Orders of the Day — Local Elections (Proportional Representation) Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 2nd December 1938.

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3.56 p.m.

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Edmund Harvey:

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

In view of the few moments that remain it is only possible for me very briefly to indicate the scope of this Measure, which was before the House the previous Session, and the principle of which has been embodied in Measures that have been considered by this House and by another place over a series of years. It is a Measure supported by Members of all parties and of no party throughout the country. I want to make it clear that this is a proposal in respect of local government and does not concern the application of the principle of proportional representation to national government. There are many Members and others who are in favour of the principle of proportional representation in local government who are not prepared to see it applied to national government. There are reasons why those who object to it being applied in Parliamentary government should be willing to consider the possibility of its application in municipal affairs. The real objection which has been advocated against proportional representation in Parliamentary government is the fear that it might endanger or weaken Cabinet government. No such fear can arise in connection with municipal government, and, moreover, in municipal affairs, the divisions are very different from what they are in national government.

Nine-tenths of the work of a city council is work in which no kind of party division ought to separate its members. Every member of a city council or local governing body who is worthy of his post wishes to see his city or his local government unit honestly and efficiently governed and run. When the detailed work is considered it will be seen that party divisions in most matters do not separate men of good will in their work for good government. Our existing system shuts out a large section of the citizens from effective participation in the work of local government. That is an injustice, and it results, in many cases, in inefficiency, because it is very important that you should have in all such work adequate representation of all sections of the community on the local government body. The absence of it results in inefficiency, and it has sometimes resulted actually in corruption. If we can reform our present system of local government in the way in which I hope we may do, we shall strengthen the democratic life of our country. We do not wish to have totalitarian government of our cities any more than totalitarian government of the nation. I think that in this way a Measure—

It being Four of the Clock, further Proceeding stood adjourned.

The remaining Order was read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.

Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 5th December.