§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.33 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 the Third time.
The House has had a very full Second Reading debate on the Bill. Amendments discussed in Committee of the whole House were framed in such a way that, while they consisted of repetition by right hon. and hon. Members opposite a the points which they had made on Second Reading, they also brought a variety of new material into our debates.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite also spent some time on Second Reading complaining about what was not in the Bill. You, Mr. Speaker, then confirmed that this was quite in order. Accordingly, we accepted your Ruling, but you also said:The situation would be different in a Third Reading debate …" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November. 1958; Vol. 594, c. 968.]While we noted with interest, but by no means with agreement, the views expressed by the Opposition on electoral law generally, I imagine, Mr. Speaker, that I should on this occasion conform with the normal practice of a Third Reading debate and confine myself to what is in the Bill.
Hence, I am justified, by sticking to what is in the Bill, in making rather a shorter speech than has been the case in many interventions in the course of our debates. In fact, distinguished as one may be, and long as one's experience may be in this Chamber, it is very difficult to find new arguments to adduce on this occasion.
In summing up the main case of Her Majesty's Government for this simple Bill, I will put it in very simple language. It is that the motor car is part of the daily life of a large and ever larger section of the community, a section which, we claim, is no longer restricted to one social or economic class. I do not think that I shall be seriously challenged if I say that today more and more people use motor cars.
226 In our view, therefore, which remains even stronger after the debates through which we have passed, there must be special justification for artificially restricting the use of motor cars as a means of assisting or enabling people, particularly the sick and the old, to exercise their democratic right and duty of voting at Parliamentary elections.
This case has been made very much stronger by the fact that there has been no restriction whatever on motor cars at local government elections, and this point has never been taken up in the debates on Second Reading or during the Committee stage by hon. Members opposite. I think that perhaps the problem of motor cars is much more striking in rural constituencies for the simple reason that the physical distances are so much greater.
In fact, I do not believe that in some boroughs, with the closer wards and the increase in the number of polling stations, there is any great difficulty about motor transport at all. I do not think that it makes a scrap of difference in the great majority of boroughs how people go to the poll, because they can always find their own way and the number of polling districts make it almost inevitable that they should walk or go by trams and buses.
Taking the example of local government elections—this has never been answered from the other side of the House in the course of our debates—and speaking of rural districts which I have known for many years, not only in my own constituency but in East Anglia generally, I am convinced that the party opposite has not been under any disadvantage in local government elections, particularly county council elections, by cars being restricted.
Looking at any constituency in East Anglia, where we lost county council elections to the Labour Party opposite, as in Essex, I cannot believe that the Labour Party was in the least difficulty in getting voters to the poll. Indeed. Labour candidates won a large number of seats and were not inhibited in any degree by lack of transport. They had any amount of transport.
We were not ourselves at a particular advantage, and I happened to notice that on the last two occasions when we have had county council elections in rural areas 227 in East Anglia the Labour Party had plenty of cars, if it wished to call upon them. Therefore, that argument is still unanswered.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
The right hon. Gentleman said that that argument had not been answered. In fact, it was answered from this side of the House. Is he not aware that political experts of both parties have said that with a very much lower average poll in municipal council elections there may be a case for cars. They have found that the poll is rather less than 50 per cent. in local elections and that in General Elections it is 80 per cent. That is very different.
§ Mr. Butler
I do not see that that applies. If one wanted to use the large number of cars available to the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party in local government elections it is better to have no restriction on the use of cars so that the poll could be increased; and it is certainly in the interest of local government that the poll should be increased.
The point that I am making is that from personal examination of local government elections, not only in my own constituency but in other parts of East Anglia, I have noticed that the party opposite has had plenty of cars for the people it wants to take to the poll. That provides all the more reason why we should do away with this unnecessary restrictive practice in modern times.
The only point of controversy which has arisen—apart from those which have been dragged in by the tail by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) in the course of the Second Reading and which have gone the way of all flesh, like so much of the Labour Party's modern doctrine—has been whether the thing is fair or not. So far as I understand the position, the Opposition do not dissent from the argument that it is reasonable to have cars, but they maintain, despite the obvious fact that the motor car is not the attribute of one section of the community, that unless the use of motor cars is restricted they will not be able to compete on equal terms with us in bringing electors to the poll.
I brought out the latest statistics of the number of cars in one of my previous 228 speeches, and I have no alternative but to repeat them now. The number of cars had increased from 2 million in 1948 to 4½ million by November this year. Owing to the recent successful Motor Show, it is likely to increase very much more by the next General Election. Hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), made considerable play with the results of a recent Gallup poll, which said that 60 per cent. of car owners tended to vote Conservative. I am glad to hear it. That means that we have a considerable chance of a smashing majority at the next election. It stated that comparatively few, about 18 per cent., motor car owners voted Labour.
If we put it up to 19 per cent. it is clear that out of 4½ million cars there are 1,300 Labour cars per constituency to bring the electors to the poll. On the basis of a poll which must be unanswerable, there is scarcely any difficulty whatsoever for Labour at present.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Having demonstrated, at least to his own satisfaction, that there are enough cars to take Labour electors to the poll and more than enough to take Conservatives to the poll, each using, presumably, his own car, would the Lord Privy Seal tell us why it is necessary to alter the law so as to enable people to travel in other people's cars?
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Member, with his undoubted power of dialectics, knows that what we want is to do away with the artificial restriction which insists upon the registration of a particular number of cars and their use during the whole day, as well as the use of cars to take ordinary people to the poll, without restriction and without snooping.
When I said that there were 1,300 Labour cars per constituency I was not surprised to find, on examining the Labour Party's new, glossy, election pamphlet, to see that the first poster we are asked to tear out and pin up has the following caption:You will get a lift in life from Labour".
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Since the Lord Privy Seal has quoted from this document, may I ask whether it ought not to be reproduced in HANSARD?
§ Mr. Butler
The answer is that I have already learned my lesson about circulating something in HANSARD, in winding up a debate, and that I would never dream of transgressing the rules by suggesting that so low a document should ever have anything to do With HANSARD.
These facts lead me to be somewhat surprised that in these debates the Labour Party should be so utterly pedestrian in its approach. It seems extraordinary that, in this age, it should not accept that the car has come to stay, and that, in fact, there are plenty of cars per constituency. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) is growling. I listened to his speech on Second Reading. We divide up speeches among those which are intelligent and contribute something of an intellectual character to our debates, those which come from the deep feeling of the heart, and those which come from a feeling of great annoyance. I got the impression that the hon. Member for Ladywood was speaking with a feeling of great annoyance about the situation in Ladywood. I remember his speech in Committee quite well and I think it is in order for me to refer to it.
The hon. Member said that he was distressed that there were not enough cars in Ladywood to transport his electors to the poll. I am convinced, from what I know of Ladywood, that that is not so. I have had the honour of visiting it, but I cannot say that my visits have made any difference to Ladywood or to the results. I do not think that there will be any possible difference in the number of electors going to the poll in Ladywood whether the Bill passes or not. The Bill is not brought in to do any violence to the hon. Gentleman or to his friends or to give arty advantage to his opponents. I believe that they do not need a great number of motor cars in Ladywood to get to the poll and that the electors can get to the poll there very well without.
While I thought the hon. Gentleman's speech was sincere, and while I accept his statement that members of his committee and many of his friends have no cars, I can only say that if they want cars they can get them. Part of the object of continuing polling hour into the evening was to give Labour voters the opportunity to go to the poll if they want to do so. All the electors who wish to support the hon. 230 Member will be able to get to the poll perfectly satisfactorily.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I said that never in the history of the Ladywood division had we been able to secure what is now regarded as the legal maximum in cars, not even at the last General Election. Is it not, therefore, useless to say that we can all get as many cars as we want? It is not true. I am not arguing about the position of Ladywood, although it is affected by this matter, and the percentage poll at the last General Elecion was very low. If we give one side a better opportunity for bringing people to the poll we must be fair to the other side.
§ Mr. Butler
I had an opportunity of listening to almost all the speeches and I notice that the hon. Gentleman was exaggerating what I said. I did not say there would be absolute equality on both sides. In most constituencies the Conservatives will have more cars than Labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am coming to this point and I shall answer it. Judging by the statistics given by the hon. Member for Coventry, East the proportion of cars owned by Conservatives is greater than the proportion owned by Labour. I do not deny it.
What astonishes me in this modern age is that the Labour Party, with all its ideals, should imagine that its supporters will be affected in the way they vote simply by car transport, and will not be governed by their convictions. We take the view that it is very much better to do away with this restrictive practice and to give the opportunity to people to get to the poll as best they can with a free supply of motor transport, than to make a restrictive practice which, I am convinced from experience in a country constituency, does not work.
I will take up another point. A preponderance on the part of Conservatives in the number of cars will not necessarily help the Conservatives. What is the object of party workers? Not to spend their time on details of administration such as the running of motor cars, but to persuade people to come their way and vote according to their convictions. One of the objections to Section 88 of the 1949 Act has been that it was artificial and so restrictive that a great many workers on both sides had to spend or waste their 231 time on the administration of that Section instead of getting on with politics. What we want to do is to restore the free position so that people can vote as they like. I am convinced that when we have abolished Section 88 they will be able to vote as they like and be very much freer than they are now. It is for those reasons that we think the Bill deserves a Third Reading.
We think that the debates have certainly been worthwhile. One argument, was that we should postpone the Bill until after the General Election. That argument deserved, and was given, serious consideration before we introduced the Bill. The reason we decided against it before even an Amendment to that effect was put on the Notice Paper by hon. Members opposite was that we thought that as there had been so much abuse in the administration of Section 88 up-to-date it would be wrong to pass the Bill now and then say it should come into force after the General Election.
We were convinced that if that happened the abuse, which undoubtedly has existed in constituencies the waste of time in watching one another and in registering cars, and so on, would be very much worse during the General Election than if the provision was brought into force now.
We decided after serious consideration of the most serious of the Amendments brought forward that we should go on with the Bill as it was. The only other proposed alteration to the content of the Bill as we consider it on Third Reading was a variety of suggestions brought forward by hon. Members opposite in Amendments, some suggesting double the number of cars, some suggesting a different ratio of cars, and so forth.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that none of these Amendments was, in fact, carried and, therefore, none is embodied in the Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the House will not embark, in a Third Reading debate, on a discussion of all the Amendments discussed in Committee, because that would be very tedious.
§ Mr. R. H. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer one point which was put to him in the earlier debates and was not answered? 232 Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph held that even if, possibly, it was correct for an unlimited number of cars to be allowed, that should be postponed because of possible misunderstanding of the motive of the Government. In view of the Home Secretary's frank confession that it will be an advantage to the Tories to change the law, what is his answer to the view that we should not bring the law into contempt by suspicion that one has changed the law for one's own advantage?
§ Mr. Butler
I do not know whether that would be in order. All I shall say is that the second part of the intervention of the hon. Member is not true. I never said that the change was being introduced solely for the advantage of the Conservative Party. I said there would be a tendency for more cars to be used on the Conservative side than on the Labour side, but I repudiated the suggestion that the mere fact of there being more mechanical transport necessarily makes people vote Conservative or Labour. Conservatives do not vote simply for mechanical reasons; they vote according to conscience and the dictates of their conscience, which used to be the ancient principle of the Labour Party.
On the subject of the newspapers, to which the hon. Member drew attention the other day, the Government, of course, considered this aspect. As I said, we should have liked to have introduced the Bill last Session. We made an approach to the Leader of the Opposition, hoping that there would be no opposition to it. We anticipated that Transport House and the party opposite would realise that this restriction simply does not work in modern times. We thought that the Labour Party was sufficiently up to date to realise the number of cars it had at its command. The Leader of the Opposition left us in no doubt that the Bill would be opposed and, as there was no time to bring it in last Session, we decided to bring it in this Session.
As to motive, as I said before, I do not necessarily expect hon. Members to come with me on this, but it is perfectly true. We are absolutely satisfied that the administration of transport in the next General Election will be very much cleaner, better and freer of restriction if we pass the Bill than if we had not passed it. As our motives are perfectly clear and sound on this matter, we have decided to 233 bring the Bill forward and hope to achieve for it the Third Reading.
I do not think that the ingenuity of man can invent any other reasons for the Bill being given a Third Reading.
§ Mr. Butler
In the age in which we live we have been able to show to the country as a whole that when we want to do away with something that has rather clouded the pre-voting period of the election, namely, the very artificial restrictions imposed by section 88, when we have wanted, for the sake of our ordinary parry workers on both sides, to do away with a restrictive practice which is really not working, but is distracting attention from the proper duty of politics, when we have honestly said what we believe—that there are plenty of cars ready to take Labour electors to the poll—we do not think that this Bill will make a difference either to the size of the poll or, by itself, to the result, but that it will make for a lot mote respect, and that the administration will be better and politics clearer when we take away something which is at present a nuisance and a distraction. We are putting our case clearly before the public. We believe that Members of the party opposite, by the red herrings they have dragged in by the tail, and by their behaviour during our debates, have shown that they are unfit to govern.
My concluding remark is taken again from the glossy document that I have before me. I draw the attention of the party opposite to the final words—
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman has referred on two occasions to a pamphlet. May we not know the title of that pamphlet and by whom it is published?
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us where he got the pamphlet and how much he paid for it?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot have a discussion about this pamphlet now. 234 The right hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to make a reference to it for the purpose of his arguments about the Bill, but we cannot go into all details.
§ Mr. Speaker
To the best of my knowledge, the practice of the House does not apply to this document.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Since the document contains the programme of the next Government, does that not affect the matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think so, as only matters which are relevant to the use of motor cars at elections can be referred to on the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman has referred several times to the fact that Labour supporters can get to the poll. We are prepared to agree that Labour supporters are conscientious enough to get to the poll, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is an element of bribery in a constituency being loaded with cars to bring people with no particular convictions to vote and who feel they are bound to vote for the people who take them to the poll?
§ Mr. Butler
No, I do not think so.
The long and short of this business is that in Section 88 of the 1949 Act we have had something which has distracted attention from the main object of politics, which is to vote according to one's conviction and as to how one feels. We believe that by removing this restrictive practice we shall not do any violence to the party opposite and that we shall make our electoral law simpler and better. We 235 are disappointed that hon. Members opposite have not agreed with us in this suggestion.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how the arguments today have changed from those which have been given by Conservative speakers in replying to debates on this subject at previous Tory conferences?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is no need to be concerned with political conferences on the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
There are three things in the Lord Privy Seal's speech with which I agree and as I may be a little hard on him later on, perhaps I should begin by mentioning the points on which I agree. First, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal said that he found it hard to think up any new arguments. He is quite right about that. That means that he has not produced any effective arguments at all in the course of the Bill. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman said—this is the second thing with which I agree—that it was beyond human wit to find any reasons for the Third Reading of the Bill.
The third thing with which I agree is the invaluable point made by the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill is to the Conservative advantage, because Conservatives will have very many more cars than the Labour Party—he said this explicitly and specifically—as a result of the passage of the Bill.
In the course of our debates, the right hon. Gentleman has smoothly shifted the main basis of his argument. On 5th November, he started by giving this as one of the basic arguments on which he was resting his case:I submit that the only possible justification for the restrictions in Section 88 would be that the ownership and facilities for 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 957–8.]That was the main pillar on which the right hon. Gentleman rested his case for the Bill on Second Reading.
236 My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) blew that argument sky high. He cited the Gallup poll, which showed a three-to-one majority of Conservative cars throughout the country. Sixty per cent. of car owners are Conservative and 19 per cent. Labour. By that, my hon. Friend proved that cars are so exclusively confined to one political party that their use, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman,must be restricted … in the overriding interests of fair play between the parties.The right hon. Gentleman chided my hon. Friend for his mathematics, as he did again today. Then, he went on to fudge his own figures. He worked out—it is not difficult to do so—what 19 per cent. of the total number of cars would be and he found that on this basis, there would be about 1,300 Labour cars per constituency. That, however, is totally misleading. Cars are not evenly distributed about the country. There are far fewer Labour cars in country areas and that is where the cars, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are really valuable. He made the assumption of an even distribution of cars. It is quite false and it makes his mathematics completely unreal.
The right hon. Gentleman also left out of account that Conservatives can drive their cars all day—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
On the whole, they do not have to work shifts in factories and, of course, they can use chauffeurs, too. It is not the case that Labour cars can to anything like the same degree be driven all day. The right hon. Gentleman failed to state that on his own assumptions there are 3,900 Conservative cars in every constituency, which gives them an overwhelming superiority.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
The right hon. Gentleman is skating over this rather glibly. If people are not able to use their cars all day, is it not fair that as many as possible should be allowed to use them for the small part of the day that they have them available?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I will deal with it—why hon. Members opposite want to pass the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman then went on, on a previous occasion—but he did not repeat this argument today—to produce a mathematical argument of his own of blinding irrelevance. Referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, the right hon. Gentleman said:Another fallacy of the hon. Gentleman's argument is that he supposes that because there is a three-to-one superiority of Conservative cars it means that people vote by a three-to-one proportion Conservative to Labour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 1065.]My hon. Friend neither said that nor meant it, nor could he mean it. What he said was that the Conservatives have a three-to-one superiority in cars. He said nothing else. The proper deduction from that is that the removal of this restriction will give the Conservatives the same sort of unfair advantage that the removal of any other restriction, including that on expenses, would give them.
The right hon. Gentleman could advance all the same arguments that he has advanced for the Bill in favour of removing restrictions on expenses. There is not one argument which he could not have used. This shows that the Conservatives are being given the same sort of unfair advantage as they would get—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am coming to it in due course. Having altogether failed to traverse my hon. Friend's argument, the Lord Privy Seal shifted his ground. He dropped what was his main argument before and he now rests his case on two main points, the most important of which is that Section 88 of the 1949 Act ought, in his view, to go, because the maintenance of it brings the law into contempt and there is abuse of it. That is one of the right hon. Gentleman's present main arguments for the Bill.
In his attempts to justify this, the right hon. Gentleman has proved much too much. He has proved that there is no election law that should be maintained. 238 He talked today about distracting attention and he said on 5th November thatthese restrictions have led to recriminations and suspicions between the candidates or agents.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 960.]Of what part of the election law is that not true? Recriminations and accusations occur all the time. In elections, recriminations and accusations are natural about polling cards, sites for fly-posters, defacement of posters, expenses and the postal vote. On the right hon. Gentleman's argument, all these should be swept away, too. Why has he picked on this one, which causes recrimination and distraction of attention?
Then the right hon. Gentleman gave figures for breaches of Section 88. They are derisory in extent. There have been proceedings against 24 persons in three elections and convictions on 20 occasions. This is quite in line, which the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us, with the other figures for breaches of other election laws; they are much the same. There is no better case on the ground that this law is broken than on the ground that any other election law is broken. We all know that these laws are broken a bit. This law is always broken a bit. There were 60 prosecutions, for instance, for all other election offences in the same period as there were 24 concerning cars.
Many Conservatives will argue that offenders against this restriction on cars are difficult to catch; and this argument has been used. The Attorney-General used it. It was an extraordinary one to come from his mouth. After all, a large number of larcenies go undetected. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) pointed out that the 30 m.p.h. speed limit is broken every minute of the day. On the argument that the Attorney-General applied to Section 88, he ought to be advocating the sweeping away of all these laws, which are much more gravely abused and much harder to detect. Does he think that more people offend against Section 88 than break the 30 m.p.h. speed limit? Is he really saying that? He should demand the abrogation of the 30-mileper-hour speed limit, because that would be the logic of his argument.
Almost all of the election laws are partially infringed. Everybody who has been in an election knows that there are 239 many breaches not only of Section 88, but of others. They cannot be brought home, but nobody says, because of that, that we should abrogate the law. The electoral law, broadly, is effective, and it maintains standards of good behaviour that would disappear if the law were not there.
The same is true of Section 88. The real reason why the Conservatives want to get rid of it is not that it is ineffective, but that it is effective. It really has an effect in reducing the number of cars. This part of the election law is as effective as other parts, and should be maintained for the same reason—
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is the right hon. Gentleman claiming that no section of the Labour Party is in favour of abolishing restrictions on the use of cars? If he is, is he not aware that in the Eye division of Suffolk, the Labour Party has made application to the county council to increase the number of polling stations in that large constituency—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—due to the difficulties of getting their supporters to the polls, because of the restriction in the use of motor cars?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am certainly in favour of the multiplication of polling stations. That is very desirable. I am not aware—and I rather doubt it, if I may say so—that that constituency has said exactly what the hon. Member has said. I do not know what evidence he has, but, in any case, I could find people who support the Conservative Party—including the Daily Telegraph—who certainly do not think that this Bill should be passed—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not want to punctuate the right hon. Gentleman's speech too much, but it is the fact, Mr. Speaker—and it is a published fact—that the Labour Party, in the Eye division, gave as its principal reason for the application the restriction on the use of motor cars at elections preventing their supporters getting to the polls. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that point? Eye is a rural division.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am quite sure that, after the passage of this Bill, that constituency will renew its request, on the ground of disparity of numbers of cars—that there are not enough cars to 240 take Labour supporters to the poll. That is the real reason for other Labour Parties wanting a multiplication of polling stations.
The truth is that it is this Bill that brings the law into contempt. This is a trick to change the rules of the game just before an election. This matter last came up in an important way at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, in 1955, when Lord Tenby, resisting this very proposal, used the same argument that the right hon. Gentleman is using about the maintenance of respect for the law: but he used it in a sense opposite to that of the right hon. Gentleman—and in a much more genuine and compelling sense.
On that occasion, Lord Tenby 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 respect for election law as something that is above party.Lord Tenby advanced that as an argument for maintaining the present law. It was a honourable and courageous argument—how different from the sort of argument that we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Tenby had a higher sense of his duty to maintain respect for the election law than has the right hon. Gentleman, who has not only given way to Conservative pressure but has made himself the mouthpiece of Conservative pressure that Lord Tenby had the virtue to withstand.
The second argument to which the right hon. Gentleman shifted, after abandoning his previous argument—which he repeated here—is that the number of cars does not matter; that the essential thing is that there are enough Labour cars to get their voters to the poll. He rested a good deal of his case on this, but my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) has shown that in his constituency he cannot get out all his permitted cars all day. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East showed that even now, with the existing law, 54 per cent. of Labour candidates cannot get all their permitted cars out all day.
Is that true of any single Conservative candidate in the country? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] We have not heard it in any debate. Maybe, there are one or two, but 54 per cent. of Labour candidates cannot get all their cars out all day, even as things are—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
As things are, under the existing law, the Conservatives have a very heavy advantage, and they are now trying to tip the scales even further in favour of the use and power of money in politics.
Let us brush aside all the smoke screen of hypocrisy that has been put up in defence of the Bill. We all know why the Conservatives, at Blackpool, pressed for the change, and we all know why the right hon. Gentleman has given way. The purpose of using cars in elections is so to organise them as to get a party's own supporters to the poll. The Conservatives have calculated that the Bill will give them a few hundred votes in marginal seats.
I have not doubt that Conservative Party managers have worked out, in those terms, the value of the Bill to them, and I have no doubt that they have informed the right hon. Gentleman of their conclusions, and that that is why he is rushing through the Bill with such indecent haste. There are hon. Members opposite, representing marginal seats, who have a direct personal interest in the passage of the Bill, and, before they vote tonight, they ought, in decency, to declare their interest.
Politics is, of course, a roughish game, and none of us complains. We like it—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Not even the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) complains of that.
Politicians and voters are, of course, not perfect. There was good political philosophy in the retort of the candidate to a voter who said that he would not vote for the candidate even if he were the Archangel Gabriel. To that the candidate replied. "If I were the Archangel Gabriel, you would not be in my constituency."
We are neither angels nor archangels, but we all recognise, or ought to recognise, that there are certain standards of 242 electoral behaviour that should be stoutly defended and preserved—standards of fairness. Those standards have been lowered by this Bill. The man chiefly responsible for lowering these standards is the Lord Privy Seal, who has sponsored it, defended it and rushed it through. He has cast the mantle of his own probity over the Bill. Today, he said again what he said as reported in col. 963 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, that, in matters of this sort… your action depends entirely on what your motive is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 963.]The right hon. Gentleman himself has put his motive in the scale, and it is his motive that we have weighed and found wanting.
The right hon. Gentleman has a double duty. As Home Secretary, he has the duty to preserve the fairness of the election law. As Leader of the House he has the duty to preserve the balance evenly between hon. Members and parties in the House. In both these duties he has failed. I must say to him, quite frankly, that by sponsoring, defending and rushing through the Bill he has lowered himself in our respect.
What the right hon. Gentleman is doing today is of a piece with his cynical General Election Budget. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It certainly is, and those are two things, among others, for which he will be remembered. As long as he is in public life it will never be forgotten that he produced that cynical General Election Budget, and that he has produced this dirty trick of a Bill. We regard the whole thing, and his part in it, with utter contempt.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question I put to him and which he has funked doing so far?
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I am very pleased once again to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, directly following the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who is a near constituency neighbour of mine. The contrast between his constituency and my own is, geographically, extremely striking, for his constituency is small and highly compressed and mine is large and scattered.
243 It seems to me that the gravamen of many of the arguments which have been advanced during our discussions on this very simple and straightforward Bill is that it will advantage the Conservative Party, not only because Conservative supporters are alleged to have more cars, but also because the Conservative Party happens to hold the overwhelming majority of the county divisions. The latter is indubitably the fact. It is the county divisions, with large, scattered and even remote populations, which have been most gravely afflicted by the restrictions on the use of motor cars.
I want to deal at once with the allegation made by so many hon. Gentlemen opposite, with which my right hon. Friend did not, I think, deal in any detail, that instead of abolishing the restrictions on motor cars altogether, there should have been some sort of graduation by which the existing law might have been improved by allowing more cars.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
On a point of order. If the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is allowed to pursue this kind of argument, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether we shall be allowed to pursue it in the same way?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think not. One must confine one's speech to what is in the Bill, and there is no proposal of the sort which the hon. Member for Kidderminster was mentioning just now. I do not think that that is in dispute on the Motion for the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) intervened at that particular moment, because I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that I would be strictly in order in drawing attention to the advantages which will be derived by those Members representing large and scattered constituencies as a result of the legislation proposed in the Bill, for that is in the Bill and that is exactly what I was seeking to lead up to. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, it is, and I have no doubt that I am in order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie), who represents the counties of Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, sits for a constituency which has an area of more than 1 million acres. That is a striking contrast with other constituencies. 244 Though my own is a large county constituency in England, it still covers only 132,000 acres, whereas my hon. Friend's constituency covers more than 1 million acres. Yet he has an electorate of only 34,000, spread over 1 million acres.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
The hon. Gentleman can say that there are over 1 million acres and only 34,000 electors, but there are, of course, hundreds of thousands of those acres that are uninhabited by anybody.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am being interrupted before being allowed to complete my sentences, and the right hon. Member for Smethwick, who gave way to me twice, will readily testify that I do allow hon. Gentlemen opposite to complete that section of their argument before seeking to intervene. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that a constituency of the sort represented by my hon. Friend, an inordinately large one, geographically, with a relatively tiny electorate, is, in my opinion, the finest example of the most scattered constituency in the United Kingdom. Manifestly, there is an advantage to the electorate in the unrestricted use of motor cars in a constituency as vast as that, in getting the electors to the polls. Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) wish to interrupt?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Only if the hon. Gentleman will not grumble at me for doing so. The hon. Gentleman is advancing an argument that there should be more cars in large and sparsely inhabited constituencies. Why is this an argument for increasing the number of cars in Kidderminster?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Why? Because mine is, by English standards, a large and scattered constituency, but English standards, as in so many of these matters, fall far short of Scots' standards, and my hon. Friend's constituency is eight times as big as mine, though my constituency is one of the biggest in England.
If that is adjusted for the electorate, it becomes manifestly ridiculous to try to clamp on a constituency of the sort which my hon. Friend represents a restriction op. motor cars which, on the basis of one Oar to 2,500 electors, gives him no more, than 14 motor cars for more than 1 million acres. Is that not nonsense? It is absolute nonsense, and it is that which the 245 Bill abolishes, and that is why I say, even though the example I have given is an extreme one, that the Bill is both desirable and necessary.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House also sits for a vast, scattered county constituency in Essex. To put matters into perspective, may I say that the acreage of my right hon. Friend's constituency is five times as big as mine? He has 600,000 acres, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend knew that when making his speech.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler indicated assent.
§ Mr. Nabarro
My right hon. Friend has a modest character, and possibly he did not wish to advertise the fact that he has physical and geographical difficulties in his own constituency. They are much greater than mine, I have no doubt.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
May I point out to my hon. Friend that this restriction does not seem to have interfered with both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) having been returned consistently for the last twenty-five years?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Nobody is knocking my argument to the floor. My right hon. Friend has the sort of character which would overcome physical limitations, and I have no doubt that it is his personal attributes, which have so continuously commended themselves to the electorate of Saffron Walden, and which have been largely responsible for the majority which he unfailingly secures.
When I interrupted the right hon. Member for Smethwick, he asked me for proof of the allegation which I made in connection with the Labour Party in the Eye division of Suffolk. Here is the proof, and I hope that every hon. Gentleman opposite will go away and turn up this quotation, for it shoots to pieces the whole of the argument the Labour Party has been advancing in this debate. It is a report from the East Anglian Daily Times of Saturday, 22nd November, 1958:The Clerk to the County Council reported that he recently had a request from representatives of the Eye constituency Labour Party to investigate the position in respect of many of the parishes at present linked for polling purposes. Grounds for the request were"—246 I will not quote (a) and (b), because they are not relevant to the Bill. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] If you allow me to do so, I will quote them, Mr. Speaker, but they are not relevant to the Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
They do not come within the purview of motor cars, and. therefore, are not relevant to the Bill.
The third reason given for the request to the county council for an increase in the number of polling stations from 140 to 189, contains these words:The number of cars permitted by the Act to be used at a Parliamentary election was too small to enable adequate arrangements to be made in every case where electors had long distances to travel to the polling station.The fourth reason given—and these people are the Eye constituency Labour Party, not the Liberal Party—is:It was unreasonable to expect electors to make their own way to the polling station as far distant in some cases as two to two-and-a-half miles from their homes.Is there any more direct condemnation of all the arguments advanced from the other side of the House than what the constituency Labour Party said in Eye, namely, that the inadequacy of motor cars was a fundamental reason for requiring an increase in the number of polling stations? [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] The hon. Member who shouts "Rubbish" should learn a little about logic, and go away and look at the report of the activities of his own party in Eye.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am glad that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has now read out the report of what was said, because it is quite clear that what the constituency party was saying was that the proper way of dealing with the problem is not to lift the restriction on cars but to multiply the number of polling stations. That is all it was saying, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has now made it clear for us.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Where the right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong is this. The application was made to the clerk of the county council last summer, when the state of the law required a grave limitation on the number of motor cars used. The decision has only just been given, but the application was made much 247 earlier. As a result of our sweeping away the restriction on the use of motor cars, we shall help the Eye division Labour Party to secure sufficient cars to enable all its supporters to reach the polls.
Not out of any special desire to be generous to the Labour Party, but with a very real appreciation of equity in these matters, I claim that we are acting in the best interest of all political parties and, therefore, of the entire community.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Gentleman has now quoted clearly what the Eye divisional Labour Party said. We all agree that, under the Representation of the People Act, the only way to operate its provisions efficiently would be to have sufficient polling stations to make it possible for people easily to reach the polls. Nobody denied that if one restricted motor cars, one ought to make up for that by increasing the number of polling stations. That is all that is said there.
In the second place, it might have been arguable, as the hon. Gentleman himself was about to say, when he was ruled out of order—nobody denied it on this side—that one could keep the Bill but increase the proportion of cars in the rural areas. That is a possibility, but it is very unfair to quote a local Labour Party on this, when what it was insisting on was that the restriction on motor cars required polling stations everywhere.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Polling stations everywhere is not the answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) sits for a densely populated urban area. I think that he will agree with me when I say that 77 electors in his constituency will probably come from about 18 houses in one street in his division. Does he realise that, in my constituency, one polling station at Stockton-on-Teme was open from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night, a total of 14 hours, and for that one polling station there are 77 electors? At the last election, 69 of them voted. This involved two clerks and two police constables being on duty for 14 hours on end. That was all done for 77 electors.
§ Mr. Nabarro
What I am saying is that, on the basis of one polling station 248 to 75 or 80 electors in rural areas, manifestly the arrangements would become nearly impossible to man.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles Mac-Andrew)
I do not think that we want to discuss the problem of the number of polling stations on the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Very well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was rather led into it by a suggestion that the free use of motor cars could be avoided by a great increase in the number of polling stations.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Member, if I may respectfully say so, made the mistake of thinking that he could call upon the Labour Party in the Eye division of Suffolk in support of his argument.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does the hon. Gentleman not see even yet, after himself having read out what he did read, that, if there was any such difficulty such as he correctly described, the remedy for which the Labour Party in the Eye division asked was not his remedy but an increase in the number of polling stations?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Mine is not a disingenuous argument at all. I am giving the Labour Party everything. I am giving them total freedom. By supporting the Bill, I am giving Labour candidates the right to use as many cars as they want. Can any hon. Gentleman opposite deny that the practice of Labour supporters riding in Tory cars is ubiquitous? I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) is not here. She made a point earlier which I endeavoured to make on the Second Reading of the Bill.
I see that the OFFICIAL REPORT records "Laughter" at one point in my speech:There is a practice, which is quite ubiquitous, of Labour supporters riding in Tory cars. [Laughter.] Oh, I am all for it."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 5th November, 1958; Vol. 594. c. 984.]Of course I am all for it. The more Labour supporters ride in Tory cars, the greater will be the number of electors taken to the polls.
249 My sole desire in supporting the Bill, with the greatest sincerity and honesty, is to increase the number of electors who record their votes. That is the fundamental purpose of it. I do not believe in the Australian system of fining people who do not vote. I believe in removing all the artificial restrictions, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred, and thereby encouraging the maximum number of voters to go to the poll.
As I have said, my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway has a constituency covering more than 1 million acres, and it has one of the tiniest electorates in the country, 34,000 electors. No one else present can match figures like that. Is there any hon. Member present who has a bigger constituency or a smaller electorate?
Is it a coincidence that the percentage of electors voting in my hon. Friend's constituency at the last General Election was one of the smallest in the country?
§ Mr. John Mackie (Galloway)
In fairness to the electors concerned, I should say that there was not a Liberal candidate on that occasion.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I cannot see that that has anything at all to do with it. It was not a coincidence that only about 65 per cent. of the electorate reached the poll in my hon. Friend's constituency, which is, geographically, the largest, and, in terms of electorate, smaller than the constituency of any hon. Member seated in the Chamber at the present time. In my view, that was a direct result of the quite ridiculous situation that my hon. Friend had no more than 14 motor cars to cover his 1 million acres.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Member for Kidderminister has referred to the fact that only 65 per cent. of the people went to the polls. He will, of course, appreciate that that constituency has a history, and that, in 1945, the hon. Member who now sits for Galloway as a Conservative was opposed by the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I must say at once that a personal imputation of that kind is quite scurrilous and that I cannot for a moment accept it. We all know the character of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway. I have cited the case of his constituency because the facts cannot be challenged. My hon. Friend's constituency is larger than the constituency of any Member seated in the Chamber at present. It has an electorate smaller than the electorate of any Member now in the Chamber. It had the smallest turn-out of voters at the last General Election, smaller, I believe, than the turn-out in any constituency of any Member here now.
§ Mr. V. Yates rose—
§ Mr. Nabarro
It is not the Ladywood division of Birmingham. I think that all of those factors add up to the quite irrefutable conclusion that restriction on the use of motor cars, notably in rural areas, is a grave deterrent to securing a high return of voters and the transportation of voters to the polls.
§ Mr. Yates
May I refute the statement which the hon. Gentleman has made? I have in my hand the acreages and the electorate of the four largest constituencies in Scotland and those in England and Wales. The constituency of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) is not in the four largest constituencies.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
May I go further and point out that in the constituency of Kinross and West Perthshire, which is at least as large as the constituency of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), the poll at the last election was 70 per cent.?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am not wrong again. I did not say that my hon. Friend's constituency, Kirkcudbridght and Wigtown, is the biggest in the United Kingdom. I cited the acreage, which I obtained from the Abstract of Statistics for 1956 in the Library of this House. I agreed the acreage and the electorate with my hon. Friend. I did not say that it was the largest constituency in the country. I quoted it as a case where a very large constituency with a small electorate showed a relatively small turn-out at the polls.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Certainly not. I want to wind up my speech. I concede to the hon. Member that there may be a fraction of l per cent. difference between him and my hon. Friend in the electorate which voted in 1955. But that is not the point at issue. The point at issue is that in large and scattered constituencies with a grave restriction on the use of cars it generally follows that the turn out and percentage of electors going to the polls is relatively small.
In my speech on Second Reading I demonstrated that in the most widespread and scattered rural areas of my own constituency not much more than 50 per cent. of the electorate got to the polls in 1951 on a particularly foggy day. I do not dispute that in the Ladywood division of Birmingham, in a constituency in Coventry or in a constituency such as Smethwick, which is relatively small geographically, with a packed urban population, the old arrangements for motor cars might have been satisfactory, but in rural areas that is manifestly and grossly unsatisfactory and I see no reason why this liability should be placed upon country voters and the rural electorate.
Having regard to the large number of cars available today, and the proliferation and spread of those cars among all sections of society within the community, we would be wise to give an unopposed Third Reading to the Bill, thereby signifying from all quarters of the House that we believe in equity, and that we all support the principle of removing every artificial restriction and inhibition upon voters getting to the polls at parliamentary elections.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), in his final sentence, let the cat out of the bag. To remove all restrictions—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I said, artificial restrictions. I said very clearly that we should remove all artificial restrictions and inhibitions upon the electors reaching the polls.
§ Mr. Dye
It is, of course, a little difficult to follow the hon. Member in that claim. In the light of the Bill we must restrict ourselves to the use of motor cars at elections. The burden of the hon. Member's speech has been based on exceptional circumstances, and in quoting the most extreme cases in Great Britain he wants to amend the law so as to give to the extreme cases the full advantage of motor cars, knowing full well that in doing so he is seeking to gain a definite advantage for his own political party.
The hon. Gentleman was talking as if there was a low poll in all rural areas. That, of course, is not true. As I mentioned on Second Reading, there was an 82 to 83 per cent. poll in my constituency at the last General Election. My constituency is much larger than that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster and is quite as big as, if not larger than, that represented by the Home Secretary. There was no difficulty in people getting to the poll in my constituency. Sufficient polling stations seems to be the answer to the problem in rural areas.
There was a lot of heart-burning among Conservatives in my constituency after the result was known. What was the general conclusion to which they came? It was that if they were to have a chance at the next election then a restriction on the use of motor cars was the first essential. That was their conclusion it was not mine. When restrictions under Section 88 are in operation and where the county council has provided sufficient polling stations and there is in rural areas as high, or even higher, poll than is the average in the country, then the argument for special arrangements for rural areas for cars falls to the ground.
§ Mr. Osborne
Is it suggested that there are restrictions on the number of cars that may be used in county council elections?
§ Mr. Osborne
I was merely asking a civil question for information and I do not see why it should be treated in what way. I was merely asking whether there were restrictions on the number of cars that may be used in county council elections, which the hon. Member is citing.
§ Mr. Dye
That merely shows that the hon. Gentleman was not listening to what I was saying, but was thinking of the interruption which he could make. It was not referring to county council elections at all. All I said was that it is the duty of the county council to make arrangements for polling stations, and that where the county council made adequate arrangements for polling stations there was no ground for special pleading for an abundance of cars to get people to the polls.
I think that I know the minds of the electors in rural constituencies as well as any hon. Member. What is in the minds of rural electors these days? It is that having been told year after year that the poll is secret they want that secrecy observed. There is less and less demand for party cars to take people to the polls. The general trend of today is for people, including old people, to walk to the polling station, and dispense with assistance from any political party. The party opposite is trying to return to a situation where those with privileges, those owning cars, and those living in an area and employing people, could use all their privileges to encourage the electors to vote for the party opposite.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member used some such words as "privilege for those owning cars". Surely, to be perfectly objective and fair, the hon. Member should recognise that he is speaking as though people under the present law are not allowed to use their own cars. We all know perfectly well that that is not so.
§ Mr. Dye
I am not objecting to people using their own cars to take themselves to the polling station, or, indeed, members of their family or anybody who happens to be going in that direction on that occasion. It seems to me that there never has been a restriction on that. That is a good neighbour policy which has been carried out in the past and I see no objection to it.
But the right hon. and hon. Members opposite object to the removal of the restrictions because they fear that in a certain number of key marginal constituencies they will not be able, both inside and outside the constituency, to mobilise the use of cars and canvassers so as to 254 be in the position of being able to sway the election in their favour in those marginal constituencies. The whole purpose of the Bill is to enable them to do that. The Bill would not have been introduced otherwise.
§ Mr. Dye
Has the party opposite been concerned previously about the low poll in the constituency of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie)?
The hon. Member for Galloway has not been concerned about the low poll in his constituency or in some other constituencies. The pressure has come from a few marginal constituencies. Those are the constituencies which have forced this view on the party opposite. The Eye division has been mentioned because it was one of the marginal constituencies where the Conservative candidate received a majority of fewer than 1,000 votes at the last election and where the Labour Party was quite satisfied that the reason why he had the advantage was that there was an insufficient number of polling stations in the constituency. Now that point has been granted.
The argument of the hon. Member for Kidderminster seemed to be that the answer to the problem was not to provide more polling stations but to ensure the free use of cars. I argue that that infringes upon the liberty of the subject in exercising his vote. I submit that the party opposite wants to see more and more people taken to the poll in cars driven by Tories and decorated in the Tory colours, as a kind of demonstration on polling day that all the people are riding in Tory cars and will vote Tory. The idea is not that there should be a mass use of cars without any indication on the cars of the party using them or that people should expect to be quite free to vote for either party after having ridden in one party's cars. There will be a wonderful Tory Party organisation to prevent that happening.
The whole purpose of the engineering on the part of the Tory Party which the Home Secretary so eloquently described in his speech is that after a thorough canvass, based on the use of a mass of cars, the party will bring to the poll only those who have previously pledged themselves to vote for the party opposite. 255 That is the position which the party opposite desires. When it comes to a Parliamentary election it wants the whole country organised on the basis of a mass use of cars to get the Tories' own supporters and only their own to the poll. A comparison can be made with the position in county council and district council elections where there has been an unrestricted use of cars. Invariably there has been a smaller percentage poll than has been the case at Parliamentary elections where the restriction has been applied.
§ Mr. Dye
I am not here to go into the reasons why, but the argument that if there is a free use of cars at council elections there is a smaller percentage poll than at a Parliamentary election does not seem to me to add up to a reason for having an unrestricted use of cars at a Parliamentary election.
It seems to me a very sound argument that in the last three General Elections everybody has accepted that it was necessary, in fairness to all parties, to have an overall restriction on the number of cars. It is generally thought also that it would have been fair on the part of the Government to have approached the Opposition and asked for a compromise on this matter, and not to say, as the Home Secretary said today, that what the party opposite wanted was the agreement of the Labour Party to the abolition of all restrictions on motor cars. Had the approach been made, we could have debated in Committee or elsewhere what kind of compromise would have been fair to the country, based on an overall restriction that would have enabled a sufficient number of cars to be used in those constituencies where there is some distance to be travelled to the poll and there is insufficient transport.
The position, therefore, is the simple one that whatever the party opposite tries to do, by the use of cars, to influence voters in the rural constituency will redound on its own head. The people really want to be free from Tory domination in rural England. Whatever the circumstances of the election, that is one thing that will be brought home to the party opposite by the Bill.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I hope that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) will forgive me if I do not reply to him. He was most unusually discourteous.
Had the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) been so, I would have stopped him.
§ Mr. Osborne
I used the word "unusually" because it is unusual for the hon. Member to be discourteous.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
On a point of order. I do not want to press this too far, but the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) said that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) was unusually discourteous and you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, observed that if my hon. Friend had been you would have rebuked him. That is to say, in effect you told the House that my hon. Friend had not been unusually discourteous. In those circumstances, I suggest that the hon. Member for Louth should withdraw that observation. He will do himself no harm by doing so.
§ Mr. Osborne
If it will please the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, I will withdraw and beg pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
But I did not so far forget myself as to bellow like a bull, as did the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) earlier. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is in his place, because I would remind him of three things which he said that were so unusual for him and so much out of keeping with his general character and conduct in the House. He seemed deliberately to misquote my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He quoted my right hon. Friend a saying that he could not imagine any reason for 257 supporting a Third Reading, when my right hon. Friend had said, as the right hon. Gentleman will find in HANSARD, "no further reason." That deliberate misquotation was so untypical of the right hon. Member for Smethwick that I am surprised that he made it.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I said that the right hon. Gentleman had not used any arguments in favour of the Bill and could not think of any further ones, which meant that he could not think of any arguments at all.
§ Mr. Osborne
The right hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend could not imagine any further reason for supporting the Third Reading of the Bill, and, so unlike his usual character, misled the House about what had been said by my right hon. Friend, whom both sides of the House respect.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
If I did that, which was a little trick of debate, I am sorry, and I withdraw it.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am glad to get that on the record, too.
The right hon. Gentleman's second point—quite a legitimate point—was that even if the Labour Party has sufficient cars at present, many of its male supporters are at work and, therefore, cannot use them for the full period when polling is taking place. That means that in man-hours concerning the use of cars the Labour Party is at a disadvatage compared with the Conservative Party. That is true, but when challenged to say whether that was true, that they can only use all their cars for part of the time, and when asked why the Labour Party did not allow its own people with cars the use of more cars so that they obtained the maximum number of man-hours permitted, the right hon. Gentleman promised to reply three times, but each time he failed to reply.
The right hon. Gentleman also went on to say that 54 per cent. of the Labour candidates could not use the maximum number of cars available because their supporters were either on shifts or could not give the whole of the day to doing this work as could, he alleged, the Conservative supporters. That, surely, is a very good reason why the number of cars should be increased or made limitless, so that the Labour supporters who 258 can use their cars only half a day should be entitled to bring out all the cars available.
The last thing which the right hon. Gentleman said, and which again surprised me as most extraordinary as he had rather shouted himself into an unusual temper, was that the Leader of the House was responsible for lowering the standards in this respect. I am sure that in our calmer moments we would agree that the Leader of the House is a man of very high character. We may differ from him in his policies, but I am sure that few of us, in our sober moments, would attack his character in this way. I am surprised at the right hon. Member for Smethwick descending to that level.
Why do I support the Bill? The first reason is that if a free democracy is to work properly it has to get the maximum number of people to the polls. We are all agreed on that. I represent a widely scattered constituency consisting of two boroughs and over 80 villages. I know, as most hon. Members know, that at present the law is winked at and not obeyed. In the villages which I have the honour to represent it seems unreasonable and stupid to prevent someone with a car from bringing a neighbour three or four miles, in some cases, to the poll, especially if it is a bad, winter night. In the ordinary way, out of good neighbourliness, they would take their neighbours into the market town or to the bus stop, but it would appear that on this one occasion that good neighbourliness, which is so characteristic of country people, is to be forbidden.
§ Mr. Osborne
I would rather not argue with the hon. Gentleman.
It seems to me very unwise to say to our country people, "No, you shall not take your neighbour in to the polling station. Your car is not registered." That means that the person concerned would have to say to his neighbour, I cannot help you as I try to do all the other days of the week. On this one day when it is important for you to register your vote at a secret ballot I cannot take you to the poll because the law will not allow me to carry you."
Throughout the debate the pamphlet entitled "The Future Labour Offers You" has been quoted a good deal. It 259 seems to me that what it offers on this issue is that people shall walk instead of ride. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. That would be doing a great disservice to older people living in widely scattered constituencies.
I cannot understand why right hon. and hon. Members opposite work themselves up into such a frenzy over what is a relatively small and unimportant Bill. The right hon. Member for Smethwick got so excited about the matter this afternoon that he was shouting. Twelve months ago, because of the Gallup polls, right hon. and hon. Members opposite were confident that they were going to win the next election.
§ Mr. Osborne
I would take odds on our chances, but right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are very frightened.
§ Mr. Osborne
Hon. Members opposite are making a lot of heavy weather over an issue about which they ought not to talk so much.
§ Mr. Lipton
The hon. Gentleman said that this was a small and unimportant Bill. If that is so, how does he account for the fact that the Government are giving it top priority?
§ Mr. Osborne
I will try to answer that question. The reason advanced by hon. Members opposite is that it has been brought forward in response to a demand made for it at Conservative Party conferences. Surely, in a free democracy, that is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. We are supposed to govern according to public opinion, and, as far as we can judge, the opinion has been expressed on more than one occasion that the law should be changed in this respect. I do not see that the Government are doing anything wrong under the Constitution by doing something which public opinion has demanded so often. That is why the Bill is being brought in.
260 As I see it, the most important issue underlying the matter, if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will forgive me for saying so, was revealed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his speech in the debate on the Gracious Speech on 29th October. He made a very impassioned plea, as he always does, very sincerely and very impressively. He told the story of the early days of the Labour Party and of Keir Hardie. He said that he was toldthe story of Keir Hardie's first election in Merthyr Tydfil, when he was opposed by two millionaires. One was a millionaire coal owner and the other was a diamond merchant. As the day of the election came near his agent was very worried about what he heard in rumours about what the squirearchy, the coal owners and rich industrialists, were to bring to the aid of Hardie's opponents. There were very few, if any, motor cars in those days, but they were to be supplied with the conveyances of that period. In his worry, the agent asked, 'What are we to do?' but Hardie replied, 'Don't worry, brother, I have already drawn up a poster.' There is a copy of that poster among the honoured archives in Merthyr Tydfil, which says:'Walk to the polls and vote for Keir Hardie. Conviction is the best conveyance.'"—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 29th October, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 148–9.]That was Keir Hardie's advice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have that support. If right hon. and hon. Members opposite still believe what Keir Hardie preached sixty years ago, that conviction is the best conveyance, why are they frightened—
§ Mr. Osborne
—of the unlimited use of motor cars? Do they think that their supporters no longer have any conviction? If their supporters have conviction, the number of motor cars will not matter one iota, and if they have not conviction—and I am glad to have silence for this remark—then how weak are their views if a mere ride in a Tory motor car changes them from voting Labour to voting Tory.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Am I right in my understanding that the hon. Member's argument is that Labour voters should walk and that Tory voters should ride to the polls?
§ Mr. Osborne
I am quoting the hon. and learned Member's own Deputy Leader in a speech which I beg him to read. He was claiming that Keir Hardie's 261 advice, given in the 1890s to the Welsh organiser, was advice which the modern Labour Party should adopt. This advice was, "Do not bother about conveyance to the polls. Even if they have dozens and dozens more cars than we have, our own people's convictions are so strong and firm that conviction is the best conveyance."
§ Mr. Osborne
If he were right and if hon. Members still believe that their supporters have conviction and will vote for them, why are they frightened about motor cars?
§ Mr. Osborne
I have many scattered villages in my constituency, as I have tried to explain, and, normally, people take their poorer neighbours by car into towns and villages to do their shopping and to catch their buses. They are good neighbours, one to another. The use of motor cars in a country district is a neighbourly affair. On this one important occasion, however, because of the fear and the prejudice of hon. Members opposite, they are not allowed to use them.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
Is the hon. Member anxious to have an answer to his argument? If he is, will he finish his speech as soon as possible, so that we may give him the answer?
§ Mr. Osborne
I think that I should be allowed to make my speech, as hon. Members opposite have made theirs—and have taken their time in making them. I will not march to the orders of the gauleiters of the Opposition.
I understand hon. Members opposite say that they feel this to be unfair and unreasonable because it gives one party advantage over another. If they do not agree that the claim made by their Deputy Leader, quoting Keir Hardie, no longer holds good, and if they do not agree that their supporters have no conviction at all—or insufficient to take them to the polls—then they have no grounds on which to oppose the Bill. If, on the other hand, they believe that their supporters—about whom they are so nervous, wondering whether they will support the party in sufficient numbers—no longer have those convictions which they originally claimed, they might have some objection to the 262 Bill. But they have always fallen between the two stools.
In the rural districts the Bill will help to get the maximum number of people to the polls, and in so far as it does that it is a good Bill and I support it.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)
The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) finished on a note about rural constituencies, and this has been mentioned by each of the preceding speakers from the Government benches. I will deal with it in a moment, but I want first to make one or two general remarks about the Bill. I have listened very carefully to the Home Secretary, to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and to the hon. Member for Louth, but I still think that this is a thoroughly bad Bill, and I am sure that my hon. Friends agree with me. Indeed, I thought that the Home Secretary was most uncomfortable in addressing the House. It was one of the worst speeches he has made, if not the worst, in addressing the House during the years I have been a Member.
The speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster was an entertainment from start to finish. I will deal later with the points which he made.
Replying to the hon. Member for Louth, he will agree that for many years the House, as the voice of the nation has been trying in respect of Parliamentary elections to create a situation which, in broad terms, will give a sense of equality in finance and wealth between one candidate and another. That has been the object of both the Representation of the People Act and more recent Acts. They sought to diminish and to remove those privileges which wealth bestowed. In this, Bill that process is to be reversed, and that is why my hon. Friends and I claim that this is a thoroughly bad Bill. Once again privilege is to be rampant. We are to go back to the bad old days. In those days we had expressions of wealth and privilege at elections through the use of special trains, horses and carriages and other conveyances. Today it is the motor car.
It is idle to say that this will make no difference to constituencies. I speak from long experience of election work and I know very well that in the old days, time after time cars in their hundreds were 263 switched from constituencies which were predominantly Conservative into neighbouring constituencies which the Conservatives thought, with the use of cars, they might win. That is what will happen when the Bill is passed. The Conservatives will do it again; they will use the wealth and the privileges inherent in the Tory Party. They will flood constituencies with hundreds of cars.
It is equally wrong to say that the Labour Party has ample cars. I do not know where hon. Members opposite obtain their experience. In the elections which I have contested, and those which I have conducted, I have not yet been able to get sufficient cars. Even under the present law I have never been able to fill the quota allotted to me as a Parliamentary candidate, and I am sure that that applies in a great number of constituencies where Labour candidates fight today. Even those Labour supporters who own cars are often unable to lend those cars because of the expense involved. They are very loyal to the Labour cause but, because of the cost in petrol and their own loss of working time, they are unable to give us the assistance which otherwise they would give.
The Home Secretary argued strongly that the law had been brought into contempt, but I do not see that it has. Here again, I speak from my own experience. There have been very few occasions in connection with this aspect of the electoral law on which I could say that people had deliberately gone out to break the law. Apart from my personal experience, I think that the figures given by the Home Secretary support the argument which I am now making. He told us in the Second Reading debate, for example, that there had been 24 proceedings and 20 convictions under this Section. We have to spread those proceedings and convictions over three Parliamentary elections. We have to spread them roughly over 1,800 contests. That is 20 convictions out of 1,800 contests. Those contests would have involved at least 70,000 cars. Surely, such an experience over the last three elections produces no sound reason for the contention advanced by the Home Secretary. Rather, it seems to me, the argument is on our side.
264 I want to pass to the argument which has been advanced that we cannot get people to the polls without an unrestricted use of cars. Personally, I think that is utter nonsense. Since the 1948 Act was passed, 84 per cent. of the people polled in the first election. In 1951 82.6 per cent. of the people polled. Both those were winter elections in the worst possible conditions. It shows, therefore, that after the Act was passed, though not necessarily because of it, of course, the percentage of people voting at Parliamentary elections was higher than it had been for many years previously.
I believe that as the Act stands at the moment, there are enough cars to serve all reasonable purposes. What is more, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H Lucas-Tooth), who is not in his place at the moment but who spoke on the Second Reading, agreed with that when he addressed the Tory Party Conference. When he did that, of course, there were far fewer cars than there are today; so the argument that he then advanced is totally sound today.
Not only do I say that there are sufficient cars. I say that also in respect of rural constituencies. This is where I come to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster who, almost with a sob in his voice, told us about the tragedies and difficulties in rural constituencies today resulting from this limitation on motor cars. He referred to the inability to get people to the polls, and mentioned the constituency of one of his hon. Friends. Unfortunately, in the time available I have not been able to obtain the figures for that constituency, but I have one or two figures which may interest the House on this point.
I think the House will agree that if the present limitation is such a handicap, and if so many electors are prevented from getting to the polling stations, surely by and large that would reflect itself quite clearly in the percentage of people recording their votes. As a matter of fact, the actual figures are, in my opinion, against the contention advanced from the other side of the House today. I want to give one or two figures relating to the last election. I have not the figures for any other General Election, but I have no reason to believe that they would turn out very differently from those that I now quote.
265 If we take the English boroughs and compare them with the English counties—I am dealing with the argument used by the hon. Member for Kidderminster when he spoke about the county divisions and said how difficult it was there—we find that at the last election the voting in the English boroughs was 75.5 per cent. In the English counties it was 78.7 per cent.—a much higher percentage in the county divisions than in the boroughs. In the Welsh boroughs the voting was 77.9 per cent. and in the counties it was 80.8 per cent. Again the voting was higher in the counties. Now I come to Scotland, with its wide open spaces to which reference has been made so frequently by hon. Members opposite. I find that in the Scotch burghs the voting at the last election was 74.6 per cent. and in the counties it was 75.1 per cent. If we take the whole of Great Britain in terms of voting, the percentage was higher in the county divisions than in the boroughs.
I want to refer particularly to a constituency that was mentioned in the Second Reading debate by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir). He claimed that his constituency was the largest in England, that it covered 1,000 square miles. I am prepared to accept that as accurate. When I looked up the figures for this constituency I found that at the last election the polling there, in all those difficult conditions and in such a widespread constituency, was 77.2 per cent.—higher than the average for the rest of the country.
Surely in the figures that I have given there is evidence to show that in the counties, despite all their so-called disabilities under the 1948 Act, there are reasonable facilities for getting people to the polls. What is more, as has already been pointed out, if there are not reasonable facilities the present Act provides those facilities. The returning officer or the local authority can provide the necessary polling stations, for the duty so to do is placed upon them. The Act also provides that local electors can make representations to the Home Secretary on this question of polling stations.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that half a car per polling station is adequate to get electors to the polls? My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) said that he had half a car per polling station. In my own constituency 266 we have less than one car per polling station and we regard that as totally inadequate to allow the people who want to go to the poll to do so freely and without hindrance.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. One cannot get over the electoral figures, which I have taken on a fair basis. I have taken the counties mentioned by hon. Members opposite as being those places where one would expect to find the evil effects of the present law. But I have shown conclusively from the figures that I have quoted that voting in county constituencies is as high as—indeed, higher than—in the borough divisions. I conclude that if there is a need for any change, it is in the direction of the provision of additional polling stations.
I believe that the Government have failed completely to show that the present system is unfair. The Bill is unfair because it destroys the principle that, within broad limits, candidates should be placed on an equal basis. This Bill is merely a manœuvre to bring the weight of vested interests still more heavily on the side of the Tory Party. I can understand the hon. Member for Louth saying that it was supported at the Tory Party conference and that delegates were enthusiastic about it. That is natural. It will give the Tories a tremendous advantage in privilege which they have always craved. For that reason they support this Bill, and for the same reason we on this side of the House oppose it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I welcome the Bill because I want the maximum number of people to go to the poll. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) that there is anything to be complacent about in the English counties in the fact that we get about 78 per cent. of the registered electors to the poll. That is not enough. We should all like to see 80 per cent., 90 per cent., 99 per cent. of the electorate voting.
I represent a very scattered rural constituency, nearly as scattered as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir). Also I fought a by-election in the middle of a bad winter three years ago, so I am familiar with the difficulties which have to be faced in such areas. I think however, that the hon. Gentleman 267 has forgotten that an election is a far greater event in a country village than it is in a town. From my experience in fighting an election in a large borough constituency at Derby, before I went to Lincolnshire, I can say that in a country area people are far more enthusiastic about their vote. Voting is the main event of the day. People are less sophisticated and they take more trouble in getting to the poll. This accounts for the fact that we get a higher poll in the English counties than in some boroughs.
I wish to bear out what my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) has said about the great traffic difficulties in the rural areas. The local bus companies are cutting down their bus services, and if one goes to a private individual and asks him to take on the bus service, even to provide a service only on market day for the village, he will say that it is not economic to run a bus at the fares he could charge. It is easier for four people to get together and share a motor car. The sharing of motor cars for most of the villages, certainly in the Lincolnshire Wolds, is the recognised way of getting about in the countryside at the moment. Also, we are faced with a further cutting down of the public transport services and with the closing of many branch railway lines.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) pointed out how important it is for the county council and the returning officer to provide an adequate number of polling stations, but he disregarded the problem we have now that there are many hamlets where it is almost impossible to provide polling stations, where the primary school has been closed, where the reading room is collapsing, and where it is no longer financially possible to keep open the village hall. I was appalled at some of the places used as polling stations at my by-election. It was not really fair to ask any clerk or any two people in charge to spend the day there.
This Bill will enable people from outlying hamlets, where it is almost impossible now to provide a polling station, to go even to the school which their children attend, and vote there. I am convinced that the Bill will get the maximum number of people to the poll, which is what we all want. I hope that the 268 Measure will go through without a Division tonight; but, if there is a Division, I am certain we will have a thumping good majority behind us.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has indicated his support for the Bill, principally for the reason that it will induce a larger number of people to turn out to vote. How can the hon. Gentleman persist in that argument when in the past three elections, in 1950, 1951 and 1955, after the passing of the 1948 Act, a higher percentage of people cast their votes than in any General Election prior to that date? In case I am asked, "What about municipal elections where the use of cars is unrestricted?", may I say at once that my argument is not contradicted but is borne out by our contention that people will turn out to vote for ideals, about which we were twitted, and not because of cars.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
The hon. Gentleman has suggested that we are supporting the Bill on the ground that it will get a larger number of people to the poll. That is precisely why we are supporting it. If the Bill will not do that—which is apparently his contention—why is he objecting to the Bill?
§ Mr. Hannan
The objection is clearly on the basis of fairness to all political parties. There can be no objection to each side providing the same number of cars. As far as I can understand their arguments and speeches, hon. Gentlemen opposite are not directing their remarks to the principle of the Bill. Too many speeches have been made from the opposite benches which have suggested that there are not sufficient cars. The Bill is seeking the abolition of all restrictions. If the argument had been that in certain areas an increase in the number of cars could be justified, that would be another question, but that is not what is in the Bill, which seeks the abolition of all restrictions and the unlimited use of cars.
If that is the case and the argument, it makes nonsense of the statements that have been made in the past about fairness and about freedom for the individual. This is not freedom; this is licence for one political party. There is all the 269 difference in the world between that and the freedom of the individual, who will not be stopped from voting in any way.
In order to buttress the argument, I must return to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). In the 1949 Act and in previous Acts there have been restrictions. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to use the same arguments they have been advancing about cars in respect of the amount of money that may be spent in elections? Will they use the same arguments in respect of the number of clerks who may be employed by one party as against another? Will they use the same arguments in the matter of restrictions as to where hoardings and posters should be placed? These are all important matters covered by the same Act. It seems to me that the Government, quite cynically and with well-thought-out intentions, are prepared to take only those points which they know will be of advantage to their own political party.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) referred earlier to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. We all deplore that he has fallen in the esteem of this House by taking the line he has done. Certainly one would not have dreamed this from his earlier remarks at Conservative Party conferences, where he then took the proper line as a Minister of the Crown. It is said that hon. Members opposite are neutral in this matter. They are just as neutral as the football fan in Glasgow of whom a story is told in connection with the enmity between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. When he was asked, "Which team do you support?" he replied, "I don't support either of them. I don't care a hoot who wins as long as they beat Celtic." That is the attitude of the Conservative Party. They do not care as long as their privilege is sustained by the proposals contained in this Bill.
Earlier this afternoon we were twitted about being frightened of the results, and so forth, and the idealism of Keir Hardie was recommended to us cynically. What is wrong with that advice to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gains-borough? Why not take some of the advice we were getting earlier? What are the Government supporters afraid of? 270 Are they afraid that the members of their own party have no ideals? Indeed the Home Secretary as much as admitted this. He said it was a mechanical support. So it is, but in thought as well as in conveyance to the poll.
Earlier this afternoon, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) sought to establish the case for the counties as against the boroughs. I confess that I do not know much about the areas south of the Border, but his argument did not hold much water for those areas north of the Border. However, I will leave the English and Welsh positions to my hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath who disposed most effectively of the contention of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. M. Noble) in his place, because he will be able to confirm what I am about to say. His constituency is larger than that of Dumfries or Galloway, perhaps not in electorate, but certainly in area. The constituency of Dumfries covers about 1 million acres, but that of Argyll covers 1,990,000 acres and has an electorate of 40,162. At the last General Election, even with the so-called handicap of the lack of motor cars, 69 per cent. of the electorate in that constituency voted.
The largest constituency in Scotland is Inverness. It covers 2,383,000 acres. If the hon. Member for Kidderminster were present, he would divide that figure by 640 to bring it to square miles. Those who can tackle that sort of arithmetic are welcome to do so, but I shall stick to the figure of 2,383,000 acres. The electorate in Inverness is 49,000 and at the last General Election 69 per cent. of the electorate voted. I have already given figures for Kinross and West Perthshire—1,325,000 acres and a 33.000 electorate and a 70 per cent. poll at the General Election.
Coming from a city like Glasgow, I can understand the difficulties which may be encountered in county and rural areas when one wants as high a poll as possible. However, the Bill is concerned not with that, but with conferring a privilege on one side in an effort to increase the electorate, even in spite of those admirable figures. However, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, an Amendment 271 to increase the permitted number of motor cars was rejected.
Hon. Members opposite are confirming the impression, given on Second Reading and reinforced throughout the Committee stage, that the Bill is sheer hypocrisy and the shedding of crocodile tears in an effort to convince the public that hon. Members opposite are the only people who care for the public interest. The Bill is nothing but a sham and a mockery. It should be condemned by the House and not accepted in the best traditions of fairness and British democracy.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
One of the principle arguments adduced in favour of the Bill has been that it will persuade more people to vote. I do not know that that is altogether an advantage. On considering those countries which produce the highest percentage polls, one finds that in certain countries in Eastern Europe, without the aid of motor cars, a poll of 99.9 per cent. is obtained. I hope that I may be forgiven if I view with some suspicion the arguments put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite who have pretended that the main reason for the Bill is to obtain the highest possible poll. When they talk of the highest possible poll, they mean for Conservative candidates at the next General Election. To that extent, their argument is tenable, but I do not think it will work out in practice.
One question which has never been answered is why there was no mention of the Bill in the Gracious Speech. That mystery has never been solved. It is extraordinary that a Bill to which the Government have obviously given top priority—since it has been introduced so early in the legislative timetable—should not have been mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The only explanation which occurs to me for this curious omission is that the Government are so ashamed of this scruffy little Bill that they thought that it would spoil the atmosphere of the televised proceedings if this scruffy little Bill were included in the legislative programme announced in another place.
With one of those occasional flashes of candour for which he is so distinguished, the Home Secretary made it clear that the Bill will confer an advantage on the 272 Conservative Party. I wish that he had said that on Second Reading and not at this late stage in our proceedings. It will obviously be an advantage to the Tory Party in the approaching General Election.
We have heard much about the difficulties of the electors in rural areas. More than one hon. Member opposite has implied that to provide cars on an acreage basis, something along the lines of farm subsidies, would be one way of dealing with the matter. However, because conditions in certain backward areas are difficult is no reason why cars should be provided in this way in those areas in which communications are good. Although conditions may be difficult in the backward area represented by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie), that is no reason why cars should be provided in a constituency such as mine. I might be inundated with Conservative cars at the next election, and although it would not make any difference to the result, they would not be necessary.
However, if the Government are anxious to provide facilities for voters to go to the polls, regardless of how they vote—and many hon. Members opposite have suggested that there would be no objection to conveying Labour voters to the poll—why was not the following simple proposal brought forward? Why was it not suggested that all these patriotic gentlemen who want to put cars at the disposal of the Tory candidates should put their cars at the disposal of the local returning officer, in that way providing a pool of cars to enable people to record their votes? Perhaps that would not suit the Government's intentions, as revealed in debates on the Bill.
There are many other ways of ensuring a high poll and they are better than the scruffy way embodied in this Bill. One way is to make election day a Bank Holiday and to arrange with the B.B.C. that radio and television programmes services should not broadcast popular programmes which might induce people to stay at home. The Government could arrange with these organisations to broadcast, every half-hour, in loud and stentorian tones, the question, "Have you voted yet?" and keep reminding people until nine o'clock at night. Every popular programme which interests people could be used on polling day to 273 remind people that a General Election was taking place. There are all sorts of ways in which, if the Government really wanted to persuade people to vote, they could ensure a far higher percentage of electors at the next General Election than has ever before been recorded.
The people of this country will see through the Bill. It will not help the Government one iota. It is already exposed as a mean and petty manoeuvre, almost on the eve of a General Election, designed to help the Conservative Party, which feels that it is on a rather sticky wicket anyhow, and that this subterfuge will enable it to cash in on a few more votes. I have no doubt that when the time comes for the House to record its views the Government will force this Bill through, but they have emerged with little or no credit from the discussions that we have had upon it. It is too late to ask them to withdraw it, but I have no doubt that the public reaction to this mean manoeuvre will be to record more votes for the Labour Party in the next General Election.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I was very disappointed to hear the Home Secretary's speech. I want to refer to the remarks that I made in Committee, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. He has dismissed me as not being among the intellectuals, but I have been speaking from the heart and not from the head. It is true that t feel very strongly upon any question where I believe there is unfairness. Nevertheless, I tried to point out to him what I thought were solid facts, derived from my experience of elections. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) also gave some facts in this connection.
My objection to the Bill can be put in the words used by the Home Secretary himself in an interjection this afternoon, when he said that he had never said that there would be parity. That is my argument. There is no parity in this matter, and he has admitted it today. What I object to is that throughout the discussions he has tried to give the impression that in all constituencies it was possible to obtain sufficient motor cars to take our supporters to the poll. The right hon. Gentleman used the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East 274 (Mr. Crossman) to try to convince the House that we could all get 1,300 motor cars. As I sought to show, that would certainly not be the case in Birmingham. In fact, if we could get 1,300 cars for the whole of Birmingham there would be general rejoicing.
The Home Secretary said that he understands Birmingham; he has been there. I can tell him that in the city there has been a tremendous redevelopment programme, during which thousands of people have been taken from the centre of the city and placed on outlying estates. At the last General Election it was well known that hundreds of my constituents had been removed to distant areas. In Committee, I pointed out that the Conservative candidate opposed to me at the last election polled the lowest vote in the whole of the Midlands. He could have done with some more motor cars to go into the outlying areas and take the electors to the poll.
I was not able to obtain the maximum number of cars, but the Home Secretary is now saying that it is quite fair to allow every Conservative candidate in Birmingham to have an unlimited supply of cars so that he can bring all his voters to the poll. He dismisses a constituency like Ladywood because he does not think that it would make so much difference. That may be a compliment to me. It may be that he anticipates that I should be reelected at the next election. But even in such a case, if, by virtue of the superior weapons of one candidate, it could be shown that his opponent's majority had been reduced, it would not be fair. If, as a result of an increase in the number of motor cars permitted, the Conservative vote went up and the Labour vote went down, it would be unfair, no matter whether or not the seat concerned was a safe one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath has said that in his constituency it would be impossible to get the legal maximum of cars, and that is also true for the Sparkbrook division. It is true in the case of my constituency, and the constituencies of many of my hon. Friends. I could point to marginal constituencies in the Midlands where a difference of 100 votes or so would determine which candidate was elected. If we fight with weapons that are fair, and fight on a parity, we must accept the result of an 275 election, but even if there is only one case where conditions are not fair a Bill of this kind should not be introduced.
I want to turn to the question of the numbers of motor cars possessed by the parties. The Home Secretary must know that the figures he quoted are fantastic. In my previous constituency, which was altered in 1950, there was a membership of 1,800 in the Labour Party, not 10 of whom had motor cars, but there is not one constituency in Birmingham which is represented by a Conservative Member of which it could be said that not more than 10 Conservatives had motor cars. I have visited other constituencies in Birmingham and have searched for these many workers who are supposed to own motor cars. Even were it true that there are such people, there would be no garages in which to house their motor cars because a shortage of garages is one of the problems which we have to face in Birmingham.
If hon. Members representing rural constituencies feel that the present law does not provide them with sufficient cars they could suggest what they consider an adequate figure without asking for an unlimited supply. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—who is not now in the Chamber; he is usually absent when other hon. Members are replying to his arguments—said that in his constituency 69 electors out of 77 catered for at one polling station went to vote. That represents about 90 per cent. I am quite sure that there was no parity between the number of cars available for the hon. Member for Kidderminster and those provided for his Labour opponent, but there is not much to grumble at if such a high proportion of people go to the poll.
It is a serious matter when one considers the situation in large areas where, because of redevelopment and reconstruction, one candidate has not the opportunity or the means to convey supporters from outlying districts to the poll. It has been said that conviction is the best conveyance, but with all the conviction in the world, there are people who find it difficult to get to the poll.
I hope that hon. Members will vote against the Bill. Although I have admired many of the things which the 276 Home Secretary has done, for instance, when he has stood up firmly against those who have asked for something which is unfair, I am sorry that he is associated with this Measure. However he may manipulate the figures, the right hon. Gentleman must know that the provisions of the Bill are grossly unfair to the workers and that the Bill can give advantage only to one political party.
I thought better of the right hon. Gentleman. Let him come to Birmingham, where he will find that most of the people will not applaud this decision of the Government. On many occasions neighbouring constituencies, including those in Birmingham, have sent cars to a constituency to support the Tory candidate. I have known times when the Edgbaston division of Birmingham has flooded neighbouring Birmingham constituencies with motor cars to support the Tory candidates. Workers for the Labour Party in Birmingham, and Labour voters there, will not believe that this is not a grossly unfair Measure, designed to benefit one political party. I hope that the electorate will treat it with the contempt that it deserves.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
It is not surprising that I find myself in the rather unusual position of following two or three of my hon. Friends. It shows how much more deeply we on this side of the House feel about the matter than do right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Diamond
I am concerned about this matter, and with the help of my own "front bench" below the Gangway, I should like to treat it with the seriousness which it deserves.
The reason why we on this side of the House feel so keenly about the matter is that we are discussing something different from that which hon. Members opposite are discussing. In introducing the Bill, the Home Secretary mentioned two fundamental propositions. The first was that it is in the interests of democracy that it should be made as easy as possible for people to record their vote. That is not the full statement. The full statement is that it should be as easy as possible for all people to record their vote.
277 The Conservatives are talking about and working in favour of getting as many people to the poll as possible. Considered in isolation, that is an unexceptional argument. We on this side of the House are arguing about the overriding democratic need to get as many people as possible to the poll, consistent with democracy. What determines the winner in an election is who can secure the most votes. It matters not what percentage of the voters record their vote. The matter is determined by who gets most votes.
It is of overriding importance that the rules should be such that no party has an advantage over other parties, even though that may mean that some voters are inconvenienced or even prevented from getting to the poll—let us admit it at once that it may mean that. But, surely, in the interests of democracy it is far more important that we should be able to say that our rules are so framed that each contestant has the same opportunity as the others. That would not be the case were this Bill to become law. It is not even the case now, as I shall indicate, but the position would be worsened were this Bill allowed to become law.
I appreciate the courtesy of the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General in spending so much time on the Government Front Bench listening to the speeches which have been made in this debate. I say to them that were I a Conservative, I should not vote for the Bill. I should not consider that the slight electoral advantage to be gained would offset the disadvantage of being regarded as a cheat. As a Member of Parliament, I should not wish to secure a slight and temporary electoral advantage at the expense of casting a slur on something which any hon. Member prizes most—the right to be called "an hon. Gentleman".
I do not impugn the motives of hon. Gentlemen opposite in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill. They did so with the same sincerity that I voted against it. We cannot proceed with our business in this Chamber on any other basis. But let me say why I should not vote for the Bill were I a Conservative Member of Parliament. The first reason is that I could not avoid being regarded as a cheat because of the timing of the intorduction of this Measure. It deals with the Act of 1948, after which there was a General Election in 1950 and 278 another in 1951. Therefore, two General Elections have been fought at which the alleged inconvenience of the present provisions could have been demonstrated.
There was nothing in the Gracious Speech in 1951 which had any reference to a Measure of this kind, nor did the party opposite introduce such a Measure. There was another General Election in 1955 when the inconveniences of the present provisions could have been demonstrated, but nothing was done to annul them. Was any Measure brought forward in 1955, 1956 or 1957? No Measure was brought forward. Indeed, at that time, those attending the Conservative Party Conference were told precisely why it was against the interest of democracy and against the interest of the good name of the Conservative Party that this provision should be removed.
I do not understand what has happened between 1948 and today, making it essential for the Bill to be brought in now which had not happened in 1951 or 1955. There has been no further General Election to demonstrate the inconvenience of this provision. Nothing further has happened except, as has been pointed out on both sides of the House, a great increase in the number of motor cars from 2 million to 4½ million. This has made it more convenient for people to get to the poll and so there is less reason for altering the provision in the 1948 Act.
I can see no reason why the public should not come to the conclusion that the only cause for this particular timing was the forthcoming General Election. Therefore, on that basis, I would hesitate, if I were a Conservative, to vote for it. I would hesitate because it could be held against me that in my own Conservative Party conference at Blackpool this matter had been pressed and, as has now been admitted from the benches opposite that is one of the reasons why it has been introduced. It has been regarded as democratic to listen to the members of one party pressing for the rules to be altered to the advantage of that party. That is honoured by the name of "democracy." That is the second reason why no self-respecting Conservative would want to support the Bill.
The third reason is one of fact. I appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to change their minds about the facts. They have the most curious misapprehensions about the facts regarding cars 279 and how Labour candidates conduct their campaigns. It would be totally inconsistent with what they had said if they had anything other than a great misapprehension about that.
I have probably fought as many elections under this provision as any other hon. Member in this House, and possibly one more. I fought the 1950, 1951 and 1955 elections and a by-election to boot. The 1945 election and previous elections do not count in this connection. I have never had at any General Election—I except the by-election—my legal quota of cars at any time of the day. I have never known any Labour candidate who has. Some may have had them; I can only speak from my own experience. So far as the by-election was concerned—when one gets enormous help—I did not have my legal quota of cars until 6 or 7 o'clock in the evening, which is the general experience of Labour candidates because it is not possible for those rare birds, keen Labour supporters with cars to help before that time.
It is very natural for a Conservative supported with many cars to be keen in the support of his party which looks after him, his taxation and his ability to own many cars. It is unusual to find a keen Labour supporter with a car. That rare bird is not often to be found in the Labour ranks. It is certainly most unusual to find one who is not only keen to come and help but who is able to drive a car, has a car of his own, and who is able to get over the greatest hurdle of all, the ability to take a day off. This is almost unheard of.
I appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to realise that there is a difference. I have been my own boss ever since the day I qualified and I can take a day off. I have no one to ask except myself. But that is not general in the case of the Labour supporters. They just cannot take a day off. It is a very different situation with the Conservative supporters. Therefore, I say that it is a fact that the present position with the restriction of cars enures very considerably to the benefit of the Conservative Party. Even with the restriction on the cars that can be used in this special way, the Conservatives can command many more cars than we on this side of the House.
280 I hope that it will not be thought that this is a matter of trivial importance. The last time that I sat in the House I had the substantial majority of 42! This was in 1950 when there was a restriction on the use of motor cars. I hesitate to burden the House with too many details, but I would point out that my constituency was then on the extreme north side of Manchester. Many of my constituents who were on my register had moved to the extreme south side of the city where there was a new housing estate. This meant that, being on my register, they could not get any special vote. They had to go to the polling station. This involved a journey of 12 miles from the extreme north to the extreme south, 24 miles there and back, through the centre of Manchester, a minimum of one hour's journey to get there and a two hours' journey altogether to get one car full of voters to the poll.
Is it to be doubted that the election result would have been different in my constituency in 1950 had this restriction been removed? From my own knowledge I would have not doubt at all that there would have been a different result. My Conservative opponent had far more cars available outside the legal limit. I am not claiming for a moment that he used cars outside the legal limit. I certainly did not, and I have no knowledge of those who have done so, although this has been frequently referred to. But I would certainly say that had this restriction not applied, I would not have sat here in 1950. Of that I am quite sure. In 1950 my party did not have an enormous majority in the House. It was, I think, a majority of seven. If this restriction had been removed, the result might have been a majority of five, which would have made a very substantial difference.
I appeal to right hon. Gentlemen to realise that they must not rely on their own individual evidence of an odd Labour supporter's car going to the poll. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did this; and, even more astonishingly, the Attorney-General, who regards all evidence with judicial care before accepting it, during the course of the Second Reading or one of the Amendments in Committee, said that he 281 was satisfied that Labour voters had sufficient cars because in his own constituency he had seen a large number of Labour cars going to the poll. How can he decide'? He has not looked at this from the inside. He must accept the word of many hon. Members on these benches who have said, "Do not do the wrong thing because you have not got the full information." We know as a fact that we are unable to get our full quota of cars, and the Bill will therefore create an injustice. This is one injustice in the rules of an election in a democracy which all sides respect.
As I listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I thought that he was paying too little attention to the responsibility of seeing that there was fair administration of the law and too much to his own electoral advantage. I would say in the words of a motto, which those from Leeds know very well, that he was too little concerned Pro Lege and too much Pro Rege.
I do not think any Conservative supporter would expect the public to believe that they fully support the Bill. The general background, and all sorts of indications, show that the Conservative Party are not at the moment wholly concerned with electoral justice. It would be wrong of me to refer at any length to the enormous publicity campaign which the Conservative Party and many companies are now undertaking. It has been said that conviction is the best carriage. I do not know why the Conservative Party is therefore going to great lengths in advertising, night after night, in my constituency if they are so satisfied about conviction.
It would have helped enormously if Government supporters had delayed the operation of the Bill. They must not be surprised if the wrong impression is gained from the fact that it confers a tremendous advantage upon them and puts a disadvantage on us. From the general background, from their refusal to postpone the operation of the Bill, and from what has been said in their own newspapers, like the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, they must not be surprised if that is the result.
I come back to what I first said. If I were a Conservative, I would estimate the electoral advantage from the Bill to be very slight, because among the people 282 additionally brought to the poll in Conservative cars there will be many who will be disgusted at what has happened and will not vote Conservative. I hope there will be many Government supporters who will take the view that it is not for the Government to alter the rules in favour of their party shortly before a General Election. I say, with all the sincerity that I can muster, that I shall never forget when I first came into this place in 1945—a place for which I have as much respect as any hon. Member here—the great respect I formed for hon. Members opposite because they had kept those doors open and had allowed a nonentity like myself to occupy a seat here, through the processes of democracy. It would be a great pity if the Conservative Party should now adopt methods which would inevitably cast a slur on that great reputation.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I would not have risen had it not been for the remarks of the Home Secretary about myself. My one comment on the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) is that he made one mistake. He sought to reason with the Conservative Party on the assumption that its members do not know that this is a crooked and dirty Measure.
It is perfectly well known, and the proof is—to give the Tories credit—the emptiness of the Government benches. There are literally scores of Tory members who prefer to absent themselves from this debate because they are ashamed to listen to the lack of argument for the Bill. There are those who hoped to get a little bit of dirty benefit out of the Bill, but I give them credit for staying away, even if, like Lobby fodder, they go into the Lobby afterwards.
The second reason why I am convinced is the speech of the Home Secretary. I doubt whether there is any man who has greater ability than the Home Secretary. He is always very unconvincing in public when he is not convinced in his own conscience. I remember watching him throughout the Suez debates. It was only too clear that he was unconvinced at that time of the party policy that he was stretching his conscience to support. Anybody who heard the Home Secretary 283 move the Third Reading of this Bill must have known that here was another case of the Home Secretary, who had done this many times, sacrificing principles for the Tory Party.
We all know very well that the Home Secretary agrees with Lord Hailsham. I want it to be in the record once again what the Chairman of the Tory Party said on 8th June. It was: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 beaten … 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.I give the noble Lord credit for still believing what he said on 8th June. He can afford to go on believing it in another place. The Home Secretary, who believed it with him on 8th June, is being compelled to stretch his conscience and put forward the contemptible arguments that he advanced this afternoon.
I would like the House to recall what the Home Secretary admitted. He admitted that there was no doubt that the Bill would benefit Conservative candidates more than Labour candidates. "Of course", he said, "I freely admit that it will benefit Conservatives more", but so great, he said, was the principle involved that he must stretch his conscience, help Conservatives, and damage the Labour Party by the Bill. The Home Secretary put that argument over as the reason for giving the Bill its Third Reading. I doubt whether a political jerrymanderer has ever overtly admitted before that he was cheating. Overtly the Home Secretary said, "It will benefit us, but reluctantly we must benefit ourselves for the greatest good of the greatest number."
This is not a Bill which will upset us very much in Coventry, where we make motor cars. We shall have all the cars we require, because we happen to have the highest car population in the country. One really ought not to decide the Constitution of the country in terms of the personal interests of one's own constituency, but I doubt whether there will be a single speech from the Tory back 284 benches except from someone who is directly interested in getting more votes. The others have not even bothered to come to the debate, except the people who represent rural areas and who believe that they can get more people to the polling stations for the Tory Party.
Up they get and say, "We are only interested in increasing the total poll and in organising our cars to bring our opponents to the polls." The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) mentioned a couple of Labour people who were put in a Tory car. I shall watch what happens in the next General Election, to see whether the hon. Member will be prepared to provide cars to bring Labour voters to the polls with the objective interest only of increasing the total poll.
What is so interesting is that Government supporters think they can get away with it. I would like to see Labour Members go out from this House pledged to tell the people outside what is going on. One thing we can do is to make the people of the country aware. In a way, I am glad that the Tory Party is doing this, because it is sometimes difficult to persuade ordinary decent English people that one party is led by cardsharpers. People tend to believe that politicians are honourable and that the Home Secretary is a man of conviction who stands by his convictions. They tend not to know what we know here, where we can watch what goes on. We know the type of small crookedness that Government supporters permit themselves because they think it will not be spotted outside and because they have enough organisation on their side to blanket it.
Everyone on this side of the House has to go away pledged to tell the people what cardsharping is going on. Of course, we do not pretend that it matters very much in terms of total votes; what matters is the nasty smell which the Bill has engendered. When a nasty smell is engendered by a Government, it is the duty of every democrat to let the people know what has happened, to let them know of this odious, dirty, mean Measure for which the Tories have not even had the courage to speak. We had hoped time after time to speak after a Tory hon. Member had taken part in the debate, but a few from rural constituencies have cleared out and the few 285 who are left in the Chamber are not daring to get up. We have the whole evening for the debate; any one of them who really believes in the Bill could get up and give reasons for it. We could then argue with them, but, of course, there are no reasons, except that which we and the Home Secretary have given.
The Home Secretary has made it clear that the Conservatives will benefit more by this Measure. We shall make it quite clear in the country that even though he thinks so, he has dared to put it forward knowing it will benefit his own party more than its opponents. The Leader of House has the effrontery to say that and then coolly to have the Bill pushed through.
Major W. Hicks Beach (Cheltenham)
What about "We are the masters now"?
§ Mr. Crossman
This is the behaviour of a party which thinks it can get away, not with murder but with little woundings, little dirty stabs. The Conservatives think that they are so powerful and have so much publicity and so much money behind them that they can get this little extra piece of advantage on their side. I tell them that they cannot. This is where they show overweening insolence. The Daily Telegraph is a very good Conservative paper, but it and the Daily Mail realised that this was a little bit too dirty to get away with. They are not foolish. They warned the Government. The Home Secretary said he could not accept de Amendment which we moved to postpone the operation of the Bill until after the General Election, but he gave no good reason for rejecting that Amendment. The reason was that it sacrifices his conscience to feed the tiger.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sorry, I got the phrase wrong. It is throwing horsemeat to the jackal in order to silence the Tory Party conference. We are going to make quite sure that what was said by the Home Secretary is known by every elector. We shall see that the electors know the type of people they have in Government, dirty little cardsharpers. They are the people who are shoving this Bill through against their own convictions.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said, it is rather remarkable that hon. Members opposite for the last hour and a half have not been able to think of one argument which was worth their rising to speak in support of the Bill.
The Bill will pass on Third Reading in exactly the same form as it came to the House on Second Reading. One of the things which has disturbed me for several years is the fact that Bill after Bill is introduced and, despite protracted Committee stages, on Third Reading they read exactly the same as on Second Reading. No matter how effective the arguments of the Opposition may be, and no matter how persuasive they are, not a word is listened to and the Bill is steamrollered and bludgeoned through the House. I think that a bad thing.
We may as well be a Reichstag for all the effect that argument has been having in the House in the last few years. Bill after Bill is steam-rollered through without the voice of the Opposition having any effect. If the arguments that the Opposition advance are never to be taken into account there is no need for an Opposition; we might as well have one-party government, because the effects are exactly the same.
What arguments are being advanced in support of the Bill? The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said that the law was being disregarded. Presumably those are good arguments for the law not being enforced. As I said on Second Reading, there is not a burglar, not a murderer, not a criminal or crook of any kind who would not support that philosophy. The party opposite claims to be the party of law and order and the great upholders of the law, yet the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who says that the law is being winked at, has never once drawn the attention of the Law Officers of the Crown to the fact that the law to which he pays so much regard is being completely disregarded.
I turn to the great concern expressed about rural constituencies. The constituency of an hon. Member opposite has been mentioned widely in this debate. He is not in his place, so I shall not be so discourteous as to identify him. We know that he asked motorists in his constituency 287 not to pick up people who were waiting at bus stops because it is bad for rural transport operators. It does not matter if it is teeming with rain, if a gale is blowing, or there is a blizzard, he advises private motorists not to pick up people waiting at bus stops, with one exception. On polling day he thinks those people who must not be picked up by private cars on other days should be picked up for the purpose of taking them to the poll.
I know the difficulties of people in rural areas, but many of them would be far happier if this had been a Bill to improve the means whereby they can get to hospital to visit their sick relatives and friends. We should have been delighted if this had been a Bill to convey children in rural areas to schools. I do not believe that there has been a great demand for the Bill from people from rural constituencies. As has been said, almost without exception, despite the disability supposed to apply under the present Act, the voting percentage in the rural areas is higher than that in the concentrated borough constituencies.
The truth came out when the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) said quite bluntly and fairly that this Bill was the result of a demand from the Conservative Party conference. Presumably, it was a demand that the Home Secretary had to meet. He had the courage, the character and the determination to withstand the demand for flogging and for the reintroduction of hanging, but presumably he had to give his supporters a little sop, and this is the sop they are to have.
We have been told that our opposition to the Bill shows how afraid we are about the results of the next General Election. I picked up a newspaper this morning. The Labour Party has announced its election campaign, and there is a man connected with the Tory Party—I cannot think of his name, but he is a fat man who sometimes goes swimming in the morning and on special occasions he rings a bell—who has said that if we use our election pamphlet at the next election he will take steps to see that we are prosecuted. Who is "windy"? Who is afraid of the next election? The truth is that the Government have the "wind up."
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Has it occurred to my hon. Friend that possibly one way of avoiding prosecution in those circumstances would be for the Government to bring in a Bill abolishing the requirement that the printer's name should appear at the bottom of the document?
§ Mr. Speaker
Such a Bill is not before us. I ask the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) to confine himself to what is in this Bill.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I am stating my reasons for opposing the Bill, Sir. I am opposing it because if I wanted to do something to make it easier for people to vote on election days, to get a bigger aggregate vote and to see that those people who work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with an hour's standing time each way, can get to the poll, I should have done what my hon. Friend suggested, which would have been far more sensible and would have created far greater enthusiasm; I should have declared polling day a Bank Holiday, with pay.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I agree that it is not in the Bill and it is because it is not in the Bill that I am opposing the Bill.
I am also opposed to the Bill because at a time when unemployment is growing, when production is falling, and when the situation in Cyprus is ever more grave, the Government waste the time of the House in bringing forward a miserable little Bill of this kind which is full of prejudice and of unfairness and which is intended to benefit solely the Conservative Party. I believe that our electorate are intelligent and grown up. I believe that they will see through the Bill and will recognise that it has been introduced by a Government which does not believe in fair play. The electorate will draw their own conclusions, and those conclusions will mean a decisive defeat for the present Administration at the next election.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Moss (Meriden)
There can be only one basic argument in support of the Bill, in so far as it is concerned with justice between the political parties, and that argument is the greater spread of motor car ownership in modern times as compared with the past. A few years ago 289 it was considered to be noteworthy that we could see cars parked at the pithead in which he miners had ridden to their work and cars parked outside factories in which the factory workers had driven to work. I think it true, and will become increasingly true, that more and more people wall own cars of one kind or another.
That argument does not alter the fact that if more cars are at the disposal of one political party than the other, then a basis of inequality is introduced into the electoral machinery itself. That is why I am opposed to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood, Birmingham, (Mr. V. Yates) seemed greatly concerned about marginal seats. I hold the seat in the Meriden constituency which is both rural and marginal. It consists entirely of three rural districts and it is surrounded by Solihull, the City of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth, Nuneaton, Coventry and Kenilworth, covering the whole area between. It is extremely difficult to move by public transport from one part of that constituency, to another.
I remember that at the last election I was talking to a News Chronicle reporter in Atherstone. She wanted to know how to get to Coleshill on the same day. This was a Friday. We went to some people who were standing in a bus queue and asked them when the next bus was due to leave Atherstone for Coleshill. We were told it was next Tuesday. It was, therefore, impossible for this lady reporter to get from Atherstone to Coleshill, to visit the Conservative Party headquarters there, by public transport.
Those are difficulties which we find in constituencies like Meriden, and any method of enabling people to get to the polls which was based upon justice between the political parties would be welcome.
As I have said, my constituency is both rural and marginal. Nevertheless, under the present dispensation, the poll at the last election was nearly 82 per cent., and I have do doubt that there will be a similar percentage poll next time. I therefore do not accept the argument that the greater social dispersal of motor car ownership is a justification for the Bill, because I believe that the Tories have more cars and better cars than have Labour supporters.
290 According to the News Chronicle Gallup poll, the Tories outnumber Labour supporters by three to one in the ownership of cars. I think that the Tories have more cars and that they admit it privately, and I think they have better cars—cars less likely to break down. I would also point out that the massing of cars in an electoral campaign is itself a form of propaganda, apart from the constituents who may be carried to the poll.
There are certain arguments in support of the Bill. I do not deny that. The first which appeals to me is that a restriction is removed, and I always like to see restrictions removed. They should be kept only if they can be justified. The second argument, apart from freedom, is that enough cars will be available to carry constituents to the poll, and nobody knows how these people will vote once they get there. I admit that people have told me that they have gone to the poll in Tory cars only to vote Labour when they arrived. I know it is true in some cases that it is the driver of the car who has been taken for a ride rather than those he carried in the back seat. But I do not think that the proportion of the voters who do this is high enough to justify a change which is deplorable on other grounds.
It may be argued that once voters arrive at the polling station they vote as they wish, and do not mind being driven there in a car run on behalf of either political party. Polling is secret and they can vote as they please. But, as I said before, I object to this Measure for the fundamental reason that it introduces inequality and party advantage into the electoral machinery itself. I say that the Conservatives admit, in private, that it confers an advantage on their party with which the Labour Party cannot compete. I am reminded of the passage in "Pickwick Papers," in which Samuel Weller, senior—the coachman—said that he had carried a coachload of voters to the poll, and that, by tipping them into the canal, he had conferred a party advantage on those who had paid him.
It is wrong, it is undemocratic, that the very basis of the democratic machinery should be altered in this way, deliberately conferring party advantage upon one side. I denounce the Bill, but I do not fear it. In that respect, I seem to diverge from the opinions of a number of 291 my hon. Friends. Mine is the sort of constituency that might be affected by the Bill. The Tories have their headquarters in the centre of it, because they have private means of conveyance, whereas the Labour Party has its headquarters outside the constituency, in a town on which the roads converge, and to which Labour Party members can get public conveyance.
In such a constituency, such a Bill as this might have an important effect. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that I shall not only beat the Tory candidate, but beat him by an increased majority—in spite of, probably because of, this alteration in the electoral machinery, which is so obviously introduced for party advantage. I shall tell my people that, because of the Bill, I want them to walk to the polls; and ask them to realise that they must do so because the Tories will be carrying their voters to the poll in cars to secure a majority that is not based on superiority of policy or of intellectual argument, but derives from the same class of influence that used to prevail, and which we thought we had cleaned out for ever.
I tell the Attorney-General that, though the Bill does not worry me, I believe it to be biased against the Labour Party, and that it seeks to confer on the Tory Party an advantage at the next General Election that is not based on the legitimate issues of political argument.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I do not wish to prolong the debate, but I do not want it to pass without my having referred to the danger of the Bill loosening those bands on bribery and corruption that the House has, over the years, sought to maintain. It may do so only in a small way, but it is certainly a method. I would also emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Moss) has just said. This Measure does a great disservice to democracy itself. Today, throughout the world, we are seeing democracy succumb to totalitarian government Each year we are spending a terrific slice of the national income precisely to combat totalitarianism, but, today, the Government are doing to democracy the greatest disservice done by any British Government in this century.
292 Like my hon. Friend, I represent a marginal constituency, but I am confident that at the next election it will still be represented by a Labour Member of Parliament. I find myself in great difficulty on two counts, first because on the Third Reading of a Bill the discussion is very narrowly confined, and, secondly, because in this House we must always assume that the party, and the hon. Members opposite, work and act honourably. Of course, I can think what I like, and in my constituency I can say what I like.
As I said in the last debate, when the speech was not reported, I have recently had Tory Members telling my constituents that the great thing that they are after is to secure the votes of the few thousand electors who did not vote last time. I have no doubt that the Bill is intended as a step in that direction, but those hon. Members will be mistaken, and I am quite sure that my constituency will continue to be represented by a Labour Member and that they will not be the Government after the next General Election.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg, (Dudley)
If there is one thing that this debate has proved it is that the Motion that was carried a week ago under Standing Order 105 was not in vain, because, for almost two hours now, we have not had one solitary speaker from the Government side. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has rightly said, the decent members of the Conservative Party are ashamed in their hearts of the consequences of this Bill to their reputation as an honourable political party, fighting and hitting above the belt.
I oppose the Bill with all the force that I command, because I believe it to be a dirty piece of work that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has had forced on him by hon. Members like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I hear one of my hon. Friends say that the hon. Member is nobody, but I do not dismiss him as nobody. He counts, and represents a considerable force inside the Tory Party—vulgar, ostentatious. One has only to look at his motor car to see what he is like. Year after year he has kept hammering away, making himself a confounded nuisance to any man who tries to base his action on wisdom. Now, at last, the Government are forced to take action.
293 The most significant thing about the Bill is its timing, and I do not believe that any hon. Member in the House has yet seen the significance of the timing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said he could not understand why it was that Lord Tenby's views of 1955 had been turned down by the present Home Secretary.
Of course, the reasons are simple. Lord Tenby, when he spoke, was a man of liberal background, who was putting forward the views of the Home Office. The Leader of the House, when he spoke, was not speaking from a Home Office brief. He was speaking from a brief that had been provided by the Conservative Party Central Office—
§ Mr. Wigg
Yes, at Blackpool.
We have here the difference between the wise, liberal-minded statesman, looking at this question from the point of view of a great Department and concerned with its long-term implications, and the narrow little party politician seeking to achieve a mean advantage, not, of course, because it represents a large number of votes, but because it keeps the dogs quiet. In saying this, of course, I am being very charitable indeed, because I want to ask whether hon. Gentlemen opposite have thought about this. We are within a year of a General Election.
If we want to get more people to the poll, there is one way in which to do it. The right hon. Gentleman could have used his powers under the Representation of the People Act, and could have written to all returning officers urging them to establish more polling booths. I had thought at one time that that would be one of the pleas I would make to the right hon. Gentleman. I even thought of trying to amend the Bill in order to put him under a statutory obligation of of taking steps to increase the number of polling booths.
§ Mr. Speaker
That may be an alternative to what is proposed in the Bill, but it is not in the Bill itself.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am making plain why I oppose the Bill. It is because the right hon. Gentleman's timing of the Bill, deliberately I assert, prevents him from taking this administrative step. What 294 would be gained if the right hon. Gentleman tonight—and I say this to him and I mean every word I say, and he is wise and honourable enough to know the fairness of the course I advocate—said that he would, in fact, take this step? It would be worthless because the register on which the next General Election will be fought is already complete. It would be too late to ask the returning officers to increase the number of polling booths, and I regard that as a very sinister thing. Let me say that I do not charge the Leader of the House with having an axe to grind, but I do charge some of the more sinister elements inside the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Of course, there are extra-Parliamentary duties, and I make speeches in this Chamber and in other places in order to influence the electorate, which is undoubtedly a desirable thing for a Tory Member to do.
§ Mr. Wigg
If that was all the hon. Gentleman wanted to say, he would greatly please me if he took himself off on a tour of the whole of the 630 constituencies, and, while doing so, would repeat that this Measure was introduced as a result of pressure generated and organised, not only by himself but by the forces which he represents, and which are concerned with the attainment of an electoral majority irrespective of the means.
One of the fundamental differences between the Labour Party and the Tories is that we do not want an electoral majority as the result of a stunt. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is obvious to any hon. Member who cares to reflect that the Labour Party would never have reached the point which it has now reached, lacking resources as it does, unless it had relied upon the power of 295 education and persuasion. It has attained its influence in the State by that method, and once it abandons it, it will have no future. That is the fundamental difference between us. We do not believe in mechanical contrivances.
It is not a dishonourable thing for hon. Gentlemen opposite to employ advertising agents. The only important thing about it is that it underlines this fundamental difference between us. We do not do that. We have not got the resources, it is true. Of course we have not got the resources, because we do not want to do it that way. A democracy, by definition, must be an educated democracy, or it is nothing, and the Home Secretary knows it as well as I do. He it was who reorganised the Conservative Party after the war. He learned the lessons that we had taught the country, and he used the method of education.
§ Mr. Wigg
I should be very sorry indeed if I had departed from it, and if I have not made my purpose plain, it is because I am deeply moved.
The hon. Member who represents the constituency in which I live is my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). This is an area of the country in which education and methods of persuasion have their roots. I remember the time in 1935 when my hon. Friend was fighting a General Election in pouring rain. What was the roll-call of cars? He had two against the 124 of the Conservative Party. These are the simple facts, and, of course, the Tories have always used this advantage as a means of political intimidation.
I would not be surprised if next time we found on polling day not only hundreds of cars driving round the countryside taking the poor, weary voters to the Kidderminster polling booths, but also hundreds of cars plastered with thousands of badges driving round in order to intimidate the electors by the Hitlerian technique of which the hon. Member for Kidderminster is capable. That sort of thing is in accordance with the ostentatious vulgarity which we have come to expect from him.
296 It is not merely a question of taking people to the poll, and when I hear hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their concern for the electorate, saying that we should get the maximum number of people to vote, I must confess that it makes me want to laugh, because one of the tricks they played in my constituency was to have a Tory car posted at one end of a street and another at the other end to prevent Labour cars getting to the poll. That is one of the things that happened. The hon. Gentleman can make inquiries in Dudley, and he will find out what happened. It is not very far from Kidderminster, and these methods are in accordance with the traditions of the hon. Member for Kidderminster himself. Of course, they are.
Let us look a little further ahead beyond the next General Election. I wonder if I may have the attention of the Home Secretary. Although it is perfectly clear that the Bill will have no effect on the forthcoming General Election if returning officers are required or asked to make a further number of polling booths available, may I ask the Home Secretary if he will give an undertaking to the House—and here I would draw his attention to the fact that speaker after speaker on his own side of the House has stressed that the purpose of the Bill is to increase the number of voters—that forthwith he will draw the attention of the returning officers to the powers they possess to increase the number of polling booths, and see that the necessary funds are made available? If he did that, that, at least, would be a step in the right direction. It would be some evidence that the Government are conscious of the difficulties in curtailing the rights of the Labour Party, on the one hand, and not taking the comparable administrative action which ought to be taken on the other. That seems to be a reasonable request, but, of course, I am fully aware that anything that the right hon. Gentleman did now could have no effect upon the coming General Election.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
In answer to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I will tell him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be referring to the powers which are in the Act of 1949, and, as far as I am concerned, the more polling districts there are the better. I shall leave it to my 297 right hon. and learned Friend to deal with the matter, and that may be an answer to the hon. Gentleman's request.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have already told the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that an increase in the number of polling booths is not provided for in the Bill, and, therefore, that subject is out of order on Third Reading. I think he himself introduced the topic. However, I think it ought to stop now. He has the assurance he wants, and it ought to stop.
§ Mr. Wigg
No, Sir; I have not got the assurance I want. What I have from the right hon. Gentleman is that we shall hear references to the powers which the Government possess under the Representation of the People Act. That, Sir, I submit, would be out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the hon. Gentleman must remain content with that in the meantime, because further discussion about polling booths would be out of order.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not wish to discuss it, Mr. Speaker. What I really wanted was not a reference to the Act, but an assurance—and surely this is in order—that, as a result of the passing of the Bill, the Government will take the necessary administrative action in order to soften the blow that the Bill will necessarily inflict. I submit, Sir, with respect, that there is a fundamental difference here, inasmuch as, while the last subject would be in order, the first would not. However, I bow to your Ruling.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I oppose the Third Reading of the Bill. I will add that I took some interest in the Committee stage of the Bill, also. I oppose the Bill because it is obviously a partisan Measure. It is designed to amend the previous Act which contained within it a principle which I consider to be worthwhile preserving.
In the first place, the principal Act provided that cars may be offered to a candidate at an election on a proportional 298 basis in relation to the number of electors in the division. Also, and very important, it provided that the returning officer was brought into the picture by being called upon to issue an authorisation for these cars to be used on polling day to convey electors to the polls.
As you have said, Mr. Speaker, we may talk only about what is in the Bill, but as hon. Gentlemen opposite are proposing to remove from the 1949 Act the important position occupied by the returning officer in connection with this matter it would have been to their credit if they had made provision in the Bill for such a power in the returning officer, so that he would be the person to authorise the use of the cars which are about to be used on polling day without limit.
If the Bill provided that all the cars were put at the disposal of the returning officer for him to allocate equitably, each vehicle having his authorisation upon it, it would be a fair Bill. However, as there is no such provision in it I can only hope that, in another place, the Government will give consideration to the important part the returning officer has played under the principal Act.
We cannot help noting that the Conservative vote has very considerably slumped in all the by-elections that we have had recently.
§ Mr. Sparks
I was hoping to show what connection it did have with the Bill, Mr. Speaker. In my view it has a vital connection. Hon. Members opposite have been arguing that only by means of the Bill can they bring to the poll a larger number of electors. Many electors have not gone to the poll to vote Conservative in recent by-elections, because their allegiance to the party opposite has fallen off. By the Bill, the party opposite is opening the floodgates wide to permit the wholesale collection and use of vehicles for conveying voters to the polls. Perhaps it is wrong to say, "conveying voters to the polls on polling day". I should say, "conveying Conservative voters to the polls". The Government are not concerned with anything else.
What is to happen to these vehicles on polling day? The owner of any number of vehicles—perhaps a garage proprietor 299 having as many as 30 or 40 vehicles at his disposal—can hand them all over to the Conservative Party agent. There is no doubt that many Conservative supporters own more than one car, and all these cars will be available on polling day. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, these cars will not be going about like a lot of lost sheep, moving along the high street in a constituency, with the drivers asking, "Mrs. Smith, do you want to go to the poll? If so, jump in here".
Nothing like that will happen. These cars will be driven only where the Conservative Party agent wants them to be driven. He will send them to known Conservative Party supporters. He will send them to Conservative Party supporters who have not bothered to vote for the Conservative Party in recent by-elections because they became "fed up" with the Conservative Party. These cars will be used as an inducement to get people to vote who otherwise would not do so.
The mere fact that the Bill is being brought forward now, on the eve of the coming General Election, clearly indicates its party bias. If the Government wished to be impartial, they could say now that they give notice that, after the next election, they will make the change, but they will fight the coming election on the Act as it now stands. Although we should not agree with the change, such a course on the part of the Government would, at least, show that there was some impartiality here.
After all, people are not fools, and I hope that we in this House are not fools. We know exactly why the Government want the Bill. They know that there is a preponderance of vehicles which can be placed at their disposal and they intend to use them to organise the Conservative vote at the poll. When crocodile tears are shed by hon. Members opposite who talk about the need for hundreds of extra cars in the constituencies to carry poor old-age pensioners, who live in little cottages 10 miles from the polling station, I wonder whether they think we are a lot of fools, who cannot see through such bogus pleas. The old-age pensioners have the postal ballot if they want it.
§ Mr. Sparks
That is one of the good things we now have. The facility of the postal vote has cut away the ground from the argument that there are many aged crippled and sick people who would never vote if there was not a Conservative Party car brought to their door to carry them to the polling station. It is a lot of nonsense. Such people can record their vote in the privacy of their own homes by means of the postal ballot.
There is less need today than ever for fleets of cars to take voters to the poll. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say that the Attorney-General would pay heed to this demand for more polling stations. In the minds of all decent men and women the idea is repugnant that the party opposite should seek to use an advantage for itself against the Opposition on the eve of a General Election. It is against the Labour Party and it is no use hon. Members opposite saying that it is not. It is a distinct advantage to the Tory Party and a distinct disadvantage to the Labour Party.
Having discussed the matter and having tried to prevail upon the Government to accept changes which they have refused to accept, I feel that we are justified in opposing the Bill for its partisan nature. I hope that some of the things that we have said will be taken into consideration in another place and the Bill made much fairer than it is at present.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
A General Election is pending and this is a Bill to alter the law of Parliamentary elections in one respect, and one respect only. It is perfectly obvious that the introduction of such a Bill at such a time must be defended by grave and weighty reasons if it is not to arouse the suspicions to which voice has been given so eloquently today and which will certainly be shared by ordinary men and women throughout the country.
That is particularly so in view of the fact that the Bill was not mentioned in the Gracious Speech and was brought in so very shortly after it. I do not know why it was not mentioned. It may be because the Government hoped to get away with it unnoticed. It may be because they thought that for the first time the Gracious Speech was being televised and it would not be suitable that too 301 many electors should be warned of the Government's intentions.
There are other circumstances which make it even more necessary to give strong reasons for the Bill. First, there has been marked criticism of it in the Tory Press. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have been given as instances. There was also another reason. There has been pressure year after year in Conservative Party conferences, well publicised party conferences, directed to getting this change effected. In October this year a motion was moved expressing disappointment that nothing had been donein spite of the expressed views of the Party at successive Annual Conferences and meetings of the Central Council to amend the law in regard to the use of motor cars for the conveyance of electors to the poll at parliamentary elections.and urgingthe Government to take action without further delay.The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who appears under that style in the report, said this:I cannot forecast—nor is it usual to forecast at our Conferences—the exact details of the Government's legislative programme, but I have no doubt that we cannot continue to disregard the strongly expressed wishes of our own supporters.On this point, there was not room for much detail. The question in the resolution was simply: should the restrictions in this Section of the Representation of the People Act be continued or repealed? An indication was given of what would be done, and done as the result of pressure at successive Tory conferences. I quite appreciate that party conferences play an important and proper part in our political life. All I point out is that that pressure had been going on, as the resolution stated, year after year, and on one occasion, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred, it was resisted by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office.
There has been no change whatever so far as one can see between the position when Lord Tenby, as he now is, was Home Secretary and the present position, unless we are to start higher mathematics with motor cars and constituencies and come to the conclusion that there are a few more motor cars 302 about. That, I think, is not a very serious argument.
Accordingly, for those reasons, certainly expected today, even at the last moment, that the right hon. Gentleman would produce some convincing reason why the Government had introduced the Bill and why we should give it a Third Reading tonight. I listened carefully throughout his speech for that reason. At long last, all I heard was that it was an "unnecessary restrictive practice". He spoke about a great many other things, but the only reason that I heard was that it was a restrictive practice.
What does the Bill restrict? Our legislation in Parliamentary elections is, and has been in the past, full of countless restrictions. One very obvious restriction is election expenses. That restriction is in the interests of democracy, and everyone knows it. Another is music, bands, torches and the like. Those were old-fashioned ways of giving effect to the advertisement of the wealth and influence of the candidate, which nowadays can be given by the display of sufficient motor cars on polling day. They are now prohibited.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Gentleman says, "And on T.V.", but the point about T.V. is that we do at least try to keep an even balance between the two parties and we have had from the right hon. Gentleman the straightforward and honest admission that this Measure would give an advantage to his own party.
In those circumstances, let us consider the facts. I need hardly go beyond what the right hon. Gentleman himself said, but I must mention the suggestion that this Measure would ensure a larger poll. The facts are completely the other way and they were given so clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) that I need not repeat them. I need only point out thatthe polls of 1950 and 1951"—I am not quoting my hon. Friend, but what Lord Tenby said at the Conservative Conference—which after this restriction was imposed, were unusually high and were 84 per cent. and 82 per cent. respectively which is the highest since 1929.303 Once that fact emerges, it is perfectly clear that there is no reason connected with getting more voters to the poll—I mean more voters of any party, and not merely no more Conservative voters—which can justify the introduction of the Bill now.
I shall not go into any detail about polling stations and outlying voters, but I remind the House that the law at present is that normally there is one polling station for every parish, and if 30 electors want more than that all they have to do is to petition the right hon. Gentleman himself, who can put the matter right, if there are people who find the polling station too far away or are inconvenienced by it. There is not the least doubt that that, at any rate, is no reason for the Bill.
Now we come to the next reason—that the present law was unworkable. But if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, who said this the other day, thinks that a sufficient reason, it has been unworkable according to him for many years past. It has been the subject of this pressure at Conservative Party conferences. Why was it not altered earlier? Why is it that the Conservative Party waits until just before a General Election to introduce an alteration which, on the party's own showing, it thinks was necessary many years ago, as if the Government had no time for it before? Yet now the Bill comes before us as a Measure unmentioned in the Gracious Speech but given a singular priority, in time, no doubt, to enable the consequential electoral arrangements to be made.
The Attorney-General was given the other day the example of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. I can think of countless others, all laws which do a great deal of good but which, in practice, cannot be fully and completely enforced. They do not discredit the law. They may discredit those who break them, but they certainly serve a useful purpose and that, of course, applies to some minor provisions, at any rate, of election law. Moreover, if that was the reason, why have we never heard a word about any suggestion for improving this provision? If the Conservative Party thinks it is right in principle, is the party to be defeated by what it alleges is the complete impos- 304 sibility of ever carrying this out in practice? I thought that right hon. and hon. Members opposite had better wits than that.
Lastly, there is the comparison with municipal elections. Considering the suspicion which the Bill is bound to introduce, if the Attorney-General is driven, as his strongest point, to say that there is a different law in municipal elections, I feel that he must be singularly short of convincing argument. The facts are that in an ordinary municipal election there is not the same need. In practice, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out, there is a smaller poll, and there is no real difficulty in getting people to vote if they want to. I am afraid that the reason for the smaller poll is that they are not as interested in local government elections as they are in parliamentary elections. Where, however, this applies in a very interesting way is where there is a contested municipal by-election. We can all see what will happen in those circumstances when the Bill is introduced. The municipal constituency, then the subject of a close contest between the parties, is flooded with Tory motor cars, used both as an advertisement and as a means of getting electors to the poll.
§ Mr. Sparks
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) means "as a means of getting Conservatives to the poll", not electors.
§ Mr. Mitchison
In those circumstances, what is the possible justification for the Bill? When we have the history which I have given of the matter, and the kind of circumstances which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) so very clearly mentioned, we begin to wonder whether it is anything more than what my right hon. and hon. Friends have called it—a variety of epithets leading to the conclusion that it is a dirty election trick. Here are the cardsharpers—I quote from Lord Hailsham—and the rest. We know the record of the Tory Party and we are not altogether surprised at this sort of thing. Let us make no bones about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) made a most eloquent speech. He pointed out, quite rightly, that hon. Members opposite 305 appeared to be so ashamed of the Bill that they would not come and speak for it. No doubt they will vote for it, and they will have the distinction of having brought the trick off. They will have spotted the lady, as I believe is the phrase. The cardsharpers have got away with it, arid there it is.
But that is not the whole story. I want to say something which goes a little beyond that. After all, we in this place are the guardians of democracy not merely in this country but, as I see it, in the rest of the world, too. We are doing something now that requires a great deal of explanation, that I believe to be fundamentally dishonest and wholly unnecessary, and we are doing it in the face of the world.
The torches of freedom and democracy are blown upon nowadays from many parts of the world. There is a harsh wind from the East. In Europe many of them are going out and others are wavering. Here are we, into whose charge those torches have been put, taking upon ourselves to make the flames in them waver, to lower the light, when we of all people should take upon ourselves the responsibility and the duty of keeping democracy as perfect as we can make it and as clean as we can make it in this country of ours, where perhaps it found its first full fruition.
The effect of the Bill is not to do that, arid I regard it, though it may appear a small Measure and it may be dismissed as another rather dirty election trick, as something much more serious. I regard it as a sign that the party opposite has decided that there are other things to be preferred to the maintenance of freedom and democracy in this country. The alternative nowadays, if these forces are extinguished, is not the aristocracy of the past but plain, straight plutocracy.
The cars that will come to the polling booths as a result of the Bill, if it gets a Third Reading, will be the cars of wealth, power and influence; not merely those which belong to right hon. and hon. Members opposite and their personal supporters, but those which belong to large companies without a vote. In my own constituency I shall regard the cars with which, as a result of the Bill, Stewarts and Lloyds will no doubt flood it when the next General Election comes as the 306 harbingers of modern tyranny, that is to say, of tyranny by wealth.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
I should have found the last part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) much more convincing if my memory did not go back to 1948, when he could have made the same observations with much more effect and with a great deal of sincerity. I will deal with his speech later.
This is a rare occasion in that seldom if ever have so many words been spoken by so many hon. Members on the Third Reading of a short and simple Bill such as this, without getting out of order. I extend my congratulations to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for their success in having achieved that. Some comments were made on the fact that some of my hon. Friends did not remain here to hear all the speeches of hon. Members opposite. The reason for that is clear. The arguments for the Bill are not only overwhelming, but have been clearly stated and are utterly convincing. There was, therefore, no need for my hon. Friends to remain to hear a series of speeches from hon. Members opposite.
Much has been said impugning our motives for introducing the Bill. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would not have moved the Second Reading or Third Reading—certainly I should not have supported the Bill—if we had thought that the Bill was unfair, wrong, or not a Bill which would improve our electoral law and our law generally. No one has answered the question posed by my right hon. Friend as to why, in the view of the party opposite, it was so wrong to use cars without restrictions on numbers at a General Election, but entirely right at local government elections.
The first speech with which I wish to deal is that made by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). Without wishing to be offensive, I would say that I did not think that he enjoyed himself quite so much today when, no doubt feeling somewhat restricted by the rules of the debate, he was not able to get on to his favourite sticky subject. He made many surprising statements on which I shall comment. He attached 307 some importance to the figures for what he called breaches of the statutory provision. He said that they were derisory and he compared them with larcenies and with breaches of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. I am convinced that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) was right when he said that the law in this respect has been disregarded, winked at, and broken.
§ The Attorney-General
All over the country. I have said before that it is extremely difficult to enforce this provision. On polling day, the police are exceptionally busy and, although there may be many allegations of breaches, it is very difficult to secure the evidence necessary to bring a prosecution. It can be said without exaggeration that there can be a prosecution only in those cases where the accused person is prepared to make a statement admitting his guilt.
Unenforceable provisions in our Statute law do not help in the maintenance of law and order generally. They tend to bring the law into contempt. It is no argument to refer to the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. It is easier to enforce that, because one can set traps and so on. It is no argument to say that there are many cases of larceny where the criminal is not brought to book. One ought not to have on the Statute Book a provision which is likely to be increasingly broken as the years go on and as people learn that they can break it with impunity. It is better to get rid of it and to get rid of it in time.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that there were far fewer cars in the country constituencies than in the borough constituencies. I venture to doubt that. I suspect that that is an assertion without foundation, as is his astonishing statement that Conservative voters can drive their cars all day and do not have to work shifts in factories.
Basing himself on Gallup poll figures, my right hon. Friend freely admitted that figures showed that more cars were owned by Conservatives than by members of other parties. However, he never said that that would result in an advantage for us. I want to put the record straight about that. I also want to meet the case which I can fairly summarise in this way: it has repeatedly been said that the removal of this restriction will give the 308 Tories an unfair advantage and, as a corollary to that, that there is no need for more cars since the answer is to provide more polling stations. I must be careful what I say about this, because I do not want to get out of order, and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has already given me a warning in that respect.
As the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said, there is already a provision in the 1948 Act whereby, at the instance of only thirty electors or a local authority, a petition for more polling stations can be presented. It is astonishing that one has not heard of a demand for more polling stations until this debate. The remedy is in the 1948 Act. In my constituency, the provision of more polling stations would not suffice, because of the scattered nature of the population. People will still have considerable distances to go to the polling stations.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Does not the absence of requests for more polling stations show that there are enough motor cars under present arrangements?
§ The Attorney-General
That is an excellent example of a non sequitur.
Although the Gallup poll figures show that there are more Conservative than Socialist car owners, I cannot accept the statement that in the great city of Birmingham there are not enough cars to carry Labour voters, especially when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Lady-wood (Mr. V. Yates) said that the great problem in Birmingham was the provision of garages.
§ Mr. V. Yates
I said that if it was the case that the mass of workers possessed motor cars, there were so many thousands of workers in the centre of the city that it would be impossible for them to garage their cars.
§ The Attorney-General
I listened very carefully to the hon. Member's speech, and I hope that I have not done him an injustice. However, I support my right hon. Friend's statement that on those figures there are certainly enough cars owned by Labour supporters for any polling day requirements.
I come to the unfair advantages which have been alleged. First, it is said that a mass of cars can go through the streets in procession carrying banners. The 309 ward "intimidation" was used about that, and the right hon. Member for Smethwick mentioned it in his Second Reading speech. However, the Bill does not affect that, nor did the provisions of the 1948 Act. Processions can still take place and we can set on one side any question of alleged intimidation of that kind. It is irrelevant to the debate, and non-existent as well.
Is it an unfair advantage to the Tory Party to remove a restriction which operates to prevent law-abiding persons from taking anyone to the poll to vote for a particular candidate?
§ The Attorney-General
I will come to that.
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) putting forward the thesis that to secure parity in number of cars it was desirable to put electors at a disadvantage, perhaps preventing same of them from voting. I dissent from that view. We should make it as easy as possible for everyone to record his vote, irrespective of party, and that is what the removal of this restriction will tend to do.
The other argument put forward—it must be the other argument, if it is suggested that there is an unfair advantage—is that the carrying of a person in a Conservative car is likely to influence his vote. I simply do not accept that. It rather reflects upon those whom the Labour candidates think are their supporters. It is quite ridiculous to suppose that in these days any substantial number of electors who intend to vote Socialist will vote Conservative just because they get lifts in Tory cars. On the figures there are clearly more than enough owners of Labour cars to provide the necessary number for polling day. If it be the case that the Labour organisations cannot secure the use of those cars from Labour supporters it is a matter for them to investigate.
§ The Attorney-General
I dare say that that can also be done if people are physically prevented from entering the polling booth. I am in favour of allowing them to exercise their right to vote.
This has been a good-humoured debate, with some fairly hard hitting. The word "gerrymandering" has been used. It has been alleged that the Bill seeks to change the rules just before the election. I would point out that the effect of the Bill would be the same whether it had been introduced last Session or the Session before. That is an irrelevant observation.
The observations made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—who has explained to me that because of another engagement he cannot be here to hear my reply—were quite unwarranted. They come ill from him when one remembers the actions of the party opposite in 1948, in abolishing the University seats—
§ Mr. Sparks
Is it in order for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to refer to the loss of university seats in a debate on this Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I hope that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General was making only a passing reference to university seats.
§ The Attorney-General
I was making a passing reference. I was going on to add that they also rejected the impartial findings of the Boundary Commission, and created more seats, and they imposed the restrictions upon the use of motor cars which the Bill is about to remove. The old saying about people in glass houses applies to the party opposite. I am sure that the Bill, when passed, will be widely welcomed by the electorate throughout the country, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 228.315
|Division No. 12.]||AYES||[7.54 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Errington, Sir Eric||Keegan, D.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Erroll, F. J.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fell, A.||Kimball, M.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Finlay, Graeme||Kirk, P. M.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Fisher, Nigel||Lagden, G. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Forrest, G.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Ashton, H.||Foster, John||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Freeth, Denzil||Leburn, W. G.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Gammans, Lady||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Balniel, Lord||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gibson-Watt, D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Barter, John||Glover, D.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Batsford, Brian||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Godber, J. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(Sutton Coldfleid)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Gough, C. F. H.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Gower, H. R.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Green, A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Grimond, J.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bingham, R. M.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Black, C. W.||Gurden, Harold||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Body, R. F.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maddan, Martin|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Brain, B. R.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macolesf'd)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marshall, Douglas|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mathew, R.|
|Bryan, P.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Maudling Rt. Hon. R.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hesketh, R. F.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Carr, Robert||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Cole, Norman||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Neave, Airey|
|Cooke, Robert||Holt, A. F.||Nicholls, Harmer|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hope, Lord John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hornby, R. P.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Noble, Michael (Argyll)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Howard, John (Test)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Osborne, C.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Page, R. G.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Partridge, E.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Peel, W. J.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Deedee, W. F.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hyde, Montgomery||Pott, H. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Iremonger, T. L.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Drayson, G. B||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jennings, Sir Roland (Halfam)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Duthie, W. S.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Elliott, R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kaberry, D.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Robertson, Sir David||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wade, D. W.|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Storey, S.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wall, Patrick|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Summers, Sir Spencer||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Russell, R. S.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Sharples, R. C.||Teeling, W.||Webster, David|
|Shepherd, William||Temple, John M.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Wolrige-Gordon, P.|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Speir, R. M.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Vane, W. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Oakshott and Mr. E Wakefield.|
|Abse, Leo||Fletcher, Eric||McInnes, J.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Foot, D. M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Albu, A. H.||Forman, J. C.||McLeavy, Frank|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gibson, C. W.||Mahon, Simon|
|Awbery, S. S.||Gooch, E. G.||Malnwaring, W. H.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Baird, J.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Balfour, A.||Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hale, Leslie||Mason, Roy|
|Benson, Sir George||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hannan, W.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hastings, S.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Boardman, H.||Healey, Denis||Moody, A. S.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rwly Regis)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Herbison, Miss M.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm,S.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mort, D. L.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Holman, P.||Moss, R.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Holmes, Horace||Moyle, A.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hoy, J. H.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Burke, W. A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hunter, A. E.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Orbach, M.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Carmichael, J.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Parker, J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Clunie, J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs,s.)||Paton, John|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pearl, T. F.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pentland, N.|
|Cove, W. G.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Probert, A. R.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Kenyon, C.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Deer, G.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pursey, Cmdr, H.|
|de Freitag, Geoffrey||King, Dr. H. M.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Diamond, John||Lawson, G. M.||Reeves, J.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Ledger, R. J.||Reid, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Dye, S.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Rhodes, H.|
|Ede Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwiek)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Edelman, M.||Lewis, Arthur||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Logan, D. G.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McCann, J.||Ross, William|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacColl, J. E.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacDermot, Niall||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Finch, H. J.||McGhee, H. G.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Fitch, Alan||McGovern, J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Willey, Frederick|
|Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Timmons, J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Tomney, F.||Williams, Richard (Openshaw)|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Osborne, H. C.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Steele, T.||Viant, S. P.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Warbey, W. N.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Stones, W. (Consett)||Watkins, T. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Weitzman, D.||Woof, R. E.|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Swingler, S. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Sylvester, G. O.||Wigg, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.