Clause 11. — (Amendment as to stamping of ballot papers with official mark.)

Orders of the Day — Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 19th April 1926.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Henry Slesser Sir Henry Slesser , Leeds South East

I beg to move, in page 9, line 9, to leave out the words "stamped or."

Clause 11 seeks to alter the law in regard to official marks on ballot papers, and I understand the Home Secretary is even more rigid in regard to Clause 11 than he was on Clause 10. Yet I have an objection, which I think many hon. Members share, to allowing another place to direct the ultimate form of a Bill dealing with the franchise. We think that if alterations are to be made in the franchise laws, and are to be resisted, the house of Commons is the proper place for such discussion, and therefore I move this Amendment in spite of the final words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. What is the proposal for which Clause II stands and to which my Amendment is directed? The present law is that an official mark must be stamped on every ballot paper immediately before the paper is given to the voter. Even that system. I admit, has proved in the past unsatisfactory. Those of us who have had the fortune-or misfortune, to be engaged in Election petitions know how much time is taken up at those petitions in discussing whether or not some curious crease which can be discovered in a ballot paper with a magnifying glass when it is held at a certain angle to the light, is an official mark. I remember in the North-East Derbyshire Election petition the learned Judges were compelled to strain their necks considerably in holding up to the light one paper after another while counsel on one side sought to persuade them that a certain indentation was the official mark while counsel on the other side endeavoured to persuade them that it was not.

The official mark at present is not satisfactory if several papers are put into the stamping machine at the same time. It was quite clear, from the case I have mentioned, that it is a habit during the pressure of the last hours of polling for the clerk to put several papers into the stamping machine at once. The lower papers are not properly stamped at all in such cases and, as a result, in every election a number of papers are doubtful in this respect. The proposal of the Government is to allow the stamping—they do not define whether it is to be by a punch or by a machine—to be done prior to the polling, which must mean that it will be done before the polling station has been opened. It means that before the voter asks for his voting paper the official mark will have been stamped on the ballot papers in bulk. If there is a danger now that when the voter asks for his ballot paper that it will not be properly stamped as handed to him, how much greater is the risk that it will not be properly stamped if the stamping is to take place when there is no one there to see that it is properly done. At present the voter has a certain interest in seeing that the stamp is properly affixed to the paper when he asks for it, but if it is to be done in some back room, possibly by some unskilled clerk, then the chance of papers not being properly marked is immensely increased. Naturally, under the present system, an official, if he understands his duty, looks at the mark to see if it is properly made when he hands out the paper, but if the stamp is to be put on all the papers, as T say, in some hack room before the polling opens, the officer in charge will naturally assume that all the papers are in order, and that all he has to do is to hand them out, while the voter will no longer expect to see his paper stamped in his presence. In that respect the risk of papers being issued unmarked will be increased.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

The Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman seeks to leave out the words "stamped or," but he now appears to be arguing in regard to the entire Clause.

Photo of Sir Henry Slesser Sir Henry Slesser , Leeds South East

I do not resent the interruption, and if I am not making myself clear the fault is mine. I am saying that, as the law stands, stamping sometimes leads to difficulty owing to the mark not appearing on the paper. I am pointing out that the proposal to stamp prior to the polling, will increase the risk of the mark not being properly affixed, and, therefore, I move to omit the power to stamp prior to the polling, but would leave the Government with the power to print prior to the polling. I was pointing out what the difficulties are. The Government proposal is very curious. They do not pledge themselves, on the one hand, to print the official mark, nor, on the other hand, do they pledge themselves to stamp the official mark. They seem to have hesitated between two entirely different methods, and they seek power whereby the returning officer shall pause the ballot papers to be stamped or printed. Who is to decide whether they are to be stamped or printed? Is that to be decided by the Home Office or is it to be in the discretion of the returning officer? This point is not made clear, and, in the first instance, we want from the Government a clear statement on this question. If they want to alter the existing law which method do they think the better method? May I point out, in passing, that the real effect of printing would be to abolish altogether the official mark as we now understand it. It might be that certain precautions against forgery could he taken in the printing, as in the case of Treasury notes, but if that is to be the Government option, then there is no particular reason for continuing the system of stamping, whereas, if they prefer the system of stamping as it exists to-day, then there is no particular reason for the provision as to printing. I observe that another hon. Member has an Amendment on the Paper with an intention which is directly opposite to mine. He wishes to leave out the words "or printed." I do not think that is the hon. Member's fault or my fault. It is the fault, of the Government who proposed this change in such an ambiguous way.

This is a serious matter because the result of an election may depend, and results of elections have depended, on the mere chance of whether or not a returning officer's assistant has pressed the mark on to a ballot paper with sufficient force. I do not know if there are any hon. Members who believe in that form of democracy which was popular among the early Greeks of leaving the selection of candidates to lot or chance. If we adopt that view a good deal could be said in favour of leaving the election of "Members of this House to the chance of the returning officer's pressure on a particular ballot paper. Perhaps there is a good deal to be said for returning Members by lot or chance, but our system assumes that people direct their intelligence and will to voting for candidates, and under our system there is nothing to be said for depriving of his vote a man who marks his paper clearly, properly, unambiguously, and with no intention to deceive, merely because some third party has failed to apply sufficient pressure in stamping the ballot paper. That seems to me a most undesirable thing.

I put it that the chance of ballot papers not being properly marked is increased if the stamping is not done in the presence of the voter. We had the case of an election which I mentioned, where a question arose when there was a majority, I think, of five, and you got about 100 papers in dispute, merely on account of the absence of an official mark. You had a scrutiny of perhaps 20,000 papers, lasting for several weeks, you had a case in the. Courts, and you got a final expenditure of £5,000 or £6,000, which, though possibly not wholly unpalatable to the counsel, is not a thing which ought to be encouraged. Anything which tends to increase the risk of these official marks failing in their object ought to be opposed by this Committee, and, therefore, this is not a party matter at all.

May I say, on this point, if I am not out of order, that, as was indicated on the last Amendment, the whole thing might properly be considered by a Conference dealing with election matters, but if the Government insist on proceeding with this Clause, I say that the risk is much greater in the case of stamping than in the case of printing, and if we must have the Clause at all, I think it would be better to confine it to printing in such a way as to make forgeries practically impossible, and abandon altogether the old idea of stamping the paper, which was, as I think, consistent with the notion that the paper would come in a virgin state to the polling station and receive its imprint when the voter was actually prepared to take his responsibility for marking it.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

This is only another instance of how people can be misled when they follow the views of the Labour party, for on this particular Clause the Labour party were consulted. On this Clause, the headquarters of the Labour party were consulted—

Photo of Sir Henry Slesser Sir Henry Slesser , Leeds South East

Surely, as the representative of South-East Leeds, I am entitled to express my opinion in this House as a Member of Parliament.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I am only expressing regret that I was misled by some of the hon. and learned Member's officials as to what his views might be likely to be, but I suffer like other people who arc misled by the Labour party. I have to stand here in a white sheet and apologise to the Committee in regard to this Clause. I think the hon. and learned Member has made out a very good case. I remember, myself, when I was young, seeing how many ballot papers I could stamp at the same time and still produce a mark on the bottom paper as well as on the top paper, and I found that it was possible to do that with a certain number. But all that kind of thing gives rise to difficulties, I agree, and it is essential that every ballot paper should be properly marked and that no vote should he lost by any mistake of this kind in regard to the eccentricities of the presiding officer or by not, having ballot papers properly marked.

The idea underlying this Clause is that the returning officer, who is a responsible person, should be responsible for seeing that the ballot papers were officially marked, either by stamping or by printing on the back, before they were issued to the presiding officer. That is the real argument in favour of this Clause. However, I think it is quite possible that more mistakes might arise by the method of leaving the stamping or printing to the returning officer than by leaving it to the presiding officer. The latter might omit the stamp or print and spoil a few papers, whereas, if there was a mistake on the part of the returning officer, it would be perhaps a hundred papers or a packet of ballot papers which might be omitted to be stamped with the official mark. That being so, I am prepared to give the same undertaking with regard to this Clause as I gave with regard to the last. Although the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) has every right to speak for the Front Bench opposite, in courtesy to him and to his officials I feel that I ought to ask them whether they still desire to mislead me in this way, or whether they would have any objection to my withdrawing the Clause and falling in with the views of the Front Bench of the Labour party.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

But the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) has not power—and certainly the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds has not power—to speak for the Labour party.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

What I meant was that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw his Clause now, and not in another place.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I am explaining to the Committee why I cannot, out of courtesy to the Labour party, do that now, but I will give the same undertaking as I gave on the last occasion, with which, I think, the Committee was satisfied. Remember this, that I am not asking, as the hon. and learned Member would seem to suggest, the House of Lords to tamper with the ballot paper: I am asking them to say that this Clause might reasonably not have been inserted in an Economy Bill. I am not asking them to make any alteration in the ballot. These two Clauses have got in here, and—there is no secret about it—it has been done by the energy and the desire for improvement of officials of all parties. Therefore. I am disposed to ask the House of Lords to delete this Clause when it comes to them, and I think this Committee will be satisfied with the undertaking that I have given.

Photo of Sir Henry Slesser Sir Henry Slesser , Leeds South East

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken at some length about some unnamed officials and party organisation, but I would point out that the same observations were made about the last Clause. The right hon. Gentleman rejected that Clause on the ground of sonic negotiations with somebody, but he was not sure whether it was Clause 10 or Clause 11 with which those unnamed officials had been associated. If it is a question of courtesy, surely it is more courteous to deal with us who sit upon this bench and who ask that the Clause be withdrawn now—and certainly my hon. Friends on this bench are all with me—than to say that you are bound to go behind our backs to some unnamed officials who are not Members of Parliament. Surely, if we are asking the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Clause, his well-known courtesy will not be strained if he agrees with our request.

Photo of Mr Frank Lee Mr Frank Lee , Derbyshire North Eastern

I want to say a word or two in regard to this Clause, as being particularly affected by stamping in the 1922 Election, already referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser). I want to say that the whole expense of that scrutiny and that 10 days' sitting with the Judges, amounting to, according to my hon. and learned Friend, something between £5,000 and £6,000, was all caused because certain of the ballot papers did not show any stamp at all and certain of them showed a very imperfect stamp. On the day of the count the counters started at 10 o'clock, and they counted till 9 o'clock the following morning, and then gave up the show altogether, and the whole trouble was with the stamping of those papers. I never inquired as to whether or not they came from a particular part of my constituency, though certain of my friends thought they did. But the whole of the difficulty came in that way, and when I came here, I asked a question of the then Home Secretary as to whether or not he was satisfied that the stamping machines used were all in order. He had them all brought to London, he examined them, and he said he believed they were in order and that, therefore, the fault was not with the stamping machines, but with the people who had been using them.

I am bound to confess that since I came here I have found that I have not been the only victim in that way. A friend on my right tells me that he had a very much larger number of votes uncounted in his election, though the difficulty, so far as I was concerned, was that our voting was so close that about twenty votes threw us one way or the other. When it was finally declared, I came here with a majority of three, largely owing to the fact that many of those papers were insufficiently stamped. Therefore, I am quite convinced personally, whatever consultation may have taken place on this point with other Members of the Labour party, that the stamping as done at the present time is not done carefully enough to safeguard against all that may happen in an election. I think the count or the scrutiny and everything that happened its regard to the North East Derbyshire election in 1922 will perhaps remain a classical event, but in any case steps ought to be taken to prevent a similar occurrence in future. If we rely upon printing and not on stamping the papers, they can so be printed that any fraud may be easily detected, and I think the Home Secretary should be satisfied with the printing and leave the stamping alone.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

We ought not let this Amendment go to a vote 'and miss the opportunity of referring once more to what is the procedure of the Government in this matter. Here is the Economy Bill, which is full of grave import to thousands and millions of people in this country, and the attitude of the Government on this Clause is such

as to prevent a Report stage of the Bill, where further Amendments might be put down by representatives from the country of those people who are affected by the Bill, in order to get a discussion. In order to avoid that, although the Home Secretary admits that both Clause 10 and Clause 11 are unsatisfactory, and although he admits that both sides in this Committee have been against him and that he is going to have these Clauses withdrawn, he is not straight enough with the Committee to withdraw them now, but wants to have them withdrawn in another place, simply and solely from the point of view of avoiding a Report stage in this House.

That is not dealing fairly with the House of Commons or with the millions and millions of people who are members of the approved societies who are affected by another part of the Bill, and who want other opportunities for further points which they desire to be raised to be discussed on the Floor of the House. It is treating the House of Commons unfairly. I do not want to say anything stronger than that, but I think it just the same, and I want to raise my protest here and now about the attitude of the Home Secretary in withdrawing Clauses that he admits are unsatisfactory, not here but in another place, and not meeting the wishes of the House of Commons, simply in order to defeat the proper and legitimate aspiration of the people in the country who are affected by the Bill to get a discussion on the Report stage.

Question put, "That the word stamped ' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes 214; Noes, 120.

Division No. 171.]AYES[5.45 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelBriggs, J. HaroldClayton, G. C.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.Briscoe, Richard GeorgeCobb, Sir Cyril
Ainsworth, Major CharlesBrocklebank, C. E. R.Conway, Sir W. Martin
Albery, Irving JamesBrooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Cope, Major William
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool.W. Derby)Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Buckingham, Sir H.Crookshank, Cpt. H (Lindsey, Ginsbro')
Apsley, LordBull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesCurzon, Captain Viscount
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Bullock, Captain M.Dalkeith, Earl of
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. {Kent, Dover)Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir AlanDavidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBurman, J. B.Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Burton, Colonel H. W.Davies, Dr. Vernon
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardDavies, Maj. Gen. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Barnston, Major Sir HarryCampbell. E. T.Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Beamish, Captain T. P. HCayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)Dawson, Sir Philip
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Cazalet, Captain Victor A.Drewe, C.
Betterton, Henry B.Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)Eden, Captain Anthony
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm.,W.)Edmondson, Major A. J.
Brass, Captain w.Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)Edwards, John H. (Accrington)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveCharteris, Brigadier-General J.Elliot, Captain Walter E.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Ramsden, E.
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithJackson, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. F. s.Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)Remnant, Sir James
Fairfax, Captain J. G.James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertRentoul, G. S.
Falle, Sir Bertram G.Jephcott, A. R.Rice, Sir Frederick
Fanshawe, Commander G. D.Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. sir WilliamRichardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Finburgh, S.Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).Ropner, Major L.
Forrest, W.King, Captain Henry DouglasRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Foster, Sir Harry S.Kinloch-Cooke, Sir ClementSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Foxcroft, Captain C. T.Knox, Sir AlfredSanders, Sir Robert A.
Frece, Sir Walter deLamb, J. Q.Sanderson, Sir Frank
Ganzoni, sir JohnLane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.Sandon, Lord
Gates, PercyLister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipSavory, S. S.
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonLocker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon, George AbrahamLocker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnLooker, Herbert WilliamSkelton, A. N.
Goft, Sir ParkLowe, Sir Francis WilliamSlaney, Major P. Kenyan
Gower, Sir RobertLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh VereSmithers, Waldron
Grace, JohnLuce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanSomerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.Lumley, L. R.Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden,E.)
Greene, W. P. CrawfordMacAndrew, Major Charles GlenStanley, Lord (Fylde)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w, E)Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Grotrian, H. BrentMacIntyre, IanSteel, Major Samuel Strang
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.McLean, Major A.Storry Deans, R.
Gunston, Captain D. W.Macmillan, Captain H.Strickland, Sir Gerald
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Macnaghten, Hon. Sir MalcolmStuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryMcNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald JohnStuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Harland, A.Macquisten, F. A.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)Mac Robert, Alexander M.Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Makins, Brigadier-General E.Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Haslam, Henry C.Malone, Major P. B.Tinne, J. A.
Hawke, John AnthonyManningham Buller, Sir MervynWallace, Captain D. E.
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.Margesson, Captain D.Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.Meller, R. J.Waterhouse. Captain Charles
Henn, Sir Sydney H.Merriman, F. B.Watts, Dr. T.
Hennessy, Major J. R. G.Meyer, Sir FrankWells, S. R.
Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Hills, Major John WallerMonsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Hilton, CecilMoore, Sir Newton J.Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.Moore-Brabaton Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)Murchison, C. K.Wise, Sir Fredric
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)Womersley, W. J.
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'd.)Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Hopkins, J. W. W.Nuttall, EllisWood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)Oakley, T.Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.Penny, Frederick GeorgeWorthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
Howard, Captain Hon. DonaldPilcher, G.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N)Pilditch, Sir PhilipTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hume, Sir G. H.Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel AsshetonMr. F. C. Thomson and Captain
Huntingfield, LordPreston, WilliamBowyer.
Hurd, Percy A.Price, Major C. W. M.
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')George, Rt. Hon. David LloydKeily, W. T.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGillett, George M.Kenyon, Barnet
Attlee, Clement RichardGosling, HarryLee, F.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Livingstone, A. M.
Barnes, A.Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)Lowth, T.
Barr, J.Greenall, T.Lunn, William
Batey, JosephGreenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Macdonald. Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Briant, FrankGriffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Mackinder, W.
Broad, F. A.Groves, T.MacNeill-Weir, L.
Bromley, J.Grundy, T. W.March, S.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)Maxton, James
Buxton, Rt. Hon. NoelHall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)Montague, Frederick
Cape, ThomasHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Morris, R. H.
Charleton, H. C.Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)Morrison. R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Cluse, W. S.Harney, E. A.Naylor, T. E.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)Harris, Percy A.Oliver, George Harold
Connolly, M.Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonOwen, Major G.
Cove, W. G.Hayes, John HenryPalin, John Henry
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)Paling, W.
Crawfurd, H. E.Henderson, T. (Glasgow)Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Hirst, G. H.Ponsonby, Arthur
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)Potts, John S.
Dennison, R.Hore-Belisha, LeslieRichardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Duncan, C.Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)Riley, Ben
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Ritson, J.
Fenby, T. D.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Rose, Frank H.
Runciman, Rt. Hon. WalterStewart, J. (St. Rollox)Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Salter, Dr. AlfredSutton, J. E.Westwood, J.
Scrymgeour, E.Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)Whiteley, W.
Shiels, Dr. DrummondThomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnThorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Sitch, Charles H.Thurtle, E.Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Slesser, Sir Henry H.Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.Windsor, Walter
Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)Viant, S. P.Wright, W.
Smith, Rennie (Penistone)Wallhead, Richard C.Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Snowden, Rt. Hon. PhilipWalsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Stamford, T. W.Warns, G. H.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Stephen, CampbellWatts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. Allen
Parkinson.

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Sir PHILIP PILITCH: In page 9, line 9, to leave out the words "or printed."

Photo of Sir Philip Pilditch Sir Philip Pilditch , Spelthorne

I think I could make out as convincing a case for my Amendment as the hon. and learned Gentleman has just made for his. But, unlike him, I am quite satisfied with the undertaking which has just been given by the Home Secretary, that this matter shall receive full consideration before it comes back to this House on the conclusion of this Bill. I do not, therefore, propose to move the Amendment.

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

Mr. THOMAS:

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I am going to ask the Committee to oppose the Clause. The hon. Member opposite has not moved his Amendment, I gather, because of the statement of the Home Secretary. I submit that that statement in itself is trifling and playing with the responsibility of this House. We are accused of obstruction. We have been accused of delaying the progress of this Bill. We admit doing all we can to delay the progress of the Bill, but the procedure of this House provides for a, discussion on the Report stage. That discussion can only take place if an Amendment to the Bill be accepted. There was an Amendment down in the name of the Home Secretary, which Amendment, I presume, the Government, when the time came, would promptly have accepted. That in itself would have necessitated a Report stage for the Bill. When I saw the Order Paper this morning, I found that the Amendment had been withdrawn. I can only draw one conclusion, and that is, not that it is intended to drop the Amendment, not that this Bill shall go through without the Amendment being included, because everyone knows that would be absurd, but that the Government deliberately intend to avoid the Report stage, and what they have arranged is for someone else in another place to move the Amendment for the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well it is all arranged. He knows perfectly well he cannot deny it, and, therefore, we are entitled to protest against this playing with the responsibility of the House of Commons.

I repeat that Parliament provides a Report stage, and the Government are deliberately setting out to prevent that Report stage. One would not complain of that if there was to be no Amendment. If this Bill were to come back from another place in precisely the same form, the justification for avoiding the Report stage might be defended by the Government, but when we know in advance that there are Amendments in the name of the Government themselves that are bound to be put down, and bound to be accepted, and that they are merely to be accepted in another place to prevent a Report stage here, I, on behalf of the Opposition, protest against that conduct, which is only consistent with the general conduct in connection with this Bill. On these grounds, I beg leave to move to report Progress.

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

There are two special reasons, in addition to those mentioned by my right hon. Friend, which seem to justify this protest and this Motion. What are the Clauses which the Home Secretary thinks it proper to leave to be dealt with effectively in the House of Lords? They are Clauses dealing with the Ballot Act. If there be one principle plainer than another, it is that the method by which Members of this House should be elected, the machinery by which the proper working of democratic institutions should be secured, is a matter primarily for the House of Commons. If, indeed, the House of Lords took upon itself to alter the decision of the House of Commons in a matter of this sort, I should have thought many persons, not supporters of any Opposition here, would have thought that a very grave violation of constitutional propriety. Yet here we have the Home Secretary cheerfully telling us that these Clauses of this so-called Economy Bill—although what this has to do with economy, it is very difficult to find out—are to be handed over to the House of Lords to deal with.

The second observation which occurs to me is this. It is thoroughly characteristic of the Conservative Government that they should in this matter speak of the House of Commons as though the House of Lords were in their pocket. The Home Secretary does not even think it, is surprising when he assures this Committee that he will get this altered in the House of Lords. How does he know their Lordships will agree with the Government? What is there in the past history of the House of Lords which makes him suppose that if a Conservative Government wants something to be done, the House of Lords will do it? On those two grounds—first, that the Ballot Act ought to be dealt with in the House of Commons and not in the House of Lords, and, secondly, that it is adding insult to injury for a Conservative Government to leave this to the House of Lords, because it can be trusted to do what a Conservative Government wants, I support the Motion to report Progress.

6.0 P.M

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

May I point but that there is a precedent to the line of action which the Government are taking. It was set by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and if I have got him into the same boat, I am sure we shall be all right. The precedent I allude to is the case of the Government of India Act in regard to which several Amendments were moved in order to avoid a Report stage in a busy time. Those Amendments were not carried in this House, but were inserted in another place, and therefore at that time the other place was in the pocket of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs need not look so innocent about this, because at that time he was the dictator of the country, and those Amendments went through.

Really there was no necessity for the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Thomas) to make such a violent attack upon us in regard to these proposals because this very Clause to which exception is taken by the Labour party was prepared in the Home Office at a conference with returning officers and agents representing all the three parties, the Liberal party, the Labour party, and the Conservative party, and this particular Clause has been approved by some of the most experienced returning officers and town clerks in the country. I know it is most desirable to bow to the general opinion of the House, and I know this alteration of the Ballot Act—(An HON. MEMBER: "Why not drop it?"] Because it would not be courteous to the officials of the Labour party and the officials of the great party below the Gangway to withdraw this Clause without consulting them. I will at once consult those who were present at the conference the other day, tell them the fooling of the House, and try and get their assent to asking the House of Lords not to tamper with the Ballot Act, but to agree with the House of Commons and not, make any alterations in the Ballot Act. I do not think right hon. Gentlemen opposite need he so severe upon me for asking the House of Lords not to tamper with the Ballot Act. I am going to ask them to allow the Ballot Act to stand in its present form.

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

Has the Home Secretary any information from another place as to how another place is likely to receive his proposal?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

No, Sir. It would be most improper to do anything of that kind. I will, however, do my utmost to express to my colleagues in another place the very strong feeling of the House of Commons that they do not want this Clause in spite of the agreement arrived at by their officials. Under these circumstances. I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not think it necessary to press his Motion, but let us get on with the business.

Mr. THOMAS:

I appreciate to the full the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety to persuade another place to give considera- tion to our wishes. I do not pretend for a moment that we have the same influence as the Home Secretary with another place, but when we find it necessary to make any request to the other Chamber we shall not bother the Government to do it, but we shall do it ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that that argument will not hold water, and he knows that all the explanation he has just given is camouflage. Nobody knows this better than he does, and his supporters know it, and that is why they are all so silent about this Amendment. Why did the right hon. Gentleman withdraw his Amendment?

Sir W. JOYNSON HICKS:

That was done because of some of the dates. The Scottish Office were not prepared with their dates.

Mr. THOMAS:

Do I understand that the Amendment in its amended form will not appear in another place?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

That I cannot say. I have had a consultation with the Scottish Law Officers, and, if they can provide a satisfactory Amendment, I shall endeavour to have it put upon the Amendment Paper.

Mr. THOMAS:

The right hon. Gentleman's Amendment has been on the Amendment Paper for over 10 days. He has been in consultation with the Scottish Law Officers about the dates, and they have been so busy that they have not had time to amend his Amendment in 10 days. The Home Secretary knows perfectly web that the proper Parliamentary form is that he should move the Amendment in this House in order that the House of Commons can debate it. If after that there is any difficulty, the usual course is to have it dealt with in another place, and the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that he has not given us the real explanation, which is that the Government wish to avoid a Report stage on this Bill. I may tell the right hon. Gentleman, quite frankly, that I have put

down in my name his Amendment, and I shall give him an opportunity of accepting his own Amendment from myself. It will appear on the Amendment Paper in the morning, and therefore I do not think the Government will be able to get out of having a Report stage in that way. This only shows the extraordinary methods which have been adopted by the Government in regard to this Bill. The supporters of the Government come down here in teams, and they stop them from delegating this Measure, and, after taking such steps as those, they are trying to prevent a Debate on the Report stage in the House of Commons. This action will not prevent us using all the means we can to draw the attention of the country to the iniquitous conduct of the Government in this matter.

Photo of Mr Joseph Westwood Mr Joseph Westwood , Peebles and Southern

The Home Secretary told us that one of his reasons for not requiring a Report Stage was that the Scottish Office has not yet come to an agreement about the dates. I understand that the dates were agreed to at a conference representing all political parties in Scotland where the question of the dates was discussed and I have those dates in my hand. Therefore, I am going to suggest to the Home Secretary that he had better try and discover some other reason and avoid terminological inexactitudes. Here arc the dates, and I think the Secretary of State for Scotland has also got them.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

In such a matter as this the Government do not place reliance on political agents. This very Clause was agreed to by the political agents of the Labour party and now they are turning against it. I must accept my official information on this point from the Scottish Office and not from political agents.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 120; Noes, 228.

Division No. 172.]AYES.[6.12 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Batey, JosephCape, Thomas
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Charleton, H. C.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeBriant, FrankCluse, W. S.
Attlee, Clement RichardBroad, F. A.Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Bromley, J.Connolly, M.
Barnes, A.Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Cove, W. G.
Barr, J.Buxton, Rt. Hon. NoelCowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)
Crawfurd, H. E.Kennedy, T.Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Kenyon, BarnetSmith, Rennie (Penistone)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lee, F.Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Dennison, R.Livingstone, A. M.Stamford, T. W.
Duncan, C.Lowth, T.Stephen, Campbell
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Lunn, WilliamStewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Fenby, T. D.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)Sutton, J. E.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
George, fit. Hon. David LloydMackinder, W.Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)
Gillett, George M.MacLaren, AndrewThorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Gosling, HarryMacNeill-Weir, L.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)March, S.Thurtle, E.
Greenall, T.Maxton, JamesTrevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)Montague, FrederickViant, S. P.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Morris, R. H.Wallhead, Richard C.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)Walsh. Rt. Hon. Stephen
Groves, T.Naylor, T. E.Warne, G. H.
Grundy, T. W.Oliver, George HaroldWatts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)Owen, Major G.Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)Palin, John HenryWedgwood. Rt. Hon. Josiah
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Paling, W.Westwood, J.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Whiteley, W.
Harney, E. A.Ponsonby, ArthurWilliams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Harris, Percy A.Potts, John S.Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonRichardson, Ft. (Houghton-le Spring)Williams, David (Swansea. E.)
Hayes, John HenryRiley, BenWilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)Ritson, J.Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hirst, G. H.Runciman, Rt. Hon. WalterWindsor, Walter
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)Salter, Dr. AlfredWright, W.
Hore-Belisha, LeslieScrymgeour, E.Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnMr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. T.
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Sitch. Charles H.Henderson.
Kelly, W. T.Slesser, Sir Henry H.
NOES.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelCobb, Sir CyrilHacking, Captain Douglas H.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.Conway, Sir W. MartinHannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Ainsworth, Major CharlesCope, Major WilliamHarland, A.
Albery, Irving JamesCraig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)Croft Brigadier-General Sir H.Haslam, Henry C.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)Hawke, John Anthony
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Curzon, Captain ViscountHeadlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K.Dalkeith, Earl ofHenderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)
Apsley, LordDavidson, J. (Hertf'd. Hemel Hempst'd)Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Davies, Dr. VernonHenn, Sir Sydney H.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyDavison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Hills, Major John Waller
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Dawson, Sir PhilipHilton, Cecil
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Drewe, C.Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Barnett, Major Sir RichardEden, Captain AnthonyHogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)
Barnston, Major sir HarryEdmondson, Major A. J.Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)
Beamish, Captain T. P. H.Edwards, John H. (Accrington)Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Elliot, Captain Walter E.Hopkins, J. W. W.
Betterton, Henry B.Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithHorlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.
Blundell, F. N.Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
Brass, Captain W.Fairfax, Captain J. G.Howard, Captain Hon. Donald
Bridgeman. Rt. Hon. William CliveFalle, Sir Bertram G.Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N).
Briggs, J. HaroldFanshawe, Commander G. D.Hume, Sir G. H.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeFinburgh, S.Huntingfield, Lord
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Forrest, W.Hurd, Percy A.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Foster, Sir Harry S.Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Foxcroft, Captain C. T.Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)Frece, Sir Walter deJackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)
Buckingham, Sir H.Galbraith, J. F. W.Jacob, A. E.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesGanzoni, Sir JohnJames, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert
Bullock, Captain M.Gates, PercyJephcott, A. R.
Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel sir AlanGault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonJoynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Burman, J. B.Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George AbrahamKennedy, A. R. (Preston)
Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardGilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnKing, Captain Henry Douglas
Campbell, E. T.Goff, Sir ParkKinloch Cooke, Sir Clement
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)Gower, Sir RobertKnox, Sir Alfred
Cazalet, Captain victor A.Grace, JohnLamb, J. Q.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.
Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonGreene, W. P. CrawfordLeigh, Sir John (Clapham)
Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. Sir J.A. (Birm., W.)Greenwood. Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w.E)Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)Gretton, Colonel JohnLocker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J.Grotrian, H. BrentLocker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston SpencerGuinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Looker, Herbert William
Clayton, G. C.Gunston, Captain D. W.Lowe, Sir Francis William
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh VerePercy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Luce, Maj.-Gen. sir Richard HarmanPilcher, G.Storry-Deans, R.
Lumley, L. R.Pliditch, Sir PhilipStrickland, Sir Gerald
MacAndrew, Major Charles; GlenPownall, Lieut.-Colonel AsshetonStuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Preston, WilliamStuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
MacIntyre, IanPrice, Major C. W. M.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
McLean, Major A.Ramsden, E.Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Macmillan, Captain H.Rawson, Sir Alfred CooperThom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Macnaghten, Hon. Sir MalcolmRemnant, Sir JamesThomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald JohnRentoul G. S.Thomson. Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Macquisten, F. A.Rice, Sir FrederickTinne, J. A.
MacRobert, Alexander M.Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Ropner, Major L.Wallace, Captain D. E.
Makins, Brigadier-General E.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Malone, Major P. B.Salmon, Major I.Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Manningham-Buller, Sir MervynSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Watts, Dr. T.
Margesson, Capt. DSanders, Sir Robert A.Wells, S. R.
Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.Sanderson, Sir FrankWhite, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Meller, R. J.Sandon, LordWilliams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Merriman, F. B.Savery, S. S.Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Meyer, Sir FrankScott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Shaw. R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)Wise, Sir Fredric
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)Womersley, W. J.
Moore, Sir Newton J.Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Skelton, A. N.Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Murchison, C. K.Slaney, Major P. KenyonWood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Newton, sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)Smithers, WaldronWorthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G. (Ptrsf ld.)Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
Nuttall, EllisStanley, Col. Hon. G.F. {Will'sden, E.)
Oakley, T.Stanley, Lord (Fylde)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Penny, Frederick GeorgeStanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'etand)Major Hennessy and Captain
Bowyer.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.