§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 18, at end insert:Provided that if, in relation to any part of the United Kingdom, no such Order in Council is laid before Parliament before 1st May, 1972, the appropriate Boundary Commission shall at that date proceed to take into consideration the making of a report in respect of that part of the United Kingdom.The Amendment seeks to add a proviso at the end of subsection (3). Under the Bill as drafted, not only does no action fall to be taken on the Boundary Commissions' Reports, recently presented—indeed, they are to be ignored, and not acted upon—but the Government can wait at least another 10 years before laying Orders in Council as a prelude to asking Parliament to approve by Resolution of each House the next general review of parliamentary boundaries. That is my understanding of what the Bill contrives to do. The drafting of the Bill, and the cross-reference which it involves, are complicated matters, and are among the reasons why we regret the curtailment of discussion on the Bill.
But whatever the position may be, it is unsatisfactory. It means that outside Greater London and its periphery all constituencies in England and Wales will be fossilised within their 1954 boundaries, which are also mostly their present boundaries, apart from those nine favoured constituencies mentioned in the First Schedule to the Bill. Meanwhile, the anomalies to which so much attention was drawn by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the first day of the Committee stage will get worse each 49 year. We do not know what the population of Birmingham, Ladywood may be by 1979, but it has been falling very fast in recent years. We do not know by how much the population of Huyton will have grown.
Unless the Amendment is accepted, the anomalies will continue to get worse until 1979, or even until 1983—the mystic year 1984 was mentioned last week—but certainly in any general election taking place before 1984 there is a serious risk that we shall, in the main, be working on the 1954 boundaries. I submit that 25 to 30 years is too long to wait for readjustments which, in many cases, are already urgently needed, and the Amendment would rectify that.
The effect of the Amendment is clear from its terms. It means that if the Home Secretary does nothing to initiate a general review by 1st May, 1972, the Boundary Commissions for England and Wales respectively would automatically have to go ahead within the framework of the existing legislation. They would have to undertake a fresh general review, which might take three or four years, as the Home Secretary said on Second Reading, and then they would have to consider making their reports.
If any hon. Member finds the wordstake into consideration the making of a reportin the Amendment at all strange as a matter of drafting, I am able to assure him that it is technically correct. It follows the wording of the 1949 Act, as amended by the 1958 Act, and, indeed, one finds that sort of wording on page 2, in lines 37 and 38, where there is a reference totheir intention to consider the making of a report…thus the Amendment is perfectly sound from the drafting and technical point of view.
If the Amendment were accepted, we would have a fresh general review by the Boundary Commissions available not, alas, in time for the next General Election, but in time for the General Election after that, unless by some mischance, and improbably, as a result of the Government's gerrymandering, the next Parliament turned out to be a short one. The Amendment will ensure that the next general review is not postponed for ten 50 years or perhaps longer but that we shall have at least a hope of one in time for the General Election after next.
I would have thought that the Government would welcome an Amendment of this kind. It gets them off the hook of ignominy from which they are now suspended. In spite of the fact that we have been told that no Amendments, however reasonable and potent, will be accepted, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment in the spirit in which it is moved, give it favourable consideration, and not stick his toes in in the way that the Government have given us to understand they intend to do throughout the rest of these severely curtailed proceedings.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I support the Amendment and the argument of my right hon. and learned friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). In essence, we have had it before, and no doubt we shall continue to have it throughout the debate. Unless the Amendment is accepted the Bill leaves the initiative for instituting boundary reviews with the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman is a political animal. That being so, his decisions must be tinged at times with politics. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tainted."] Perhaps "tainted" is a better word.
As the Clause stands the initiative lies with the Home Secretary, who has to take a decisionas soon as it appears to him that it would not, by reason of the prospect of local government reorganization…be premature to do so".The effect of those words is still to leave the initiative with the Home Secretary to make a decision because he thinks that there is no likelihood of local government reorganisation. Such an initiative should not lie with a member of the Government.
We have always had an unwritten Constitution, but the Government have acted in such a way in these matters that we begin to wonder whether it is not time to have a written constitution in order to protect the rights of our citizens. If these matters are to be settled not by Boundary Commissions, but by the right hon. Gentleman in the way that he has settled these, it brings the whole system of the representation of people into disrepute. It brings the question into the sphere of 51 Government activities, where it should not be.
For those brief reasons I support the Amendment, which would take the initiative away from a politician and give it to a body that we can trust.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I saw you look first to your right, Mr. Irving, before calling me. That was natural, because it would help the conduct of these debates if, when an Amendment has been moved in reasonable terms, some indication of the view of the Government could be given at an early stage—a stage at which it would be possible for us to seek to analyse and discusss the arguments which the Government put forward.
The technique of sitting back until a late stage, making a speech and arranging for the Closure to be moved immediately thereafter, so that the speech cannot be answered, is a negation of good Parliamentary debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members opposite do not think that this is a House for debate, and that we should simply sit here until the Minister condescends to answer, and then have further discussion excluded, their ideas of Parliament differ very much from mine.
This is essentially an Amendment on which it is necessary to know at an early stage what the thinking of the Government is. We were told by no less a person than the Prime Minister—and it may none the less be true—that all this Redcliffe-Maud business would be duly enacted by the early 1970's. The Prime Minister told my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he was being unduly pessimistic in suggesting that it would be completed only in 1974. If that is right—if it is anywhere near right—it should be quite possible for the Home Secretary to accept the Amendment. We are told that the whole reason for this legislation is the undesirability of making changes before Redcliffe-Maud.
We know from the experience of recent Boundary Commissions that their researches take a considerable time. This is because of the careful and conscientious way in which they do their work and their willingness to listen to argument and 52 evidence before making their recommendations. Consequently, if the Prime Minister is right and my right hon. Friend is unduly pessimistic in estimating that it will be 1974 before Redcliffe-Maud is in operation, by 1972 the Boundary Commission should certainly be under way, if it is to come to conclusions as soon as possible after the actual operation of the Redcliffe-Maud reforms.
We all know from long experience of the reform of local government in London that when everything has been crystallised and the necessary legislation has been taken through Parliament a substantial period must be allowed to elapse before a new system of local government begins to operate, so as to allow time for the necessary readjustment. The more radical the changes the longer the period of readjustment required. If, therefore, Redcliffe-Maud is to be in operation in 1974 the form of the proposals will have to have been through this House certainly by 1971, which would mean that the Boundary Commissions would be able to proceed in 1972 on the basis of changes having been put into the form of legislation.
Taking the Government at their word, therefore, 1972 is about the latest date at which we could expect the Boundary Commissions to resume their interrupted labours. We come, therefore, to the point that if the Home Secretary is to resist this date because, he suggests, it may be too early—I cannot think of any other grounds that he is likely to put forward—we are driven to the conclusion that Redcliffe-Maud has nothing to do with the case because, on the showing of the Prime Minister, if Redcliffe-Maud be the reason it will be effectively far enough forward for the Boundary Commissions to be set to work in 1972, if not earlier.
I therefore suggest to the Home Secretary that the sooner he gives us his views on the Amendment the more productive will be the debate. On the face of it, a refusal to accept the Amendment—an effort to hold back the Boundary Commission's review beyond 1972—is wholly inconsistent with the reasons given by the Government for bringing the Bill forward.
I do not need to add—my right hon. and learned Friend has already done it so well—how unfortunate are the effects, as the years pass, of a longer delay in 53 the redistribution. The large seats get even larger and more unmanageable, the small ones wither away. The disparities and anomalies of representation, the difference in the value of one man's vote relatively to another's, grow year after year. Even the Home Secretary should want to keep this process as short as possible. He cannot really want the electoral system to become more and more anomalous and discredited as year follows year.
Therefore, I should have thought that he would welcome the Amendment, which at least secures that this long-delayed process of a proper review by the Boundary Commission would begin in 1972. If he resists this, it will be tantamount to saying that he himself does not believe that Redcliffe-Maud has anything to do with the case and that he would be rather surprised if we thought so.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.] The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) had better not be as unmannerly today as he was the other day, otherwise we will have a very poor debate—
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that I asked quietly across the Table when it was hoped that I should get up. I was told "Very soon," and I got up very soon.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I did not regard the sedentary manner of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interruption, nor the way in which he said it, nor the words he used, as being any encouragement at all to good relations in this debate.
I must tell the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that I will be happy to facilitate the Committee in any way I can by rising at what seems to me the proper moment. I did not think that it was right 54 to rise after one speech, but I agree that this need not be a long debate and I am happy to give my views now.
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon (Sir D. Renton) said that we might well have to wait as long as 10 years, or even 15, to 1979 or 1983, before the next redistribution report, and that a period of 25 to 30 years was much too long. I agree with him, and I can give the absolute assurance that we certainly shall not need to wait until 1979 or 1983 before the next redistribution report. I would expect it to come far more quickly than that.
As he said, under his Amendment, the Boundary Commission would have to go ahead by 1972 if, by that time, no Order in Council had been made by me asking it to do so. Under Clause 1(3), the obligation is laid on the Home Secretary to lay a draft Order in Council.…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…But what he would do is make the reactivation automatic. I do not deny that there is some attraction in fixing a date of this sort. The arguments adduced by him and by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames have a great deal of validity. This is because I think that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals are likely to be at an advanced stage by then.
However, as far as I can see the procedure, the Boundary Commission should be very well advanced in its consideration of these matters during the next three or four years. It will already have the experience of the present redistribution to build on. It will have that mass of information, although I have said already that, in the estimation of my advisers, there will be well over 90 constituencies which would have to be dedistibuted again, and that would have what I called a ripple effect on other constituencies, so that as many as 150 or 200 might be affected.
Nevertheless, the Commission will have a considerable residue of experience from the present redistribution to build on, and I have little doubt, from the way that these matters are conducted, that it will begin its preparations quite a long time in advance. By the time the new local authorities are set up, it may well be able 55 to begin very early consultations with them or, more likely, to publish a report.
Indeed, a report might be published based on the Boundary Commission's analysis of the proper constituencies at a time which would be very close indeed to that of the setting up of the new local authorities, and there need be very little lapse of time indeed or difference in time between the setting up of the local authorities and another report by the Boundary Commission.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
As I understand his argument, the right hon. Gentleman is relying on the words in Clause 1(3)(a), "as soon as it appears to him". There is a large number of areas in which the current Boundary Commission recommendations are in no way affected by Redcliffe-Maud. Why are they not included in the Bill, if it is really his intention to move forward as soon as it is clear that the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud Committee will not clash with the work of the Boundary Commission?
§ Mr. Callaghan
So that the Boundary Commission shall be free to review the whole of the areas throughout the United Kingdom in the light of the new Redcliffe-Maud proposals. We do not know how the boundaries are to be drawn. This is an interesting proposition. We do not know how they will emerge and we want the Commission to be entirely free.
However, if the hon. Gentleman is right, and the number will not be altered from what it is now or from what we can see from Redcliffe-Maud, that will make the Boundary Commission's task that much easier. It seems to me that, soon after the new local authorities are established, the Boundary Commission, I think, will want to produce its report and then hear the representations made to it by local authorities and others and then to produce its final recommendations.
So I do not think that we need assume that we have automatically—indeed, it is clear that we shall not wait until 1983—[Laughter.] There is nothing funny about that. We shall not wait until 1983 to get a new report from the Boundary Commission. I should have thought that it would be 10 years earlier, in 1973 56 rather than 1983. That would be my view of the progress of events.
§ Mr. Clegg
As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he was saying that the Boundary Commission would come along as soon as the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations began to take shape and then said that the Commission could listen to the objections of local authorities. But some of these local authorities would not then have been set up, so how could they be heard?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I would not regard it as proper to lay an Order in Council at such a time that the Commission could not consult the local authorities. That must obviously be part of the exercise. I should not refer to them "consulting" but to "hearing representations from" the local authorities. It would not be proper to lay an Order in Council until the local authorities existed and therefore could make such representations.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames that this will be at quite an early stage. I would expect it, therefore, to take place certainly in the 1970s, in the first part of the 1970s. Therefore, although there is quite a case for fixing a date, we may be able to get to work earlier. On the other hand, it is conceivable that some local authorities might not be in existence by then and it would be advisable to fix a date at such a time that they will all be in existence so that they can make the necessary representations.
I do not reject the thinking behind the Amendment, but I would prefer not to put a date into the Bill but to leave the Order in Council to be brought forward at the earliest moment which seems consistent with local government reorganisation and which would not be premature arising out of it.
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) thinks that matters should be left to the Boundary Commission. They will be left to them in England and Wales. The Commission has fixed boundaries for London and we now propose to put them into force. It will again fix the parliamentary boundaries arising out of the new local government boundaries and there will be no interference in that sense. What we have always been discussing and are 57 discussing is at what time those new boundaries should come into force.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire that 25 to 30 years is too long, although it used to be the common pattern for it to be 25 to 30 years. I think that that is too long and on this occasion it will be nothing like that length of time.
An argument has been advanced about disparity in voting. That disparity has existed for a very long time both between country and town and between town and town, and it would exist even if the Boundary Commission's proposals were put into force; there would still be constituencies one nearly twice as large as another, so that one man's vote was worth twice as much as another man's vote. Even if we were to put those recommendations into force we should still not give the same value to every vote.
I recall that during the last General Election the Conservatives had a minority vote in 129 of the seats which they won, Labour had a minority vote in 43 and the Liberals had a minority vote in 11. How can we say that votes are exactly equal when the Conservatives were elected on a minority vote in 129 constituencies? But I do not wish to carry that argument too far, as it is outside the scope of the Amendment.
While I do not object to the idea of a date, I think it preferable to leave the position flexible so that an Order in Council may be introduced at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Boundary Commission cannot usefully begin their work until the new local authorities under the Redcliffe-Maud Report are established?
§ Mr. Deedes
There has always seemed to me the likelihood of a long interval between the fixing of boundaries, after which we shall know roughly where we stand, and the vesting day on which new local authorities will come into existence. Why cannot the Boundary Commission start work after the first phase rather than after the second phase?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I feel that I did not make myself clear. I thought that I had 58 made clear what I expected would happen. I said that the Boundary Commission could get ahead and do a lot of preparatory work before the local authorities had been established on the ground. Once the boundaries have been decided and Parliament has passed the Act, there will be no reason at all why the Boundary Commission should not get ahead without waiting for local authorities to be in existence. I do not think that there is any difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself.
§ Mr. Deedes
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to feel that unless there were new local authorities in existence to whom representations could be made, the exercise could not begin.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. Gentleman knows from his experience in the Home Office that much preparatory work goes on before the tip of the iceberg appears above the surface of the water. The Boundary Commission could do a great part of the work which goes on before public representations were made to it about its report. I can see circumstances arising in which the establishment on the ground of the offices of the new local authorities was followed very quickly by the publication of a new Boundary Commission report because the Commission would have done all the preparatory work before the local authorities were set up.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
The Home Secretary made his reply to the Amendment, so persuasively moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), in moderate terms—perhaps a moderation uncharacteristic of the speeches which he was delivering last week.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
His speeches may have sounded different from that side of the House. They sounded moderate to us in one sense, but not in the sense in which I was using the word—the sense of being temperate. If the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) is using the term "moderate" in the sense of being inferior in point of excellence, that is a different matter and I could well be disposed to accept that argument.
59 I welcome the more moderate and more temperate tone of the Home Secretary's speech, but I think that perhaps it was imposed upon him by the weakness of his case. In his admirable speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) prognosticated that there could be only one point of reply which the right hon. Gentleman was likely to make—that the date given in the Amendment was too early. In fact, as I understood him, that was not the main point of the right hon. Gentleman's reply. The main point appeared to be that it made no difference on the time scale and that, as it would make no difference, as Home Secretary he would like the benefit of the form which he has chosen and which he is pleased to call the more flexible form.
Do we want in important Acts of Parliament what the Home Secretary calls the more flexible form as it appears in the unamended version of the Bill? Clause 1(3) places a duty upon the Home Secretary to lay before Parliament a draft Order in Councilas 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;".There are some words in the operative part of the subsection which are imprecise and which are capable of subjective evaluation. "As it appears to him"—that means that the test is the length of the Home Secretary's foot, to adapt the old phrase about equity. He is given an absolute discretion, and it could not be challenged. Unless he could be convicted of bad faith, anything which "appeared to him" in the exercise of his administrative discretion would stand up on challenge in the courts. That is a very wide subjective control for a Home Secretary.
The next imprecise wording isthe prospect of local government reorganisation there".Again, that is an imprecise term of which the Home Secretary is to be the sole judge, as if he saysone step enough for meand doesnot ask to see the distant scene"."Prospect" is left in imprecise terms and he is left as judge of it. I notice that the 60 Home Secretary is regarding me with some complacency as I give him this catalogue of the powers which he would have if he were still Home Secretary and which would not be open to challenge.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That was not the point. The point about which I was rather frowning at the right hon. and learned Gentleman was that I thought that the words in the subsection help the prospect of an early consideration because they refer tothe prospect of local government reorganisation.They do not say that the prospect has to be fulfilled or that every local authority should be set up. Provided that there is a reasonable prospect of that taking place, he has the power, if he feels it appropriate to lay the Order in Council.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to paraphrase and interpret the Clause, but if he does so he must do so accurately. The words used are not "a reasonable prospect". If they were "a reasonable prospect", and it were a matter of objective test and objective fact, there might well be something to be said for it, but that is not what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, in fact, it is the prospect of local government reorganisation which has deferred the acceptance of the Boundary Commission's report?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I agree with that proposition.
The third word of imprecision is "premature", which is again left to the subjective assessment of the Home Secretary and is again unsatisfactory for that reason. If we are to accept that, in substance, this will not make any material difference to the calendar and that we are merely electing between two different forms of test—what the right hon. Gentleman called the flexible test and what we have described as the more precise test—it would be advantageous to accept the Amendment because it would add certainty to the matter and to the calendar, which the right hon. Gentleman says is probable in any event.
I am at a loss to see why the right hon. Gentleman objects to the Amendment. At the very least he should wish 61 to import into the subsection an objective test based on the assessment which he has made and the considerations he has put to the Committee. But he cannot do this because he has guillotined the Bill and thus has no time to make such a proposal. It is out of his power to improve the Bill in this way, although he owes it to the country to improve the Bill by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I am grateful for those welcoming cheers from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who will appreciate that I have been in my place for most of the discussion of the Bill. I hope that they will cheer me when I have got into my speech.
The temperate tone of the debate is appropriate to the important subject which we are discussing. Temperance has been the hallmark of my right hon. Friend's comments throughout these proceedings, echoed occasionally in speeches by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but only occasionally.
For example, I recall the speech of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), which I thought was the best speech made from the benches opposite in support of the Government's proposals. Unfortunately, when I attempted on several occasions to intervene in the hon. Gentleman's remarks, as he spoke of regional and local problems, at least 40 hon. Gentlemen opposite bayed at me and did not permit me to congratulate him. I had uttered only two words when they shouted "Too long". Of course, they did not want me to congratulate their colleague, who was arguing exactly for what my right hon. Friend is proposing.
§ Sir D. Renton
On a point of order. Would it not be of greater value if the hon. Gentleman were to address his remarks to what has arisen on this Amendment, rather than to what occurred in previous debates?
§ Mr. Mendelson
Before you reply to that point of order, Mr. Irving, I trust that you will recall that the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) spoke of the quality of the speeches that had been made, particularly by my right hon. 62 Friend. I trust that I am in order in commenting, albeit briefly, on the same subject.
I wanted to support the remarks of the hon. Member for Tavistock, because he spoke of the uncertainty in regional and local problems. This matter is relevant to the Amendment. We are discussing the contrast between a demand for stipulating a date and my right hon. Friend's reply about there being uncertainty over the situation. This is why he wants some flexibility.
I believe that it would not be wise at this stage to ignore the difficulties mentioned by the hon. Member for Tavistock, including the problems of economic affairs, employment problems and local government and regional arrangements. These problems will be in the melting pot during the coming two, three or four years and whatever we do at a later stage at the hustings, we do not want to bring propaganda into the subject now before the Committee. I trust, therefore, that we will discuss this issue seriously and with moderation.
If, during the next two or three years, the discussions over proposals for local government reform have got under way, I do not expect that the proposals in the Redcliffe-Maud Report will be implemented in their entirety, exactly as they are. In the process of consultation new ideas will be suggested and changes will no doubt be introduced. Some of the proposals will be accepted in their entirety, while others will be amended. We are, therefore, faced with a situation of some uncertainty, which is what my right hon. Friend described.
There is to be local government reorganisation and it is commonsense to argue that rather than have two redistributions within a period of five years— remembering all the upheaval that even one involves—we should allow for a degree of flexibility. I regret the alarming statements which appeared in the Sunday Press and which some hon. Gentlemen opposite made over the weekend—of the prospect of it being 1979 or 1983 before anything more is done. I object to their propaganda talk of 1984 and so on.
Those who have followed this matter and know what may happen in the next few years appreciate that propaganda 63 points of this sort are of no value. We are discussing a commonsense problem of how the House of Commons should arrange these matters in a practical way.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)
If we accept the practical point of view which the hon. Gentleman has advanced, would he explain why we are establishing new police forces and new passenger transport authorities and so on which will be completely incompatible with Maud? Is he aware that we should wait until Redcliffe-Maud has been implemented before making these changes?
§ Mr. Mendelson
A long dissertation about amalgamating police forces would soon put me out of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] If, on a later Amendment, I am able to discuss this matter, or if I can do so on Third Reading, I will be delighted to develop it.
We are considering a straightforward proposition. My right hon. Friend is simply saying that there should be flexibility in the Home Secretary's hands. After all, we should not talk in terms of the Boundary Commissioners deciding what Parliament must do. Indeed, I would be worried if anybody suggested that any Government must arrange the detailed composition of constituencies or anything else because of what is proposed.
My right hon. Friend explained that the Boundary Commission makes proposals. I have always understood the power of the House of Commons to be straightforward in this matter. We do not automatically accept what the Commissioners propose, any more than we accept the proposals of other groups. If we had to accept their proposals, they would not be proposals but decisions, and the House of Commons would then be abrogating its power to make decisions.
While a great deal of the work could be advanced, because of the ripple effect many constituencies would be seriously involved and it would be much better to wait and see how we get on. Assuming that some advance in the reorganisation of local government will be made in the early 1970s, and that much of the work is now preparatory, the date can be left to the decision of the Home Secre- 64 tary as a matter of commonsense. He would then be under an obligation to make a decision within those three or four years. That seems to be a sensible way of looking at the matter.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member extolls flexibility, but does he think that with any Government it is desirable for flexibility to be attained by giving such wide discretion to a Minister who is bound to be a politician?
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman asks a strictly relevant question and I welcome it. I do not accept what he says about this being a wide power. That is a propaganda term which has grown up during the last five days of debate. [Laughter]. Hon. Members may laugh, but that is the precise area of disagreement on the Amendment. It does not involve wide over-riding power, because limitations are set by the progress in the implementation of the new local government reforms and by the work which can be started when the local government boundaries have been announced, but before vesting day for the new authorities. It is not a wide power and it was circumscribed by my right hon. Friend this afternoon.
The difference between the Amendment and what my right hon. Friend proposes is very narrow, and that seems a good reason for supporting the Home Secretary.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
That was the first time for a long time that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has supported the Government, but I do not know that he helped the Government's case.
This afternoon the Home Secretary gave my right hon. and learned Friend the whole of his case for the Amendment. The basis of the Home Secretary's refusal of the Amendment was that our fears were groundless, that local government reorganisation was shortly to take place, at the most within a matter of two years—conveniently probably covering the period of the next General Election —so that this was not gerrymandering, but merely a commonsense approach.
If that is the right hon. Gentleman's sincere view, as this is a democratic assembly where there are bound to be 65 party divisions and suspicion on the Opposition side, if the right hon. Gentleman wants to be conciliatory, I do not understand why he does not accept the Amendment. That would prove that the right hon. Gentleman means what he says.
I do not believe that he does, and this is where the division between us occurs. He spoke as though the Redcliffe-Maud proposals were virtually a cut and dried scheme and that, after brief consultations, they would be implemented by Parliament and in operation by 1972 or thereabouts. Anybody who says that does not know what he is talking about, for this is the tenderest plant in the political field.
The Redcliffe-Maud proposals are about the total reorganisation of local government. If democracy is to work, there will have to be consultations between the present local authorities and those who may become the new authorities, and those consultations will be long, protracted, acrimonious and hurtful. If the Government are not to ride roughshod over the democratic principle, they would be wise to allow those consultations to go on for some time. If they do not, they will again be flouting the democratic principle.
It is not enough to produce the right system what is important is to convince people that it is the right system. Nobody who knows anything about politics would deny that in any place in the country, chosen by sticking a pin in a map, one could make out a strong case against the recommendations of the Royal Commission. That is why it is much more likely that the Bill to implement the proposals will not come before Parliament until about 1975 or 1976, much more likely than 1972, and that validates our worries. We shall be dealing with boundary changes which will not become operative until the 1980s, and this is the fulcrum of the whole of our argument.
If the right hon. Gentleman believes that there is nothing in our argument, that it is invalidated by experience, he should now accept the Amendment and set our fears at rest. That would show his sincerity. If he does not accept the Amendment, and he does not have time to introduce one of his own, we must continue to believe that the Bill is designed for changes not for two or three years, but for 10 years or even more.
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
Will the Home Secretary take the Committee a little further into his confidence? This is a problem to which he must have given much thought and attention. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I myself was involved in considerable negotiations with local authorities in Scotland about some changes a few years ago. They accepted that change was needed and they got down to doing some work.
The present Secretary of State set up a Royal Commission, after a hiccough in the negotiations, and it was hoped that that Royal Commission would report last autumn. It still has not done so. That indicates, if nothing else, the size of the problems inherent in changes of this sort. That being so, it follows necessarily that once the report is produced, there will be a long period of great controversy.
That will be simply about where the boundaries are to go. The Home Secretary will know that that, however, is only the first part of the problem. Once the boundaries have been decided, and that often involves contentious decisions, one has to consider the whole problem of how the new authorities within the new boundaries are to be financed, and this is a subject which the Commission did not even begin to consider. A great deal of work will have to be done on that subject, too.
As I see it, therefore, there is a very real problem concerning the period which must develop between the time when the Royal Commissions report and the time that any Government could begin to formulate policy and decide to take action. I would guess that for any Government which wants to act in a democratic and sensible way—it would be disastrous for the whole of Government and local government if it were otherwise this must involve a delay for discussions, arguments and representations of about two and a half to three years.
Once one has accepted that—and I do not think that the Home Secretary would disagree—there is the question of parliamentary drafting and getting the Bill in proper form. I think I am right in saying that the last Local Government Bill, in 1929, was one of several hundred Clauses. This is a technical feat for the 67 Parliamentary draftsmen. I am not sure that they have speeded up at all in the last 40 years. A period of perhaps eight or nine months would be necessary to get a Bill of that sort drafted and through the various legislative committees which, I hope, all Governments regard as necessary before the Bill is presented to the House.
Therefore, there would inevitably be a period of between three and a half and five years at the minimum before this House could see a Bill and pass it, and it will not be an easy Bill to get through.
If I am wrong, I hope that the Home Secretary will correct me, but that is what is normally expected of a Bill of that character and with the discussions which are necessary before it is produced. If I am right, the earliest that the Bill could come before the House is probably 1974. If that is so, we are playing with words in talking about the early part of the 1970s. It will be marginally just before the halfway mark. I do not think that I am in any way exaggerating.
By all means let the Boundary Commission start its work in 1973 or in whatever period the final pattern looks like being reasonably crystallised. Surely, however, the Home Secretary is not saying that the Boundary Commission can finalise its recommendations to this House until vesting date after that. I do not know what the Home Secretary's ideas are, but he must have his own ideas. I do not think that he has been entirely fair to the Committee in giving the sort of dates which he thinks are reasonable and proper.
Everybody appreciates that there must be a period between the passing of the Bill by Parliament and the setting up of the new local authorities, and it is only after vesting date that the Boundary Commission can finish its task. We are not, therefore, talking about a decision which is likely to come for new Boundary Commission proposals in the early part of the 1970s. The Home Secretary would be much more honest if he told us that, at very best, we will not get the new Commission's proposals before 1977, which is already in the period which he considers too long, and, therefore, accepted the Amendment. That is the only honest thing to do and I hope that he will be able to do it.
§ Mr. Speed
The Home Secretary was more than somewhat bogus in his arguments and perhaps we can dispose of one of them straight away. Whereas during the weekend Ministers were using the bogus argument about minority votes and all the rest, we are arguing on the rules as laid down in the 1945, 1949 and 1958 Acts. If the Government wish to adopt the ideas of the Liberals or of anyone else on proportional representation, they are entitled to bring them forward for discussion. At the moment, however, we are operating on the earlier Acts.
It is a fact that since the war no Government, including the 1945 Labour Government, which has been elected has had a majority of the votes cast. They have all been minority Governments with less than 50 per cent. of the votes cast. Therefore, let us scrap that bogus, spurious argument, which has nothing to do with the current debate. The current debate concerns the changing of the rules without consulting the political parties, the Boundary Commission or anybody else, apart, possibly, from the chief agent in Transport House—and the Prime Minister told us that she had been consulted some months back.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member should give us the source for that remark. I do not believe it to be true.
§ Mr. Speed
The right hon. Gentleman may remember that when the Prime Minister was answering, he said that he had discussed with the most experienced national agent he knew the effect of the Boundary Commission's proposals throughout the country. I presume that he was not referring to the chief agent in Conservative Central Office. If he was, I willingly withdraw.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) has been through the mathematics. Let us look at it in detail, because this is germane to the date of 1972. There is, first, the question of when the Redcliffe-Maud Report will be implemented. If the Home Secretary—or any hon. Member—were to come to the West Midlands, he would find that a furious debate is going on about the whole of those proposals. Indeed, many local authorities and their officials to 69 whom I have spoken are rather more inclined to favour Mr. Senior's proposals than the majority Report of the Commission. Be that as it may, there must obviously be full consultation and discussion.
I will give one example. If the Redcliffe-Maud proposals were to be implemented—and implemented, presumably, in the near future—they would mean that in the Birmingham metropolitan district, instead of having one councillor for roughtly each 9,000 electors, there would be one councillor for each 17,500 electors. For my constituency, this would mean one and a half councillors representing about 12 villages over a wide rural district serving on the Birmingham council. That is why the arguments are going on. I agree with my hon. Friends who say that it is unlikely that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals will be implemented in the near future.
If the Redcliffe-Maud proposals are implemented later and then the Orders in Council are laid, according to subsection (2,b) the Boundary Commission then has four years in which to submit its report. We know that for the present proposals the Commission started work nearly four years ago. It takes about four years to get the results through when there is a major redistribution. It may be possible to cut down somewhat, although I doubt it on a major exercise of this sort. Even if the Redcliffe-Maud proposals were implemented by 1972–73, which is a grossly optimistic date, that still takes us up to 1975, 1976 or 1977. That is why, in some ways, the Amendment may not go far enough.
There is, however, another point concerning redistribution. It has been possible under existing legislation, as is the case under the Bill, that redistribution proposals cannot be implemented until the following General Election. No one knows when the following election will be. If we are working on the present situation, we may have an election in the autumn of 1970, possibly another in 1974–75 and the next one would be likely to be in 1978–79. Therefore, even if all these things were tied up by 1976–77, we must wait until about 1978–79 before they will be implemented, and any by-elections which are fought up to the date of that General Election will still be on the old boundaries.
70 The Home Secretary will know, and I hope that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) will know, that by that time there will be a large number of constituencies, including mine, which will have 150,000-plus electors. This cannot be acceptable to anyone. If the right hon. Gentleman argues that it is only a question of time and that the Maud proposals will be implemented by 1976–77, he must accept the Amendment. If, on his own admission, there must be full consultation and that it may be some time before the Redcliffe-Maud Report is implemented, we come back to what we on this side have been saying for a long time, namely, that it will be 10 years before there is redistribution.
I draw the attention of the Home Secretary to paragraph 39 on page 7 of the Report of the Boundary Commission for England, which states:We cannot, however, escape the fact that the intention of the present law is that a general review shall form the basis of constituency boundaries for at least the next ten years.…We are now talking in terms of 1978 to 1979. If, as the Commission says, the present law will cover the situation for the next 10 years, it seems to me, making an optimistic assessment, and to many commentators, that by the end of that time we shall have another redistribution.
The only way to stop the inconvenience of redistribution is to stop people moving about. We have great new developments like Milton Keynes and new towns in Lancashire. We have large overspill populations. We all want to improve the housing situation in our great cities. I do not think that the Government are prepared to accept the Amendment. They were not even prepared to accept Amendments allowing for interim reports. The Boundary Commission's proposals should be implemented straight away. If that cannot be done, as a second best, the Amendment proposes a trigger date. If it is not accepted, the whole matter will be left at the discretion of the Minister. Unless something like the Amendment is accepted, it will be 1978 or 1979 before a General Election is fought with redistributed seats, by which time the situation in many constituencies will be intolerable.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
The Home Secretary deployed 71 some remarkable arguments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) said, he referred to the fact that on previous occasions Conservative Members had been returned on minority votes and that on other occasions even Governments had been returned to power on minority votes. The fact that an existing electoral set-up, arrived at by an independent Commission, favours one party rather than another is no excuse for the other party embarking on a unilateral book-cooking operation such as the one on which the Government have resolved to embark.
Unless the Amendment is accepted, we could be in the 1980s before we fight a General Election taking into account population changes which have taken place since 1954. The Home Secretary said, "Do not worry. It will be all right on the day". Although by the Bill the Government are taking powers to delay any changes to the boundaries which can affect an election until the 1980s, the right hon. Gentleman says, "You need not worry because in our judgment is will be possible to carry out the local government boundary changes in the early 1970s and as soon as that is done we can go ahead with the Parliamentary boundary changes". In effect, he is saying, "Trust me. Although the Bill gives me power to delay the changes until the late 1970s, they will take place in the early 1970s".
My answer is that we do not trust the right hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that anybody on this side of the Committee trusts him in view of the Government's conduct since the introduction of the Bill so short a time ago. We should be concerned not with what the Minister says he may do within the framework of the legal powers in the Bill, but with what power should be given to the Minister bearing in mind what has gone on in recent weeks.
I agree entirely with what has been said about the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. I know of the opposition to them in my part of the country and I am sure that it will grow. It is foolhardy and disingenuous to suggest that those proposals will be implemented by any Government in the early years of the 1970s. If the Bill is not amended, we shall give the Government of the day powers to postpone boundary revisions until a General 72 Election in the early 1980s. Goodness knows what population changes will have taken place by then. The electorate in the Ladywood division of Birmingham may be only 10,000 strong by that time. The Labour pocket boroughs in Manchester and Liverpool will be perhaps 5,000 strong apiece.
It is outrageous seriously to put forward an argument of administrative convenience, as the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) did. We on this side of the Committee are concerned to ensure that the electoral system reflects, as far as possible, the aspirations of the people and that, by and large, "one man, one vote" means just that. That is more important than questions of administrative convenience and the upset which would follow as a result of one Boundary Commission having to consider these matters fairly shortly after another.
Nobody thinks that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have anything to do with the Government's decision. It is obvious to anyone of the meanest intellect that they have no relevance. We continually hear from the Home Secretary about the ripple effects which there will be in no fewer than 90 constituencies. It is remarkable that the only person who can see that number of ripples is the Home Secretary. Informed observers throughout the country talk in terms of 10 or 20 constituencies.
I invite the Committee to think seriously before allowing the Bill to go forward unamended, because it undoubtedly gives power to postpone necessary changes in the Parliamentary boundaries, not until 1972 or 1974 or until after the date when the Home Secretary says that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals will have been implemented, but until the late 1970s and possibly until it is far too late for them to influence a General Election in the 1970s.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
It was not my intention to participate in this debate but, because of the misunderstanding on the Opposition benches I think that it would be helpful perhaps if I joined my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) in trying to assist the Committee to understand the issues.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) took up the 73 point made by an hon. Member opposite in an intervention during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, namely, that a large number of constituencies will be unaffected by the RedcliffeMaud Report. This is a remarkable statement because it seems to indicate that some hon. Members opposite have already decided, without any democratic process of consultation with local authorities or debate on the Report in the House of Commons, that the proposals in the majority report are to be implemented without the views of outside bodies being considered.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I can only advise the hon. Gentleman to re-read HANSARD and study what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister has, quite rightly, said that the Government accept the wide proposals for the reorganisation of local government based upon larger units. What he did not do was to accept the areas of local government suggested by the majority report.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I am coming to that. My argument is that it is not possible to say with any finality or precision which areas will or will not be affected with the Redcliffe-Maud Report.
The Home Secretary has referred to the hon. Gentleman's constituency as being affected by two of the unitary areas suggested in the majority report. It may be that after due consultation with local authorities and after debate the House may adopt Mr. Senior's minority Report which will set up 148 unitary councils. On the other hand, after consultation, we may find that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency there may be more or less than two unitary authorities.
We do not know, and this is the kernel of the Government's case. The essence of the case is that it is because there is this state of flux in local government areas 74 that it would be folly to reorganise the parliamentary constituencies. In my judgment and in that of those who try to look at this matter dispassionately, putting aside the need, which we understand, of the Opposition to generate political heat in the last two or three weeks of the Session, this is correct. We understand that the Opposition want to cause a good deal of fuss about this before the House goes into the Summer Recess. I understand why there is this "phoney" battle, but let us try to put aside such things and concentrate on the real issues.
§ Mr. Waddington
The hon. Gentleman said that anything may happen following the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. Presumably he means that perhaps nothing will happen. If nothing happens, how can it be a good excuse for postponing Boundary Commission changes?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman must listen to the argument. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) intervened to remind us of what the Prime Minister had said. My right hon. Friend said that the one thing we do accept is that there will be some reorganisation, because there is a clear case for larger units. I cannot understand how the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) can continue to make such silly points.
It is desirable that parliamentary constituencies should, as far as possible, conform to local government boundaries. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) intervened during my right hon. Friend's speech to ask when it would be proper for the Boundary Commission to start looking at constituencies. He asked whether it would be when the new local authorities had actually taken office, after vesting date, or whether it could be in the interim period. I was delighted to hear the Home Secretary say that it could be after the Bill for local government reorganisation has passed through this House and we know what the boundaries would be.
This is precisely what happened in London. After the London Government Bill had passed through the House the local authorities joined together in consultative committees. I had the pleasure of serving on the consultative committee for what was then Borough No. 18 under 75 the terms of the London Government Act. Under that committee the re-warding of the London Borough No. 18 took place. The Boundary Commissioners, in this report, have followed almost to the letter the re-warding that took place then in their recommendations for Greater London. I assume that exactly the same procedure will take place.
We will not have to wait until 1980 or 1985 for a General Election to be fought upon the new Parliamentary boundaries. This is a complete distortion of the situation. I can recall the situation over the Greater London area. I remember the Bill going through the House. What was the timetable between the publication of the Herbert Commission Report and the implementation of that report? When we are talking about reorganisation it is fair to use this as a comparison. The report was published in 1961 and the Bill was before the House in 1963.
It is worth recalling that the speed between the publication of the report and its implementation was assisted by the use of the Guillotine by the Party opposite on Report and upon consideration of Lords Amendments. This is why a lot of us think that the argument about this Bill is so "phoney", particularly when it comes from hon. Members opposite who ruthlessly used the Guillotine to decimate local authority areas in Greater London.
If that was the situation under the Tory Government, even without the same degree of ruthless determination that the party opposite showed in destroying London government, it is possible that before 1972–73 we shall have a Bill before the House. If my right hon. Friends form the next Government, I am sure that, unless there is patent obstruction, such as we are witnessing over this Bill, it will not be necessary to follow the disgraceful example of using the Guillotine so much on local government reform.
It is clear that the next General Election after the one which will be held shortly, in another 18 to 20 months, could be fought on new Parliamentary boundaries. It would be possible to have the Redcliffe-Maud proposals through the House without the use of the Guillotine, possibly, and the interim period between 1971 and 1972 being used by the local 76 authoities for consultation and re-warding. Concurrently the Boundary Commission could be considering the situation and we could have a recasting of Parliamentary boundaries not long after the implementation of local government reform in England.
If this is the case then I believe the whole argument, which most people realise to be "phoney", for the reasons I have already stated, and a little letting off of political steam before the Recess, falls to the ground, because we shall not be going into the '80s or 1985 with these old Parliamentary boundaries. I therefore hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment and that we shall be able to pass swiftly on to other, more interesting, Amendments awaiting our consideration.
§ [SIR BARNETT JANNER in the Chair]
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Corfield
The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has said, in effect, that the argument that a large number of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission could be implemented as of now without interfering with the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations indicates that we are assuming that the Redcliffe-Maud Report would be implemented without any form of amendment. He must realise that in large parts of these areas the Boundary Commission's recommendations do not cut across borders but come in the middle or on the peripheries of great cities. No one, by the most extreme stretch of imagination, really imagines that any local government reform will cut across great cities where the small constituencies are and where the peripheries are part of an urban conurbation.
It is absolutely bogus to use that argument. All the hon. Member was doing by suggesting that there probably will have to be various modifications of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals was to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), who drew attention to the fact that these matters are notoriously controversial, not merely between parties but within parties and constituencies, and they do take a very long time.
The hon. Member said that the Herbert Committee reported in 1961, but this idea of local government reform had been rumbling along before then, and there had been controversy and discussion 77 about it since 1948. The hon. Member said the Herbert Committee reported in 1961 and we had the Bill in 1963; but we did not have the G.L.C. functioning, as far as I can recall, until the beginning of 1965. I would put it to him, when he talks about ideas for local government reform, that what is important and very far-reaching is its possible effects on the future careers and pension arrangements of local government staff involved.
In the London Government Act we did not abolish the whole concept of the London boroughs and the like, but what the Redcliffe-Maud Report is proposing is the abolition of the whole concept of rural districts and urban districts and municipal boroughs, and all this will bring an enormous problem of making reasonably fair arrangements for those local authority officials who will be redundant.
§ Mr. Corfield
I will later. If the hon. Member will study the map attached to Mr. Senior's report he will see that in most of the great cities there is no prospect whatever of the Boundary Commission's proposals conflicting with the Redcliffe-Maud Report, or Mr. Senior's Report.
We have had far too many of these entirely "phoney" arguments from the other side. The Home Secretary himself talked about—
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Before the hon. Member leaves Greater London, will he recall that well over 100 local authorities were completely wiped out in the London area to make way for 32 boroughs, and for the local government officers and staff those considerations applied?
§ Mr. Corfield
No. If I recall rightly—I stand to be corrected—there was practically no case in which the new boundaries cut through the old local authorities. There were amalgamations into greater ones.
The Home Secretary raised the question of people being elected on minority votes. He knows as well as I do that 78 this depends on the number of constituencies in which there is intervention by third parties—and it is the Liberal Party which is mainly responsible for those. It depends upon the number of Liberal candidates, and if the Liberal Party has more candidates in the field—
§ Mr. Corfield
I will give way in a moment—and happens to put some into seats which ultimately want to be Conservative this has an effect, and I hope the Liberals will go on doing it in my area, for it helps me enormously. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not withdraw his Liberal candidate—
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to state the position accurately in dealing with the question of minority members being returned. I am sure he will appreciate that a minority Government can be returned, and that this could perfectly easily happen even in a straight vote in all 630 constituencies.
§ Mr. Corfield
That is an argument for proportional representation, which, as I understand it, is not the substance of this Bill or of this Amendment or, indeed, of the Home Secretary's argument.
The fact is that here again one is bound to suspect the bona fides of the Government when they put forward this sort of argument. The Home Secretary has nobody but himself to blame if we find that the thinking which lies behind his excuse carries no conviction. It would be no compliment to him if we put it down merely to his inability to straighten out his thoughts. He said that the Amendment would be quite acceptable but he preferred the more flexible approach, and when he tried, in response to my right hon. Friend, to interpret what he meant by the more flexible approach he said, in effect, "This enjoins me to get on as fast as I can." It does not do anything of the sort. The Bill is framed in the negative. He need not do so and should not do so, according to the Bill, till such time as there is no danger of any recommendation of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission conflicting with a Boundary Commission's report.
I would suggest that till the Government realise that there really is a strong, 79 genuinely-held feeling on this side of the Committee that this is generally thought to be gerrymandering they will not do justice to the principles which we in this country hold most precious; and they will not do so by simply refusing to accept Amendments which they themselves admit would not seriously embarrass the purposes of the Bill.
I beg the Home Secretary, when he has finished talking to his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), from whom I doubt that he will get any good advice at all, to try to put the reputation of this country and our high traditions above narrow party prejudices.
§ Mr. Albert Murray (Gravesend)
Some of the points which have been made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) ought not to go unchallenged. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Well-beloved) made the very good and very true point—as he always does—that the Herbert Commission reported in 1961 and that then the Conservative Party got its Bill in 1963 and rushed it through the House purely because that party realised that it would be of some electoral advantage to it in the Greater London area.
It is no good Conservative Members saying, "We had been thinking about it since 1948", because we have had too much of that from the Conservative Party. It is always thinking about things but is never active unless it has something like the Herbert Commission Report which it gerrymandered. The Conservatives did not insist on the Herbert Commission's Report in toto—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On a point of order, Sir Barnett. Is it in order on this Amendment to this Bill to resume the extremely interesting debates which we had over the London Government Bill, 1963?
§ Mr. Murray
They would have been interesting only because the right hon. Gentleman was involved—for no other reason.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Further to that point of order. While thanking the hon. Member for his habitual courtesy, could I have a reply to my point of order?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Barnett Janner)
The hon. Member cannot go into the details of that matter but, if it is relevant, he may refer to it in support of the Amendment with which he is particularly dealing.
§ Sir D. Renton
Further to that point of order. I dare say, Sir Barnett, you will have studied the Amendment, and you will have seen that it deals only with the question of the timing of the next general review by the Boundary Commission.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Further to that point of order. It has been pointed out that comparisons of timing are of the essence of the debate. My hon. Friend is doing just that, and is, I submit perfectly in order.
§ The Temporary Chairman
May I help the hon. Member by saying that hon. Gentlemen cannot rehash the matter and go into detail? That matter can be touched upon provided it is relevant. The question is its relevancy to the Amendment which we are discussing. We certainly cannot debate its merits or demerits.
§ Mr. Murray
I am sorry, Sir Barnett, to have caused you points of order in such profusion, but I think that you have ruled quite rightly. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) went into great detail about the merits of the London Government Act—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I did not notice that. Perhaps the hon. Member might get on with his speech and keep it within the bounds of order.
§ Mr. Murray
We must talk about the timing, and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford was drawing an analogy with the present situation. The Home Secretary has given an assurance that there could be a rejigging of the Parliamentary boundaries, subject to the Redcliffe-Maud Report. After the Bill has been passed, my right hon. Friend should consider the possibility almost of a running Boundary Commission.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South, in speaking of the comparison of timing, said that, although the London Government Bill became law in 1963 the Greater London Council did not begin to 81 operate until 1965. What he failed to point out, and what should go on the record, is that the Greater London Council elections were held in 1964 and the Greater London Council was operating in a twin capacity with the former London County Council. Whatever may be said, the alterations in London were tremendous. In my view, the Amendment should be rejected.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
In the period between 1964 and 1965, under the gerrymandering London Government Act, the electors of London were denied the opportunity of electing councillors to the existing local authorities.
§ Mr. Murray
As I have said, my hon. Friend makes some very good points, and he has just made another one which adds to the reasons why the Amendment should be rejected.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) said that uncertainty in local government was a justification for a prolongation of the gross distortion in the parliamentary representation of the United Kingdom, a distortion which must increase every year. I take the contrary view, that it would be far better to rectify the worst of that distortion and to have time to look in detail at the needs of local government.
I am astonished that the Home Secretary has not found it possible to accept this moderate Amendment which has been so reasonably put. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said that the Home Secretary expressed his case in very moderate terms, and I agree. For many years the Home Secretary and I have represented adjoining constituencies, and in that respect he has always been a moderate person. He is a fairly clean politician, and I should have thought that he would have seen the dangers of doing something by inadvertence. I do not envisage him as a man who would gerrymander on a wide scale, but cannot he see that as a consequence of his action virtually the same effect will be achieved? Although he and his hon. Friends are so quick to denounce gerrymandering overseas, their actions here have exactly the same consequences.
82 5.45 p.m.
The Home Secretary has been forced back on to two unworthy arguments; first, the argument about minority votes, which is quite unconnected with the present Amendment, and, second, the argument that in the past we frequently had periods of 25 years between boundary changes. The Home Secretary knows very well that that was at a time when there was much less population movement, when no new towns were being created by the action of the Government and when conditions were completely dissimilar. I cannot understand why he should adopt those two arguments, which serve only to illustrate the weakness of his case.
I sympathise with the case put forward by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), that Parliament should not be a rubber stamp for the findings of commissions and inquiries. I accept that as a general proposition of validity. On the other hand, this is a particular part of our affairs in which Parliament should be chary of making changes in the recommendations of impartial commissions. In this more than in any other matter neither Governments nor Oppositions can easily be impartial. We are politicians as well as Members of Parliament and, however noble our sentiments, however high our aspirations, it is extraordinarily difficult for us to ignore the fact that we are politicians. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot see this—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman says that he is a politician, but is he quite sure that he and those behind him are pursuing this matter with a high degree of objectivity?
§ Mr. Gower
The right hon. Gentleman will recall what Major Gwilym Lloyd George did as Home Secretary in 1953 or 1954. He did not interfere with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. He was criticised by hon. Members on both sides, and by many of my hon. Friends who had constituency problems. He took the view, rightly, that he would be more open to suspicion and attack if he made unilateral changes in the findings of an impartial commission.
The Home Secretary should exercise more caution. It is not that I and others suspect him of ignoble or unworthy 83 motives, but what he has done will create this impression, because the effect is to distort the representation in various parts of the country—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I was here when Major Gwilym Lloyd George was Home Secretary, and the hon. Gentleman will remember that it could not have been high objectivity that caused the then Home Secretary to make that decision. The Labour Party was at a disadvantage because of the concentration of Labour votes in mining districts of which gave the Conservatives about 1½ per cent. advantage on the national figure. This was the result of the 1954 proposals. That is why he was criticised then; he was not very objective. He was generally a lazy man when he wanted to be, but he knew what he was doing then.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
On a point of order, Sir Barnett. That is a most unworthy remark by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Charles Pannell) and he should withdraw it.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am afraid I cannot rule on it as being un-parliamentary, but I am sure that the hon. Member's remarks have been noted.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Sir Barnett, may I respectfully ask you to indicate whether it is not within the custom and convenience of this House that hon. or right hon. Members do not cast aspersions on former colleagues now dead who were the friends of many of us?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I understand that the position is that a comment of this nature with regard to a living Member of another place would be out of order. Whatever may be thought about the observation itself, what the right hon. Gentleman said is not out of order.
§ Mr. Gower
Any Home Secretary in taking a decision in matters as delicate as these, where political suspicion is easily aroused, should not take unilateral action to make changes of the kind the Government are seeking to make. The Amendment does not accomplish what we want, but we suggest that it is a modest improvement of the Bill and it will be a serious matter if it is not accepted.
The Home Secretary is saying that he cannot guarantee action even if nothing is done by 1972. How serious will the situation be if nothing is done by 1972 and with no prospect of anything being done by then? It will mean that a constituency like Meriden will be bursting at the seams with a 130,000 electors or more, and that constituencies like Birmingham, Ladywood, will be almost denuded of electors. That is certainly a possibility. Some constituencies will be at the 90,000 or 100,000 mark, others will go down to 20,000 electors. This would not be reasonable.
It is reasonable for the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) to have a smaller electorate than the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) because he has an infinitely larger constituency to cover. But it is certainly not reasonable for my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) to have to represent over 100,000 electors and for another hon. Member near at hand to have to represent only 20,000 electors.
I cannot understand why the Home Secretary has turned his attention to the constituency of Billericay which is one of the very large ones, and Arundel and Shoreham, but has wholly neglected constituencies with very small electorates. Why has he taken action to deal with some of the anomalies in electorates of gross size and neglected some of the anomalies in the very small constituencies? I make no accusation of motive against the Home Secretary, but I feel sure that the logical result of his action will lead to distortions which may lead to a feeling that something is being done from a bad motive.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
My right hon. Friend will have in mind in this part of his speech the legal maxim that people should be presumed to intend the natural consequences of their acts.
§ Mr. Gower
As usual my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker Smith) has produced the perfect caption to illustrate my point. I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect on this matter. What will be the situation facing a Home Secretary at that future time when he is confronted with this Bill and when there is some prospect of local government changes? It is almost inevitable that the Home Secretary in 1972 will face that position. It is imperative that this date should appear in the Bill, it is a serious matter, and I hope the Home Secretary and the Government will think again.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
We have heard some extremely strong arguments from this side of the House which have led the Home Secretary to look extremely naked. We have also had a good deal of smokescreen from the other side to try to conceal the target. I would suggest to the Committee that an additional reason for not delaying indefinitely the proposals of the Boundary Commission is the effect on opinion abroad.
It is often said that we sit here in the mother of Parliaments and that Britain has one of the longest traditions, if not the longest, of striking a balance between the people and the Executive which is regulated by Parliament. The point I am trying to make— and I hope I can have the courtesy of the Home Secretary's attention at this moment—
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is following a custom that is growing in this House of assuming that I must sit and listen to every word that is said. It is a little intolerable if I have to sit in the Chamber—and I have sat here for a long time—and am not allowed the courtesy of consulting people about various matters that arise.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Following on that point, is almost becoming the practice of Ministers to turn their backs, with little courtesy, on an hon. Member who is addressing the House and who is seeking to show that this Government is trying to ram down the throats of the House and of the country proposals against which the Opposition are doing their best to make representation.
The point that I was trying to make is the deplorable effect it will have in the 86 daughter parliaments if the Prime Minister of Britain appears to be blatantly gerrymandering to try to preserve his own political life. The same deplorable effects are likely to arise in other parts of the world where Parliamentary democracies do not exist and where people yearn for freedom to express their views.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
May I say with respect, Sir Barnett, that we are listening to a Second Reading speech which has nothing to do with the Amendment that is before the Committee.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I am trying to put forward a point of view on this very important matter, which hitherto has not been raised on either side of the House. I fear that what the world will say is that this is an inward-looking, short-term Government and that the Prime Minister is flying by the seat of his pants. There are very big issues at stake.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I submit again, Sir Barnett, with urgency, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a Second Reading speech. He is nowhere near the Amendment.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am watching the proceedings as carefully as I can. I assume that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will relate what he is saying to the Amendment; otherwise he will be out of order.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Surely what my hon. and gallant Friend is saying is that if the Amendment is not given effect to certain deleterious consequences will follow, consequences which he is now outlining to the Committee.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Further to that point of order. I am in some sympathy with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but if his argument is a good one he ought to reflect on the extreme sensitivity of his own colleagues in rising on every possible point of order during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray), who was keeping far closer to the Amendment than is the admiral to the burning deck.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not think hon. Members can expect me to try to distinguish between points of order which have been raised previously and 87 this particular point of order. We are dealing with the point of order that is now being raised. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must relate his remarks to the Amendment. One right hon. Gentleman suggested that an hon. Member could speak about anything relating to criticism without relating it to the Amendment itself in words. I am afraid that that will not do. An hon. Member must in some way or other connect what he is saying with the Amendment itself.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I was hoping that I was more in order than the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was a few minutes ago when he referred in an unpleasant way to a late colleague of ours.
I was making the point that the effect—
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
On a point of order, Sir Barnett. Is it correct for the right hon. Gentleman to say from a sedentary position that I was not in the House when he made those offensive comments to which I have referred?
§ The Temporary Chairman
It is not correct for any hon. Member to say anything from a sedentary position. It is not only not in order but rather undesirable.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I think that I have made the point that if the Amendment is refused it will create a deplorable effect throughout the world—
§ Mr. John Mendelson
On a point of order, Sir Barnett. I repeat with urgency that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is nowhere near the Amendment. He is engaging in the tedious repetition of international opinion and has not said a word about the Amendment. I do not know whether he has read it.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have given my decision with regard to that point of order, and I am watching the position carefully.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John 88 Mendelson) comes into the category once described by Disraeli as those who are friends of every country save their own—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must proceed to make whatever remarks he wishes to make relevant to the Amendment. If he will do that, I think that he will have no trouble.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
My precise point is that if the Amendment is refused it will create a deplorable international opinion. Therefore I urge the Home Secretary to accept it and thereby get the Prime Minister off what one of my hon. Friends described so vividly as the hook of ignominy.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)
When he intervened on behalf of the Government, the Home Secretary said that there was very little between the two sides on the Amendment, that the Government did not wish to be tied down to any specific date, but that the time scale was not unreasonable to him and that it was quite probable that the Orders would be brought before the House at about the same time. He also said that the Home Office would do its work in the customary way and be in a position to consult the local authorities concerned so that the Orders could be tabled as rapidly as possible.
The arguments about timing would have been more effective if they had been produced before the Redcliffe-Maud Committee reported rather than after. Apart from that, the real difficulty arises in the terms of the Bill to which the Amendment relates.
When the Boundary Commission does its work, the Home Secretary must then produce orders. According to subsection (3)(a), he…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.In other words, he has to lay an Order before the House provided that there is no prospect of local government reorganisation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) was told that his constituency was excluded because it cut 89 across two local government boundaries. But so desperate have the Government been to find some degree of respectability for their Bill that they have sought to find some constituencies which they could put before the consideration of the Boundary Commission. My own constituency is among the few that they have chosen, but it so happens that my constituency is directly affected by the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. Therefore, when the Boundary Commission considers my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Captain Kerby), it will produce proposals which are bound to be affected by the local government review of the Redcliffe-Maud Committee. That means either that the House will be debarred from considering that recommendation or that my constituency will be treated differently from others.
The Home Secretary must address himself seriously to this problem. If we are to consider this Clause which says that no Orders should be drafted if there is any prospect of local government reorganisation, why is it that some constituencies have to be considered in the certain knowledge that they will be affected by the Redcliffe-Maud proposals? That illustrates the kind of muddle into which the Government have got themselves by producing the Bill so rapidly.
The fact is, as we have seen from the beginning of these proceedings, that the Bill is one big fiddle, and it should be treated as such.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
I would have had some sympathy with the Amendment if the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) could have shown that its acceptance would mean that in some way we would ensure that one vote had one value. However, I am not at all sure that the hon. Gentleman has made out that case.
In my consideration of the matter, I looked back to what the late Sir Winston Churchill had to say about it, when he was the right hon. Member for Woodford. It is extremely pertinent. In 1948, he had this to say:In discussing constitutional questions of this character, it is desirable to emphasise at the outset the points upon which we are in general agreement. We all value and cherish our broad free Parliamentary system, and it is our duty to submit ourselves with all the grace we can to whatever may be the will 90 of the people from time to time, subject to the procedure of Parliament and to the inalienable rights of the minority.I hope that that has the support of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, because the impression gained by some of us on this side of the Committee is that that procedure is all right so long as the Conservative Party is in office. Whenever it is in opposition, circumstances change immediately and one is expected to run government rather differently.
Mr. Churchill, as he then was, went on:In regard to the representation of the House of Commons, there are two principles"—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. While I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's speech is an interesting one to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to relate it to the Amendment in some way. That is the important matter.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I am grateful to you, Sir Barnett.
Perhaps I should explain that I was first seeking to put forward what is the principle on which the Committee should approach the Amendment, and then I was going on to develop the case with regard to the Amendment. I assure you that I will not fall into the error which some hon. Members opposite have fallen—
§ Mr. Roebuck
As my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) says, such a failing on my part would be unthinkable.
Sir Winston went on:In regard to the representation of the House of Commons, there are two principles which have come into general acceptance.…The first is: 'One man, one vote'; and the second is: 'One vote, one value'. The first has been almost entirely achieved. There are only barely a quarter of a million votes out of 34 million which are not at present governed by the principle of one man, one vote.' With regard to one vote, one value,' nothing like so much progress has been made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 858.]The onus is on the Opposition to show that acceptance of the Amendment would in some way help to achieve the one 91 vote, one value. My experience is that in 12 out of the last 14 elections the Labour Party has suffered as a result of there not being one vote, one value. For instance, in 1951, when the majority of the electorate voted for a Labour Government, a majority of Conservative Members was returned. At that time I did not hear stirring speeches or stories coming from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite about our constitutional liberties being imperilled.
We have had no case put forward in support of the Amendment to ensure that postponement of the decision and the bringing of the Order in Council before Parliament would remedy that state of affairs. On those grounds, I am unable to support the Amendment.
Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)
We have had a not unreasonable speech from the Home Secretary. The only thing that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends did not detect was any argument against accepting the Amendment.
The Amendment seeks to ensure that if the process of starting to re-examine parliamentary boundaries has not started by 1st May, 1972, that process shall then start. I should think that this was a perfectly reasonable proposition. The Committee will remember that even after the process has started—as we suggest, on 1st May, 1972—there will still be four years in which the Boundary Commission has to make its report. Therefore, if the Amendment is accepted, the earliest date by which the Commission's report would have to be laid before Parliament compulsorily by the Home Secretary would be 1st May, 1976. Surely this is not an unreasonable final date upon which we should have to reconsider the whole matter.
The Home Secretary's arguments, so far as they went, seemed to be twofold. First, that the date proposed in the Amendment might be too early. The right hon. Gentleman said that the local authorities set-up, as a result of the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud Committee, might not be in existence and, therefore, it would not be possible for them to be consulteed by the Boundary Commission. The Home Secretary must have some idea of what the Gov- 92 ernment are proposing in their timetable for the implementation of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. We would consider it reasonable for the Government to put forward an alternative date—perhaps 1st May, 1973, or a later date in 1972—if the date that we have suggested is, for some reason which the Government know, not the right one.
The Home Secretary's second argument was that this process could be started earlier. But he neglected to point out that, under the Bill, the formal question of starting the process of redistribution of boundaries cannot take place until the Home Secretary of the day has laid an order. Section 1(2) states:A Boundary Commission shall proceed forthwith to take into consideration the making of their said next report if Her Majesty so directs by Order in Council".A Boundary Commission cannot start to take into consideration the making of its report until an Order in Council has been laid.
I do not want to delay the Committee in coming to a decision. The Amendment provides a long-stop against any Government which might, for reasons of their own, seek indefinitely to delay the process of reconsideration of Parliamentary boundaries. We look upon the Amendment as a test of the good faith of the Government. I do not believe that we can leave to any Government an open-ended option to start the process of a review of boundaries at any date which they may see fit in future.
As the Bill stands, it is not compulsory for a Boundary Commission to lay its report or for the process of reconsideration of the boundaries to be completed until November, 1984. Surely this is a date which is quite intolerable both to the House and to the country. I hope that, as a result of the very cogent arguments which have been put forward by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, we shall have a further explanation from the Home Secretary.
In the absence of an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman which goes very much further than the assurance that we have already had, I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Callaghan
When there is a Guillotine on, I feel that it is the Opposition's day, so to speak, and that they should have a fair proportion of the time. I do not wish to take long, but, as the hon. Gentleman invited me, I will say a few words more about the discussion that we have had.
Right hon. and hon. Members who heard me at the outset will realise that I entirely agree that 1984, or 1983, as it will be, as the next date for producing the Boundary Commission's proposals will be as intolerable to me as it would be to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples). In my view, it is unthinkable as a date.
My case against both the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who moved the Amendment, and the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, is that they have taken the extreme legal position and not had regard to what I think is the practical position. They were both answered by the right hon Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), although I do not accept his argument. But, if he should possibly be right, the case for writing in a fixed date, which it what we are discussing, is very much weakened. His argument was that it may be 1974 before the legislation arising out of local government reorganisation is passed. That means that we would probably not get the proposals for redistribution by 1977. That, I think, fairly summarises the two dates given by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that he is wrong. He is too pessimistic about it, for reasons which I can give later.
If the right hon. Gentleman is right, what would be the point of setting the Boundary Commission off on an uncharted voyage in 1972 when it would not have the local authorities set up or even in prospect, but would know that legislation was on its way. That would seem to be much worse than the existing position. That is why it is important and proper that we should not have a fixed date.
§ Mr. Noble
The Home Secretary has taken part of my argument, but he has not done what I asked him to do, which was to give his own timing. If the Boundary Commission started in 1972 it would be unlikely that the new local authority vesting date would be much 94 before 1975 or 1976, or even later. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to argue, will he give the facts?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I was coming to that, but I was clearing away the undergrowth before erecting the superstructure. It is fair to say that the conclusion from the right hon. Gentleman's argument, pessimistic though it is, would lead him to vote against the Amendment and for flexibility.
§ Sir D. Renton
The right hon. Gentle- man is missing the basic point of the Amendment. It is the essence of the timing of the matter. Whether there is to be a Redcliffe-Maud revision of local boundaries or not, are we to put up with the old boundary structure—already 15 years old—for more than yet one more General Election? Unless the right hon. Gentleman "comes clean" on that point we must assume that he is prepared for the old structure to go on indefinitely into the future. We are to have it next time anyway; we want to ensure that we do not have it the time after that, and possibly twice after that. It is to that point—irrespective of Redcliffe-Maud—that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will address his mind.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I cannot address my mind to the problem irrespective of Redcliffe-Maud. The Government take the view—as I believe any possible successor Government must take the view—that it is vitally necessary to reorganise local government boundaries and functions at an early date.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) said that he doubted whether any Government could introduce changes in local government. If he were right—I am sorry to see such pessimism in a young man—there would be small hope for the future of local government. Local government must be reorganised if it is to strive and thrive, to be efficient and representative. Therefore, I cannot dismiss from my mind the fact that it should take place. It is imperative that it should be done, and done early. In my view, it can be done earlier than the more pessimistic assumptions of hon. Members opposite.
When I heard the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) talk about the tremendous argument going on in the Midlands among local authority officers who 95 favoured Mr. Senior's proposals—the minority report—I reflected that there is much to commend those proposals. They are very attractive, but, with the Minister without Portfolio sitting beside me, I must be careful what I say.
The hon. Member must concede that no new differences are emerging and that no great new process will be taking place from now as to the way in which local government may be reorganised. The Government must take decisions after the process of negotiation. I cannot see how there can be any great further process of investigation and uncovering of new facts.
Therefore, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Meriden's conclusion that because there was fierce argument there would be no action. The investigation has taken place and it is now a question—after a considerable period of consultation—of reaching the appropriate conclusions. That is why I cannot dismiss Redcliffe-Maud from my caculations. I am firmly convinced—and it is the policy of this Government—that local government reorganisation should go ahead at an early date.
One other matter raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne I must take up. I will leave aside his gibes. He said that the 94 constituencies were an invention of mine and that informed observers could not find more than 20. In that case, which ones in my list does he not agree with? If he does not know what they are, he should, because I published them in HANSARD on 27th June, at col. 325. He will see that they start at Abingdon, work their way through Knutsford, and finish at Widnes. There are 94 in the list, which cross the proposed 58 unitary local government boundaries.
I gave the information in answer to a Question of his hon. Friend, who has just passed him the information. It is not good enough for him to say that these 94 constituencies are an invention of mine and that informed observers can detect only 20, when he now admits that he did not even know about the published list. Let hon. Members go through that list with a small-toothed comb and tell me which are inventions. It will be a useful exercise for him.
96 The plain truth is that not only are there 94 constituencies which will be affected directly by the local government reorganisation; at least that number will be affected at the second stage removed, because of the repercussive effect of these changes. We would have a major operation on our hands. That is my reason for not sending the Boundary Commission off on an uncharted voyage at a fixed date. We are saying that we should take the earliest date possible at which the map is becoming clear. That is what we want to do, and that is the assurance that I can give the Committee.
That is the reason for the words I used in my exchange with the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). I am required to lay the Order as soon as it appears that there is no prospect of local government reorganisation. I do not have to wait until it is complete; I can get on with it and lay the Order once there is a prospect that local government reorganisation is going on.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) said that in previous redistributions there have been little movements of population. That is not true of South Wales. The growth of Cardiff and the hon. Member's own constituency in the latter part of the 19th century proves this. The hon. Member knows, as I do, that if this redistribution were to go through I should be handing to him an area that I am told he would find unwelcome. There is nothing personal about this.
On the time table, the position is that the first thing the Boundary Commission publishes are its provisional recommendations. These are arrived at without consultation. The Commission does not have to consult any body or wait until the last button is on the last gaiter of the last town clerk's trousers. It can get ahead and publish its provisional recommendations. Representations can be made on these provisional recommendations by local authorities and others, and it would be at that stage that we would have to ensure that local authorities came into play. I would want to lay an Order at such a stage, so that the Boundary Commission could go ahead on the preliminary work and produce its provisional recommendations at a time which would more or less coincide 97 with the moment that the local authorities would be in being.
They might even be shadow local authorities, because there were many shadow local authorities in London, before the final set-up was established. That would not make it impossible to do the job. It is not for me to give absolute guarantees today. I am not in a position to do so. If there are representations by a local authority or 100 or more electors there is an inquiry. The Commission can then decide whether to stick to its original recommendations or to published revised recommendations. This stage can be repeated, and then the Commission makes its final report.
On the timing, the Commission can get ahead as soon as the local government map becomes clearer—and the earlier in the lifetime of a Government the better. That can be got on with straight away.
I shall lay the Order in Council as soon as I think it reasonable—if I have responsibility for the matter. To those who say that they do not trust us I would point out that they are showing singularly little confidence in their
§ capacity to win the next election. Perhaps they are right in that. It is important that I should spell out that it is my intention to lay the Order in Council as soon as is reasonable. For the reasons that I have given it would be wrong to fix a certain date in the Bill for laying the Order—because it could be earlier or, if the pessimism of hon. Gentlemen opposite is justified, a little later.
§ I therefore hope that the Opposition will not press the Amendment. If they do, I must ask the Committee to reject it.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, has it escaped his notice that we have not had one of those instant promises from the Opposition that they would immediately implement their own date of 1972 for Boundary Commission recommendations if they should be returned? Is not this of some significance? Is it not a test of their sincerity that they have not given such a pledge?
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 242, Noes 291.101
|Division No. 320.]||AYES||[6.30 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Chataway, Christopher||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Chichester-Clark, R.||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Astor, John||Clark, Henry||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Awdry, Daniel||Clegg, Walter||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Cooke, Robert||Goodhart, Philip|
|Baker, w. H. K. (Banff)||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Gower, Raymond|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Cordle, John||Grant, Anthony|
|Batsford, Brian||Corfield, F. V.||Grieve, Percy|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Costain, A. P.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Bell, Ronald||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gurden, Harold|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Crouch, David||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Crowder, F. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)|
|Biffen, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Dance, James||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Blaker, Peter||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Body, Richard||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hastings, Stephen|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Doughty, Charles||Hawkins, Paul|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Drayson, G. B.||Hay, John|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Braine, Bernard||Eden, Sir John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Elliott, R.W. (N'c'tle-u|pon Tyne, N)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Emery, Peter||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Errington, Sir Eric||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Paul||Eyre, Reginald||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Farr, John||Holland, Philip|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Fisher, Nigel||Hordern, Peter|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hornby, Richard|
|Burden, F. A.||Fortescue, Tim||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Foster, Sir John||Hunt, John|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gibson-Watt, David||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sharples, Richard|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Silvester, Frederick|
|Jopling, Michael||Murton, Oscar||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Smith, Dudley (W'wick&L'mington)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Neave, Airey||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Speed, Keith|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Stainton, Keith|
|Kimball, Marcus||Nott, John||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Onslow, Cranley||Stodart, Anthony|
|Kirk, Peter||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Kitson, Timothy||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Tapsell, Peter|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Lane, David||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Temple, John M.|
|Lawler, Wallace||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Peel, John||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Percival, Ian||Tilney, John|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pink, R. Bonner||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lubbock, Eric||Pounder, Rafton||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|MacArthur, Ian||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Waddington, David|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Prior, J. M. L.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Pym, Francis||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Walters, Dennis|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Ward, Dame Irene|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Maddan, Martin||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Marten, Neil||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Maude, Angus||Ridsdale, Julian||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Mawby, Ray||Robson Brown, Sir William||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Royle, Anthony||Wright, Esmond|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Russell, Sir Ronald||Wylie, N. R.|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Younger, Hn. George|
|Monro, Hector||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Scott, Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|More, Jasper||Scott-Hopkins, James||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and Mr. Humphrey Atkins.|
|Abse, Leo||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Albu, Austen||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Eadie, Alex|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Edelman, Maurice|
|Alldritt, Walter||Cant, R. B.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Anderson, Donald||Carmichael, Neil||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Archer, Peter||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Ellis, John|
|Ashley, Jack||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||English, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Chapman, Donald||Ennals, David|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Concannon, J. D.||Ensor, David|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Conlan, Bernard||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Crawshaw, Richard||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Barnes, Michael||Cronin, John||Faulds, Andrew|
|Barnett, Joel||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fernyhough, E.|
|Baxter, William||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Finch, Harold|
|Beaney, Alan||Dalyell, Tam||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Bence, Cyril||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Fletcher, Rt.Hn.SirEric(Islington,E.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Binns, John||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Foley, Maurice|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Ford, Ben|
|Booth, Albert||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Forrester, John|
|Boston, Terence||Delargy, Hugh||Fowler, Gerry|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dell, Edmund||Freeson, Reginald|
|Boyden, James||Dempsey, James||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bradley, Tom||Dewar, Donald||Gardner, Tony|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Ginsburg, David|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Dobson, Ray||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Doig, Peter||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Driberg, Tom||Gregory, Arnold|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dunn, James A.||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Buchan, Norman||Dunnett, Jack||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mackle, John||Richard, Ivor|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mackintosh, John P.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Maclennan, Robert||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Hamling, William||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Hannan, William||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hattersley, Roy||Manuel, Archie||Ryan, John|
|Hazell, Bert||Mapp, Charles||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Marks, Kenneth||Sheldon, Robert|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Marquand, David||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Henig, Stanley||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Hooley, Frank||Maxwell, Robert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mayhew, Christopher||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Silverman, Juilus|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mendelson, John||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mikardo, Ian||Slater, Joseph|
|Howie, W.||Millan, Bruce||Small, William|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Snow, Julian|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Molloy, William||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hunter, Adam||Moonman, Eric||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Hynd, John||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Morris, Alfred (Wytheushawe)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Swain, Thomas|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Moyle, Roland||Taverne, Dick|
|Jeger, Georgo (Goole)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)||Murray, Albert||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Neal, Harold||Thornton, Ernest|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Newens, Stan||Tinn, James|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Oakes, Gordon||Tomney, Frank|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Ogden, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||O'Malley, Brian||Urwin, T. W.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Oram, Albert E.||Varley, Eric G.|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Orbach, Maurice||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Judd, Frank||Orme, Stanley||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Kelley, Richard||Oswald, Thomas||Wallace, George|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Weitzman, David|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Palmer, Arthur||Wellbeloved, James|
|Lawson, George||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Park, Trevor||Whitlock, William|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Pavitt, Laurence||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pentland, Norman||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Loughlin, Charles||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg||Winnick, David|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|McBride, Neil||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Woof, Robert|
|McCann, John||Price, William (Rugby)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|MacColl, James||Probert, Arthur|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Randall, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McGuire, Michael||Rankin, John||Mr. Joseph Harper and Mr. Ernest Armstrong.|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rees, Merlyn|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
§ Amendment proposed: No. 5, in page 2, 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 an102
§ Order in Council under subsection (2) above in respect of their area.—[Mr. Hogg.]
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 242, Noes 285.107
|Division No. 321.]||AYES||[6.42 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Berry, Hn. Anthony|
|Astor, John||Batsford, Brian||Biffen, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bell, Ronald||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hastings, Stephen||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hawkins, Paul||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Body, Richard||Hay, John||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peel, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Percival, Ian|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Heseltine, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Braine, Bernard||Higgins, Terence L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hiley, Joseph||Pounder, Rafton|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hirst, Geoffrey||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Holland, Philip||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bryan, Paul||Hordern, Peter||Pym, Francis|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Hornby, Richard||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hunt, John||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Burden, F. A.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Carlisle, Mark||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Chataway, Christopher||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jopling, Michael||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Clark, Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Clegg, Walter||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cooke, Robert||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Royle, Anthony|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kershaw, Anthony||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cordle, John||Kimball, Marcus||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Corfield, F. V.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Costain, A. P.||Kirk, Peter||Scott, Nicholas|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kitson, Timothy||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Crouch, David||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Sharples, Richard|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lambton, Viscount||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Silvester, Frederick|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lane, David||Sinclair, Sir Ceorge|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lawler, Wallace||Smith, Dudley (W'wick&L'mington)|
|Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Speed, Keith|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stainton, Keith|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Longden, Gilbert||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lubbock, Eric||Stodart, Anthony|
|Doughty, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacArthur, Ian||Tapsell, Peter|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Eden, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McMaster, Stanley||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Temple, John M.|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maddan, Martin||Tilney, John|
|Farr, John||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marten, Neil||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maude, Angus||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Foster, Sir John||Mawby, Ray||Waddington, David|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walters, Dennis|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Montgomery, Fergus||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||More, Jasper||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Gower, Raymond||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Grant, Anthony||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grieve, Percy||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Murton, Oscar||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Gurden, Harold||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Neave, Airey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wright, Esmond|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wylie, N. R.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nott, John||Younger, Hn. George|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Mr. Hector Monro and Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Abse, Leo||Anderson, Donald||Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)|
|Albu, Austen||Archer, Peter||Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Ashley, Jack||Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice|
|Alldritt, Walter||Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Bagier, Gordon A. T.|
|Barnes, Michael||Galpern, Sir Myer||Maxwell, Robert|
|Barnett, Joel||Gardner, Tony||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Baxter, William||Cinsburg, David||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Beaney, Alan||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mendelson, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Gregory, Arnold||Millan, Bruce|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Binns, John||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Molloy, William|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Moonman, Eric|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Booth, Albert||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Boston, Terence||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hamling, William||Moyle, Roland|
|Boyden, James||Hannan, William||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Bradley, Tom||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Murray, Albert|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Neal, Harold|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Haseldine, Norman||Newens, Stan|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hazell, Bert||Oakes, Gordon|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Ogden, Eric|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Henig, Stanley||O'Malley, Brian|
|Buchan, Norman||Hilton, w. S.||Oram, Albert E.|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hooley, Frank||Orbach, Maurice|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orme, Stanley|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Cant, R. B.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Howie, W.||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Palmer, Arthur|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Chapman, Donald||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Park, Trevor|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hunter, Adam||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hynd, John||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Cronin, John||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jeger, George (Goole)||Pentland, Norman|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jeger, Mrs.Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras, S.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on Hull, W.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones.Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Probert, Arthur|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Randall, Harry|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Judd, Frank||Rankin, John|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Kelley, Richard||Rees, Merlyn|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kenyon, Clifford||Richard, Ivor|
|Dell, Edmund||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Dempsey, James||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Dewar, Donald||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lawson, George||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)|
|Dobson, Ray||Leadbitter, Ted||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Driberg, Tom||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lee, John (Reading)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Ryan, John|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lipton, Marcus||Sheldon, Robert|
|Eadie, Alex||Lomas, Kenneth||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Edelman, Maurice||Loughlin, Charles||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Ellis, John||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|English, Michael||McCall, John||Silverman, Julius|
|Ennals, David||MacColl, James||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Ensor, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Slater, Joseph|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McGuire, Michael||Small, William|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Snow, Julian|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackle, John||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Finch, Harold||Mackintosh, John P.||Stonehouse, Rt, Hn. John|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Maclennan, Robert||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Foley, Maurice||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taverne, Dick|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Manuel, Archie||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ford, Ben||Mapp, Charles||Thornton, Ernest|
|Forrester, John||Marks, Kenneth||Tinn, James|
|Fowler, Gerry||Marquand, David||Tomney, Frank|
|Freeson, Reginald||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Urwin, T. W.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Varley, Eric G.||Whitlock, William||Winnick, David|
|Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||Wilkins, W. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Woof, Robert|
|Wallace, George||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Watkins, David (Consett)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||Mr. Ernest Armtrong and Mr, Joseph Harper.|
|Wellbeloved, James||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
§ [Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair.]
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 20, leave out 'may at any time 'and insert shall'.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss, at the same time, the following Amendments: No. 8, in line 20, leave out 'March 1970 ' and insert' October 1969'.
No. 10, in line 25, leave out 'or ' and insert' and'.
No. 11, in line 25, after 'Ireland', insert ' and for Wales'.
No. 12, in line 32, after 'Ireland', insert ' or for Wales'.
§ Mr. Campbell
This group of Amendments does not deal at all with England and is, therefore, in no way connected with the Redcliffe-Maud Report. Hon. Members representing English constituencies will, nevertheless, be concerned at what the Government are proposing for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, three parts of the United Kingdom which were not within the remit of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission and were not touched on in its report.
My hon. Friends who represent constituencies in England have rightly been condemning the Government for "Callamandering" in England because of the go ahead being given in London and some selective tinkering in, for example, the County of Essex, despite the parallel with Essex County of Massachusetts and the salamander.
The feeble pretext offered has been the Redcliffe-Maud Report, but even this unprincipled excuse cannot be offered in respect of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because the Redcliffe-Maud Commission did not consider them and its report does not apply to them in any particular whatever. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each has a separate Boundary Commission and each of these 108 has reported this year, as required. The up-to-date fruits of the labours of these independent bodies are available to the country now, as intended under our system by the 1949 legislation.
In addition, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each has separate equivalents to the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Two of their reports are available, and one still has yet to be presented. Wales was not included in the Redcliffe-Maud Commission's remit. Instead, however, the Government put forward proposals two years ago, almost to the day—in July, 1967—and these have even been debated in Parliament.
The reorganisation that was proposed for Wales, together with the administration of the Welsh Office, appears to be consistent with the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. Indeed, they could operate side by side. No over-riding new factor has been introduced for Wales. The point of compelling importance is that the Welsh Boundary Commission's proposals are not inconsistent with the recommendations in the White Paper of two years ago.
If reorganisation on the lines of the Government's two-year old proposals were carried out, and the Welsh Boundary Commission's recommendations were also carried out, the effect would be to rationalise Welsh constituencies and bring the Welsh boundaries, including local government boundaries, more into conformity. For Wales the situation could not be clearer. The Welsh Boundary Commission's Report should be implemented immediately. However, the Government propose to postpone any action on the Welsh Boundary Commission's Report for several years, in the same way as they propose to act for England.
The Government have adduced the Redcliffe-Maud Report as a pretext for their ignominious behaviour in upsetting the constitutional arrangements for England. What excuse have the Government for their chicanery over Wales? The Government's proposals for local government 109 published two years ago are not in conflict with the Welsh Boundary Commission's recommendations and the only reason we can conclude for their action is that the Labour Party would lose one or two seats in Wales. In other words, simply for one or two seats the Government are prepared to go to such lengths of constitutional impropriety. How, therefore, can we trust Ministers to take sensible decisions in other cases?
This brings me to Scotland, where there is a separate Royal Commission, the Wheatley Commission, which has not yet reported. In respect of Northern Ireland, a White Paper was published two weeks ago putting forward proposals for local government reorganisation. Under subsection (4), which we seek to amend, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland would have discretion to decide before the end of March, 1970, whether or not to put into effect the two Boundary Commissions' recommendations.
There is an overwhelming objection to this course. It is that nobody can any longer trust either of these two Ministers, not least because of the action which they are proposing for Wales. Under subsection (4), no reasons are even given for the decisions being left to the Ministers. The Wheatley report is not even mentioned, although we understand from what these Ministers have said that the Wheatley report is likely to reach the Government before March, 1970. However, neither that report nor the White Paper for Ulster is mentioned. Indeed, no considerations or criteria are hinted at in subsection (4) which would influence the two Ministers in taking their decision.
It is left to these Ministers, for any reason, to decide to postpone the implementation of these recommendations; and, of course, some alleged new development could be called in aid by the Government between now and March. They have demonstrated that they can trump up a bogus reason at the drop of a hat. This subsection would give them a blank cheque to enable the Government to go in for a new kind of business, what might be called "Rent-a-seat".
If the Government deliberately stop the recommendations of these independent Boundary Commissions from being put 110 into effect, the result will be that probably after the next two elections—all observers are agreed on this—a number of Labour hon. Members will be sitting by kind permission of the present Government and not as a result of the constitutional system involving our independent Boundary Commissions.
Scotland is in a special position, as you know, Mr. Gourlay, because there have to be precisely 71 seats and problems of distance, communications and scattered populations arise in some areas. On Second Reading, the Under-Secretary was dangerously off the mark when he referred in derogatory terms to a constituency in the north of Scotland with an electorate of 35,000, because in Scotland there has to be a lower average electorate in order to preserve the 71 seats.
This arises from the total population of Scotland as compared with the total population of the rest of the country. The Government have not helped by reducing the number of jobs in Scotland by 35,000 in the last four years and there has been considerable emigration over those four years.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the population of Scotland is going up or down?
§ Mr. Campbell
There is a slight increase, but it is very much less than the increase in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Scottish Boundary Commission has had a special task, quite separate from that of the other Commissions, for it has had to recommend the redistribution of 71 seats. With the population of Scotland increasing very slightly, as it is, and the population of the rest of the United Kingdom increasing much faster —and the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), as a Scot, will be familiar with this situation—the average electorate in Scotland is smaller than the average in England. But this has been one of the problems which the Scottish Commission has taken into account, with all the other factors, in trying to arrive at fair recommendations in accordance with the 1949 Act.
§ Mr. Campbell
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once. I shall probably answer the question that he has in mind as I go on.
I was about to ask whether the Government proposed to reduce the 71 Scottish seats. Have they any plans for reducing that number, and so changing the situation? That would be yet another constitutional change which, I hope, the Government will not propose arbitrarily to steamroller through by the payroll vote. Instead of sniping at the size of a Scottish constituency 600 miles north of London, a constituency which the Boundary Commission considers appropriate, the Government should concentrate on putting into effect the Commission's recommendations which are now before the Government and which are up to date.
§ Mr. Campbell
I referred to that. I do not want to detain the Committee with examples.
However, the Scottish Commission considered whether Skye should be attached to the Western Isles, which is a constituency represented by a Labour Member, on the ground that the Western Isles electorate is very small. But after going into the matter—and the problems are all set out in the report—the Commission decided that, because of the difficulty of sea communications, and because of Skye's orientation towards the mainland, the two should not be grouped together. This is the kind of problem which has to be taken into account by the Scottish Commission under the 1949 Act.
The Minister without Portfolio is reported in the Press as having said over the weekend:What synthetic self-righteousness from a party that took power in 1951 on a minority vote and who have had more seats than share of the votes in 12 out of 14 general elections because of the permanent built-in bias of our electoral system in favour of Tory-dominated rural areas".I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman and I hope that, on reflection, he will agree that those remarks were 112 based on a fallacy. Whether a party is returned on a minority vote depends mainly on another factor. It could happen even if all the constituencies were exactly equal in size. If the losing party lost the seats it lost by small majorities and won the seats it won by large majorities, the winning party could be elected on a minority vote.
That is always possible in our system of electing a single Member for each constituency. As my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) knows only too well, three votes can be just as good as 30,000 in winning a seat—"One is enough". That is what governs whether a party wins a majority of constituencies without having a majority of the total votes cast.
The right hon. Gentleman apparently referred tothe permanent built-in bias of our electoral system in favour of Tory-dominated rural areas".Does that mean that the Government are rejecting the proposals of the four Boundary Commissions on the basis that they are biased in favour of rural areas and the Conservatives? That is the logical conclusion of that sinister remark. The right hon. Gentleman has moved into this sphere from foreign affairs and Rhodesia which, I think, he was personally handling well. I am sorry that he has allowed himself, in this new field, to say things like this, which I believe to have been included in a brief put into his hand, for he would not have said them if he had thought them out.
Apparently, the Government intend to postpone implementation of the recommendations for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. They have given themselves until March, 1970, to take a decision for Scotland and Northern Ireland and it looks as though they will take a bogus decision. Our Amendments would restore the obligation upon Ministers to lay Orders, as they are required, by October, of this year, for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the same thing would be done for Wales by two of our Amendments. Where the position would not be left, as the Bill proposes, to be dealt with in the same way as the English position.
The Redcliffe-Maud Commission had no application to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. It did not consider 113 those parts of the United Kingdom. The Government's devious and discreditable proposals for those parts of the United Kingdom will be roundly condemned as inexcusable if they proceed with them.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) said that he was dealing with all the subjects affecting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I hope that he will excuse me if I do not comment in detail on his remarks about Scotland or Northern Ireland. I would prefer to confine my remarks to Wales, although there are some preliminary comments I would like to make upon what he has said. I was not quite clear from his remarks whether he now accepts or discards the principle, and I think that we can call it such, that if possible Parliamentary boundaries should be settled in co-ordination with local government boundaries.
I am not quite sure whether the Opposition accept that idea. It is an important principle which has a great bearing on the operation of our democracy, whether north of the Border, in Wales or anywhere else, and it is a principle which we must take into account along with the desirability of making constituencies, so far as possible, mathematically fairly equal. As far as I could understand the Opposition's case previously, although there may have been some departure from it in the hon. Gentleman's speech, they have rejected altogether any consideration of the idea of co-ordinating parliamentary with local government boundaries.
If they take that view they are in some difficulty when they apply it to different parts of the United Kingdom, because there is a different situation in different parts of the United Kingdom, as the hon. Gentleman was forced to acknowledge in his remarks.
§ Mr. Foot
We are making considerable progress with that intervention, because the right hon. and learned Gentle- 114 man has now, I am glad to see, accorded to me acceptance of the idea, which he says he intended before, and which is intended in the recommendations, but which has not been extremely explicit in the remarks of hon. Gentlemen previously, that local government boundaries must be taken into account—of course we must seek to co-ordinate these measures as far as possible. He says that the Boundary Commission was instructed to do exactly this. The Commission could not take account of the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations precisely because they were not before them. The Opposition are moving forward considerably. It just shows the advantage of these lengthy debates.
Any Government seeking to carry out the principle, now acknowledged on the opposite side of the Committee, of trying, if possible, to co-ordinate the settlement of parliamentary with local government boundaries, is faced with the difficulty that the position about the recommendations for local government boundary changes are so different in each of the four countries. In Wales, we have had a local government commission which has reported, in Scotland we are still awaiting the Commission and in England we had the report a few weeks ago.
The Government were in considerable difficulty about this. I can see, from the point of view of the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, why he should seek to make this case. If the Government had conceded what he had asked they would have been extremely inconsistent and the Opposition would have been able to use the concession made by the Government over Wales and Scotland to attack the Government for inconsistency in England. This is, no doubt, why the Government made a consistent decision and said that what they must seek to do is to coordinate the settlement of Parliamentary and local government boundaries at the same time, as far as possible. The Government have said that they will of course agree to the Boundary Commission's report where the whole question of boundaries has been settled—that is London.
The Government agree to that, although that is supposed to be part of the fiddle. I make the rather mischievous suggestion that if it is part of the 115 "fiddle" we may withdraw the proposition. If we were to do that when the Bill reaches another place the alert Members, or the more alert Members, in that place might detect a fallacy. They may say that we cannot argue that we have to hold up these Boundary Commission reports because of local government decisions, since here in London where we have the decision we are not implementing it.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Would my hon. Friend agree that the only "fiddle" we can see in London is the prospective flight of the Leader of the Opposition from his Bexley seat to either Sidcup or Westminster?
§ Mr. Foot
That is a perfectly proper intervention. We have had to hear ad nauseam allegations about our misdeeds. The Opposition are very thin-skinned when we try to track the future path of the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that he continues with his Bacchannals in Bexley. Leave him there; we can deal with him.
I hope that the Opposition have now conceded that it is desirable, if possible, to co-ordinate the settlement of local government and Parliamentary boundaries. Any Government seeking to apply that principle is in great difficulties because of the different time schedules affecting different parts of the United Kingdom. The Government had to look at the Measure and say, "We must try to apply this consistently to the whole of the United Kingdom." That is exactly what they have done for Wales. The hon. Gentleman says that in Wales, Redcliffe-Maud has no effect. He says that it does not affect Welsh boundaries at all.
The claim is completely false. It has always been known, unfortunately in some respects, from the point of view of those of us in Wales who wish to see local government boundaries settled as speedily as possible, that when the proposals for the United Kingdom came forward, if they contained certain propositions such as proposals for different forms of regional government and elected councils, then they were bound to affect, in some degree, the proposals made for Wales. Everyone has known that, the Welsh Office has known it, every Welsh M.P. has known it.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
If this is so, can the hon. Gentleman explain why the party opposite thought it right to bring their recommendations forward in a White Paper two years ago? Have they been wasting the time not only of this House but of the Welsh local authorities in this vain endeavour?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman knows better than that. He was present at some of these discussions and should have followed the matter more closely. The Government accepted that there should be the report of the Commission about Welsh local government before the report of the Commission for England. It was always assumed by everyone who knew anything about the situation that some of the decisions about England might affect Wales. That is the position now. I want to see the decisions about the local government boundaries in Wales made as speedily as possible, and I want the reform of Welsh local government to go ahead as speedily as possible.
I am not arguing that it has to take the same form as the reforms in England. It would be an absurdity for anyone to suggest that the proposals in Wales can be carried out entirely irrespective of what is happening in England. That would be a most extraordinary administrative shambles, and if any Government were to do it they would be pilloried for having done so. What the Government are doing, perfectly sensibly, is saying that just as it is sensible to try to co-ordinate decisions about the timing of Parliamentary and local government boundaries in England, so the same thing must prevail in Wales.
There is no "fiddle" about that. It is a straightforward, simple proposition which could be understood by anyone. It means that the position would be the same in England, Scotland and Wales—as soon as possible—because the Government are much more eager to go ahead with this than the Opposition; they are talking of the distant future. The Government, particularly through the speech of the Home Secretary, have shown that they desire to proceed with the matter speedily and to settle it so that we can get new local government and Parliamentary boundaries.
This must be done in a co-ordinated way, which does not mean that we have to slice Parliamentary boundaries again 117 in a few years' time. It is an extraordinary proposition put forward by the Conservatives who are supposed to be a believer in organic government—they are supposed to inherit the mantle of Edmund Burke. Now they want to slice constituencies every 12 months, as if they are bladders of lard. They think that we can lop a little off here and lop a little off there, shunt a ward that way and shunt a ward that way, and change it all every two or three years.
They talk as though that has no bearing on the operation of democracy in this country. Of course it has. Every Member of Parliament knows, even if many newspapers are so ignorant of our affairs that they do not appreciate it, that the association between a Member of Parliament and his geographical constituency is very important. It is a great contribution to the welfare of democracy that many hon. Members represent the same geographical area for most of their political lives. If that situation can be preserved, it is a very good thing to preserve it.
It may be difficult for my right hon. Friend to say this, because he is a very respectful fellow and tries to treat the Commission as respectfully as he can and with his natural courtesy, but I can say it: I have no great faith in the Boundary Commission. I have seen the way in which it has hacked constituencies about time after time. Partly it does it because it has very little understanding of how democracy operates. The Conservative Party at one time set great store on the association between a Member of Parliament and his constituency, between him and the soil from which he was sent, the area which he represented, the association of long standing between him and his own area. It is strange that it should now treat these matters as if they are trivial and of no importance.
Indeed, they have to be weighed against other factors. I do not say that this factor must prevail against all others. There has to be a balance between these factors and that has always been my case for the House of Commons deciding these matters. The Boundary Commission can make such recommendations as it likes, but the House of Commons must draw the proper balance between these matters. That is what we insist and that is why it would be outrageous if in another place there were an attempt to interfere 118 with the House of Commons in the discharge of its proper constitutional duty of drawing the proper balance between the requirements of mathematical equality and the requirements of retaining the association between a Member of Parliament and his geographical constituency.
§ Mr. Gower
Does the hon. Member appreciate—I am sure he must—that we are dealing with a subject matter of such a nature that the House of Commons which, after all, is only a collection of politicians, has a special duty? In this delicate matter does he believe that the House of Commons is always able to achieve that objective judgment which is necessary? Is it not better to pay special attention to the recommendations of independent Commissions?
§ Mr. Foot
Proper regard should be paid to the recommendations of independent Commissions. But I have argued throughout the Bill that the recommendations of the independent Commission are certainly not binding upon the House of Commons and that the House has a right to pass a balanced judgment on what is proposed, partly on account of the question of the particular areas and partly to ensure that the recommendations of the Boundary Commission are not pressed through according to some timetable fixed four or five years ago when present-day information was not available to the House.
That is the argument which we and the Government are putting. Perfectly reputably and honourably, they have put the argument that the House of Commons must take into account the new circumstances affecting local government and the new situation. What is proposed will perhaps be the biggest change in local government for about 100 years. For hon. Members opposite to argue that on the very eve of a change of such a revolutionary nature there should be a major change in Parliamentary boundaries is a most extraordinary proposition to be presented, particularly by those who are supposed to have regard for the traditions of the country.
The Opposition have put themselves in an entirely absurd position, and nobody illustrated that better than did the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) in his interruption. I understand that one of 119 their complaints is that they have not sufficient time to debate these matters in the House. But if they had had their way, we should not have debated them at all. If the Opposition had had their way we should have said to the independent Commission, "We will accept every word you say. It is the law of the land. We must not even debate it."
§ Mr. Foot
But that is exactly what hon Members opposite have been saying. They say that if we interfere with the recommendations of an independent Commission, we shall be accused of gerrymandering and shall hear all the other accusations which are being made. I do not think that Members of another place have any right to determine matters affecting this House, and it would be an extremely serious state of affairs if they tried to do so.
Some in another place claim to represent landed interests and different regions of the country and to speak with the voice of those who bring great traditions from every part of the country. If they throw out the Bill they will be rejecting proposals which precisely take account of those traditions and which seek to ensure that the local government Measures which the Government are to introduce will be started on a reasonable basis and that there shall be an intelligent co-ordination between the proposed Parliamentary boundaries and the proposed local government boundaries.
I hope that all this will be taken into account when the Committee considers the Amendments. I can see no other way which the Government could have followed to ensure that Wales, Scotland and England were treated fairly and in the same way. It has been suggested that this proposal to suspend the operation of the Welsh Boundary Commission Report will work in favour of the Labour Party. These suggestions have been made. I do not know whether they are true. Not a single piece of evidence has been produced to support them. I invite Welsh hon. Members to produce the evidence. We know that The Times, the Daily Telegraph and most of the rest of the Press have made up their minds 120 to scream these headlines, but they have never produced a scrap of evidence, for the very obvious reason that they cannot produce it.
There is a difficulty in Wales. There are so few Conservative Members for Wales—indeed, so few other than Labour Members—that whatever adjustment is made might be interpreted in certain circumstances as favourable to the other parties, because if there is 100 per cent. Labour Party representation the position can hardly be made any better. In fact, it is not 100 per cent. but that does not invalidate the argument.
I well remember when the Welsh Boundary Commission's Report was published. Perhaps I remember it better than does the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn—and I do not blame him for not having followed it very closely. When that report was published, I do not recall any commentator suggesting that it was either highly favourable to the Labour Party or highly unfavourable to the Labour Party. Nobody said, "The Labour Party are unlikely to implement this Report because it is unfavourable to them". In fact, quite a number of my hon. Friends in Wales were relieved when they read the report; they felt that it was not at all what some people had suggested.
Thus, it cannot be argued now that in some way or another the suspension of that report is a "fiddle", bearing in mind that when the report was published no opinions one way or the other were expressed about its political consequences. The hon. Member for Barry will concur in that view. Indeed, I see that he does concur in it. He agrees that it was a neutral report. Yet the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn says that failure to implement it is a monstrous part of the gerrymandering and a part of a "fiddle". But his hon. Friend the Member for Barry, who knows better, agrees that the report is quite neutral. I do not know how well the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn can speak for Scotland, but I dare say that his verdict about the situation in Scotland is as jaundiced, biased and misleading as were his comments about Wales, according to the evidence of his hon. Friend the Member for Barry.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
That was not quite what the argument was about. I will not follow it all through again, because we would only come to the same point.
If it was the case that the Boundary Commission's Report for Wales was so unfavourable to the Labour Party as the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn suggested, it might have been a matter for comment in Wales when it was published. All I am saying is that it was not so.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I will repeat my words. I was asking what reason the Government could have had for postponing the implementation of the Welsh Boundary Commission Report. The only reason I could suggest was that the Government would probably lose a seat or two.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member is now roaring as gently as a sucking dove. A few minutes ago, we were told that it was a terrible gerrymander. Now, it is a marginal question of one or two seats. The hon. Member had better confine himself to Scotland and not intrude into the Principality on these matters. It would be much safer for him not to do so.
The debate on this subject is a further illustration of my main argument about this matter. Whatever may be the position of the Government in these Boundary Commission questions, I am absolutely opposed to the idea that the House of Commons should surrender the final word about what changes are to be made in boundaries, and when they are to be made, to any independent Commission, to any outside body and, most of all, to that outside body the other place, which has no right whatever to interfere in these matters.
I believe that as the argument becomes understood, it will be appreciated that what the Government are proposing is fair and reasonable and done in the best interests of local and Parliamentary government.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) accused us on this side of being thin-skinned. That is certainly not the accusation which I would make against him. He is being more thick-skinned in these debates than I have ever known. He is intelligent enough to know that this is a dishonourable racket. The other day the hon. Member quoted Sir Kenneth Pickthorn in his support. Sir Kenneth Pickthorn is a man of the utmost honour and what he would have said about the speech to which we have just listened had he been here to hear it the hon. Member is bright enough to know.
I want to confine myself to the Welsh question. This is the acid test. The only excuse put up by the Government for not implementing the Boundary Commission's Report is the Redcliffe-Maud Report and the coming Scottish Report. As we all know, neither of these applies in any way to Wales. The question of Welsh boundaries has been considered by all Governments for many years. As my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) said, the Government produced their own proposals two years ago. They have been round to no fewer than 50 meetings of local authorities. They have modified their proposals slightly, and now they have got agreement, as far as they are ever likely to get agreement on such proposals.
There is no proposal put forward by the Secretary of State for Wales to alter the Government's present boundary proposals. If we were to alter the boundaries in Wales in accordance with the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, there would certainly have to be another Royal Commission because it would take a very long time to hash it out in a different way. Therefore, any boundary changes in Wales would be postponed for many years. There is, however, no proposal to have a Royal Commission for Wales. As far as I know, there is no proposal to alter these boundaries. In fact, the proposals of the Boundary Commissioners are not in any way affected by the changes proposed by the Government. They fit in perfectly well.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was ridiculous in arguing whether the proposals were favourable or unfavourable 123 to the Government. The point is that they are the findings of an impartial commission which the Government are under statutory obligation to bring in. The argument is not whether they are favourable or unfavourable. The reason why they have not been brought in was that they were unfavourable, I do not doubt; but to argue that is very dangerous from the hon. Member's point of view.
Wales did not blow up as a result of the proposed changes, because they are very small in number. No one got very excited about them because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn said, the effect would not be very great. The effect in honour, however, is very great. The Radcliffe-Maud argument does not apply in any way whatever to Wales and it is unlikely to do so. Therefore, it is shot away. This is a straight bit of corruption. No one can doubt it.
I do not know what another place will do, but if it throws out the Bill it may be that the Home Secretary will go to gaol. He might well be willing to go to gaol. He might think that he would pick up a few tips from the inmates which would be useful to him in his Parliamentary career.
What a disaster the Home Secretary has been, the worst Chancellor ever known. The Financial Secretary, in the first true remark made by a Minister in the present Government since they got into office, said that we cannot possibly repay all the debts chalked up by the right hon. Gentleman. Now, he is lowering the currency of Parliamentary life. The man is a vain bonehead, and the sooner he is in gaol, the better.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
I do not intend to follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) either in loquacity or in the offensive nature of his remarks. The only difference between his speech and the speech in support of the Amendment was in the offensive nature of the language. There was no substance in the case made by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) when he moved the Amendment.
I do not know the position in England and Wales or in London. It is quite impossible for any Scottish Member to 124 try to apply himself to the Scottish position and know in detail the boundaries of Greater London or some of the detailed proposals that every constituency raises. That is what we are discussing.
When it comes to Scotland, however, whatever synthetic indignation hon. Members opposite might be able to generate on England arising from the Redcliffe-Maud Report, I fail to understand their Amendments, because anybody who knows anything about the situation in Scotland—I am fairminded enough to suggest that that would include the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn in his calmer and more sober moments—must recognise that the Wheatley Report must have a tremendous impact on local government structure and boundaries and, consequently, on political or constituency boundaries.
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn knows no more about it than I do—at least, I do not think he has any inside information. I would like to think that the Wheatley Report will be an imaginative document which will look at some of the problems of local government. One of those problems is the question of town and country. Glasgow is surrounded by suburbs which should be part of Glasgow. I am talking not in terms of a power structure but in physical terms of being linked with parts of the city because they have some connection.
I do not want to be parochial, but everybody knows that there are huge areas of green belt around the city under the control of some other authority which has not the slightest interest in developing them for the people who should be using them; namely, the people from the urban areas. It is a problem in any urban area, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, with his experience in the Scottish Office, would have been the last person to move such a tawdry Amendment, when he knows the relevance of the local government proposals still to come.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
The hon. Member will know that it is because that report has not yet appeared and because it will be the start of a long debate on the whole question of the future reorganisation of local government that the Minister of State said in the Scottish Committee that it could be as much as 10 125 years before that report would be put into effect. That is far too long to wait for the boundary proposals.
§ Mr. Brown
All I can say is that in Glasgow—and this is not a party point—it is about 15 years since the corporation started looking at the possible re-drawing of ward boundaries, and it has still not reached any conclusion. The imbalance between a ward of over 40,000 and a ward of 10,000 has been in existence for 15 years. I would not have thought it could have been argued from that that some ward councillors work harder than others, and the same applies to Members of Parliament. The value of the work of a Member of Parliament is not determined by the number of electors he represents. There are other factors and qualities which come into the question of deciding whether a Member is a good Member and gives adequate service to his electorate.
As I say, the case for these Amendments has not been made out, in my opinion, by the Opposition. I must observe that there was no attempt to suggest gerrymandering in Scotland. Why not? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has not spoken yet; he will probably be able to attempt such a case in the way which is his normal practice; but I am talking about Front Bench spokesmen who, presumably, speak with some authority. It may be that the hon. Member for Cathcart is trying to lead the Conservative Party, but officially he does not do so on this issue.
There is in Scotland no political party which has suggested that any party has a gain or a loss because of the Boundary Commission's Report. Is the hon. Member suggesting that he thinks there is a fiddle in Scotland? He knows perfectly well that there is not, and that the approach which has been taken is a practical approach, and there is no question of political advantage to be gained one way or another. I do not know what is happening in the rest of the country, but it is insulting to Scotland for any Scottish hon. Member to kid other Members here who know nothing about Scotland and attempt to leave the impression upon thme that there is some political chicanery going on. Such an attempt is quite irresponsible, and the hon. Member goes down in my opinion when he makes any 126 suggestion of this kind, when he knows perfectly well that in Scotland there is nothing like this.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not care how many years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.") Well, we have had to wait twenty years for a report on local government reorganisation, and everybody recognises that there must be substantial changes in local government in Scotland. What about Moray and Nairn? What about Banff? I see the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) here. Is he suggesting that there is going to be no need for changes in local government which would affect his constituency? What about Glasgow? Also, for example, what about Kinlochleven? For the benefit of the unenlightened, in Kinlochleven there is a small community—I think the population is 2,000 or 3,000—and the boundary of two counties goes through the middle of it; on one side Inverness-shire, and on the other side Argyllshire. No one is going to tell me that the Royal Commission is not going to report on that one, and that that will have no effect on constituency boundaries. I could go on giving dozens of examples.
I do not think the case has been made out by the Opposition. There is, to take the phrase the hon. Member has used, a good case for waiting for Wheatley. There is no case to be argued that this is a fiddle and will give political advantage to any of the parties in Scotland. For these reasons I genuinely think that we should fling out the Amendments.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
Like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), I shall confine myself entirely to Scotland. I do not propose to embark on a long discussion as to the effects of postponing the Boundary Commission's proposals in Scotland. I intend to confine myself entirely to the question of the Bill, because I think that there is here a matter of principle. As one who, as you, Mr. Gourlay, very well know, has a majority of 44, all I can say is that one never knows what the outcome may be of politics these days; and I would be the last to suggest what the effect of withholding boundary changes in my own 127 case would be. I shall take up no time on the question of the effects in political terms of withholding or implementing the Commission's proposals in Scotland.
However, as has been said many times in this debate, there is a question of principle which arises here, and I must say that I felt shocked the other day when I heard the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) suggesting that there was something wrong about leaving the matter of constituency boundaries to an independent body. It seems to me that, in this highly charged field, it is better, from everyone's point of view, that it should be taken out of the field of party politics, and that these decisions ought to be taken by independent bodies.
The immediate effect of the Clause as it stands, as the Secretary of State for Scotland has already recognised, is to legalise an illegality. It covers the illegality which, in my opinion, he has already committed. I think that he realised that when he said, in the Second Reading debate:The Bill gives us the right to defer any decision about the Boundary Commission's Report until March of next year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1969; Vol. 785, c. 535.]But for this legislative provision which he seeks to enact he will have no right to defer any such decision. Indeed, in my respectful submission, he is in breach of his statutory obligation at the moment. I agree with him that he is correct when he says that the Bill is necessary to rectify his legal position.
I remind the Committee that I am confining myself to the Scottish aspect of this matter. During his remarks the Secretary of State for Scotland accused us —that is, the Scottish Conservative Members—of being inconsistent in our argument, because, he said, on other occasions we had argued that it was better to await the implementation of local government proposals and not act in advance, as he specially mentioned, of the Wheatley Commission, the Royal Commission on Local Government. Of course, even if that was correct, it seems to me to beg a very large question, whether there is really any comparison between the Social Work (Scotland) Act and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, to both of which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and the present 128 proposals or the present issue. It seems to me that they are not really comparable at all.
I should like, for the sake of the record, just to correct what the right hon. Gentleman said, because it was never our argument on this side that the Town and Country planning Bill, for example, should be withheld till the Royal Commission on Local Government has reported. On 2nd July, the Secretary of State said about us:On the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, just the other week, what did they tell me? 'Do not do it.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1969; Vol. 785, c. 533.]I want to make it perfectly clear that at no time did we suggest that. Indeed, on Third Reading of that Bill I said, and it is apposite to the argument here:We have never argued that this Bill should be delayed until the Royal Commission on Local Government has reported. We cannot wait for this legislation until the Royal Commission's report is implemented, because that may take many years. This has to come now, in advance of those proceedings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th June, 1969; Vol. 784, c. 1628.]It is we who have been consistent all along, and the right hon. Gentleman who has been inconsistent. Having pressed forward a great variety of legislation in advance of the Royal Commission's findings on local government, why is he so coy about implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission in this instance in advance of the report on local government?
The Clause is a transparent cover for what I can describe only as a rather disgraceful attitude towards the Boundary Commission in Scotland. The argument has been: what is the point of implementing the Boundary Commission's recommendations when we are on the eve of the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government?
We have had a Royal Commission on Local Government sitting for years and the Secretary of State has permitted the Boundary Commission to work conscientiously and hard during a long period of years in the knowledge—and I say this with regret—that the Secretary of State for Scotland has no intention of paying the slightest regard to the Boundary Commission's recommendations when the Wheatley Commission Report comes forward. This subsection is nothing more than a cover. I do not 129 believe that the Royal Commission's recommendation will make the slightest difference to the Government's intentions for implementing the recommendations of the Boundary Commission.
If that is their attitude, would not it have been more honourable to have said to the Royal Commission, years ago. "We have appointed Royal Commissions which will clearly recommend radical changes in local government; it would be inconsistent to entertain these local government changes and at the same time implement the Boundary Commission's recommendations"—yet, of necessity, as the hon. Member for Provan pointed out, wholly unaware of what the Royal Commission's recommendations would be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said last week that there is a mood of cynicism abroad in the country, that there is a cynical attitude in the United Kingdom towards Parliament, politicians and our institutions of government. In Scotland, we must be particularly careful. The Secretary of State knows as well as I do that we have our own special problems in Scotland, and I for one do not underrate the political significance of the party represented by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing). I am sorry that she is not in her place tonight, but that is not a matter for me. Whether or not it be gerrymandering in Scotland I do not know, but it looks like it, and the mere fact that it looks like it is something about which we must be very careful.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
I intervene in this debate as a Welshman representing a London constituency for one reason only, that frequently it is debates about matters which are not perhaps the most obvious which are nevertheless the most revealing. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) is leaving, because I am about to insult him, and perhaps he should be here when I do.
The Amendments which the Committee is considering should be looked at carefully. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn may leave after my next three sentences. This is the second time we have heard this nonsense from him about South-East Essex, and this obscure story about what took place in the odd ward of Boston in the eighteenth century. He 130 ended up with a great cry about corruption, and his hon. Friend behind him said that it was a straight piece of corruption and that the Home Secretary should be put in prison.
Even the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) was moved, in a most unaccustomed manner, to say something quite insulting at the end of his speech—it was rather like being bitten by a butterfly.
If one examines these proposals, it is fascinating to find that none of the political arguments of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn against the Government holds water in relation to Scotland and Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Everybody says "rubbish", but I have taken the best advice available, from which it is clear that the one thing which cannot be said is that there is a political advantage for either party in the Boundary Commission's recommendations. If there is not a political advantage to either party, how can it be a political fiddle not to introduce the recommendations at this stage?
Whatever may be the argument in relation to England or London, that argument as far as it applies to Scotland and Wales is palpable nonsense. It merely illustrates the way in which the Opposition treat the whole issue, which is a serious one of Parliamentary boundaries and their relationship to local government boundaries. It illustrates how they are prepared to look at them on one basis only, and that is the lowest possible political level of the votes which they can get.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
As I have stayed to hear the hon. Gentleman's remarks, may I ask him whether he has consulted the right hon. Lady the Paymaster-General and asked her what she thinks about this? On Second Reading, I made it clear that the only reason we could deduce for the Government's actions both in Scotland and in England and Wales was that they would incur disadvantages from the recommendations.
§ Mr. Richard
The hon. Gentleman started off by saying that the Government's motive must be malicious, but he then said that he could not prove they were malicious because, on balance, 131 there was no advantage to them in the Commission's recommendations. He then said, "Nevertheless, because I make the initial assumption, that must be the reason why they will not do it." There is another good reason why they will not do it, and that is that there is a strong administrative argument for not doing it at this stage.
I do not wish to intervene at length in what seems to be a Celtic battle, but the Opposition should see the logical fallacy in their attitude over Scotland.
If one has read the Press recently, particularly those organs of the Press which regard themselves as enshrining the responsibility of Fleet Street, one has noticed that one argument which has come up continually—and I have even heard it from the Dispatch Box, particularly from the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)—is that if the Government really have an administrative argument, surely they would have introduced legislation two or three years ago so as to postpone the operation of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission in advance of knowing what would be the recommendations of the Local Government Commission.
This was a strong argument on the other side as to the touchstone of the honesty and sincerity of the administrative argument which was put by the Government. The argument was as follows, "If you really believe this argument, why did you not, two years ago, after the Redcliffe-Maud Commission was set up but before it reported, come to the House of Commons and say that there was a strong administrative argument, and postpone the redistribution until after the Report of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission?" Had the Government done that, it would have been the touchstone of their sincerity.
We are now having complaints, particularly from the hon. and learned Member for Pentlands, that the Government have done precisely that in relation to Scotland. He was saying that the implementation of the Report of the Boundary Commission for Scotland was being postponed until after the Wheatley Commission's Report, and that we do not know 132 what is in it. He said that the House is in ignorance of what the Wheatley Commission will report, and that that is therefore no ground for postponing the implementation of the Boundary Commission's Report. It is the exact converse of the argument which is being put in relation to England.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard
That makes the fallacy even more fallacious. What the hon. and learned Gentleman is now saying is that the Government should have come to the House and said in relation to the report of the Boundary Commission, the contents of which it did not know, "Please will you, the House of Commons, now agree to postpone, in ignorance of something which is coming in the future, the implementation of the Boundary Commission's Report because of the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud and Wheatley Reports?", of which also it is in total ignorance".
If such a case were to arise, I can almost imagine the sort of speech that would be made by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. We would hear all about the watchdogs of the constitution and would be told that the Government were treating the House of Commons with total contempt by asking it to postpone possible implementation of the Boundary Commission's Report in ignorance of what the Redcliffe-Maud Report has to say.
It illustrates what many hon. Members on this side of the House have been saying ever since the argument started. This matter is nothing to do with the constitution. It is about votes and about what the Opposition think they can get out of it.
§ Mr. Gower
These Amendments, which relate to Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, can be regarded as supplemental to the case which we have adduced against the Government's proposals for England. The Government's alibi for their action is slightly different in each case.
133 In the case of England the alibi is that the Redcliffe-Maud Report has now to be examined and considered and, in due course, very large changes will be made in the local government set-up and that major boundary chances must be postponed until that has happened.
In the case of Scotland, the alibi is slightly different. The argument there is that the Wheatley Commission has not yet reported and we must wait. If it has not yet reported, the procedure of consideration will be a little later than in the case of England, so that the time when the boundary changes will be made also will be later than in the case of England.
The alibi is different again, in regard to Wales. The document on which judgment is based there is the White Paper which was published two years ago. Although there is a good deal of acceptance of the major proposals, in that case we are told that we must fall in line with England and Scotland, but for no other reason—except perhaps the rather more refined argument of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—
§ Mr. Gower
I should have said the rather more sophisticated argument of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the Welsh proposals cannot now be implemented in the form in which they were put forward two years ago because they have to be remoulded to accord with the form and pattern of the implementation of the Royal Commission for England.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I did not say "to accord with those in England". I said "to take into account the recommendations for England". All of us in Wales have understood that that was bound to be the situation.
§ Mr. Gower
I pass to my next point. We there have four slightly different reasons given by the Government why they should not implement the separate Boundary Commission Reports for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) said, in regard to Northern Ireland it is based on a report which will require the maximum study and consideration over a long period.
In relation to Scotland, there will emerge a massive document—a document which has not yet been published—which again will require careful scrutiny and study. In the case of Wales there will be the White Paper, which again will be an involved and difficult document. We therefore have all these different alibis for the Government's proposal as outlined in this Bill.
It is reasonable that we should have before us these Amendments to deal with Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Our objections to the procedure being followed in Scotland, Ireland and Wales are as clear and firm as they are as applying to England.
We do not take the view put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that Parliament should be a rubber stamp for commissions of this kind. We have never subscribed to that view. But we adhere to the view that this type of subject-matter is the least suitable for what the hon. Member described as the unbiased and unfettered judgment of the House of Commons. We believe the House of Commons is not at its best in dealing with matters of this kind. These are matters in which politics are so closely involved that it is difficult for any Government of any party to reach a lefty, dispassionate and objective judgment on the issues before them.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
Could the hon. Member tell the House which way he voted on the Greater London Bill?
§ Mr. Gower
That would be completely out of order. Our point of view here is consistent with what the Conservative Government of 1953 did in 135 relation to a previous Boundary Commission Report. Major Lloyd George, the then Home Secretary, came forward promptly with proposals which were consistent with the major findings of the Boundary Commissions at that time.
Although we do not suggest that Parliament should slavishly adopt in minute detail all the proposals of any Boundary Commission, we feel that the onus is upon Parliament to prove the case for making major changes. Certainly Parliament and the Government must have a very strong case indeed if they are to make parcel changes of the kind which are now before us. Our objections in relation to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are just as powerful as our objections in relation to England.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that we were about to see the biggest changes in local government for over 100 years. If that is the case, then they should require longer and more careful and mature consideration by Parliament than any previous changes. The case for long delay is weakened rather than strengthened by that consideration.
If we have to wait all that time, the House and hon. Members who are elected will in a sense in many parts of the country be wholly unrepresentative. There will be constituencies in Scotland, as there will be in England, far too large, and others perhaps too small. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale surely is not in favour of that. The situation will become further aggravated as the years go by.
The longer and the more mature the consideration given to these local government matters, the worse the problem will become. Surely the sensible course is to implement the findings of the Boundary Commission now and then to take a prolonged period for mature consideration which is required if, in the words of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, we are to see the biggest changes in local government for more than 100 years.
§ Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)
I wish to oppose Amendment No. 11, which pays special attention to Wales, for a number of reasons. Having studied the White Paper entitled "Local Government 136 in Wales", it is probably fair to say that of all parts of the United Kingdom Wales is the furthest advanced with its proposals for the reorganisation of local government. In view of that, surely it is logical to wait to settle local government boundaries before moving on to deal with Parliamentary boundaries.
Hon. Members may be aware that under the Parliamentary boundary proposals, the two Rhondda constituencies will be amalgamated. In view of that, perhaps I should declare my interest at the outset.
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) argued along two lines. First, he said that the proposed Parliamentary boundaries in Wales were consistent with local government proposals. He went on to suggest, secondly, that the proposals for Wales were more logical. Indeed, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) described them as being more fair. If we examine them, I suggest that they will be found neither logical nor fair.
I represent only a small part of Wales and I would not claim to speak for the Welsh people; he would be a very brave man who tried to speak for the whole of Wales on any issue. However, I venture to suggest that I speak with more authority for the people of Wales than does the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn.
The biggest constituency in Wales is Newport, with 70,143 electors. The "logical" proposal was to make the biggest constituency even bigger. The capital city, Cardiff, at present has three constituencies, the largest of which has about 65,000 electors and the smallest 57,000, making a difference of 7,799. The "logical" proposal was to create four constituencies for Cardiff, the largest with 58,531 electors and the smallest with 38,247, a difference of 20,085. The creation of neighbouring constituencies with such great differences in electorates can hardly be termed logical.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the creation of the small constituency for Cardiff makes allowance for future expansion of the population. That is the answer to his question.
§ Mr. Jones
If the hon. Gentleman studies the proposals, he will find that the other constituencies are being reduced as well, so the difference of 20,000 electors is likely to remain. Then, again, the amalgamated Rhondda constituencies will have an electorate of 60,910, which will make the new constituency the third largest in Wales, with an electorate 30 per cent. above the electoral quota for Wales. Those types of proposals cannot be described as logical.
How consistent are the proposed parliamentary boundaries with local government boundaries? In fact, the Boundary Commission proposes the very opposite. It proposes that the Borough of Rhondda should contain not only the Rhondda constituency, but parts of the constituency of Pontypridd. Under the proposals contained in the White Paper, the Rhondda borough would take in the northern part of the parish of Llantrisant, which is now part of the Pontypridd constituency. The electorate of Rhondda would increase by 8,471, bringing it up to 74,639 on the basis of the 1967 figures. When that is compared with the Cardiff proposal of 38,000, where is the logic when we are creating constituencies of 38,000 and 75,000 electors.
All this, as the hon. Gentleman told us, is in the name of logic.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but the figure of 38,000 is 38,000 going up because of an allowance for future expansion. His whole argument falls to the ground, therefore.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Jones
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has taken that point, because the Rhondda figure of 74,000 is the minimum size envisaged for Rhondda, taking no account of future types of development.
The difference between Rhondda's size of 75,000 and the Cardiff constituency of 38,000—and we could have taken the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) who would have been about 30,000—
§ Mr. Jones
I appreciate that, and will not take it.
138 Merioneth will have about 30,000, so that the difference between that and the proposed constituency of Rhondda will be 45,000. Can that be described as a great logical advance? The difference between the small constituencies and the new large one would be greater than the electorates of some half dozen of the constituencies proposed for Wales.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has decided on his proposed course of action. We should wait to fix our local government boundaries in the way that he suggests. If he feels in need of support he will be glad to know that he has the backing of the Rhondda Borough Council and the Glamorgan County Council, the Communist Party in Rhondda and the Welsh Nationalist Party in Rhondda.
My right hon. Friend's proposals to marry the Parliamentary constituencies with local government boundaries were approved by all the political parties with any real measure of electoral support in the Rhondda area. In addition, they are approved by the local trade unions and even by the Rhondda Federated Chambers of Trade, which can hardly be described as being politically motivated. All these organisations agree that it would be foolish to draw new Parliamentary boundaries which are not as consistent as possible with the new local government boundaries.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the so-called logic of the Opposition and is arguing that the constituency boundaries should be consistent with local government boundaries. In his remarks, he has referred to my constituency, and this is where the consistency lies. The Boundary Commission's constituency recommendation is that it should follow the existing local government boundaries, and it is making a small but perfectly logical amendment to that effect, I agree though with my hon. Friend's overall argument.
§ Mr. Jones
I am obliged to my hon.
Friend for that suggestion. I do not suggest that there is anything wrong in the proposals for Newport, but it is not logical to speak of creating new constituencies while retaining other constituencies of 30,000 electors whilst, at the same time, discussing a vast change in local government. I do not think that it is logical or founded on fact.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I thought perhaps that it might help the Committee at this stage if I made a short intervention now, as we seem to have come to an end of some of the speeches from the Principality and a number of hon. Members are rising to discuss Scottish affairs. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) does not entirely disagree that I should say a little about the Principality.
One of the main arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) was that the Government were using the Redcliffe-Maud Report as one of their main arguments for not carrying out the recommendations of the Boundary Commission in England, Scotland. Ireland and Wales. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, the Redcliffe-Maud Report does not affect Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. We have been told over and over again by the Government, not only in the White Paper of July, 1967, but also in a debate—the Secretary of State for Wales nods—exactly what their views were on local government reform in Wales. I do not suggest that they have come to a final decision, but we have a fairly clear idea what is in the Government's mind concerning local government in Wales. It cannot be argued that the Government can, in all sincerity, disregard the recommendations of the Boundary Commission as they affect Wales.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. George Thomas)
The hon. Gentleman is surely aware that I promised all local authorities in Wales that they would have the right to consider the Redcliffe-Maud proposals and whether they wished to propose any changes in local government structure in the light of those proposals. This process is now under way.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I should not disagree with the action that the right hon. Gentleman has taken in this respect. Obviously, the local authorities have a right to be considered. All I say is that a great number of public servants in Wales have been kept on the hook far too long.
One point which the Government cannot overlook in this respect is that if a Boundary Commission is set up, be it for 140 Wales, for Scotland or for England, and the Government of the day totally disregard the recommendations which it puts forward, it undoubtedly downgrades the standing of Royal Commissions. This cannot be denied. Therefore, we must consider the position of these eminent men, and there were and are three eminent Welshmen on the Commission. It must be clear to them, as it is to us, why the Government are not going through with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. Even these three eminent gentlemen, who carry on nonparty political work, must know that the Government, for political reasons, are not carrying out the recommendations. The Government do not deny it. In fact, the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) admitted that it was all a question of votes. Those were his very words. This is true. The Under-Secretary of State for the Scottish Office nods. He would not deny that the hon. Member for Barons Court said that it was all a question of votes.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard). He was saying that the whole of the factitious opposition from the Opposition was due to votes. The hon. Gentleman may dissent from that proposition, but he must not charge my hon. Friend with saying that there was some political manoeuvring on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
That is an interesting intervention by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), to whose contribution we listened earlier. But none of us were taken in by the arguments that he then produced. The hon. Gentleman said that he had very little respect for Parliamentary Commissions. This is very clear. This is the attitude which has been taken by the party opposite— or at least that part of it which wags the tail.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has a good deal of power in tail wagging with the Labour Party today. He had a good deal to say when his right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) tried to bring in legislation on industrial relations. He was perhaps one of the leaders of those who were against it and who made the Government fall on their face in this respect. I also suspect 141 that on this occasion he went along to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and said, "We are not having this Boundary Commission. We are not having it in Wales, in any case." I have known the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale for some time, but we had enough effervescence from him tonight to last a lifetime.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I should like to put the hon. Gentleman straight. No such meeting occurred between myself and the Secretary of State for Wales on that matter. Of course, I am happy that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that the Government would be wiser to consult me more often. I am sure it is excellent advice.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale do meet sometimes. I look forward to the time when we get an identical view between the two of them.
The hon. Gentleman also said that we are insisting that the House of Commons should decide. I suggest that the runt of the Labour Party is deciding, not the House of Commons. The party opposite has a majority at the moment. Therefore, it is able to gerrymander this change in Parliamentary boundaries.
I was about to say, before the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale intervened, that the Welsh changes do not amount to very much. If the recommendations of the Boundary Commission were implemented, they would mean the loss of one seat in the Rhondda to the Labour Party. I do not suggest that the Communists or the Liberals would win the seat.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
But on this occasion the Commission said that it should be wiped out. That is why the party opposite would lose the seat, and there 142 would be an extra seat in Cardiff. It is possible that the Home Secretary's constituency would be improved if it was brought in. Certainly the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) would be improved.
It is possible, marginally, that the Tory Party would gain one seat in Cardiff, but I am not saying that it necessarily would. It would depend on the ups and downs of the political climate. I say that in respect of Wales the Government are gerrymandering to the tune of one and a half seats. What happens in England is another matter. My remarks the other day about the Home Secretary still stick. I believe that the Government are cheating and gerrymandering in England.
The points which have been made about the possibility of bringing forward the Boundary Commission's recommendations in Wales need underlining. Let nobody on the benches opposite argue that the recommendations favoured by the Government for local government reorganisation in Wales cut across, in any width, the Commission's terms of reference and the recommendations which it has made. Do not let it be argued tonight by Welsh Members opposite that they are debarred from making these changes because the local government changes which are envisaged will cut across them.
§ [Mr. J. C. JENNINGS in the Chair.]
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
One of the advantages of having a Guillotine is that members of the Government party come forward to try to justify their proposals. We see them emerging from under flat stones, or wherever they come from, to do this, but I think that they have been singularly unsuccessful tonight.
We had, first, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who seemed to concentrate an this becoming an issue of the House of Lords, and how we could have a clash with the other place. The hon. Gentleman should not push this too far, or he may provoke the other place into bringing forward a Bill to abolish this House. Bearing in mind the Government's record, I think that such a proposal could attract a great deal of public support.
143 Then we had the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), whose only argument was that we had not changed the local government boundaries in Scotland for many years, and we now had the ridiculous situation that some municipal wards had 50,000 voters, while others had only 6,000 voters. He said that the situation in Glasgow was chaotic; therefore, why both about Parliamentary boundaries? That was the basis of his argument.
What the hon. Gentleman did not say was that the reason why we have not had changes in ward boundaries in Glasgow, and why this was dealt with in paragraphs 29, 30 and 31 of the Commission's Report, was that in April, 1967 the corporation said that there were no proposals at all to change local government boundaries. There have been almost 30 years of uninterrupted Labour rule in Glasgow. Some municipal wards are in a chaotic state, some being enormous, and some tiny. This is the basis of our case about Scotland.
It has been suggested that we have not made it clear that reorganisation will be favourable to the Conservative Party, and damaging to the Labour Party. Anybody who looks at the situation in Scotland must realise that reorganisation would damage the Labour Party, and damage it substantially, because in Scotland, as in every part of the United Kingdom, there are small, declining, constituencies in the centres of towns. We have some of these in Glasgow. Some are becoming the new rotten burghs, with 15,000, or 20,000 electors, and these constituencies are getting smaller every year.
The hon. Member for Provan and I represent two constituencies in Glasgow. He has about 60,000 constituents and I have about 66,000, but let us consider the ridiculous situation in some of the other Glasgow constituencies. Glasgow, Central has 22,000 electors, Kelvingrove has 20,000 electors. Both the hon. Member for Provan and I could say that we represent three times the number of people in those constituencies. Apart from the argument about doing a good job—the hon. Member for Provan is a good Member when it comes to looking after his constituents, as he would be the first to admit—we have a gross imbalance in Glasgow, as in many other 144 parts of the country. Dumbartonshire has enormous constituencies, yet in the centre of Glasgow there is a constituency with 20,000 electors, and this figure is going down fast.
As the hon. Member for Provan knows, because of the pace of redevelopment in Glasgow, houses in the city centre are being knocked down and fewer houses are being erected in their place, because we now work densities which are about one-third, or a half, of what they used to be. In addition, some of our residential areas are being turned into commercial areas. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will admit that the situation is getting worse.
The big constituencies are getting bigger, while the small constituencies are getting smaller. Is this the basis on which Parliamentary democracy should work? We are aiming for constituencies which are equal overall, and also at having a review from time to time. The argument advanced in respect of England is that we should postpone introducing these proposals until we get the Redcliffe-Maud Report, but in Scotland the argument is even crazier, and more indefensible. We are told that we must await the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. In Scotland this is becoming known as the "Never Never Commission". We do not know when it will report, and every time there is a Press report that we shall soon get it, that is denied, and no report is received.
But far more important than that is that even if the report does come fairly soon, as the Secretary of State must admit, one thing about which we are fairly certain is that it will not be unanimous. I have no inside information—I do not know—but, knowing the calibre of the people that he has put on this Commission, the right hon. Member must be well aware that the possibility of a unanimous report is very remote. Even if we assumed that it was unanimous, that it recommended that certain things should be done, do the Government really think that they could get the reforms through within two or three years? The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and some of his hon. Friends have reminded us about those who have nothing to lose but their chains. It is a telling phrase when it is applied to some of the old rural burghs 145 in Scotland. They certainly have nothing to lose but their chains.
I suggest that if we have, first, to think of the report's coming out; secondly, to assume a majority for the report; and, thirdly, to remember that legislation has to come forward, it is crystal-clear that it will be many years before there is any meaningful legislation on local government reform in Scotland. Even if the changes are as definite, fundamental and far-reaching as we would expect from this Government the Boundary Commission will have to start its work all over again, and this will take a long time. It is clear that whatever happens there will not be substantial and fundamental local government reorganisation for a long time, and every day that we postpone it the constituencies in Glasgow will become even more unequal.
I do not want to press the political point, but it is obvious from a study of the report and its recommendations that it will harm the Government party. Some members of the Government representing the Scottish Office would be affected. But this is irrelevant. It does not matter whether this means 10 more seats for the Tories or for Labour; the fundamental point is that we now have a ridiculous situation in which some constituencies are enormous and growing and others are small and becoming smaller all the time. This is not a democratic way of running the country, and it is absolutely against the law.
Our objection arises from the fact that there is this great imbalance in Scotland, and it is getting worse. The Government are under a legal obligation to bring forward their recommendations, but they are not doing so. The most dangerous and worst feature of the question is that they are using a Government majority to force through legislation which is not only against the law, but is very damaging and harmful to their own political interests. This is a scandalous situation. It is utterly indefensible. For the hon. Member for Provan to suggest that the one argument for it is that we have the same crazy and unjust imbalance in local government wards in Glasgow is ridiculous, because it stems from the same thing—inaction by a Labour majority in the local council in Glasgow for many years.
146 Despite what we sometimes think about the opinions of the Secretary of State we generally regard him as an honest man. He must know that there is no justification for delaying the implementation of the Boundary Commission's Report for Scotland. If he holds it up in this way the situation will become worse. It will be a long time before vie have fundamental changes in local government, and if we do the Boundary Commission will have to start again. If we have a major change in the Glasgow area all the proposals for Glasgow will go haywire. If there is a major change in the Edinburgh proposals to extend the boundaries of the city we shall upset all these recommendations. The obvious thing is to take into account any changes in local government boundaries the next time the Boundary Commission undertakes a review.
This would be the sensible thing. For the Government to allow a Commission to go ahead and spend a great deal of the taxpayers' money and take up so much of the time of wise and profound men and then say, "We will not implement the report unless something very significant happens," is quite indefensible. Although the arguments on England have been put forward, and the battle has started, can we not isolate Scotland from this proposal, bring in some constituencies of a sensible size and make our parliamentary democracy in Scotland a little more meaningful and just than the plain gerrymandering in England is doing?
§ Mr. George Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I am always interested in the speeches of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). He has an amazing facility for creating his own Aunt Sallies and then, elaborately and hurriedly and usually without humour, destroying them. He condemned the Secretary of State for something which he has not yet done. That illustrates the dire straits of the Tory Party in Scotland. They have to create an issue where none exists to make a political battle. I should have thought that there were far more important matters in Scotland to fight about than that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Why not do them? Why waste the time of Scottish Members with something which has not yet happened[HON. MEMBERS: "It is your Bill."] The Bill does not say that the Secretary of 147 State will disregard the Boundary Commission—
§ Mr. Willis
What a high prophetic argument! What a bunch of politicians!
Then, the hon. Member said that my right hon. Friend is doing this terrible thing—which he is not doing, incidentally, according to the Bill—because it will put the Tories in a stronger position—
§ Mr. Willis
Yes, the hon. Gentleman suggested that it would be to the advantage of the Tories to carry out the Boundary Commission proposals. He should discuss this with some of his Edinburgh colleagues. It will not make the Labour Party any better off to ignore the proposals of the Boundary Commission. I understand that the Edinburgh Tories expect to win two seats in Edinburgh if the recommendations are not accepted.
§ Mr. Willis
But seven out of 70 seats in Scotland are in Edinburgh—a proportion of 10 per cent. The hon. and learned Gentleman admits that if the changes do not happen the Tories expect Labour to lose two seats. Therefore, to ignore the proposals will be detrimental to Labour in Edinburgh. So the hon. Gentleman is not correct on either count.
In the Bill, in effect, my right hon. Friend is saying, "The Boundary Commission has reported, and a report is expected within the next few months from the Local Government Commission. In view of the fact that both these are likely to affect the electors, surely it is common sense to wait a few weeks until the Local Government Commission reports." What is wrong with that? I should have thought that that was wise administration. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart would not, of course, because he rushes gleefully into anything, particularly if it presents an opportunity 148 to attack the Government. Never mind good administration, never mind the inconvenience to which electors will be put; this is a good Tory battle cry. In other words, the well-being of Scotland and its people must take second place to Tory propaganda.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the Government intend to accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission just like that, when they are under no obligation to do so and they are not doing so with the Boundary Commission? If this is not a fiddle, what is?
§ Mr. Willis
Unlike the hon. Member, I do not claim to be a prophet. I am a politician dealing with the political realities of the day, not with hypothetical situations of the future. The hon. Member would be a much more successful politician if he adopted the same attitude and the Tory Party would do better in Scotland if they dealt with the issues which exist, not with those which they create and build up for themselves.
This intolerable situation demonstrates what the Tories are prepared to do. They are prepared to put everybody in Scotland to inconvenience to suit their propaganda. I am never surprised by the Tories. One of the first things I learned in politics was that the Tories would do anything to get back into power. I can look back over a very long political career, which has not been unsuccessful, and in that time I have seen some of the things which the Tories have been prepared to do. Hon. Members opposite can never accustom themselves to the idea that they are not the Government. They cannot understand that they are not sitting on this side of the Committee. They find it most difficult to adjust their minds to the fact that somebody else is the Government.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J. C. Jennings)
Order. This is very good fun, but I should be obliged if the right hon. Member would return to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Willis
Thank you very much, Mr. Jennings. I agree that I strayed, but I was sorely tempted by the speech of the hon. Member for Cathcart.
149 As I read the Bill, my right hon. Friend says, "The Boundary Commission has issued a Report. Within a few weeks we shall have the report of the local Government Commission. Both affect the electorate. Surely in these circumstances it is common sense to consider the two together?" Is there anything wrong with that?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time, addressing each other as "You". Mr. Willis.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member did not get a chance because he did not rise to a point of order. He merely jumped to his feet. Mr. Willis.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope the two hon. Members will make up their minds. Mr. Willis or Mr. Robert Cooke.
§ Mr. Willis
You were complaining that we were not making speeches. I am sorry, Mr. Jennings—you were not complaining. The hon. Member for Cathcart was complaining a short time ago that no hon. Member on this side of the Committee made a speech. He said that one advantage of a guillotine Motion was that the Committee could hear speeches from my hon. Friends. When he hears such a speech he does not like it. He must make up his mind.
§ Mr. Willis
Thank you once again, Mr. Jennings.
My right hon. Friend says that in these circumstances the wisest thing is to wait until we have both Reports, to consider them and then to do what is best in the interests of the people of Scotland. That should commend the support, not the indignation, of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do they want my right hon. Friend to do what is best for the people of Scotland? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Then why are they kicking up such a row? The Bill enables him to do that.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
Would it not be better for the people of Scotland if the Secretary of State were to obey the law?
§ Mr. Willis
Up to now he has not disobeyed it. He is merely suggesting an amendment of the law to enable a wise course to be taken. That should appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, as it appeals to my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. MacArthur
—the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Fast (Mr. Willis) drew attention to the form of words used in this provision. The Government have chosen this form of words to give consistency to the deceit which they are practising throughout the United Kingdom. The purpose behind these words is precisely the same as it is for England; to postpone indefinitely the implementation of the Boundary Commission's recommendations, and to do so for party gain.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was confronting the political realities of the day. That is what the Government are doing. They are confronting the party political realities of the day. Because the reality shows that they will not win the game, they are changing the rules half way through it.
§ Mr. MacArthur
We have also heard a curious and unwise new argument. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) pursued it strongly. It is that the House of Commons alone should 151 determine constituency boundaries because, he said, we can best understand the delicate links between an hon. Member and his constituents and can best protect those links from disturbance. The argument implied that the Boundary Commissions should have much less authority and that too much significance is being attached to their recommendations.
This is a new excuse, and I think that we are hearing it for the first time. But the Labour Government are not concerned with the delicate links between an hon. Member and his constituents. They are concerned only with the delicate relationship between Labour candidates and votes. The requirements of the 1949 and 1958 Acts are not convenient for hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is why they are ignoring them. The 1958 Act in particular is not convenient for the Labour Government in their preoccupation with votes. Thus, we have a Measure which in Scotland, as elsewhere, legalises the Government's illegality.
The pretence in England is that the recommendations cannot be adopted, except where they happen to suit the Labour Party, because the Redcliffe-Maud Report has been published. But in Scotland the Wheatley report has not been published. The proposition there—and this is the pretence of the Government—is that action should be delayed because of the impact which that report may have on local government boundaries and, so it is argued, on Parliamentary boundaries. The reality is that the recommendations in Scotland are seen by the Secretary of State as a disadvantage to the Labour Party, and for this reason he believes that indefinite postponement is necessary.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) said that in Scotland we were on the eve of great reforms in local government and that tomorrow, or perhaps Monday, the structure would be completely changed, and that it would therefore be wrong in the meantime to go ahead with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. If so, he is a remarkably optimistic person. The Minister of State himself said earlier this year that it would take between five and 10 years to implement any recommendations which the Wheatley Commission might make, and we have 152 history to show us that we shall encounter delay and not speed. We have had delay after delay in the whole history of local government reform in Scotland.
The right hon. Gentleman himself refused to act on the White Paper which the Conservative Government published in 1962. Instead, he set up a Royal Commission. The Commission's Report has been delayed three times already. It was to have been published last year, then late last year, then early this year, and now it is to be later this year. We do not know when it will see the light of day. It is utterly wrong for the hon. Member for Provan to pretend that there will be speedy action. He knows as well as I do that there will be no speedy action and that it will take years and years before any of the recommendations which the Wheatley Commission may make are implemented.
If he believes that Parliamentary boundaries should take note of whatever statutory changes there may be in the structure of local government in Scotland, the time for that is in the next Boundary Commission review, between 10 and 15 years from now when the Commission will sit again and when it should take note of all those changes, if those changes have been effected by then. The moment is not now, before even the publication of the Report. The action which should be taken now is to implement the Boundary Commission's recommendations and in 10 years to allow the Commission to take note of any action which may have been taken by then, following the Wheatley Commission, and so to bring Parliamentary boundaries up to date at that time. Unless that is done, in the meantime the present anomalies in certain Scottish constituencies will continue and will get worse.
Speedy implementation of the Wheatley Commission's recommendations would be totally contrary to the assurances which the Government have given to local authorities and other interested bodies in Scotland. The whole theme of the Government has been that when the Wheatley Report is published there will be detailed consultation, and we know that detailed consultation must mean lengthy consultation. No doubt that was what the Minister of State had in mind when he said that five to 10 years would elapse before the Wheatley recommendations were implemented in any way.
153 I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be party to this shoddy fiddle with seats. I very much regret that he should bring this shame to the great office which he holds.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
I rather think that the speech which I made last Wednesday on another Amendment was the speech which I should have made tonight on this. However, as it was not a very good speech, I shall not weary the House by repeating it.
I should like to declare the interest which I think I ought to declare, because it so happens that my constituency is one of those which, I believe, would benefit considerably from my point of view if the Boundary Commission's recommendations were implemented, at the expense of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). This highlights the point clearly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) about the difference between certain constituencies in Scotland. I have about 32,000 voters, whereas my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West has about 75,000, and yet our constituencies adjoin. It is clearly absurd that this difference should continue and should become greater rather than less. It is obviously high time that something was done about it.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) suggested that the onus was on the Opposition to show why the Commission's Report should be implemented now rather than its being on the Government to show why they are not implementing it now. He has got it the wrong way round. Why appoint a Commission if its Report is to be ignored? I was surprised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) when he dealt with a very important point of principle. He said that it was for the House of Commons to decide what should be done about the Commission's Report, that it was for the House to draw a proper balance.
Up to a point I agree with the hon. Member, but not to the extent of ignoring and shelving the whole of the Commission's Report. It might be that it could be argued that the Boundary Commission has slipped up in one or two respects, and that certain points ought to be varied 154 by the House of Commons, but no one would pretend that this holds good for the whole report. The Government cannot try to wriggle out of the charge levelled against them that for England this is a monstrous fiddle.
I should like to make this point to the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). He has missed the point and he does not know why lie is supporting the Government. The reason why he is here supporting the Government, as far as Scotland is concerned, is to give the English Ministers a better argument for sticking to their guns than they have so far shown us.
If the Secretary of State for Scotland does as he ought to do, and proceeds with the Scottish Report, he will undermine the Home Secretary's case. That should be made abundantly clear. Even if by any chance the Wheatley Commission argument were advanced in Scotland in the same way as the Redcliffe-Maud argument is advanced in England, it would not hold water. This is because, almost without exception, the changes recommended in Scotland concern cities. They are the result of slum clearance whereby the central populations have been moved to the peripheries of cities. Whatever the Wheatley Commission will recommend, one thing it will not recommend will be the division of existing cities.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the Wheatley Commission will come along and cut Edinburgh in half? Of course it will not. Using the Wheatley Report as an argument against carrying out the Boundary Commission's recommendations for somewhere like Edinburgh is a non-starter. I feel sorry for the Secretary of State for Scotland. We all know that he is an honourable man, but he is being led along by the Home Secretary in a very unhappy way. He is playing the English game; he is helping the English to make their fiddle more convincing. I beg him to think again and to forge ahead with the implementation of the commission's recommendations for Scotland.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
II is tempting to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith I into his flattering remarks, but as I said when we last debated this matter, I prefer the abuse 155 of hon. Gentlemen opposite to their flattery—I always think that it sounds very much more sincere. [Interruption.] That goes particularly for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). I have taken a note of all their delightful epithets, "chicanery", "deceit", "gerrymandering"—we are not discussing England at the moment, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It shows a limitation of language that hon. Members opposite have found little or nothing new to say on these Amendments. They take refuge in the sort of disguised abuse which we had from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur). He talked about the Royal Commission being delayed three times. Who delayed it? As soon as we set up a Royal Commission hon. Members opposite put down a Question asking when it will report. No one has delayed the Royal Commission, and no one should delay Royal Commissions. They take the amount of time that they require for the consideration of the problems with which they have to deal.
The hon. Gentleman should know that neither I nor anyone else outside the Royal Commission has delayed it. He knows quite well that two hon. Gentlemen are members of the Royal Commission and that they would be the first to say something about it if there were any interference with it.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I did not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman had delayed the report. I said that the Government had announced that the report would be published early last year and that there had been three delays. The report has not yet been published. I referred to the matter to demonstrate the length of time which is passing before the publication of this much delayed report.
§ Mr. Ross
It is not possible for the Government to announce when any Royal Commission, while it is still deliberating 156 —[Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire would listen. All that we can do is suggest when a Commission is likely to report. This Royal Commission is deliberating now. It is likely to be able to report, as we have said—and this is all that we have said because we cannot speak with authority on this point—later in the summer. We know that it is considering the boundaries and powers of local authorities.
Hon. Members opposite should know that some of their own number have given evidence to the Royal Commission. I think it is right to say that the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) has made public speeches about the changes that he would like to be made. They are very considerable changes which cut across local government boundaries.
The question is: should we at this stage make decisions affecting constituencies which normally are expected to have some relationship to local government boundaries? My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was right about carrying out the work of a Member of Parliament. He has local authorities with whom he deals. Things can be made very difficult by frequent changes.
This is a practical problem. The local government map of England and Wales is being torn up. It is not a question of chicanery. It is a question of practical politics about whether we do anything about it. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) said that there was nothing inconsistent about Wales in the Boundary Commission's Report, even with the new proposals put forward by the Government. He should know quite well from the assurance given in an intervention by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales that it has always been understood—and my right hon. Friend has said this to local authorities—that it was for local authorities to consider whether the position in Wales would be affected by decisions and ideas put forward in the Redcliffe-Maud Report.
There is also the fact that there are 19 constituencies which may well create difficulties in fitting new boundaries into what has hitherto been considered to be the criterion for behaviour by the Boundary Commission.
157 In the case of Scotland, it is even worse because we do not know when the Royal Commission will report. Knowing that it will report, however, should we blindly go forward and make certain changes knowing quite well that we would need to make other changes? I was quite right to suggest that we should stand still.
The effect of the Amendment is to redefine the term "as soon as may be". It redefines it to October this year, whereas the Government have suggested that by the end of March next year I should be in a position to say whether we will implement the Boundary Commission's Report or decide that the evidence is that it would be inconvenient from the point of view of practical organisation to have more than one reorganisation within a measurable time.
Since I became Secretary of State, I have been trying to reform local government and to deal with particular problems in their urgency as I saw them arise. There was the question of amalgamation of police. I got many complaints about that and was told that I should wait for the Wheatley Commission. We did the same thing concerning water, which was urgently required for industrial purposes in Scotland, and we had amalgamations and the creation of new water board areas. Once again, I was told to wait for Wheatley. The same thing happened with social work; we were told to wait for Wheatley. When we are right up against something, however, we are told not to wait for Wheatley.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
§ Mr. Ross
I want to take up a point made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie), who suggested that on the latest Bill to be dealt with, nothing was said about waiting for Wheatley. The hon. and learned Member may not have done so, but on Second Reading the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) said:I wonder whether there is the same need to rush ahead with the Bill "—that was the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill—when we are about to receive the report of the Wheatley Commission, which must affect the regional groupings which we will have, which in turn will affect the Bill's implementation.
§ Mr. Ross
I will give way presently. I will not run away from this, if the hon. Gentleman had been here and heard his hon. Friend's speech he would have appreciated this.
Then the Scottish Tory Whip, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), said:Is the Bill necessary in Scotland at this moment? Is this the right time? It is vital to have the answers on the Royal Commission before we come to final decisions.That was on the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill on.23rd January this year.
Then we had another Front Bench spokesman from the Tory Party, the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), who tells me one day in a public speech that I ought to be gaoled in Barlinnie for something obscure which I had done and next day comes here and tells me that I am the most honest man in the House of Commons.
The hon. Member said:…but it is perfectly possible that it "—that is, the Wheatley Commission—will make recommendations which none of us expect. We should then be in the position of having passed a Bill which, if the Wheatley recommendations should be substantially different from what we had expected, will become nonsense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 23rd January, 1969; c. 57, 68, 85.]I could list some equivocal remarks even of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn on Second Reading indicating that we should wait for Wheatley.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I have always indicated the other way round—that the trouble was that the local government reforms which we started in 1963 in Scotland—
§ Mr. Campbell
—had been held up and that if they had been put through sooner we would not be in the position of having been without recommendations.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the work he started was allowed to go on, and the results of it were passed to the Royal Commission, and so there was no time wasted in that respect, but if he thinks one can go on 159 the basis of an inter-departmental committee and a steering committee of local authorities to reorganise local authorities in Scotland, he is quite mistaken. One would require to have the authoritative backing of something in the nature of a Royal Commission before embarking on that kind of thing. I promised to give way to the noble Lord.
Earl of Dalkeith
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but could he address himself to the point which I tried to make in my speech a little while ago, that places where boundary changes are necessary are inside cities; and does he seriously believe that any Royal Commission on local government is going suddenly to chop up Edinburgh or Glasgow into entirely new areas?
§ Mr. Hogg
I did not say that at all. I said that the factors, including the relevance of the electoral quota and local government boundaries, are already defined in the law, in the Second Schedule to the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, which this Bill is a conspiracy to defeat.
§ Mr. Ross
It is not a conspiracy to defeat when one is taking action in the knowledge that those local boundaries, which limit the actions of the Boundary Commission, are likely to be changed.
I want to go into the position of Scotland and in relation to this one man, one vote business. There never has been any mathematical accuracy between Scotland and England in this respect, or between England and Wales for that matter, and it has always been, in relation to the electoral quota, a matter of fewer votes —I think something like 45,000 in Scotland—to elect a Member of Parliament. Within Scotland itself there is consider- 160 able variation. At present, there are about 20 Members of the House who are here for constituencies where the electorate is less than 40,000. Indeed, if we implemented the Boundary Commission's Report there would still be more than 10 Members representing constituencies with electorates of less than 40,000—including the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn.
Whether or not we implement the Boundary Commission's Report, Moray and Nairn will have an electorate of about 36,000.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire will have an electorate of just over 50,000 but next door to him, in the same county, the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has an electorate of between 30,000 and 40,000. So we have, even between these two, not remotely separate areas—
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
The right hon. Gentleman is saying, but rather more lengthily, what I said in my speech, but —and this is the question which I put to him and which he has not answered—does his reflection upon the situation mean that the Government are intending to reduce the 71 seats which are statutory in Scotland and which give rise to this situation?
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman should realise one simple thing about that. If we had intended to do that, there would have been something in the Bill to enable us to do it because we are governed by Statute—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We had better be careful about this. There are many hon. Members representing English constituencies who may have been listening to me in respect of the electoral quota in Scotland and 161 who may be thinking about this, but it is not the Government's intention to reduce the 71 Scottish seats—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not? "] Because Scotland is Scotland and not, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned the other day, because of the Act of Union. We departed a long time ago from the Act of Union. Towards the end of the 18th century our entitlement of Members was 45; today, we have 71.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite, from the point of view of Scotland, have been trying to make a case out of nothing. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Tories in Scotland are very predictable and they will always get it wrong. This is why they are irrelevant in Scottish politics at present. I assure the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) that his speech tonight was very much out of character. I did not expect from his accusations of gerrymandering, of dishonesty, cheating and all the rest of it, or his mucking about with a name to get an epithet. He knows it ill-becomes a Campbell to talk about not having confidence in somebody.
I do not place any reliance on the historical reputations of clans to create this kind of situation. I think that it must have been evident to the hon. Gentleman that he was not very strong in his denunciations. What we are doing for Scotland and Northern Ireland—and it is interesting that we have had no speeches for Northern Ireland today—is right. We had—on 2nd July, I think—the report of the Northern Ireland Government on reorganisation. This has to be studied and its implications on boundaries must be looked at. The same is true in respect of the other Royal Commission, on Local Government. It is quite wrong for hon. Gentlemen to take it for granted that I have already made up my mind what to do. They cannot say this and at the same time say that I am a man with a reputation for honesty. They should make tip their minds. This is why I prefer their abuse to their flattery.
I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that what we say is right. It would be wrong to make the Amendments. To do so would mean that, whether or not we had the Royal Commission, no matter what that Royal Commission reported, I would need to implement the recom- 162 mendations of the Boundary Commission as it has presently reported, and that I would have no discretion in October of this year. Why October is mentioned I do not know. It is not to allow me to look at the Royal Commission's Report, because, irrespective of what the Royal Commission says, the Amendment provides that I must lay the Orders.
The Amendment is effectively a wrecking Amendment to take away the discretion that I and the Government have, and which I hope my hon. Friends think that we ought to have, in respect of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the suggestion in respect of Wales does not stand.
§ Mr. Hogg
The Secretary of State for Scotland seems to be competing with the nine of diamonds for the title of the Curse of Scotland. I had not intended to intervene in the debate but for the sophistries to which we have just listened, although I was almost tempted to intervene because of the sophistries of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot).
Of course it is true, and everybody knows it is true, that no constituency can bear an exact relation to the electoral quota of the area of the United Kingdom to which that electoral quota applies. Everybody knows that, and nobody has pretended anything else.
The electoral quota for England, bearing that relation to the number 613 in the Schedule to the Act, is 58,000. That for Scotland is different, as is that for Wales. No constituency can exactly bear a relationship to its own electoral quota, but none the less the law requires that in deciding its boundaries it should bear some relationship to that—not an exact relationship but some relationship.
Many constituencies cannot bear an exact relationship to local government boundaries, but, equally, the Schedule to the Act provides that so far as is practicable constituencies should bear a relationship to local government boundaries. Some constituencies have to bear a relationship to the mere area of ground which a Member of Parliament has to cover in order to fight an election or to represent the constituency after he has been elected. But, again, the rules of law which are applicable to the situation provide that, so far as is practicable, that is something which the 163 Boundary Commission is bound to take into account.
It is nothing new that we on this side of the House have asked the Government to obey the law in all its characteristics. It is true that most of the grotesque distortions to which the Bill commits us are related to the size of constituency. But we have never contended that they should not bear relation to the local government boundaries. The fact is, of course, that the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions, coming as they do after a long delay of 15 years, are making a belated attempt to catch up with local government boundaries. This is true in respect of Wales and Scotland no less than it is true in respect of other parts of the United Kingdom, although in this Amendment we are dealing with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That is common ground.
In the case of Wales—the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to say that it is not yet known in the case of Scotland, although I accept that it is true of Scotland, too— the fact is that the Boundary Commission's proposals bear a closer relationship to the Government's proposals for the reform of local government than does the status quo. But the Government insist on retaining the status quo because, as we claim, it means another seat or perhaps another two seats to them if they do.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, has said that one or two seats is very little. The House knows the argument. But how low can one sink if one sells one's honour for a seat or two? It is far more contemptible to do it for one or two seats. The hon. Gentleman might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, but he chooses to be hanged for a lamb every time. The Labour Party, wherever it governs, is characterised by petty tyranny, mitigated only by stupidity and incompetence.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
No such statement has been made about one seat or two seats. I took up the statement by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who conceded my point that the Boundary Commission in political terms was neutral. The whole of the argument posed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman falls to the ground.
§ [Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is being more sophistical than the Committee can take. The Boundary Commission is neutral, but the effect of it may be favourable to one party or the other. A referee is neutral but he may give a goal against the hon. Gentleman —and in this case he would give a foul.
The Secretary of State did not even appear to know on which Amendment we propose to divide the Committee. We have been discussing a variety of Amendments, but the only one on which we are dividing is Amendment No. 7, which is to leave out "may at any time" and insert "shall".
The effect of that Amendment is no more than to compel the Secretary of State to perform his duty. If I may adapt the analogy which was applied to me the other day, the right hon. Gentleman is all Hyde and no Jekyll, all brimstone and no treacle. All that we are seeking to do in the Amendment is to impose upon the Secretary of State a duty to do that for which he has claimed for himself a discretion. Why should not we compel the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for the Home Department to perform the duty for which they applied to themselves a discretion? In the course of the debate they have given ample assurances to the Committee that they will perform their duties. Why should not they accept an obligation to do so?
I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Wales in his place. We have heard nothing from him in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman is always wrestling with his conscience. The trouble is that he always wins.
§ Mr. George Thomas
I only wish that I could pay the right hon. and learned Gentleman the same compliment—if he has a conscience.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not promoting the cause of Anglican-Methodist unity tonight.
I must return to the Amendment, so as not to incur your displeasure, Mr. Irving. The right hon. Gentleman was leading me 165 astray, in my simplicity. All that I was saying was that the only Amendment which we propose to divide upon is that which imposes upon the two right hon. Gentlemen a duty to do that which they have given ample assurance that they mean to do, anyway. If they are to be
§ trusted, why do not they accept the Amendment?
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 238, Noes 287.169
|Division No. 322.]||AYES||[9.33 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Aliason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fortescue, Tim||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn, Julian||Foster, Sir John||Maddan, Martin|
|Astor, John||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Gibson-Watt, David||Marten, Neil|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maude, Angus|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mawby, Ray|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Glyn, Sir Richard||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Batsford, Brian||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Goodhart, Philip||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Bell, Ronald||Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Grant, Anthony||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bennett, Dr, Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Grieve, Percy||More, Jasper|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Biffen, John||Gurden, Harold||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Murton, Oscar|
|Blaker, Peter||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Neave, Airey|
|Body, Richard||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Nott, John|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Onslow, Cranley|
|Braine, Bernard||Hastings, Stephen||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Brewis, John||Hawkins, Paul||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hay, John||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Heseltine, Michael||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bryan, Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Peel, John|
|Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus,N&M)||Hiley, Joseph||Percival, Ian|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Peyton, John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Burden, F. A.||Holland, Philip||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hordern, Peter||Pounder, Rafton|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hornby, Richard||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Carlisle, Mark||Howell, David (Guildford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hunt, John||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pym, Francis|
|Chataway, Christopher||Iremonger, T. L.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Clegg, Walter||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Cordle, John||Jopling, Michael||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Corfield, F, V.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Costain, A. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Crouch, David||Kershaw, Anthony||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kimball, Marcus||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Royle, Anthony|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kirk, Peter||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kitson, Timothy||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Dance, James||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Scott, Nicholas|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lambton, Visoount||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Sharples, Richard|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lane, David||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lawler, Wallace||Silvester, Frederick|
|Doughty, Charles||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick& L'mington)|
|Eden, Sir John||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longden, Gilbert||Speed, Keith|
|Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Stainton, Keith|
|Emery, Peter||MacArthur, Ian||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Stodart, Anthony|
|Farr, John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Fisher, Nigel||McMaster, Stanley||Tapsell, Peter|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Waddington, David||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Temple, John M.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Worsley, Marcus|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Walters, Dennis||Wright, Esmond|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Ward, Dame Irene||Wylie, N. R.|
|Tilney, John||Weatherill, Bernard||Younger, Hn. George|
|Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Wiggin, A. W.||Mr. Reginald Eyre and Mr. Hector Monro.|
|Vickers, Dame Joan||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Abse, Leo||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hul1, W.)|
|Albu, Austen||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Eadie, Alex||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Edelman, Maurice||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Anderson, Donald||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Archer, Peter||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Judd, Frank|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ellis, John||Kelley, Richard|
|Ashley, Jack||English, Michael||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Ennals, David||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Ensor, David||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lawson, George|
|Barnes, Michael||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Barnett, Joel||Faulds, Andrew||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Baxter, William||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Beaney, Alan||Finch, Harold||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Bence, Cyril||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Binns, John||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bishop, E. S.||Foley, Maurice||Loughlin, Charles|
|Blackburn, F.||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Booth, Albert||Ford, Ben||MacColl, James|
|Boston, Terence||Forrester, John||Macdonald, A, H.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Fowler, Gerry||McGuire, Michael|
|Bradley, Tom||Freeson, Reginald||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Gardner, Tony||Mackie, John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Ginsburg, David||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Maclennan, Robert|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Buchan, Norman||Gregory, Arnold||McMilian, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Grey, Charles (Durham)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Caliaghan, Rt. Hn, James||Griffths, Will (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Cant, R. B.||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Malialieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Manuel, Archie|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mapp, Charles|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hamling, William||Marks, Kenneth|
|Chapman, Donald||Hannan, William||Marquand, David|
|Concannon, J. D.||Harper, Joseph||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Maxwell, Robert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Haseldine, Norman||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Cronin, John||Hattersley, Roy||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn, Anthony||Hazell, Bert||Mendelson, John|
|Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dalyell, Tam||Heffer, Eric S.||Millan, Bruce|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Henig, Stanley||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hilton, W. S.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hooley, Frank||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Molloy, William|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Moonman, Eric|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Howie, W.||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Dell, Edmund||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Moyle, Roland|
|Dempsey, James||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Dewar, Donald||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Murray, Albert|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hunter, Adam||Neal, Harold|
|Dobson, Ray||Hynd, John||Newens, Stan|
|Doig, Peter||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip|
|Driberg, Tom||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dunn, James A.||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian|
|Dunnett, Jack||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n& St. P'cras,S.)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Orme, Stanley||Robinson, Rt.Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)||Tomney, Frank|
|Oswald, Thomas||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Owen, Dr, David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Roebuck, Roy||Varley, Eric G.|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Ryan, John||Wallace, George|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Park, Trevor||Sheldon, Robert||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Weitzman, David|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Whitlock, William|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pentland, Norman||Silverman, Julius||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Skeffington, Arthur||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Slater, Joseph||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg||Small, William||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Snow, Julian||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Spriggs, Leslie||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Probert, Arthur||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Randall, Harry||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Winnick, David|
|Rankin, John||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Rees, Merlyn||Swain, Thomas||Woof, Robert|
|Richard, Ivor||Symonds, J. B.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Taverne, Dick|
|Roberts, Rt, Hn. Goronwy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Thornton, Ernest||Mr. John McCann and Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tinn, James|
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Miss Mervyn Pike (Melton)
I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 2, line 33, at end insert:(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituencies of Harborough and Melton, and for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Leicester, North-East, South-East, North-West and South-West, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
- (a) the County Constituency of Blaby consisting of:
- The rural district of Blaby as altered by the Leicester Order 1966, and Lutterworth;
(b) the County Constituency of Harborough consisting of:
- (i) the urban district of Market Harborough as altered by the East Midland Counties Order 1965, and the urban districts of Oadby and Wigston as altered by the Leicester Order 1966;
- (ii) the rural district of Billesdon as altered by the Leicester Order 1966 and the rural district of Market Harborough as altered by the East Midland Counties Order 1965;
(c) the County Constituency of Melton consisting of: 170
- (i) the urban district of Melton Mowbray;
- (ii) the rural districts of Barrow-uponSoar as altered by the East Midland Counties Order 1965 and the Leicester Order 1966, and Melton and Belvoir as altered by the East Midland Counties Order 1965;
(d) the Borough Constituency of Leicester, East, consisting of:
- The following wards of the county borough of Leicester as altered by The Leicester Order 1966, namely, Belgrave. Charnwood, Evington, Humberstone and Latimer;
(e) the Borough Constituency of Leicester, South, consisting of:
- The following wards of the county borough of Leicester (as so altered) namely, Aylesbury, De Monfort, Knighton, Spinney Hill, The Castle and Wysliffe;
(f) the Borough Constituency of Leicester, West, consisting of:
- The following wards of the county borough of Leicester (as so altered) namely, Newton, North Braunstone, St. Margaret's, The Abbey and Westcotes.This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
|5||(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituencies of Bristol Central, Bristol, North-East, and Bristol, North-West, Bristol, South, Bristol, South-East, Bristol, West, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—|
|(a) the Borough Constituency of Bristol, North-East, consisting of:|
|10||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol as altered by The Bristol Order 1966, namely, Easton, Eastville, Hillfields, St. Paul, St. Philip and Jacob and Stapleton;|
|(b) the Borough Constituency of Bristol, North-West, consisting of:|
|The following wards of the county borough of Bristol (as so altered) namely, Avon, Henbury, Horfield, Southmead and Westbury-on-Trym;|
|15||(c) the Borough Constituency of Bristol, South, consisting of:|
|The following wards of the county borough of Bristol (as so altered) namely, Bedminster, Bishopsworth, Hengrove, Somerset and Southville;|
|(d) the Borough Constituency of Bristol, South-East, consisting of:|
|20||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol (as so altered) namely, Brislington, Knowle, St. George East, St. George West, Stockwood and Windmill Hill;|
|(e) the Borough Constituency of Bristol, West, consisting of:|
|The following wards of the county borough of Bristol (as so altered) namely, Bishopston, Cabot, Clifton, District, Durdham and Rcdland.|
|25||This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House, of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.|
with the Amendments thereto, in line 5, after 'West ', insert:
'the County Constituency of Gloucestershire, South ',
§ and in line 24, at end insert—
- (f) the County Constituency of Gloucestershire, South consisting of the rural districts of Sodbury and Thornbury;
- (g) the County Constituency of Kings-wood, consisting of the urban districts of Kingswood and Mangotsfield and the rural district of Warmley.
No. 15, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of Wirral, and accordingly for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjourning constituencies of Bebington and Birkenhead there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely
§ No. 13, in page 2, line 33, at end insert:
The boroughs of Bebington and Ellesmere Port as altered by The River Gowy (Local Boundaries) Order 1962 and The County of Chester (Borough of Ellesmere Port) Confirmation Order 1967.
) the Borough Constituency of Birkenhead, consisting of:
The following wards of the county borough of Birkcnhead, namely, Argyle, Bebington, Cathcart, Claughton, Cleveland, Clifton, Devonshire, Egerton, Gil-brook, Grange, Holt, Mersey, Oxton and St. James.
This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
No. 18, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing County Constituency of Kettering, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of South Northants. Wellingborough and Northampton there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
No. 19, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing County Constituency of Wokingham, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Newbury and Reading there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House, of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
No. 20, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituencies of Arundel and Shoreham, and Horsham, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies and the adjoining constituency of Chichester there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect the constitution of the House, of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
No. 21, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing Borough constituency of Cheadle, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Knutsford and Macclesfield there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 22, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituencies of Huyton and Ormskirk, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies and the adjoining constituencies of Crosby, Ince and Bootle there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 24, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of South Bedfordshire, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituency of Luton there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 26, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report
submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituencies of Portsmouth, Langstone and Gosport and Fareham, and accordingly for the purpose of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies and the adjoining constituencies of Portsmouth South, Portsmouth West there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 27, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituencies of Birmingham, All Saints, Birmingham, Ladywood, Birmingham, Northfield, Sutton Coldfield, and Coventry East, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies, and the adjoining constituencies of Meriden, Solihull, Stratford.. Warwick and Leamington, Birmingham Aston, Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Hall Green, Birmingham, Handsworth, Birmingham, Sparkhrook, Birmingham, Perry Barr, Birmingham, Selly Oak, Birmingham, Small Heath, Birmingham, Stechford, Birmingham, Yardley, Coventry,
North and Coventry, South, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 28, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of North East Derbyshire, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Sheffield, Attercliffe. Sheffield, Brightside, Sheffield, Hallam, Sheffield, Heeley, Sheffield, Hillsborough, Sheffield, Park, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 29, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Nothwithstanding subsection (1) above the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of Cleveland, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Richmond (Yorkshire), Scarborough and Whitby, Thirsk and Malton, Middlesbrough East, Middlesbrough West, Stockton-on-Tees, Easington, Sedgefield, Durham, Bishop Auckland, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
This subsection shall come into force at the expiration of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, but its coming into force shall not affect any parliamentary election until a proclamation is issued by Her Majesty summoning a new Parliament, nor affect t'ne constitution of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the Parliament then in being.
No. 30, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (I) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituency of Leek, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Stoke on Trent, Central, Stoke on Trent, North, Stoke on Trent, South, Stafford and Stone, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 32, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituencies of Brierley Hill and Cannock, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies and the adjoining constituencies of Lichfield and Tamworth, Stafford and Stone, Bilston, Newcastle under Lyme, Rowley Regis and Tipton, Smethwick, Walsall, North, Walsall, South, Wednesbury, Dudley, West Bromwich, Oldham and Halesowen, Wolverhampton, North East, Wolverhampton, South West, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 33, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of Basingstoke in order to bring into it only—
and altering the county constituencies of Aldershot and Winchester in accordance with the finding of the Boundary Commission in
so far as it affects the constituency of Basingstoke.
No. 60, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituencies of Leeds, East, Leeds, North-East, Leeds, North-West, Leeds, South, Leeds, South-East, Leeds, West, and accordingly for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 68, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (I) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary
Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing constituency of Leeds, South-East, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Leeds, East, Leeds, North-East, Leeds, North-West, Leeds, South, and Leeds, West, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 69, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituencies of Manchester, Cheetham and Manchester, Exchange, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Manchester, Ardwick, Manchester, Moss Side, Manchester, Withington, Manchester, Wythenshawe, there
shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 70, in line 33, at end insert—
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituency of Bristol, Central and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Bristol, North-East, Bristol, North-West, Bristol, South, Bristol, South-East, Bristol, West, and South Gloucestershire there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 71, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented as far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituency of Carlton, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Nottingham North, Ashfield, Nottingham Central, Rushcliffe, Nottingham West, Nottingham South, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 72, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituencies of Liverpool, Exchange, and Liverpool, Scotland, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of those constituencies and the adjoining constituencies of Liverpool, Edge Hill, Liverpool, Kirkdale, and Liverpool, Toxteth, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 73, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing borough constituency of Bradford, East, and accordingly, for the purposes of parliamentary elections, in lieu of that constituency and the adjoining constituencies of Bradford, North, Bradford, South, and Bradford, West, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely—
No. 79, in line 33, at end insert:
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, the recommendations contained in the report submitted under section 2(1) of the Redistribution of Seats Act in the year 1969 by the Boundary Commission for England shall be implemented so far as they alter or relate to the existing county constituencies of Cirencester and Tewkesbury, South Gloucestershire, Stroud and West Gloucestershire and the existing borough constituencies of Gloucester, Bristol Central, Bristol North East, Bristol North West, Bristol South, Bristol South East, Bristol West and Cheltenham, there shall be substituted the following constituencies, namely:—
§ No. 78, in Schedule 2, page 16, leave out line 44.
§ No. 58, in the Title, line 9, leave out division 'and insert alteration'.
§ No. 59, in the Title, line 10, leave out 'abnormally large electorates' and insert electorates of abnormal size'.
§ No. 66, in Clause 3, page 4, line 9, leave out 100,000 'and insert 95,000'.
§ No. 67, in page 4, line 16, leave out constituency 'and insert constituencies'.
No. 65, in Schedule 2, page 16, line 37, at end insert:
' The Constituency of Huyton.
The Constituency of Harborough.
The Constituency of Wokingham'.
and New Clause 1—Redistribution of constituencies having abnormally small electorates—
(1) The Boundary Commission for England shall forthwith take into consideration the constituencies named in Schedule 3 to this Act (being the existing constituencies which have an electorate of less than 30,000 according to the register of electors published in February 1969) and shall as soon as may be submit to the Secretary of State reports showing the constituencies to which the constituencies named in the Schedule shall he added, either in whole or in part, so that they may cease to exist.
(2) Paragraphs 3 to 5 of Part III of Schedule 1 to the Redistribution of Seats Act, together with section 4 of the 1958 Act (which relate to the proceedings of a Boundary Commission in preparing a report under the Redistribution of Seats Act), and sections 2(5) and 3 of the Redistribution of Seats Act (which relate to the contents of and proceedings subsequent to a report of a Boundary Commission under that Act), shall apply in relation to a report under this section as they apply in relation to a report under that Act.
and the new Schedule—Constituencies to be abolished under section (Redistribution of constituencies having abnormally small electorates)—
- 1. The Constituency of Manchester, Exchange.
- 2. The Constituency of Birmingham, Ladywood.
- 3. The Constituency of Leeds, South-East.
§ Miss Pike
I shall not attempt to sketch in the general principle behind this series of Amendments. The Amendment that I 196 have moved, covering my constituency of Melton, among others, is really a paving Amendment. In speaking about Melton I am speaking of the problems facing most of us at this time. I was amused over the weekend to hear that several Leicester and Leicestershire Members on the benches opposite had been busy looking up reports of what I had said about the Boundary Commission's recommendations in respect of my constituency. I am sure that they had a good time, because I do not like those recommendations. They will take away some of my best friends and supporters. They will take away the most beautiful part of my constituency. If I had been given the job of re-drawing my constituency boundaries I could have made it far more convenient to myself in that I could have ensured far more support than these recommendations will give me.
It happens that I live near the part of my constituency that I am losing. Every time I travel between Westminster and my constituency I have to go through that part, so it is most convenient. Nevertheless, when the recommendations came out we did not put forward any formal objections to them because, much as we dislike losing part of our constituencies and the disruption caused thereby, we recognised that the recommendations were in the best interests of Leicester and Leicestershire as a whole. There may be arguments as to what should be done in Leicester City, but I am certain that in respect of Leicestershire the recommendations are in the best interests of the electorate, even if they are not convenient to me.
I am trying to draw attention to the problems caused by the proposal not to redistribute these seats. In giving the example of Melton I am truly reflecting the problems that we are facing. Melton has not been redistributed since I was a Member, but in that time it has completely changed in character. It is now two separate constituencies. There is the county constituency, consisting of the rural district of Billesdon, the rural district of Melton and part of the rural district of Barrow-upon-Soar, with an electorate of 40,000 and all the characteristics and problems of a county constituency, but there is also the urban constituency, with over 40,000 urban electors, in the urban district of Melton 197 and Barrow-upon-Soar, with all the problems and anxieties of an urban constituency.
This, in itself, means that the electors of Melton are to some extent disadvantaged, in that it is humanly impossible for one Member to serve the whole constituency in the way that most of us would wish. I have spent four hours in the Library trying to do my holiday task. In 21 days I try to visit every village in my constituency. My object is to spend between 20 minutes and half an hour in each. That is impossible in 21 days. That was leaving out the whole of Birstall, Thurmaston, Syston, and so on. From the point of view of the work in the constituency and the convenience of the electors we did not put forward any formal objections to the redistribution in this instance.
I put forward the need for this Amendment with great sincerity. The electorate of Melton is small compared with many other electorates. It is approaching 85,000, and it is growing at about 3,000 a year. But it is not only the rate of growth that matters; it is the character of the electors who are coming in. A great many young married people are coming into my constituency, buying houses, with all the attendant extra problems for a constituency Member who is trying to do her work properly. These young people have many problems, not only in their own lives. Often, they leave parents in other parts of the country, so the rate of work is increased because of the make-up of these people.
Unless my constituency is redistributed in the next few years, it will be an almost intolerable burden both upon me and upon those people who are trying to see that my constituents are properly represented in this House. But, of course, they are told that we must wait for the local boundary revision, because that would mean a tremendous upheaval. I do not know what the revision will be in my part of the country. If the present recommendations are carried out, there will not be much disruption, but, in any case, ever since I have been the Member for Melton, people from Leicester City in my constituency have voted for me—people paying rates in Leicester but still in my constituency.
I have had this disruption of boundaries in all my time as a Member, 198 and I not have found it any more of a disadvantage than any of the other local government problems which I have, with four separate local authorities to deal with. So, in our part of the country, it is no excuse to say that boundary revision will be a disruptive element. We have that already, and can live with it: what we cannot live with is the rate of numbers.
I have spent most of my time talking about the needs of my constituents and the duties of a constituency Member, but there is the overriding principle that people must have the right to have their vote properly represented in Parliament. It is a nonsence that in Melton 85,000 people should be represented by one Member, whereas the next-door constituency has almost fewer people in it than the uban district of Barrow-on-Soar, which is only a small part of my constituency.
In moving the Amendment and concentrating on the example of my constituency, I am demonstrating not only the great injustice which is being done on the constitutional principle of people being unable to exercise their votes in a just way, but also the injustice of having these over-large constituencies completely changing in character and making it very difficult for these people to be properly represented.
Perhaps I might deal at this point with the generality of these Amendments. In her excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) illustrated the difficulties into which the Committee has been put by the limitation on time for discussions. An enormous number of questions arise affecting individual constituencies.
Because of the shortage of time, we have grouped together 31 Amendments covering I do not know how many different constituencies. But this group covers the constituencies in England outside the periphery of London and the London area. We hope that there will be time, before the guillotine falls, for a debate on the next group, covering London and the London area. Given the very large number of constituencies being discussed, even in this group, it will be virtually impossible to have a debate in which full rein can be given to the problems facing individual constituencies. I am sure that many of my 199 hon. Friends will wish to catch your eye in the next few hours, Mr. Irving, to make points affecting their constituencies.
I understand that it is your intention, Mr. Irving, that we should be allowed Divisions on several Amendments. The first is that moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton. The second is Amendment No. 22, which covers the important constituency of Huyton—without which it is reasonable to say, the necessity for the Bill would not have arisen.
§ The Chairman
Order. I agreed that there should be four Divisions—on Amendments Nos. 22, 27, 68 and 70. But these can take place only if the Question More the Committee has been disposed of before the Guillotine falls.
I understand that, Mr. Irving, and I am grateful to you for pointing it out.
We hope for Divisions also on Amendment No. 27, which covers Birmingham and the Birmingham complex, including the constituencies of Meriden and Lady-wood; on Amendment No. 68, which covers the area of Leeds, on which some of my hon. Friends will no doubt comment; and on Amendment No. 70, which covers the Bristol area. I hope that the fact that we are allowed to divide only on those four Amendments will not inhibit any of my hon. Friends from speaking about the constituencies which are covered by Amendments which we are discussing at the same time.
Only a short time was allowed between Second Reading and Committee stage. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary of State will be able to point to drafting errors in the large number of Amendments put down, but I hope that the Government spokesman will not make too much of that. It is easy, with all the resources of a great Department of State behind one, to pick holes in a large number of complex Amendments put down by the Opposition. I know that there are certain consequential Amendments which have not been put down. There should have been an Amendment put down to Clause 3. Had we had time to go through the Amendments sufficiently carefully they would have been put right.
200 But that in no way invalidates the general principle governing the Amendments. Wherever possible we have implemented recommendations of the Boundary Commission where they affected constituencies having electorates in 1969 of over 80,000 or under 40,000 and where redistribution was recommended by the Boundary Commission. That covers 40 constituencies. Certain consequential Amendments have to be made to other constituencies which would be affected by the subdivision of these 40 constituencies which are either too large or too small.
It may be said that the Boundary Commission recommended constituencies which would have an electorate of over 80,000 on the 1969 figures. The constituencies of Newton, Rother Valley, Brigg, Scunthorpe, Wallsend and Ipswich all come in this category. Specific reasons were given in the recommendations why each of these cases should be considered specially. For example—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.