Clause 7. — (Polling districts and polling places.)

Orders of the Day — Representation of the People Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1948.

Alert me about debates like this

Amendments made: In page 8, line 43, leave out "administrative."

In page 9, line 26, leave out second "county."—[Mr. Younger.]

1.0 a.m.

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

Photo of Mr Anthony Mulvey Mr Anthony Mulvey , Fermanagh and Tyrone

On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. May I move my Amendment?

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

The hon. Member's Amendment has not been selected.

Photo of Major Henry Spence Major Henry Spence , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Central

I would ask for a few words of explanation about how this part of the Bill will apply in Scotland. The particular part that interests me is that dealing with the setting up of polling stations for electors in rural areas in Subsection (4) of the Clause. It states: If any interested authority or not less than 30 electors in a constituency make a representation to the Secretary of State.… It does not say whether it is the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Home Secretary. It goes on to say that this representation will be considered and arrangements will be made for setting up polling booths. I should like to have an assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he is here, or if he is not, from the Home Secretary, that provision will be made for rural areas in Scotland. We had a good deal of trouble in the General Election in getting electors to the poll in certain areas which are isolated from main roads and means of public transport. People were quite definitely unable to vote because they could not go to the polling stations. I should like an assurance that sympathetic consideration will be given to these cases, because the Clause as it stands is permissive. The word used are: The Secretary of State shall consider the representation and may, if he thinks fit— I think it is only right that we should have an assurance on this matter before agreeing to the Clause.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

I would like to ask for confirmation from the right hon. Gentleman or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, that in this Clause, in Subsection (4), where it reads If any interested authority…make a representation to the Secretary of State and further on, the Secretary of State shall consider the representation and may, if he thinks fit—(a) direct the local authority or, in Scotland, returning officer the Secretary of State referred to is the Secretary of State for Scotland, because it does seem to be a matter of considerable importance.

Photo of Mr Anthony Mulvey Mr Anthony Mulvey , Fermanagh and Tyrone

Subsection (6) lays down that polling booths in Northern Ireland are to be those at present used for the Northern Ireland Parliament elections. There is not, perhaps, in the British Empire or in any civilised country such a scandalous state of affairs as exists in Northern Ireland in regard to the situation of polling booths. Following the gerrymandering of the various constituencies twenty years ago, the polling places were so arranged as to inconvenience thousands of voters and especially those belonging to my party.

Let me give a few instances. I will not detain the House very long. The senior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Cunningham) lives about two miles north of Omagh. At an election he has to go through the town of Omagh and proceed in a westerly direction three miles farther out to the place allotted to him to vote. People from the western side of Omagh, within 200 yards of the polling booth, have also to proceed out in the same direction three miles to record their votes. In Killane, on the south-western side of the town, there are about 100 voters. These have to go through the town, pass the same polling booth, and proceed in a south-easterly direction five miles out in the country to record their votes.

A few moments ago, on the question of a register for Northern Ireland, the Under Secretary of State said that one must make no distinction, that one should have fair representation in Northern Ireland, the same as in this country. On the matter of these polling booths, I wonder what the Home Secretary will say about this process of gerrymandering. I know of one case in Down where the electors have to cross a mountain and go five miles beyond the mountain to record a vote for representation in this House. I know a parish in another district where there is a polling booth in the centre of the parish, but the people—and they are supporters of mine—[Interruption.] I merely mention the cases of these people being victimised, and I regret that my friends from Northern Ireland on the Opposition benches are not here. They cannot deny my statement in regard to these matters.

There was a case where a returning officer was approached by my election agent who asked him to try to arrange some convenient polling centres to avoid inconveniencing people in this way, and he promised to try to do so on the statement of my agent, a decent gentleman. But there was gerrymandering on the county councils. In Co. Fermanagh, in Co. Armagh, in Londonderry and Co. Down, there are typical cases of the people being inconvenienced in the matter of polling booths, and many hon. Members who were over in Co. Down in 1946 at a by-election will bear out my statement.

That is the whole question. We are giving ample facilities to voters in this country for representation in this House and denying those facilities to the people of Northern Ireland, especially in Co. Tyrone and Fermanagh. I protest against this discrimination and I ask the Home Secretary, in view of the fact that the Under-Secretary has said that there should be fair play for all sections, to consider this question and agree that some measure of redress shall be afforded the electors of Northern Ireland in regard to this matter.

Mr. McKie:

I want to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) regarding the necessity for the Lord Advocate making it quite clear who the Secretary of State designated under Subsection (4) of this Clause is intended to be so far as Scotland is concerned. I certainly think that all the Scottish Members in the Committee are entitled to know that, and also are entitled to have information with regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) with reference to the right of appeal for electors. As my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, as the Subsection now reads the matter is left entirely in the hands of the responsible authority, which in this case can be no other than the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think that a vast majority of the electorate in Scotland would give as their emphatic opinion on this matter that it should not be left to him. We should have an injunction clearly laid upon the Scottish Office that if there is a desire by a body of the electors for a polling station, their demand must be met.

As I represent the constituency in Great Britain which is the nearest to Northern Ireland, I would like to say a word or two about the speech of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey). On this occasion we obviously have a less united Ireland than we had on an Amendment to a previous Clause, judging by the fierce invective of the hon. Member in the latter part of his speech; but I certainly think—though I am not entitled to speak for my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland—that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone is entitled to a reply from the Home Secretary.

Representing a scattered constituency in rural Scotland, I quite agree about the inconvenient situation of the polling stations for many people in many parts of the country. That was the point which the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen was making a few minutes ago. Therefore, it gives me pleasure to join with my hon. Friend in asking the Home Secretary to make clear why Subsection (6) lays it down that Northern Ireland is to be exempted from the provisions of Clause 7. Though I do not want to anticipate the right hon. Gentleman's answer, I expect his answer will be that it would be inconvenient to have two sets of polling stations, one for the Stormont Parliament, and one for the 12 of 14 hon. Members who represent the Ulster constituencies in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. I can see that there is a lot of force in that contention, but the Home Secretary should clear up the whole matter. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone talked about gerrymandering. As I listened to the fierce way in which he talked, I could not help thinking that he objected that the gerrymandering was all against him, and that he would like power to gerrymander in the other direction. If I do the hon. Member an injustice——

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

I fear that the hon. Member is now getting out of Order, although the early part of his speech was so inaudible that I had difficulty in determining whether he was in Order or not.

Mr. McKie:

I was only saying that the hon. Member complained of gerrymandering.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

I heard that point. That was why I rose.

Photo of Mr Anthony Mulvey Mr Anthony Mulvey , Fermanagh and Tyrone

I think that the hon. Member, if he were aware of the facts, would not make any reference to the subject.

Mr. McKie:

Perhaps in future I shall have an opportunity to visit the beautiful constituency of Fermanagh and Tyrone and to see for myself what goes on there. I will not say any more on that point. The hon. Gentleman is certainly entitled to a reply on this matter. The distance between polling stations is a matter which concerns us very much in Scotland. Although we do not appear to have a united Ireland on this point, we have a considerable measure of unity so far as Scotland and Ulster are concerned.

1.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Manchester Platting

I support the protest of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey). I deprecate the levity with which his forcible and democratic argument has been received in this Committee. I do not know why an Irish argument should always be received as a joke. It is significant that at the moment there are no Unionist Members in the Committee. They probably realise that they do not need to be here: the Government would support them in any case. I cannot imagine why the Government should resist the request made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone.

All that he asked was that the writ which runs in this country should be applied in Northern Ireland. It is the Northern Ireland people who are asking for an exception. Why should they ask for it? Why should not the law which applies here be applied there? They must have some reason for asking this. The distribution of the polling centres in Northern Ireland imposes great hardship on many voters. There are some who have to travel as far as eight miles in order to record their votes. There are some who have to pass as many as ten polling stations to record their vote in the next one. I am sure that no one on this side of the Committee could regard that as being convenient or democratic. This is not a laughing matter. It is most serious. I am not now pleading a party point of view. Many of us have protested on more than one occasion that the constituencies in Northern Ireland have been so gerrymandered as to make them safe for a certain party against the democratic wishes of the people.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Lonsdale

Why does one have to pass ten polling stations in order to vote in the eleventh?

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Manchester Platting

I am delighted that the hon. Member has raised that point. I cannot answer the question. It is a most absurd situation. That is what we are protesting against tonight. The point is that everything connected with elections in Northern Ireland is so absurd that no intelligent person in the Committee could answer that question. What annoys us is that we had an opportunity in this Bill of arranging that polling stations should be so situated that voters could register their votes at places near their homes. We read, however, that Subsections (2) to (5) are not to apply to Northern Ireland. Affairs have been so engineered in Northern Ireland that the Government there shall always have a majority in the House even though they have not a majority of votes. I am afraid that, at the moment, we can do nothing about it. At all events, let us not consent to a proposal that this gerrymandering of constituency boundaries shall extend to the gerrymandering of the very polling stations themselves. That is all we ask. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the democratic interests of all, to support the principle of the Amendment, which was not called, by voting against this Clause.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

I find it very difficult to understand line 12 of page 9, which states that the Secretary of State may direct the local authority, or, in Scotland, the returning officer.… Does that mean that in Scotland he may direct one or the other, or that in Scotland he directs the returning officer? After that, we find that the local authority means in Scotland any county, town, or district council. If the Secretary of State is directing the local authority and, if under Subsection (4, b) the local authority has failed, is it the county or district council, and is it normal for the Secretary of State to direct a district council?

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

May I reply to the Scots or Celts on the east side of the Irish Channel and leave the Home Secretary to deal with the question as it affects the Celts on the west side? If the hon. Members who have raised the question in relation to Scotland had referred to Subsection (2) of the Clause, they would have seen that whereas in England the local authority whose clerk is registration officer will do certain things, in Scotland the returning officer, who is the sheriff, will in the first place designate the polling places and thereafter keep them under review.

When he has made his designation, or when he has reviewed the original designation, it may be that any interested authority, or not less than 30 electors, may make representations. It does not necessarily follow that those representations are well founded, and accordingly the Secretary of State, who in this case would be the Secretary of State for Scotland, would require to adjudicate between the decision of the sheriff or the returning officer and the representations of the people making the protest. In these circumstances it would be absurd to direct that he should imperatively give certain instructions, because that would be a denial of his judicial function. That is why it is in the permissive manner that, having heard the representations, the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he thinks fit, gives certain directions to the return- ing officer and not to the local authority because in Scotland the returning officer is the sheriff.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

Why is the local authority mentioned and defined under Subsection (4), which only refers to local authorities?

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

Because if the hon. Gentleman will look at the context of Subsection (4, a) he will see that the local authority he has referred to is the local authority in England for that purpose, whereas, as far as Scotland is concerned, the paragraph (a), applies to the returning officer, becaus one refers back to Subsection (2) of Clause 7, where there is a distinction between persons making designations in England and persons making designations in Scotland. I think the difficulties envisaged by hon. Members are imaginary and not real, and I trust they will see that the Secretary of State, applying his judicial function to the matter, will have regard to representations and make decisions, and if he thinks necessary give directions to the returning officer with regard to the provision of polling stations, or alterations in regard to them.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I had hoped that the Home Secretary would take seriously what has been said about the cleaning up of elections in Northern Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are only too willing to go to war to confer the doubtful benefits of party government on Bulgaria, do not stay when it is a question of voting at home. Let me just say one word more and read what was said by a Unionist Member—one of the leading Unionist Members—about the election of the junior Member for Down (Lieut. Mullan). I am sorry that he has left us at a time when we could welcome him, but this is what was said. "It was absolutely rotten"—and this is a Unionist Member speaking—"and unless something is done there will be no use in having elections at all." I hope my right hon. Friend will do something.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) has raised the question of Subsection (6) of this Clause. This will not apply to Northern Ireland because the polling districts and polling places in Northern Ireland will be those established for the local Parliament. I think that it will be agreed that it is desirable that polling places should be the same for all elections, so far as is possible. Anyone who has had long experience of elections, as all hon. Members of this Committee must have had, will know the difficulties which will arise when there is a different place for municipal elections and Parliamentary elections.

Photo of Mr George House Mr George House , St Pancras North

Mr. House (St. Pancras, North) rose——

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am trying to deal with a point which concerns Northern Ireland, and I want to suggest that there it is desirable that the same places should be used for all elections. As I understand the arrangements for Northern Ireland, they are, as far as the technicalities of the law are concerned, the same as we prescribe in this Bill for England, that is to say, the polling places are fixed by the county and county borough councils, subject to confirmation by the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland, and as in this country, other local authorities than those responsible for fixing these polling places can protest to the Minister of Home Affairs if they are not satisfied and thirty electors also can protest, if they are dissatisfied. It is quite clear that what is required is not that this Subsection should be deleted, for, if we examine the Northern Ireland position with the English position under this Bill, the same machinery would be indicated. If there is a grievance—and from the descriptions we have heard it would appear that these arrangements are awkward—it is a matter which must be dealt with inside the working of the province of Northern Ireland. We should make arrangements for exactly the same people as the Northern Ireland Parliament has arranged for, and I suggest that, while it was legitimate for the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone and the hon. Members for Platting (Mr. Delargy) and Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) to raise the matter, the exact effect of the Amendment on the Paper in their names would have been to leave the position precisely the same as it is.

1.30 a.m.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

I want to say that I am grateful to the Lord Advocate for having given a fair explanation of the points we raised. He did say that the Secretary of State referred to here would be the Secretary of State for Scotland. How are we to know that once the Bill has left the House? Is it not desirable that, in the Interpretation Clause, it should be made perfectly clear that it is. the Secretary of State for Scotland who is referred to, or is there something in the Bill which makes that automatic?

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

In the Constitution there is only one Secretary of State, but in a way he is divided into a number, and they are all interchangeable in the exercise of constitutional powers. In Scotland, the Secretary of State is the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Is that assurance meant to last only for this Parliament?

Photo of Major Henry Spence Major Henry Spence , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Central

We are grateful for the Lord Advocate's explanation, but there is one point that is a little confused in my mind. When he was explaining that representations could be made by 30 burghers or by an authority for additional polling stations, it was not quite clear whether those representations were made to the sheriff or to the Secretary of State for Scotland in person. This is a point upon which we want to be clear, because I can assure the Lord Advocate that if the polling stations, when this Bill becomes law, are the same as those used at the General Election, there will be a good deal of discontent. A number of cases will be raised. It is for that reason that I ask for something clearer about how representations should be made, and to whom.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

It says in terms in Subsection (4) that representations should be made to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Mr Stanley Tiffany Mr Stanley Tiffany , Peterborough

I have listened very carefully to the reply given by the Home Secretary on the position relating to Northern Ireland. He said that the position there was the same as in this country, namely, that if 3o people agree they could put forward their complaint to the people responsible, failing satisfaction being obtained locally. If the facts as given by hon. Members are correct, surely people will have made representations? If they have made representations on those lines and reasonable action has not been taken, surely we could in this Committee do something to see that fairness is brought about and the object outlined by the Home Secretary attained—namely, that it is desirable that the same polling stations should apply for both elections, so that there should not be the hardships imposed of people having to travel eight miles and passing 10 polling stations on the way. If there is an opportunity of making it fairer in Northern Ireland, we should do so.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

This is the point. The law in Northern Ireland appears to be the same as the law proposed here, namely, that the county and county borough councils fix these authorised places. If a local authority, a district council or a town council, object to what has been done, and do not regard it as sufficient, they have the right in Northern Ireland to appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs, who is the responsible Minister. In addition, 30 electors have the right. That is precisely the same position as it is here, and I suggest, therefore, that it would not matter at all if the Clause were varied in the way that has been suggested. Apparently, if appeals have been made by these people who have had to walk eight miles, they have not been listened to by the appropriate authorities in Northern Ireland, but of that I have no information.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Manchester Platting

May I ask one question? In the case of Scotland, representations can be made to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Is there no one in this House to whom representations can be made in respect of similar grievances in Northern Ireland, because it is apparent that not much confidence is placed upon anyone to whom the matter can be referred in Northern Ireland. As this Bill concerns this House, is there no one here to whom representations can be made in this matter of polling booths?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The person to whom representations are made is the Minister for Home Affairs in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Charles Byers Mr Charles Byers , Dorset Northern

It seems to me that we have come to the situation that the law is the same in both countries and yet we are told—I believe it to be true—that the polling arrangements are unsatisfactory in Northern Ireland. There is this question of administration. Is it not possible for the Home Secretary, or someone in the Government of this country, to bring pressure to bear on, or to make representations, to the people in Northern Ireland to see that the law is carried out in the proper way? It is quite wrong for the House to put up with bad conditions of polling which affect Members returned to the House.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I agree with the hon. Member on the last point, but always on the assumption that the stories that we have heard this evening, and on which I cast no doubt, can be substantiated. I have no power myself to make representations to the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland as to the way in which he carries out his functions, but in so far as these are matters that relate to the Imperial Parliament—and we are dealing with an endeavour to secure common conditions for all the electors of Members to this Parliament—I will see that his attention is drawn, in a friendly way, to the statements that have been made here this evening and to the complaints that have been made. I hope that where they can be substantiated, something will be done to remedy them.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I do not want to delay the Home Secretary for more than a moment. This very point was made by the Home Secretary in Northern Ireland when these very questions were raised in the Northern Ireland House. He said: I should regard it as a gross impertinence on the part of this House to make any representations to the Imperial Government as to the method by which they should conduct business in that House. That is the business of the Imperial Parliament. So we have got to this situation, that Northern Ireland refuses to do anything about it because they say it is for this House, and this House says it cannot do anything about it because it is a matter for the Northern Ireland Government.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. Three hours ago, on a similar Motion, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that if we sat for a little longer, he would again consider what progress he hoped to make with this Bill tonight. Three hours may be regarded as sitting for a little longer, and I am sure many hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to know what are the right hon. Gentleman's intentions. In the course of four hours' discussion since the Division was taken on the main Amendment on Clause 3, we have completed four Clauses. Practically the whole of the discussion on the Bill has come from hon. Members opposite. Only two or three small Amendments have been moved from this side of the Committee, and it seems increasingly clear to most of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee that hon. Members opposite are determined not to make much progress with this Bill. I would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Patronage Secretary to consider whether they should not find some means of expediting the progress and the passage of the Bill. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now give us some indication of what his intentions are in this regard.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The right hon. Gentleman did not quite complete the story of what happened three hours ago. I suggested that he and I should have a conversation. We had a conversation, and I made a certain suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. He said he would go away and think about it, and that we would meet again in five minutes. I am still waiting for that five minutes to expire. We have not got nearly as far as I had hoped we should get by this time, and I regret to say that I think it would be better to continue our labours in the hope that we shall get somewhere near the target that I suggested to the right lion. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to indicate to the Committee what was the target he was aiming at when he spoke to me?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I think we might well get to Clause 30 during this Sitting.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

Really, we had a very long night last night. We do not think anyone could accuse us on this side of the Committee of delaying matters last night or tonight. This is as important a Bill as the one we were discussing last night, and I do suggest that it is not the right time in the early hours of the morning to take an important constitutional Measure, when, owing to the shortage of newsprint, it is not possible for those who will be vitally affected by this Measure to see in the newspapers what has been said.

While appreciating the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to make progress, I suggest that he would make better speed if he did not pursue this course. He would make far better speed if the Committee, which is tired after what happened last night and what is happening tonight, could now depart and come back to tackle the difficult points of this Bill with fresh minds. I feel quite certain that there would then be far greater progress. To continue with this Measure now would be an indication again of the regard which hon. Members opposite have for the interests of a minority.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

I suggest that the Home Secretary should have a little more consideration for the Committee. Three hours ago we had an intervention from the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who has not been with us since, and I should like to reassure the Home Secretary that if he gives way on this Motion he will not have the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland to contend with, because he has been gone three hours. Therefore, we might as well come to some conclusion upon the merits.

What are the merits? They are these: The right hon. Gentleman, three hours ago, suggested that we on this side of the Committee had been responsible for the slowness of the progress made. I have been sitting here for the greater part of the Debate since then, and I am right in saying that probably not more than a quarter of the time has been spent in speeches from this side of the Committee. We have not evinced any desire to prolong the discussions, being only too anxious to see hon. Members from various parts of the country put their various points of view.

1.45 a.m.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) intervened about three times, and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) twice or three times, and there have been other and frequent interruptions from Scotland and other parts of the country, no doubt all well justified. The fact of the matter is that we are not getting on very fast, and the Home Secretary ought to consider whether he is treating the Committee reasonably now in setting a target of Clause 30 at a quarter to two in the morning. We shall have another five or six interventions from the hon. Member for Hornchurch and another 17 speeches from the junior Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone about Northern Ireland, and we will not get much further with another Clause.

The situation must be related to the procedure of the House. Yesterday the House was expected to sit until three o'clock in the morning considering a Bill relating to Palestine, and by a Motion which we passed in the earlier part of this Sitting we are to meet again at II o'clock this morning to discuss another series of important matters. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said that he was willing to sit until six o'clock in the morning, but he has gone home and I am only suggesting that we should do likewise.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

I wonder if one or two hon. Members on the other side of the Committee might not consider that there is something more in this than is merely fractious. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee tell us quite honestly that they are conducting a great experiment in social democracy not only for this country, but as a demonstration to the world. What could be a more ludicrous, and one might almost say an obscene, parody not only of democracy but of Government by discussion than the way we have done things lately? Yesterday there was a Debate on Palestine, where there are living two million people without jurisdiction, in the most horrible tragic mess—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] If the Chair calls me to Order, I will deal properly with the Chair.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

What the hon. Member has just said sounds very much like a threat to the Chair.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

If you, Mr. Beaumont, would like me to explain to hon. Gentlemen opposite the correct meaning of the word "properly," I am perfectly willing to do so. There was no suggestion of threat or disrespect in what I said. I have always had the utmost propriety for the Chair, and if the Chair takes any action in regard to what I say I will deal with it with the utmost propriety. Meanwhile, if hon. Members opposite interrupt me, that merely delays what the Home Secretary is anxious to expedite, and in no way affects or disturbs me. I was asking if hon. Members opposite, whose minds are on other things, recalled that the matter and the manner of what we did yesterday was a very odd example of Government by discussion.

Now we have come to something equally important. If there is anything more important than our responsibility, direct or indirect, for lives and other valuables in territory which has been and still is under the control of His Majesty, it is the composition of future Houses of Commons. These are perhaps the two most important sorts of matters with which this Committee can be asked to deal.

Now we are being asked to go to Clause 3o. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was a soldier and used to taking a target seriously. When he calls Clause 30 a target, I suppose he really means that the object of the operation is to hit it. Does he really ask the Committee to believe that, after all we did last night and in view of the fact that at eleven o'clock we have other business which also goes to the root of the question whether social democracy is possible —the business of what this Government should and could do to the Communists it is decent, it is democratic, it is Parliamentary, to ask the Committee to deal with I cannot tell how many pages of the Bill, which cover the registration of Parliamentary electors, the place and manner of voting at Parliamentary elections—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I am not quite sure whether hon. Gentlemen opposite are inviting the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) to withdraw. Certainly, I have nothing to withdraw. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has come in to explain, from his financial experience, what is the proper meaning of the word "withdraw."

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

On a point of Order. It is within the recollection of most hon. Members now in the Committee that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) had left to go home. The right hon. Gentleman has now returned.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

That is not a point of Order.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

With respect, I was coming to the point of Order.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

The hon. Member should put his point of Order without elaboration.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

May I suggest, with respect, that you hear what I have to say, and then decide whether it is a point of Order or not? Is it in Order for an hon. Member to make a remark when that remark is not in keeping with the truth.

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

I cannot say whether the hon. Gentleman's remarks were accurate or not, because I do not know what information he had as to the right hon. Gentleman's whereabouts.

An Hon. Member:

He was in the bar.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

I made no reference whatever to the habits or the probable situation of the right hon. Gentleman, and I have nothing to withdraw. I must now further remind hon. Gentlemen opposite what is covered by these 30 Clauses. "Registration of Parliamentary electors" —[An HON. MEMBER: "We can read them ourselves."] I do not know whether I am allowed to check that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get a copy of the Bill—"place and manner of voting at Parliamentary elctions, conduct of Parliamentary elections, supplementary, local government franchise and registration of electors, place and manner of voting at local government elections, conduct of local government elections, supplementary." Do right hon. Gentlemen opposite really think in our present circumstances, in the interval between the work done yesterday and the work on the Order Paper of what is now today, that it is decent to suggest that the Committee ought to try to get to that distance, and do all the hon. Gentlemen behind them think it a proper and democratic Parliamentary practice?——[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I had no doubt that some hon. Gentlemen would make a noise of that kind; but what I want to know is. are there some who would not make a noise of that kind? If there are one or two with that amount of intellectual honesty, then I hope they will follow us into the Lobby.

Photo of Mr Robert Grimston Mr Robert Grimston , Westbury

I want to put a further aspect of the matter to the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot understand myself —[An HON. MEMBER: "Do not be childlike."] We have spent some time on this already. I cannot understand—— [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

On a point of Order—— [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."]

Photo of Mr Hubert Beaumont Mr Hubert Beaumont , Batley and Morley

A point of Order has been raised.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

I am extremely anxious to hear what my hon. Friend has to say. Can you, Mr. Beaumont, prevail upon the rabble opposite?

Photo of Mr Robert Grimston Mr Robert Grimston , Westbury

I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman wants to press this matter so hard this evening.—[HON. MEMBERS: "This morning!"]

Mr. Watkins:

Send for Danny Kaye.

Photo of Mr Robert Grimston Mr Robert Grimston , Westbury

Earlier in the proceedings today, the right hon. Gentleman gave an undertaking, for what it is worth, that he would request the Boundary Commission to consider holding inquiries in the 65 constituencies whose boundaries are to be altered by the Amendment which he introduced today. Now it is obvious that if that undertaking is to he carried out, it is going to take some time and, therefore, why the Bill is to be pressed through the House, through the night and early hours of this morning, is still more difficult to understand.

Of course, the net result is—and the right hon. Gentleman is enough of a Parliamentarian to know this—that, as a result of his handling of the Bill so far, it will take much longer to go through. He knows that as well as I do. What puzzles me more and more in the right hon. Gentleman's handling of this measure is that so distinguished a Parliamentarian as he is could make so many mistakes in a single Bill. He is going to take very much longer in getting this Bill through. It seems to me—and I have been opposite the right hon. Gentleman during the passage of several Bills in this Parliament—that. most of the qualities for which so many hon. Members have admired him have deserted him entirely on this occasion.

I, therefore, put it to him that it is quite fantastic to expect us to reach Clause 30 tonight or at any reasonable hour this morning, or tomorrow morning. I have been in this House when we have run to the next day and reached II o'clock and cut out the Business of that day. [Interruption.] It may be that the Government want to avoid discussing the Communist issue. There may be hon. Members who are new to the House and who are not aware of that. The only other explanation of which I can think is that the right hon. Gentleman does not want this Bill, judging by the way he is handling the matter. But I doubt whether it is much use my making further appeals to him. I think he has probably got into a stubborn mood, and that no reasonable appeal will have any chance of success. The only result will be that the passage of this Bill will take a great deal longer than it need take.

2.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Manchester Platting

I want to spend only 60 seconds asking the Home Secretary not to give way to the spurious and fatuous arguments which we have heard from the hon.

Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston). He said that the passage of this Bill would not take longer if we went home tonight. I cannot see that it can take longer if we dispose of the Bill here and now. This House has so much to do. There is an enormous programme before it. Later today it goes into Recess. I suggest that we ought to spend even the whole of the night, and all of this morning, in finishing this Bill, or as much of it as we can, so that we can carry on with the programme facing the Government.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 62; Noes, 216.

Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Stubbs, A. E.
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Sylvester, G. O
Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)Orbach, M.Symonds, A. L.
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Palmer, A. M. F.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Janner, B.Pargiter, G. A.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jeger, G. (Winchester)Parker, J.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Johnston, D H.Parkin, B. T.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Paton, Mrs F. (Rushcliffe)Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Paton, J. (Norwich)Thurtle, Ernest
Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Pearson, A.Tiffany, S.
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitehin)Peart, T. F.Tolley, L.
Keenan, WPerrins, W.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Kendall, W. D.Piratin, P.Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Kenyon, CPlatts-Mills, J. F. F.Wadsworth, G.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Lee, Miss J, (Cannock)Porter, G. (Leeds)Warbey, W. N.
Levy, B. W.Pritt, D. N.Watkins, T. E.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Randall, H. E.Weitzman, D.
Lindgren, G. S.Ranger, J.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Rankin, J.Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Longden, F.Rees-Williams, D. R.West, D. G.
Lyne, A. W.Reeves, J.Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
McGhee, H. G.Reid, T. (Swindon)Wheatley, John (Edinburgh, E.)
Mack, J. D.Rhodes, H.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Maclean, N. (Govan)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Wilkes, L.
McLeavy, F.Rogers, G. H. R.Wilkins, W. A.
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Mathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeRoyle, C.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Mayhew, C. P.Segal, Dr. S.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Mellish, R. J.Shackleton, E. A. A.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Middleton, Mrs. L.Sharp, GranvilleWilliams, R. W. (Wigan)
Mikardo, IanShawcross, C. N. (Widnes)Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. RShawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)Willis, E.
Milchison, G. RSilverman, J. (Erdington)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Monslow, W.Simmons, C. J.Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Moody, A. S.Smith, C. (Colchester)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Morley, R.Snow, J. W.Wyatt, W.
Morgan, Dr. H. B.Solley, L. J.Yates, V. F.
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Sorensen, R. W.Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Moyle, A.Soskice, Sir FrankZilliacus, K
Nally, W.Sparks, J. A.
Neal, H. (Claycross)Steele, T.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Mr. Hannan.