be made to get agreement on an amendment to the law of this kind instead of justifying that alteration, as did the hon. Member for Kidderminster because it has been demanded by Conservative Party's annual conferences. I profoundly disagree with that point of view, and I hope that some hon. Members opposite will also disagree with it; I do not think that is a good reason for changing democratic procedure.
I believe, in view of the debate which we had yesterday and the day before, when we were discussing the fundamental economic and human problems which confront the nation and the fears which many people have about the future, that the country will be surprised that the Government have thought fit to introduce this Measure as the first in their programme. Incidentally, the Opposition had to draw attention to the fact that there was a singular omission in the Gracious Speech about unemployment and sagging production.
I think people will be surprised that the first Measure introduced in this Session is one of this character. Even if there is a case for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, why on earth give it such a high priority and give the impression that it is introduced because it may advantage the Conservative Party? The Conservative Party has 990 been extremely unwise in its own interests to introduce the Bill so early in the Session.
If one looks back over the record, one finds that the party opposite seems to have had a pathological fixation about cars. I have been reading the debate which took place in 1948, first on the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), and subsequently on 14th June when the final new Clause was added to the 1949 Act. Looking back, it is difficult to recall a matter which aroused such violent language and such extravagant comment, a matter which, though important, was not really of the consequence which was sought to be attached to it by Conservative Members of Parliament at that time.
The noble Lord, who was then the Member for Horsham and is now very happily ensconced elsewhere, referred to the Clause on the limitation of cars at Parliamentary Elections as "calamitous," and the late lamented Member who then sat for Holderness said that this was the first step on the road to totalitarianism. We had heard of many other first steps during the 1945 General Election, but apparently, the limitation on motor cars was to be the first step. The noble Lord who sits for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and is still with us used some really extraordinary language. I suppose it is amusing if one does not take it seriously. Perhaps the noble Lord was put up to keep the debate going; I do not know. He asked:What about the fleet of a thousand cars at the disposal of Sir Ben Smith in the North-West Regional area"?—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 90.]How he could have read into an Amendment for the limitation of cars at Elections the idea that the National Coal Board was going to allow the use of its cars for the Labour Party, I do not know, but that is what he said. He asked if they were to be at the disposal of Socialist voters. Then he asked what about the civil servants in their hundreds of thousands. who were probably going to vote Socialist at the next Election in order to maintain themselves in jobs?
I think the. House will agree that that was violent and extravagant language, and there seems to be this kind of reaction whenever there has been an attempt to limit something which, rightly or 991 wrongly, we honestly think is an advantage to the Conservatives and their party.
It has not escaped our notice, of course, that this matter has been repeatedly pressed for, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster said, at the Conservative Party Conference time and time again. Of course, we could assume that it was an entirely disinterested demand in the interests of democracy. I have never assumed that those who differ from me are insincere, but they may honestly take the view that this is an advantage to them in political warfare. It is a perfectly legitimate point of view, and I do not see that we need quarrel with that. What I do quarrel with, first, is the method by which it is being done. It is its priority in the Parliamentary timetable. Secondly, I quarrel with the suggestion made by the Home Secretary that this change is being made out of their kindness of the Tory heart to help everybody and to help us. The Home Secretary cannot believe that, and if hon. Members do not pursue that line, perhaps we shall have less heat and more light in our debate.
I would add this on the question of electoral reform. If there was need for a Bill of this kind and for this Amendment to be included in it, there are so many other changes of great importance that could have been included. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who opened the debate so well from this side of the House, referred to party finances, and, if the Government were really interested in fair play in Elections, where the money comes from and how it is spent, is much more important to democracy than the restrictions on the use of cars. There has never been a whisper of a suggestion that the Conservative Party's funds should he disclosed.
The father of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said seventy-eight years ago:I should like all the finances of the Tory Party to he open for inspection for anyone who may wish to look at them, be he friend or foe.If the Government were now to come forward with a proposal of this kind, I think the response, even on the question of cars, would have been very much warmer on this side of the House, and would have 992 been in the interests of Parliamentary Government. So long as their funds are secret, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will always lay themselves open to the worst charges and the worst rumours. We have heard so many of them in the past and we do not know whether they are true or not. One remembers that Earl Baldwin said he had to go into the City to raise a £1 million fund, and Lord Younger, the then Treasurer of the Conservative Party, said in 1929 he was raising a fighting fund of £100,000, exclusively subscribed by members of the Carlton Club. These things may or may not be true, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite quite sincerely that if they are interested in democratic practice, they could have introduced reforms along these lines, and that it would have been better for them and for the country. Where their funds come from is of considerable importance.
The Home Secretary, in justifying, or in giving one of the reasons for justifying, this Bill, talked about the growing number of cars. That is perfectly true, but the more there is a distribution of cars among individual families the less need is there for party cars. Many of us would have liked to have seen a system whereby, if there was need to convey people to the poll—people who were not very well or old—it should be done by an impartial authority. There are difficulties in such a scheme. It might be expensive and, administratively, it is inconvenient, but the sole legitimate excuse for party cars is the fact that, otherwise, there are people who could not vote. That is the only real reason. The Home Secretary, and the hon. Member for Kidderminster, it seemed to me, completely destroyed the valid reason for the Bill, because there are more and more individual cars so there is less need for party cars. What we object to is the advantage to a political party, not to an individual, in having more cars.
Therefore, if there was any justification at one time for this sort of Amendment of the law, say five or ten years ago, immediately after the war, before we had many new cars, and so on, it certainly does not exist today, and will not exist so long as this country can maintain its motor-car industry output. It seems to me that on this point the Home Secretary completely gave away any practical reason for the suggested change.
993 There is another reason which makes the use of party cars, not individual cars—and this is really our point—far less necessary. The Labour Government, very much to its own disadvantage, though I think it was right, introduced the postal vote. I think it was to its own disadvantage because, quite frankly, the organisation of the postal vote is something which requires a great deal of patience and skill, and we do not get very much of it done unless we have devoted people to work voluntarily or else pay for the work to be done. Quite frankly, we cannot afford to pay for it as hon. Gentlemen opposite can and do.
There are a number of constituencies which in 1951, and, indeed, I think, in 1950, were probably lost by the mobilisation of the postal vote alone. That was done in many cases much more successfully by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I know something about some of the marginal constituencies, because I have fought one three times, and I know the amount of paid help which an opponent could afford. I am not criticising that. I wish we were in a position to do the same, but, quite frankly, we are not.
Therefore, the case for conveyance—the historical reason for a hundred years—of the old or the sick person or the person on shift work, has now gone. It is provided for by the postal vote. This is something which we introduced, certainly not to the political advantage of the Labour Party, but very much to the advantage of hon. Members opposite. If I may conclude this part of my argument, today, as a result of this arrangement, the number of cases where even the party cars are required is very much smaller, and that is particularly true where hon. Members oposite are concerned.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
I am following closely what the hon. Member is saying in regard to the postal vote. He says that the Conservative Party is able to pay people in order to ensure that the postal vote is collected. I should like to say that I have never heard of any constituency in which workers have been paid to collect these votes, and I think it is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Skeffington
A number of examples in the past have been brought 994 to my notice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] West Ham was one case. The number of assistants in the Conservative Party local headquarters who are paid whole-time is often known. There is nothing to be ashamed of about that. I am not saying that this work is paid for, or that there are not voluntary workers. Of course, there are, but in the past, the Conservative Party has had more people able to give a great deal of time to political activities than we have had in the Labour Party. That is particularly true today when so many of our women who used to help at elections are working during the day, having to take a job in order to balance the family budget. That does not apply so much to women in the Conservative Party.
In the General Election of 1951 the percentage of electors voting averaged about 81 per cent.; in some cases the figure was 84 per cent. That means, in effect, that there were very few electors wanting to vote who could not do so. Almost as soon as an election register is prepared one has to knock off about 10 per cent. to account for deaths, removals, and so on. On a General Election register one never has a live voting list of more than about 90 per cent. Therefore, we have got extremely near to the total poll of voters able to vote with the provisions of the 1949 Act and the postal vote. Consequently, there is very little evidence that the provision of more party cars will help people to vote, quite apart from whether it will actually be a disadvantage to one party or another.
If the amendment is to be forced through, as I suppose it will be, I hope that consideration will be given to making the cost of petrol used by party cars an election expense. I am not wanting the cost of petrol on family cars to count. That would be some safeguard in rural constituencies that there would be a limit to the unfair advantage which the Tory Party would otherwise have in those areas.
It may well be that the Measure will not turn out to be so very much to the advantage of the Conservative Party—partly as a result of today's debate. Although I think it will be of some advantage to the Conservative Party in rural constituencies, I do not think it will be of such great disadvantage to the Labour Party in urban constituencies. I believe, 995 however, that there will be a number of people with no particular party alliance who will deplore the amendment because it will seem to be, because of the timing of the legislative programme and the arguments used by the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Kidderminster, a matter of purely Conservative advantage. It will not induce these people to vote Conservative.
In 1948 the then hon. Member for Holderness described the limitation on cars as being a step towards totalitarianism. I believe that this proposal today is a step back the other way, to the kind of privilege from which I hoped we were getting away. Although it cannot by any means be said of all Conservatives, one feels that there are a certain number who, if they can, will load the scales against the people by means of wealth, influence and privilege.
Not long ago I read some words by the eighteenth century dramatist, Thomas Holcroft, who attended a sale of the rotten borough of Gatton, a Parliamentary seat. He wrote:The celebrated auctioneer scarcely noticed the value of the estate. The rental, the mansions, the views, the woods and waters, were unworthy of regard, compared to what he called an elegant contingency."He went on to say that the buyer of the borough would have:No tempestuous passions to allay, no tormenting claims of insolent electors to evade, no tinkers' wives to kiss, no impossible promises to make, none of the toilsome and not very clean paths of canvassing to drudge through; but, his mind at ease and his conscience clear, with this elegant contingency in his pocket, the honours of the State await his plucking and with its emoluments his purse will overflow.I believe that, in putting this Measure so high in the legislative programme without adducing any practical reasons why it is necessary now, the Conservative Party is tending to go back to the traditional rôle which it has occupied in politics, and that is bad for the Conservative Party, the country and the Parliamentary system.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has made a very earnest speech, with parts of which I was in sympathy. He concluded with a passage taken from an eighteenth century book, 996 and I think that symbolises the attitude of a great many of his hon. Friends. The Labour Party is viewing the problem much too much in the light of past prejudices instead of present conditions.
I must follow that by singling out from his speech one point on which I sincerely agree with him, though here I may not find myself at one with my hon. Friends. I should have been happier if this Measure had not been the first out of the hat. I concede that before I make my speech.
The Bill is of far greater social significance and to the rural areas in particular, than of political significance to either the Labour Party or the Conservative Party. I was glad that the hon. Member concluded with what I regard as a very right observation in doubting whether electoral advantage would accrue to the Conservative Party as a result of the Measure to the extent some of his hon. Friends believe. I entirely share that view.
It is in the sense that the Bill will assist rural areas that it has my very cordial support. It is always possible in Measures of this kind to strike a political attitude based on past prejudices far removed from social realities. I earnestly suggest that some hon. Members opposite are in danger of doing that. We can argue interminably about how much, and whether appreciably, the Bill will affect party fortunes on one side or the other. What is beyond argument is that it will make an immense difference to a large, and, I regret to say, increasing, number of English villages. I have previously said—iast time I said it it met with great approval on the other side of the House—that, because of the decline in public transport services in rural areas, there are parts of rural England which are threatened now with an isolation which they have not suffered since the advent of the internal combustion engine. More and more villages deserted by the bus companies are coming to depend upon the good will of motor users. I regard that as a very significant factor in respect of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
No one will deny that the shortage of public transport in rural areas is a growing problem, but the hon. Member will be aware that the Representation of the People Act provides for 997 polling booths to be sited sufficiently near where people reside. Therefore, transport is not quite the problem in regard to voting that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting.
§ Mr. Deedes
I still say that the provision falls some way short of the realities as I know them to be in the rural areas. Although car ownership has spread widely enough to damage the public service, it has not spread widely enough to fill the vacuum that the absent public vehicles once occupied. To combine the present transport situation in rural England with the continuance of Section 88, which the Bill will repeal, is really to disfranchise large sections of the English countryside. I refuse to think that the Opposition desire that; if it were so, we should not be moving forward from the logical consequences of the Reform Acts; we should be moving back.
I suggest to hon. Members opposite that this question ought not to be considered wholly in the light of past arguments, all of which I think I can claim to have read, and with some of which I had a certain sympathy at the time when they were advanced, in 1948. Far more should it he considered in the light of the new pattern of transport, resulting from a transport revolution, with which very few hon. Members on either side have caught up. The car has a new rôle in England today, in both urban and rural areas. Many people who live in agricultural areas go to work in factories in the nearest towns, in cars which are shared between two, three or four persons. They have bought second- or third-hand cars at reasonable prices, and they are in the habit of taking their cornpanions—who share the cost—to work and back. In some of our towns commuters are coming in and going out each day from the surrounding villages, on a miniature scale. That has been the trend of the last decade.
If I were seeking to make a political argument out of this matter I would add that a fair proportion of those cars carry Labour voters. This situation has come about largely as a result of the immense spread of factory and industrial development throughout the rural areas. It is no longer confined, as in the first Industrial Revolution, to certain centres of coal, steel, shipbuilding, and so on. 998 This situation is rapidly expanding. One proof is the decline in the use and sale of the push-bicycle.
In rural areas this fact raises sharply the question to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) referred, and to which hon. Members opposite must provide an answer before the debate concludes. There has been a remarkable contrast between the numbers of cars available in post-war years, including Election years. In 1945 there were about 1½ million private cars; in 1948, when we discussed the Bill which we now seek to amend, the number was just under 2 million; in 1950 we fought the Election with 2,¼ million cars and in 1955, with 3½ million. This year there will be about 4½ million cars, and in the next Election I would put the figure at at least 5 million privately-owned cars. Is no account to be taken of this fact? Are we expected to ignore it?
Has any other country ignored it? I have not studied this matter as closely as I should have, but I am under the impression that there is no parallel restriction in other countries. I agree that the political significance of this transport trend is very difficult to assess in terms of gain to one side or the other, but it has certainly not widened the gap between Tories with cars and Labour voters without; in fact, it has gone a very long way towards closing it. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington was probably thinking in those terms when he said what he did. I have never thought that this political argument was very strong anyway, because Section 88 does not prevent the wealthy car owner from recording his vote; it prevents him, in certain circumstances, from giving lifts to those who are less fortunate. In the country many people who are without public transport for the first time will perhaps find it more difficult to vote than in any preceding Election.
What solution do the Opposition offer? The argument may be advanced that most of those who are allowed to use their cars freely will be Tories, and wilt therefore give lifts to their Tory friends., Anybody who knows anything about rural England knows that that argument cannot be put forward very strongly. I claim no special virtues for neighbourliness in rural areas, but where there is—as there now has to be—a friendly habit 999 of giving neighbours a lift from the village to the nearest town, regardless of politics, I cannot persuade myself that these arrangements will not prevail on polling day. It is contrary to human nature to suggest that they will not.
I want to say a word about enforceability. When a Member is faced with legislation that he does not like, it is common form for him to say that it brings the law into contempt. In the case of the law that we propose to amend, however, that is perilously true. It cannot be pretended that Section 88 is fully understood by people outside the legal profession. Any layman who was cross-examined upon its provisions would be in difficulty, and a study of the debates which took place a decade ago indicate that not even all its sponsors understood it. The Attorney-General of that time—Sir Hartley Shawcross—said:There will always be marginal cases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 111.]That is profoundly true. My main objection is not to the lack of comprehension—because that argument might be laid against a great number of the laws that we pass—but that this Measure has led, and will go on leading as long as the Section prevails, to a highly disagreeable system of espionage and counterespionage in all Elections—a system in respect of which those on my side are as guilty as those on the other.
In the Hornsey by-election, held in May, 1957, the following account was published in a reliable national newspaper:Observers with cameras are to be posted by the Conservative organisers at each of the 24 polling stations in the Hornsey by-election on Thursday. They will be on watch for any unauthorised car being used to take electors to the poll.In the by-election in North Lewisham, which had just preceded the Hornsey by-election, the police had been called in. Hence the precautions. My experience of polling day is that when I arrive in a village—and this happened to me in 1955—I ask how things are going and am told by my agent that they are going splendidly, and that he thinks that they have found an illicit Labour car being used in Little Bumbledon—and the police are called in. This is a complete waste of time, and it adds enormously to the burden and the 1000 odium of election campaigns, when people are tired and their nerves are at full stretch. We should be well rid of that side of the picture.
I refuse to believe that the Opposition are enthusiastic about perpetuating this atmosphere of mistrust and ill-feeling, which nobody can deny exists in a majority of constituencies at present. I accept that in 1948 there were arguments—even if they were political ones—in favour of Section 88, and I can understand that many hon. Members opposite supported that Section. But even then there was one overwhelming argument against it. It reduced by legislation the numbers who could vote in an election, and that argument, politically, socially and democratically, is very difficult to defend. Now, taking into account the new balance of car ownership, and the predicament of people living in the rural areas, which are new factors, I believe that it is impossible to defend, and that is why I gladly acknowledge and support the Bill.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) speaking of his experiences in a rural area. He has made the same kind of speech today as he usually makes in his villages. He is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. He has missed the main point, which is that every fact that he has mentioned can be used in an argument against his side.
So far as I know, this is the first occasion when the first debate following the debates upon the Gracious Speech has been upon a Measure that was not even mentioned in that Speech. There must be some reason for that, and I think that the hon. Member for Ashford and the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) have both given that reason quite clearly; it is that the Conservative Party organisation wants this Bill, and wants it above all else. How, then, can they argue that there is no party advantage m the Measure they have now put before the House? Clearly it is deliberately designed to secure an advantage for them.
If the argument is that certain voters, particularly in the rural constituencies, are dependent upon the motor car to go to the poll, is not that a very sound reason for saying that the business should be arranged 1001 impartially and not that one party should have an advantage? If hon. Gentlemen opposite were really approaching this matter purely on the ground that voters in rural areas have difficulty in reaching the polling stations, they could very well have come forward with a scheme which would ensure a more abundant number of polling stations and some arrangement whereby, impartially, transport was made available to take people there.
What was the percentage poll in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ashford? Was it any less than the average for the whole country?
§ Mr. Dye
I gather that it was not. Then his whole argument falls to the ground. In my constituency at the last Election, the poll was about 82 per cent. In a rural constituency, that is very good. That was under the restriction on the use of cars. That was in 1955, and roughly the same figure was reached in 1950 and 1951. When has there been a higher percentage of the electorate voting in any General Election than in those three General Elections, at a time—the only time—when these restrictions have been in force?
§ Mr. Deedes
The hon. Gentleman has taken up a point I made. I would ask him to bear in mind the first point I made, that since 1955 there has been a very serious decline in public transport in rural areas. This is a factor which must be taken into account.
§ Mr. Dye
In the villages, I have never know a time when public transport, whether it be the railways or the bus services, has been of any use for taking voters to and from the polls. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford may have an exceptional constituency—I suspect that that is why he is still here—but, by and large, in the rural constituencies, the public transport service is of no use. This is the reason that hon. Members opposite want the free use of motor cars in abundance for their party when the next General Election comes.
Rural voters are as keen to vote as anyone else, and, in spite of their difficulties, they go to the poll in just about as good numbers as do those who live in the towns. If we could improve on 82 per cent., I should be all in favour of 1002 that. I want nothing but a fair chance. I wish to see no advantages, whether by motor cars or by any other methods. I want only a fair chance to put my case before them, let the people vote, and give them every facility in doing so. If hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with that—I see some of them nodding—why do not they agree to a round-table conference to discuss the matter, instead of pushing this Measure through the House in this way? If they want impartiality and a fair chance for electors to vote, why do it by this method, on the first day after they have disposed of the Queen's Speech? Hon. Members opposite know quite well what the real reason is.
There are dangers in this proposal. We have been reminded already that, in county council and district council elections, there is free use of motor cars. In order to describe what happens in these circumstances, I will take the example of my own part of Norfolk. In 1955, at the county council elections, what happened was that in divisions where Conservative candidates were standing, those candidates had free use of a vast number of cars. With what result? They got as many electors as they wanted to the poll, winning two seats, but so many cars did they have that they blocked the roads leading to the polling stations with cars bearing placards saying, "Vote for the Tory candidate".
There is not usually a great deal of room in our village streets where the schools are. Is it fair for all the rich people in the neighbourhood to come with their cars, leaving them parked outside the polling station and bearing placards with the name of their candidate on them? If a Labour supporter did that within the precincts of the schools, he would be breaking the law. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Of course he would, if he used the precincts of a school to put up a poster asking people to vote for his candidate. The thing would be removed immediately. Yet the Tories can come with a vast fleet of cars, parking them outside the polling stations, and get away with it.
If, at a Parliamentary Election, we are now to find in front of every one of our local polling stations a fleet of cars standing with Tory colours on them, the Labour cars being unable to carry their 1003 voters up to the polling stations because the roads are blocked, and the entrances to them—[Interruption.]—and this is what happened in my county council election.
§ Mr. Dye
We have a very good police force—better, perhaps, than Wales has, since people there want to change it or, at least, the management of it—but, in our peaceful Norfolk villages, we do not have policemen on duty at the polling stations. We just have the local fellow who is a special constable; he stays there, where it is warm, if it is a cold day. After all, his job is just at the polling station, not to control traffic outside.
If there is free and unrestricted use of cars, the Tories, particularly in rural districts, will try to dominate the situation by the use of their motor cars in getting voters to the poll and blocking the entrances to the polling stations. This would be unfair. There would not be a local policeman to control the traffic.
§ Mr. Osborne
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman very closely because I believe that he is sincere in what he says, but will he tell us this? Is he really accusing his local police of failing in their duty—he said it had happened in two local elections—by allowing Conservatives to commit an offence that Socialists would not be permitted to do? Is he really saying that the police officers in his area are not impartial in the way they conduct themselves on election days?
§ Mr. Dye
Is it? They had their placards there. If a Socialist did the same, not by blocking the street but by putting a poster inside the school, he 1004 would soon be in trouble. I am not charging our police with failing to do their duty, or anything of the sort.
What happened in that case? The Conservative got their candidate elected to the county council. He did not ask to serve on any committees and, to the best of my knowledge, during the three years he served he never made a speech. When his time of office was up, he did not even seek re-election. In other words, by their overwhelming use of cars, the Conservatives could get a nonentity elected to the county council, merely to keep out someone else.
Is not that just what is at the back of the minds of hon. Members opposite? They know that their case is weakening, that the character of their candidates is not good enough for the job, and they want to gain an unfair advantage by using their cars to get into this House people who otherwise would not get here. That is the whole purpose of this Bill.
What is the purport of the discussion that has followed publication of the Bill? The Times and the Daily Telegraph do not support the party on this side of the House; but, after all, the Daily Telegraph is a responsible paper, and on 30th October it published a leader on this subject. It also published letters, said that it had received many more from Conservatives, and promised a second leading article. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tory freedom."] Let us hope that, in this respect it was, and that, in this case, its advice is taken. I say that because it is quite clear that the Daily Telegraph would either expect the House today to reject this Bill or the Government to withdraw it. After what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench, I hardly think that the Government will simply push this Bill through. If they do, they will hang their heads in shame—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
What was the date of the Daily Telegraph issue that asked for the Bill to be withdrawn?
§ Mr. Dye
I did not say that it asked for it to be withdrawn. Nevertheless, I feel that it would be in the interests of democracy if what the Daily Telegraph said was put on record. This is what that newspaper said on 3rd November:We have received a large number of letters from Conservative supporters in favour of the 1005 Government's proposal to lift the present restrictions on the use of cars in General Elections. Last Thursday we raised objections to this measure, but many of our correspondents have failed to grasp the point. There are, surely, three questions to be asked. Is it right to repeal the clause? Will it make much difference'? Is it expedient to do it now? Of course there is a strong case for those—most of them experienced party workers—who claim that Clause 88 of the 1949 Act was always anomalous, and is now an out-of-date nuisance. But the Socialists do not think so. They believe, perhaps quite wrongly, that to lift the quota system would again put their supporters at a disadvantage.There is, at any rate, a controversy. Having failed to get the Socialists to agree to repeal the clause, is the Government really wise to follow their bad example of going it alone? The convention that electoral reform should proceed by all-party agreement is a good one. Would it not, for instance, have been preferable to enlarge the present quotas of one car for every 1,500 voters in county constituencies and one for every 2,500 in boroughs? If, as some Government spokesmen argue, the new conditions will make very little difference anyway, to voters of any party, then it becomes even harder to understand why it has been thought worth while to repeal the clause at all—above all, to repeal it in what is probably the last Session before a General Election.Had the Government acted in 1951, or in 1955, it would have been easier to persuade the electorate that it was acting on principle. As it is, the Conservative Party must expect to find itself the object of a smear campaign"—
§ Mr. Dye
Continuing the article:The Socialists will exploit the timing of the Bill, representing it as a mere attempt to snatch an unfair electoral advantage. Of course the Government can defend itself against this charge, but its tactics have been lamentable.That, I believe, is rather a weak description of how the Government look today, and they would, indeed, be well advised to revise their plans, and either withdraw the Bill or state quite clearly that they will accept Amendments—widen the scope of the Bill. If the Government did that, avoided a Division today, and took this Bill on the Floor of the House as soon as they liked after proper consultation, the country would he better served, and politics in this country would be brought hack to a fairer plane.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
Although the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) criticised the Bill severely, I got the impression that 1006 he has misgivings about the operation of the present law—at any rate, in his own constituency. May I say to him, however, that it is rather late in the day to suggest a conference on this subject? I believe that he was a Member of the House in 1948, and he will remember the events of that year. Had he raised his voice then in the way that he has raised it today, we would now have listened to him, I think, with much greater respect. It is just as reprehensible to prevent people doing things for one's own party advantage as it is to permit them. That, I think, is the answer to an intervention made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman).
I am glad to take part in this debate, because I believe that I alone in this House am on public record as having spoken against the proposal contained in the present Bill. In fact, I wound up the debate at the Conservative Party Conference at Scarborough in 1952. My argument was that it was desirable to restrict as much as possible alterations in the election laws each time there was a change of Government.
That view did not prevail, but that was very soon after a change of Government. It was the first conference after the Election in which the Conservative Party was returned to power. We had had little more than two years' experience of the operation of this Section; there had been only two General Elections—in fairly quick succession—and very few by-elections. Even so, it was acknowledged at that time—and, I think, generally acknowledged—that the Section was, to say 'the least, open to abuse.
We have now had three General Elections, over six years have elapsed, we have had many by-elections and the position has been studied, and studied care-Cully, both by those involved in party politics and those outside. We know a great deal more about the way in which the Section operates. I do not believe that there is a fair-minded person in the House or outside who would not agree that not only do abuses exist, but that they are crowing. There are more abuses of this Section at each succeeding Election.
My own constituency is a borough constituency, unlike that of the hon. Members for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and Norfolk. South-West (Mr. Dye). My personal view, for what it is worth, is that on the 1007 whole the restrictions contained in the Section which it is proposed to repeal have tended to help me rather than otherwise. I believe that for a variety of reasons with which I certainly do not wish to weary the House. The geographical nature of the constituency means that, on the whole, it is more to the advantage of the Labour Party to be able to use transport than it is to the advantage of my own party. It is certainly true that during the recent local government elections general comment was made that, on the whole, the Labour Party had far more transport at its disposal than did the Conservative Party. I think that this is some slight evidence of what I have said.
Nevertheless, my own supporters strongly urge upon me the need to amend the law in the way which the Bill proposes. They know my views and they take the opposite view. They do so not, so to speak, as members of the Tory Party corpus, but as individuals whose rights and duties are interfered with as the law now stands. The present law not only appears to individuals to be irksome; it runs directly counter to what they believe to be right.
Let me give an obvious example. Many people have an elderly relative living near them. What is more proper on Election day than to give that person, a mother or father, or whoever he or she may be, a lift to the polls? [An HON. MEMBER: "In a Tory car."] In any car. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is wrong with that?"] It is perfectly proper to do that, and the ordinary individual, whatever his politics, believes that that is a right and proper thing to do. He is prevented from doing that by this Section and he therefore regards the Section not as wrong in a political sense, but as morally and offensively wrong.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) made the valid point that the postal vote comes in here, that where one has an elderly relative who finds it difficult to get to the poll then the postal vote will enable him or her to vote. That only applies where there is real medical difficulty. If the principle is extended, then all elderly people should be eligible for a postal vote, and I do not think that any hon. Member in any part of the House would think that right.
1008 The present law is producing two opposite evils simultaneously, one in urban areas and the other in rural areas. In urban areas there is wholesale evasion of the law as it stands. No one in any part of the House has denied that this afternoon, and no one can. For the most part, of course, evasions are individual and indeed unconscious. But in a good many cases that is not so. The individual concerned knows that he is either breaking the law or, at any rate, sailing very close to breaking it.
I will give an example of the kind of thing which I believe is beginning to happen and which is obviously of a different order from the individual infringements which have been very common hitherto. There are boroughs which have more than one constituency. In my own case, the Borough of Hendon is divided into two constituencies which have one returning officer. I think that is the rule in nearly all boroughs with more than one constituency. That returning officer registers all the cars of all the candidates at the time of a General Election. It often happens that within a borough one or more seats are safe in the sense that there is very little chance of their changing their political representation, whereas others are much less safe. It is not difficult so to arrange things that within the borough as a whole one concentrates the number of cars that one is allowed to use for particular purposes in particular parts of that borough. I am not certain whether it can be done without breaking the law, and if hon. Members opposite say that the law on this subject is simple I should like to have a firm legal reply to that question because I think that it is very difficult to answer.
§ Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the cars must he registered for the particular constituency and not for the borough?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If the hon. Member will study the law, he will see that it permits individual candidates to register an unlimited number of cars. What the candidates are limited to is using the cars. As far as I know, the law does not in any way limit the places where the cars can be used. I am merely saying that this is the kind of thing which is worrying people and which may be an 1009 infringement or defect in the law. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not merely amend it.?"] For this very good reason, that this is only one example of a mass of doubts and difficulties of which everyone in the House is perfectly aware.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy ( Bradford, East)
Is it not perfectly clear that in issuing the labels for the cars which may be used at an Election the returning officer—he may have a list which exceeds the number of cars that are allowable—will only issue the number of labels according to the amount of cars that are allowable.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I do not altogether agree with what the hon. Member says. I agree that twenty-five cars is the limit to the number that can be used, but, as far as the issue of labels is concerned, I am not at all sure that it would not be perfectly in order to issue more labels than that, although they could not be used without infringing the law.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I have made my point. This is an example of real obscurity and, possibly, infringement of the law. This is one example of many which can be given, some of which have been mentioned in the debate.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
In a divided borough there can result a concentration of cars in one or other of the constituencies. Is it not clear that with an abolition or limitation in numbers that concentration can be carried much further? It would be possible to get a concentration of a larger number of cars in a constituency, thus giving an unfair advantage to one side.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
What I am saying is that the law is either defective or it is being abused; no one can honestly tell me which it is. There are so many defects in and abuses of this law, that it simply will not hold water.
May I give an example of what happens in rural areas? The trouble in such areas is of the opposite kind. In such areas, the tendency is not so much for abuses to arise as for electors actually to be prevented from going to the polls. I represent an urban constituency, but 1010 when I can, I go to my home in Hampshire. There we are surrounded by a number of small villages.
I have in mind one particular village which is only a mile or two away from where I live. It has a total of about 100 voters. It is extremely scattered and is spread over several miles. It gets the use of one car for half an hour on polling day. There are over a dozen elderly people in the village. If the day is wet, they simply cannot get to the poll, whatever happens. That is the present position and one which is well known to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West. I know his constituency, which contains many such villages.
In those villages, there may be some temptation to break this law, but it is much more difficult to do so in rural areas, because if cars go driving about in those areas people see exactly what happens. The result is that while we get breaches of the law commonly in the towns, we get restrictions imposed unduly—if that is not an improper word to use—in country areas.
It is true that in the case of the village of which I have spoken, the majority of those who are disfranchised are Conservatives, but that makes matters worse, and for this reason. It is a palpably one-sided law and the individuals concerned feel that the law is being imposed against them for that reason.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Of course not. Nobody knows. It would be a breach of the law—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to know what proportion of a small village voted. It would be highly improper. We get the proportionate return for the constituency, but not for each polling booth. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about counting the people who go in?"] It is 1011 true that individual party officials may know. Certainly, the proportion of people who vote is nothing like 90 per cent.
The most important objection of all to the present law is not the deliberate evasion; it is not the kind of thing which has been discussed so much during this debate. By far the greatest number of breaches of this law are perpetrated by perfectly innocent people. I cannot produce evidence of that, for obvious reasons. Innocent people do not say that they have been breaking the law. If it is brought to their attention, they are shocked. We all know—the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) knows perfectly well—that innumerable breaches of this law are perpetrated by people in all innocence.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If the right hon. Gentleman does not know that he must have lost all interest in politics.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
Will the hon. Member give way? He is my own Member of Parliament. Does he suggest that when there are breaches of the law the remedy is to repeal the law?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
When a law is so deficient that it is riddled with abuse and open to every kind of evasion, it is unenforceable and ought not to stand. The point I am making is that a law which makes many innocent people criminals is itself a thoroughly vicious law. It offends against the individual concerned, it undermines public morals and it brings the law itself into contempt. For that reason, I support the Bill.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), after giving the House an explanation of his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, when I understood him to say that he advised against the repeal of Section 88 of the 1949 Act, went on to try to justify its repeal. He brought forward all kinds of arguments which do not stand the slightest investigation.
The hon. Member referred to 100 country people—Tory voters—in an isolated village who were deprived of the opportunity to vote because the Tory 1012 organisation was not able to provide them with adequate cars.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I said that there were about a dozen elderly people who were affected. I did not suggest that it applied to all the 100 people.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but I understood his case to be based upon the fact that at least 100 old people in the village were deprived of voting, and of voting for the Conservative candidate. In case of misunderstanding, we can read the hon. Member's speech in HANSARD tomorrow to see precisely what he said.
The position in the rural areas was met by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was Home Secretary at the time, by allowing a larger number of polling stations. Every parish area was entitled to a polling station and there was, therefore, little difficulty for the people in the agricultural areas. The question of the use of cars has been grossly misrepresented by most hon. Members who have spoken from the Government side today. They have painted a picture which is not in keeping with the prevailing position.
The Leader of the House referred to the new Clause which was proposed in Committee as an Amendment to the 1948 Representation of the People Bill. I was the person who moved the new Clause. It was on 21st April, 1948, and the debate is reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT from col. 1923 under that date. The Home Secretary did not give details to the House of the terms of that new Clause. Looking at it today, I am perfectly sure it was a right and proper Clause and I regret very much that the Government of that day did not accept it in its precise terms at that time.
The purpose of the new Clause which I moved was to abolish altogether the use of cars by political organisations at Parliamentary and municipal elections. It was not to stop an individual using his own car for himself and his family. Its purpose, secondly, was to make it obligatory upon returning officers to create a pool of cars which would be available for the use of persons making application direct to the returning officer and who could satisfy the returning officer that they would not otherwise be able to record their vote.
1013 I felt that was a very fair and equitable way to deal with this very thorny question of the use of election cars. It is all right for the Government side to talk about the Socialist Party not being placed at a disadvantage. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well that if the Socialist Party were not being placed at a disadvantage by the rescinding of this limitation, they would not be supporting this Bill today. The very fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know that the limitations imposed prevent the use of fleets of motor cars drawn from industry and run at the expense of industry at elections means that they are seeking to take a further mean advantage of the Opposition.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to make very light of the question of the extension of the use of these cars. He knows as well as I do that the Tories, with unlimited freedom to use fleets of motor cars at Parliamentary and municipal elections, will have a distinct advantage over other candidates. After all, if we in this House of Parliament believe in the spirit and principle of democracy we cannot agree to a system which allows preferential facilities to some parties against the interests of the majority of the community.
I think one can say that it is seldom that Parliament embarks upon the difficult and controversial problems of electoral reform. It is equally true that the whole process of amending legislation since the great Reform Act, 1832, has been to widen the scope of the franchise and to bring about a more equitable and fair system as between the wealthy and poorer candidates. If we look at the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, we see there further progress, for the Act removed the evil of allowing payment for securing votes for a candidate. It made another important changes in the avoidance of corruption and illegal practices.
We came to the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, who was then Home Secretary, the Bill which became the Representation of the People Act, 1949. I believe that this marked a further progressive step towards reducing errors in the electoral machinery. All these changes were never welcomed by those who enjoyed the privileges which 1014 were being taken away, but in the process of time they have been recognised as beneficial to the progressive development of British democracy. Even the nations of the Commonwealth have built their Parliamentary structures upon the broad basis of the British system.
A free democracy can be based upon only two essential principles; first, universal franchise second, complete and fair election conditions. If we remove one or the other of the essential factors we make our Parliamentary system a mockery and a sham.
Let us be perfectly frank about it. Let us look at the advantage which the Conservative Party has at present over the Labour candidates. What are the Tory Party's advantages? Even under the existing law the Tories enjoy overwhelming advantage over the Labour Party. They have in the first place behind them about 75 per cent. of the national and provincial Press. Whatever crimes or errors a Tory Government commit they are transformed by the Press into great virtues. I believe we are coming to the position when the whole stream of political life is being poisoned to serve the interests of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Osborne
Surely, after the evidence given by his hon. Friend, having read the Daily Telegraph's editorial, the hon. Member cannot make that point?
§ Mr. McLeavy
An isolated comment of the Daily Telegraph on this topic should not be taken as a criterion that the Daily Telegraph is not wholeheartedly behind and backing the Tory Government.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth ( Basingstoke)
Is the hon. Gentleman of the opinion that the attitude of the Beaverbrook Press to the Board of Trade, for example, is one designed to portray my right hon. Friend as an angel always?
§ Mr. McLeavy
I know that there are slight differences between the Beaverbrook Press and the Conservative colonial policy, but I should doubt very much whether there is any disagreement between that Press and the Conservative Party in their determination to try to stop the return of a Labour Government at the next General Election.
Reference has been made in the debate to agriculture and to transport difficulties. 1015 If I were to start discussing transport matters I should probably get myself out of order, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that no one has spoken in the House more often than myself 3n rural transport. The agricultural areas are traditionally Tory. They enjoy a far greater representation in Parliament per head of the population than do the industrial areas. I do not think that any hon. Member would deny that, and it always gives the Tory Party a substantial political advantage.
My point is that it is to the credit of the Labour Party that at no time during the amending of the Representation of the People Act did we try to remove or interfere with that situation. I wonder very much whether, if the circumstances had been changed and it had found itself with a Socialist stronghold in the countryside with a representation out of proportion to the representation in the industrial areas, the Conservative Party would have been quite as generous as was the Labour Party.
§ Mr. McLeavy
As to finance, I want to emphasise briefly what has been said already from the Opposition Front Bench—that there is no doubt about it that the hidden donations to Tory funds from large industrial concerns are contrary to the spirit of democracy, because the Tory Party is the only party that refuses to publish a balance sheet showing the source of its money in order that the community may know precisely how much every party in the State is receiving and the source from which it is getting it, and be able to form an opinion as to whether this is a right and proper practice
I am not trying to secure any advantage out of this. I am trying to face facts as I see them honestly and sincerely. I want to say to hon. Members on the Opposition side—
§ Mr. McLeavy
If at some time in the future we have a Government, of whatever political flavour, who receive secret 1016 donations towards their party organisation and the fund being built to keep them in office from big industrial concerns particularly interested in a certain type of legislation going through the House; if we have a Government inclined towards bending their knee to that form of corruption, there is no protection for the public against it in the law of the land. There is no protection against the greatest measure of corruption going on behind the backs of the public and to the detriment of the community.
I am not suggesting that members of any Government would fall for that kind of illegal practice, but it is possible and the people are always suspicious when they find vast sums of money being spent on announcements on hoardings and in the Press to put forward the case of a political party. They always wonder where the money is coming from, who is giving it, and why. To deny the public the right to know who are donating to the Conservative Party is to leave the public in a position of doubt as to what is really happening in Parliament today.
We are a great democracy. I hope that there is no one in the country who is not proud of our reputation and the example we give. For heaven's sake let us maintain it. This paltry, pettifogging, political Bill, which the Government had not the moral courage to mention in the Gracious Speech, is unworthy of the great problems which confront us today. The world is afire with revolution and with people striving to obtain greater and greater justice and power. We shall not prevent that happening by this kind of tactics.
One of the greatest things that has happened in the trade union movement has been that we have been able to convince the workers that the pathway to better conditions all round is through the procedure of democratic constitutional methods. We are able to present here today a democratic Opposition to the Government, pledged and based upon the principle of bringing about changes in a constitutional way. That is something to be thankful for when we contemplate parts of the world where the problem concerning government is not one of constitutional position but of revolutionary and other kinds of opposition.
1017 The workers of this country have pinned their faith to the democratic procedure which we apply here. They believe, and their belief has been sustained by the leaders of our movement, politically and industrially, that the best form of society and of government is the democratic form.
I say seriously to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches that once they destroy the belief of organised labour that it can change social and economic conditions through the ballot box, they will drive it into the hands of other, undesirable political organisations. I beg the Government and their back benchers to believe me when I say that if they carry on with this legislation, whilst they may by all these methods of mass propaganda deceive the people and win a victory at the next General Election, they will sow seeds that they will regret the whole of their lives.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Armstrong (Armagh)
We were taken back by the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) into the history of electoral law. All I want to do this afternoon is to try to illustrate how the conduct of Elections has changed over what is historically a relatively short period.
I remember my father describing to me the first Election in which he took part. I must confess that he was born 114 years ago in the year 1844. I do not know if any other hon. Member of the House had a father born so long ago, but I notice from the monument to Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), that he was born five years later, in 1849. However that may be, the Election I remember my father describing was for Armagh, the constituency which both he arid I had the honour of representing later. The year was 1863 and it was an Election on the hustings, before the days of the ballot box. It was not the last such Election, which I think was in 1868, five years later. But, as my father explained to me, it was a matter of vital importance in an Election on the hustings to have a good Election cry.
One of the candidates at that Election was Sir William Verner, who had fought at Waterloo. Incidentally, my father had 1018 attended the Duke of Wellington's lying-in-State in 1852. The Election cry of Sir William Verner was "Hooray for the Waterloo hero" and the House will he relieved to know that on that stirring cry he was returned triumphantly to Parliament. The point I want to make is merely that it will seem as strange to our children that in 1958 we should be arguing about the use of motor cars at an Election as it seems strange to us now that Elections were ever held on the hustings.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Armstrong) should know, as a representative of Northern Ireland, something about Elections. Also I think he should have been able to make a longer contribution and tell us some of the rather dubious practices at the Elections in those times. It is most appropriate, having preceded me, that I should have the opportunity of linking that up with what I consider to be a very bad principle which the Government are introducing into the Representation of the People Act of 1949.
I think I shall be speaking for many hon. Members on this side of the House if I say that we had a different opinion of the Home Secretary and had singled him out as having an attitude distinct from some of his colleagues to these matters. It was a matter of great regret to me personally today, therefore, to hear the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. It was different in spirit from the speech he made at the recent Conservative Party Conference. It is true that in the very last sentence he gave an indication to an organisation outside this House—not to the Opposition officially but to an organisation of men and women outside this House—that legislation would be introduced, giving way to the pressure of a viewpoint that had been expressed.
Earlier tonight arguments were advanced in favour of the Bill which suggested that e must get near a 100 per cent. poll. With that no one would disagree, but the inference is that Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act is somehow or other preventing that ideal being attained. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the Elections of 1950 and 1951 produced the highest polls in General Elections in the history of this country, and 1019 these were achieved with the restriction on the use of motor cars.
The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who spoke earlier, indicated that there was wholesale evasion of this Section of the Act. Having made the statement that no one on this side of the House had denied that, he himself made the assertion without furnishing proof. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to say a surprising thing for him, a former Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. He said that he was very undecided on the point about labelling official cars in an Election. Yet the hon. Gentleman was the man who replied in 1952 to the Conservative Party Conference, turning down the very proposals which the Government are making tonight. I interjected earlier to say that the hon. Gentleman made a very good speech. It was so good indeed that I am sorry he has not waited, because it is the best reply to the speech which he himself made in 1952. and, in the main, it represents our opposition to the proposals of the Government.
To return to the point about the labelling of cars, most Election agents know from the Act that the only cars which are legal and lawful are those which are supplied with labels officially by the returning officer. It is true that other cars may be run, but they cannot be used for carrying electors to the poll.
Returning to the speech of the hon. Member for Hendon, South, the hon. Gentleman said that Section 88 was immoral, was deceitful and that it should go, but that was very different from the statement he made at the Conservative Party Conference in 1952. I quote him:I think that it is probably true to say that in practically every constituency nowadays both sides have enough cars at their disposal to serve all the purposes that are necessary, and that there is no advantage to either side. The various provisions of our electoral law necessarily affect the different parties in different ways, and it would be quite unfair for any party to pick out these provisions which they thought affected them adversely and to reject them.The next part is most apt, and I commend it to the Home Secretary for his consideration:The true test is, I believe, this: What is the public interest and convenience? That is the test of what ought to be provided for in our electoral law, and I think that applying that test here we should say that the answer 1020 is that we should have sufficient transport to serve the necessary purpose of taking to the poll those who cannot conveniently manage to get there in any other way.That is what Section 88 of the Act does.
Let us put all party considerations aside and try to be objective. I do not agree that the Labour Party has as many cars as the Conservative Party, but let us assume that that is so. What is wrong with the proposition that each side should make a contribution to a pool of cars under the control of the returning officer to go to people whose addresses are supplied by the party organisation? Is that not a reasonable proposition? Is it not what is provided for by Section 88?
I see the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland talking to the Home Secretary. Presumably he is seeking information. He ought to know the Act because he was one of the members of the then Opposition who took a deep interest in it. If he does not know the Sections of the Act, I am surprised that he has not taken the precaution of acquainting himself with them before coming to the House today.
The Bill was not even quoted in the Queen's Speech because the Government were too ashamed of it. The first intimation of it was given at the Tory Party Conference. So the Government of the day makes its statement to a junta outside the House of Commons. Then, last night, after we had had a debate ranging over foreign affairs, the problems of Cyprus, the Commonwealth, foreign investment, pensions, and so on, the Government introduced, at the first opportunity after the conclusion of such a momentous debate, a cheap tawdry Bill like this.
Scotland has 80,000 unemployed, but what do they matter? Apparently, it is much better that the Tory Party should seek electoral advantage before the deluge comes. There is an increasing problem of mental illness in the country. In Scat-land almost two-thirds of the hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from mental illness. But the Government put that completely aside. The view is. apparently, that the Government must take advantage of the situation, the pedigree of which is "by Malice out of Spite," words used by a representative at 1021 the Conservative Party Conference about this proposal. The truth is that the Government are subordinating the national interest in favour of the Tory Party.
One of the reasons for the provision introduced in 1949 was that it would prohibit the general use of motor cars. The Government now say that in view of the proliferation of cars we are behind the times. The reverse is the truth. It is because there is a proliferation of cars that it is less necessary for cars to be provided in an organised fashion as in the past.
Another purpose of the provision in 1949 was to ensure equity and fair play where one candidate could have unlimited cars to the disadvantage of another. Another purpose was to obviate the relic of the bad old days of corruption and undue influence being used on electors to vote in a particular way. Those who suggest, as some hon. Members opposite do, that they are seeking, altruistically, to help people get to the poll are talking with their tongues in their cheeks, for that is not the primary purpose of the provision of cars. The provision of cars is one of the worst forms of snobbery. It is done to impress the people taken to the poll of the superiority of those taking them and in that way to influence them unduly in casting, their votes.
The hon. Member representing Oxford in those days, speaking against the provision, said that the elector was being assisted to do something which it was his obligation to do, and that it is pure hypocrisy to pretend that an analogy could be drawn of the kind put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), who had said that he saw no difference between the provision of the pint of beer of the old clays and the carrying of people in motor cars. Nor is there any great degree of difference in the motive behind it.
When the Home Secretary was commending the Bill to the House, I felt that he recognised that there was little case for the introduction of the Measure, certainly with the priority given to it. Even if it be granted that the Labour Party has as many motor cars as the Conservative Party, the Labour Party will still be handicapped, and hon. Members opposite know it. The friends of hon. Members opposite are able to take a day off from their office or board of directors, whereas 1022 our friends, even those who have motor cars, are required to clock in and are subject to some discipline within the factories.
There is less need for the Bill in view of the way in which postal voting has been extended. The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) will be interested in this.
§ Mr. Hannan
The hon. Member would have plenty to say. He could tell us about the power of motor cars in the 1945 General Election when the official party opposed him and he had the courage to stand as an Independent candidate. The postal vote deals with the problem of invalids. Therefore, there is no need for crocodile tears over invalids who are prevented from voting by the strictures of a Socialist Measure. Postal voting helps policemen, returning officers, polling clerks, commercial travellers and all who may be away from their place of residence on polling day. The provision in the Act for increased polling stations, in connection with which every parish area is made a polling district, takes away the last vestige of any excuse for the repeal of Section 88. I think that my right hon. Friend's suggestion of mobile polling stations was a very valuable one.
I could go on to give many more quotations from the Conservative Party Conference. There, whatever members of the Government may say in the House today, they were under no doubt as to why they wanted an amendment of the Act. Indeed, the resolution in 1952, at the Conservative Party Conference, was moved by Councillor Idris Owen of Staly bridge and Hyde. One can understand why he was so anxious for the Conservative Party to carry the resolution. He was the candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde and he was narrowly defeated in the General Election by only 155 votes, so he had a real, personal reason. He, I am sure, was not worried about the objective position of this proposal. He was vitally, personally interested, and that is the reason for the Government bringing in the Bill.
What did he say in that debate? He said:Our task is one of introducing any form of legislation necessary to get every man to the poll.1023 If that was the object of the resolution, this action of the Government is not the way to do it. The way to get every man to the poll is to introduce compulsory voting—and certainly not by the method now proposed. Then he betrayed some of the psychology behind the Government's recent actions and in some of their proposals. This same proposer of the resolution made someone else say, "It is time we took off our gloves and put on the clogs". Kick them when they are down; that is the attitude.
So we go on to another quotation which, I think, is a gem of snobbery, and which shows up the whole impression which the Conservative Party are trying to create:People have been accustomed in the past to expect a car to call for them, and think you do not want them to vote unless you send a car. People I have met when taking them to vote regard the visit to the polling station in the car as one day in the year they look forward to.What a patronising statement, what sheer arrogance and snobbery.
It reminds me of the coloured American who turned up at a polling station at eight o'clock in the morning. A polling booth attendant said, "Good morning, Mr. Brown". The man turned and walked away. He continued to walk to the corner of the street and back to the door of the polling station, but always turned away, until two minutes to eight at night. Then he went into the polling station, cast his vote and came out. Someone said to him, "Why did you cast your vote at two minutes to eight when you were here just after eight this morning?" The man replied, "Yes, sir, I know sir, but it is nice to hear ' Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown ' all day. I know that at two minutes past eight it will be, It is that damned nigger again '."
The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), when answering a debate at a Conservative Party Conference, said:It is probably true that there are enough cars and no disadvantage to either side.He then went on to destroy the whole case of the resolution, and tonight he stands up in order to restore himself in the eyes of the Conservatives.
At the 1955 Conference, the proposer of a resolution asking for the abolition 1024 of Section 88 came from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye). Again it was patently clear why the Conservatives wanted the abolition of this Section. It was because their candidate was narrowly defeated by a majority of 193. All this talk of high-flown, altruistic ideals in wanting to provide transport to get people to the polls is so much poppycock, sheer hypocrisy and sanctimonious humbug.
The same thing happened at the Conference in 1956. Again, a resolution was moved by a representative of Gorton, Manchester, where my hon. Friend has a majority of some 200 or 300.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) made an excellent speech and made allegations not only about this Bill, which smacks of Tammany Hall, but about other matters to which he referred in relation to finance, "Mr. Cube" and "Mr. Steel" and the insurance companies which had been spending lavish sums of money on advertising in the newspapers.
What is the evidence of interference with the liberty of the subject to express himself in newspapers? The evidence comes from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who tried to interfere with what the editor of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard had to say. This is the sort of thing that is going on throughout the country, and it must be stopped. I hope that hon. Members on this side of the House will dig in their toes, go into the country and expose the Government for what they are doing—cheating, as Robert Burns so very well expressed it when he said, "They are practising their tricks and caprices in order to cheat the people."
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I do not propose to follow all the points made by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), but I propose to deal with his suggestion that it is improper for the Government to implement resolutions passed at the Conservative annual conference.
I think this comes very badly from a member of the Socialist Party. 1 have always understood that when a resolution is passed at the Socialist Party conference it becomes holy writ and that the 1025 unfortunate leader of the party has to do his best to put it into his policy statement at the subsequent General Election. I remember the conference in 1945 when the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)—I am sorry he is not here today, but I understand that he is ill—forced the Labour Party, against the wishes of its leaders, to agree to the nationalisation of certain industries, and I may say that we have never recovered from that disaster.
The worst remark of the evening was made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) when he referred to the Government "jerrymandering with the constitution". I well remember the debates which took place in 1948, and if there was not jerrymandering with the constitution then I should like to know what jerrymandering is. Seventeen seats were pushed in to get seventeen extra Socialist Members into the House, and at the subsequent review by the Boundary Commission they were thrown out again. That was really jerrymandering.
Before dealing with my detailed criticisms of the Opposition's case, it would be as well if I considered what lay behind the Bill. Its aim is to amend a Measure which was introduced in 1948 and which certainly deserves amending. That was one of the most misleading Measures ever introduced. I draw the attention of hon. Members to the Preamble of that Act, which says that it gives effect to most of the recommendations of the Final Report of the Speaker's Conference of 1944, Cmd. 6543.
That is a most misleading statement. It indicates agreement between the parties and that the Measure implements the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. That is not true. I draw the attention of the House to the letter sent by Mr. Speaker to the Prime Minister at that time, July, 1944, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). In an appendix to that letter, the Prime Minister's attention was drawn to four resolutions of the Conference which were rejected. One of them was that there should be a limitation on the number of motor cars which were available at a General Election.
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, although it has already been given and the right hon. Member would have heard it had he been present instead of being elsewhere to check some typing. The voting was: Ayes 14, Noes 15.
It is monstrous that when we introduce a Bill to rectify what we think is an injustice, hon. Members opposite should say that they have never introduced a Measure of this sort about which there was not general agreement. There was not general agreement in 1948.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. Member will find that this Section was put in by the House and was not part of the original Bill.
§ Mr. Williams
It was not included as an Amendment by the House, but I will explain the position later, since the right hon. Member's memory is obviously at fault on this point.
The attempt in 1948 to fool about with the constitution was disgraceful. In his speech on the Second Reading of that Measure, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford put the position very clearly. The point was made by the Labour Government of that day that the Speaker's Conference could not bind succeeding Parliaments. My right hon. Friend said:It is quite true that nothing can bind a Parliament. Every Parliament is entirely free to behave like a gentleman or like a cad; every Parliament is entirely free to behave honestly or like a crook. Such are the sovereign rights of this august assembly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 864.]What was done then gives us ample reason for introducing this amendment to the law today.
To reply to the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire; the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) introduced a new Clause in Committee. That was a very strange Clause. It said:It shall be a statutory duty of the returning officer in a parliamentary or local government election to provide transport facilities, if available, to and from the polling station for persons entitled to vote and who in the opinion of the said returning officer may owing to a casual illness be prevented from recording their vote unless means of transport were available …Of course, one had to notify the polling officer in time. If one were taken ill, 1027 with a fractured ankle or something of the sort, at the last moment, there would be no hope of getting transport. There was no mention of how the returning officer was to get motor cars, whether he was to hire them, requisition them, or obtain Army transport.
The Clause was rejected by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was then Home Secretary, as being unworkable. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would try to introduce another Clause on Report strictly to limit the use of motor cars at Elections. The then Home Secretary brought forward his proposals on Report. That was the worst dog's breakfast I have ever seen, but it is now substantially the law. What the law means has never been clear, and there was bitter controversy on this issue during the passage of the Measure.
The then Attorney-General had to be called in to give his opinion. He said:There may well be people … who use their motor cars on Election day in the way the hon. Member suggests, and who are serenely indifferent as to the way in which their passengers vote and do not mind at all which way those passengers vote.… In that case, they would not be caught by this Clause."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 115.]When I think that the Attorney-General of the day had to give that sort of advice to the Government, I am not surprised that Sir Hartley Shawcross has chucked in his hand. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is doing all right."] He was doing extremely well when he was a member of the Socialist Party.
It is no wonder that an interesting feature of the debates in 1948 was the attitude taken by certain hon. Members, especially Members of the Liberal Party—unfortunately, there are no Liberals present tonight. The Closure had to be applied to the debate on the Clause of the hon. Member for Bradford, East. The hon. Lady who is now the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who was then a Liberal, voted against the Closure, as did the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). On that issue they were in agreement.
On Report, when the Home Secretary's new Clause was introduced, the hon. Lady voted for it and the right hon. and learned Gentleman against it, thus main- 1028 taining that flexibility of approach which is so typical of the Liberal Party today. My right hon. and learned Friend the present Attorney-General, who was taking a leading part for the then Opposition, moved an Amendment to decrease the number of voters per car from 1,500 to 500 for rural areas. In the subsequent Division, the hon. Lady supported the Opposition, that is to say, she wanted a reduction, although she had supported the Government's new Clause first. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not vote—I suppose that he was outside taking instructions from someone else. The next Amendment proposed a similar reduction for urban constituencies. The hon. Lady supported the Opposition, and so did the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
That reminds me of the story of the late right hon. Leopold Amery, the father of my hon. Friend the present Under-Secretary of State for War, when he referred to the policy of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin as a policy of riding two horses at once galloping in opposite directions, which, he said, was impossible. With the 1948 Bill, the Liberal Party was riding at least four or five horses. I shall be interested to learn the attitude taken by the hon. Lady tonight. My bet is that she will go straight into the Lobby to which the Opposition Whips direct her and will certainly not vote as she did in 1948.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has already referred to the increase in the number of motor cars in the country. He referred to the great increase which has taken place since 1931.
§ Mr. Williams
I imagine that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) has more than one car. He probably has four, too. There is no need to pick on my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. My hon. Friend pointed out that in 1931 there was only one car in the country for each twenty-seven electors, whereas today there is one car for eight electors.
One of the most appalling features of the present law is that it is so easy to get round it.
§ Mr. Williams
As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there have been twenty prosecutions, eighteen of them in respect of the Socialists and two of them in respect of the Conservatives. I suppose that means that there must be plenty of Socialists Trying to get round the law. I believe that one way of getting round it is to take someone to the poll without knowing which way he will vote. The Attorney-General has to prove that you knew which way your passenger would vote and that you took him to the poll to ensure that he would vote for a certain candidate.
I understand that another system which has been tried is for an exhibition of paintings to be given in a house near to the polling station. Any car can take a person to the exhibition. At the back door of the house where the exhibition is held there is a car which runs a shuttle service backwards and forwards to the polling booth. I am assured that that is perfectly legal and has been done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Has the hon. Member done it?"] I have never employed that method. I represent an urban constituency, and the number of cars which I have available is roughly the number that I would use whether any increase were allowed under the law or not. The difficulties are caused for hon. Members like my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, who has an enormous constituency and who suffers very severely from the restrictions.
After the 1955 Election an inquiry was conducted by the Conservative Party from 178 constituency agents to see whether they considered that there had been any infringement of the law in the course of the Election. The report which was sent in to the Conservative Party revealed that there was evidence of the law having been broken on sixty-three occasions by Socialists, on nine occasions by Conservatives, on six occasions by Liberals and on forty-seven occasions by both or all parties. In fifty-three cases there was no evidence of the law having been broken.
We cannot permit the Statute Book to be cluttered up with laws that are broken as often as that. It is time that the law was framed in such a way that people can respect it and conform to it. For that reason I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
May I ask a question before the hon. Member sits down? Will he agree that if the number of cars at Elections is increased, they should be put in the charge of the presiding officer and the presiding officer, not the parties concerned, should control them?
§ Mr. Williams
I do not think that that would meet the case at all. The returning officer would have no right to make people lend their cars. After all, they are private property. If such a provision were to be applied, the cars would have to be provided by the returning officer. I am surprised that the hon. Member did not make that point when the right hon. Member for South Shields was Home Secretary. The right hon. Member turned that suggestion down flat, said that it was unworkable and introduced his own Clause.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)
The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) certainly made an interesting speech. I say that sincerely. But the important point is that not a single one of his statements justifies the introduction of the Bill. That comment applies to all the speeches made from the Conservative benches today. We have heard arguments about elderly people and about the evasions which take place on election days and we have heard a number of legal or pseudo-legal arguments.
I want to say a few simple but perhaps blunt words. They amount to this: surely the reason that this Bill is being introduced is that there has been a demand by the Tory Party and an expression of opinion by the overwhelming majority of the Tory Conference that they want something which will provide an advantage to the Tory Party. They have said, "We have the money, we have the cars, therefore we want to change the law in order that our prospects of being returned at the next Election may be enhanced." That is the simple story. Why should the Tories try to evade it? it is nonsense for the Home Secretary to say that the Bill will benefit the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
I agree that it is humbug. This Bill arises simply out of the gratitude of members of the Tory Party, gratitude on the part of the landlords who have had their rents decontrolled—gratitude for the increased rents which they are drawing and will continue to draw—gratitude on the part of the brewers who have 50 per cent. derating on their productive and 20 per cent. derating on their retail establishments, and gratitude on the part of the dividend strippers for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's agreement that there should be no retrospective legislation. This is a sordid piece of typical Tory class legislation. I know very well that a number of different reasons have been given in the House tonight why the Bill should be introduced.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Can my hon. Friend say why the Conservative Party were ashamed to put the Bill into the Queen's Speech?
§ Mr. Wheeldon
I am afraid that I cannot explain that. The electors will draw the obvious conclusion.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
That is probably a reason they had in mind, but of course it is impossible to fathom all the factors which guide them.
The first reason given by the Home Secretary in opening the debate was that the law was unsatisfactory in practice and that a number of offences had been committed under the Section. I am not very old in my membership of the House, but I am fairly old in experience in the conduct of elections. I have been connected with elections for many years. I was a little surprised to hear what the Home Secretary and other hon. Members opposite said about evasions of the election laws. There are evasions, I know, but I think it untrue that they are on the scale which has been suggested. If we consider elections over many years, we are bound to accumulate a large number of examples of evasions of the law; the election text books are full of them. Nevertheless, I think it is an exaggeration to put the case in the way in which it has been put by some hon. Members today.
1032 The point was made by the Home Secretary that in these days of universal car ownership everything should be all right. That is stuff and nonsense. There has been talk about 4½ million cars. I believe that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said there was one car for every four families. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has four cars."] Even in that relationship, one has to remember that cars are not spread evenly among families, but the great majority of them are owned by those at the top of the scale where the money is. How many electors in my constituency have cars? I should say there are not 5 per cent. and I am giving a figure which, if tested, would prove to be on the high side. That applies in the main to working-class constituencies throughout the country.
Even if more and more working-class people are becoming owners of cars—which is all to the good and I am glad they are—they are not in the same position as members of the Tory Party. There is the expense in the first place and there is the question of petrol. Quite a substantial amount of petrol would be consumed in touring on election day. There is the question of time off and of permission being given. That is not always easily obtainable from employers. These things are by no means on the level suggested by some hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Is not my hon. Friend making a mistake? Would not these working-class car owners who could not get time off to drive the cars themselves send their chauffeurs?
§ Mr. Wheeldon
I shall be coming to the question of chauffeurs in a moment. With all this increase in the number of cars, no matter who the owners may be, it must be remembered that in the majority of working-class constituencies the Labour Party candidate has difficulty in getting his quota of cars under the present arrangements. In an ordinary constituency, of average size, 20, 22 or 23 motor cars would be allowed. I wonder how many Labour candidates are able to get 23 cars—not so many. We always have been and always will be very considerably handicapped in that respect compared with Tory candidates. The Tories are not under disabilities such as I have mentioned.
1033 If the Bill is passed we shall revert in very large measure to the state of affairs which obtained a few years ago. Those who are familiar with election practice and election law will know of some of the cases which came before the election courts. One which came most vividly to my mind in connection with the conveyance of electors to the poll was known as the Hartlepools case. In that case, in 1910, a Marmaduke Furness possessed a great number of horses and carriages and decided to assist his father who was the candidate in the Hartlepools division. He hired a special train and took his horses and carriages to the election, fed them, and paid men to look after them. Someone thought that a little rough and had the matter decided by the courts, but the courts said—as they said in similar cases—that the sort of thing was perfectly lawful. Horses and carriages have now largely disappeared, but motor cars have taken their place. The judge in that case said:with the development of motor cars the whole use of vehicles at elections has become an oppressive use largely favouring the rich at the expense of the poorer man.A good many years have gone by since 1910, but, if the Bill is passed, we shall be going back very largely to that state of affairs. What will there be to prevent any rich man bringing 100 or 200 cars to a constituency? There will be nothing at all. He could bring in chauffeurs to drive them and it would be perfectly lawful. We should not overlook the fact that as the law stands at present a person can hire cars for his own use on polling day and allow the candidate to have the use of other cars. That is another matter which has been before the courts and no one has said that it is unlawful, so that hiring indirectly would be possible if the Bill passed. Then we should have a reversion to what I believe were the bad old days.
It must be within the recollection of many hon. Members that this sort of thing happened in their elections. Take the case of Birmingham and the constituency of Edgbaston, where it is possible to get every Conservative voter to the polling station by 5 o'clock in the afternoon because their houses are about four to the acre, with the exception of a very insignificant portion of the constituency. The number of motor cars 1034 available in that constituency is tremendous. Before the 1948 provision was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), the moment when cars had finished serving one constituency they flooded to adjoining constituencies. I have known an occasion when at least 100 cars have been brought to another constituency at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the evening. That sort of thing will happen again if the Bill goes through. It gives a completely unfair advantage to the candidate who happens to be the possessor of wealth in the form of cars.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
That point was made earlier by one of my hon. Friends and it is perfectly germane to this discussion.
The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) spoke of the difficulty about polling stations in rural areas. I have not had a great deal of experience of rural areas. Therefore, I bow to the opinion of those who have had such experience, but there are certain facts which are fairly self-evident. Last night I did a little arithmetic and, if my arithmetic is correct, I think the House will be interested in the results. The hon. Member for Kidderminster—and almost every hon. Member opposite who has spoken in the debate has agreed—said that people in rural districts were having a raw deal; they did not have facilities; cars were not there and they were prevented from voting. If a state of affairs such as that actually obtained would it not be reflected in the number of people who voted at elections?
§ Mr. Wheeldon
An hon. Member opposite says "Yes." If so, we should find that the number of people who polled in a county division would be smaller than the number who voted in a borough division. What are the facts? The percentage of people who vote at elections in county divisions is higher, although not very much, than the percentage of those who poll in the boroughs. The hon. Member for Kidderminster spoke about 1035 Scotland, which, with its wide open spaces, would surely reflect the truth of this matter, if it is to reflect itself at all. In Scotland, polling in county constituencies has been 1 per cent. higher than in the burghs. These facts dispose of the contention that the rural constituencies are having a raw deal because of this restriction.
§ Mr. Mackie
I can supply the hon. Member with evidence from one Scottish rural constituency, my own, where the poll has dropped over the last three General Elections. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite are laughing too soon. The poll dropped in actual numbers, but my majority was bigger last time than it had ever been before. The fall in numbers shows the extreme difficulty that many people in this constituency have had in going to the poll. I hope that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) will accept that illustration in the good spirit in which I offer it.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
I quite understand that the hon. Gentleman's constituency is—I will not say "peculiar"—difficult, and that the hon. Gentleman has had some little trouble there. No one on this side of the House has said that there are not difficulties in rural areas, but we have gone on to say that those difficulties can be overcome not by increasing the number of cars available but by following the provisions of the same Act of Parliament, the Representation of the People Act, 1949, and securing additional polling stations.
It is the duty of the authority to provide a sufficient number of polling stations. The Act lays down that either a local authority or a group of thirty people may make representations to the Home Secretary on this point. I speak from personal experience. I have never made any representation about the need for additional polling stations which has not been met. If there is a need in any county or rural constituency for additional polling stations, the need can be met. It will be entirely wrong to abolish the present provisions and to pass this Bill.
At least from 1883, when this House passed the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, it has been the object of this House, within broad limits, to con- 1036 duct elections on a fair basis so as to ensure as far as possible that a wealthy candidate shall not have an advantage over his less wealthy opponent. That is good. Democracy must behave fairly in these matters if it is to be democracy at all. In spite of the increase in the number of cars owned by the working class, there is no justification, even today, for a Measure like this, which is an attempt by the Tory Party to enhance its chances of being returned and to make sure that the wealth which resides in that party is used for party political purposes. That is the object of the Bill, and this House should oppose it. When that object becomes known in the country the Bill will receive the same condemnation there as it has received from hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I would begin by saying that the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) at least appeared to deal with the Bill. It was in marked contrast to some of the other Opposition speeches, which, although strictly within the rules of order, wandered over a very wide field.
We are discussing whether or not a particular Section of a particular Act should be repealed, yet we have been subjected, for instance, to widespread allegations of corruption and of failure to publish accounts—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order. The relevance of matters which have been mentioned by my hon. Friends has been raised three or four times with the Chair, and the Chair has ruled that what has been said was in order. Is the hon. Member for Torquay now in order, by these tedious repetitions, in returning to these matters and thereby reflecting on the conduct of the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I do not think the hon. Member for Torquay was making reflections on the conduct of the Chair. I thought he was pointing out that some of the points raised in debate were not closely connected with the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bennett
Indeed, I took the trouble, out of respect for the Chair, to say that the Chair had laid down certain Rulings which ought to be observed. Mr. Deputy-Speaker has now ruled again on 1037 this matter, and so I propose to continue my speech. I was saying that, while remaining within the strict rules of order as laid down by the Chair, this debate had wandered over a wide field to subjects which have little or no direct connection with this Measure.
Most of us came to the House today thinking that we should hear a closely reasoned debate why Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, should not be repealed. Instead, I repeat, we have been subjected to a wide range of accusations, comprising anything from corruption to misuse of wealth. Hon. Members opposite have even gone back to the seventeenth century to get examples which might be assumed to be arguments against the Bill. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Small Heath, as I said, at least appeared to the listener to be dealing with the Section which has been under discussion. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bennett
If the hon. Member, who has sat there constantly muttering, likes to get up and make his own speech later on, he may have the chance. I shall not give way to him, so he might as well calm down again.
A blind spot in the arguments which have been advanced from the Opposition benches has been that while they did everything they could to show there were possible advantages in the present electoral system to the Tory Party, they neglected to point out corresponding advantages which accrue to the Socialist Party. We did not hear a word about the political levy, for instance, and of the 'massive sums of money, in the form of fighting funds, placed at the disposal of the Socialist Party by the trade unions out of the contributions of members, including Conservatives and others who may not be supporters of the Labour Party. [Interruption.] It is obvious from the reception that my remarks are receiving that it is very unwelcome to the party opposite that these and other facts should be given the prominence in the debate they deserve.
From the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who opened the debate for the Opposition, we heard a savage attack, with which we are quite familiar, about the personality of the Prime Minister and the esteem in 1038 which he is presently held by the British population. We are not at all surprised at this. In fact, it is the best possible tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that on every conceivable occasion of debate the Opposition do their best to try to make personal attacks on him in order to try fruitlessly to reduce him to the stature of their own leaders—an effort in which they will never succeed—
§ Mr. H. Hynd
On a point of order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Although the hon. Member has not yet mentioned motor cars, can you reassure him that ail these other things are in order?
§ Mr. Bennett
I am heartened very much by the reassurance that I am still within the rules of order as laid down by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, so I propose to continue on exactly the same lines.
Right from the opening remarks of he right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick we have had a continuous series of attacks on the Prime Minister—some of them rather personally offensive. We have also had considerable tributes paid, as I understood them—though rather malicious—to the efforts of some advertising firm because of the effectiveness of its propaganda on behalf of the Conservative Party.
I do not know what the constant mention of that firm's name —which I had not heard before—was intended to convey, but I should have thought that it was a welcome tribute to its efficiency. I would only add that, however efficient it may be, it would, indeed, have a difficult job to make similar very effective propaganda on behalf of the leadership of the Socialist Party, if only because it would find it rather hard to pick on one out of two or more, to specify as to the future leader.
The general impression conveyed by hon. Members opposite throughout the debate is that of a party that, until only a few months or weeks ago, was quite, confident of winning the next Election. They are now scared that they will not do se and are trying, in advance, to find any excuse they can think of to hide the 1039 true reason for the defeat they will suffer. The real reason is that they no longer have the confidence of any substantial element of the population.
All this talk of corruption, of card sharping, the bringing in of irrelevant speeches made by people in the past, are symptomatic of a party that has lost confidence in its own future. A party that felt certain to win the next Election would not worry about twenty or thirty cars in a constituency, and the way in which hon. Members opposite are now behaving gives us fresh confidence that they are rattled.
We have heard a great deal today about the advantages of a so-called rich party. We have heard that having more cars, more wealth and more backers on one's side will win elections. I was recently in the United States, where the allegation has been made for a long time past that the Republican Party, because of its additional wealth, its additional possibilities on T.V., the number of cars that its supporters possess, would and must secure a majority for that party. If hon. Members opposite really think that being the so-called rich party can, in fact, win elections, I advise them to read today's newspapers and see the results of the elections in America. In actual fact, of course, elections are not won or lost as a result of there being twenty, twenty-two or twenty-four cars to a constituency.
Turning now to Section 88 itself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I felt like interrupting on similar lines earlier on this afternoon, when so much that was far removed from the subject was spoken, but I certainly took it a good deal more quietly than hon. Members opposite have taken my general remarks.
We had an extremely convincing speech by the Leader of the House explaining why it was not only right but sensible to alter the provisions of the Act by repealing Section 88. When all the party gunpowder on the benches opposite has been expended, I am sure that hon. Members occupying them know perfectly well that this Section has been a farce in practice for a considerable time past.
If I might answer the charge levelled that this is a deliberate piece of Tory engineering to get an advantage for themselves by tabling a Measure that is designed to help the Conservatives, I would 1040 again remind the other side that this provision was put in only as a last-minute thought in the course of the transaction of the main Bill after Second Reading. It was not supported in the all-party Speaker's Conference that preceded the introduction of the Bill, nor was it supported at another all-party conference—which the Leader of the House has mentioned—at which, again, Labour Party organisers were represented. This was a last-minute Measure, adopted unilaterally by the other side, and in now repealing it we are not contravening anything traditional in Election practice but removing an attempt at political discrimination made by the party opposite.
As a matter of fact, this has always been rather a futile Section, because it really does not amount to much in any case. First of all, if one does take a voter in a registered or even an unregistered car, there is no guarantee as to which way he will vote. Although, too, one can make the point that one hon. Member may have one or more cars—and it is rather dangerous to raise that here, because we on this side can think of one or two right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are not exactly unblessed with worldly goods, and so I thought the remark made on that score was an unworthy one—we know that cars are very widely distributed today, and there is no possible way anyhow of knowing which way a transported voter will in fact vote.
I do not believe for a minute that this Measure will give any advantage to either the Conservative Party or to the Labour Party. I do not think that it will have any effect, partywise, at all, and I believe that that view is shared by many hon. Members opposite. To me, the overwhelming reason for getting rid of this Section is, as the Leader of the House has said, that it is open to widespread almost inescapable abuse.
When a car drives up to the polling station, it is impossible in any circumstances whatsoever to know whether the people in it do or do not belong to the household of the person driving the vehicle. Hon. Members know perfectly well that it would be almost impossible for any law administrator to see this law carried out. That is the chief and fundamental reason for getting rid of it. It is completely wrong, within the constitution. 1041 to keep a law so open to abuse that it puts a premium on the dishonest people of any party. That is what the present system has, in fact, done—[Interruption.] Of course, there are other laws that could be liable to the same attack and, within my own limited sphere of political activity, I have always said that any law that is constantly abused and is incapable of being enforced should not be maintained on the Statute Book—
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Member gets up but he will not trap me. I have no intention of giving way. He must not seek to receive courtesies that he does not give.
In order to show that this abuse is widespread, I want to quote an example that occurred to me, not in my last by-election at Torquay but in the General Election, when I lost at Reading—
§ Mr. Bennett
How silly! The hon. Member would not think that I was capable of "sour grapes" if he remembered that in the result I moved from Reading, a marginal seat, to Torquay, where I live. So sour grapes is the last fruit I could be accused of possessing. At the time, Reading being very much a marginal seat, a large number of newspapers, bath international and national, came to Reading to observe the contest. As it turned out, there were a couple of hundred votes in the result. The election was very close, and it was one which these papers wanted to observe. An American newspaper came down and investigated at first hand the conduct of the election at Reading. This was the Wall Street Journal, and a full report of the election at Reading appeared in the issue of 24th May, 1955. The Wall Street Journal, as a result of the time which the newspaper's reporters spent in Reading, said:Thousands of voters have moved to new neighbourhoods since the last electoral register was prepared and will have to go across town to their old wards to vote. All these people have been carefully spotted and preparations made to haul them in autos. Under strict British electors laws, each party in Reading is limited to use of twenty-four such cars. But Chunky 'Kim' Mackay"—whom some hon. Members may remember here— 1042who is masterminding the Mikardo campaign says Labour will throw 50 or 60 autos into the job.They'll get around the law by dropping passengers a block away from the polls.In view of that statement to the Press, which was never contradicted by the Labour master-mind at this election to which I am referring, it clearly reveals that abuse has gone on.
Because I have produced this example, it does not mean that I do not suspect that some Conservative voters have not been similarly guilty in the past of picking up neighbours and making more than one visit to the polls. We all know that this has happened. I do not think one hon. Member could honestly say that no supporter of his at the last Election had not broken this law by taking other than members of his own household to the polls. If hon. Members in their heart of hearts can say that they believe there has been no instance of abuse in their constituencies, they are even more naive —[Interruption.] The hon. Member is not only naive, he is so fundamentally stupid that he would hardly know what goes on at an Election. I am making an exception in his case.
§ Mr. Lewis
On a point of order. The hon. Member has made a challenge that hon. Members here have deliberately flouted and broken the law. He challenged us. I want to be on record that neither I, nor, I am sure, any of my election agents or workers deliberately flouted the law as the hon. Member said he did.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is not a point of order for me, but the lion. Member for Torquay (Mr. Bennett) should not call the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) stupid, and I must ask him to withdraw
§ Mr. Bennett
If you say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that "stupid" is not the right adjective to use about the hon. Gentleman, obviously I will withdraw it. Regarding the other point which you say is not a point of order, I should like to repeat for the record that I did not say that any hon. Member here had deliberately flouted the law. I said that there was not in my belief one hon. Member in this Chamber who could honestly say for certain that no supporter who voted for him had strictly observed 1043 the law and not gone in a car other than as a member of his household. That is what I said, and that is what I repeat, and it is quite different from accusing an hon. Member of deliberately flouting the law.
However, having endeavoured not only to deal with the wide-ranging attacks that have been made on the Government but also to come back to Section 88, in representing the Conservative Party, I am perfectly happy to leave the judgment of this Bill not only to the House but to the people of the country, who will not adopt for a moment this silly nonsense about corruption and gerrymandering but will realise that this measure is a sensible and practical way to bring the electoral law into repute once again.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) divided his speech into two parts. He will forgive me for saying that the first part would hardly have done justice to a preparatory school debating society. It was a mere knock-about, hitting at other people and sides and his opponents, which did very little credit to himself or, in my submission, to this House.
If I may be forgiven for appearing to pontificate in this matter, the other part of his speech was undoubtedly an attempt to deal with a problem which every one of us regards as serious, namely, that of having on the Statute Book a Statute which is incapable of being enforced. I do not think there is anybody on this side of the House, and I should very much doubt whether there is anybody on the other side, who would wish to have on the Statute Book such a Statute; but if the elimination of such a Statute is the reason the Government have brought forward this Bill, then they could have done it in a very much more effective and open manner. They could quite easily have done away with the limitation upon cars which was brought in by Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act and they could have replaced it with a means of ensuring that every elector who could not go to the poll under his own steam, so to speak, was given the means of going to the poll by an impartial authority.
Many suggestions have been made for achieving that end—mobile polling stations, for instance. It may very well 1044 be that some of them were not entirely, 100 per cent., practicable. At any rate, some effort could have been made in that direction by the Government had that been their object. I would be the last person to claim that I was a good House of Commons man; but there is no distinction which I, and I believe everyone else in the House would sooner have, than that of being said to be a good House of Commons man. One of the big elements in being a good House of Commons man is that one should do nothing which would bring the Parliamentary institution into disrepute.
Even at the risk of being thought sanctimonious, I say that in the last few years I have been greatly perturbed by a number of things which have been said and done by people in high positions in this House which have reflected very little credit upon it. We should not take ourselves or our parties too seriously, but it is carrying things a bit far when people come to the Dispatch Box in the name of Her Majesty's Government and speak quite obviously with their tongues in their cheeks. One such person was the Leader of the House this afternoon and it is not the first time that he has done it.
The attitude seems to be, "It does not matter what I say here however much people here know that it is untrue, or that it is only half a truth. It will be all right. In my case, it will be reported faithfully in the 99 per cent. of the Press which supports my party. Therefore, it will be all right and the other side will go with very scant reporting indeed. The probability is "—so the argument must run in the minds of people who do these things—"that we shall get away with it". Now, it may be that for the time being they will get away with it, but that sort of conduct will not redound to the credit of this House.
Looking round the world, looking upon one of the Parliaments that we have established in a now independent country, and seeing the way in which a party which happens to be in power with a large majority is cynically, apparently, using the forms of democracy while all the time taking steps which will ensure that it remains permanently in power, one cannot help but wish that nobody in this Parliament should give even the slightest suspicion that such a thing was being done here.
1045 I know that the Bill that we are discussing tonight is only a very small drop in the ocean, only small beer compared with some of the diabolical steps, as I would think, that have been taken elsewhere. It is, however, a small step in a very undesirable tendency towards making it appear to be all right for a Government, apparently respecting constitutional forms, to do things by the legislative machinery when they happen to be in power which are of advantage to their own party and to the detriment of the other party. The test should be the national, not the party interest.
I am quite certain that everybody on these Labour benches would like to see a 100 per cent. poll in every election. We are firm believers in Parliamentary democracy. We want to see it successful and we are particularly jealous of the working of our Parliamentary democracy in this democracy, because so many people are constantly looking towards it as a model which should be followed. We want to see the maximum number of voters enabled to go to the poll.
It may well be—I am perfectly prepared to admit it—that the limitation upon cars which the Labour Party introduced was not the right way to do things, but can anyone seriously, otherwise than with his tongue in his cheek, say that the Bill which we are discussing tonight is the way to remedy the matter? It is, quite obviously, a Bill brought in for party advantage and I very much hope that the House will reject it.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) began his speech by attacking my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett). The hon. and learned Member said that my hon. Friend's speech had begun by a kind of prep. school knockabout turn which cast no credit upon this House. If the hon. and learned Member reads my hon. Friend's speech tomorrow and compares it with the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), he will find that my hon. Friend kept very closely to the order of the speech of the right hon. Member for Smethwick. Indeed, his speech was designed largely to rebut the points made by the right hon. Gentleman.
1046 If my hon. Friend was making a speech that appeared to be a knockabout turn, how on earth can we describe the speech of the right hon. Member for Smethwick, which hardly touched upon the subject of Section 88 of the 1948 Act? In a speech of something like 40 minutes, the right hon. Gentleman spent barely 10 minutes on the subject of cars.
It is amazing that, according to hon. Members opposite, it is always highly laudable to attack the Tory Government or Tory Members and to suggest that they are being insincere and that everything they do is merely done to gain party advantage, but that it is obviously quite wrong for us ever to hit back. It is quite wrong, apparently, for us ever to suggest that we find the species of cant to which we have been subjected this afternoon not so much sanctimonious as nauseating and smug. It is peculiarly nauseating when it comes from the party which passed the 1948 Act, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) reminded the House earlier, was ostensibly designed to enact the proposals of the 1944 Speaker's Conference. The 1948 Act set to work, as far as it dared, to put the Labour Party in a position where it would be more likely to win the 1950 General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The next thing that party did was to abolish the university seats—
§ Mr. Freeth
—apparently because the university electors were too intelligent to return Socialist Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "No. Why not restore them?"] If hon. Members will admit that we are right to bring forward this Bill today then doubtless my right hon. Friend will bring forward another to restore the university franchise at a later date.
Following the abolition of the university franchise against the agreement of the Speaker's Conference in 1944, hon. Members opposite refused to accept the recommendations of the Boundary Commission relating to the boundaries of seats. They added a substantial number of seats to those which the Boundary Commission recommended. 1047 Indeed, it is interesting to note that those seats which they did either invent or alter have all in the recent Report of the Boundary Commission and in its recommendations been abolished or put back as they were before. I believe it is greatly to the credit of the Tory Party, and something which the Socialist Party when in power never dared do, to have accepted the recommendations of the Boundary Commission lock, stock and barrel, because only that Commission's Reports can honestly be described as being absolutely impartial and irrelevant to party considerations.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
When the hon. Member is talking about what happened to seats under the 1948 Act, will he remember that the Labour Government wiped out 20 seats in London which were Labour seats?
§ Mr. Freeth
There are, I think, limits even to the degrees of charlatanism of a Labour Government.
Section 88 was, of course, inserted into the Measure by the will of the House. I forget which hon. Member opposite said that that Clause was put into the Bill by the will of the House. It is a strange way to describe the insertion into a Bill of a new Clause against which the Opposition voted in its entirety. That Clause was instituted against the wishes of the Opposition of the day. It was foisted upon the House by the Government of the day, who used their majority to put that Clause into the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) asked why there was the invidious distinction—I think those were his words—between local government elections and Parliamentary Elections in this connection. Of course, the original Clause, which had been moved in April of that year by the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), had been designed to apply equally to local government elections and to Parliamentary Elections. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), when Home Secretary, said it was impossible in local government elections to arrange for the registration and the fair allocation of motor vehicles to drive people to the polls.
So we have had a situation for the last ten years or so in which there have been no restrictions upon cars at the local 1048 elections; and yet, as the pendulum of politics has swung, we have seen the Labour Party gain control in boroughs and lose control in boroughs, gain control in local authorities of every kind, and lose control, as the political pendulum swung.
We have never heard that the Labour Party lost control of a certain borough or a certain county or a rural district or an urban district because it had not enough cars. Members of the party opposite have always claimed that they have won on their merits and that the people were willing to go and vote for them. We have had a situation which has worked very well in local government elections and I suggest that the time has now come for us to revert to some kind of reasonable system in Parliamentary Elections as well.
In 1948 the hon. Member for Bradford, East was talking about the richer candidate, and it is now always being said that the richer party will benefit most by the repeal of Section 88. It is worth remembering that that Section is a very strict Section indeed in the matter of the registering of cars. The owner of the car can drive it all day, in which case he cannot go to work that day. He has either to be on duty for fourteen hours and probably be a danger to other road users at the end of the day, or he must he prepared to have a succession of drivers to take over his car and drive quickly back and forth to the polling stations. Thy very strict rules in the 1948 Act governing the use of motor vehicles are rules which militate against people who fear that their cars might be damaged or be badly driven by others, people who are unable to get away from work for the whole Election day, although a number of them might be able to get away for a short period.
Then we come to the idea that if I offer somebody a lift on polling day and the car is covered with stickers and flags I am in some way exercising persuasion over that person. The Labour Party mutt be very unsure of itself. I thought it was unsure of itself today because it decided that it had to devote all this time in debating the Bill to trying to throw mud at the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Freeth
That may well be shown to be non-existent in the end, exactly like 1049 the scares that we had at the Bank Rate Tribunal.
I am a bachelor, and if I had wooed and won a fair lady and was going to marry her I think that I should feel exceedingly dissatisfied with myself if she ran off with somebody before the wedding merely because she had been offered a lift in his car. That is what the party opposite is suggesting. It is suggesting that the voters whom hon. Members opposite have wooed and won are prepared to renounce their party's charms and vote Tory merely for a lift in a car. Flow do they know such things? Hon. Members opposite are no more in the small booths of the polling station when people put a cross on the ballot forms than I am. When I pick up Mrs. Jones in my car she may say that she will vote Conservative, or Liberal or Labour, but when she gets inside the polling booth who knows how she will vote? She knows perfectly well that the ballot is secret and that she can vote how she likes.
I want the Section repealed not so much in order that I can take more people to the polls who will vote Tory but so that I can take more people who will vote, because on this side of the House we happen to believe that the more people vote the more people there will be who will vote Tory. Therefore, any idea of restricting the number of people who vote is something which is to the disadvantage of the Tory Party. If hon. Members ask me whether this Bill will help the Tory Party, I will say that in so far as it increases the number of voters it must increase the vote of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Freeth
One peculiar suggestion made from time to time is the mobile polling station. It was suggested by an hon. Gentleman opposite that if we had mobile polling stations there would be no real problem in the rural areas. Frankly, that is the most utter nonsense to anybody who knows the rural areas. There might be a polling station in a village with fifty or a hundred voters, a nice compact community, to which everybody could get with ease. Very often, however, within the boundaries of the parish there are people living three or four miles from that polling station and it takes 1050 time to collect people from the outlying farms. In my division we have only forty cars and 60,000 electors, and it becomes difficult so to plan the cars so that they can cover the ground and be available in the major centres of population in the evening when people come from work.
It becomes excessively difficult in country areas where there are old people who are not well enough easily to walk to the polling station, and some doctors are not as sympathetic as they could be about signing the form for people to have a postal vote. Sometimes doctors do not automatically assume that anybody who does not feel well enough to go to vote should have a postal voting form. That is worth considering.
§ Mr. Awbery
Could not that position be met by giving the returning officer the power to engage as many cars as are necessary to bring to the poll people who are unable to walk? That would give no advantage to either party and it would enable all those people to go to the poll
§ Mr. Freeth
It would still be necessary to get a doctor's certificate. It is worth remembering that the suggestion about a returning officer running cars was made by the hon. Member for Bradford, East in April, 1948, and was rejected by his right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when he was Home Secretary. Let us also remember, when we are dealing with postal votes and the like, that the closing date for the reception of postal voting applications is some days before polling day, and that it is possible for people to fall ill in the interim.
If we were living in the nineteenth century I would be all in favour of limiting the excessive power of the rich, or however hon. Gentlemen opposite like to put it. But with the number of cars today there is, as we have heard time after time, one motor car for every eight voters, and if we include motor cycles, and so on, there is one car for every six voters. In other words, it is pretty well impossible for any political party not to be able to organise matters, and for people themselves not to be able to get lifts from their friends, for anybody who wants to be able to go to the poll, if there is a free movement of cars within the constituency and anybody has the right to give anybody else a lift.
1051 The point is not that we need restrictions because we have more cars, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have been arguing in a kind of Alice in Wonderland way earlier today; the point is that if we have plenty of cars we do not need restrictions. The whole aim in life is to get rid of restrictions and controls as soon as possible, so that people can live their own lives and organise their own lives in the way they want. That is what I work for, and that is why I am all for getting rid of this restriction. In 1945 there was one car for every twenty-two voters; now there is one for six, if we include motor cycles. Therefore, there are plenty of cars which can be sent round to take people to the poll. So people will be taken to the poll, and the more people who vote the better it will be.
Section 88 should be repealed because it is a bad law. It is a bad law because people do not understand it. They do not see the need for it and it seems nonsense to them. Somebody said to me, "Why should I on 1,500 days running be legally allowed to take my ox, my ass, my gardener and any neighbour of mine down to the village hall"—
§ Mr. Freeth
"—in the car and they can vote in parish council elections, rural district council elections and county council elections, and it is all legal, and yet on one day in every four or five years it becomes illegal for me to carry to the poll anybody who is not a member of my household?" If it is said that provided the car does not carry anything to show to which party the owner belongs it is legal, then nobody is able to fulfil that condition when they have been campaigning for some time.
The number of cars has been too small. I read today that in the Chichester by-election there is not even one car per polling station. If a car goes wrong on the morning of polling day it cannot be taken out of service and a substitute put into service. [HON. MEMBERS: "It can."] It cannot on polling day. It can only be done if something goes wrong with the car before polling day.
§ Mr. D. Howell
Is the hon. Member aware that, although one can use only up to the required number of cars at any 1052 one time, one can register as many as one wishes, so that a substitute is possible?
§ Mr. Freeth
What the hon. Member says is true as far as it goes. One can register as many cars as one likes, but from the time that one sets out on the morning of polling day with one's forty or so registered cars one cannot have a substitute. If one can in Birmingham, at all events it is not allowed in Hampshire. Therefore, the law seems to be in a peculiarly unsatisfactory state, and that is an extra argument for getting rid of it. To most people the law seems stupid and therefore they are perfectly prepared to connive in any small ways in which they believe it possible to evade it.
Surely we have moved away from the time when the Labour Party needed to shelter behind restrictions of this kind. I have been sent—I have not checked it, but I presume that the quotation is as written—an extract from the Chorley and District Times of 3rd June, 1955, which records Councillor P. Quinn, chairman of the divisional Labour Party, as saying:For the first time in the history of the Labour Party there were over one hundred cars and they had had to draw out of a hat in order to choose which car to use.According to my arithmetic, each candidate in the Chorley division could use thirty-two cars. To suggest that the Labour Party will not have sufficient cars is obviously nonsense. Let hon. Members opposite discard the sanctimonious and nauseating smugness about what they did in 1948 and admit that they played the party game for all they were worth and that we are now merely trying to put matters back on to a sensible basis.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
When referring to hon. Members on this side of the House the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) twice used the words "smugness" and "nauseating". I have never listened to anything more smug and nauseating than his reference to his picking up a Mrs. Jones. I can well imagine the number of Mrs. Jones's that he will see year in and year out—and always pass them by.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The hon. Member will never see them and the chauffeur will never see them, except on polling day. It would not matter whether there was a blizzard or a tropical thunderstorm; Mrs. Jones could stand about with her basket loaded or a kiddie in her arms and he would pass her by. But on polling day Mrs. Jones will be picked up, not because the hon. Member thinks she will vote Labour or that she will vote Tory but because he expects she is probably going to waste her vote. What humbug. This smugness and hypocrisy comes from a party which at a time when the unemployment problem in this country is growing week by week, can waste the time of this House with a footling Bill of this kind.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke said that this was a law which people did not understand; they did not see the need for it. What does he do? He says that the law has been broken. Therefore, we do not deal with the people who break the law because they are criminals; we abolish the law. That is marvellous. There is not a burglar, a prostitute, a gambler or a single criminal in this country who would not be delighted by his philosophy. Because we break the law and because it is difficult to catch us all, instead of strengthening the law, we abolish it.
This is perfectly in keeping, so far as Elections are concerned, with everything which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have ever stood for. They have never believed in a fair fight. We have only to read the history of Parliament to know how long they kept the workers out of the Parliamentary struggle when they did not believe in their having a vote at all. Every concession had to be wrung from them. They have never in their lives agreed that we ought to fight on a fair basis—a basis of equality. They have always wanted the scales weighted in their favour.
I wish that the Home Secretary had had the courage of the hon. Member for Basingstoke for he insinuated that this Bill should, in his opinion, be followed by one reinstating the university votes. In other words, he still believes that some people are so important that they ought to have two votes to other people's one. I suppose that when that has happened, he would reinstate or reintroduce the business vote. We would go back to that glorious stage in democracy when 1054 Tory money and Tory power ruled the country. What a mess was made of it and of the lives of the people who lived under that rule.
The Tory Party should begin to realise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) made perfectly clear, that this is now a grownup, intelligent democracy. It is a democracy which can only function provided that the vast majority of the industrial workers believe that it is a fair democracy. If we begin to give the impression to the miners, engineers and the other industrial workers that the scales of our Parliamentary system are being weighted against them, that they cannot by the exercise of their intelligence at the ballot box get the justice to which they are entitled because of Tory rigging, we turn men's minds in other directions, which could he fatal to this democracy and to Parliament.
Therefore, I beg right hon. and hon. Members opposite not to start to play too much jiggery-pokery with our election law, and not to try to weight the scales too much in their own favour. I bee them to begin to realise that our people intend to have a fair fight, and intend to have the rules applied equally to both sides. Unless the Government appreciate that, this challenge to industrial workers may be a challenge which, in the lone run, will have disastrous results for all that which we in the House of Commons are supposed to love and cherish.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
In a sense, this is the most simple Bill which I have ever discussed. In a sense, it is a straightforward Bill, but on investigation it is seen to raise matters of party political and constitutional importance deserving extremely close scrutiny. It enables candidates to use their supporters' cars, without any limit of number and without any limit of the amount spent by the supporters on those cars.
There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about this. There is nothing in the Representation of the People Act, 1949, as it stands to prevent people taking persons to the poll, irrespective of the candidate for whom they are to vote. The whole of the opposition to the provision in the present Act was 1055 based in 1948 on a philanthropic plea by the Conservative Party to be permitted to allow Conservatives to take people to the polls irrespective of the party for whom they are to vote. All Conservatives wanted to do was to be able to take people for the ride. They did not want any party advantage but wished merely to indulge in a piece of philanthropy which, we heard from the Leader of the House today, was really for the benefit of our party rather than anybody else.
In the course of its passage through the House, the 1948 Act was amended to make it perfectly clear that what was forbidden was merely the use of cars by supporters for the purpose of taking electors to the poll in support of a particular candidate. What was aimed at was not the philanthropic taking of people, the casual taking of people, irrespective of how they were to vote, but the organised use of cars to take to the poll people who would not otherwise go there to vote for a particular party candidate.
The case now presented by the Leader of the House is somewhat different. He is not making the philanthropic plea which was made in 1949. He is now saying that it is necessary to have the Bill in order for people to be taken to the polls when they want to go. What is the present position? It is that there is now the postal vote for those unable to vote otherwise, there is a greatly increased number of polling stations, and there are registered cars for those few people who could not otherwise go to the polls.
This matter was discussed at the Bournemouth Conservative Party Conference, when Lord Tenby, replying for the Government against the enthusiastic demand of Conservative workers for this provision to be abolished, said,Has the restriction on the use of cars resulted in any significant fall in the percent-age of the electors in this country who are voting? The polls of 1950 and 1955, which were after this restriction was imposed, were unusually high and were, in 1950 and 1951, 84 per cent. and 82 per cent. high respectively, which is the highest since 1929.To say that the unrestricted use of cars is necessary in order to get electors to the poll is sheer nonsense. In our Election arrangements we accept limitations for one reason or another. Both parties are agreed that there are limits to the amount of Election expenses which can be in- 1056 dulged in. There are provisions against undue influence. What is the point of all these provisions? Their object is to avoid a distortion of the true voting wishes of the electorate and to obtain in the House of Commons a true reflection of the views of the electorate. That is the whole object of it.
Cars have an influence in all this. Even the Conservative Party recognise that this is so, and they have not introduced a provision to eliminate the Section in the Act which forbids the hiring of cars. The hiring of cars is forbidden because it is perfectly well recognised that the unrestricted use of cars can lead to a distorted representation of the electorate of this country.
In this provision, even tax advantages are not excluded. There are enormous tax advantages through cars in this country. The Answer was given the other day that the total amount of all capital allowances on cars, both initial and annual, in 1957–58 is estimated to be about £35 million. Companies such as Tate and Lyle, in the circumstances in which they took their Income Tax case to the courts, could return those cars for expenses for Income Tax purposes without restriction. There is no restriction in what the Government propose on the number of cars which can be used or the expenses which can be indulged in, with the result that in certain circumstances commercial cars could be used, cars of companies—and a certain amount of the expense incurred in using those cars is subsidised through taxation.
Let us consider for a moment the advantages in the use of cars in an Election. Suppose the use of a car in an Election results in about twenty people going to the polls—not people who want to go there in a poll of 80 per cent. or 84 per cent. under the present arrangements—but people who might be indifferent about voting, who might not want to vote but who are induced to vote by the unrestricted car invasion which could take place under this provision. A figure of twenty people per car is not a very high figure. The advantage of fifty cars, with twenty people per car being induced to vote in this way, would mean a total advantage of 1,000 votes.
It is not surprising that there has been a tremendous demand from Conservative workers for the abolition of this restric- 1057 tion on cars. We have in this proposal by the Government enough vice to swing an Election. On the last occasion when he spoke the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) suggested that cars should be requisitioned to prevent one candidate from having an advantage over another. He recognised the advantage to be obtained out of cars. The hon. Baronet the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) suggested that we should lay down that no motor car should bear the posters or the names of any candidates. Both of them are on the Conservative benches and they both recognise the part which cars can play both in collecting votes and in propaganda on Election day.
The Prime Minister says that we are out-of-date and has referred back with nostalgia to those Edwardian days when he used to ride high in cars with people wearing veils. He says that conditions are now entirely changed. Well, those veils are very transparent and very provocative. The true position is that at this stage cars can play a crucial part in an Election result. Who has the advantage? The people who have advantage from it are those with large cars. What is the use of cars shared by workers going to the factories? They are not available on Election day for getting people to the poll. What is the use of small cars? What election agent would plump for Baby Austins, bubble cars or mopeds? What they need is large cars in large numbers and people with leisure, or chauffeurs, to drive their cars; people who have the money to pay for the running of them and, of course, the special advantage to those who can enter all this as an item in their expenses account.
The advantage is to the Conservative Party over the Labour Party and to the party organisation against the Independent. I can remember that in the last debate my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. H. White) gave some extremely interesting figures. He said that in his by-election in 1938 he had 60 cars against the 600 brought out by the Conservatives and in a by-election later—this is where the party organisation comes in—when he was running without the support of any party organisation he had twenty cars against 700 massed against him. Of course there 1058 is an advantage to the Conservative Party against the Labour Party, and an advantage to the party organisation against the Independent.
There are various things which ought to be included in any consideration of the Representation of the People Act. Nowadays one can get Income Tax allowances for what is party political propaganda. That should be dealt with. We should like to know who contributes to the party funds. That should be dealt with. The Labour Party publishes accounts, the Liberal Party supports the publication of accounts, and the only party opposing it is the Conservative Party. Why does it oppose the publication of accounts?
Lord Randolph Churchill has been quoted in this House before, and I quote him again. What he said on this matter is very apposite:I would like all the finances of the Tory Party to be open for inspection to anyone who wishes to look at them, whether friend or foe. Where you have secret expenditure you will certainly have corrupt expenditure and where you have corrupt expenditure you will have vitiated elections, disfranchised boroughs, party disgrace and public scandal.Why is there this constant opposition from hon. Members opposite to dealing with and ventilating this matter and having the party contributions published? Can we not end this under-the-counter behaviour? Is that not a matter which should be considered in any Representation of the People Bill?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) brought before the House some extremely serious matters. He referred to the speech of Lord Poole at Blackpool and quoted this passage from the speech:I would like to pay tribute to the really tremendous work that Dr. Hill and his small organisation are doing. We certainly could not do our job in Central Office at all if it were not supplemented by what Dr. Hill and his organisation do and I would therefore like to pay a real tribute to him for his work in the last two years.Dr. Hill is a Member of Her Majesty's Government and his organisation is paid for out of taxation, yet we have this tribute paid to him by Lord Poole.
Now we want to know what lies behind all this. What is the explanation of this speech by Lord Poole? We want to know; we are entitled to know; and I hope that the Attorney-General will deal with the matter.
1059 The next extremely serious matter which was raised by my right hon. Friend was that of the Rented Homes Campaign, the object of which was to attack the Labour Party's housing policy. It was a direct attack on this party, involving party politics. The Attorney-General has seen the evidence for himself, of Government labels addressographed and apparently a mailing list which came from Government sources all used by this organisation.
Prima facie this is an extremely serious matter which requires the most serious investigation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Impartial."] It involves the whole constitutional position of our country and involves the honour of a good many gentlemen. I hope there is to be a proper explanation of this, because it is a matter of which some explanation must be given. I ask the Attorney-General to deal with the matter in his reply.
Why was not the Bill mentioned in the Queen's Speech? Is the suggestion that it was not important enough to mention? I gather that that is so, from what the Leader of the House said when he was explaining why this Measure had not been dealt with before. The explanation was the Government's preoccupation with more urgent problems. Now, apparently, the time has come when the Government are not preoccupied with more urgent problems. They have apparently achieved the aims of their policy. They have achieved a pool of unemployment. Do not the Government consider that problems more urgent than ever before still exist in the internal economy with which they should be preoccupied?
Of course, it is not the true explanation why the Bill was not brought forward before and was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech that the Government considered the Measure unimportant. It was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech because the Government recognised what an important Measure it was. It is a matter for which the Conservative Party have pressed in conference after conference. It is a matter of constitutional importance dealing with the method of electing Members of Parliament. It touches the very foundation of representative Government.
It is the only piece of reform to the Representation of the People Act. Many other reforms have been suggested, largely uncontroversial. One can think of a 1060 large number of reforms about which there can be no question between the parties at all, yet the Government have not chosen to include those in the Bill. Why not? Because, of course, they want the Bill so narrowly drawn as to exclude any possibility of Amendments.
What the Government are concerned with is to get the Measure through, and to get it through at all costs before the Election. This is the very first Measure introduced by the Government after the Queen's Speech. I put it higher. It is the only Measure which it is absolutely certain the Government will get through before the next Election—[Interruption.] Oh, yes. The Government have been indulging in a delightful piece of window dressing, encouraging their supporters with promises of compensation which, as the Prime Minister said earlier, will wreck planning in this country. They have brought forward a pretty piece of work—that will not bear examination—about pensions.
None of these may find its way to the Statute Book, but this Measure the Government are determined to have on the Statute Book. It cannot be said that the Bill is less important than a Bill dealing with deer in Scotland——yet the subject of deer in Scotland has a whole paragraph to itself, announcing:A Bill will be laid before you for the protection and control of deer in Scotland.Why was not this Bill included in the Queen's Speech? I am sure that not even the biggest "Blimp" would suggest that the deer in Scotland are more important. Certainly, it was not suggested at Blackpool. The truth is that this Bill would have sounded quite atrocious in the Queen's Speech.
Just suppose it had been said of Her Majesty's Ministers, "They will immediately introduce, as a matter of extreme urgency and national importance in the present conditions of unemployment, a Bill which they are determined shall be given priority over all other Measures" —as they are doing—"namely, a Bill to enable candidates at Parliamentary Elections to have the use of their supporters' cars without limit on number or expense." Perhaps it is not surprising that it was not included.
Why was it not included? Could not the Prime Minister bring himself to make 1061 such a true declaration in the Queen's Speech about this Bill—or was it just that the speech was being broadcast and televised? Did the Ministers have in mind that paragraph in the Gracious Speech which says:Today, for the first time, this ceremony is being watched not only by those who are present in the Chamber, but by many millions of My Subjects.Were they afraid of being watched and found out, or was it some lingering piece of decency that prevented their besmirching this solemn occasion with such a piece of squalid party politics?
Perhaps it was thought, very cleverly, that it might slip through under the Government's reference toOther measures will be laid before you in clue course."In due course"? This Bill was already printed at the time when the Queen's Speech was delivered. The Government had it already drafted, already printed, knowing that they were to bring it forward as the very first Measure of supreme importance in this Session of Parliament.
The truth, of course, is that the best amongst the Government know that it is morally unjustifiable, and the rest knew perfectly well that it would be politically unwise to mention it. Ours is a democracy whose working depends upon mutual loyalty, on both sides of the House, to our common democracy and a measure of mutual confidence between both sides in working that democracy. Many democracies have fallen and are falling, some of them because of party conspiracies and chicanery. It has been our strength in this country that we have had a stronger belief in our democracy than the differences that have separated us. What the Bill does is to injure that democracy, and it is for that reason that we shall certainly oppose it.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
If the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will forgive me, I should like to put one question to the Leader of the House. Very grave charges have been made with regard to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Health. Is it not desirable that the appropriate Ministers should be in their places?
§ The Attorney-General
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to say that those Ministers have, unfortunately, other engagements, but Ministers from the Departments are present and I shall deal with the charges which have been made.
I should like to start my reply by making one, I hope, uncontroversial remark. It is that we have had today, I believe, a very suitable debate for today's date, and I should like to congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) on devoting a greater part of his speech to the Bill than did the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). Certain questions have been put by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Gentleman to which I shall endeavour to reply.
It is clear that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman brought joy to his supporters. I do not begrudge them that for one moment; it may not last very long. If the House will allow me, I should like to begin by replying to the other matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. As they were not ruled out of order, I hope that I may refer to them, too, without getting out of order.
I think the right hon. Gentleman's first charge was that the Tory Party did not publish its accounts, and that allegation was again repeated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. We had a debate on this matter as long ago as 1949. Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that the Socialist Party publishes a full account of what is spent on Socialist organisation, propaganda and education? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Do the accounts published include all that is raised in the political levy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I want to put these questions because they are important.
Do they include all the moneys spent by the Co-operative Union, and by the Co-operative Party, on political education and propaganda? That does not seem to me to tally at all with what the 1063 late Mr. Greenwood said in the debate in 1949, when he undertook to make more disclosures if the Conservative Party agreed to do the same. That does not look as if there was full disclosure. [Interruption.] The truth is that these accounts, which were put forward as accounts of expenditure on advocating Socialism and on propaganda, are incomplete accounts. When complete accounts are published perhaps that subject can be raised again.
The next subject which the right hon. Gentleman attacked—[Interruption.] I am dealing with the allegations that were made. I do not want to spend too much time on these earlier allegations, because I want to spend a good deal of time on the serious allegations which have been put forward about the Rented Homes Campaign. That is what I want to spend time upon and I want also to say one or two things about the Bill.
The next allegation by the right hon. Gentleman was in attacking the expenditure by "Mr. Cube" and he criticised that. It has been criticised many times in the past by the party opposite. It really cannot be regarded as wrong, even by the party opposite, for anyone attacked to defend himself. Although it may annoy the party opposite, I believe it to be in the interests not only of the directors and shareholders, but of the public and the employees in those industries, that the facts should be made known, and made known without any doubt. I do not, however, want to take up any more time on that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because I want to come, and I hope the House will listen to me, to what was the main charge in the right hon. Gentleman's indictment. I recollect only one occasion when such far-reaching allegations have been put forward on such a slender basis. I shall Leek to make that good.
First, there was an article published in the Daily Herald of 11th October, to which I would like to refer. It said:Whitehall scandal of the booklets, by A. J. McWhinnie. Official publicity machinery of a Government Department—the Ministry of Health—is being used to distribute a booklet which specifically attacks Opposition policy. Mr. Gaitskell will probably expose this scandal himself when Parliament reassembles. Daily Herald investigators have established that a "Rented Homes Campaign' booklet, aimed at -resisting the municipalisation of rented property, is being posted under official Gov- 1064 ernment address labels. Although 'On Her Majesty's Service' has been cut from the top of the label, a Stationery Office code number gives the trick away. The code starts with the letter 'H', followed by SPO 'and a series of figures. 'H' stands for Ministry of Health, 'SPO' for a Special Press Office mailing list.Immediately that was published, on the same day, the Daily Herald was told this by the Ministry of Health:It can be categorically stated that no copies of this pamphlet have been issued by the Ministry of Health (which in any case since 1951 has had no official concern with housing matters) and that no official addressed labels have been supplied for that purpose to any outside body or individual.That was what the Daily Herald was told. Not a word of that was published in the Daily Herald. Curiously enough, the Daily Herald got hold of the other envelope, the one which is alleged to have come from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Again, the Daily Herald was told that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government had taken no part in the distribution of the pamphlet or provided any facilities. The Ministry said, however, that it would have the matter investigated if the Daily Herald would supply the envelope. The envelope was not supplied. There was no publication of that reply.
Then, I understand, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) put down a Question on this matter for answer yesterday. It was taken off the Order Paper. The powder was obviously being kept dry for today, and it was today, and only today, that my right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Health received notice that this matter would be raised.
What exactly is the allegation which the right hon. Gentleman made? I took down his words, and I think I have got it right. His allegation was that the Government facilities had been put at the disposal of the Rented Homes Campaign.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I said facilities, materials, had been used—not put at the disposal of, but used—by the Rented Homes Campaign.
§ The Attorney-General
I must say that I shall look forward to reading HANSARD tomorrow to see whether my note was correct, or the right hon. Gentleman's correction.
1065 But let us take it on that, that the accusation is that Government facilities have been used by the Rented Homes Campaign. I can say with regard to that that no Government facilities of any kind have been put by the Government—[Interruption.] This is the accusation which the hon. and learned Gentleman said affected the honour of many gentlemen.
§ The Attorney-General
I will give way in a moment. I just want to say this. I have tried to establish what the accusation is. It is alleged to be one of great constitutional importance affecting the honour of many gentlemen. What I want to say with regard to this—and I am entitled to say it—is that if any such envelopes came out of any Government Department, it was not with the authority of that Government Department or with the authority of any Minister.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
I made it perfectly clear, I trust, that I hoped we should get a proper explanation of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "You have got it."] We have not. We are very, very far from it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that these labels have been used, these addressographs and this mailing list. What we want to know is, on this prima facie case, what is the explanation?
§ The Attorney-General
I am endeavouring to answer, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman will contain himself for a moment, he will get the answer.
Let us see what the evidence produced is, the evidence which has been held up so long. There are two envelopes—let me remind the House of this—two envelopes with postmarks dated 17th September. [Interruption.] I thought the right hon. Gentleman said two. I have seen only one, and that had that date. Both envelopes had a Stationery Office stick-on label on. One had the top half of the label cut off. The allegation is based partly on that ground, but mainly on the ground that bath labels purported to have a code number upon them. That is the ground upon which allegations affecting the honour of so many people are made.
1066 What I want to say is this. If these envelopes did emanate from a Government Department, if they were sent by a civil servant, then, quite clearly, that civil servant was guilty of misconduct and of a breach of his duty. I have made it quite clear that any sending out, any use by him of these envelopes or of these addressographs for that purpose would have been quite wrong and there was no authority for it. I made it quite clear that there was no Ministerial authorisation for any conduct of that sort. I am not saying—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, who is addressing the House, has not given way. It is disorderly to be upstanding unless the Minister gives way.
§ The Attorney-General
I am trying to deal with allegations which have been brought forward and which ought to be dealt with, and dealt with now, and I am making it quite clear that there is no Ministerial responsibility for this. These letters were not sent with Ministerial authority.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point or order. Would it be in order for a Minister to say in the House in debate that if a thing has been done by a civil servant there is no Ministerial responsibility?
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood the Attorney-General to use the phrase "no Ministerial authorisation". That is what he said. Later he said "responsibility". Of course, Ministers are responsible for their Departments. If a charge is a personal one against Ministers it is a grave matter for the House and the House should listen to both sides with calm and weigh up the evidence.
§ The Attorney-General
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, because I am trying to recite the facts so far as they have been ascertained at the moment.
I want to make quite clear that there was no Government authorisation of any kind for the use of envelopes, addressographs or anything of that sort for this purpose. I went on to say, and I should like to repeat, that if these stick-on 1067 labels, bearing these code numbers, were put on these envelopes in a Government Departmnt by a civil servant then it would seem that that civil servant was guilty of misconduct.
I want to add that really this small matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—has been built up out of all proportion. If the right hon. Member for Smethwick really believed that there was anything in it, surely it was his duty as a Member of the House and a member of the Privy Council to hand over these documents for immediate investigation and not to hold them just to use as political propaganda.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
It was surely my duty as a Member of the House to bring this matter to the attention of the House as soon as I could.
§ The Attorney-General
Well, of course, the right hon. Gentleman did not withdraw a Question on the subject.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wishes me to say that he has asked Sir Norman Brook, as head of the Civil Service, to investigate whether any unauthorised use has been made of Government facilities in this respect, so that there will be an immediate investigation, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Smethwick will make the documents available. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who?"] I said Sir Norman Brook, as head of the Civil Service. The next allegation—
§ Mr. Morrison
May I put this to the right hon. and learned Gentleman? Is it right to pass the responsibility of this inquiry on to another civil servant? May I put it to him that there should be an outside, independent person, possibly a High Court judge, to investigate this matter. Further, I think it is improper to shove this on to another civil servant. Secondly, may I ask whether the Attorney-General will undertake—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite will laugh on the other side of their faces. May I ask whether he will undertake on behalf of the Prime Minister that when the inquiry is completed a full and adequate statement will be made to this House?
§ The Attorney-General
With regard to the second question, I am sure that a 1068 statement will be made when the investigation is completed. The right hon. Gentleman asks me again by whom it would be done. I have said that the Prime Minister has asked the right hon. Sir Norman Brook, as head of the Civil Service, to do this. I would say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman that really it is appropriate that the head of the Civil Service—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—should inquire as to the use of two stick-on stationery labels and an addressograph by two civil servants.
§ Mr. Woodburn
On a point of order. I wish to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is not only civil servants who are involved in this charge. There is a receiving end—the people who received the labels—and it is not appropriate that a civil servant should inquire into that part of the offence.
§ The Attorney-General
There is one other matter to which I ought to refer before I come to speak about the Bill. Those are the observations the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to make about a firm of advertising agents called Colman Prentis & Varley Ltd. I was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to advertise them or whether his words were to be taken as a threat. However that may be, one thing at least is clear, that he attempted to denigrate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I would only say this to him in reply, that the high esteem which my right hon. Friend enjoys throughout the country is as a result of his own actions and not as the result of advertisement. I will say no more about the right hon. Gentleman's speech except that it seems to me that he has clearly demonstrated—more clearly than I have ever seen it done before—the distinction which exists between the amusing invective which we have heard deployed recently by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and mere vulgar abuse.
Now may I turn to the Bill. In the course of this debate not so very much has been said about the Bill and I would at least say that it is a beautifully drafted Bill, it is a model of brevity, it is clear in its language—[HON. MEMBERS: "Poole."]—I am talking about the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Poole."]—I am SO 1069 sorry. I thought at last I had been able to get to the Bill, but certainly I will deal with that point.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy does no more than every hon. Member of this House knows that he does, namely, to explain and expound Government actions and Government policy. If Lord Poole found the work that my right hon. Friend and his organisation did—perfectly proper work; it has been done by other Governments—useful as a basis for party propaganda, that is a matter for him. I am not responsible for Lord Poole's choice of words. My right hon. Friend has done nothing more than this House knows that he does, namely deal entirely with Government policy.
Perhaps I may now come to the Bill. I was hoping to make a non-controversial remark by describing it as a beautifully drafted Bill, a model of brevity, clear in its language and in its effect. Its effect is, of course, just to remove a blot from the Statute Book which ought never to have been put there.
I am not going to deal with the history of the Measure which we are about to repeal, but it is not my belief that the effect is now—it certainly was not the effect in 1948—that if the provision is repealed the Socialist Party will have so few cars available and the Conservatives so many that the Socialists will be under any disadvantage on polling day. Whatever may have been the position in the early years of the century and whatever it was in 1948, that is an untenable argument today. As my hon. Friends the Members for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said, one has only to look outside the factories to see that cars are widely owned by all sections of the community.
In expounding the effect of Section 88, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not get it quite right. The Section contains two prohibitions. I will divide its effect in two. In one part each candidate is allowed to use only so many cars, and they have to be registered with the returning officer and have to carry placards, and if one breaks down on polling day it cannot be replaced. The other part applies to the use of cars by persons other than candidates. The House may be interested to know that out of the 1070 number of prosecutions of which my right hon. Friend gave details, apart from one prosecution of an agent and a transport officer for using more cars than were allowed, there have been no prosecutions under that Section of a candidate or his agent for using unregistered cars, for using cars in excess of the number permitted or for using cars not carrying the prescribed placards. All the prosecutions were of individuals not connected with the party organisations for taking to the polls people who were not members of their household or visitors to their household.
I must say that I fear that this practice is far more widespread than the number of those prosecutions suggests. It can be committed so easily and with such slight risk of detection, and so many matters have to be established before an offender can be brought before the courts. Also, policemen on polling days have a great deal to do apart from watching cars discharge passengers and finding out whether they are brought there with a view to voting for a particular candidate.
Complaints are also received, and one reason why I suspect that the breach of this provision by individuals is more widespread than those figures show is the number of complaints that have been received. After the North Lewisham by-election there were no fewer than thirty-one complaints. They were all investigated. In twenty-six cases no, or no sufficient, evidence was available to warrant a prosecution. and in 14 out of the 26 cases the complainant withdrew his allegations when he discovered that he had complained about the conduct of a member of his own party. The complaint in two of the other cases certainly would not have led to a conviction, and in the remaining three cases, which involved only single journeys, the Director of Public Prosecutions, with whom the decision rested, decided that the public interest did not require a prosecution. So in the end it led to no court proceedings.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not agree with that. I am not saying that the law was not broken. All I am saying is that no convictions resulted. People just do 1071 not understand why, when they give lifts to all and sundry every day of the year, and why, when they can give lifts on polling day in local elections, they cannot do so in Parliamentary elections.
In these days, it is not uncommon for neighbours to travel to and from work in a car belonging to one of them. If they go to a factory, when their hours of work are over they may return from work together. If, for instance, four neighbours in perhaps a small car, coming back from a factory, decide on the way home to go to the polling station with a view to voting for the Labour candidate, they will be committing an offence. That shows how ridiculous this provision is. On that ground and on that ground alone there is a strong case for repeal.
§ The Attorney-General
I have not much time to give way.
But that is not the complete strength of the case. The people who are hit by this provision are the people who are not car owners. The people who are car owners can still go in their cars, with their households, to vote. The people who are hit are the people in the countryside who will have to walk, and the only reason the Socialists have for wishing to retain this provision is because they think that if it remains on the Statute Book, Conservative voters may not be able to get to the polls.
I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 316, Noes 245.1075
|Division No. 2.]||AYES||[9.57 p.m.]|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gough, G. F. H.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cole, Norman||Gower, H. R.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Conant, Mal. Sir Roger||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Cooke, Robert||Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Cooper, A. E.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathooat (Tiverton)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Grlmston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Ashton, H.||Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Gurden, Harold|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Crowder, Petra (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Cunningham, Knox||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Currie, G. B. H.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Balniel, Lord||Dance, J. C. G.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Malden)|
|Barber, Anthony||Davidson, Viscountess||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vero (Macclesf'd)|
|Barter, John||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Deedes, W. F.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Beamieh, Col. Tufton||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hay, John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Drayson, G. B.||Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bennett Dr. Reginald||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Duncan, Sir James||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Duthie, W. S.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bishop, F. P.||Elliott, R.W.(Ne'castle-upon Tyne,N.)||Hobson, John( Warwick & Leam'gt'n)|
|Black, C. W.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Body, R. F.||Errington, Sir Eric||Hope, Lord John|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Erroll, F. J.||Hornhy, R. P.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Horobin, Sir Ian|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Fell, A.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Finlay, Graeme||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Braine, B. R.||Fisher, Nigel||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Forrest, G.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fort, R.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Foster, John||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Bryan, P.||Freeth, Denzil||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)|
|Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gammans, Lady||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Gibson-Watt, D.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Glover, D.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Carr, Robert||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Godber, J. B.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Goodhart, Philip||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Moore, Sir Thomas||Speir, R. M.|
|Kaberry, D.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, 'W.)|
|Keegan, D.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n. S.)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Nairn, D. L. S.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Neave, Airey||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Kimball, M.||Nicholls, Harmer||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Kirk, P. M.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Lagden, G. W.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Storey, S.|
|Lambton, Viscount||Noble, Michael (Argyll)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Leavey, J. A.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Leburn, W. G.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Osborne, C.||Taylor, William (Bradford. N.)|
|Legge, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Page, R. G.||Teeling, W.|
|Lennox-Boyd Rt. Hon. A. T.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Temple, John M.|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Partridge, E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Peel, W. J.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pitman, I. J.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pott, H. P.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Powell, J. Enoch||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Prior-Palmer, Brig, O, L.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|McKibbin, Alan||Profumo, J. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Ramsden, J. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Rawlinson, Peter||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Redmayne, M.||Wall, Patrick|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Renton, D. L. M.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Macleod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Rippon, A G. F.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Webster, David|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Robertson, Sir David||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Maddan, Martin||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Roper, Sir Harold||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Marlowe, A. A, H.||Russell, R. S.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Scott-Miller, Cmdr, R.|
|Mathew, R.||Sharples, R. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Shepherd, William||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Mawby, R. L.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Burke, W. A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)|
|Albu, A. H.||Burton, Miss F. E.||Dye, S.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Edelman, M.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, L. J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Carmichael, J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Champion, A. J.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Baird, J.||Chapman, W. D.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Balfour, A.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Belienger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Clunle, J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Coldrick, W.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Finch, H. J.|
|Benson Sir George||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fitch, Alan|
|Beswick, Frank||Cove, W. G.||Fletcher, Eric|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Foot, D. M.|
|Blackburn, F.||Cronin, J. D.||Forman, J. C.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Cooch, E. G.|
|Boardman, H.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Grey, C. F.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Deer, G.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Delargy, H. J.||Hale, Leslie|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Diamond, John||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Dodds, N. N.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Donnelly, D. L.||Hannan, W.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hastings, S.||Mason, Roy||Short, E. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mayhew, C. P.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Healey, Denis||Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Messer, Sir F.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Mitchison, G. R.||Skeffington, A, M.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Monslow, W.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Holman, P.||Moody, A. S.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Holmes, Horace||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Snow, J. W.|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Mort, D. L.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Moss, R.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moyle, A.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Mulley, F. W.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hunter, A. E.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Stonehouse, John|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Oram, A. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent.C.)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Orbach, M.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)||Oswald, T.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Owen, W. J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A.Creech (Wakefield)||Padley, W. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepoole)||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Timmons, J.|
|Kenyon, C.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Tomney, F.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pargiter, G. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Parker, J.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Parkin, B. T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ledger, R. J.||Paton, John||Warbey, W. N.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Peart, T. F.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Lever, Harold (Cheatham)||Pentland, N.||Weitzman, D.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Prentice, R. E.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lipton, Marcus||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Logan, D. G.||Probert, A. R.||Wigg, George|
|Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson||Proctor, W. T.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Randall, H. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|MacDermot, Niall||Rankin, John||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Redhead, E. C.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|McInnes, J.||Reeves, J.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Reid, William||Winterbottom, Richard|
|McLeavy, Frank||Reynolds, G. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Woof, R. E.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Mahon, Simon||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Hudderstd, E.)||Ross, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mann, Mrs. jean||Royle, C.||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Bill accordingly read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]|
|Committee upon Monday next.|