HC Deb 08 July 1969 vol 786 cc1171-289
Mr. Hogg

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 9, leave out from '1969' to end of line 11.

I understand that we are taking, at the same time, Amendment No. 2 in page 1, line 11, at end insert: Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the submission of reports under section 2(3) of that Act (reports relating to particular constituencies). That will be convenient to me if it is convenient also to the Committee.

If I may have your indulgence, Mr. Irving, and that of the Committee, I want to address these general words to the Government and to the Committee by way of introduction, as to the attitude we are seeking to take. There was a considerable conflict of opinion between the two sides of the House on Second Reading. This conflict reflected the deep feelings which have been engendered on our side by the Bill, the depth and strength of which I do not seek in any way to disguise.

However, we are not anxious to make, even if you were likely to allow us to make, Mr. Irving—I apprehend that you might at some stage intervene against us if we attempted to do so—these debates on Amendments in Committee into a series of Second Reading conflicts. On the contrary, we want the Committee stage to be a genuine Committee stage.

This means that, although we do not accept, any more than we did on Second Reading, the principle of the Bill, we move our Amendments on the assumption that this has been passed. All our Amendments are designed in one way or another to improve the Bill, on the hypothesis which we make for proposing them that the Government's general case was made out, although we do not think that it was.

By these Amendments we seek to import Section 2(3) of the principal Act into the Bill. The principal Act provides for periodic reviews by the Boundary Commissions, and it envisages that, in between the periodic reviews, a Commission may make interim reviews relating to particular constituencies. Section 2(3) provides that Any Boundary Commission may also from time to time submit to the Secretary of State reports with respect to the area comprised in any particular constituency or constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom with which they are concerned, showing the constituencies into which they recommend that that area should be divided in order to give effect to the rules set out in the said Second Schedule". The rules set out in the Second Schedule are the familiar rules relating to local community boundaries, to electoral quota, numbers, and so on.

4.0 p.m.

That subsection has proved extremely valuable in the past. I am told that between 1954, when the last general review took place, and the present one there have been 28 interim reports and 28 Statutory Instruments following those reports. For the benefit of the curious, I may say that they are set out at length in Appendix B, page 72, of the English Boundary Commission Report. We regard that subsection as a valuable provision to add to the present Bill.

The Government have said that they do not want to implement, either with or without modifications, the general provisions of the Boundary Commission Reports as contained in the published volumes. We do not agree, but that is what they have decided in introducing a Bill of this character. For this purpose, Clause 1 provides that, if the Secretary of State does not himself intervene under subsection (2) or subsection (4)—we shall come to that on another group of Amendments, so I do not discuss it here—the next general review of the Boundary Commission will not take place for another 10 years at a minimum, or 15 years at a maximum, from now.

Admittedly, even now, 15 years after the last general review, there are constituencies which are already distorted. A later group of Amendments deals with those. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) pointed out that, by the time another 10 or 15 years had elapsed, the distortions, such as they are, will have tended to increase. My hon. Friend spoke of his own constituency as growing in a very few years, far fewer than the period envisaged under Clause 1, to 120,000 voters, a very largely distorted figure, and rather more than twice the electoral quota. I give that as an example of what we have in mind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden told the House that he had drawn the attention of the Boundary Commission to that anomaly. It wrote back to him—it was leaving his constituency as it was at that stage, I think—and drew attention to its power to make an interim report under Section 2(3) of the principal Act, the subsection which we seek to reintroduce into play by our Amendment. My hon. Friend complained that, as the Bill was drawn at present, that letter would be wholly without avail.

For the purpose of the Amendment, I assume that the Government are correct in wishing to suspend the general operation of the Boundary Commission Reports pending decisions on the Redcliffe-Maud proposals regarding local government. Well and good. But that means that, in the ordinary course of population shift, some of which is predictable and some not, constituencies will grow meanwhile more and more distorted even than they are after the 15-year delay since the last general review. On the Government's own assumptions, why should they not be the subject of interim reports under Section 2(3)?

I treat this to some extent as a test of the Government's good faith in the matter. Let us take it that my hon. Friend is right—he said that he had figures to prove it and they were not disputed—in saying that his own constituency would grow in a very few years, before the lapse of the period provided for under Clause 1, to the figure of 120,000, a borough constituency more than twice that of the electoral quota for England, which is between 58,000 and 59,000 voters. Clearly, such a constituency can be sub-divided without prejudice to any surrounding constituencies. It can be turned into two. Manifestly, it ought to be turned into two.

Accepting the Government's case that, as regards another periodic review or as regards implementation of the present Reports, they ought to wait until decisions are taken on the Redcliffe-Maud Report, can there be any reason in good faith why our Amendment should not be accepted? We think not.

We can take the argument a stage further. Whereas the Boundary Commission, under the periodic review procedure, is bound to take account of local government boundaries, that is, existing local government boundaries, in its reflections under Section 2(3) of the principal Act, it is not bound in exactly the same way or to the same extent. Although, in making its recommendations, it is bound to give effect, if it makes an interim report, to the provisions of the Second Schedule to the Act—the considerations to which I have referred—in coming to a conclusion on whether it is to make an interim report at all it is entitled to take into account respresentations from the Government, from the Opposition, or from other interested parties, which would include in the ordinary course the extent to which, if at all, there is the probability of an upheaval of the kind which the Government apprehend should suspend the operation of the general periodic review.

It follows, therefore, that the case for these two Amendments is wholly made out. Even making every concession and assumption which the Government asked us to make on Second Reading, we cannot see how they can decently refuse assent to the Amendment. If they do make concessions to us in this way, they can expect a quite different attitude from the Opposition to that which will inevitably be adopted if their approach is, "we shall not allow any concession at all, however reasonable it may appear or however overwhelming may be the considerations in support of it".

We wish to play our part in the making of the Bill. We have expressed our view as to its constitutional propriety, but we do not wish the Committee stage to be coloured by the passion with which we dislike the principle. Our Amendments, particularly the two with which we are now dealing, are designed to meet the Government's full case and, at the same time, to improve the Bill with reasonable and just proposals.

Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)

I support the Amendment, but I would like to correct my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) on one matter. My constituency is not a borough constituency. It is not a county constituency either, but is a multi-county constituency, since it contains three county boroughs and two counties. This makes for considerable problems.

My right hon. and learned Friend was good enough to mention some of my remarks on Second Reading. In considering the two Amendments before us it is very important to realise how interim reports could affect constituencies such as mine. I have persistently over the past few months—even as long ago as the Representation of the People Act last year—challenged the Home Secretary with the sort of situation that will arise in my constituency. I have had no answer so far, satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

But the matter goes further than my own representations to the Boundary Commission. On 9th May this year the Commission, in reply to a letter sent by the Meriden Rural District Council on 6th May, made some interesting observa- tions. In its letter the council had pointed out the very rapid growth in my constituency, for reasons to which I shall come in a minute or two, and asked the Commission if it could have a special look at the constituency, since even its existing proposals were hardly adequate.

In its reply of 9th May, reference BC/E/REV: PROP/134, signed by Mr. J. R. Jeffery, Secretary to the Commission, the Commission said: Under Section 2(3) of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Scats) Act 1949 the Commission have power to submit from time to time recommendations for particular constituencies, and should the need arise they could consider exercising this power at some future date in respect of the Meriden constituency. That was a letter from the Boundary Commission to the Meriden Rural District Council, one of my large and important local authorities.

On page 62 of the Report of the Boundary Commission for England, it says, under the heading "Warwickshire": Towards the end of our review we received representations about the rapid housing development being carried out in the Chelmsley Wood area of the Meriden C.C., and the effect this would have on the future electorate of the constituency, but we decided that the development was not sufficiently advanced for us to make adjustments to take account of it in this review. The matter could be reviewed under Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act when this appeared necessary. Both in the letter to the Meriden Rural District Council and on page 62 of its report, the Commission was clearly under the impression that those powers would continue.

I asked the Home Secretary in a Question a week or two ago what consultations he had had with the Boundary Commission since 21st April this year. He told me that he had had none, so presumably he did not discuss this point with it. The Commission's letters, both to me at the end of last year and to the Meriden Rural District Council on 9th May, saying that special provision could be made under Section 2(3), and the statement in its report, appeal to be nullified by the Bill unless the Amendment is made.

What are the practical consequences if the Amendment is not made? I hesitate to weary the Committee, but since I did not receive a satisfactory reply when I raised the matter before, and since it is germane to the Amendment, I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I explain the position in my constituency. If verification is required, I have in my hand a copy of a letter from the Meriden Rural District Council to the Home Secretary, dated 4th July and signed by the clerk of the council, who is also the acting returning officer for the Meriden constituency.

Let us take the district council's word rather than mine. I was at the council meeting the other day when unanimously all parties passed a motion saying that the Government should do certain things as regards my constituency. The letter says: (a) The electorate in the Meriden Constituency will amount to some 100,000 electors in October of this year, and to approximately 120,000 in October, 1970. This is principally due to the construction at Chelmsley Wood, in this rural district, of a vast overspill estate, where the rate of construction and occoupation is the fastest in western Europe, and to town expansion, for similar purposes, in the part of the Borough of Tamworth covered by the Constituency. 4.15 p.m.

I have half the Borough of Tamworth, which is in Staffordshire, in my constituency. I understand that I probably have more electors in Tamworth than the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tam-worth (Mr. Snow) has. Within the next two or three years I shall have many more than he has, because all the overspill for Tamworth happens to be in the Meriden county constituency rather than the Lichfield and Tamworth county constituency.

My rural district council continues: These are quite exceptional circumstances, demanding exceptional electoral treatment… (b) In making their representations earlier this year to the Boundary Commission for England the Council were informed to the effect that the position could be dealt with under Section 2(3) of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, but although this section is not specifically referred to in the repeals effected by the Bill it appears that Clause 1 will render it inoperative. Thus no relief will now be secured in the manner forecast by the Boundary Commission. That is the view of the Independents, the Labour members and the Conservative members of that rural district council. I believe that it is also the view of the large majority of my electorate, whatever their political party or political persuasion. I have discussed this with a number of them. It seems that if the Government do not accept the Amendment they are deliberately kicking the Boundary Commission in the teeth and making all the letters and the statements in its report meaningless, without any consultation with the Commission, on the Home Secretary's own admission. This is a serious situation.

I have pointed out that by October, 1970, my constituency will be 120,000 strong, and this is without considering the effects of enfranchising the 18-yearolds, which will add considerable numbers. The Home Secretary's estimate to me last year in a Parliamentary Answer was between 6 per cent. and 8 per cent. I think that that is an average estimate for most constituencies. As I have pointed out before, constituencies like mine, Wokingham, Billericay, Cheadle, Huyton, and other large overspill constituencies outside big cities, tend to have a larger than average proportion of young people moving into them. This is understandable, in view of the sort of housing development and the people moving out from the cities.

I have been into this question in some detail with one of my local authorities which, for its own purposes, had to do a statistical breakdown of the age groups of the population generally. It appears that at present, certainly in large parts of my constituency affected by the overspill, the proportion of young people who will be enfranchised is running at 9 per cent., which is above the national average. It also appears that by the mid- to late-1970s they will be between 11 and 12 per cent. of the electorate, so that on top of my 100,000 this year I shall have to add perhaps 8,000 or 9,000 18- to 21-yearolds, and on top of my 120,000 next year I will have to add perhaps 12,000.

So it is possible that with votes at 18, and assuming that the General Election is fought in the spring of 1971, as it may be, my electorate at that election will be about 130,000 to 132,000. If the Home Secretary considers that to be fair and reasonable, perhaps he would be good enough to say so when he replies. If he does not, it seems to me that he cannot resist the Amendment. I heard what he said about the problems of large constituencies on Second Reading. No one has yet challenged my figures or those of the Meriden Rural Dustrict Council, which has been into these matters very carefully. If the right hon. Gentleman considers that an electorate of 130,000 people will receive from their Member the service to which they are entitled, perhaps he will say so. If he cannot accept that that is a reasonable proposition, he is bound to accept the Amendment in equity and fairness to the electorate, to the constitutional principles involved, and, perhaps least important, in fairness to the Member.

I have been talking in terms of October, 1970. But Meriden will not stop growing then. We have done our calculations. Although the rate of growth will not be as rapid when the Chelmsley Wood development comes to a conclusion, taking into account votes at 18, it is reasonable to suggest—and all the experts to whom I have spoken in the constituency agree with this—that by about 1978 or 1979, my electorate will be between 160,000 and 190,000. This is obviously speculation, because we are looking some distance ahead. Over the next eight to nine years 30,000 people from the overspill population of the Borough of Tamworth will go to my constituency. The votes at 18 factor also comes into it.

The electorate in my constituency may be 132,000 by the spring of 1971. It may well be another seven or eight years before redistribution can take place if the Bill is passed unamended since it is unlikely that the Redcliffe-Maud Report will be implemented before 1973 or 1974. Then after that the Boundary Commission's proposals will not be implemented until the next General Election. This will take us up to about 1980, by which time the electorate in my constituency will be nudging 200,000. To give a piece of quite useless information, although it may interest hon. Members, by that time the population of my constituency will be comfortably in excess of the European population in Rhodesia. This may be a very strong argument for a U.D.I.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

It might be possible for my hon. Friend to arrange to have three votes in the House, to be allowed to table six Questions each day, and to catch Mr. Speaker's eye three times in each debate. This would give great pleasure to his hon. Friends.

Mr. Speed

My salary might also be £9,750. However, I feel that the dead hand of the Treasury would jib at that.

My constituency is in an extreme situation, but a number of other constituencies with electorates of 80,000 or 90,000 are not very far behind. These are constituencies in overspill areas, new town areas, and so on. They have a larger than average proportion of young people and, therefore, will be considerably affected by votes at 18. These are the constituencies which will be under-represented in Parliament. Their Members, whatever their party and however hard working they may be, cannot possibly devote the same amount of work, time and effort to 120,000, 130,000 or 140,000 people as other Members can devote to 60,000 people.

This afternoon we had a pleasing ceremony when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Lawler) was introduced in the House. I congratulate him on becoming a Member. It is a significant fact, however, that the vote cast for the hon. Gentleman at Ladywood would not have been sufficient to prevent him from losing his deposit in the recent by-elections in the West Midlands—Brierley Hill, Dudley, and Warwick and Leamington.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) has similar problems to me, with overspill population moving to his constituency from Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Having represented a small constituency and now representing a very large one, he may have something to say about the service which he can give to his constituents.

I hope that the Home Secretary will take this Amendment very seriously. It does not interfere with any principle in the Maud Report. The Government have accepted the principle of it by splitting Cheadle and making special provision for groups of other constituencies. If the right hon. Gentleman rejects the Amendment, then I say, speaking for all sections of my rural district council and of my electorate, whatever their political allegiance, that we shall have grave doubts about the bona fides of the Government.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I gather that the local authority association are very disturbed about this aspect of the Bill. If the recommendations of the Boundary Commission are not implemented for a number of years, a great deal of administrative inconvenience will be caused and the position of local authorities will be made very difficult.

Since 1949, 28 special orders have been made under section 2(3). A special order was made under it in respect of York in 1964. When the boundaries in York were changed in 1967, the Boundary Commission embodied the change in its recommendations. When local authority housing estates are built outside the frontiers of the local authority, it is convenient for the authority which owns the houses and the authority which was previously responsible for the territory on which they are built that there should be a change of local government boundary and a change of Parliamentary boundary. If not, there will be in the area tenants of the borough who are paying their rates to the borough who are voters for local elections in the borough in Parliamentary elections voting in a county constituency with which they have no concern. Therefore, when they are confronted with difficult Departmental problems they have to write to the county Member whereas they would expect to write to the borough member. This is not desirable.

I do not think that the revival of the Section 2(3) powers would cut across the general attitude which the Government are taking, rightly or wrongly, in the Bill. It would enable the Commission to do a certain amount of repair work as the years passed. Once the Bill is passed, it is unlikely that there will be another major redistribution Bill for probably six or seven years.

Take the situation in certain large towns. The electorate in the Exchange Division of Manchester has dropped during the past two years from 32,000 to 19,000. It has the smallest electorate in the country. The electorate in Wythenshawe has increased from 70,000 to 70,500.

There are many drawbacks to the Bill. The Government have attached too much importance to the Maud proposals, thinking that they are likely to be implemented in the fairly near future. They are not likely to be implemented at all, or any-how for a very long time in their present form. Bearing that difference between us in mind, it would be wise for the Government to give way on this 2(3) point, to keep the Boundary Commission in existence, and ask it to keep on looking at the small fringe changes, trying to secure that no parliamentary constituency gets to the ridiculous position of Lady-wood or Manchester, Exchange, and trying to see, when local authorities extend their housing activities outside their frontiers that that territory in due course is included within their own boundaries for local government and Parliamentary purposes.

I hope that the Home Secretary will look at this not as any great issue, but as one that is much desired by all local authorities. It could be brought within the general ambit of the Bill.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Ridley

The introduction of the Bill seems to bring a new dimension into these matters. We had all thought that, after a certain period of years, there would be a complete adjustment of all Parliamentary boundaries which would allow for all the factors about which my hon. Friends have been talking to be adjusted. Now we are in a position where there will be perhaps another 10 years before these adjustments, even as proposed now, can be made. Who knows, the precedent having once been set, that a further Redistribution of Seats Bill will not be brought in, in say, 1979 if the Government in power then think nothing of bending the rules to suit their convenience.

During this time it could extend for another 20 years the most extraordinary distortions in the size of constituencies. Even 10 years from now, the period of currency of the present legislation, there will have been 25 years since the last review. In 25 years, in a rapidly changing society, the sort of things which my hon. Friends have been discussing will become more and more prevalent. After the Bill has been passed, if it is, there will be constituencies in England as widely differing in electorate as that at the bottom, which has 18,000 electors and that at the top, with 100,000 electors. They will not be altered at all.

There will be a factor of five-and-half times between the smallest and the biggest constituency. If we add the factor which my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has just mentioned, the growth of the periphery at the expense of the centre of towns and sities, which is going on all the time, together with movements of population, there is no doubt that the anomalies in the electoral map will be really serious.

If this Amendment was carried it would enable adjustments to be made where the shoe pinched most, from year to year. There are many problems, not serious ones, which could be dealt with, without any damage being done. To give a personal example—and I think that it will be fashion in this debate for hon. Members to quote from their own experience—I was due, under the Boundary Commission Report, to cede certain areas on the outskirts of Cheltenham to the constituency of Cheltenham.

As my electorate is 67,000 and Cheltenham's electorate 55,000, it seemed only sensible that the county constituency surrounding the borough should tend to give up the newly colonised areas on the periphery of the city to the borough constituency, representing the city. My right hon. Friend is right; I am often being approached on subjects to do with the town of Cheltenham by constituents who have moved out ever the border. This process continues the whole time, and such anomalies should be rectified. The Redcliffe-Maud proposals do not affect my part of Gloucestershire at all, so there is no reason, either in Maud or elsewhere, why this small but useful little change should not be put into effect.

It is a recommendation of the Boundary Commission and as far as I know it is not opposed. It does not even cost the Tory Party a single vote. It will not cost me my seat and it will not affect the constituency of Cheltenham. There could not be any electoral considerations involved in making this small change. There will be countless other similar changes and I do not see why they could not be put into effect under the 2(3) procedure, as it has come to be called.

If we are to have no general reviews for 25 years or longer, the only way we can proceed is by ad hoc improvements, by making small changes everywhere we may without infringing on great strategy like Maud. This might be the best way to proceed in the next few years. The Home Secretary may say that this is not a good idea, because it will be obvious that a change in one constituency affects its neighbours and that we cannot, with the greatest of ease, take isolated examples and put them into effect without having side effects on neighbouring constituencies. He would be right, but this is why Parliament first decided to have general reviews and reports of the Boundary Commission, which were to be put into effect, wholly, by the government of the day.

If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to fly in the face of the law to that extent then he has only himself to blame if all that we have at our disposal is the second line of defence, the making of ad hoc improvements in seats as and when and where we can. The strongest argument for the Amendment is that it has a very great advantage in that it takes the boundary changes out of the hands of politicians.

The Bill makes a number of changes in and around Greater London, in the very largest constituencies. But note this curious anomaly—it is in only the largest constituencies which happen to be in pairs. A large constiteuncy not close to another large constituency, for some reason, is not to be affected. It is only pairs of large constituencies, dealt with in the Schedule.

The profound constitutional reason for this piece of startling logic has so far passed me by. No doubt it will be explained to us. It is not right that we should take decisions about which constituencies to halve, double, or amalgamate, or to carve up. This should be done by the independent Boundary Commission, which views these matters from a slightly less personally interested standpoint and has developed a certain amount of skill and expertise. The less contact politicians have with the Boundary Commissioners the better, because then politicians are protected from any charge of gerrymandering or trying to fix the rules to suit their own book.

Rather than the Home Secretary having at a later stage to have another go at dealing with the kind of problem which arises in a constituency like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed), it should be left to the Boundary Commission. Who can doubt that within two or three years something will have to be done about the big seats which will have come into existence by then and which will be too big for them to be allowed to continue? This, again, will involve selective political decision in order to do something about it.

The safest way would be to allow the Boundary Commission to tackle those areas where the problem is most pressing, where there appears to be no conflict with Redcliffe-Maud or where all agree that a change can be made, and to put it into effect as and when the opportunity arises. Failing that, I do not see the point of continuing to have Boundary Commissions. Why do we not wind them up and allow the Home Secretary to draw boundaries as he thinks fit as and when the opportunity presents itself to him?

This Amendment should be accepted. It gives a chance of progress, despite the straitjacket into which the Committee has been placed by the very existence of the Bill. It gives a chance of progress being made independent of the incumbents of political office.

In this Session, the Home Secretary has tried twice to legislate on constitutional matters. The first time was not very successful. He will not be very successful this time unless he is prepared at least to show that his heart is in the right place in a matter like this. I did not have the good fortune to take part in the Second Reading debate, and I do not intend to make a Second Reading speech now, but I believe that great anxieties and feelings of apprehension and woe have been aroused in the breasts of hon. Members at the very existence of the Bill. The fact that we are debating it fills us with profound alarm. It is up to the Home Secretary to meet that alarm by taking the points which will be put to him. This seems an ideal one on which to start.

If the right hon. Gentleman can say that he accepts the burden of our arguments, I am certain that he will find a receptive audience on this side. In view of the overwhelming reasons for this Amendment, I hope that he will do that.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

It had been the confident expectation of both sides of the Committee that the Home Secretary would accept the invitation just given him by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). We thought that this was a simple Amendment for him to accept. We have heard about woe in hon Members' breasts. I feel anxious in that the Home Secretary does not appear to be disposed to accept the Amendment. In view of that, we must press the matter. But, like those who have preceded me, I shall do so shortly because, obviously, we want to make progress.

Inevitably, hon. Members must draw on their own personal experience, and I must do the same. When the last count was taken, which is very nearly a year ago, I was marginally under 100,000 electors. I am what is technically called "overweight". I do not have such gross prospects as my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed), with whom we all sympathise, but we are both in broadly the same physical class.

It is a situation which is not only witth us at present, but which can be foreseen. Thus, for example, within the boundaries of the constituency of Wokingham there is the London overspill new town of Bracknell, which is one of the most successful of its kind in the country. By design, by the plan of successive Governments, that new town will grow at a predicted rate. I have no doubt that when the count is taken again next October, my electorate will be over the 100,000 limit.

The name town in my constituency, the non-county borough of Wokingham, is expanding annually at the rate of 7 per cent. and the great area of private house building to the east of the county borough of Reading known as Woodley is growing at almost exactly the same speed as the planned town of Bracknell. In other words, East Berkshire and that part of it which it is my good fortunte to represent is growing at an immense rate. It can be seen to be growing. It has grown over some years past. As a county, it shares with our neighbours in Hampshire the pride of being the second fastest growing county in the country. Therefore, it is simple to see that these pressures will continue.

At present, the boundaries of a constituency like that go across local government boundaries. I agree that it would be ideal in a perfect situation so to draw the boundaries of a constituency that they were exactly contiguous with local government boundaries. With that spirit which the Home Secretary has been expressing, very few of us would disagree. However, at present I have to deal with a county council, a county borough council, a non-county borough council and two rural district councils, and I have precisely one ward of a county borough council.

This presents no great problems. That part of the county borough of Reading which I represent, and that part which is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor), fit agreeably into our respective constituencies. They enable us to underpin the representation of the County Borough of Reading which, in present circumstances, is badly needed, and they enable us to take an active and interested part in the affairs of that county borough.

Whereas it would be ideal for the two sets of boundaries to be contiguous, it is not beyond the wit of man or Members of Parliament to work within a situation where, mathematically, that is not possible. To that extent, RedcliffeMaud—the great excuse which is put up against implementing the Report of the Boundary Commissioners—is immaterial. The whole of the area which I describe will be within one authority, and we shall not be on the outer edge of that authority. Under no possible forecast will the constituency of Wokingham or land near it be on the outer boundary of the new local authority unit, always assuming that Redcliffe-Maud is implemented in its proposed form or anything broadly like it.

The intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mal-ton (Mr. Turton) was extremely important. Not only is he the most senior hon. Member of the House in terms of membership, but we know him to have an immense experience of local government. Drawing upon that experience, he foresees a very lengthy period of consultation before the Redcliffe-Maud proposals are ever implemented. That is a forecast to which the Committee should pay very careful attention.

From my own experience, which is so limited by comparison, I should have thought that was absolutely right. Once one gets down to consultations on local government reorganisation, the process will be a lengthy and careful one. While we must not now go into the realms of Redcliffe-Maud, broadly speaking, the problem is that when one has been through the mayoral chair one takes a broad and statesmanlike view of local government reorganisation, but when one is about to weigh, and, more particularly, when one's wife is about to weigh, one is apt to see the immense advantages of the exact unit into whose chair one hopes to move. These are the local pressures which will affect either side of the House, but which at present overwhelmingly affect this side of the House.

The Amendment would enable the Government to retain their bona fides and to say that they may have a period to be changing the rules just to suit their own electoral convenience, but that they reject that and, as proof of it, they will insert in the Bill this Amendment, which at least enables special cases to be dealt with and reports to be made on particular constituencies. My constituency would be precisely the sort of constituency concerned. I am advised that the effective number of voters will rise to 110,000 by next February, when votes at 18 come into force, which we on this side welcome.

I must make this confession. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury was able to point out that the changes gave no electoral advantage in his constituency. That, I freely admit, is 'a weakness in my case, because the creation of a totally new seat, as the Boundary Commission recommend, would give an additional Tory seat in Berkshire, but I am sure that the Home Secretary can look at this in a broad way and not allow himself, at least outside the House—[Interruption.] We have so far conducted this discussion in an agreeable way. I am a charitable man and I am quite prepared to try to believe, for the moment, at any rate until he replies, that the Home Secretary will take a broad, non-party view of the matter. Should that prove to be wrong, we should have other things to say.

It is difficult for hon. Members who represent oversized constituencies to put across the problems associated with them without appearing in the process to be whining. I am a bit short with my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite who complain here about our pay and conditions. I say, "There is a simple remedy. Why do you not get out, because there are at least 100 people who are anxious to take your place?" I do not develop that; I simply make the point, Mr. Irving, because I can see that you are interested in it. One does not want, by drawing attention to the special problem of the size of constituencies, to give the appearance of personal whining.

Hon. Members who represent such seats are presented with much greater burdens, not because of any personal merit, than those whose electorates are broadly stable. For example, if a great motorway is being driven through the middle of a highly populated area, the problems that brings into the constituency mailbag of a Member, whatever his party politics, are enormous. If one is representing an area which is greatly growing in size—and that is why we are looking for a special report on it—then the pressures on the Member are the greater. In a mixed constituency like mine, one has not only the problem of great urban growth, but of agricultural interests which, quite properly, expect to be represented in this House, while still being part of a large electorate, and for all these reasons the pressures upon an hon. Member are the greater.

I remember my feeling of sadness not long ago in the Post Office in this building when an hon. Gentleman who most ably represents a Scottish constituency, on collecting his mail, took out a solitary letter and said, "This has been a very heavy week. I have had three already". I am sure that it is the experience of hon. Members like myself—and I repeat that there is no personal merit in this—to have an average postbag of 50 letters a day which require attention, and to have a whole-time secretary, not shared, dealing with nothing but constituency work and another part time secretary in the constituency. This obviously adds greatly to the financial problems of the Member and to the number of cases requiring personal attention in what we familiarly call our "surgeries".

I speak on behalf of hon. Members who represent constituencies with large electorates and who would, therefore, expect, were the Amendment to be accepted, to be given some modest relief. The most important aspect is not the effect upon the Member, for we are relatively unimportant; it is the effect upon those whom we represented.

Until the Bill was published, and I took the temperature of my constituency last weekend, I had not appreciated just how strongly my electorate felt at the concept of having only a 100,000th share of a Member, particularly at the time of the by-election at Birmingham, Lady-wood.

I warn the Home Secretary not to treat this aspect lightly. We are all conscious that, particularly among the young, there is a cynicism today about the institution of Parliament. This is a far deeper-seated cynicism, particularly among the young, than we sometimes uncomfortably admit. Anything which appears to change the rules, anything which adds to that cynicism and which is palpably unfair as between one set of electors and another undermines men's respect and regard for the institution. That is the serious side of the Amendment, and that is why I profoundly hope that, even if the Home Secretary has come to the debate with a brief marked "No" on the right-hand side, he will, as a result of the debate, agree that the arguments for the Amendment are overwhelming.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

The Home Secretary's attitude to the debate so far looks a trifle odd in a Minister who, presumably, is trying to get a Bill through by the normal parliamentary processes of debate and conciliation. My right hon. and learned Friend moved the Amendment well over an hour ago in terms whose moderation would have been surprising in me and which would possibly be astonishing in him. He not only put the case for the Amendment, for that very reason, with peculiar effectiveness, but he put squarely to the Home Secretary that to some extent the Amendment was a test of his sincerity and good faith. Without prejudice to the strong views held by many of us on the main purpose of the Bill, the Home Secretary would to some extent be able to restore confidence in the belief that he was trying to behave fairly if he were to accept this Amendment.

The Home Secretary will recall that when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) sat down there was a distinct pause before other Members rose. We all expected the Home Secretary to rise to accept the Amendment so that we could pass on to the more controversial matters. If he felt that he could not accept it in those precise terms, he could do what many have done before him. He could have said, "I accept the principle of the Amendment and will put down an Amendment on Report to give it effect." But what the Home Secretary has done is to sit there without any support whatever from his own side. Not a single speech has so far been made against the Amendment.

The Home Secretary is not setting a very good tone for our debates in Committee and later stages of the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend's proposal is surely a simple and straightforward one. As I understand Clause 2(4) of the Bill, these interim reports by the Commission will be continued in respect of Greater London alone. Surely it is sensible to make at least some provision for some interim reports by the Commission in respect of the rest of the country.

The Boundary Commission is a responsible body. It is presided over by no less a person than Mr. Speaker himself, as are all Boundary Commissions. The deputies are judicial personages of very high standing. Surely they can be relied upon not to make frivolous, futile and unnecessary recommendations? They will understand what the rest of the Bill does, if it passes into law. Why deny them, except in the Greater London area, the opportunity to make these interim reports?

Would the Home Secretary say whether he consulted them about this matter? Did he ask their views? Did he seek to find out from them whether they would wish to be relieved of these duties? It may be that with all their hard work of four years having been thrown out of the window, even so august a body as the Boundary Commission may be a little unenthusiastic for the Home Secretary and may not wish to help him further. I do not know whether that will be so, but we are entitled to be told whether they were consulted before this particular provision which inhibits the submission by them of interim reports was put into the Bill.

I ask another question. Let us assume that there are areas of the country in which, over the next few years, two things will happen. First, that there will be a substantial expansion in population or a diminution in population, and second, that even if something is done about Redcliffe-Maud—and many of us are becoming increasingly sceptical about that—it is quite clear that nothing whatever under Redcliffe-Maud will apply to an individual constituency or two or three constituencies together.

What does the Home Secretary propose to do about it? Does he propose to do nothing, to allow an anomalous situation to grow even more anomalous in circumstances in which his one excuse for doing this throughout the country does not operate? Is he to stand by and let that happen? He may say that he can make an order telling the Boundary Commission to apply it to some part of the United Kingdom. But is it not very much better to let the Boundary Commission proceed by its normal sensible process of hearing evidence, taking the points of those affected, and then making a recommendation?

Why should this not apply in the kind of situation which I have predicated—a situation in which populations and electorates have changed violently up or down and where it is as plain as a pikestaff that no local government changes are impending? Why, in those circumstances, should there not be change? And if there is to be change, surely the right mechanism for securing that change is by way of a recommendation made by an impartial and independent Boundary Commission on its own initiative.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). The more we can keep the necessary adjustment of constituencies at the first stage out of the hands of politicians who are interested parties—and it was truly said on Second Reading that the whole Bill was about votes—but in the hands of an impartial body, in the hands of people who are not affected by other considerations, the more fairly it will be seen to operate. The fact that it will be in the hands of an impartial body will prevent any increase in anomalies during what may be a fairly prolonged period.

We do not know whether the Redcliffe-Maud argument is still to be maintained. I feel that the Home Secretary has underrated the length of time it will take to happen. Has he taken into account the time and trouble taken by the Conservative Administration over the much smaller task of the reorganisation of local government in London? That was a lengthy and difficult operation. If the Government are to go ahead with Redcliffe-Maud—and so far they have not said even that they will do so—they have taken on a task that will take many years. During those years there will be individual changes which are vitally necessary and which no hon. Member on either side of the Committee would in conscience dispute to be right.

Here we have an attempt to preserve the mechanism not for dealing with the great general issues, but for putting right some particular indisputable anomalies. So far, we have had no indication from the Home Secretary as to why he declines to do this and to put this instrument in the hands of a trusted body, the Boundary Commission. The longer he desists in telling us why he declines to do so, the worst we shall suspect his motives to be.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

I respond at once to the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). It is always difficult to know when to intervene in these debates. I agree that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) sat down, nobody got up. But I did not assume that that was the end of the debate. Had I got up at that stage, no doubt I would have been accused of rushing in before I had heard all the arguments.

I was waiting for the end of the debate, which at one stage seemed likely since some three speeches ago the only other hon. Member who got up was the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery). I made a sign to him saying that after he made his speech, I would get up. But when the following speaker sat down, three other right hon. Gentlemen rose with him and he was not called. Then when the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames sat down, I am sorry to say that seven of the colleagues of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill rose. This begins to look like the hydra. As soon as one cuts off one head, three other heads take its place.

It is appropriate that I should say something at this stage, having heard a substantial part of the arguments. I was grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone for making this out to be a genuine Committee stage and an attempt to improve the Bill. He said that the attitude of the Opposition would be reflected by the Government's attitude to their Amendments. Of course, it will. But he will be convinced when I am finished that the Amendment is not a good one. It will not affect his attitude because the arguments I propose to adduce are sufficiently substantial to warrant that the Committee should reject the Amendments. If I thought that the Opposition's Amendments were good, I would accept them. But, as the argument has been developed, hon. Gentlemen opposite have helped my case. This is probably one more reason for sitting silent and listening, because nearly every speaker has under-estimated the consequential effects of his proposals.

For instance, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said that on page 72 there are about 28 Orders which have been made under the provisions of Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act. The first was made in 1956 and the last in 1964. None has been made since. This, incidentally, affects the quality of some of the later Amendments in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's name. I shall have to return to this, because I am afraid that they are defective.

None of the local government changes for which Section 2(3) was largely devised has been translated into Orders because there have been no interim recommendations by the Commission since 1964, because the general review was going on. Therefore, these arrears have mounted up substantially. The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and others were quite right. We have substantial arrears on our hands now. My view and that of anyone who has studied the matter is that nothing short of a general review can overtake those arrears: it cannot be done piecemeal—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am surprised to hear hon. Members cheering that, because so far the argument from that side has been that they could be done piecemeal if there could not be a general review. My own conclusion is that they cannot. If the Opposition now agree with that, at least we can make progress.

We are, therefore, driven back to the principle of the Bill, since these things can be done only with a general review and not piecemeal. The question then arises, which the House has decided, whether there should be one general review or two general reviews.

Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)


Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member has not taken part in this debate, and a number of others have. He rose for the first time only two speakers ago, when the hon. Member for Brierley Hill rose. I am trying to deal with those who have already spoken, which is surely reasonable.

It therefore seems conclusive that we must deal with this generally and not piecemeal.

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) has pursued this with great assiduity, and he has substantial difficulties. The truth is that his constituency is divided between five authorities. There are three county boroughs and two counties. Therefore, any attempt to divide his constituency will involve not merely him but many other people. But more than that—this was one of the things which I first looked at because of the assiduity of his questioning some time ago—his constituency is one of the few divided between two main units under the Redcliffe-Maud Report, one rather gracelessly called unitary area No. 28 and the other a metropolitan area. So, whatever we do for the hon. Gentleman now, if we adopted the Boundary Commission's Report, it will have to be undone and done again when the Redcliffe-Maud Report, or something like that, assuming that these boundaries are not drawn, comes into play.

So what the right hon. Member is saying is that these large constituencies should be broken up. I want to see some broken up, and I hope to have his support when we reach what can be conveniently broken up—these four areas which I have put in—because I want, with the assistance of the House, to overcome these difficulties where possible. But they cannot be overcome easily in the hon. Gentleman's case without a general review. Far too many other people are affected.

5.15 p.m.

The same applies to the hon. Member for Wokingham, who is no longer with us. He spoke about the difficulties of a large constituency. This would not be a simple solution of cutting his constituency in half, because the Boundary Commission has in mind not only the impact on his constituency but also the number of seats which it thinks the county is entitled to. In Berkshire, it is a complicated sum. I do not know whether all hon. Members realise that the Commission has given one more seat each to Cumberland and Cornwall than it thinks they were entitled to, and has offset that by taking a seat from somewhere else. Whether that principle is right is not for me to say, but this is just not a simple question of bifurcation. One must consider the consequences in Wokingham.

The Commission immediately brought Reading into the picture: The electorate of … Reading … was too high for one seat but not big enough to warrant the borough being given the additional seat to which the geographical county was entitled—a solution which in any case would not have met the needs of Wokingham. The Commission then went on to propose that the four wards in the south-east part of Reading should be combined with parts of Wokingham to form a Reading, South borough constituency: (One of these wards was already associated with Wokingham R.D. in the existing Wokingham C.C.). Thus our scheme provided for a substantial reduction in the electorate of Wokingham … moderated the electorate of Newbury … and … divided Reading C.B. between two instead of three constituencies as at present. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Wokingham has returned. I am sure that he has read pages 29 and 30 of the Boundary Commission's Report. What I am saying is that Wokingham cannot stand by itself even on the basis of what the Boundary Commission recommended. At least two, if not three, contiguous constituencies would be affected. I draw from that a general conclusion, which I believe stands examination whether it is applied to Meriden or to Wokingham. One cannot just say that we can slice the area in half in these simple cases. There would be a ripple effect on other constituencies, as with a stone thrown into a pond.

This is why, when we reach the large group of Amendments which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone has devised, hoping that he will not interfere with other constituencies, he will find that he is interfering. So his Amendments are defective.

There is no solution, in the Government's view, other than a general Boundary Commission review. The House has already decided that principle, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledged, but it will not have a general review until the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, or something like them, have been put into operation. As to how long that will be, there have been a number of views, and this is a matter of judgment—[An HON. MEMBER: "In ten years?"] It could be much sooner than that—[An HON. MEMBER: "Never?"] It could be never, but it will not be never under this Government. I would not like to say what would happen under any other Government.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I put this question to the Prime Minister immediately after his statement on the Redcliffe-Maud Report, and that the Prime Minister's reply to mine or a later supplementary was that the Government accepted the Redcliffe-Maud Report in principle but nothing more. So far as I know, no Minister has yet said that it is proposed to legislate for the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations either in this Parliament or in any future Parliament. That depends on the will of the House of Commons and on its composition.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman is not wholly right. The Government have accepted the major principle of the Redcliffe-Maud Report and are now busily engaged on the process of consultation with local authorities with a view to preparing schemes which will be brought before the House at an early date. I cannot be committed more precisely than that. The hon. Gentleman should not be under the misapprehension that it will be allowed to slide away into pigeon holes. It will be effectively and actively worked on over the next few months. The Minister without Portfolio is here this afternoon as an indication of his interest in the discussion which has taken place on this matter.

Mr. Hogg

The Home Secretary has just said that the Government have accepted the principle of the Redcliffe-Maud Report. I listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister said the other day—I should like to be corrected if I am wrong, because this is a matter of great importance, both on this Bill and generally—and I understood that the Government understood the principle of the abolition, as it were, of the distinction between town and country, but that the theory that we should start with these all-purpose authorities and make the substructure advisory and leave the superstructure of provinces until afterwards had not been accepted. I should like the Home Secretary to make clear whether and to what extent I am right or wrong about that.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. In his brief intervention he has been talking about functions and powers, not boundaries. The Government have accepted the major principle of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, which is that there should be a substantial reduction in the number of major authorities conducting our affairs. I think that I am putting it correctly. So we are in the middle of a process which will affect their boundaries substantially.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that it is convenient that local government and Parliamentary boundaries should coincide. This, indeed, is a principle that I want to follow and that the Government intend to follow. The only question is whether we should do this by means of adopting the Boundary Commission's proposals now and having another one as soon as the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have been put into operation. This is a matter of principle. I do not wish to comment on it too much. The House decided that, and I am proceeding in Committee to put it into effect.

Mr. David Mitchell

The Home Secretary seems in essence to be saying that he is unable to give us the whole loaf which lie was supposed to put into operation and, therefore, he cannot give us half a loaf. It does not seem to have much logic behind it.

Mr. Callaghan

I have no comments to make on that. The conclusion to which I have come, having looked at the matter very carefully to see whether we could overcome all the problems of the larger constituency, is that we cannot do it without creating so many anomalies that we are then embarked upon a substantial review. Indeed, the Opposition in later Amendments want to re-draw the boundaries of about 200 constituencies. That shows the size of the operation that they want to conduct. But that is against the principle of the Bill, which is for a standstill until the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have come into sufficient operation to enable us to proceed with a further review.

Mr. Speed

The Home Secretary has referred in some detail to Meriden. Is he aware that there are proposals with the Minister of Housing and Local Government which create new local authority areas, new parish councils and all the rest in my constituency, which fall within the metropolitan area of Birmingham as proposed in the Redcliffe-Maud Report? Do I understand that the right hon. Gentlemen will not approve the draft orders in view of what he has just said?

Mr. Callaghan

No. I am not talking about local government boundary changes. That is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The hon. Gentleman is indicating that if there are further changes to be made, this is another reason why we should avoid making these continual changes. We must have some finality for everybody's sake. I am convinced that this is the right way to tackle the problem. Let us have one substantial redrawing of the local government map as soon as we can and follow it by a substantial redrawing of the Parliamentary map to make sure that local government and Parliamentary boundaries coincide.

Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)

On this point of principle about not implementing the proposals of the Boundary Commission until it is time for the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations to be carried out, to which the right hon. Gentle man continually refers, is he aware that the proposals affecting Horsham recommend that a great part of the constituency should be transferred into East Surrey? Yet the right hon. Gentleman is bringing my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Captain Kerby) into the special purview of the Boundary Commission. What does that do to his principle?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to debate something in the Schedule to which we will come later. Indeed, I have no doubt that some of the speeches that we have heard this afternoon—I will not say ad nauseam, because that would be impolite—we shall hear repeated in the next instalment. The hon. Gentleman is saying that I have found a way of trying to relieve him and his neighbour of some of the burdens of which the hon. Member for Wokingham was complaining. If this can be done, it is sensible for Parliament to try to do it. It was done in 1944, and I am proposing that we should do it again now. This is the sensible, practical and workmanlike way of tackling the job.

Mr. Hogg

I will not detain the Committee long, because I have already spoken and some of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate. I rise briefly to say how profoundly disappointed I am at the Home Secretary's response to what I believe was a reasonable and sincere appeal to him to accept the Amendment. I hope that my hon. Friends will be more successful than I have hitherto been in making him change his mind.

The Home Secretary has based his whole argument upon the proposition that the matter is so serious already that we must have a general review or nothing. We have accepted this view in our attitude on Second Reading. The House gave the Bill a Second Reading on the hypothesis that it does not want a general review. But it does not follow that no amelioration of the present intolerable situation is permissible. On the contrary, the more intolerable a situation is, the more vital that individual Amendments should be made.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not expressing my argument correctly. I am not saying that the situation is so serious that we must get ahead. I am saying that it is a jigsaw puzzle. If we subtract one part, then the rest collapses. This is why we cannot extract individual parts, except in a very limited way.

Mr. Hogg

This would be a reason for rejecting the Bill in toto, but I will not go into that because we have had it out on Second Reading. I am saying that the more intolerable we make the situation by perpetuating the present anachronistic boundaries, the more vital it is to ameliorate the present situation. That is what we are seeking to do.

The Home Secretary gave a number of instances, into which I will not go, but which I hope my hon. Friends will develop, to support why he could not do that. He said, for instance, that Meriden cannot be divided into two, though he wholly failed to persuade me that this was so.

5.30 p.m.

The short answer of principle to the Home Secretary—and I rise a second time only to put this to the right hon. Gentleman—is that if he is right, and the Amendment were accepted, the Boundary Commission would be the first to say so. All that we are asking is that this should be decided, not by the party in office for the time being, whether it is us or them, but by an impartial body. If we are wrong, the Boundary Commission will say so. If we are right, the Home Secretary will have lost nothing by accepting the Amendment.

When I told the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of this debate that to some extent this would be the touchstone of the Government's sincerity, I meant exactly what I said. If this Amendment were accepted, it would wholly alter my attitude to the Government over this Bill. It is true that we have put down a large number of detailed Amendments to later stages of the Bill which seek, in the main, following the Boundary Commission's territories, to redraw particular constituencies consistently with the principle of the Bill. When one faces a Committee stage, one puts down Amendments following the order of the Bill, hoping that they will be accepted. If some earlier ones are accepted, many of the later Amendments become unnecessary.

If we could have it clearly stated by the Government that, wholly consistent with their attitude, they would allow interim reports by the impartial body, it would perhaps not be necessary for us to press some of the other Amendments. We are willing to abide by the Boundary Commission. The Government are not. The conclusion we draw is that we are honest and that the Government are not.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

I support the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), and, like my right hon. and learned Friend, I have to confess that I was not particularly struck with the arguments put forward by the Home Secretary. We all know that the need to redistribute constituencies arises from the movement of population; people moving from town centres into suburbia and more pleasant country areas.

The Home Secretary said that the answer to this was a general review. We have just had a general review. If the Home Secretary is being genuine, why does he not accept the review which the Boundary Commission, after years of deliberation, has presented to him?

The right hon. Gentleman's second point was that we should await the Redcliffe-Maud Report, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) said some constituencies in his area which are being tampered with now will also be affected by the Maud Report, if it is ever implemented. One of the points made repeatedly by this side of the Committee is that no one can be sure that the Maud Report will ever be implemented. If that is so, how much longer will we have to wait before these over-large constituencies are brought down to a reasonable size?

In 1959, the constituency which I have the honour to represent had an electorate of 70,000. Today, that figure has risen to 89,000. Almost 20,000 extra electors have come into Brierley Hill in the last 10 years. If 18-year olds vote at the next General Election, and if to that is added the natural growth in my constituency, by the time of the next General Election I shall have about 100,000 electors, and if we have to wait until 1980, or thereabouts, for a further review, the size of my constituency will be considerably more than that.

I speak with some experience, because this is my second period of service in the House. For five years I represented the constituency of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, a small, compact, borough constituency which, when I represented it, had 48,000 electors. I now represent a sprawling constituency with almost twice that number of electors.

I endorse what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Mr. Speed) and Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) about the enormous amount of extra work that one must do when one represents a very large constituency. We must spend a great deal more time on our constituency work. During the two years that I have represented Brierley Hill I have dealt with as many constituency cases as I did during the five years I represented Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, and I have far more letters to cope with now.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, I cannot afford a full-time secretary. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden, I have to share a secretary, but I hasten to add we do not share the same girl, because if she had to cope with the problems of Meriden and Brierley Hill she would be kept busy for more than seven days a week. We do not complain about the amount of work that we have to do. We knew exactly what the job entailed. I can tell hon. Gentlemen opposite who may not be with us in the next Parliament that it is a terrible feeling to be kicked out of this place and long to be back in it.

The electors of Brierley Hill should have the same chance of getting service from their Member as those in Birmingham, Ladywood, a constituency of fewer than 20,000 electors. My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden was again right to compare by-election results. If in Brierley Hill two years ago the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Lawler) had polled the number of votes which elected him to Parliament a few days ago, he would have lost his deposit. It took 31,000 votes to elect a Member of Parliament for Brierley Hill, but only 5,000 to elect a Member of Parliament for Ladywood.

I suggest that the Home Secretary should pay some attention to the problems of those of us who represent large constituencies. If there are two equally diligent Members, one with an electorate of 20,000, and the other with an electorate of about 90,000, it is obvious that the Member with the smaller electorate can devote far more time to the individual constituent's problems.

I suggest that the present situation is farcical. It is no good the Government saying that they believe strongly in the principle of one man, one vote, when they are not prepared to give a fair distribution of electorates. We admit that redistribution is never popular with many people. No hon. Member likes to have his constituency carved up and find that the friends he has had for many years, and the supporters who have worked loyally for him have been transferred to another constituency. This is always difficult to bear, yet we believe that it is in the interests of the electors that we create constituencies of a manageable size.

The great argument that we have had repeatedly from the other side of the Committee—not today, because the Home Secretary is the only Member who has spoken from that side today—is that we should wait for Redcliffe-Maud. What I cannot understand is this sudden enthusiasm that the Government have of paying attention to local government boundaries. It may be that I am being unduly cynical. We know that the Government do not really want these boundary changes, because they would be to the disadvantage of the Labour Party. If they did not have Redcliffe-Maud to cling to, they would have found some other excuse to put off implementing the Boundary Commission's Report.

If they are so keen on having local government boundaries conforming with parliamentary boundaries, why did they not do something in the West Midlands in 1965, the year when there was a tremendous upheaval of local government there? They were the Government of the day, yet they were not concerned to do anything about altering the parliamentary boundaries to fit the local government boundaries at the time. I am, therefore, very suspicious of this sudden change of heart.

In my constituency I have parts of three boroughs, a rural district, and a county council. For the Home Secretary to continue saying that local government boundaries should conform with parliamentary boundaries is nonsense, because, if the right hon. Gentleman has his way, for at least another 10 years I shall be in position of representing parts of three boroughs and a rural district.

I hope that the Government will change their mind about this perfectly reasonable Amendment. If they fail to accept it, in a few years' time we shall have several constituencies with over 100,000 electors, and that is far in excess of the Boundary Commissioners' idea of what constitutes an ideal-sized constituency.

Mr. Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

From time to time I have heard one or two replies to Amendments in Committees, but I have never heard a thinner reply than that given by the Home Secretary. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) demolished the Government's case with just two arguments, and it did not take my right hon. and learned Friend's skills to do it.

As I understand it, the Government's case against the Amendment is that the constituencies of England and Wales are a jigsaw and that one either makes a general review or none at all. The Home Secretary will not accept our Amendment because he believes that it would be impossible for the Boundary Commission satisfactorily to make one or two interim changes without affecting a large number of other constituencies. That is to argue immediately against the whole basis of the Bill. That is exactly what we have said. In the Bill the right hon. Gentleman is himself making one or two changes. If it is the case that this is so interlocked a jigsaw that it is impossible to change a few without altering all, the right hon. Gentleman should not be introducing the Bill. He should have gone the whole hog and said that for party advantage he would not implement any of the Boundary Commission's Report and had decided to leave it at that. But he is not doing that. He is seeking to make some changes.

To argue that for this reason the Government will not accept an Amendment which would allow the Boundary Commissioners to make some interim changes is almost incredible, because my right hon. and learned Friend's second argument, to which there can be no answer, is that if the Boundary Commissioners believe that they cannot make any interim alterations, they will not. All that we are saying is that the Commissioners should have the power to make such an alteration.

There cannot be any hon. Member opposite who has listened to the Home Secretary's reply and followed the debate without feeling some shame. It is evident that the right hon. Gentleman has not the least intention of proceeding with the Bill in the normal fashion of trying to reach agreement and making compromises where necessary.

5.45 p.m.

When this Measure was first introduced, The Times described it as "a shabby Bill". As I recall, it said that at best it would subsequently be regarded as a sordid little episode and that at worst it might undermine the sense of legitimacy in our constitution. If there were those fears when the Bill was introduced and after its Second Reading, they are redoubled now that we have heard the Home Secretary's reply. It is not surprising that so few hon. Members opposite are present for this Committee stage. Very few of them will want to be associated with these disreputable proceedings.

If I may, I will illustrate the falseness of the Home Secretary's argument by reference to my own constituency. In West Sussex, the Boundary Commission proposed to make four constituencies out of three. The Commissioners recommended that the constituencies of Horsham, Arundel and Shoreham, and Chichester should be re-divided to make four constituencies. The Home Secretary has come forward with an alternative proposal. He wants to leave the constituency of Chichester as it is and ask the Boundary Commissioners to make three constituencies out of Arundel and Shoreham and Horsham.

That is a pretty ludicrous suggestion. It is manifestly inferior to the proposal of the Boundary Commissioners, which would produce four constituencies roughly equal in size. The Home Secretary's proposal will produce three constituencies each with approximately 60,000 or 62,000 electors and one which will very shortly have an electorate of 100,000. That is what happens when the initiative for making changes in boundaries is left in the hands of this Government as opposed to those of the Boundary Commissioners.

As it happens, there is no party advantage in this instance. There is no question of there being fewer constituents. There is no question of one set of proposals being better tailored to the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations than the other. It is merely that the Home Secretary has decided for party reasons not to proceed with the implementation of the Commissioners' proposals but, instead, has taken a quick look at the map, seen pairs of constituencies with rather large electorates and felt that he could make the situation look slightly better by taking a couple of constituencies here and there, running them together and agreeing to some extra constituencies being created.

While the whole Bill must be deeply offensive to anyone who cares about the reputation of public life in this country, some improvement can be made if the Amendment is accepted. In the case of West Sussex, it would be open to the Boundary Commissioners to say in a few years' time that alterations should be made to even out the size of the constituencies. If the Bill passes into law, there will be four constituencies in West Sussex, including Worthing, each with an electorate of about 60,000. My own constituency, which at the moment has an electorate of 82,000, is expected to increase to over the 100,000 mark early in the 1970s.

The effect of the Amendment would be to leave it open to the Boundary Commissioners to rectify that anomaly. It would not require them to. The Home Secretary seemed to imply that it would mean that the Commissioners would have to make a change and thereby upset a number of surrounding constituencies. However, the Amendment would enable the Commissioners to make a change if they saw fit, and that is all.

I do not wish to go over any of the ground which has been covered so ably by a number of my hon. Friends. I think that there is general agreement that it is undesirable, other things being equal, to have over-large constituencies. I do not think that many people would regard a constituency with an electorate of over 100,000 as very satisfactory. Like a number of my hon. Friends, I have had a brief opportunity to compare the volume of work arising in a constituency with an electorate of 50,000 or so with that which goes with an abnormally large constituency of over 80,000 electors. The vast majority of people wish to see constituencies of roughly equal size. Even at this late stage, I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider his disgraceful reply and agree to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I, too, urge the Home Secretary to accept the Amendment. His argument against it seemed to boil down to saying that because parts of the country are in an electoral mess from the point of view of boundaries, nothing at all should be done. He seemed to suggest that there would be difficulty in moving the jigsaw pieces into their right places if we took action.

The answer is for the Government to allow the Boundary Commission to do the job. The Commission should be told, "We want you to make recommendations relating to, for example, the West Midlands", and it should then be allowed to tackle the problem. As I listened to the Home Secretary I wondered whether this occupation of the Boundary Commission was being handed over entirely to the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers. Is the Boundary Commission to play any part in the formation of electoral boundaries?

I recall being here some years ago when Parliament passed a Measure giving the Boundary Commission the duty to inquire into various boundaries and make recommendations. Had any hon. Members said at that time that we were wasting our time because its recommendations would be ignored by the Government of the day—that a future Government would find an excuse, a word which I use advisedly for not adopting its suggestions—he would have been frowned upon.

It would be out of order to discuss the Redcliffe-Maud Report, the recommendations of which may or may not be adopted. However, that is no reason for the Government to say, "We cannot do what the Statute obliges us to do"—which is still the position while the Bill is not law—"and we will, therefore, do nothing."

Any decisions of Parliament which may affect the political fortunes of one party or another are generally referred to an impartial body. Mr. Speaker's Conference decides a number of matters which it would be wrong for the Government of the day, with their majority, to introduce, perhaps unfairly to the Opposition and the constitution of the country.

For many years the Boundary Commission has had the task of deciding the boundaries of the various constituencies. Its recommendations have been subject to modification, but that has not meant completely redrawing its suggestions or ignoring them. It is obvious that anyone who considers matters of this kind from a purely political point of view could give great advantage to his party, and any Government who do this are bound to be criticised, whether or not the grounds for their action are justified.

In this case the Government are carrying out a task which Parliament placed on an entirely impartial body. This body worked for three or four years to decide the complicated changes that should be made. Now, with the exception of London, its work is being thrown away.

I represent a constituency which is half in the Greater London area and half in Surrey. It is difficult to consider a constituency like mine from the boundary point of view because one must deal with the part that is in the Greater London area in a London context, although the remainder is not large enough to be a constituency by itself. I suppose that it would be possible to go right down to the coast in respect of constituencies for Surrey, Sussex and Kent, drawing an arbitrary line on the way, or saying that the sea should be the boundary.

The Government are bound to come up against difficulties of this kind and that is why they should leave the whole issue to the Boundary Commission. There are difficulties with constituencies becoming larger and with hon. Members having to represent more people. On the other hand, other constituencies are becoming smaller, resulting in some hon. Members representing only a handful of constituents. The Commission is able to consider these difficulties and work out the best solution.

It is a negation of duty for the Government not to adopt this method of impartially redrawing boundaries, which frequently need examination. The excuse of the Redcliffe-Maud Report does not hold water because that Report cannot become law for some time. If changes occur later, let them occur. In the meantime, these boundaries need attention because of ever-changing populations and constituencies.

New towns spring up and the population shifts, particularly to the South. The Boundary Commission should keep a constant eye on this movement. Instead, however, the Government are shrugging their shoulder, are dealing with Greater London and a few other areas, but are refusing to deal with the rest of the anomalies that exist. That is why many people say that they are rigging the rules to suit themselves.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

I am saddened by this Committee stage. I was sad before I heard the Home Secretary's argument against the Amendment, and I feel even more sad having heard it.

I am particularly sad because legislation sponsored by the Home Secretary is usually in a category somewhat different from most of the legislation that comes before the House. As a rule, the Home Secretary deals with matters akin to law and order, assisted by the Law Officers, who, I regret, are not in their place today. Generally speaking, the right hon. Gentleman deals with matters relating to quasi-constitutional affairs.

Party political considerations usually play little part in the issues we are discussing. That can be said of virtually all the Measures which have been sponsored by the Home Secretary in recent years. We have had legislation from him on, for example, gaming, and hon. Members on both sides have been able to work to improve the law on a nonparty basis.

The Chairman

Order. I am finding difficulty in understanding how the hon. Gentleman can relate these remarks to the Amendment.

Mr. Buck

I will make it clear with great rapidity. Mr. Irving.

Legislation dealing with gaming, immigration appeals and the Parliamentary Commissioner—all matters on which I had the privilege of serving in Committee—were dealt with in a non-party way. It saddens me to think that we should be considering a Bill of fundamental constitutional importance without that spirit being able to pervade our proceedings. In all the other cases it was generally agreed that legislation was required.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the Amendment.

Mr. Buck

If accepted, the Amendment would go some way to restore the bi-partisan feeling that should exist on matters relating to quasi-constitutional affairs. Its acceptance would not entirely heal the breach, however, because we disagree fundamentally with this legislation.

6.0 p.m.

It was outrageous for the Home Secretary to argue in the way he did against the Amendment because his views were against the whole of the Bill. He said that we had not had any interim Orders since 1964, but before that there was a large number. In 1956 an interim Order affected my constituency marginally and ironed out anomalies in boundaries between my constituency, the Maldon constituency and the Saffron Walden constituency. There have not been such Orders since 1956 because it was realised by the Boundary Commission that, according to the Statute, in a short time there would have to be a full comprehensive review. By 1969 the Commission, by Statute, had to present the Report. So the argument about there not being interim reports falls to the ground. It makes one suspicious and sad when the present attitude is taken to this Amendment.

Another effect of rejecting the Amendment would be to take the matter out of the hands of independent bodies and leave it solely to the ipse dixit of the Home Secretary. This is a bad feature of the Bill, but the Amendments would go some way to restoring the position. If the Amendments are not accepted and no good reason is given for their rejection, the position will be fossilised. In future we should have some mechanism whereby small anomalies which develop between constituencies can be ironed out on the

Division No. 309.] AYES [6.3 p.m.
Abse, Leo Alldritt, Walter Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)
Albu, Austen Anderson, Donald Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Armstrong, Ernest Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)

basis of recommendations put forward by an independent body. We have not had any cogent argument against the Amendments. I hope that even at this late stage the Home Secretary will see fit to accept this Amendment.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee proceeded to a Division

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire) (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Irving. Of course it is in your discretion whether the Motion for the closure should be accepted. I do not know whether you have finally exercised your discretion, but I put it to you that this is an extremely important debate. It did not start until 4 o'clock and, although we have had a reply from the Home Secretary, a number of other points have been made to which we have had no answer. I was hoping to wind up on behalf of the Opposition and to press the Under-Secretary, who I assumed would reply, to answer further points which have been made. A most extraordinary proceeding is being followed. It is nothing but "Callamandering".

The Chairman

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The Chair endeavours to take into account all considerations.

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South) (seated and covered)

On a point of order. This is a very important constitutional issue. We have not even had the courtesy of the presence of the Home Secretary during the latter part of this debate. He has left it to hon. Members opposite to listen without making any reply to points raised.

The Chairman

Order. The question, "That the Question be now put", has been put.

The Committee having divided: Ayes 269, Noes 228.

Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gregory, Arnold Murray, Albert
Barnes, Michael Grey, Charles (Durham) Neal, Harold
Barnett, Joel Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Newens, Stan
Baxter, William Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Bence, Cyril Hannan, William Oakes, Gordon
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Harper, Joseph Ogden, Eric
Bidwell, Sydney Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Malley, Brian
Bishop, E. S. Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Oram, Albert E.
Blackburn, F. Haseldine, Norman Orme, Stanley
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hattersley, Roy Oswald, Thomas
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hazell, Bert Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Boston, Terence Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Boyden James Heffer, Eric S. Padley, Walter
Bradley, Tom Henig, Stanley Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Palmer, Arthur
Brooks, Edwin Hilton, W. S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Park, Trevor
Brown, Bob(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Buchan, Norman Howie, W. Pavitt, Laurence
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pentland, Norman
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Cant, R. B. Hynd, John Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Carmichael, Neil Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jackson, Col n (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Coleman, Donald Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Price, William (Rugby)
Concannon, J. D. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Randall, Harry
Conlan, Bernard Jeger, George (Goole) Rankin, John
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rees, Meriyn
Crawshaw, Richard Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Cronin, John Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jones, J. Idwai (Wrexham) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrdington) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Kelley, Richard Roebuck, Roy
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, E.
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Ryan, John
Delargy, Hugh Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Dell, Edmund Lestor, Miss Joan
Dempsey, James Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sheldon, Robert
Dewar, Donald Lipton, Marcus Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lomas, Kenneth Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Dickens, James Loughlin, Charles Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Dobson, Ray Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Short, Mrs Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Doig, Peter Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silverman, Julius
Dunn, James A. McBride, Neil Skeffington, Arthur
Dunnett, Jack McCann, John Slater, Joseph
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) MacColl, James Small, William
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) McGuire, Michael Snow, Julian
Eadie, Alex McKay, Mrs. Margaret Spriggs, Leslie
Edelman, Maurice Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mackie, John Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackintosh, John P. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Ellis, John Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
English, Michael Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Symonds, J. B.
Ennals, David Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Taverne, Dick
Ensor, David Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Evans, Albert (Islington S.W.) Mallalleu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.) Thornton, Ernest
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Manuel, Archie Tinn, James
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mapp, Charles Tomney, Frank
Fernyhough, E. Marks, Kenneth Tuck, Raphael
Fitch, Harold Marquand, David Urwin, T. W.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Varley, Eric G.
Fletcher, Rt. Hn. SirEric (Islington, E.) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Vai[...])
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mayhew, Christopher Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wallace, George
Ford, Ben Mendelson, John Watkins, David (Consett)
Forrester, John Millan, Bruce Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Fowler, Gerry Milne, Edward (Blyth) Weitzman, David
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Wellbeloved, James
Galpern, Sir Myer Molloy, William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Garrett, W. E. Moorman, Eric Whitaker, Ben
Ginsburg, David Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) White, Mrs. Eirene
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Morris, John (Aberavon) Whitlock, William
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Moyle, Roland Wilkins, W. A.
Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Witson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Winnick, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A. Dr. M. S. Miller and
Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Woof, Robert Mr. Charles R. Morris.
Willis, Rt. Hn. George Wyatt, Woodrow
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Galbraith, Hn. T, G. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Miscampbell, Norman
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Astor, John Glover, Sir Douglas Monro, Hector
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Glyn, Sir Richard Montgomery, Fergus
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Goober, Rt. Hn. J. B. More, Jasper
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Goodhart, Philip Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Balniel, Lord Goodhew, Victor Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Gower, Raymond Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Batsford, Brian Grant, Anthony Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Murton, Oscar
Bell, Ronald Gresham Cooke, R. Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Neave, Airey
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gurden, Harold Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Biffen, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Nott, John
Biggs-Davison, John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Onslow, Cranley
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Black, Sir Cyril Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Blaker, Peter Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Body, Richard Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Bossom, Sir Clive Hastings, Stephen Pardoe, John
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hawkins, Paul Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hay, John Peel, John
Braine, Bernard Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Percival, Ian
Brewis, John Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Peyton, John
Brinton, Sir Tatton Heseftine, Michael Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter Higgins, Terence L. Pink, R. Bonner
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hiley, Joseph Pounder, Rafton
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hill, J. E. B. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bryan, Paul Hirst, Geoffrey Price, David (Eastleigh)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Prior, J. M. L.
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Holland, Philip Pym, Francis
Bullus, Sir Eric Hordern, Peter Rees-Davies, W. R.
Burden, F. A. Hornby, Richard Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Howell, David (Guildford) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hunt, John Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Carlisle, Mark Ridsdale, Julian
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Channon, H. P. G. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Chataway, Christopher Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Russell, Sir Ronald
Chichester-Clark, R. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Clark, Henry Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Scott, Nicholas
Clegg, Walter Jopling, Michael Scott-Hopkins, James
Cooke, Robert Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Sharples, Richard
Corfield, F. V. Kaberry, Sir Donald Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Costain, A. P. Kerby, Capt. Henry Silvester, Frederick
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Speithorne) Kershaw, Anthony Sinclair, Sir George
Crouch, David Kimball, Marcus Smith, Dudley (W 'wick & L'mington)
Crowder, F. P. Kitson, Timothy Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lambton, Viscount Speed, Keith
Currie, G. B. H. Lane, David Stainton, Keith
Dalkeith, Earl of Langford-Holt, Sir John Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Dance, James Lawler, Wallace Stodart, Anthony
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Tapsell, Peter
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dean, Paul Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Longden, Gilbert Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lubbock, Eric Temple, John M.
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McAcdden, Sir Stephen Thatcther, Mrs. Margaret
Doughty, Charles Mac Arthur, Ian Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Drayson, G. B. Maolean, Sir Fitzroy Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain van Straubenzee, W. R.
Eden, Sir John McMaster, Stanley Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Vickers, Dame Joan
Emery, Peter McNair-Wilson, Michael Waddington, David
Errington, Sir Eric Maddan, Martin Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Marten, Neil Walters, Dennis
Eyre, Reginald Maude, Angus Ward, Dame Irene
Fisher, Nigel Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Weatherill, Bernard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mawby, Ray Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fortescue, Tim Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Foster, Sir John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Wiggin, A. W.
Williams, Donald (Dudley) Worsley, Marcus
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Wright. Esmond TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Winstanley, Dr. M. P. Wylie, N. R. Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Younger, Hn. George Mr. Anthony Royle.

Question put accordingly, That the Amendment be made:—

Division No. 310.] AYES [6.15 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maude, Angus
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fortesoue, Tim Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Foster, Sir John Mawby, Ray
Astor, John Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Atkins Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Baker, w. H. K. (Banff) Glover, Sir Douglas Miscampbell, Norman
Balniel, Lord Glyn, Sir Richard Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Monro, Hector
Batsford, Brian Goodhart, Philip Montgomery, Fergus
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Goodhew, Victor More, Jasper
Bell, Ronald Gower, Raymond Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. &Fhm) Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gresham Cooke, R. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Biffen, John Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Biggs-Davison, John Gurden, Harold Murton, Oscar
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Hall, John (Wycombe) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Black, Sir Cyril Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Neave, Airey
Blaker, Peter Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury Nott, John
Body, Richard Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Onslow, Cranley
Bossom, Sir Clive Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Harvie Anderson, Miss Osborn, John (Haflam)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hastings, Stephen Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Braine, Bernard Hawkins, Paul Page, Graham (Crosby)
Brewis, John Hay, John Page, John (Harrow, w.)
Brinton, sir Tatton Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Pardoe, John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Heseltine, Michael Peel, John
Percival, Ian
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Higgins, Terence L. Peyton, John
Bryan, Paul Hiley, Joseph Pike, Miss Mervyn
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hill, J. E. B. Pink, R. Bonner
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hirst, Geoffrey Pounder, Rafton
Bullus, Sir Eric Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Burden, F. A. Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hordern, Peter Prior, J. M. L.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hornby, Richard Pym, Francis
Carlisle, Mark Howell, David (Guildford) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hunt, John Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Channon, H, P. G. Hutchison, Michael Clark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Chataway, Christopher Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chichester-Clark, R. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, Henry Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Clegg, Walter Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cooke, Robert Jopling, Michael Royle, Anthony
Corfield, F. V. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Russell, Sir Ronald
Costain, A. P. Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott, Nicholas
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerby, Capt. Henry Scott-Hopkins, James
Crouch, David Kershaw, Anthony Sharples, Richard
Crowder, F. P. Kimball, Marcus Shaw, Michael (So'b'gh & Whitby)
Cunningham, Sir Knox King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Silvester, Frederick
Currie, C. B. H. Kitson, Timothy Sinclair, Sir George
Dalkeith, Earl of Lambton, Viscount Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Danes, James Lane, David Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Langford-Holt, Sir John Speed, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lawler, Wallace Stainton, Keith
Dean, Paul Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Deodes, Rt. Hn, W. T. (Ashford) Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dffeid) Stodart, Anthony
Dlgby, Simon Wingfield Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Tapscli, Peter
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Longden, Gilbert Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Doughty, Charles Lubbock, Eric Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Drayson, G. B. McAdden, Sir Stephen Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Mac Arthur, Ian Temple, John M.
Eden, Sir John Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Emery, Peter McMaster, Stanley Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Errington, Sir Eric Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) McNair-Wilson, Michael Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Maddan, Martin Vickers, Dame Joan
Eyre, Reginald Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Waddington, David
Fisher, Nigel Marten, Neil Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)

The Committee divided: Ayes 230, Noes 270.

Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Williams, Donald (Dudley) Wylie, N. R.
Walters, Dennis Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Younger, Hn. George
Ward, Dame Irene Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Weatherill, Bernard Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wells, John (Maidstone) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Worsley, Marcus Mr. Anthony Royle.
Wiggin, A. W. Wright, Esmond
Abse, Leo Ensor, David McCann, John
Albu, Austen Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) MacColl, James
Allaun, Prank (Salford, E.) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McGuire, Michael
Alldritt, Walter Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Anderson, Donald Fernyhough, E. Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Armstrong, Ernest Finch, Harold Mackie, John
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackintosh, John P.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Maclennan, Robert
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Bagier, Cordon A. T. Ford, Ben Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Barnes, Michael Forrester, John Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Barnett, Joel Fowler, Gerry Manuel, Archie
Baxter, William Fraser, John (Norwood) Mapp, Charles
Bence, Cyril Galpern, Sir Myer Marks, Kenneth
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Garrett, W. E. Marquand, David
Bidwell, Sydney Ginsburg, David Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Bishop, E. S. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Blackburn, F. Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mayhew, Christopher
Blenkinsop, Arthur Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Gregory, Arnold Mendelson, John
Boston, Terence Grey, Charles (Durham) Millan, Bruce
Boyden, James Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Bradley, Tom Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hannan, William Molloy, William
Brooks, Edwin Harper, Joseph Moonman, Eric
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Harrison, waiter (Wakefield) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morris, John (Aberavon)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Haseldine, Norman Moyle, Roland
Buchan, Norman Hattersley, Roy Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hazell, Bert Murray, Albert
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Neal, Harold
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Heffer, Eric S. Newens, Stan
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Henig, Stanley Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Cant, R. B. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Oakes, Gordon
Carmichael, Neil Hilton, W. S. Ogden, Eric
Carter-Jones, Lewis Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas O'Malley, Brian
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Oram, Albert E.
Coleman, Donald Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Orme, Stanley
Concannon, J. D. Howie, W. Oswald, Thomas
Conlan, Bernard Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Crawshaw, Richard Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Padley, Walter
Cronin, John Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hughes, Roy (Newport) Palmer, Arthur
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hynd, John Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles
Dalyell, Tam Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Park, Trevor
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pavitt, Laurence
Davits, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jeger, George (Goole) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Davies, Hot (Gower) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Pentland, Norman
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Delargy, Hugh Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Dell, Edmund Jones, Dan (Burnley) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Dempsey, James Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dewar, Donald Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Price, WilIiam (Rugby)
Dickens, James Kelley, Richard Randall, Harry
Dobson, Ray Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rankin, John
Doig, Peter Lawson, George Rees, Merlyn
Driberg, Tom Leadbitter, Ted Rhodes, Geoffrey
Dunn, James A. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dunnett, Jack Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lestor, Miss Joan Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Eadie, Alex Lipton, Marcus Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Edelman, Maurice Lomas, Kenneth Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Loughlin, Charles Roebuck, Roy
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Ellis, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
English, Michael Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rowlands, E.
Ennals, David McBride, Neil Ryan, John
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Symonds, J. B. White, Mrs. Eirene
Sheldon, Robert Taverne, Dick Whitlock, William
Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Thomas, Rt. Hn. George Wilkins, W. A.
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Thornton, Ernest Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Tinn, James Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Tomney, Frank Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Tuck, Raphael Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Silverman, Julius Urwin, T. W. Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Skeffington, Arthur Varley, Eric G. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Slater, Joseph Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Winnick, David
Small, William Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Snow, Julian Wallace, George Woof, Robert
Spriggs, Leslie Watkins, David (Consett) Wyatt, Woodrow
Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Weitzman, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Wellbeloved, James Dr. M. S. Miller and
Strauss, Rt. Hn. C. R. Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Mr. Charles R. Morris.
Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Whitaker, Ben
Mr. Hogg

On a point of order. Mr. Irving. We on this side realise that we are bound to accept—and we must, at any rate at this stage, loyally accept—the Ruling which you gave in accepting the Closure, but I wish to raise the question of the conduct of the Government Chief Whip in moving it. I put this to you, Mr. Irving, as the protector of minorities in the House. It is true that, after the Home Secretary had spoken, I intervened briefly, as I thought it only courteous to the Home Secretary to indicate the feeling which we had about what he said, but we were all on this side looking forward to hearing my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) wind up the debate.

The point which I put to you, Mr. Irving, is that there is no precedent for a Government Chief Whip, however new in office, moving the Closure before there has been a chance for the Opposition to reply fully to the debate. I submit that it is wholly unprecedented, and I trust that the Government, having gerrymandered the constituencies, do not intend to try to gag debate.

Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to deal with the point of order. I understood that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken. I did not see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) rising. For the rest, the Chair cannot speak for the Patronage Secretary.

Sir D. Renton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Irving. You are perfectly correct in saying that you had not seen me rise. The principal reason why I had not risen was that there were still four hon. Members on this side trying to catch your eye. The debate had not lasted an excessively long time. Nearly all the speeches had been short. In any event, even if I had had it in mind—which I had not at that moment, as I have made plain—to rise to catch your eye, I would have been frustrated by the alacrity of the the Chief Whip in moving the Closure.

The Chairman

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

Further to that point of order—

The Chairman


Mr. Onslow

On a point of order—

Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. The Chair must be allowed to hear. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not reiterate the point which has already been made.

Mr. Onslow

I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Irving, to the fact, so that you may bear it in mind for future reference—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that the effect of the premature moving of the Closure by the Government Chief Whip was to deny opportunity to speak to several hon. Members who represent constituencies with electorates of over 85,000.

The Chairman

Order. We cannot debate the decision of the Chair.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On a point of order.

The Chairman

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not reiterate the point which has already been made. We cannot debate the decisions of the Chair, or the conduct of the Patronage Secretary, on points of order.

Mr. Onslow

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On a point of order. Could you clarify the Ruling you gave just now, Mr. Irving? In reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), you made a comment to which you obviously attach significance, that you had not seen my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) rise. Does it follow that it is in your experience contrary to precedent and custom in the House for the Closure to be moved or accepted before there has been a winding-up speech on a constitutional Bill from the Opposition spokesman on an Opposition Amendment?

The Chairman

Order. I cannot enlarge on my decision or the remarks I made.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

It is a little difficult for us who sit on the humble benches behind my right hon. and learned Friend to understand the significance of all this. I am in no way challenging your Ruling, Mr. Irving, but, as I understand, if my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) had risen—and the fact that he did not do so was a matter of great regret to us—the debate might have continued.

The Chairman

Order. I cannot offer to the hon. Gentleman an explanation that I refused to the right hon. Gentleman. The next Amendment selected is—

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

On a point of order. May I ask you to give a ruling and help the Committee, Mr. Irving? You said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) did not rise, and that if he had done so the debate would have continued.

Hon. Members


Sir D. Glover

For the further guidance of the Committee, do we now understand that in any further debate the Front Bench speaker must rise on every occasion to give an indication that he wants the debate to continue?

The Chairman

I am sorry. I cannot discuss the decision I have taken.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)

On a point of clarification. I am not quite clear whether the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend had not appeared to you, Mr. Irving, to rise, was relevant to your decision.

The Chairman

It was a fact that I offered to be helpful. I cannot elaborate any further. The next Amendment selected is Amendment No. 3—

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not seek to press me further on a point on which I have ruled. I cannot discuss the same point of order again.

Several Hon. Members


Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

Would it help you in the discharge of your important functions, Mr. Irving, which it is the desire of every right hon. and hon. Member to do, if in a future case, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) intimated to you informally that it would be his desire in due course to make a winding-up speech?

Sir D. Renton

While I am grateful for the courteous and helpful suggestion made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), I feel obliged, in fairness to you, Mr. Irving, to point out that if such an informal intimation were made by me to you I would not dream of making it until I was assured that hon. Members on the back benches on both sides had at least been given an opportunity—by which I mean a reasonable opportunity—to catch your eye and address the Committee.

The Chairman

Order. The Chair on all occasions tries to take into consideration all relevant matters. I cannot go any further than that. Amendment No. 3. Mr. Quintin Hogg.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

On a point of order. The whole Committee must defer to your Ruling, Mr. Irving. No one would dream of questioning it.

Hon. Members

Sit down then.

The Chairman

Order. I hope that in that event the hon. Gentleman will not go on to do just that.

Mr. John Hall

I am not questioning your Ruling, Mr. Irving, but I would like some guidance. I think that hon. Members on both sides are very interested in some of the forthcoming Amendments—

The Chairman

Order. I cannot take up the time of the Committee in giving guidance to hon. Members in this way. Mr. Hogg. Amendment No. 3.

Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)


Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. Mr. Edward Heath.

Mr. Heath

On a point of order. Has it not long been the custom in the House that a right hon. or hon. Member has the right to ask the Chair for guidance? Is there are precedent for refusing that guidance?

The Chairman

Order. The Chair endeavours to be helpful whenever possible, but it is a long-standing practice of the Chair not to rule hypothetically.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

On a point of order. Is it not a fact that there are many precedents of this sort? But in any case the Chair is the recipient of the will of the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary moved the Closure, Mr. Irving, and you accepted the Motion, and whether or not you saw anybody on the other side of the Committee rise is not relevant.

Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman what I have said to Members on the other side of the Committee. The Chair endeavours at all times to take into consideration all relevant factors.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. We must proceed.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Irving. As Members will wish to speak on the large number of Amendments still ahead of us, so that my hon. Friends and I can try to decide whether or not to intervene in one debate or another, may I ask you to say whether it will be your practice to accept movement of the Closure on all the different debates yet to come?

The Chairman

Order. I cannot give guidance hypothetically in this way.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

I distinctly heard you, Mr. Irving, calling Mr. Quintin Hogg on two or three occasions—

Hon. Members


Mr. Baxter

—the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I distinctly heard you name Mr. Quintin Hogg—and I repeat that. Mr. Hogg is not rising in his place to move the Amendment that you called upon him to move—

Mr. Hogg


Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I cannot speak to the Committee while there is a noise. The hon. Gentleman is addressing me on a point of order.

Mr. Baxter

I distinctly heard you call a Member to move a certain Amendment, Mr. Irving. If that Member fails to do so I submit that you should then put the Amendment to the Committee, because we are having tedious repetition of bogus points of order, and I think that it is the duty of the Chair to see that our business is conducted in a proper manner. I respectfully suggest that as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not rise you now put the Amendment to the Committee.

Sir D. Glover


The Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to call the Amendment.

Mr. Hogg

I distinctly heard the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) mention me by name. Is it not the invariable custom of the House for the Chair alone to use the name of a Member and then only when he has disobeyed the ruling of the Chair? May I accordingly ask for your protection, Mr. Irving?

The Chairman

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly correct. If I did not hear the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire refer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman by name, I apologise. I should like to call the right hon. and learned Gentleman now.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Irving? A number of Members of the Opposition have to represent the views of constituents considerably affected by the last Amendment and the Bill. May I therefore ask—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating the point of order with which I have already dealt.

Sir D. Clover


Mr. Emery


The Chairman

Order. Unless the hon. Gentleman is introducing new matter, I cannot hear him.

Mr. Emery


Mr. Hogg

On a point of order.

The Chairman

Order. I wished to give the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) the opportunity to complete his point of order, if he is coming to a genuine point.

Mr. Emery

I am sorry, Mr. Irving, but I had not finished my submission. A number of us have to represent constituents who are concerned with this major constitutional issue and who are affected by the outcome of the Amendments. As this is a major constitutional issue, may we have your guidance about how our constituents' views may be heard in the Chamber if the Closure is moved as it was just now?

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating what other hon. Members have already said.

Mr. Ridley

Would you, Mr. Irving, rule on the point raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)? He put to you the supposition that the Patronage Secretary had only to rise in his place and move, That the Question be now put, for you to accept that Motion. Would you confirm that it is customary not to accept the Closure until all hon. Members seeking to catch you eye have done so, especially when the debate has run for only two hours, which is a very short time on a major constitutional Measure, and when many Members whose constituencies are directly affected have been seeking to catch your eye? Would you confirm that the right hon. Gentleman was totally wrong?

The Chairman

What I said to the right hon. Gentleman was that in accepting any proposal of this kind the Chair, in the exercise of its prerogative, takes into consideration all the relevant matters.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Hogg

Further to that point of order. I accept entirely what you have said, Mr. Irving, but would you go further and repudiate the doctrine of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)? Is it not a fact that the Chair must act impartially between both sides of the Committee and not simply accept the will of the majority? Will you make that clear to the right hon. Gentleman, who seems to have forgotten the function of the Chair in protecting minorities?

The Chairman

I thought that my answer to the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) made it perfectly clear—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that the Chair, in the exercise of its responsibility, takes into account all the relevant matters.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

With reference to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery), may I put it to you, Mr. Irving, with the greatest respect, that your earlier Ruling concerned whether or not our Front Bench spokesman should be given the opportunity to speak? I think that we all recognise the importance of Front Bench spokesmen winding up the debate, but, as my hon. Friend said, the Bill affects many constituencies in ways which are different for each. May I therefore put it to you that the Closure which was moved by the Chief Patronage Secretary deprived many of us of the opportunity to speak?

The Chairman

Order. I cannot enlarge on what I have said.

Mr. John Hall

You were kind enough to agree a little while ago. Mr. Irving, that it is the normal custom for the Chair to give guidance to hon. Members in helping them to decide what their conduct should be during a debate. We are faced with a considerable difficulty and so far, for one reason or another, you have not found it possible to give that guidance. You will know that there are matters for discussion on the Amendments which arouse considerable feeling and which affect many constituencies and people living in them. The Members concerned are expected—

The Chairman

Order. With the greatest respect, the hon. Gentleman is repeating exactly what his hon. Friends have already said. Mr. Edward Taylor.

Mr. John Hall


The Chairman

Order. If the hon. Gentleman has a fresh point to submit to me, I shall be happy to hear him.

Mr. John Hall

With the greatest respect, I am endeavouring to obtain from you, Mr. Irving, guidance which you have so far not found it possible to give.

I should like to adduce reasons why it should be possible, and perhaps why you would feel it possible, to give that guidance. Many hon. Members will wish to speak in the debates on matters of grave constitutional importance which do not often come before us. Are we to understand that when the debate has been running for a comparatively short time—in this case, just over two hours—you will accept the Closure if the Patronage Secretary moves it, or will you—and this is for the guidance of those of us who wish to speak—be prepared to allow the debate to continue while an appreciable number of Members are still anxious to speak?

The Chairman

Order. It is a longstanding practice that the Chair should not indicate beforehand what its decisions are likely to be.

Mr. Hordern

May I seek your guidance, Mr. Irving? You were kind enough to tell the Committee that one of the reasons you took into account when you allowed the Closure to be put was that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) had not risen in his place. Does this not lead to a very difficult position for back benchers, which is that the Patronage Secretary has only to rise in his place and move the Closure and the competition between him and my right hon. and learned Friend to leap to the Dispatch Box makes discussion from the back benches absolutely impossible?

The Chairman

Order. The Chair endeavours to exercise its responsibilities by taking all factors into account.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

As there are many Amendments to discuss on many important issues which will arise, would it not be in order for you informally to remind the Government what happened the last time they tried to use jack-booted Closure tactics on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. William Deedes (Ashford)

Further to the point of order. May I put to you a very real difficulty, Mr. Irving, which may well occur again? It arises in this sense. There are two kinds of hon. Members endeavouring to catch your eye in the debates, those with particular interests arising from the Bill and those of us who wish to put points of more general character. I am among this latter category. I felt it right, in the last debate, to withhold the speech I wished to make until those with particular interests had had an opportunity of pressing their points of view. This, I think, was in the mind of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). This will occur again and I venture to put to you that it is not an unreasonable basis on which some of us should conduct the debate.

The Chairman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir D. Glover

On a point of order. With the greatest respect to you, Mr. Irving, are we not in the unsatisfactory situation now when I, and a great many of my hon. Friends do not know whether, when the next debate takes place, we should keep our eye on the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) or on the Chair? In other words, we do not know whether the Chair will accept the Closure moved by the Patronage Secretary if my right hon. and learned Friend is bobbing up and down in his seat. I think that you must give a firmer ruling to my hon. Friends, otherwise we will be jumping up and down when any hon. Member is speaking, and I am sure this will not be satisfactory for the business of the Committee.

The Chairman

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in having to keep his eye on more than one hon. Member at a time. The Chair is in an even greater dilemma than that, because it has to keep an eye on a very large number of hon. Members. I am sorry that I cannot help the hon. Gentleman.

Sir D. Renton

On a point of order. Does this mean that in future, whoever happens to be waiting on the Front Bench to reply to the debate must always keep a weather eye open for the approach of the Patronage Secretary, since his presence is likely to mean that the debate will rapidly be closured? If that is so, may I say that it is something quite new and utterly intolerable.

The Chairman

Order. Mr. Quintin Hogg.

Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. The Chair has endeavoured to take note of all that has been said. The Chair has a very difficult responsibility, and I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will allow the debate to continue.

Mr. Corfield

On a point of order. You have said that you have attempted to take account of all relevant factors, and we accept that, Mr. Irving. Could we be told whether, among the relevant factors, those were points that were raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery)? This is very important. Would it be too much to ask for an answer?

The Chairman

Order. I have made it clear that I cannot elaborate on comments that I have already made.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

Further to that point of order. Since, during the last three hours, only about a third of the hon. Members opposite have been here—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and as we have now had a half hour of nonsense from the Opposition, would you like to give directions that the bar is closed?

The Chairman

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not take up the time of the Committee with matters which are not points of order.

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)

Further to the point of order raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) about those hon. Members who wish to make general points as opposed to those who wish to raise constituency points, a ruling was sought from you and you gave no guidance to me at all, Mr. Irving. Is it not a fact that the general courtesies as between hon. Members are such that we like to give way to someone whom we think has a particular point which ought to be heard? How are we to know whether we are to give way or whether we are to make our general points if we have no idea of the length of the debate on very important issues of this sort?

Is it too much to ask you, in these circumstances, for guidance as to the time to be given to particular Amendments? Would that not be a courtesy which the Chair could extend to the Committee?

The Chairman

Order. I would like to help the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot elaborate further on what I have said—

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I hope that the Committee will allow the debate to proceed.

Hon. Members


Mr. Peyton

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), who suggested that for a large part of the afternoon these benches had not been occupied, may I say that they have been very fully occupied by many hon. Members who failed to secure an opportunity to take part in the debate? The hon. Gentleman then went on as he sat down, to make a remark about closing the bar.

Mr. Bence

Hear, hear.

Mr. Peyton

Perhaps you would be able to help the hon. Gentleman to explain to the Committee whether that was a technical remark addressed to members of the legal profession, or whether it was meant to contain a sinister but characteristic innuendo.

Sir D. Glover

On a point of order. A moment ago, in replying to another point of order raised by one of my hon. Friends, you said, quite rightly, Mr. Irving, and the Committee will sympathise with this, that the Chair had a very difficult job to do. May I draw to your attention that on this constitutional Bill many hon. Members have a very difficult job to do in looking after their constituents. Will the Chair bear this fact in mind?

The Chairman

I am grateful to the hon. Member.

Mr. Heath

We recognise that the Chair has been placed in a very difficult position, and that the Chair wants to go on to the next Amendment, ensuring that the Committee has an opportunity to make progress on the Bill. But do not the points of order which have been raised during the past 35 or 40 minutes show that the Committee is in a difficulty on this major constitutional Bill? Whether the Government like it or not, there are a considerable number of Amendments, which we understand are in order, on which there will be major debates, and on which the Government have tried, in my experience without any sort of precedent, to curtail effective discussion.

To have the first debate on the first day of the Committee stage of a major Bill curtailed by the Government Chief Whip after only two hours' discussion is, in my view, unprecedented. I am quite prepared to make allowances for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary is new and inexperienced, but he has acted in, I believe, a highhanded way for what is now proving to be a very authoritarian régime. I suggest that the Committee will better be able to make progress and give proper consideration to the Bill if the Government allow us proper time to examine the Amendments.

The Chairman

Mr. Quintin Hogg. Amendment No. 3.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Hogg

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 2, line 10, after 'State', insert: 'after consulting the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the relevant Boundary Commission'. I have been waiting patiently to catch your eye, Mr. Irving, for a little time. I understand that we are discussing with this Amendment No. 35, in line 14, leave out ' it appears ' and insert: 'the Boundary Commission whose area includes that part represents'. No. 5, in line 18, at end insert: (4) The Secretary of State shall, at least once in each calendar year, consult the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of each Boundary Commission as to the desirability of making an Order in Council under subsection (2) above in respect of their area. and No. 6, in line 20, after 'State', insert: 'after consulting the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the relevant Boundary Commission', all of which stand also in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I do not know whether you would allow us to have a separate Division on Amendment No. 5, which raises a slightly different point, but which, I accept, could be discussed with the others.

The Chairman

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give me time to consider that matter?

Mr. Hogg

Certainly, Mr. Irving.

The Home Secretary was good enough to express gratitude to me for the tone in which I moved Amendment No. 1, and I hope that I will move Amendment No. 3 in exactly the same tone. But, of course, the kind of progress we can make in any form of Committee stage must, to some extent, be conditioned by the response the Government make to the conciliatory tone adopted by the Opposition Front Bench.

I am sorry that the Patronage Secretary has left us so soon, but in his absence I say to the two Secretaries of State who are sponsoring the Bill that, whatever may be the position as regards the Chair, there is no rule of order which compels the Patronage Secretary at any given moment to move the Closure. He may do so and the Chair may accept it, but the Patronage Secretary is not bound to do so—and there have been Patronage Secretaries who have been wise enough to know that it is not always pm-dent to try and gag a minority, especially when that minority is trying to put forward serious arguments upon a complicated and important constitutional Bill.

It may often happen—and I ask the Home Secretary to tell the Patronage Secretary this when he favours us with his presence again—that the Government of the day make better progress with a Bill by being conciliatory when conciliatory arguments are addressed to them than by trying to ride roughshod over the minority, which, in any event, is affected with deep feelings of resentment at the position in which we are being placed.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was conciliatory—I accept that fully—but he just was not convincing. His arguments just did not hold water.

Mr. Hogg

That is a matter of opinion which we fully debated. I am only saying that the arguments which do not appeal to the Home Secretary appeal to a very large number of us, and the only point I am seeking to make to him is that if, instead of giggling in a frivolous manner when arguments are addressed to him in a conciliatory tone, he were to concede now and again that he could conceivably be wrong and the Opposition right, he could make better progress. If he behaves himself, I will find it easier to put arguments to him.

These Amendments depend upon a single broad conception which I will now seek to put to the Committee. They give the opportunity to the Government yet again to demonstrate their sincerity, if any, about the Bill. I am sorry that the Home Secretary has now left us, too. It is like the 10 little creatures sitting on the wall—they go away one after the other so that one can never address consecutive arguments to them. I must address myself, therefore, to the Under-Secretary of State.

On Second Reading, the attitude of this side of the Committee was that the thing to do, even at the price of a little later inconvenience, was to introduce a total review. The Government said, "No. We must wait for Redcliffe-Maud." We voted on that. We had not changed our minds, but we were in the minority and were beaten. Next, we said that if we could not have a general review, let us keep Clause 2(3) in the Bill in order that, from time to time, the Boundary Commissions, in their impartiality, might make particular reviews where the situation locally becomes intolerable. We said, in effect, "If the Government are genuine in their desire for the principle of the Bill, they will surely accept this Amendment".

We were greeted with the astonishing retort from the Home Secretary, "But this is a general review that you really want. You do not want these particular reviews. They are impossible. Therefore, we must have a general review or nothing, and since we have rejected a general review you must have nothing."

Amendment No. 3 and the others in this group are designed to meet that very point. Being beaten on the Amendment No. 1 by the machine-made Government majority, who do not listen but only vote, we are faced here with the necessity of direct action. If we are not to have a particular review, but may have a general review, let us see that the general review is properly conducted. That is the purpose of these Amendments and it is, as I have said, again a test of the Government's sincerity. We say to the Government, "If your argument, which we do not find convincing, on Amendment No. 1 is right, let us assume that it is right and then accept Amendment No. 3."

Under subsection (2), the Government can reactivate the general review, which they say is necessary—or rather, to put it more precisely, the Secretary of State can reactivate it. If that is the way the Government want it, let us look at the conditions under which they do it. As the Bill stands, the position is that the Secretary of State alone has the power to reactivate. We heard a lot about the sovereignty of Parliament on Second Reading, but there is no sovereignty of Parliament here, because subsection (3) limits the power of the Secretary of State to reactivate the Boundary Commissions to those cases where Parliament makes a positive recommendation by a Resolution of both Houses.

In other words, subsection (3) is a brake on the Secretary of State and not a spur to activity, and this is our complaint about it. The Secretary of State can do nothing, and, if the Secretary of State does nothing, Parliament is powerless under subsection (3). It cannot initiate anything.

What are we to do about this obvious drafting error in the arrangements made by the Secretary of State? Our answer is that the right hon. Gentleman by the terms of the Bill should be made to consult the Boundary Commission about the exercise of powers under subsection (2) for the purposes of bringing the draft Order in Council under subsection (3). Although the Secretary of State is very conscious of his own virtue, we are not so conscious of it; we no longer trust him to operate the electoral machinery, and I doubt whether the country will trust him, unaided by us, to operate the electoral machinery.

Under subsection (1), which we seek to amend, the action of the Secretary of State may not take place for the next three years. Unless he moves—and we are seeking to devise means of goading him into a little activity—this will go on from year to year to a minimum of 1979 and a maximum of 1984. We know that there will have been a General Election at least by mid-1971. Who will be the Secretary of State in 1972? Not, I expect, the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the position. I dread to think who it might be, but I doubt whether it will be a person who commends the unadulterated enthusiasm of the Labour Party.

Therefore, the Amendment is directed especially to the possibility that the Labour Party, in 1972, may get a Secretary of State whom it endorses a little less enthusiastically than the right hon. Gentleman. We want to put a safeguard on the impartiality of the Secretary of State for 1972 and, surely, we are doing a great kindness. We shall, perhaps, be a little ready to draw precedents from the way in which we have been treated this afternoon when there is a Conservative Secretary of State sitting behind the Government Dispatch Box. We are trying to help the Labour Party in opposition, as it will be by then.

We want an impartial body to put a curb on the Conservative Secretary of State who is goaded by just indignation and, perhaps, legitimate desire for revenge. We want the Boundary Commission to hold him in check, an impartial body with Mr. Speaker in the chair, a High Court judge in the deputy chair and other respected and impartial persons looking on. What can be wrong, if the Government's influence is an honest one, in putting the Boundary Commission in charge, and giving it an influence in the general review which, according to the Secretary of State's argument, must now precede any particular amelioration of our distorted electoral pattern?

The proposal is, therefore, in the interest of the whole Committee. We want it till 1971, or the next General Election, whichever is the earlier, and hon. Members will require it after that. Amendment No. 3 proposes that after the words "the Secretary of State" there shall be inserted the words: after consulting the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the relevant Boundary Commission. The Secretary of State includes the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to the appropriate Commission, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department in relation to the other Commissions.

The numbering of Amendment No. 35 is a mistake. It was put down in printing under Clause 2, but it is obviously an Amendment to Clause 1, and the mistake has now been corrected. It is a consequential drafting Amendment.

Amendment No. 5 provides that The Secretary of State shall, at least once in each calendar year, consult the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of each Boundary Commission as to the desirability of making an Order in Council under subsection (2) above in respect of their area. 7.15 p.m.

If the right hon. Gentleman's argument on the last Amendment was in the least sincere, genuine and honest, what can be wrong with that? He is not bound to do more than consult the Boundary Commission. If he feels that he can resist the pressure of the Boundary Commission with another Parliamentary majority, perhaps he can resist it, although the fact of his so resisting it will be known.

Although I do not want to anticipate Amendment No. 4, which is due for separate discussion after these Amendments are voted upon, and can be decided separately, if Amendment No. 4 were accepted too, the Secretary of State would not be able to drag his feet about moving an Order in Council, because a time limit would be set upon his delaying. That will be a further improvement when the time comes.

I press the Government to accept this group of Amendments because, from their point of view, there can be no objection to them. They merely put the Secretary of State in his unfettered discretion as it now is under an obligation to consult those who may be trusted to operate the electoral machinery in an impartial manner. If the Secretary of State was genuine in what he said on the previous Amendment, he must in logic be bound to yield to my pleas this time. If not, we shall know what to think.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

I wish to support the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) by referring to a particular case.

My right hon. and learned Friend argued that the Amendments would be a help to the Secretary of State. I sincerely believe that this is so. The Secretary of State will have to take some rather delicate decisions under Clause 1(3)(a), which provides that the Secretary of State: shall lay before Parliament a draft of such an Order in Council for any part of the United Kingdom as soon as it appears to him that it would not, by reason of the prospect of local government reorganisation there, be premature to do so". A delicate situation might arise in the Prime Minister's constituency of Huyton. The Minister of State at the end of the Second Reading debate said that the change in the Prime Minister's constituency was small. It is described by the Boundary Commission as a major change, taking out about 28,000 voters, and is far from being small. It could be an embarrassment to the Home Secretary if he found that "it would not, by reason of the prospect of local government reorganisation there, be premature to do so".

The Home Secretary, in arguing on the previous Amendment, said that one of the difficulties in the constituency of Meriden was that, under the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, part of Meriden would fall into a metropolitan area and part into a unitary authority. I can assure the Home Secretary that that difficulty will not arise with Huyton. The part that is being taken from Huyton is Kirby, and Huyton itself will go into the same Liverpool metropolitan district. There is no reason, once the Bill becomes law, why the Home Secretary should not immediately present to the House the draft of an Order relating to Huyton. The terms of that Order as unamended could apply directly to Huyton. It will be a great test of the Government's sincerity if when the Bill becomes law the Home Secretary makes it his duty to lay before the House such an Order. Perhaps he could do it the next time he is not asked to a meeting of the inner Cabinet.

The Home Secretary would be protected against having to take delicate decisions himself if he had to consult the Boundary Commission. If the Boundary Commission said that changes in Huyton could go ahead, the Home Secretary would need to lose no sleep about it. But if he takes the decision himself, the Prime Minister might think that the Home Secretary had the needle in for him, and he probably would not be far wrong. These are cogent reasons why the Home Secretary should accept these Amendments.

[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)

I wish to address my remarks to Amendment No. 6. I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland in his place, since I wish mainly to address my remarks to him.

I wish to refer to Clause 1(4) of the Bill since the Explanatory Memorandum says The suspension"— that is, the suspension of the Boundary Commission's Report— will apply also to the reports of the Boundary Commissions for Scotland and Northern Ireland unless in either case the Secretary of State takes action, in accordance with subsection (4), before the end of March 1970 to implement the 1969 Report. I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland some direct questions. What in this context does "unless" mean? What consideration will he bear in mind if he decides to lay an Order before the House giving effect to one or more changes in the boundaries of the constituencies of Scotland? I am sure that he has paid a great deal of attention to the report of the Boundary Commission about Scottish constituencies as it has gone into a great amount of detail. Will he go back to the Boundary Commission to consult it before laying an order?

There are 71 constituencies in Scotland. At least 21 are mentioned in the Report as needing major revision. Part of the Home Secretary's reason for throwing out the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions for England and Wales was that the Redcliffe-Maud Report had been received and it was not possible to implement it. The Royal Commission on local government changes in Scotland has not yet reported. One reason to be adduced for the Secretary of State for Scotland not taking any action is the fact that Wheatley has not reported. If Wheatley reports within the foreseeable future, and before March 1970, will the Secretary of State then come before the House to lay Orders to implement the reports so far produced?

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. Could the hon. Gentleman help me by indicating which Amendment he is discussing? At the moment he appears to be debating on the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Baker

With great respect, Mr. Gourlay, when I opened my remarks I said that I was referring principally to Amendment No. 6. Will the Secretary of State take into account any changes recommended by the Wheatley Commission before laying an order and then consult the chairman and deputy chairman of the relevant Boundary Commission? We are entitled to know what is in the mind of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The subsection was not put in the Bill merely for fun. It could obviously be implemented if the Secretary of State were so disposed.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

I wish also to support the Amendments, and particularly those parts which require that the Home Secretary should consult the chairman and deputy chairman of the Boundary Commission at least once in each calendar year.

These Amendments are vital because, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) so rightly said, we can no longer trust the Home Secretary in any constitutional matter. Therefore it is necessary, as proposed in the Amendments, to bring in some impartial body which at least can attempt to influence him.

It is most surprising that the Home Secretary did not have the courtesy to be present during the debate when my right hon. and learned Friend was speaking.

Mr. Bence

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was here during the whole of the previous debate.

Mr. Carlisle

I accept that the right hon. Gentleman was here then. My comment was that he failed to be here during the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone when he moved these Amendments. It is surely part of the normal courtesies between both Front Benches that that should happen. [Interruption.] At least it has drawn back into the Chamber the Patronage Secretary.

A person convicted of an offence must be present during the whole of the trial. When the Home Secretary chooses to act unlawfully and illegally, as he has done in the Bill, he should be present during the whole of the debate. We cannot any longer trust the Home Secretary to carry out his statutory powers.

Since there is no means of having interim reports, it would appear that the earliest date upon which we shall see a full report is 1979. Remembering that the Boundary Commissions took four years to report, the earliest time at which we can now expect a review of boundaries in 1984. On any view, there will be at least three, and possibly four, elections before that date arrives. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) shakes his head, but I assure him that is what Clause 1(2) says. It says that there shall be no interim report before the Commission makes its next report, which it is required to start in ten years' time. If it does that, we shall have had three or four elections before getting a report, and in that time abnormally large seats will have grown even larger and abnormally small seats will have become even smaller.

7.30 p.m

The only way in which we can get an earlier report is if the Home Secretary chooses to use his powers under subsection (3). We are dependent on the actions of the Home Secretary for a decision whether there shall be a review of boundaries at any reasonable time, and it is in that connection that we wish to put some pressure on the Home Secretary by requiring him to consult the chairman and deputy chairman of the relevant Commission.

As it stands, subsection (3) says that no order shall be made unless it has been laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State. It goes on to say that the Home Secretary … shall lay before Parliament a draft of such an Order in Council … as soon as it appears to him that it would not … be premature to do so". What faith can we put on those words with a Home Secretary who ignores a statutory provision which at the moment requires him to take action as soon as may be? Under the 1949 Act, he is required to lay reports before this House. He chose to disregard that statutory duty. Equally, it is feared that he will choose to disregard his statutory duty under this Measure. In view of that, it is vital that the Boundary Commission should be brought in, with the Speaker of the House of Commons and the learned High Court judge having to be consulted. If the Home Secretary chooses to ignore their opinions, it will very soon become known that he is acting in defiance of their advice.

My second point comes back to the question of consulting every year. If the Government are sincere in their views on this Bill, they could carry out certain parts of the Boundary Commission's Report at any stage. In the city of Manchester, the Exchange division is down to 18,000 electors. Next door to it, the Cheetham division is down to 30,000 electors. Both are Labour seats. The Boundary Commission's recommendation was that they should be amalgamated. The Government have decided not to implement that. Similarly, the Scotland division of Liverpool has 30,000 electors. The Exchange division has 34,000. The Boundary Commission recommends a new seat called Scotland-Exchange, amalgamating the two. They are both Labour seats. Again, the Commission's recommendation is not to be implemented.

In both cities, the seats are included in the metropolitan areas recommended by Redcliffe-Maud, and no possible argument carrying any weight, based on the Redcliffe-Maud Report, especially in view of what the Government are doing in London, can be advanced against carrying out the recommendations of the Boundary Commission in those two respects.

If the Home Secretary had to consult the Boundary Commission every year, presumably Mr. Speaker and the learned High Court judge would say to him, "You have a duty to lay orders before Parliament so long as local government reorganisation makes it appropriate. What about these two in Manchester and these two in Liverpool? They are not affected by local government re-organisation." In that way, we might get part of the Boundary Commission's Report implemented, thanks to the pressure and efforts of the impartial chairman and deputy chairman of the Boundary Commission. But can we be sure that the Home Secretary has any intention to act in that way?

The Redcliffe-Maud argument is one which can be used either way. It is one that the Home Office uses in either way. It says, "We cannot go on with the Boundary Commission changes because of Redcliffe-Maud." Then it sends a circular to local authorities on the Children and Young Persons Act saying, "We are putting forward proposed planning areas which will divide the country into 12. We appreciate that they have no relevance to the possible alteration of local government boundaries in the future, and at some stage in the future they will have to be amended But we propose at the moment"—presumably because the alteration in local government boundaries is so far in the future—"to go ahead with setting them up with no relation to Redcliffe-Maud."

If the Redcliffe-Maud Report has any relation to the time scale in any of these matters, will the Under-Secretary of State tell us on what basis the Government go ahead with that Section of the Representation of the People Act which says that a person may no longer be a representative of a local council unless he lives within the area, and which removes from councils those who live outside the existing local boundaries but who live within the boundaries recommended by the Redcliffe-Maud Report? If there was any sincerity in the argument that any change had to wait for the adoption of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the Amendment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Carlisle

Although a number of my hon. Friends shout "No", I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Gourlay, and concede that I was getting wide of the mark.

I was trying to point out that these Amendments are required because it is necessary to have an impartial check on the actions of the Home Secretary. One of the reasons is that the right hon. Gentleman is using the Redcliffe-Maud argument against implementing the Boundary Commission proposals. However, that is found to be wholly illogical when one considers that in other parts of their policy, such as the Representation of the People Act, the Government go ahead with their proposals irrespective of changes which will come about as a result of Redcliffe-Maud, presumably because they are in the interests of their party.

It may be that the present Home Secretary will no longer be in office when this Measure comes into force. However, it will be a check on future Home Secretaries. In constitutional matters, such a check should be imposed on the executive of any party. The actions of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Boundary Commission show how vital that check it. It is for that reason that I hope very much that the House will pass these Amendments.

Several Hon. Members


The Deputy Chairman

Order. I should indicate that the Chairman has considered the request of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) for a separate Division on Amendment No. 5 and has acceded to it.

Mr. Deedes

I fully share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) in supporting this group of Amendments. The more that we are able to transfer decisions to the chairman and other members of the Commission from the Home Office, the more reliable and trustworthy will they be.

I address myself in particular to Amendment No. 35, which seems to raise a distinctive point. In effect, it will enable the Commission to take the initiative and make an impartial judgment about when a change is needed which will be substituted for the political judgment of the Home Secretary. The Commission's judgment is likely to be based not on political considerations, but physical ones, and it is on those that I wish to concentrate my remarks in regard to this group of Amendments.

I want to draw attention to the problem of the expanding towns. This subject has so far not been ventilated. We are talking of physical requirements which may lead the chairman and other members of the Commission to consider that changes are necessary, and these will probably be the principal cause of such decision.

A number of my hon. Friends are seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Gourlay, because they sense that the problem in their constituencies will arise through the rate of growth not only at present, but during the next five or 10 years—or some period we do not know—in which boundaries are in suspense. I plead no special interest. An expanding town is part of my responsibility, but the arrangements proposed do not lead me to indulge in any special pleading.

I want to put this physical point to the Under-Secretary, and I hope that the Home Office will take it on board Some of these places are increasing their population by 5,000, 7,000, and even 10,000 people a year. Speaking for my constituency, it is about 3,000 to 5,000 a year. I can think of other places—I will not name them, because hon. Members can speak for themselves—where the expanding towns are growing at the rate of about 10,000 people a year.

There are areas of rapid growth, as yet only on the map, such as Milton Keynes and Peterborough. I will not include Ipswich, because I believe that this has been cancelled as an area of rapid growth. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) has already spoken about his constituency.

This is a new physical factor in the development of this country, which seems to underline the need for giving the Boundary Commission special powers to take the initiative to bring, if it sees fit, specific recommendations to the attention of the Home Secretary.

What unnerves me about the replies that we have so far had from the Government is that they are nearly all couched in terms of the present. I have not heard one speech from the Government Front Bench which appears to take on board what conditions will be in five or seven years in some of these places. That is the period we are really discussing. A good deal has been said about how long it may take to implement the proposals of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, but a good deal of uncertainty must prevail. However, I will not develop that point, because it is not relevant to the Amendments.

The physical changes, in particular in the expanding towns, seem relevant to the need for the right of the Commissions to make independent intervention when physical requirements, as opposed to political conditions, appear to demand it. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will tell us whether any estimates have been given to the Home Office of the kind of figures about which we may be talking.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

I should bring to the right hon. Gentleman's notice that the rules of the Commission—not what is desirable—require the use of current electorates and do not ask it to make recommendations on the basis of electorates as they will be in five or ten years' time.

Mr. Deedes

I am supporting Amendment No. 35, which seeks to give the Boundary Commissions initiative in this matter and power to make recommendations. I am suggesting that the rate of growth in some of these centres will require the Commission to take that initiative. That is why I am pressing the point. Does the Under-Secretary accept it?

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. I am arguing that if the full Boundary Commission's Report were to be implemented now it would be done on the basis of a rule which states that the Commission has to take into account the electorate for 1965. Therefore, all I am pointing out—and I am not attempting to be funny or smart—is that this may be desirable, but it is not in the rules at present. I concede that I have overplayed my hand to some degree, but not in the sense of the rules.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Deedes

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I still stick to mine. The considerations that I am discussing show the need for greater flexibility and power to revise or recommend revisions in particular cases which, for physical reasons, will be more acute in the period immediately ahead than certainly the Home Office appears to suspect.

The physical evidence in the areas to which I am relating my remarks suggests that we ought to be increasing the facilities for review and greater flexibility, not reducing them. The effect of the Bill, at a time of enormously rapid growth in some of these expanding towns and areas that I have in mind, is to make them less flexible and less adaptable to the changes which should be carried out. That supports my belief and that of my hon. Friends that there are political, not social and physical, considerations behind the Bill.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I should like to follow what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has just said. The first of the two main reasons that should commend this group of Amendments to the Government is the need for flexibility and expedition, which my right hon. Friend so admirably analysed. I can certainly add my testimony, not only from a general point of view but from a constituency point of view. On Second Reading, I mentioned that mine is a large constituency with an electorate of over 85,000, but, nevertheless, I am not among those who have made representations that it should be made smaller.

Looking at the situation in the context of what will happen if there is no flexibility and expedition, my constituency provides a very good example of this—not only has it over 85,000 electors now, but it is increasing at a rapid rate in the way that my right hon. Friend described. This applies to many parts of the constituency, but more particularly because there is a vast overspill development scheme by the Greater London Council which, in a few years, will add a very large population indeed.

If there is no machinery for expedition and flexibility, we are dealing with a minimum period of eight years and a possible period of 14 years. If anything, with characteristic moderation, my right hon. Friend understated rather than exaggerated the effect of the time factor. Even at the minimum period—and certainly at the maximum period—my constituency will obviously exceed the 100,000 mark—the figure which has attracted this specialised attention in the Bill.

That is only one illustration, which no doubt may be matched by others, of an existing large constituency just too small to come within the provisions of the Bill but which, by reason of special factors, such as the one that I have mentioned, is expanding at a far more than average rate.

Given the provisions of the Bill, there can be no possible adjustment to cure the gross under-representation, as it will be, of these constituencies. I do not complain about seeking to represent a very large number of constituents. I do not mind answering their letters and advising them to the best of my abilities and doing all the things which Members do. I ask only one thing in return. When we go into the Division Lobbies, my constituents are under-represented, because my vote then only counts exactly the same as that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Lawler), who took his seat today, although I represent about six times as many people.

If we really believed in the principle of the evaluation of votes according to electors, we should logically have to introduce a sliding scale for adjustment of the votes as they are cast in the Lobbies—

Mr. Bence

Over the last 60 years, if we had had a sliding scale of representation of urban areas, we should have had a Labour Government all that period.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

Under the attractive scheme which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put forward, of a kind of card vote, he and I might have double votes to cast against the Closure when it is presently moved.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Double votes is an under-estimate. We would have much more that twice, and up to six times, as many votes as many hon. Gentlemen opposite—

Mr. Bence

My electorate numbers 95,000.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

So the hon. Gentleman is not standing again. They have driven him out. Of course, the hon. Gentleman's case is rather contrary to the majority of cases. We find considerable over-representation in many constituencies held by hon. Members opposite, no doubt because, in many cases, the people emigrate from those constituencies to seek better representation elsewhere.

That is the first and very compelling reason why the Government should accept the Amendment. The second is that they should accept it with gratitude because my right hon. and learned Friend has done them a great service in giving them the opportunity not only to improve the Bill, which is important, but to improve their tarnished image in this matter—

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

It is too late. That cannot happen now.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Betwixt the stirrup and the ground. … mercy I might, mercy I found. It might even give them the opportunity to salve their consciences, if those somewhat battered organs are still functioning.

After all, the whole pattern of the law on this subject, in the 1949 and 1958 Acts was to remove all the decisions and consideration of Parliamentary boundaries as far as possible from the political arena and put it into the objective assessment of the Boundary Commission. This group of Amendments makes it possible to bring back the Commission into the arena which it properly occupied before, and from which it has been so improperly expelled by the Government's action in bringing forward the Bill.

The Amendments, in giving the initiative to the Commission to make the recommendations with regard to the Order in Council which is contemplated under Clause 1(2), would go at any rate some way towards restoring people's faith in the objective workings of the system as it was intended. At the moment, it stands in these ominous words—"as it appears to him", that is, the Secretary of State. I never like those words in Statute. They are a relatively modern phenomenon in statutes, and an undesirable form of words, because they give far too much discretion to the Minister. This particular Minister has, unhappily, shown that his discretion cannot be relied on in the context of Parliamentary boundaries.

The best defence which the Under-Secretary of State can make, if he will not accept the Amendments, is that he does not expect that, at the material time, his right hon. Friend will be the Secretary of State, and that the Secretary of State will be someone whose discretion can better be trusted. Having given the hon. Gentleman a possible defence, I exhort him not to use it but to realise the great merits of these Amendments and the great service they will do the Government in lessening the impression which they have given that they want to change the objective and considered pattern of dealing with these matters, from partisan motives.

Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)

I do not like the Bill at all. We have heard a great deal of sophistry from the Government side, but the issue is perfectly simple. The Boundary Commission, the umpire, has given its decision, and the Labour Government in power refuses to accept it, and is altering the rules. Whatever we may say, on this side or that, about this Amendment or that, the public will see that point. The Bill says that no action should be taken on the reform and no further reports should be submitted before the Boundary Commission's next general report. But the Pill gives the power to the Boundary Commission to make interim reports in London, where they are not needed, because the recommendations are to be adopted.

That is what makes Amendment No. 5 so important, We are leaving the reform of representation subject to infrequent omnibus changes. They are about as effective and desirable as, for example, telling all nationalised industries that they must stop ordering any fresh equipment until a single decision has been made about what is the most suitable equipment for them all to have. It is no good telling the world to stop while we get it all sorted out. This is comparable to the muddles which I used to get into during the war when I was navigating an aircraft and temporarily did not know where it was. It was no use telling the pilot to stop while I took a little more time to do the sums to find out where we were.

8.0 p.m.

This brings me to the point enshrined in the Amendment, which is that we are dealing with a completely different pace of change. The pace may be too fast. We are constantly told by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Technology that progress is all in any direction. Perhaps the present pace of change does not suit people. For example, people may not want to change their jobs in a major way three times in their lives. Perhaps it does not make for human happiness for everybody to know that their places of birth will be demolished and made unrecognisable by the time they are 50.

It is said that the Government are waiting for the Redcliffe-Maud Report on local government. We are always waiting for something. Is it thought that the Redcliffe-Maud Report will be the last one we shall ever have dealing with local governmnt? The lumbering machinery which the Boundary Commission must operate, and which is made more lumbering by the Bill, is unsuited to the pace of change which we have today.

There is, therefore, something to be said for the piecemeal approach of the Bill, for it is worth recognising that, although it would have been a good plan to have started with a general change and to have proceeded thereafter with piecemeal changes, the Amendment would perpetuate that approach and I hope, therefore, that it will be accepted.

Mr. Corfield

In concentrating on Amendment No. 35, I shall to some extent reiterate the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).

As drafted, subsection (3) gives the Home Secretary complete discretion to decide whether something appears to him to be appropriate. Unfortunately, none of us has any confidence that anything appears to the present Home Secretary as it appears to any other normal human being. I regret that we must address these remarks, which are bound to be critical, not only of the objectives of the Bill but of its motives, to the Under-Secretary, who we accept to be a truly honourable man. It is unfortunate that he must accept the opprobrium which should be directed elsewhere.

If one studies subsection (3) and then glances through the list of proposals made by the Boundary Commission for England it becomes abundantly clear to any ordinary person that there are dozens of proposed changes which are due as of now and which would be in no way threatened by any proposal for local government change.

For example, in my part of the world—the Bristol area and the South Gloucestershire fringe—no proposal in the Redcliffe-Maud Report or in the minority report of Mr. Senior or, indeed, in any other proposal put forward under the 1958 Act, has ever taken a form which would in any way cross with the proposals of the Boundary Commission.

In my constituency we have an electorate of well over 80,000. This figure grows at the rate of more than 2,000 a year. Only this week I received a report from the county council saying that the development figures for the planned period, which ends in 1972, are unfortunately 20,000 people out, with the result that that 20,000 will be accommodated in my constituency. This means that within the next eight years we shall have this 20,000 plus an additional 2,000 a year, producing a constituency of 116,000 people as a minimum.

The present ruling makes us adhere to the 1965 figures, but the Minister will observe, if he looks down the column headed "Gloucestershire", that for some reason best known to itself the Boundary Commission has included the ancient city and County of Bristol within the County of Gloucestershire. Further down the column, we see a reference to Bristol, Central, which is represented by one of his hon. Friends. That hon. Gentleman represented less than half the electorate, even in 1965, than I did, and certainly fewer people than I represent today; and his is a falling constituency. There are no grounds for postponing the alterations proposed for this area.

Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East, I have no particular wish to get rid of the rural district area of Warmley, which is the proposal. I do not think that, in terms of Conservative, Labour or Liberal, this proposal will make the slightest difference. The three rural districts are very much the same in their political pattern, and many of the people in them are my personal friends.

If one is conscientious in wishing to help one's constituents—I appreciate that some hon. Gentlemen opposite have difficulty in understanding that term—one has one's work cut out in even a normal size constituency. In a larger constituency, the difficulties are greatly increased. For example, I have a feeling of guilt in that I know that there are a number of cases waiting on my desk which I should have examined today but which I have simply not had time to Peruse. Some are complicated and take a lot of reading.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will make only an incidental reference to this subject, rather than what appears to be a Second Reading speech. I trust that he will address his remarks to the Amendment.

Mr. Corfield

I am endeavouring to represent my constituents, which I appreciate is rather an unusual performance for some hon. Members. [Interruption.] I represent a big constituency: It is becoming increasingly difficult for hon. Members so placed properly to look after the affairs of their constituents and at the same time make a contribution in this place.

It is absolutely wrong that my constituents should have one-tenth of the representation in the House of Commons—they may have only one-twelfth or one-fourteenth before the next review—compared with people in some of the central urban areas.

We are discussing a negation of democracy. It is even less democratic than the extraordinary habit, to which so many hon. Gentlemen opposite are addicted, of the block vote. I appreciate the enshrined rule which makes the Boundary Commission adhere to the figures for 1965, but even then the Commission came to the conclusion that my constituency was too big and that Bristol, Central was too small. But, of course, the latter is represented by a Socialist.

It is difficult to comprehend how the Government can possibly expect us to swallow the rubbish which they have put forward in support of the Bill. It has been pointed out that we must keep an eye on the 1965 figures. But that is an argument for retaining the regularity of these reviews, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said, he has a new town which increases the electorate of his constituency by about 4,000 a year. I have not quite so much as that but with the extra 20,000 I shall have more in the short-term. This makes it essential to retain regularity.

We should look at the 1969 position and decide what should be done under these conditions. The sensible thing to do is to look at over-large constituencies. We are in the position, certainly in areas such as Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, where this can be done without affecting local government reform. I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us what sort of evidence the Home Secretary will look for before he decides whether it is appropriate for him to make an Order. Will he look at the figures as they are now or at the probable results for his party? If he could tell us of one good reason why the areas not affected by the Redcliffe-Maud Report where there are over-large constituencies should not have their boundaries changed, I would be more willing to accept the integrity of the Government: there is no evidence on which I can accept it now.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

I support this group of Amendments because they would at least make a step towards bringing the Boundary Commissions back into the process of carrying out these changes. In spite of what has happened I ask the Government to reflect very carefully on how incredibly undesirable it must be for any political party to move away from an impartial decision on this sort of thing towards the making of such decisions by people who, with the best will in the world—and I do not hold that that is so in this case—are suspected of being politically motivated, although on some occasions they may not be so motivated.

It would be showing only a minimum of respect to the Boundary Commissions if they were brought back into this matter. I deplore the absolutely disgraceful way in which they are being treated by the provisions of the Bill. The Under-Secretary looks pained and shakes his head, but I ask him to put himself in the position of one of the distinguished members of these Commissions. They have been asked to do this work and have carefully considered all the problems. They spent four long years doing their work and called before them at public inquiries all sorts of people, numerous lawyers, Members of Parliament and political agents, in many cases at expense to themselves.

The common factor at all those inquiries were members of the Commissions who gave of their time and their expertise. Many of them are busy men. I wonder what they think after four years' work and all the expenditure when now they find that all their recommendations, with the exception of those relating to Greater London—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Member is relating his remarks to the general principles of the Bill rather than to the specific Amendment before the Committee.

Mr. Younger

I was adducing this as a compelling reason why under the Amendments the Boundary Commissions should be brought back into consideration. The Commissions have suffered a grievous insult at the hands of the Government. They have had their work thrown in their faces. I plead with the Government, even at this late hour, to recognise the work of the Commissions by bringing them back into the process so that they have to be consulted before Orders in Council are produced in this way. They should be consulted annually about where particular changes should be made.

If the Government think that this is just an academic exercise and another way of producing a reason for putting forward a further group of Amendments, I ask how they would feel if they were in a minority and another Government used the power of majority to make changes contrary to a Boundary Commission's Report in this way. They would feel very aggrieved. As I said on Second Reading, none of us is devoid of original sin, but if I were an Under-Secretary, and were asked by a Prime Minister to produce a Bill of this kind, I would refuse point blank.

Mr. Speed

I support the Amendments. I have been pursuing this matter not only for constituency reasons, but also for constitutional reasons, for some time. I have been invited by the B.B.C. and others to do broadcasts and to discuss these matters before we had the reports laid before the House and a statement by the Home Secretary a few weeks ago. I consistently took the line that I thought the Home Secretary would act honourably on the reports when they were presented to Parliament.

Therefore, if I have reservations about these Amendments it is that even if we passed them, under this Administration I wonder whether that would be worth doing. I would be out of order to stray too far back to the previous debate, but if the Home Secretary were to bring back the Boundary Commissions as a check and restraint we should look at what the right hon. Gentleman is doing at the moment.

If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly when he was referring to my constituency not being treated in the same way as the constituency of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), he suggested that one of the reasons was that my constituency crosses what would be two unitary authorities if the Redcliffe-Maud proposals were accepted. If my researches are correct, the Home Secretary is creating a new constituency, South-East Hertfordshire, which crosses two unitary authorities, Nos. 49 and 50. Under Schedule 2, there are the constituencies of Hitchin and South Bedfordshire which are to be split up and to cross those unitary authorities. When an argument is used against me and the people I represent, and then I find that in the same Bill the argument is stood on its head, I am made to wonder what sort of checks we must have. One of those checks must be to try to bring the Boundary Commission in, for it is impartial. One member of the Commission is an expert on local government and he can look at these matters.

I repeat that before the Bill was published I thought that the Secretary of State would act honourably. In our debates on the Representation of the People Bill, the Under-Secretary was more than helpful in replying to some Amendments, and I certainly thought that he would act honourably. As I could be so misguided and naive about that, it follows that even at this stage we must try to write some safeguard into the Bill so that, no matter which party is in power, the Boundary Commission can be brought into the picture to act as a jury in relation to the Home Secretary of the day.

Having said all that, I shall support my hon. Friends in the Lobby, if the Government will not accept the Amendment. In view of what has happened about the 1949 and the 1958 Acts under this Government, I have my doubts whether even bringing this safeguard into the Bill would be any safeguard until we have a change of Government.

Dr. Winstanley

My support, and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, for this group of Amendments is given not in the belief that these Amendments, if accepted, would put the whole position right or in any way achieve a wholly desirable situation, but merely because we think that this group of Amendments could go some way towards putting us into a satisfactory situation.

I believe that there are three things which should be kept utterly separate from Government—the Press, broadcasting, and elections. Here we are dealing with methods of keeping elections separate from Government. We have devised a system. It so happens that I do not think that it is a terribly good system. I think that we could devise better systems, but we have devised a system with the Boundary Commissions. In other words, we have appointed an umpire.

Once an umpire has been appointed, the only thing to do is to accept the umpire's decision totally and in all circumstances. I know that this is not a view which is universally held, and probably it is not held in all parts of the House of Commons. I nevertheless take the view that if that is the way in which elections and the organising of elections is to be separated from Government it should should be done properly and not partly.

We have the proposal now to bring things back to the Home Secretary. This group of Amendments would bring the Commissions back in. I would rather see the Commissions take the matter over altogether, unless we were to move to a totally new system.

A number of hon. Members have spoken about the important fact of requiring the periodic review because of the ebbing and flowing of populations in certain boroughs and cities. I believe that we could best provide for that by restoring multi-Member consituencies for certain boroughs so that a Member could be added when the borough got bigger or a Member could automatically be taken away if it got smaller. That would be an automatic adjustment which would not require the intervention of the House of Commons. If we are not to have that automatic method, let us at least have another one. The automatic method with which we have provided ourselves by appointing the Boundary Commissions is to enable them to make reports at periodic intervals. If that system is to work we must accept the reports. If we once tinker about with them, there will always be accusations of gerrymandering, whether ill-founded or not. The only way of avoiding such accusations, which are damaging to the prestige of Parliament, is in all circumstances to accept the recommendations of the Commission.

My party will support these Amendments, but with that reservation, which I hope I have made clear.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

It will be interesting to see whether the Amendments would achieve the intentions which have been claimed for them by hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), who has very courteously explained why he cannot now be here, spoke about representation of the people and said that under Redcliffe-Maud there would be larger units and then the people who are now excluded would live inside the new larger units. That is true, but it does not invalidate the argument, however much right hon. and hon. Members may disagree with it, that in local government people should live inside the areas that they wish to represent.

The hon. Gentleman also said that under Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act the next general reviews would come in the period 1979–84. That may be accepted as soon as it appears to the Secretary of State that it would not be inconsistent with the prospect of local government reform. I accept that what we are arguing about today is the wording and who else should come in. Nevertheless, what is at issue here is the advent of local government reform. The prospect of local government reform is the question which must be decided at some time in the 1970s.

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said that in considering boundary revisions more attention should be paid to the future size of the population. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about this in the context of what would happen under the Bill. Under the rules, with a slight variation the registration on which the existing report is based is that of 1965, four years ago. So there is built into this a large element of looking at the projected size of the population. The right hon. Gentleman was asking whether, given more sophisticated methods of knowing what was going on and knowing of the plans of local authorities, more attention should not be paid to the future size of population.

I think that the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) will find with regard to Chelmsley Wood that the report says that it did not take into account the projected increase in the size of population for the hon. Gentleman's area. The rules we apply at present are in terms of the existing situation, with only a marginal look at the projected size of population.

Mr. Speed

The hon. Gentleman is quite right—there is this lack of flexibility—but the Boundary Commission then said that Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act is available. We no longer have that.

Mr. Rees

I accept that the flexibility built into the existing system comes under Section 2(3), but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me the argument which I am putting that in terms of the existing rules made some years ago, there is more knowledge now of what is likely to happen to an area because of so much forward planning by local authorities. I take into account at the same time the point which the right hon. Gentleman made about new towns.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith)—both of whom have been attracted away by more important matters, it seems—talked about under-representation, and the remarks of the hon. Member for Runcorn related to this point, too. After redistribution, there will be five constituencies in Scotland with an electorate of less than 30,000. I am told that the electorate of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) will be about 31,000.

Mr. Hogg

But does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the representation of Scotland is based on three factors which are wholly different from the situation in England? The first is the given number of seats provided by the Schedule, and, ultimately, by the Act of Union. The second is the different electoral quota based on that number of seats. The third is the wide geographical area of the constituencies to be represented. It is wholly wrong to draw that analogy.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Rees

I shall come back to that point. First, I apologise to the hon. Member for Ayr. I gave the wrong figure for his constituency. However, that does not derogate from the major argument regarding five constituencies with fewer than 30,000 voters. My point is that if we can argue that there can be small populations in certain parts of the country and that it is right to do it there, there is nothing intrinsically against some small constituencies.

Half-humorously, I agree, the hon. Member for Meriden suggested that someone with 90,000 votes would be worth three votes compared with someone with 30,000. If for some reason we decide that certain parts of these islands should have smaller constituencies, the argument could apply that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) is not worth as much as someone with 90,000 votes.

Mr. Montgomery

The hon. Gentleman is making a silly point. The point which we are making is that in Scotland there are widespread and sparsely populated areas. In Birmingham, there is a constituency with 18,000 electors and nearby, in Meriden and Brierley Hill, there are 90,000.

Mr. Rees

If it is right in some parts of the country, it is right here. That is the point I am making.

Mr. Hogg

Cannot the Under-Secretary of State hoist on board that there is all the difference in principle between 18,000 people living in an area of one square mile and 18,000 people living in an area of about 70 square miles? If he cannot understand that, he cannot understand anything.

Mr. Rees

The argument was put today in terms of what the Boundary Commission deals with, and, in my view, the analogy with what happen elsewhere can be drawn, if only temporarily, because of the changes which the Government have made.

I come now to the Amendments in the order in which they are taken. Amendment No. 3 would require the Secretary of State to consult the chairman and deputy chairman of the relevant Boundary Commission before laying the reactivating Order. It does not seem that the Secretary of State of the day would have the benefit of the advice of the Boundary Commission before deciding whether it was premature to reactivate the Commission, as that is provided for elsewhere. It would provide, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman put it to us, that the Secretary of State after consulting the chairman and deputy chairman of the relevant Boundary Comsion shall lay … as soon as it appears to him "— and that would mean that the moment for consultation does not arrive until it appears to the Secretary of State that reactivating the Commission would not be premature.

There is nothing in Amendment No. 3 that would act as a prod to the Secretary of State of the day. It may be that the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that it would be a prod, but there is nothing in the wording to that effect. The Commission would be consulted only when the Secretary of State had decided to proceed. In any event, the full Clause would oblige the Secretary of State to lay the Order whether or not the chairman and deputy chairman of the Boundary Commission had any views as to difficulties, so consultation at that stage would certainly not be very helpful.

I now come to Amendment No. 35. Subsection (3) obliges the Secretary of State to move for the reactivation of the Boundary Commission for any part of the United Kingdom … as soon as it appears to him that it would not, by reason of the prospect of local government reorganisation there, be premature to do so; The Amendment would require the Secretary of State to move as soon as the appropriate Boundary Commission represented to him that the prospect of local government reorganisation did not make it premature. The matter would be taken out of his hands. But I invite the Committee to consider the decision that is put into the hands of the Boundary Commission. Over the years, its job is to exercise its mind in drawing boundaries. It is a Boundary Commission. It is in no sense its job, nor could it be, to make a decision about the imminence or otherwise of local government reform.

The question when it is right in accordance with the Bill to move for the reactivation of the Commissions depends on judgments of what facts are relevant and a knowledge of those facts. The decision may not be plain sailing. It may be a judgment as to what has happened, and it would mean a knowledge of what is going on as a result of the implementation of Redcliffe-Maud in whatever form that comes about. The Boundary Commission's job is to deal with the boundaries of constituencies, and it is not its job, or that of its chairman or deputy chairman, to make a decision of this kind.

Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)

The hon. Gentleman is wholly wrong. If he looks at page 52 of the Boundary Commission's Report for England and Wales under the heading "Northumberland", he will see that that is exactly what it did.

Mr. Rees

It is not the job of the Boundary Commission to make a judgment about Government policy and the steps that follow when local government reform is taking place. This is a job for the Secretary of State.

Mr. Hogg

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the duties of the Commission are laid down by the 1949 Act, and that these include the distribution of seats at parliamentary elections, and various matters including the total number of seats in each area, in this case England, to which the second Schedule of the Act applies? Does he not realise that makes absolute nonsense of the point he is making?

Mr. Rees

The point I am making, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will understand if he looks at the Clause and his Amendment, is that the judgment that will have to be made is the imminence of local government reform, and it is not the job of the Boundary Commission to deal with that.

Mr. Sharples

The hon. Gentleman will see on page 52 of the Report for England, under the heading "Northumberland": We proposed that, pending the outcome of the Royal Commission's review of local govern- ment in England, the seven borough constituencies should be left unchanged …". That is exactly what it did.

Mr. Rees

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. What is at issue here for the reactivation is the imminence of local government reform which follows the Redcliffe-Maud Report.

I take it that Amendment No. 5 must be considered as being closely knit with Amendment No. 35 in what the Opposition seek to do. Under Amendment No. 35 the original initiative for reactivating a Boundary Commission, as the Opposition put it, would lie with the Boundary Commission. It may be that Amendment No. 5 is designed to work with Amendment No. 35, so that before the Commission decided whether to represent to the Secretary of State that the time was not premature to reactivate the Commission, it would have had the advantage of consultation with him.

On the other hand, the intention of the consultation may simply be to require the Secretary of State to obtain the advice of the Commission before deciding whether the moment has come. The Government's argument on this Amendment as on the previous Amendment is that it is not the job of the Boundary Commission to decide this matter. Its job is clear: it is to deal with electoral boundaries.

Turning to Amendment No. 6, the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) asked a number of questions which would be more appropriately raised on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. The procedures which we have discussed in connection with Amendments Nos. 35 and 5 apply here. It is not the job of the Boundary Commission to play a part in England nor in Scotland. The Government's view is that all these Amendments should be negatived.

[Sir HARRY LEGGE-BOURKE in the Chair]

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)

The reply of the Under-Secretary of State was very disappointing. He failed entirely to appreciate the tremendous importance in principle of the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), namely, that the purpose of the Amendment is to force the carrying out of an annual review. The matter should come before the Government, the House of Commons and the country for reconsideration.

Even the Government recognise that we are faced with a real problem. They know perfectly well that, in view of the great changes in population taking place in different parts, to keep the country in a rigid framework of existing constituencies cannot go on for ever. We in the West Midlands, where things are happening at great speed, appreciate this problem. But the Government say—and we understand this very well because we have heard it so often—that we must tolerate the difficulties and injustices which arise because of the Redcliffe-Maud Report and the fact that they are to implement it. Nevertheless, we must consider as time goes on whether the difficulties and injustices in the electoral system have become too great. This is why the matter should be periodically examined.

There are contradictions in the present system. Birmingham would like to know why London is being dealt with in one way and Birmingham in another way. From the point of view of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, there is no reason why Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield should not be dealt with. If there is, I should like to hear it. There is an anomaly in Birmingham which must be considered. There was a revision of all the wards some years ago.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Harry Legge-Bourke)

I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but we are concerned with whether the Boundary Commission should be consulted at certain stages. The right hon. Gentleman must not go too elaborately into what he wishes it to be consulted about.

Mr. Lloyd

I appreciate your point, Sir Harry. These contradictions may become more and more intolerable to the population.

8.45 p.m.

I invite the Committee's attention to the other side of the question. The Government have said that they intend to implement the Redcliffe-Maud Report. To what extent should we attach real credibility to a statement by the Government on such a subject? It used to be the practice that when a Government said that they were introducing a Bill they introduced it. We have seen recently that that is not now the case. Will the Government really implement their intention to carry out the Redcliffe-Maud Report? We should not attach credibility to their statement, and if we do not, there is great merit in forcing a regular annual review. If it seems in 12 months that the Government's determination over the Redcliffe-Maud Report has crumbled away, the whole situation will have changed. They would have no logical basis for failing to deal with the situations arising in constituencies.

All hon. Members will realise, in considering this Amendment, that local government is an extremely difficult political subject. This Government might well quail before the pressure of realities from local councillors. There is a possibility that in a year or two we may find that the position of the Government over the Redcliffe-Maud Report has changed and we ought to have a periodic review so that we can come forward and get the necessary electoral reforms.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

My reason for rising is not because the proposed changes of the Boundary Commission would make my seat about the safest Conservative seat in Scotland, because I have not decided whether I shall stand for it again. I rise now because I was so flabbergasted by the reply of the Minister a few minutes ago. What really left me almost lost for words was when he tried to make a comparison between the huge wide open spaces in the North of Scotland and the city centres. This was too absurd for words and showed that he had no understanding of problems. If he were to have his way the entire Liberal Party would not fit neatly into a taxi they would all be able to get into a bubble car—

Dr. Winstanley

If the noble Lord means that the Scottish Liberal Members are members of such very high quality that it would be better if they represented more constituents, I earnestly support him.

Earl of Dalkeith

It seems that unless the Government take note of these Amendments the Boundary Commission might just as well not have existed, If I had been a member of the Boundary Commission I would have offered my resignation forthwith. It makes the whole idea of the Commission pointless. The Minister, who has now deserted the sinking ship, no doubt to get some much-needed sustenance, talked about the imminence of local government reform. He cannot use this argument about Scotland because the Wheatley Commission, which is carrying out the same sort of investigation as the Redcliffe-Maud Committee has not even reported, and is not likely to report for some time. This is a case of Procrastination with a capital P. It highlights the reason why it is essential that the Government should accept these Amendments. This is because the time the local government reforms are implemented, what the Boundary Commissions have already recommended to us will be hopelessly out of date. This is a matter which must be kept up to date, and it cannot be done unless consultation takes place. That is why it is vital to support the Amendment.

In view of the inaccuracy of the reply of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in relation to the size of the Ayr constituency, I merely express the hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will intervene to talk about the specific Scottish problems involved, which are slightly different from the English problems. While it is essential to take note of these matters from the English point of view, it is even more essential from the Scottish point of view because of the time lag which will take place in that the Wheatley Commission's Report is to come somewhat later.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

I intervene to correct two points in the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith). First, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department immediately corrected his error about Ayr constituency, and his correction was accepted by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). Second, the hon. Gentleman has referred to my hon. Friend, in his absence, as going wrong on a large number of facts about small areas, but I remind him that the arguments had been put by the Opposition about large numbers as compared with small numbers. My hon. Friend knew perfectly well the point about the geographical aspects. That was quite clear, and had the hon. Member been present he would have realised it.

Earl of Dalkeith

That is not how it was received by the Committee at the time, nor how it will be received by anyone reading HANSARD. We should support these Amendments strongly from the point of view of Scotland as well as England.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is a man for whom I have high regard, but I felt that he was very unhappy in making his speech. First, he sneered at the Amendments. I myself accept that they are not perfect, but if he could improve them and bring the Boundary Commissions in closer consultation we should be only too pleased. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman compared constituencies like mine, which is 48 miles by 35, has 115 polling stations and nearly 50,000 electors, with the centre of Birmingham or other big cities. That is ridiculous to compare 18,000 electors in a square mile with the sort of constituency which many rural M.P.s have to look after.

This is a shabby Bill and the worst thing about it is that, having employed the Boundary Commissions for four years, at a cost of £100,000, the Home Secretary has rejected all their recommendations save those which he likes. I know something about the work of these Commissions, because I had to make representations to one of them and on appeal we won our case that we should not have added to my constituency another 30 by 25 miles. Imperfect though these Amendments may be, they are essential. Although it would be only the third line of defence, we must have an impartial body standing between the Home Secretary—this one in particular, I am afraid—and the electorate so as to ensure that the electorate can be fairly represented.

In this time of rapid change, we must have the powers of these Amendments. All over England, there is rapid change and movement of population and electorates, which is why we want the Commissions to check up these matters every year. We must realise that certain areas are growing much faster than others. There are the new towns, and places like East Anglia which is growing rapidly and will continue to grow more rapidly than any other area.

I live and work in East Anglia, I represent an East Anglian constituency, and I have served in local government for 20 years. In this area there is a continuous movement of population. In the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, Norfolk remains as a unitary area—[An HON. MEMBER: "What has this to do with boundaries?"] I have no doubt that Sir Harry will tell me when I am out of order.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Stick to the point.

Mr. Hogg

On a point of order. If hon. Members will speak from a recumbent position, it is almost impossible to hear the hon. Member who has caught your eye, Sir Harry. Will you keep them in order, please?

The Temporary Chairman

I have much sympathy with the point put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I was listening very hard to the hon. Member who had the Floor. I should be grateful if hon. Members would avoid speaking from a sitting position.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

On a point of order. May I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is customary in Committee to leave the chairmanship and points of order to the Chair rather than to shout across the Floor in a raucous voice.

Mr. Hogg

Further to that point of order. Is not it the right of any hon. Member to raise with the Chair a point of order of a genuine character? Unless I am told by you, Sir Harry, not to do so, I propose to continue as I have in both Houses of Parliament for the past 31 years.

The Temporary Chairman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct in saying that any hon. Member has a perfect right at any time to raise legitimate points of order. May I suggest to the Committee that it would be helpful if, when a Ruling has been given, it was accepted without further comment. Mr. Hawkins.

Mr. Hawkins

Thank you, Sir Harry.

I was trying to draw attention to the assistance which these Amendments will give to my area because of the great movement of population which will take place in East Anglia, particularly in Nor- folk in the near future. I would refer to the peculiar position of Norwich, a city of about 80,000 electors which has two Members of Parliament and which it is proposed should retain two Members of Parliament. The Boundary Commission will in the near future need to look closely into Norwich and its surrounding area to see whether an alteration should be made in its representation. This group of Amendments would greatly assist areas such as this in allowing the electors to be properly represented. It is almost as big a task to represent a constituency with 115 polling stations covering an area of 48 by 35 miles as to represent a tightly enclosed constituency of 100,000.

We have heard from the Under-Secretary of State that he cannot implement the recommendations of the Boundary Commission because he expects the Redcliffe-Maud Report to be implemented within the next few years. As chairman of my local county council parliamentary and local government committee, I had a time-table with the idea that the Redcliffe-Maud Report would be coming out in January. The report appeared on 11th June, yet the same time-table has been adhered to by the Government that we must report by October. That means that we have only a couple of months in which to do our thinking, but it surely is not a valid reason to hold up the Boundary Commission's Report. I urge my hon. Friends to support this group of Amendments.

9.0 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

It seems that the Government are determined to over-rule the Boundary Commission. I support the contention of my noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) that any member of the Boundary Commission would be entitled to resign and to refuse to serve any longer after having been treated in this scurvy way. What is the point of having a Boundary Commission if the Government are to act in total disregard of its findings? This is why it is necessary that the Bill should contain some safeguards as presented in this group of Amendments, to requiring consultation with the Commission before any decision is made about redrawing constitutional boundaries. This is a matter of choosing between sense and nonsense; it also involves considerations of fair play of which the electorate are not entirely ignorant. However, the Home Secretary is determined on this process.

When he introduced the Bill I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether heed would be paid to present local government boundaries in the plans which he intended to put before the House and which are before us today in Committee. He assured me that this would be so. But, in fact, it cannot be so. My own constituency and the area round Portsmouth give a clear indication of this. As is well known, the Redcliffe-Maud Report, in that particular instance, makes no difference to the provisions recommended by the Boundary Commission. The whole of the proposals of the Commission in my constituency and the neigbourhood of Portsmouth could be put into operation without any inconvenience arising from the Redcliffe-Maud Report. There is no valid reason why the Boundary Commission should be ignored in this particular case.

The solution that is being proposed in the Bill shows crass disregard for the Commission. The attempt to form three constituencies out of two, in defiance of the Boundary Commission's recommendations, means that there will have to be a central omelette composed of bits cut off from Fareham urban district, the City of Portsmouth, and Havant and Waterlooville urban district. After that has been done that mess of an omelette cannot be unscrambled and that administrative chaos will be forced to exist until the ominous year 1984. This is the basis for my complaint that these provisions in the Bill fly in the face of the sensible report by the Boundary Commission. The provisions are not only futile, but also very damaging.

The Temporary Chairman

I must ask hon. Members in the Committee to try to relate their remarks to the Amendments on the Notice Paper, and in this particular case to the arguments in favour of or against consultation with the Boundary Commission at various stages.

Dr. Bennett

I am sorry, Sir Harry. I thought that I was making it clear that lack of consultation leads to these sorts of provisions. In the event of adequate consultation with the Boundary Commission such an absurdity as the dismemberment of the township of Fareham could not take place. This is why I argue so strongly that periodical consultations should continue with the Commission, which would have avoided the administrative chaos which is bound to result as a result of the Bill's provisions.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) has spoken about omelettes and scrambled eggs, and who better than he to talk about those? However, no amount of consultation in the world will deal with the scrambled egg which will be created in his constituency.

I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), who spoke of the Minister's making sneering remarks. I did not actually hear the hon. Gentleman sneer, but he was contemptuous of our efforts to make sure that there should be consultation and warning at regular intervals. I do not know whether the Minister meant to give that impression, but it was one that I gained, as apparently did my hon. Friend.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that we have not got our Amendments right and should have done better. However, we have not had much time between Second Reading and Committee. After four years of work by the Boundary Commission, we have had four days in which to work out the details necessary to get our Amendments right. They are in order, otherwise they would not be being discussed, though some of us know of the fight which had to be put up before we could even get them discussed. Now that we have them, they are the best which could be produced in the time available.

In any case, it is not good enough for the Minister to say that the drafting of our Amendments is imperfect and then go on to make a lot of play about this or that not being quite as it should be and that the effect which we wanted will not be achieved by our words. All that the Government have to do, if they take that view of an Amendment, is to accept it in spirit and say that they will produce better words at a later stage. The Minister was simply wasting time, though I cannot think why he should want to waste time.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) made a passionate appeal to the effect that the unsatisfactory situation in Birmingham must not be allowed to continue for longer than necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) put a similar query on behalf of his city.

Our Amendments provide for regular consultation, which is needed in these days of rapid change. I was unconvinced by what the Minister said about these changes in population being known to the Boundary Commission in any case. He implied that they were all part of some great national plan which was known about well in advance. He suggested that, because of the planning of new towns, and so on, it was known where increases of population were likely to occur.

How easy it is to knock that argument on the head. We live in an age of rapid change, an age in which communications have a great influence on our lives. We have constituencies which are enormous in area, but have very small electorates. If communications were better, it would be easy to get from one end of such a constituency to the other, but with so many railway lines closed today the problem is very different from what it was.

Then we had the odious comparison of Scottish constituencies with English ones of similar size. I do not want to upset my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies. They are a splendid but rather small group. However, there are plenty of hon. Members opposite who represent very small constituencies in Scotland and, if the Minister wanted to stray on to the vexed question of Scottish representation, it might have been better if he had undertaken to give consideration to a formula for Scotland which is of such great advantage to his own party, with all those tiny seats in industrial areas, each with a Labour Member. However, I am sure -that I would be out of order if I strayed further in that direction.

The Minister mentioned all these reports having a great effect on the life of the country. The Redcliffe-Maud Report has been mentioned in almost every speech, although it was not available in full form in the Vote Office due to a failing of Her Majesty's Government. But we do not have to take into account only the Redcliffe-Maud Report. This series of Amendments is designed so that the Minister will not have the difficulty of using the Redcliffe-Maud Report as an excuse, or the lack of the Wheatley Report as an excuse in another direction, not forgetting Tress, on the South-West and whoever it was that reported on the South-East, nor the long forgotten National Plan or the Development areas or quasi-development areas and so forth. If the Amendments are accepted we should have regular consultations between the right hon. Gentleman and the Boundary Commission which would get us out of these difficulties.

In conclusion, I want to refer to the city which I have the honour to represent in part, because I have put down an Amendment about it. The shifts and changes in population in Bristol would he better taken care of if this group of Amendments was accepted. We have a constituency of less than 40,000. That is not a satisfactory situation. It is not 40,000 going up; it is 40,000 going down. It is the decaying centre of the city which can be given new life if parts of it are put into the lively parts of the city as recommended in the Commission's Report.

No doubt the Home Secretary will wind up the debate.

Mr. Callaghan

indicated dissent.

Mr. Cooke

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. It is disappointing to think that we shall not hear from him. The right hon. Gentleman has a fine record in much of the other work that he is doing. He should not lend himself to this highly dubious Bill—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Squalid."] One of my hon. Friend's says "Squalid." "Gerrymandering" is another word which has been used to describe it. However, I say that it is a dubious Bill.

If the right hon. Gentleman one day hopes to play an even greater part in the nation's affairs—it would be embarrassing if I said more than that—he would do well to dissociate himself—from the Bill I suppose that that is asking too much—but certainly he might temper the attitude of the Government in resisting these Amendments.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I came prepared with two speeches on the Amendments; a short one which I was going to give if the Chief Whip had not put in an appearance, and a long one if, by some mischance, I was caught on my feet when the Government Chief Whip was in the Chamber. Since he has departed, I propose only to give the short speech.

I have three reasons for strongly supporting my right hon. and hon. Friends on these Amendments.

First, if there is consultation with the Boundary Commission it is more likely than otherwise that we shall be able to prevent electoral scandals. We have a number of electoral scandals at the moment. We had the pleasure of welcoming the consequence of one of them in the House this afternoon. I believe that if there had been effective consultation and the Secretary of State had done his job when he should have done it, the election which took place in the miniature constituency in Birmingham, which has presented us with a very agreeable colleague this afternoon, would not have taken place.

The strongest argument for consultation is to prevent scandals of this kind and to prevent a situation where the hon. Member who took his place on the Liberal bench this afternoon was able to bring the whole of his electorate to sit in the public gallery to watch him take his seat. Consultation, possibly, would prevent electoral scandals.

My second reason for supporting these Amendments is that we, on this side, have more faith in the honour and integrity of the Boundary Commissions, which we wish to have consulted, than in our present political Ministers, or, indeed, in any political Minister.

9.15 p.m.

The Government's case—and it has been deployed with passing ability from the other side of the Committee—is that we should trust the Secretary of State. That is essentially what they are saying in seeking to strike out these Amendments. But why should we trust the right hon. Gentleman? What has he done that would lead us to repose in him the faith that is requested in the Bill as it stands? I should trust the right hon. Gentleman from here to the moon and back. [HON. MEMBERS: "Leave him there.") I should in no way impugn him personally. I do not think that anyone in the House would wish to do that to him personally, but in his public—

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

In the circumstances in which we find ourselves today with this gerrymandering, I should not trust him.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. Before this goes any further, I think that we had better get back to the Amendments.

Mr. Callaghan

I should not want to create division between the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and learned Friend. I suggest that he agrees with his right hon. and learned Friend. It will make it much easier.

Mr. Griffiths

I was giving the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. If he prefers not to have it, it is up to him.

The object of consultation is to demonstrate that we place more trust in the Commissions than we do in political Ministers. The present members of the political Ministry have cheated. They have broken promises. They have gone back on almost everything they have said. They have a record of political malfeasance which is a national disgrace, and it is against that background that we are asked to place faith in them. I submit that it would be very much wiser if we interposed between the people of this country, and, indeed, Parliament, and that group of untrustworthy political Ministers the Commissioners in whom people place more faith than they do in political Ministers of either party.

Why is it that we are seeking to consult the Commissioners? The simple answer is that we have confidence in them. There is ample reason for having confidence in the Commissioners. They have done their job very well. The whole report is an admirable document. These men, who have laboured hard and long, are men of undoubted integrity and impartiality. They are honourable men, and I have no doubt that the British people vastly prefer to put their faith and their confidence in the Commissioners than in hon. Gentlemen opposite.

It is therefore right that we should consult the Commissions, and we should, by statute, oblige Ministers to consult honourable impartial referees. The objection which the British people will have to the Government's rejecting the Amendments is that they have refused to accept the referee's verdict, and in Britain one of the standard rules is that one accepts what the referee says. What we are proposing here is that when there are proposals to change constituency boundaries, the referee shall be consulted, and not the captain—or the vice-captain, shall I call him?—of the opposition team.

Those are my first two reasons—to avoid electoral scandals, and to ensure that there is consultation with those whom the people trust, and not solely with those whom they distrust.

But there is a third reason, and it has been alluded to by a number of my hon. Friends. Amendment No. 5 would lay a statutory duty on the Government to review the boundaries not less than once each calendar year. Surely it is right that they should consult the Boundary Commission, and know what they are talking about, at least once every twelve months. Change is taking place rapidly in so many constituencies. Indeed, I understood that one of the extraordinary reasons for the selective employment tax was redeployment of labour. If labour is being redeployed all over the country, it is vital that the Commissioners should be consulted at not less than yearly intervals so that there is a fair balance between the population pattern and the constituencies.

An example is my own constituency. There are several expanding towns in it. One is Haverhill, which only seven years ago, had a population of 4,000. Today, it is 11,000. It is proposed that in two or three years it will rise to 15,000, and in 10 years it may be 20,000. I do not believe that the people of Haverhill or West Suffolk will be satisfied if it is left only to political Ministers to determine whether there should be a boundary review. It is essential to have honourable experienced and impartial men, such as the Commissioners, who should be consulted at least once a year.

The Government pretend that justice is being done. They know quite well that it is not, but, irrespective of that, it should be seen to be done. What is important is that, if the Commissioners are regularly consulted and the people know that they are consulted, any future Secretary of State, Conservative or Socialist, will be more easily able to justify his proposals to the House. It is not possible to justify them without consultation with the Commissioners. Therefore, the Amendment should be accepted.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) laid great stress on the honourable position of the Commissioners and the fact that the British people trust them. Although I have listened closely to what he said, my own feeling is that the British people are blissfully unaware of the existence of these Commissioners. Because they are unaware, they may well trust them.

The Commissioners are faceless men of the best sort, carrying out their duties with absolute impartiality. They listen to the requirements and political emotions of the ordinary man in the street. The Commission held an inquiry in my constituency two years ago and listened to almost every point of view, of the political parties, women's institutes and all sorts of other social groups, about why they should or should not have their polling stations and centres for electoral purposes in a particular district. Everybody who gave evidence was impressed with the thoroughness of the Commission's work.

So my hon. Friend is right to say that the people trust the Commissioners, but he is wrong to imply that they know who the Commissioners are. The fact that the Commissioners are faceless in the best sense may be the best guarantee that they are trustworthy.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Would my hon. Friend not agree that many people accept the verdict of the referee even when they do not know him?

Mr. Wells

Of course. That is the trouble with the present Government. My hon. Friend will remember the trouble which a previous Home Secretary had, who is now Lord Stow Hill. He got into some difficulty over a little episode and went along to the other place. I look forward to my former constituent becoming Prime Minister in about 10 Labour Governments from now. I hope, therefore, that he will not fall into the gerrymandering way of Lord Stow Hill and be pushed along the corridor. Amendment No. 5 suggests that the Commissioners should be consulted once every calendar year. The mobility of the population has received much attention from hon. Members. Houses are springing up throughout South-East England and some constituencies are being greatly enlarged. [Interruption.] I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that there are more council house dwellers in my constituency than there are electors in the entire Birmingham, Ladywood constituency, and the same may apply to Manchester, Exchange.

If the Commissioners were consulted each year this mobility of electors would be helped. People should be in touch with units of reasonable size and, as a result, more in touch with their Parliamentary representatives. For this reason I strongly urge the Home Secretary carefully to consider Amendment No. 5. I appreciate that he does not like its wording, but he has ample opportunity to accept its spirit and redraft it at a later stage.

The Bill has yet to go to another place. It is possible that their Lordships will do their duty and reject the Measure lock, stock and barrel. A yearly review would be to the advantage of not only hon. Members in their work on behalf of constituents, but those who try to run politics in the constituencies. We should have a more realistic size of unit and this would inevitably cause some rethinking about the Scottish anomalies. I regret that there is not even a Scottish Minister, let alone a Law Officer for Scotland, on the benches opposite to give advice to the Home Secretary, who, I trust, will give careful thought to Amendment No. 5.

9.30 p.m.

Captain W. Elliot

Hard knocks are exchanged in Parliament when we indulge in political in-fighting, and, generally speaking, we are prepared to take them. We are, of course, always on the lookout when dealing with the Prime Minister, who misses no opportunity of hitting below the belt.

In the few years that I have been an hon. Member there have been two occasions when I have felt ashamed of our proceedings. The first was when the Home Secretary's predecessor forced through the London Government Act, which had the effect of extending the rule by one year for Labour-controlled councils. The second occasion is today. I find the display of sanctimonious hypocrisy on the part of the Home Secretary deplorable. The supreme upholder of the law in this country now demonstrates how he will rig it to suit his party for electoral purposes. That nauseating spectacle makes me ashamed of proceedings in this House.

I want to demonstrate the value of these Amendments by showing what changes will be made in my constituency and relating them to the changes which will take place in years ahead. My constituency will have a major change made to it. Of course, I must accept that. At present in the constituency I deal with four authorities: Greater London Council, a borough council, a county council and an urban district council. I have never found that a disadvantage. One writes one letter and sends it to different addresses. Under the redistribution I shall deal with only two councils, Greater London Council and the borough council. I suppose that to the Home Secretary that looks very tidy. In the old constituency the electorate was 67,000 and in the new constituency there will be 61,000 electors. On the whole, although that is a major change which will affect me in a way, it does not change the constituency very much. It was recommended by the Boundary Commission, so I must, and do, accept it.

Looking round the country, I see that there will remain in existence all sorts of constituencies some of which are far too big and some far too small. This is due to the rapid expansion of new towns and the movement of industry about the country, which will get worse. That is why I support this group of Amendments. They would enable the worst anomalies to be corrected. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) that in these days of rapid change it may be that piecemeal change is the best way of going about the matter. In any case we are getting piecemeal change in this Bill. I accept what it does in my constituency, but I cannot accept the absurd amomalies which will be left in existence in the country. I hope that in the end the Home Secretary will accept these Amendments.

Mr. Doughty

The only disagreement that I have with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) is that he used a phrase with which I proposed to start my speech. The expression is that justice should not only be done but be seen to be done. I regret that this Bill does not do justice and particularly that, unless these Amendments are allowed justice will not be seen to be done. [Interruption.] Justice is not improved by silly noises.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

I am sorry that I have upset the hon. and learned Member. I was merely quoting correctly. If he wishes to produce quotations he should at least quote correctly.

Mr. Doughty

My quotation was perfectly correct, that justice should be seen to be done. If every matter is to be judged, first, one must not only be completely impartial but be seen to be so. That is why in the past questions of boundary changes, which could be rigged by the Government at any time to suit themselves, have always been decided by an impartial body, namely, the Boundary Commission.

Under the Bill, if these Amendments are not accepted, it will be the Secretary of State who will lay the Orders. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will do so; he may not be there. It will be some time before the Orders are laid, and it may well be a conservative Secretary of State who will lay the Orders under the Bill when enacted. I am sure that he would wish to see that justice was done in those circumstances.

That is why these Amendments seek to ensure that the Home Secretary of the day should, before laying the Orders, have consulted the Commission. What is wrong with that? Because of the tremendous anomalies between constituencies, one of these Amendments seeks to secure that the Secretary of State should consult the Commission every year. That would enable the House of Commons to be kept up to date with the necessary changes that have to be made as the population changes over the whole country.

I will not go through the rigmarole of how the population is moving from North to South, how some areas are thinning out, and how others are filling up. Every hon. Member knows that changes are taking place in population everywhere. This involves changes in constituencies. I will not go through the tremendous differences in the figures. Some hon. Members have to deal with over 100,000 constituents.

The Bill will not change that situation. It will merely mean that the Government of the day—at present, this Government—must bear the odium for being responsible and for using their majority, because it is not a free vote, to alter the boundaries of various constituencies. Everybody will think, and will say it because they think it, that the Government are doing it for their own advantage. That is not justice being done. Hon. Members on this side and the millions of electors will say that justice has not been done unless these Amendments are accepted.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I declare an interest in asking for this general review to take place once a year, in that I was one of those who would have lost their constituencies if the original proposals of the Boundary Commission had been implemented. It was a sacrifice that I was asked to make to ensure that the country at large was better served by the proposals of the Commission. I would reluctantly have been prepared for the proposals to have been implemented so as to achieve a more equitable distribution.

It is gravely distressing to anybody in my situation, in view of the sacrifice we would have been prepared to make, to find that the Government, in a situation where we would have acted unselfishly, are acting selfishly.

There is facing all those who live in South Devon an acute problem.

Sir D. Glover

I hope that my hon. Friend will believe me when I say that he has presented the one valid argument, which the Government have not produced, for the Bill's not being implemented—that is, that the whole House of Commons would have been distressed if he had lost his seat.

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is more than kind. I am not sure that he would carry the Government with him on that point, any more than on a large number of others.

I want to tell the Committee about a particularly difficult problem now facing the whole population of South Devon as a result of a large number of conflicting recommendations about the future of that area. I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides will understand the anxiety which I feel. We have now reached a point at which the recommendations of various organisations have gone full circle.

Not long ago, we began with the Report of the original Boundary Commission, which would have had the effect of removing altogether the Tavistock constituency as it now exists. I need not go into the broad argument for that. Various recommendations followed thereafter from a variety of conflicting sources, and anxiety was created among the population of the area about the way in which they were to be governed in the future. The reasons are to be found in the various economic arguments and policies advocated, first, by the Hunt Commission, then by the Regional Planning Council in Bristol, and then in the form of conflicting arguments from the county council and Tavistock Rural District Council as to the future economic development of Tavistock itself.

Broadly, the argument hinges on whether Tavistock should be regarded as part of Plymouth or still be contained in the wider area of Devon County. The latest recommendation which we in the South-West have had to consider is that of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, that Tavistock should be regarded as part of Plymouth.

There are many people living in the area who would sympathise with the view that Tavistock is economically dependent on Plymouth and will remain so in any foreseeable circumstances. That being the case, until some steps are taken which recognise the economic dependence of Tavistock on Plymouth, Tavistock will find itself in a vacuum. The situation has been greatly worsened recently by the Government's decision to create an intermediate development area in Plymouth which excludes Tavistock. Tavistock's great difficulty is that it is cut off from large areas of England by Dartmoor.

The only way to reach Tavistock in the winter is to go round the North Down—

Mr. Roebuck

On a point of order, Sir Harry. What has this to do with the Amendment? I should be grateful for your guidance.

The Temporary Chairman

I have repeatedly, throughout this debate, reminded hon. Members that they must relate their remarks to the question whether the Boundary Commission should be consulted at various stages. I am waiting to hear the hon. Gentleman do that.

Mr. Heseltine

I was about to come to the nub of the argument, Sir Harry, which, I am sure, many hon. Members understood if they followed what I had to say so far instead of bouncing to their feet to try to curtail my speech.

The point is that unless there is a decision about the future of Tavistock and whether it is to be included in Plymouth, Tavistock will be in a vacuum. In that part of South Devon, we urgently need revisions to boundaries to make clear which way the future of the area is to go.

Mr. John Mendelson


Mr. Heseltine

I shall be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but it is important to explain the argument before questions are raised on detail. The argument is crucial because we are not able, by the various powers available to us, to persuade the Government to accept—

Sir D. Glover

On a point of order, Sir Harry. Will you point out to hon. Members opposite that, as we are in Committee, there is no reason why they should not make a speech if they wish to intervene?

The Temporary Chairman

That is not a point of order, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well. It is not for me to tell hon. Members when to try to speak or to volunteer.

Mr. Heseltine

In South Devon, we are hoping that whatever organisations consider the future of the area they will be able to take action relatively quickly so that conclusions may be reached so as to consolidate the views of people living in the area and make it possible for them to persuade the Government to include Tavistock within the economic circumstances prevailing in Plymouth.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson

I have been listening with great interest and sympathy to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. Is not the logical conclusion of his remarks that the Government are wise to await the outcome of the deliberations of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission in solving the problems of the area and then to have a redrawing of the Parliamentary boundaries?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to the hon. Member, since he has asked a question which leads precisely to my next point. It is to indicate how serious to my constituents is the delay and the inability of an annual review to rectify the matter.

In many parts of the town of Tavistock the unemployment level is 5.5 per cent. and represents 8 per cent. of the total unemployment level in that area. [Interruption.] The shattering thought that exercises the minds of hon. Members on this side of the Committee is that three or four years ago—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Gentleman on a constituency point of this kind, but I must ask him to relate his remarks to whether or not the Boundary Commission should be consulted.

Mr. Heseltine

Very well, Sir Harry. I was hoping that the Boundary Commission could review the South Devon area year by year so that if it were found to be necessary to redraw the Parliamentary boundaries within the Plymouth area it could do so without waiting for the delays which were implied in the hon. Gentleman's intervention.

I am appalled with the prospect of three, five or even 10 years' delay before any redrawing of the boundaries can take place there. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh at the unemployment levels we are suffering. They would not have laughed four years ago when they sat on this side of the House. The unemployed do not laugh, and the sooner hon. Members opposite realise that the better chance they will have to command some respect in the country.

I am not saying that there should be any form of compulsion upon the Home Secretary to make him review the situation of the boundaries. I am merely asking that there should be somebody who, every year, can nudge him in the ribs to tell him that there is a real problem which he is ignoring and indeed shelving by refusing to accept the Amendment. [Interruption.] I suppose that it is the greatest tribute to the sanctimonious behaviour of the Home Secretary that throughout the land he has earned himself the title of St. Gerrymander.

[Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]

Sir D. Glover

During the last few minutes the Committee apparently has got itself rather excited, but we ought to realise that we are debating a matter of supreme constitutional importance, not only to each hon. Member, but to every constituent in the nation. It is, therefore, right that we should carry out our discussions in a sober manner.

This is the most sordid Bill which has come before us for a very long time. The idea that the Home Secretary, of whatever party it may be, should be responsible for the reallocation of majorities or constituencies is fraught with enormous dangers. All the indications are that the Labour Party will not be in power all that much longer.

Quite unjustifiably the Government have a healthy suspicion of the Tory Party. Do they not realise that by the Bill they are giving a Tory Home Secretary exactly the same power as they are taking themselves—a power which, I believe, should not be given to any political individual to deal with these sorts of problems'? These problems should be looked at by a neutral, non-political organisation. Having said that, I should explain, because many hon. Members do not read these reports with the assiduity we like to think we do, that I dare say there is a good deal of support in my constituency for the action the right hon. Gentleman is taking.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Will my hon. Friend allow me?

Sir D. Glover

Certainly not. I must remain within order. I am out of order if I cannot address the Chair—and the Chair at the moment cannot listen to the remarks either of myself or of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls).

Captain W. Elliot

On a point of order. Is there any significance about the simultaneous arrival of yourself in the Chair, Mr. Irving, and the arrival of the Patronage Secretary on the Front Bench?

Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I cannot say more on that subject.

Sir D. Glover

I was explaining, Sir Sydney, why my constituents, certainly the Tories among them, are somewhat glad that the Home Secretary has taken this action. But I do not think that this is the way the House of Commons should approach these matters. That is the nub of my argument for the Amendments and the power they would bestow.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Does not my hon. Friend think it timely, in view of what we can see in the Chamber, that the Patronage Secretary should be reminded that the hon. Members for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) and Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) have started to enter into the discussion and should be allowed to continue it?

Sir D. Glover

If I can remain in order by replying to that intervention, Sir Sydney, perhaps I can merely comment that the so-called Patronage Secretary has surely had a salutary lesson in how the Committee reacts. So I do not think that he has come into the Chamber to curtail our very important discussions, but to listen and learn from the weighty arguments for the Amendments.

I was citing the case of my own constituency and, perhaps, if I were to be given the powers that lie in this Bill, I would naturally do the things which would be most favourable to my party in my constituency. We heard speeches from hon. Members making constituency points. We are not children, Sir Sydney. Let us be honest; we are politicians and, naturally, politicians basically want to get the situation most favourable to them.

Mr. Roebuck

Speak for yourself.

Sir D. Glover

I will speak for the hon. Member, as well. If the hon. Member wishes to contribute he can follow me and make a powerful case to refute my arguments. He need not intervene from a sedentary position, which seems to be his favourite posture [Interruption.] He is so uncertain of his seat that he does not want to leave it for a moment to make a speech.

The Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to the Amendment. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I do not share the honour with him of being a knight.

Sir D. Glover

I think that I may now be permitted to refer to the Amendment, Mr. Irving. May I say that I did not think that you had the title of "Sir", but my hon. Friends assured me that you had, and I was a bit embarrassed as to whether to call you one thing or the other. Knowing your supreme talents, I felt sure that my hon. Friends were right.

I apologise very sincerely, because I certainly would not try to make a joke at your expense. I hope that you understand. I will now revert to calling you Mr. Irving, which, I must say comes off my tongue much more easily. If I can be frank, the Home Secretary's proposals are very popular with the Conservatives, as what he is doing is favourable to the Conservative Party in Ormskirk. It means that my constituency will not be affected and that I will be here, and that the Prime Minister, with luck, will be here in the next Parliament.

If the proposals of the Boundary Commission had been carried out neither of us could have been here—it would have been a marginal business for both of us. However, the relevant point is that when I became the Member for my constituency it had an electorate of 53,000. Today, it has nearly 80,000 and as a result of what the Home Secretary is doing, before the next review it will almost certainly be over 100,000—it will have doubled in 25 years.

This cannot be the right way to run our electoral system. It must be gerrymandering, or "Callamandering", or whatever the word is. I do not agree with the recommendations of the Commission, but I would sooner accept what I consider to be a disastrous decision by the Commission about my constituency than have these decisions made on a political basis, as they will be made. On the whole, it is only too likely that a Boundary Commission, however carefully it carries out its activities, will make one or two mistakes. The House of Commons in the 1949 and 1958 Acts has given the Home Secretary—

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

Division No. 311.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Albu, Austen Eadie, Alex Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Edelman, Maurice Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Alldritt, Walter Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)
Anderson, Donald Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Archer, Peter Ellis, John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Armstrong, Ernest English, Michael Kelley, Richard
Ashley, Jack Ennals, David Kenyon, Clifford
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Ensor, David Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lawson, George
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Leadbitter, Ted
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Faulds, Andrew Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fernyhough, E. Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Barnes, Michael Finch, Harold Lee, John (Reading)
Barnett, Joel Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lestor, Miss Joan
Bence, Cyril Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lipton, Marcus
Bidwell, Sydney Foley, Maurice Lomas, Kenneth
Binns, John Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Loughlin, Charles
Bishop, E. S. Ford, Ben Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Blackburn, F. Forrester, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fowler, Gerry Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Fraser, John (Norwood) McBride, Neil
McCann, John
Boston, Terence Freeson, Reginald MacColl, James
Boyden, James Galpern, Sir Myer MacDermot, Niall
Bradley, Tom Gardner, Tony Macdonald, A. H.
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Ginsburg, David McGuire, Michael
Brooks, Edwin Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mackie, John
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Gregory, Arnold Mackintosh, John P.
Buchan, Norman Grey, Charles (Durham) Maclennan, Robert
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Cant, R. B, Hamling, William Manuel, Archie
Carmichael, Neil Hannan, William Mapp, Charles
Carter-Jones, Lewis Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marks, Kenneth
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Marquand, David
Coleman, Donald Haseldine, Norman Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Conlan, Bernard Hattersley, Roy Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hazell, Bert Mayhew, Christopher
Crawshaw, Richard Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Cronin, John Heffer, Eric S. Mendelson, John
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Henig, Stanley Millan, Bruce
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Miller, Dr. M. S.
Dalyell, Tam Hilton, W. S. Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hobden, Dennis Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hooley, Frank Molloy, William
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Moonman, Eric
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, John (Aberavon)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Howie, W. Moyle, Roland
Delargy, Hugh Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Dell, Edmund Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Albert
Dempsey, James Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Neal, Harold
Dewar, Donald Hughes, Roy (Newport) Newens, Stan
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hynd, John Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Dickens, James Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Norwood, Christopher
Dobson, Ray Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Oakes, Gordon
Doig, Peter Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Ogden, Eric
Driberg, Tom Janner, Sir Barnett O'Malley, Brian
Dunn, James A. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oram, Albert E.
Dunnett, Jack Jeger, George (Goole) Orme, Stanley
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Oswald, Thomas
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