I beg to move, in page 71, line 31, in column two, to leave out from "Dunstable," to the end of line 33.
If convenient, I propose to deal also with the further Amendment in line 38, column two, to leave out "except the Leagrave and Limbury wards." I should not have been first off the mark in the constituency stage but for the fact that in my own case there has been a striking departure from a principle which was laid down by the Home Secretary and was fully endorsed by the House of Commons, namely, that, as far as possible, the integrity of local amenities should be preserved; that compact urban areas should be represented as a whole by one or more members; and that Parliamentary boundaries should conform to local government boundaries.
Some time ago the House of Commons was invited by the Home Secretary to consider a new set of rules for the guidance of the Boundary Commission. The House of Commons modified those rules in order to enable the Boundary Commissioners to go beyond the rather narrow arithmetical limits laid down in the first set of rules, in order to satisfy the principle of local integrity to the greatest possible extent. The whole purpose of my Amendment is to see that this principle is carried out in the case of the borough of Luton; to ensure that the whole borough of Luton—and nothing but the borough—shall be represented by a single Member.
As an example of the way in which the Boundary Commissioners acted when given their second set of rules, I quote as an example the case of Reading. The first recommendation of the Boundary Commissioners was that a part of Reading should be transferred to the county constituency of Newbury in order to make up the weight of that constituency. After the new set of rules was drawn up, the Boundary Commissioners thought over the matter again. Having a wider latitude regarding the size of the electorate, they recommended that the borough of Reading should be kept intact and that, despite the fact that it would have over 84,000 electors, it should nevertheless be represented as a whole by a single Member. I fail to see why the principle that was adopted in the case of Reading should not be applied to Luton.
The total electorate of Luton in October, 1946, was 77,041, or more than 7,000 less than the borough of Reading. Why, then, was Reading allowed to remain a whole for Parliamentary purposes, while Luton was subjected to having one or two of its limbs torn off in order to make up the weight of the neighbouring county constituencies? It may be argued that Reading is a county borough and Luton is a non-county borough. That is a mere historical axiom; but for the misfortunes of history Luton would long ago have been a county borough. I am very glad to say that Luton, an integral place in all county borough standards, has now been recognised and recommended by the local government Boundary Commissioners in their recent Report although it may be some time before such recommendations may be implemented. I think that their findings strengthen my case that the borough of Luton should be treated in the same way as the borough of Reading.
I have three further short arguments to put forward. The first is that, if the Lea-grave and Limbury wards of the borough of Luton are thrown into the new South Bedfordshire county constituency, that new division will be totally unbalanced. The effect will be that these two wards from the borough of Luton, with an electorate in October, 1946, of over 19,000 and, in October, 1947, of over 20,000, will be the dominating sector of that county constituency. The combined electorate of those two wards will be larger, for example, than the electorate of the borough of Dunstable, which should be the natural centre of the new South Bedfordshire constituency. In my view, it would be entirely wrong that this county constituency should be dominated by a section torn from the borough of Luton. If this recommendation is carried out, the electors of the Leagrave and Limbury wards will be divorced, for Parliamentary purposes, from their local government units and also, to a considerable extent, from their places of work.
Finally, if this recommendation is carried out, after the next election the electors of the Leagrave and Limbury wards will inevitably tend to look to the Member for the borough of Luton as their Member for all purposes in which central and local government authorities are concerned. That will lead to endless confusion.
There may be two possible objections to my proposed Amendment. One may be that the borough electorate under these conditions, would be too large. The Boundary Commissioners themselves took the view, as my right hon. Friend will recall, that urban constituencies could
tolerate larger electorates than rural ones. They said that:
Large compact urban areas could conveniently support electorates in excess of the electoral quota, and would in the majority of cases prefer to do so rather than suffer severance of local unity for parliamentary purposes.
They went on to say—
… we decide that without unduly straining the intention of Rule 5a we could properly set the upper limit for single member urban constituencies at 90,000 electors.
The Home Secretary may say that that figure is too large; that he would set the limit at 80,000; and that he has, in effect, done so by his own proposal for the nine large boroughs and cities. If, however, he thinks that the borough of Luton, with over 77,000 electors in October, 1946, will still be too large; or if he thinks that it is likely to be too large and to be over the 80,000 mark by the time the next General Election takes place, I have no objection. I am sure that the electors of the borough of Luton will have no objection if he decides that it will be preferable to give the borough two seats instead of one. A two-Member constituency—a division into two halves—would be very suitable to me and to the electors. If the Home Secretary says that that is what he would prefer, I will willingly withdraw my Amendment in favour of such a proposal.
The second objection might be that, under my proposal, the electorate in the county constituencies would be too small. That would certainly be the case if one were taking into account only the adjoining new constituency of South Bedfordshire. But clearly, one must take the county as a whole. The total electorate of the county, that is to say of the three proposed county constituencies, in October, 1946, was 155,982. If, as a result of my second Amendment, one deducts the figures for the Leagrave and Limbury wards from this proposed total—19,970—that leaves a total for the three county constituencies of 136,012, which would allow of an average figure for the three county divisions of 45,377. That average of over 45,000 is well above the electorate which will be that of many of the divisions which will be created under the proposals of this Schedule. The changes proposed by the Government, which have the effect of reducing the electoral quota for England and Wales, make the argument even stronger.
It seems to me that there is no case against my Amendment on arithmetical or other grounds. All that is required is that an adjustment should be made in the boundaries of the three county constituencies in order to provide them with an average of about 45,000 electors. This would involve some transfer of rural parishes from the Mid-Bedfordshire to the proposed new South Bedfordshire constituency and some compensatory adjustments on the boundaries of the Bedford and Mid-Bedfordshire constituencies. I have not ventured to propose such changes in Amendments to this Schedule for the very good reason that it would be much better if the Home Secretary, in accepting my Amendment, could ask the Boundary Commissioners to make recommendations to him as to appropriate alterations and transfers of parishes in the remaining county constituencies. If the Home Secretary would agree that that could be done, I would willingly withdraw my Amendment and hope to see the matter put into the proper shape on the Report stage.
The second objection which my hon. Friend thought would be raised to this Amendment is the one upon which I rely in asking the Committee to reject the Amendment. The effect of the Amendment which is before us would be to reduce the electorate in South Bedfordshire to 31,079 electors, which is quite clearly much too small for any constituency in England. The problem of Bedfordshire, with its associated borough of Luton, is a difficult one. The Boundary Commissions have assigned four Members to the county, including the borough. They have, as was shown by their Report, so arranged the constituencies as to make the number as nearly even as one can get it in a county where the population is so comparatively small, and in consequence the number of electors is small.
I admit that it is objectionable, where one can avoid it, to divide a local government area as Luton is being divided by the Commissioners, but en the circumstances of Bedfordshire, it seems to me that there was no alternative before the Commissioners but to adopt the line which they did. I propose to ask the Committee to accept their recommendations.
Could my right hon. Friend deal with the suggestion I made that the Boundary Commissioners should be asked to look into the question of the three county constituencies with a view to apportioning the remaining electorate between them?
We should then have Luton, with 77,000 electors, side by side with three other divisions each with 45,000 electors. That seems to me to be a disparity which, as the Commissioners pointed out in their Report, and in fact, following their instructions, they were bound to avoid, if they could.
This Amendment is to divide the borough of Reading into two constituencies. It is the first of the Government Amendments, and deals with one of the eight large boroughs with over 80,000 electors. The Government considered, when they had the Report of the Boundary Commissioners before them, that it was undesirable that any single Member of the House should be asked to deal with a constituency of more than 80,000 electors. They had already received from the Boundary Commissioners a suggestion with regard to the division of such boroughs if the Government came to the conclusion that they were too large. The Amendment which is before the Committee sets out the division of the borough of Reading into two constituencies, North and South, following the lines indicated by the Boundary Commissioners in their letter.
I wish to make only one comment. I do not want to go over all the arguments we have had on this subject, but as the Home Secretary has quoted the Boundary Commission Report I must remind him of Paragraph 15, in which these eight boroughs are alluded to, and in spite of all the disadvantages, the Boundary Commission did not then recommend that they should have more than one Member. It is only fair to place that point before the Committee again. It is not our intention to divide against each of these recommendations separately. We have already made it quite clear that we disapprove of the manner in which the Government have approached this problem, and we may have to divide again on other matters at a later stage. I merely rise now to indicate that we reserve our position on this matter, although we are not dividing against each of these proposals separately.
I beg to move, in page 73, to leave out lines 10 to 12.
I wonder if I might, on this Amendment, raise a point which is common to most of the Amendments to the Schedule which I have put upon the Order Paper? This Amendment was put down in order to raise the general question of the difference between a county constituency and a borough constituency. The Amendments to which I have referred are an attempt to transfer all the constituencies which consist entirely of urban districts or of boroughs to the category of Parliamentary boroughs instead of county constituencies. I was not at all clear from the Report of the Boundary Commissioners what difference they had in mind between county and borough constituencies in making a decision whether a particular constituency should be put into one category or the other.
I have been told—and I would like to know from the Home Secretary whether it is the case—that, in deciding which constituency should go into which category, if the constituency was wholly unchanged—such as, for example, Brent-ford and Chiswick, in Middlesex—and it had been put down previously as a county constituency, it is to remain so; whereas if the boundaries were changed, it gave an opportunity of reviewing the position, and possibly transferring the constituency to the other category. If that is the case, it is a very unsatisfactory way of deciding whether a particular constituency should be a Parliamentary borough or a county constituency. It would be desirable that some principle should be laid down in deciding into which category a particular constituency should be put.
If we look at the actual list drawn up by the Boundary Commissioners there seems to be no rhyme or reason about it. Taking my own county, Essex, my constituency is definitely put down as a Parliamentary borough. The neighbouring constituencies of Hornchurch and Thurrock are put dawn as county constituencies. In Middlesex there are four divisions put down as county constituencies, but there are others which are no more urban in character and which are put down as Parliamentary boroughs. In fact, a constituency like Brentford and Chiswick, which is a borough, is put down as a county constituency, whereas Uxbridge, which is urban, is put down as a Parliamentary borough.
The whole point of having a distinction is that, in a Parliamentary borough, the amount of money that can be spent on elections is less than in a county constituency. We have been informed that the reason why more money may be spent in a county constituency is because it is a more widespread area, and the expenses may be higher. If that is the real reason I think that a built-up area should, in every case, be put into the category of a Parliamentary borough. In certain cases where districts are very widespread, and have rural areas within their boundaries, an exception might be made, but I should have thought that, on general principles, a built-up area, if it is an urban district or a borough, should be put into the category of a Parliamentary borough.
I hope that there will be support from all sections of the Committee for the attempt to get this matter cleared up, and to get a definite understanding, so that when we are thinking, not merely of the immediate redistribution, but of future redistribution, the Boundary Commission will have some ideas on which to work in deciding into which categories particular constituencies should be put.
Like the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) I was rather puzzled as to the grounds on which the Boundary Commission have decided what should be a Parliamentary and what should be a county division. I think the answer is to be found in the fact that they have had regard to the density of the population in relation to each acre of the constituency. If we take the par- ticular constituency which is under consideration in the Amendment, the density per acre is only 2.6 persons. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend will agree with me that half a family per acre, which is about what that means, does represent a fairly widespread constituency. I gather that that is the basis on which generally the Boundary Commission proceeded.
I have had taken out, so far as I can, the density scale with regard to each of the constituencies which consist only of urban districts or boroughs, and yet have been regarded as county divisions. I find that, generally speaking, they run under about four persons per acre. There are a very few, only three or four, where the density is higher. Such constituencies as those might be regarded as exceptional. After all, the term "urban district," and even the word "borough," has no real relationship to the density of the population in the area.
There are some urban districts in remote parts of the country which are quite small, and the question whether a particular population gets the designation "urban" or "rural," when it comes to local government, depends largely on the standard set by the particular county council. In divisions in Cornwall, for instance, areas are graded as urban districts having regard to their requirements, as seaside areas, to make bylaws and enforce them. In the Home Counties they would never be regarded as suitable for elevation to urban district standards.
I think that the basis of density per acre is probably the right one upon which the Boundary Commissioners should proceed. Perhaps my hon. Friend might care to have some conversation with me, between now and the later stages of the Bill, with regard to the particular cases where it might be desirable to shift a county division into the borough category, but I hope he will agree that, on general grounds, it should not be the local government designation but the actual facts—the spread of population in the area—which should be regarded by the Boundary Commissioners when they are making their recommendations.
Whatever may be the merits of the criterion to which the Home Secretary thinks that the Boundary Com- missioners had regard, I cannot believe that it did guide them. My own constituency of Twickenham in Middlesex, which is to be a Parliamentary borough, has a much smaller population per acre than two other boroughs of Middlesex, namely, Acton, and Brentford and Chiswick, both of which are to be Parliamentary counties. The reason which has been mentioned by the Home Secretary was not the reason given by the Boundary Commissioners on a previous occasion when they were asked why they had made certain urban areas Parliamentary counties and others Parliamentary boroughs. I hope, therefore, that in the conversations which the Home Secretary has promised, very serious consideration will be given to the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite.
May I say that the case of Middlesex appears to be one in which it is most desirable that there should be some conversation to see if we can find out exactly what guided the Boundary Commissioners in suggesting Acton, Brentford and Chiswick and Finchley should be Parliamentary county divisions instead of borough divisions. I think that those are the weakest of the cases for retaining them as county divisions.
I beg to move, in page 73, line 38, at the end, to insert:
9. Wirral—The urban districts of Ellesmere Port, Hoylake, Neston and Wirral.
I would suggest that with that Amendment we should also consider the Amendment in my name in page 74. In view of what the Home Secretary has said on the last Amendment, I hope he will accept these two Amendments. They relate to my own constituency. At present the Wirral division consists of the municipal borough of Bebington, part of the county borough of Birkenhead and part of the county borough of Wallasey and the four urban districts mentioned in the Amendment. It is at present a county constituency, but in the redistribution it is to lose its municipal borough and its
parts of the two county boroughs and yet it is converted into a borough constituency. That does not seem to be logical. The area of the division will be 30,000 acres with a population of about 80,000. In the last Amendment, the constituency covered an area of 23,000 acres with a population of approximately the same figure. This is a fairly scattered district which is 25 miles from end to end. Communications are bad by rail and road and there are many different parishes. I submit that it is in fact a county constituency. On the population test to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, it would appear to be well under the datum line. And I ask the Government to accept this Amendment.
The hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) has made out a good case. On the arguments that I adduced on the last Amendment, it is clear that this constituency comes into line. In fact, it is rather a better example in support of my contention than the constituency then in question. My advice is that this Amendment should be accepted.
I would point out, Major Milner, that we have passed the two Amendments in my name—in page 73, line 42, column 1, after "Bebington," insert "(Birkenhead)," and in line 46, column 1, after "Birkenhead," insert "(Birkenhead.)"
I beg to move in page 74, line 33, column z, to leave out "and."
At the same time it may be convenient to discuss the two following Amendments in page 74, line 36, and in page 75, line 12. If these were accepted the results would be to retain the parish of Gwennap in the Falmouth and Camborne Division instead of putting it into the new Truro constituency. The parish has only 873 electors, but it is the parent parish of the now much more populous parish of Lanner. The inhabitants of both parishes look to Redruth rather than to Truro for their shopping and social amenities. As far as I can ascertain, it is the wish of the people of Gwennap to be in the same Parliamentary constituency as the people of the neighbouring parish. Perhaps the only reason which actuated the Commissioner in putting Gwennap into the Truro Division was that the parish of Gwennap is in the rural district of Truro. I recognise that if the Amendment was accepted it would mean that Gwennap would be the only parish which was not in the new Truro Parliamentary Division, but I would point out that two of the rural districts are cut in halves both under the existing boundaries and under the new boundaries described in this Bill. As the local Government boundaries are at present under review, it would seem that no disadvantage would accrue were Gwennap to be placed in the Falmouth and Camborne Division.
Gwennap is a place of some historic importance, especially in the annuls of Cornish Methodism. Possibly, it is one of the most famous places connected with that thriving denomination in that county. My difficulty is that until this Amendment appeared on the Order Paper, I had received no representations on the matter. The Commissioners were not asked to consider it when they were in Cornwall. This proposal would have the disadvantage that it would split the Truro rural district between two constituencies. That is a move which the Boundary Commissioners were asked to avoid if at all possible. I have received no representations from the political parties, as I have in the case of some Amendments which we shall consider later. Where the various political parties in a constituency have united to say that it would be desirable, for reasons similar to those given by the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew), to transfer a parish, or two or three parishes, from one constituency to another, I shall, in the main, recommend the Committee to agree to the proposal.
I suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that between now and the Report stage he should endeavour to ascertain what are the views of the political parties in the two constituencies, and the views of the Truro Rural District Council. If there is general agreement, I would be in a position to recommend that the Amendment should be accepted. However, I am reluctant to set a precedent unless there is an assurance that all interested parties have been consulted and have agreed.
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I shall make consultations. I have already informed the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. King), but I will make further consultations with a view to raising this matter again on the Report stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont, I am sorry that the Chairman has left the Chair. A few minutes ago he accepted the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) to allow a subsequent Amendment to be dealt with at the same time as the one to which he was speaking. I had an Amendment on the Order Paper between those Amendments. The Chairman allowed the hon. and learned Member for Wirral to proceed with his second Amendment. The consequence is that my Amendment has not been called, and I would like to know exactly what the position is. I understood from the Chairman that my Amendment might be taken on the Report stage, but that we could not go back to it now. I should like to have some assurance on that point.
May I reinforce what the hon. Member for West Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) has said? There would seem to be a technical difficulty here, Mr. Beaumont. Although I referred to the various Amendments standing in my name, I moved only the first one, and the second one was not formally moved. Therefore, I submit that it would be in Order to take the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for West Birkenhead.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member, and I regret that there is nothing I can do to help him in the matter. I was not here at the time, and in any case it is quite impossible to go back. The hon. Member has the option of putting down his Amendments on Report stage, but I can give him no guarantee that they will be called.
I am in the quandary that I was not present when this matter arose. Quite obviously, I cannot go back and deal with a matter which has already been passed. I suggest that the hon. Member should seek an opportunity of putting forward his Amendment on Report stage and that he should make representations to try to ensure that he will be called.
I think that, without any disrespect to the Chair, I can say that it was, perhaps, a slight misapprehension on the part of the Chairman at the time. May I ask whether there is any Rule of the House providing that, if the Chairman by any chance should make a slip or overlook an Amendment which he wished to call, the Committee could have the opportunity of discussing the matter, even if it was a mistake, shall we say, on the part of the Chairman?
I beg to move, in page 75, to leave out lines 18 to 26, and to insert:
Keswick is a very famous Cumbrian town known as the "Queen of the Lakes," and it has expressed a desire to remain in a rural constituency. I have been informed that the local authority has made a vigorous protest against the proposals of the Boundary Commission. Keswick itself has nothing in common with the industrial part of West Cumberland, and, moreover, Aspatria is socially, geographically, and economically clearly closely linked up with the industrial part of the Workington division and the township of Maryport. Aspatria is now a small industrial town, but it forms part of the important and compact unit of the West Cumberland Development Area.
On this matter, public opinion of all parties agrees with the principle of the proposed Amendment, namely, that Keswick should remain in a rural constituency and that Aspatria should remain in the more industrial part. There is no difficulty here about the populations of each constituency being affected by the proposal of the Amendment. If we take the parishes contained in the Amendment, embracing Aspatria and district, we have a population of Parliamentary electors of 2,874, while Keswick itself has a population of Parliamentary electors of 3,567.
I should like to offer a word of support for this Amendment. In the past Keswick has been in the constituency of Mid-Cumberland, which is a purely rural constituency. It is a long way from Workington, and there are no real connections between Workington and Keswick, which is in the Lake District. It does not seem to me to be very suitable to link up part of the Lake District with a large industrial area. Aspatria is well within the West Cumberland coalfield, which expects to have new industries introduced, and it looks to Workington and the industrial belt on the coast in regard to developments in various ways. This would seem to be a change which would keep areas of the same kind more together, and I think no difficulties would arise. It is the fact that Keswick is not absolutely contiguous to the area of the Penrith Rural District Council, and it would, therefore, be an island cut off by a few miles from the rest of the constituency. The Keswick Urban District Council hopes that a larger number of the rural parishes will be included in the new constituency. If the Home Secretary feels that that would be a better arrangement, I think I can speak for the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and say that he and I would agree to it, and that it would meet with the wishes of the political parties and other people.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has dealt with the fundamental objection to this very ingenious suggestion. It is a fact that if the Amendment were carried and placed in the Bill, it would result in Keswick being left as an island of one constituency entirely surrounded by the parishes of another constituency. I am sure the Committee will agree that that would not be a desirable state of affairs. Therefore, I could not advise the Committee to accept the Amendment in its present form. To get over that difficulty, the hon. Member for North Cumberland has proposed to transfer half a dozen rural parishes from one constituency, as proposed by the Commissioners, to another. I have not had a chance of examining what that would mean in its effect on the electorate. In fact, it is perhaps one of the disadvantages of having a conversation with hon. Members that they then try to meet the objections which one has raised by some impromptu boundary revisions of their own.
I am sure that neither the hon. Member for North Cumberland nor my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) will expect me to say whether that arrangement would be satisfactory or not until I have had a chance to examine it. I think they feel that to make Keswick an island in the middle of another constituency would be unsatisfactory. I suggest to them that they should withdraw the Amendment at this stage and see what they can do to meet the objection, which I am quite sure is a sound one.
I beg to move, in page 77, line 34, to leave out from "namely," to the end of line 44, and to insert:
St. Budeaux, Ford, Keyham, Molesworth, Nelson and St. Aubyn";
(ii) The Parish of Tamerton Foliot in the Rural District of Plympton St. Mary.
3. Plymouth, Drake:
The following Wards of the County Borough of Plymouth, namely, Pennycross, Stoke, Mutley, Drake, St. Peter's, Valle-tort and Mount Edgcumbe, and so much of the Crownhill Ward as is situate to the west of the Tavistock Road.
4. Plymouth, Sutton:
(i) The following Wards of the County Borough of Plymouth, namely, Vintry, Sutton, Friary, Laira, Charles, Compton and St. Andrew, and so much of the Crownhill Ward as is situate to the East of the Tavistock Road.
I am sure the Committee will regret, as I do, the absence from this Debate today
of my colourful and popular colleague the hon. Member for the Drake Division (Mr. Medland). If I may transgress the Rules of Order for one moment, I would like to assure the Committee that he is making a good recovery and will be back in his place very soon.
This Amendment seeks to retain the Drake Division for reasons which I shall enumerate, but first I want to emphasise that in this Amendment there is no party matter, either locally or in this House. Members of all parties have expressed to me their desire that the Drake constituency should be retained. In Plymouth there is greater unanimity on this subject than on any other. Indeed, no single voice, either inside or outside a political party, has been raised in favour of the Commission's Report, as it applies to the City of Plymouth. The proposals in that Report are founded upon the state of electorates in 1946. In that year the number of the electors in the City, and in the area which the Boundary Commission suggests should be added to it, totalled 142,463. The Commission propose that this electorate should be divided among two constituencies, the Devonport constituency with 72,115 electors, and the Sutton constituency with 70,345 electors, both, even at that time, over the upper limit laid down by the Commission, as the Committee will notice. Had that electorate been divided by three, instead of by two as the Commission propose, it would have given, at that date, three constituencies, each containing 47,489 electors.
In passing, I would like to refer to the fact that a much debated Government Amendment, which has already been accepted by the Committee, will, if finally implemented, create 17 constituencies in divided boroughs with electorates less than those of the three Plymouth constituencies, on the basis of our electorates in 1946. I am not opposing that action of the Government—indeed, I voted for the Amendment; I think it was the right line to take—but I would point out that the acceptance of that Amendment is an additional reason for supporting the Amendment which I have just moved.
Our main contention, however, is this: While the year 1946 may have be a satisfactory datum line for determining electorates in most other parts of the country, it was not a satisfactory datum line for determining electorates in the City of Plymouth, because of the intensity of the havoc wrought in Plymouth during the war. Since coming to this House I have spent a large part of my time on war damage problems, and I have tried to find yardsticks by which relative damage can be measured. Every yardstick that I have found has proved that the City of Plymouth, of all our provincial cities, was the one that was hardest hit by the blitz. I do not want to weary the Committee with many statistics, but I would like to remind hon. Members of these facts: Plymouth suffered 59 air raids. During those air raids 3,754 houses were completely destroyed; 18,398 were very seriously damaged; 49,950 were slightly damaged. I mention those facts not to curry sympathy, but because they have a direct bearing up my argument this afternoon.
As a result of the intensity of that damage, not only were many people killed and many more seriously injured, but the shortage of accommodation in the city distributed our Plymouth population over a very wide area indeed. The vast majority of these compulsorily evacuated people continued to work in Plymouth and travelled very long distances day by day to and from their work. They were proud to regard themselves still as Plymothians, and they longed for the day when their return to the city to which they belonged would be made possible. In 1946 the electorate of the city had recovered from the low level of 1945, when it was 121,485, to 131,256, plus an added area which the Boundary Commission suggested should be incorporated with a population of 11,206. But, on 1st April this year Plymouth had an added population of 20,000 more adult people than it had at the datum line in 1946. My latest figures for 1st April this year record that the electorate in the city alone is 151,060, and, in addition to that, there is still the added area outside, which the Commissioners have recommended should be incorporated within the city's electorate.
That, if I may say so, is a tribute to the local authorities, to the magnificent help given to the City of Plymouth by this Government, and especially to the help given by the Minister of Health in housing problems concerning this city. Next Saturday afternoon the Prime Minister, who already knows of Plymouth's gallantry during the war, will visit the city and will see evidence not simply of the city's gallantry in the war but of the city's equally great gallantry in matters of reconstruction. I am sure he will agree, and I am sure the Government would agree, if they could visit us today, that Plymouth has earned by her own labours, both in planning and performance, the concessions that I ask from the Committee on her behalf this afternoon.
But that is not the end of the story. The House has recently received from the Local Government Boundary Commission a Report which, if accepted, will include two further adjacent areas in the City of Plymouth. When this takes place—as inevitably it must because, for all practical purposes, except for local government, those areas are already bound to the City of Plymouth by ties which are unlikely to be broken—the new county of Plymouth will have a still further extended population and electoral roll. I have given the Committee figures and facts to support the Amendment. May I now give a personal experience, which I recount only because I think it goes to prove that there is work, and more than enough work, in the City of Plymouth, at this moment, to sustain three Members of Parliament?
Very shortly after I became a Member of this House I was, one afternoon, collecting my mail at the House post office, and it was rather a large one. The assistant who handed it to me said something like this: "You are one of the popular ones." I asked her what she meant, and she said, "We always know the popular ones, because of the size of their mail." Of course, she was quite wrong; the number of my letters had nothing whatever to do with my popularity nor, may I add, had it anything to do with such subjects as dried eggs or basic petrol or the shortage of fuel! It had to do, and it has had to do ever since I came to this House, with the multifarious daily problems of men and women who are still living in desperately difficult conditions in spite of all that has been done in reconstruction. I rejoice that my constituents should write to me in this way, but when I consider an addi- tion of 50 per cent. to the already large amount of work which I do, and which my colleagues also do, I confess to the Committee that I would regard it as a staggering task for any Member of Parliament to undertake.
I have today received from the City of Plymouth a telegram from our Lord Mayor, Alderman H. J. Perry. He wires me as follows:
Plymouth prays for your success in efforts to retain the Drake Division in today's Debate. We cannot believe that a British House of Commons will deliver an unfair blow to a City struggling to its feet after enemy assault.
That is a true expression of the feeling, not simply of some people in the city but of the whole population of the city with regard to the Boundary Commission's proposals, because they feel that they are being made to suffer for the very great agonies which they endured both during the war and since. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division expressed it, in a letter I received from him by this morning's post:
Funny treatment, is it not, to t he wounded?—to lop off a limb, or cut off a third of his tongue, because he happens to have stopped some bombs?
Many tributes were paid in those days to the City of Plymouth. No greater tribute was paid than that by the present Leader of the Opposition. I have before me a cutting which concerns a visit which he paid to the city at the height of the blitz. In that cutting it says:
With Mrs. Churchill he spent hours driving and walking round the city, talking to the victims of a long succession of raids. The Premier was in tears as, turning to his wife, he said, 'I cannot find words to thank them, or to praise them for their courage.'
That is the gist of our case; namely, that 1946 was not a satisfactory datum line from our point of view and that, by accepting the Commission's Report in this respect, the Committee would be inflicting a very great injustice indeed upon the City of Plymouth. The courage with which Plymouth faced the havoc of the war, and her population level today, are, I think, overwhelming arguments for asking the Committee that in this instance, which is unlike any other instance the Committee will have to consider, the Commission's Report should be brought up to date. If that were done, the population figures are such, and would be recognised as
such, as to enable the Committee to let Plymouth retain its three seats. I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to accept our Amendment. I hope he will do that, but in any case, I beg of him that if we do divide—as, if necessary, we shall divide in favour of this Amendment—at least to leave the matter to a free vote of the House.
I have very little to add to what has been said so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton). I think this business could be despatched quickly and successfully, and in a manner which would be a credit to the whole Committee, and I very much hope that that is what will happen. I would like to re-emphasise one or two of the points made by my hon. Friend and, in doing so, to make a direct appeal to the Home Secretary, who has associations with the West Country—he once told this House he did much of his courting in the neighbourhood of Dartmoor, and I assure him if he wants any fun next time he comes to the West Country, he must meet our arguments very carefully.
This is a non-controversial Amendment, which is supported by all parties in Plymouth. In fact, as my hon. Friend has said, it is probably the only question on which the city is absolutely unanimous. It is not only the City of Plymouth which is unanimous, however; it is also true to say that the whole of the counties of Devon and Cornwall are unanimous on this subject because, despite local differences which we may well have on matters of local government boundaries, there are no differences of opinion within our two great West Country counties about the importance of the City of Plymouth, about the part which the city plays in the West Country, and about her rights to retain full representation in this House.
Our case is not based on a sentimental ground, however, but fairly and squarely on the figures. On the basis of the present figures the Bill would leave two constituencies, each with an electorate of something like 75,000 or more and likely to grow, very soon, to something around 80,000. This would be far in excess of the electorate in any division of Devon and Cornwall, with the possible exception of that of Torquay. However, on the basis of the present electorate, and with the proposal in the Amendment, there would be three Divisions of some 50,000 each. That would still leave us with a larger electorate than that which will exist in any of the neighbouring constituencies, and with a larger electorate in the three constituencies than is being proposed for some of the constituencies dealt with in the Amendment, which deals with 17 constituencies. Therefore, if the Home Secretary agrees with our proposal he will not be offending against any of the rules or principles which he himself has accepted in other parts of the Bill.
The Home Secretary will argue, possibly, that the Commission were bound by the earlier date, the year 1946, on which to base their findings, that if we were to take into account increases of population all over the country since then it would upset all the calculations of the Boundary Commission, and that, therefore, he cannot accept our claim about the validity of that year so far as Plymouth is concerned. I appreciate the force of that argument, and I appreciate that there is no general principle which could be applied which would deal with the City of Plymouth but which would not arouse, also, other issues. That is precisely the reason why we have sought the right way of dealing with this matter—the putting down of an Amendment to the Schedule, instead of raising the matter in another way.
There is no city, so far as I am aware, whose population is affected by the date of 1946 in the same way as is Plymouth, and there is no city, at any rate, in which there was such a drastic reduction of the population owing to bombing as there was in Plymouth. The population of Plymouth was reduced by something like a third in three or four weeks. As my hon. Friend has said, unless our Amendment is accepted there are bound to be changes in the proposals for Plymouth's representation when the new local boundary proposals become effective. Therefore, what the Home Secretary's proposal means is that we are to wait for two, three or four years during which the City of Plymouth is to be deprived of one Member. That would follow the consequences of the blitz on Plymouth, and it would be assumed and understood by everyone in the City of Plymouth that the city had been deprived of one Member for than period precisely because the city had suffered in the blitz.
I do not want to weary the Committee by going over arguments so well put by my hon. Friend, about the consequences of the blitz in Plymouth. Everyone boasts of his own bombs, but we say in Plymouth that we had the biggest and the best bombs, and that claim could be proved by statistics. Two and a half years ago a large part of the City of Plymouth was absolutely flat. Not only were houses smashed, but "pubs" were smashed, chapels were smashed, churches were smashed, cinemas were smashed, shops were smashed: indeed, two and a half years ago a large part of the City of Plymouth was flat on its back. Moreover, Plymouth Argyle were not doing very well, either, which added to the distress, and that is one of the things the Government have not yet been able to put right. So the situation in the City of Plymouth was dismal. Yet, during that two and a half years, the city has sought to rebuild itself, and there is no city which has got further ahead with its reconstruction, no city that has a better record in rehousing its people all over the country. It would be regarded as a great injustice if, for two or three years, the city were deprived of one of its Members to represent it in the House of Commons when it is forging ahead with the work of building itself anew.
I should be false to everything I value in my origin if I did not join in the appeal against the partial disfranchisement of my native city. Having myself experienced the moral, spiritual and intellectual damage resulting from having my seat struck from under me, I have a peculiar sympathy with other hon. Members who may be threatened with a similar lot. I shall not attempt to repeat the cogent arguments put forward by those who are about to be the surviving Members for Plymouth, but I would add this further consideration. This proposal in the Bill is calculated to have a very unhappy effect on the other side of the Atlantic, for the name of Plymouth in Devonshire is as familiar and as venerated there as the name of Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims who sailed from Plymouth set foot in the year 1620.
It is particularly unfortunate that it should be the constituency which bears the name of Drake that should be threatened, a name inextricably bound up with the most famous days of Plymouth's history. Plymouth was threatened from the sea in 1588; it was, as has been said, almost flattened from the air in 1940. Another city with less virility could hardly have survived at all. It is a tragic irony, indeed, that what the Duke of Medina Sidonia threatened in vain, what Hitler and Goering failed to achieve, should be inflicted on the city by a Home Secretary who, if I am rightly informed, has special reason to be grateful for Plymouth and the citizens it produces.
Over the main door of the historic and shattered parish church of Plymouth there was inscribed on the very morrow of the blitz, "Resurgam"—"I shall rise again." That motto stands for the city as a whole. Now the city is expanding its borders; it is increasing its population, it is developing its industries; I hope and believe it is increasing its wealth; and I am quite certain it will develop its political activities to a greater degree than ever before. It would be peculiarly hard and unfair that at the moment when such expansion is going on the three Members to which, if the city is not qualified today, it will soon be fully qualified again, should be reduced to two, that in the moment of Plymouth's extremity her people should be struck this blow. I appeal to the Committee to allow Plymouth the three Members it so richly deserves.
I would add my plea to those which have already been made that Plymouth should be allowed to retain her Parliamentary Divisions. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the matter most closely before he accepts the proposal of the Boundary Commission for the reduction of the number of Members for Plymouth from three to two.
Also as a son of Plymouth I would add my plea to the Home Secretary that he should accept the Amendment. I have recently made a visit to Plymouth in January of this year. I was astonished to find after a year's absence that something like 10,000 people have returned to the city since I was last there. I went just to see what was being done to restore the city's proud and ancient position as the metropolis of the South West. I discovered that it is in the Drake division and out- wards from it that there is the greatest possibility of development and the most cheering signs of rehousing activity. The Local Government Boundary Commission envisage the possibility of one of the most populous suburbs being added to Plymouth. This is Plymstock, where there is a remarkable housing development. There is also the suggestion that the ancient town of Plympton should also be incorporated in the city. It may well be that eventually Plymouth ought to have not only three but four Members of Parliament, and there may well be a reasonable demand for four in the not too distant future.
The whole of Devon and Cornwall—at least, South Devon and most of Cornwall—look, as they have always looked, to Plymouth as the great city, the one great city, of the South West. It is naturally the trading centre of this large area. Many businesses have returned there, and many wish to build up new businesses there. Too long the city has depended mainly on the dockyard. It is partly because of the development of former suburban agricultural land now being undertaken that new enterprise is possible. There does not seem to be any doubt that its importance as a port will expand. I have family connections with a business in the city and had the opportunity of talking with many business men seeking new sites on behalf of their firms. They all had firm faith in the future and spoke of the astonishing return of population to Plymouth. It will become increasingly a commercial centre.
For all those reasons—not just the emotional reason which I feel as deeply as the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris)—and from what I have recently seen in the city and learned from talking with hundreds of its inhabitants, I reinforce the plea so eloquently made by both hon. Members for my native city. I hope that in this instance it will be possible for the Home Secretary to agree to the retention of the Drake division.
We have had a series of very eloquent speeches on this Amendment, and I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends the Member for the Sutton Division (Mrs. Middleton) and the Member for the Devonport Division (Mr. Foot) on the way in which they have put their case to the Committee. I can assure them, and the other hon. Members who have spoken, that there is no need to tell me what a fine city Plymouth is, for my wife was born there, and if I could accept this Amendment I am quite sure it would be regarded as wiping out many domestic faults. Therefore, hon. Members will understand that my predisposition is in favour of accepting the Amendment. However, while the main case for it depends on history and prophecy I have to deal with the immediate present.
I cannot accept the argument that Plymouth is the only place whose political representation will be altered, albeit only temporarily, by the effects of the war. In London there are boroughs which, I am quite certain, would have had more Members than they are getting had it not been for the havoc created in their areas during the war. We took the datum line of 1946. In 1946 there was not an electorate in the city of Plymouth, as defined for the purposes of the Boundary Commissioners Report, that would justify giving Plymouth three Members. The average electorate would have been 47,000, and on the rules applied in the nine large cities that would not have entitled Plymouth to an additional seat.
I want to make quite clear that the future of boundary revision is very different from what we have known in the past. There was no revision of Parliamentary boundaries between 1885 and 1918; there was no revision of Parliamentary boundaries between 1918 and the present time; but the Act which was passed during the lifetime of the Coalition Government ensures that, not earlier than three and not later than seven years after each Redistribution Bill there shall be a fresh examination of the constituencies by the Boundary Commissioners, who shall submit to the House of Commons a report on which orders can be based which will enable the Parliamentary constituencies to be reviewed. This first review by the Boundary Commissioners requires an Act of Parliament. Future recommendations from the Boundary Commissioners, once the next General Election has taken place, will be implemented by means of orders, so that the machinery for dealing with the shillings of the population and of the electorate will be much more easily brought into account by the House of Commons than has been the case hitherto.
In those circumstances, it seems to me that I must ask the Committee to accept the figures of 1946. After all, if we depart from the 1946 figures for Plymouth I have no doubt that there are many other constituencies who would ask us to consider 1947, and would ask us to take into consideration housing schemes, and similar developments, which might entitle them to feel that in the course of years they would be justified in asking for an additional Member of Parliament. That might have been a valid argument under the old arrangement, when approximately 30 years elapsed between one Redistribution Bill and another. But in the circumstances of today, and having regard to the figures of 1946, I cannot feel that any justification has been made out for a third Member for this City. That does not mean that the Government are unmindful of the devastation Plymouth suffered during the war. We all recognise that; but we cannot make what happened during the war the ground for giving additional representation in Parliament. We are bound by the figures, and I suggest that we must take the same datum line for every constituency. The year 1946 was the year chosen, and is the year on which this Bill has been based.
Although I agree with everything that I have been able to hear of what the right hon. Gentleman said, as a West Country man I am bound to stand by the single claim that we in the West Country really do hold a very different position from other places. Plymouth has had an almost unexampled history; and it has suffered an almost unexampled disaster in the war. Although I, personally, might have feelings one way or the other, on this occasion I have no wish to give a dumb vote, and if there is a Division I shall support the Amendment, because of my particular and peculiar interest in the county, one of the Divisions of which I have the honour to represent and because Plymouth, being one of the oldest and finest seaports in the United Kingdom, is entitled to have its full quota of three Members at the present time. I may differ from many hon. Members on other matters, but as I have always supported anything necessary to help the West Country, and particularly Plymouth, I shall certainly go into the Lobby in favour of this Amendment if it is taken to a Division.
I would certainly have guessed that much, judging from the very high standard of Debate shown by those who do come from Plymouth. It is with some reluctance that I intervene, but I must say, with complete sincerity and honesty, it seemed to me that my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division (Mrs. Middleton) made the most convincing case that could be made on this Amendment. She put her argument with great ability, eloquence and cogency, and, as one would expect, her argument was lucid. She put forward two points which the Home Secretary has not, in fact, answered, and those seemed to me to be conclusive points.
The right hon. Gentleman has put his case on the basis of comparing Plymouth with other boroughs, saying there is no ground for an increase in representation. But this Amendment is a suggestion that the number of Members should be reduced, and reduced at the expense of towns with not very great historic background. As the hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) said, Plymouth is a representative city of a very widely scattered area—the central city of the whole West Country. It is a city which has a very special part in our affections, and in British history. This would be no ground for special treatment, but the argument put by the hon. Member for Sutton, as I remember it, was that the pre-war figures justified three Members on the quota, and that the present figures justify three Members. The third point, to which the right hon. Gentleman gave no reply, was that the datum-line figures compare favourably with some of the rearranged constituencies.
Everyone appreciates the great difficulty in which my right hon. Friend is placed in accepting this Amendment. Inevitably, there are considerable difficulties in connection with any rearrangements. I venture to say, with great sincerity, that what I am saying is not in conflict with the feelings of every Member of this Committee, namely, that we should not say to a town that because of the ravages it has suffered, because of the sufferings of its people, because of their heroism, and because a datum line happens to have been fixed which is unfortunate for that town, we are not increasing its representation, but that it must lose one of its Members.
It so happens that this town lost 80,000 of its population from 1939 to 1943. Almost every house in the city was damaged, and many of its houses were wiped out. We are saying to this town that because the speed of reconstruction, which is being speedily undertaken, had not enabled it substantially to recover itself when the datum line was drawn, it has to lose one of its Members, and at some distant future it may be able to get that Member back. There is something in historical connections in this matter, particularly in the case of cities which are isolated and form an integral part of our history.
This is a very ancient city, with a very ancient representation. It is a city which has good representation at the moment. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the view I am putting is a view which will be shared by every Member who has listened to this Debate, if a free vote is permitted. I cannot believe that in this case, with the way it has been put up, any Member will get up at a later stage to make claims for another town. This is an exceptional case, and, if a vote is challenged, many Members will be placed in an unfavourable position and in a real difficulty. I sincerely ask my right hon. Friend to say that this is a special case. Although he may not be able to grant this request now, I hope he will say that he will look into the matter between now and Report stage, having regard to the new figures available, having regard to the building progress which is now taking place, and with the certainty that between now and the next Election, three seats will be justified.
I wish to support the plea which has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). I think that a very sound case has been Made for Plymouth on the figures. I think it will be found, in several instances where revision is taking place, that there are fewer than 47,000 electors. My difficulty is that the membership of Plymouth has been reduced at a time when the datum line shows that the electorate is over 47,000. It is difficult to be convinced by the argument against this request, when the electorate in other instances will be less than 47,000.
My right hon. Friend suggested that it is impossible in the present circumstances for him to give way, because if he did so, the same plea might be put forward in regard to other constituencies throughout the country. I suggest that my right hon. Friend will not be able to find a case similar to Plymouth. It was suggested some weeks ago that there were to be a number of changes made in respect of certain constituencies, and I confess that I have been very disappointed to find that Plymouth has not been included among those changes. I am disappointed, because I think that the claims of Plymouth are second to none.
I very much appreciate the support, which has been given from all sides, to the Amendment we have proposed. I very much hope, in view of the pressure which has been exerted from all sides on my right lion Friend, that he will be prepared to think again about this matter. I should like to refer to some of the arguments he put forward. He said that the case we have presented is based on history and on prophecy. I do not think there is anything wrong with our history, nor that there is anything wrong with our prophecies. But our case is not only based on that. It is also based on the fact that a unique combination of factors come into play in the case of Plymouth. I quite appreciate that it has been found difficult to depart from the 1946 figures in a way which would throw my right hon. Friend open to other requests and Amendments, but as I have said, there is a unique combination of factors which we claim should change the situation.
We do not claim that other cities in England have not been bombed. We do not claim that other cities will not increase their population in the next few years. We do not claim that other cities will not be affected by large-scale local govern- ment boundary changes during the next few years. What we say is that if all these factors are combined together, it is very difficult to find another city which has been so heavily bombed, is so certain to recover its population in a short time, and which will also be affected by local government boundary changes. We believe that these three things make a unique combination of factors, which should be dealt with by the Home Secretary. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will
|Division No. 132.]||AYES||[6.10 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Ranger, J.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Gunter, R. J.||Rankin, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Guy, W. H.||Reeves, J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hardy, E. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Harrison, J.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Balfour, A.||Hobson, C. R.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Holman, P.||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Barton, C.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Sharp, Granville|
|Battley, J. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Benson, G.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Shurmer, P.|
|Beswick, F.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)||Silkin, Rt Hon. L.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Binns, J.||Keenan, W.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Kenyon, C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Key, C. W.||Snow, J. W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Kinley, J.||Solley, L. J.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Soskice, Sir Frank|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Leslie, J. R.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Lever, N. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Levy, B. W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Lindgren, G. S.||Swingler, S.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Burden, T. W.||McAdam, W.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Chamberlain. R. A.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Cluse, W. S.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Cobb, F. A.||McLeavy, F.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Collindridge, F.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Collins, V. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Tolley, L.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Cove, W. G.||Marquand, H. A.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Daggar, G.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Davies, Edward (Burstem)||Mellish, R. J.||Usborne, Henry|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Messer, F.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Monslow, W.||Walker, G. H.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Moody, A. S.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Morlay, R.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Deer, G.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||West, D. G.|
|Debbie, W.||Mort, D. L.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Moyle, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Mulvey, A.||Wigg, George|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Edelman, M.||O'Brien, T.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Orbach, M.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Ewart, R.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Pearson, A.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Follick, M.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Woods, G. S.|
|Freeman, J. (Watford)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Wyatt, W.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Popplewell, E.||Yates, V. F.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Price, M. Philips|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Randall, H. E.||Mr. Joseph Henders and|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Lambert, Hon. G.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Lang, G.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Bower, N.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Byers, Frank||Mack, J. D.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Champion, A. J.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Viant, S. P.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Wadsworth, G.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Walkden, E.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford. N.)||Waitzman, D.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.)||Nutting, Anthony||Willis, E.|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre, A. V.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Parker, J.|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Perrins, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kendall, W. D.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Mr. Michael Foot and|
|Mr. Leslie Hale.|
Question "That the words North East' stand part of the proposed Amendment" put and agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 78, line 4, column r, to leave out "East," and to insert "North."
I hope, Mr. Beaumont, that you will allow me to consider this Amendment and the following Amendment, in page 78, line 10 column t, to leave out "Mid," and to insert "South," together. I do not wish to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes. The Amendments propose merely a change of name, and not a change of boundaries. In Dorset, we are anxious to see these Amendments accepted, if the Home Secretary can find his way to do so. Perhaps the Committee would allow me to tell them briefly what the Amendments mean. The proposals made by the Boundary Commission, when it was decided that Dorset would still have four Members, were that there should be constituencies of West Dorset running from Lyme Regis to include Sherborne and Shaftesbury, and of East Dorset including Blandford and Swanage.
It was also recommended that the new constituency of Mid-Dorset should be produced consisting of, roughly, Dorsetshire and Weymouth. There was objection to that from the political parties in Dorset, and the Boundary Commissioners revised their scheme entirely. They now retain the traditional areas, but they did not change the names back to what they were. What we are seeking to do is to retain both the traditional areas, and also the same names. In effect, we are suggesting that the constituency which was hitherto called West Dorset should remain West Dorset, and what the Boundary Commissioners propose to call East Dorset we want to keep as North Dorset. South Dorset, which the Boundary Commissioners wish to call Mid-Dorset, and which is virtually the existing South Dorset, we want to keep as South Dorset. We hope the Home Secretary will see his way to accept the Amendment, which will make it much easier for all concerned, as we shall not have the legal complications which might arise for all parties if the new names are adopted. There is no opposition to our proposal. Indeed, everywhere we have gone people have expressed the hope that we would get it through.
I should like to support the Amendment. This changing of names might not seem important to some hon. Members but it is important from the point of view of general administration. I believe the Home Secretary is likely to accept this Amendment, because it is not a change of boundaries but merely an alteration in name, which is accepted by all the political parties in Dorset.
I have been assured that this is a change which is merely one of the names of constituencies, and that it does not vary boundaries by a single yard. It is generally desired by all political parties in the County of Dorset and, that being so, I have pleasure in advising the Committee to accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 79, to leave out line 15, and to insert:
2. Gateshead North—The following wards of the county borough of Gateshead, namely, Central, East-Central, North, North-East. North-West and West-Central.
3. Gateshead South—The following wards of the county borough of Gateshead, namely, East, South, South-Central and West.
This Amendment applies in the same way to Gateshead as the previous one related to Reading. This is to make the division of Gateshead into two constituencies, on the lines suggested by the Boundary Commissioners if the borough was to be made into two constituencies. The borough has an electorate of over 80,000, so each of the constituencies will have over 40,000.
I beg to move, in page 80, column 2, to leave out lines 14 and 15, and to insert:
of Bardfield Saling and Great Bardfield.
This is a strictly conservative—with a small "c"—Amendment and, I hope, quite non-controversial. Except for a slight "tidying up" of the boundaries of two parishes, those of Gosfield and Rayne, it preserves the status quo as between the Maldon and Saffron Walden Divisions of Essex. The effect of the Commissioners' proposals is to cut off from the Maldon Division, and from their market town of Braintree, a number of parishes in the Braintree rural district. The rearrangement might seem to have a certain geographical convenience, because these parishes, on the map, form a kind of finger or promontory from the Maldon Division running up into the Saffron Walden Division, and it might seem, looking only at the map, more convenient simply to amputate them. In fact, however, Braintree is the market town and the natural centre of the activities of those parishes. Their bus services run to it, and their people go to it for shopping, amusements, political meetings, and functions of all kinds. Most important of all, it is their local government centre. This is not a matter of "history" or "prophecy," but the actual present situation, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will agree if he has examined it. Moreover, these parishes have no such association with any town in the Saffron Walden Division.
No question of the size of the electorates arises at all in this connection. In 1945 the electors of Maldon and Saffron Walden numbered, respectively, 49,854 and 48,417. Under the proposed revision they would number 47,604 and 52,028. The only effect of the change in this respect, therefore, would be to give the Member for Saffron Walden slightly more work to do; but neither of the Members concerned can be said to have an unduly inflated electorate, whether the change is made or not. Nor, politically, is this a party issue at all: the Amendment is supported by the Labour Party in my Division, and I understand that the Conservatives in the Maldon Division are also in favour of it. I have had strong representations from the inhabitants of such places as Shalford and the lovely old village of Finchingfield, who desire to retain their historic connection with Braintree—whence, indeed, some of them set forth among the Pilgrim Fathers who were referred to in the Debate on an earlier Amendment.
I have no doubt that the Boundary Commissioners carefully considered the representations that were made to them, but in the nature of things they could not satisfy themselves personally of the pros and cons of all these various local adjustments. I quite see that considerations of geographical convenience might have appealed to them, but I hope that my right hon. Friend, having heard the arguments which I have ventured to address to him, will sympathetically consider this Amendment.
I have received representations with regard to this proposed change from both constituencies. I understand that all the political parties are agreed and that the Members representing the two divisions in the present Parliament are also agreed that this change is desirable. Therefore, I advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 80, to leave out line 29, and to insert:
3. East Ham North—The Kensington, Little Ilford, Manor Park, Plashet and Wood-grange wards of the county borough of East Ham.
4. East Ham South—The Castle, Central, Greatfield, South and Wall End wards of the county borough of East Ham.
This Amendment will provide the two constituencies for East Ham, which is one of the boroughs with more than 80,000 electors.
I beg to move, in page 80, to leave out line 37, and to insert:
6. Leyton East—The Cann Hall, Central South, Grove Green, Harrow Green, Leytonstone, and Wanstead Slip wards of the borough of Leyton.
7. Leyton West — The Central North, Forest, Lea Bridge and Leyton wards of the borough of Leyton.
I make a plea for retention of the two Leyton constituencies, although at the moment the prospect does not look hopeful. The attitude of refusal adopted by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary surprises me. Leyton may not be such a large place as a city like Plymouth, but it is important to people living in Leyton.
At the moment, Leyton has two Members and has for some time been two constituencies. The population was disturbed by the intensive bombing suffered during the war and a large number of residents left the district temporarily. The population dropped from 130,000, but has been making itself up again lately. In 1946 it was 102,000 and in 1947 it was 107,000. The figure is still increasing. In 1946, the electoral roll which is used as an argument for Leyton having only one representative, contained 79,587. In 1947, the roll went up to 80,410. It is expected to be 82,000 in 1948. I know that the Home Secretary will say he is taking the 1946 figures and that he may refuse to depart from them. That year may be all very well in areas which had an opportunity of remaining settled throughout the war and had very little disturbance, but Leyton suffered a considerable amount of disturbance from aerial attacks.
If my Amendment is accepted, it will mean that the divisional parties will be able to remain as they are in the borough. Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party support the Amendment. If my Amendment is not accepted, the parties will have to make their organisations central, and to find accommodation in an area where accommodation is exceedingly difficult to find. Possibly in seven years we shall be able to go back to two constituencies. It is obvious that our present electoral roll justifies two representatives. If the parties now change from divisional organisation to central organisation they will then have to go back to the divisional basis again. It is absolutely unreasonable to play about with constituencies in that way. I know that we have not the historic claims of places like Plymouth, but some very important people have come from our district. Among them is Dick Turpin, who I understand had his residence in East Leyton. Among other claims that have been made is one for a man named Charley Keys.
Seriously, do the Government really think, in view of the social legislation which is being passed and the problems that arise in blitzed districts, that one representative in this House will be able to look after more than 80,000 electors? If that is the Government's conception of democratic representation then they deserved to be defeated at the last vote. The Home Secretary may be very hardened against the Amendment, but we claim that as we have more than 80,000 electors we are justified in having two representatives in this House.
I support the plea which has been made so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) for the retention of two Leyton divisions. I well appreciate how my colleague must feel, seeing that he was born in Leyton and has been closely identified with its public life and administrative work for years. In spite of the attitude of the Home Secretary, I earnestly hope that my right hon. Friend will sympathetically consider our plea, which is backed by all sections of the community in Leyton, that Leyton should retain its two seats.
There is an unfortunate contrast with Walthamstow, which is contiguous, to Leyton. Walthamstow has 2,000 more electors than are possessed by Leyton, and will still retain two seats. Although there may be that slight difference of 2,000, it seems to me, and I am sure it must seem to my colleagues as well, that it is an invidious distinction that seems to cast a reflection upon the civic significance and the dignity of the area which we represent. Reference has been made to celebrated people who have had the privilege of being born in Leyton, but that argument may be two-edged. I would point out that while Leyton has been a two-constituency district, the Member who had the honour of representing one of its Divisions some three years ago, is now one of His Majesty's judges. A constituency that has outstanding Members of that kind, is entitled by that alone to much more sympathetic consideration than has been given heretofore.
Leyton, although a rather congested area, has no geographical centre, and it will be extremely difficult to work the new amalgamated constituency, because the main roads run almost to the edge of the town, and it will be impossible to find any real centre serving all parts of the town equally well. Finally, in 1945 my own electorate was some 40,503, much less than in 1935 or even at the preceding election of 1931, but according to the datum figure of 1946 it had grown considerably, and whereas the total electorate of the two Divisions in 1945 was 69,596 it grew to 79,587, nearly 10,000 in the space of one year. Since that time the register has grown still more. There are now over 80,000 electors and the Town Clerk is of the opinion that the figure is probably 82,000.
I can assure the Committee that it is most difficult to keep in touch even with an electorate of some 45,000, but to try to keep in touch with 82,000 or more is almost impossible. If we desire to have Members of Parliament in constant touch with their electors, to represent their personal interests and needs, then special attention should be paid to those areas like Leyton where there is a congested industrial population requiring attention, and which might easily absorb the whole 24 hours of each day. My colleague and myself, like many others who represent Outer London and other constituencies, find that a great deal of our time is taken up not in trying to make speeches or sitting here listening to other speeches, but in attending to the volume of correspondence, answering innumerable calls, especially if one lives in or on the borders of one's constituency, and becoming a guide to all those who get into touch with us about their inquiries and personal complaints.
By this means, the electors realise that their Member is a human being and takes a keen interest in them personally, but it cannot be done if an unhappy Member of Parliament is loaded with 80,000 or more electors. Therefore I ask most earnestly that the Home Secretary will listen to the pleas that have been made, and recognise, first, on the ground that heretofore both these areas have been represented by two Members; secondly, that if they are abolished they will stand out in unfortunate contrast with Walthamstow, and thirdly, that in the days to come Leyton will certainly have an even greater proportion than now, that it well deserves the same representation in the House of Commons as is accorded to its neighbour.
I support the plea put forward by my two hon. Friends, not that I represent, or have any direct contact with Leyton; but because I heard the Home Secretary move his own Amendment with reference to East Ham when he mentioned that there were 80,000 electors there. With regard to Plymouth, the Home Secretary put forward the plea that he could not listen to the argument put by the various Members of Plymouth because they were trying to foresee the future, trying to put forward claims not based on the 1946 register. Yet here we have 79,587 on the 1946 register, which is near enough, even on the Boundary Commissions' Report, to the 80,000 mentioned with regard to East Ham and, according to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) 82,000 is now the latest figure. If it is good enough to say that 80,000 is too large for one Member so far as East Ham is concerned and for the Government to agree to split it into North and South, surely the same argument must apply to this constituency?
With regard to what the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis) has said, I would point out that East Ham had 86,600 electors and Walthamstow, mentioned by the hon. Members for Leyton, had an electorate of 90,696 in the datum year 1946. In that year the Leyton electorate was just under 80,000. The Government decided to draw the line at 80,000 and, no matter where they draw it, there will always be some constituency which will be a few hundreds below. If we were to draw the line at 79,500, so as to include Leyton, we should find another constituency just over 79,000. The Committee has to make up its mind that there must be a datum line somewhere. The Government believe that an electorate of 80,000 in 1946 was a substantial concession, and we must stand by that figure. I regret that this should mean that there may be some discomfort in Leyton in a future re-arrangement of the constituencies, but it seems to me quite inevitable that there must be cases, wherever we draw the line, which will be just below it, and which in a few years' time may come above the line and will then be granted an additional Member.
No. I dealt with that fully on the previous Amendment with regard to Plymouth. On a Redistribution Bill it is impossible to take into account anything other than the actual number of the electorate in the datum year. I regret, therefore, that I cannot advise the Committee to accept this Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 81, to leave out lines 7 to 15, and to insert:
12. West Ham, North—The following wards of the county borough of West Ham, namely, Broadway, Forest Gate, New Town Park and Upton.
13. West Ham, Central—The following wards of the county borough of West Ham, namely, Canning Town and Grange, High Street, Plaistow, Plashet Road and West Ham.
14. West Ham, South—The following wards of the county borough of West Ham, namely, Beckton Road, Bemersyde, Custom House and Silvertown, Hudsons, Ordnance and Tidal Basin.
In spite of the treatment accorded to Plymouth and Leyton and the fact that I have very little hopes of getting the Home Secretary to accept this Amendment, I propose to go ahead if only as a protest against the callous indifference being shown to the blitzed areas. Plymouth had a good case from that angle, and so has West Ham. We lost one-third of our houses and every other house was damaged, and as a result of that the population dropped from 225,000
to 119,000. It is as bad as Plymouth or worse.
The Home Secretary has made it plain that despite these factors, he will not take into consideration the difficulties involved. Yet, while M.Ps. in any districts have problems, in blitzed areas their problems are intensified and multiplied. The Home Secretary chooses to ignore that and to hide behind the skirts of the Boundary Commission. I am not blaming the Boundary Commission. It was not their fault that they had limited terms of reference. Nevertheless, they had such terms of reference, and one could not expect the Boundary Commission to go outside them. However, we expect the Home Secretary to be prepared to consider facts and figures in the light of circumstances and we might even expect him, as the spokesman for the Government, to be sympathetic, but it seems rather obvious that there is no such thing as sympathy in the make-up of the Government. It is said that governments, like corporations, have neither souls to be damned nor bodies to be kicked, and it becomes increasingly plain to some of us on the back benches that the way to this Government's heart, if they have one, is through the Opposition Lobby.
I will quote the 1947 figures, though I suppose the Home Secretary will not accept them. We are nearer to 1947 than we are to 1946. If I could quote the 1948 figures I would, but they are not yet available. If the division were made as outlined in the Amendment, there would be on that basis a division of 45,000, one of 38,000 and one of 39,000, each figure being plus. The Home Secretary may argue that those figures are unduly low, but in two of the areas there is—and will be—building. Perhaps he will tell me what he told Plymouth—not to prophesy because that is of no value. However, the work is going on and can be seen, and those are facts which cannot be ignored. We are not asking the Home Secretary to give us an additional seat but merely seeking to retain three out of the four seats which we have at present.
Another angle is that we cannot compare an industrial area like West Ham with a purely residential area if we are considering the amount of work done by an M.P. In West Ham there are over 6,000 industrial or commercial under- takings, and that is no small number in a borough of that size. Over 500 of them are derated, and they include such undertakings as the docks in the south and the railway repair shops in the north. One can imagine what West Ham is like even today because many of its factories were bombed and have not yet been replaced. Can the Home Secretary give any reason for comparing an area of that sort with a purely dormitory area such as there may be not so far away?
The problems of an M.P. come not only from human beings with human problems, but from industries with industrial problems, and in these days when we have to discuss economic matters in conjunction with financial matters at the time of the Budget—I take it that the Government are sufficiently intelligent to realise that there is some interlacing of interests between the two and that one cannot talk of finance without talking of industry—will he say what legal or moral basis there is, if this Bill goes through, for an M.P. to represent the interests of the various commercial and industrial undertakings within his constituency? Surely there is no moral justification at all, unless the M.P. or the constituency is given some credit for the undertakings within the borders of the constituency.
I would like to support the spirited speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. H. Nicholls) although I must confess that I have a slightly defeatist feeling about making this speech and feel that I am pleading a somewhat hopeless case in view of the observations which have fallen from the Home Secretary. I submit that the selection of the arbitrary date 1946 makes a real hardship in the blitzed areas and, in particular, in West Ham. Those places are being penalised for having been subjected to the worst terrors of the enemy attack on this island. The proposal for West Ham is that there should be two seats instead of the four, based on the population figure for 1946. The figure was then 163,730, but by 1947 over 10,000 people had come back and those were not, of course, considered by the Boundary Commissioners. Since 1947 there has been an additional return of people to the area, and I am told that that process is continuing.
The statistical basis of the proposed Amendment is that on the 1946 figures, the average electorate of the three constituencies in West Ham will be 40,146, on the basis of the 1947 figure 41,271, and on the basis of the population which will exist on completion of the housing programme, 43,937 for each constituency. That is very near indeed to the figures which have have been accepted as suitable for East Ham for the purpose of two constituencies. I submit that two Members are quite inadequate to represent this important docks, commercial and industrial area of West Ham.
I wish to support the Amendment. We in West Ham can make some historical claim—though it is not perhaps of a like character to those made by the Plymouth Members, to us in West Ham it is almost as great—in that Keir Hardie was at one time the representative of West Ham. Unfortunately so fat as we are concerned, he is not now of historical value in the putting forward of this plea, but we still revere his name.
It seems that the Home Secretary is basing the whole of his argument on the electorate figure existing when the Boundary Commission sat, when the datum line was 50,000. In 1946 the electorate in West Ham was 120,586, but West Ham suffered as much as if not more than, Plymouth in the "blitz," particularly in special areas such as Silver-town and the London Docks, where vast areas were completely wiped out and not one establishment left standing. It was the Government of the day which, I think rightly, told the people they should evacuate, and in many cases they were compulsorily evacuated. Therefore, they were not on the register, and many had not come back by 1946. But, they are coming back very quickly, and would come back more quickly if circumstances permitted. Although the Home Secretary will not take into account the hardships and difficulties of the "blitzed" areas, we find there are, according to the Boundary Commission's figure for 1946, 120,000 odd. The Home Secretary is accepting the Boundary Commission's Report by not taking away one seat from West Ham but splitting it in half and taking away two seats. Even on that basis, there will be some 60,000 odd per Division, which is 10,293 more than his suggested figure of 50,000.
In this Amendment we suggest that it would be fairer and more reasonable if there were three Divisions. We are not asking for four, as we agree that if the Home Secretary does not take into account the fact that the area has been "blitzed" there is an argument for taking away one Division. If three seats were agreed to, it would mean, on the 1946 figures, that there would be 40,195 per Division, which is only 9,000 odd less than the Commission's figure of 50,000. That would be in line with the Home Secretary's policy in relation to East Ham. I believe the figure he quoted for East Ham was 43,000, as he has agreed to split the 86,000 into two Divisions. Yet it appears that the Home Secretary will not agree to split two Divisions of 60,000 into three Divisions, bringing the figure nearer to that which he has accepted for East Ham.
I am hoping that in this instance the Home Secretary will be able to see his way clear to grant not two extra seats but one, which will give us the opportunity of saying to our neighbours in East Ham, "You had 86,000 and originally the Boundary Commission suggested one seat, but, the Home Secretary, who has not a stony heart, agreed to alter that, making it two seats of 43,000 per Division." If the Amendment were adopted, it would give three seats to West Ham and put it on the same basis, with the exception of a few figures, as that to which he has already agreed in the case of East Ham, North, and East Ham, South. I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment because, perhaps without super-optimism, I think the Home Secretary will be able to show that his heart is not as stony as many believe it to be.
Hon. Members opposite have brought out arguments of extreme ingenuity in supporting this Amendment. I would not accept the thesis that, because a constituency or area produced a distinguished Member 50 years ago, it is entitled to special consideration in the year 1948, whether that distinguished person be Keir Hardie, or Dick Turpin.
I thought the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) brought in Dick Turpin as a reason for increasing the representation of Leyton. If the Home Secretary is going to give way to hon. Members opposite on this matter, some of us representing rural areas will have further claims to advance before we finally part with the Bill. I have had the privilege of sitting for a borough and for a rural Division, and I can tell hon. Members opposite that is is a far easier proposition to look after 60,000 electors in a borough than in a county Division, where they are spread over a very wide area. Under this Measure, in East Yorkshire we are to have two county Divisions with an electorate of approximately 60,000 apiece. We appealed by the procedure of a local inquiry, and we were turned down. We are not proceeding further, but have accepted the situation. However, if West Ham is to be put on a 40,000 basis, we shall consider it our duty to re-open the other matter.
A great many arguments have been adduced this afternoon which are irrelevant. The historical argument hardly stands, nor dues the bombing argument stand, for in places like Hull it reduced the number of persons who were to be represented. This matter is to be under frequent review. If the Measure were to run until 1978, the attitude of a great many of us would alter considerably towards the proposal. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that if they persist, they will open the door to many applications. I should be one of the first to ask for reconsideration, if the figure for West Ham were to be 40,000 and if it were to be 60,000 in a rural area.
Will the hon. and gallant Member permit me? When I mentioned 40,000, it was not so much to substantiate the claim of West Ham. I was pointing out that the Home Secretary proposed to give East Ham two constituencies instead of one, as recommended in the Commission's Report. That will mean that there will be only 43,000 per Division, whereas by dividing West Ham into two it will be 60,000 per Division. If this Amendment were agreed to, it would be in line with the proposal of the Home Secretary to provide 43,000 in the case of East Ham, North, and East Ham, South. That was the reason for my quoting the analogy of East Ham as far as West Ham is concerned.
In view of the last remarks in the first speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis) I wish that I could say to him: "According to your faith be it unto you." I think that the figures given by the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. H. Nicholls) prove how impossible it would be to include this Amendment in the Bill.
The hon. Member, in my hearing, said that these three constituencies would establish constituencies of 45,000, 39,000 and 38,000. Those are the figures to which I was alluding. There is no borough constituency in the Bill—even as amended by Government Amendments—which has as low an electorate as 39,000 or 38,000. I could not contemplate recognising borough constituencies so small in size. A great deal has been said on this Amendment by my hon. Friend—I do not allude to speeches on previous Amendments—about the year 1946, as if, out of malice, I had looked round to see which would be the most inconvenient year to choose and had dropped on 1946. As a matter of fact, it was the House of Commons which decided that 1946 should be the year to which the Boundary Commissioners should have regard. There were two Bills dealing with this matter. First, it was decided to take the electorate of 1945 as a basis. After the Report of the Boundary Commission, which was produced on that basis, was seen, it was decided to have a second attempt to put the matter right. It was then that we decided to take the year 1946; that was a decision of the House of Commons to which, as far as I know—and I have some recollection of the matter—none of my hon. Friends objected. I repeat that it was the decision of the House of Commons to use the year 1946 as a basis.
In the case of the constituencies that have been before us, I regret to have to take the line that one must have regard to that datum year and see how it works out. The difference between East Ham and West Ham is this: that one Member would have been responsible in East Ham for 86,665 electors, and I think it is generally agreed, at least on this side of the House, that so large a figure as that is not justified. We could not expect a Member to look after that number of electors.
If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman say—referring to the figures of 86,000 and 84,000 which have been quoted—whether he means that in one case a Member could not look after an electorate of those numbers and in another case he could?
No, that was not my meaning. What I say is that a figure of over 80,000 electors in the datum year is' too big a figure for any Member to look after. I can only hope that, in any future revisions, this decision of the House that 80,000 are too many for a single Member to look after will have some weight. In West Ham, with two Members, each Member will have approximately 60,000 electors, which is a very different figure from the 86,000 which would have been the number of electors in East Ham had it remained undivided.
So far as the appeal to history is concerned, I am not at all sure that in this case it does not confirm my view, because Mr. Keir Hardie was elected a Member for West Ham when it had only two Members. In so far as that has anything to do with the case, I do not think it counts for very much. After all, most constituencies can claim that, at one time or another, they have returned to this House distinguished people. In fact, the argument in favour of the "rotten boroughs" in 1832 was that, but for the "rotten boroughs" and the influence noble Lords possessed of returning people almost on nomination, distinguished statesmen would never have taken their seats in Parliament. We must, however, have some regard to the present and I suggest that if we have two Members for West Ham, each with 60,000 electors, that is not an unreasonable number for a Member in a borough constituency.
This is only a small Amendment; it does not concern boundaries of constituencies, but only names. There is often quite a lot in a name and my constituency has a very old history, long traditions and strong community feeling. The history of the name "Dean"—from the Forest of Dean—is very old. It has been a forest for centuries; it provided oak for the Royal Navy in days long gone by; and there is even a tradition that the Spanish Armada was given instructions, if it landed in England, to destroy the oak in the forest. It remains a forest to this day, under the auspices of the Forestry Commissioners, and is still providing timber for the Navy.
Under this Measure the Forest of Dean is enlarged by some 8,000 electors. That is as it should be, because it is below the 50,000 line; but we feel there is no reason why the old name should not be maintained. While it is true that with the inclusion of these additional electors the constituency does become "Gloucestershire west of the Severn," the bulk of the population still resides in or immediately around the old Forest of Dean. It would still be an accurate description of the constituency to allow it to keep its old name. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will agree to this small concession to local feeling. After all, it is not as though all the Gloucestershire constituencies are to be called North, South, Central or East. There is but one such case, that of the constituency which will be known as South Gloucestershire.
This name was discussed at the local inquiry held by the Boundary Commission. They proposed to add to the Forest of Dean the Gloucester rural district, and I am informed that part of that is on the West and part is on the East of the River Severn. It was represented by the people who appeared in the interests of the inhabitants of the Gloucester rural district that they would strongly object to having the constituency named the Forest of Dean.
|"1. Bristol Central||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol, namely, Easton, Redcliffe, St. George West, St. Paul, St. Philip and Jacob North and St. Philip and Jacob South.|
|2. Bristol North—East.||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol, namely District, Eastville, Hillfields and Stapleton.|
|3. Bristol North—West.||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol, namely, Avon, Durdham, Horfield and Westbury-on-Trym.|
|4. Bristol South||The following wards of the county borough of Bristol, namely, Bedminster, Somerset, Southville and Windmill Hill.|
My sympathies are with my hon. Friend because I have spent many happy hours in the Forest of Dean, which is a most delightful spot in which to spend a holiday, but there is apparently no local agreement on the subject. While I should regret to see the Forest of Dean disappear from the names of constituencies, I would suggest to my hon. Friend that he should endeavour to find out locally whether it is not possible to arrive at a name for the constituency which will include the Forest of Dean, but which will make it plain to those who do not desire to be regarded as free miners or foresters that they also receive some recognition in the title. If my hon. Friend will do that, I shall be quite happy to consider any suggestion that can be made, but I understand that a part of the new constituency, at any rate, would object to it being called only the Forest of Dean.
As one who has spent a great deal of time in the Forest, preparing a thesis for a degree which meant going into the history of it, I would like to support my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Philips Price). I agree that the core of the new Division is very much the Forest of Dean. The other parts of the area are attached to it. The villages in and around the Forest have a distinct character of their own. It is one of the few areas in England where many of the inhabitants were originally squatters. It would be a pity to lose the name in drawing up the list of new constituencies. Another point which will appeal to the Home Secretary is that, like South Shields, it has the distinction of never having returned a Conservative to this House.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 4, column to leave out "North East," and to insert "Stapleton."
The purpose of this and the following four Amendments, line 6, column 1, leave out "North West," and insert "Durdham Down;" line 8, column 1, leave out "South," and insert "Bedminster;" line 10, column 1, leave out "South East," and insert "Brisling-ton;" and line 12, column 1, leave out "West," and insert "Clifton," is that instead of calling constituencies "North-East," etc., they should have individual names. When a town is entitled to more than five Members there is a strong case for dropping the points of the compass in naming them and giving individual names. In our earlier Debates the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) objected to some of the new names in regard to Leeds, such as North Central, etc., which, he said, sounded rather like railway stations. North-west, southeast, etc., are difficult to define when one is trying to divide an area into Parliamentary constituencies. I know Bristol well, having been born there, and what is proposed as Bristol West is not the most western part of Bristol. To give it its strict geographical definition it is North-central. What is defined as Northwest is much more west so far as the point of the compass is concerned.
I hope that the example set in the other large towns, such as Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield, will be followed in regard to Bristol, and perhaps also in regard to Leeds, by selecting the name of one of the most important wards of each division as the name of that division—which is normal practice, unless there is a district name for the area as a whole. In making my suggestions, I have left Bristol Central, which is an apt name for that area. In the other cases I have selected the largest ward, except in the case of "North-West" where I suggest "Durdham Down," a dominant local feature in the division.
I could not advise the Committee to undertake the task of naming the divisions of a city unless there was from the city itself an indication that the names proposed were desired. I do not know whether, among the representations that have been made to the Boundary Commission, there has been any representation as to names. If so, it will be a matter which will be reported to the House, and the House will have an opportunity to consider it. If an indication was received from the city itself that fresh names were desired by it for the constituencies that should receive the consideration of the House, but I gather that my hon. Friend does not claim that any such representations have been made. Accordingly, I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment and the other four Amendments to my Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 83, line 6, column 2, to leave out from the beginning to "in," in line 7, and to insert:
Beauworth, Bighton, Bishops Sutton, Bramdean, Cheriton, Itchen Stoke and Ovington, Kilmeston, New Alresford, Northington, Old Alresford and Tichborne.
I hope that I may be permitted to discuss, at the same time, the consequential Amendments in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir D. White)—in line 20, at the end, to insert:
and the parishes of Bursledon, Hamble, Hedge End, Hound and West End included in the Southampton (Itchen) constituency.
and in line 49, at the end, to insert:
(ii) The parishes of Bursledon, Hamble, Hedge End, Hound and West End, in the rural district of Winchester.
I have put down these Amendments principally with the object of securing that the Petersfield Division shall be reasonably workable as regards its size, communications, etc., instead of stretching, as contemplated in the Bill from the Surrey border in the neighbourhood of Frensham to the outskirts of Southampton, a distance of some 35 miles with no direct communication by main road or by rail. The effect of the proposals in the Bill is to take away from the Petersfield Division a block of parishes the names of which I will not give, as they are set out on the Order Paper, forming the western portion of the former Alresford rural district, which has now been abolished. These villages have always formed part of the Petersfield Division, and they fit in well with it and make it a reasonably compact if rather extensive Division. They have about 4,000 electors. The Bill further contemplates the taking away from the Winchester Division and adding on to the Petersfield Division a group of parishes namely Botley, Bursledon, Hamble, Hedge End, Hound, and West End. These parishes formed the South Stoneham rural district, which was done away within the last review of county districts in 1931, and are bounded on the north by Eastleigh and Fair Oak, which are both in the Winchester Division; on the northwest and west by Southampton and the sea—Southampton Water; on the south by the sea; on the south-east by the Fareham Division; and on the east (on a frontage of one parish) they adjoin the Petersfield Division.
The area of these parishes has an electorate of some 11,000. It is a difficult area to place. I do not think it was very well placed in the Winchester Division, although it is closer to Winchester than to Petersfield, and the trouble arising with the shuffle was the necessity for the Commissioners to juggle with numbers. If this group of parishes were to remain in the Winchester Division the numbers of that Division would undoubtedly be very much too great. By transferring its 11,000 electors to the Southampton parliamentary borough, and the Aires-lord group of parishes to the Peters- field Division, the numbers of this Division would be kept within bounds Unfortunately, these south-western parishes would be very unsuitably placed in the Petersfield Division, with which they have had no previous association, and no road or rail communications. There is no railway at all stretching from the north-east to the south-west of the county in the neighbourhood of Southampton, and there are no direct main roads. The main roads run either north and south or east and west.
There is, however, another possibility and a more suitable method of dealing with these south-western parishes, to which the Amendment is designed to give effect. West End, which has 3,516 electors and Hound with 3,150, actually adjoin Southampton along the whole length of their western front, and Hamble with 1,650 electors adjoins Hound on the west, and Southampton Water on the south-west and southern front. These three parishes adjoin Southampton Water and Southampton. In fact, anyone who knows that part of the world will agree that very few people can say where the built up portion of West End ends and Southampton begins.
Southampton County Borough submitted, at an earlier stage, a claim to these parishes of West End, Hamble and Hound, for their inclusion for local government purposes. Although it was unknown to the Boundary Commission when it reported the Local Government Commission, in its recently issued report, allotted these parishes, and, in addition, the parishes of Hedge End and Burlesden to Southampton for the new one-tier county which is recommended in their report. The Local Government Commission have, therefore, not only allotted them but they were originally applied for by Southampton, who now get not only what they applied for but more.
My first intention was to move an Amendment giving Southampton the parishes of West End, Hound and Hamble which actually adjoins Southampton Water, and for which I know Southampton had actually applied, but when I saw that the Commission had in addition allotted, for local government purposes, these other parishes, I added them to my Amendment. This, I suggest, is a suitable way of bringing the Parliamentary boundaries into line with the local government boundaries. In addition, it is taking the same course as has been followed on the other side of Southampton, where another parish, very much built up and practically indistinguishable from Southampton—the parish of Millbrook in the Romsey and Stockbridge rural district—has actually been allotted to Southampton Parliamentary borough.
If these Amendments are accepted the position will be, as regards numbers, as follows: Petersfield Division, as recommended by the Commission, 63,608, less the parishes which I move to be transferred to Southampton, 11,300, leaving, in round figures, 52,208. If the Alresford parishes are added on, which I suggest in the next Amendment, that is an addition of 3,930, which will bring the Petersfield Division up to 56,217. The Winchester Division, as recommended by the Commission is 69,000, and they would be brought to a more workable number of about 65,000 if the Alresford parishes were transferred. In that connection I would say, as has been said already, that a borough of 65,000 is a very much more manageable area than a widespread county Division of similar numbers. I hope that will be borne in mind.
The County Borough of Southampton and the parish of Millbrook, in the Romsey and Stockbridge rural district, had an electorate, at the last election, of 125,428. If the parishes which I move to be transferred are transferred, that would add a further 11,321, making a total of 136,749. Southampton is being divided into two Divisions for the first time. There is no question of interfering with any existing Division, so that if 136,000 was divided by two it would provide for two Divisions of about 68,000, each less than proposed in the Winchester Division by the Commission. I suggest that by the re-allocation of wards between the Itchen and Test Divisions the electorate of these Divisions could be made to approximate to that figure of 68,000 without any particular difficulty. These Divisions would be very much easier to manage than a county Division of similar numbers.
The effect of these Amendments would be to make the Petersfield Division a reasonably workable one from the point of view of area and communications. It would still be a very big and widespread Division, but it would be very much more workable than if it included this curious little peninsula enclosed between the sea, Southampton, a small corner of the Winchester Division and a bit of Fareham—difficult to get at and not even of the same character as the largely agricultural Division of Petersfield. I would emphasise, if it is a case of sticking exactly to what was recommended by the Boundary Commission, that the Boundary Commission did not know what the Local Government Commission would report, and that in certain other cases in the same county—whether they knew or not—they have allotted districts to county boroughs which, under the Local Government Commission's Report, have been allotted to those county boroughs.
I think that the provisions of these Amendments could be carried out without difficulty, but if it is thought that to allot to Southampton the whole of what is recommended by the Local Government Commission is too much, then I would suggest that the three parishes which join Southampton itself and Southampton Water—what might be termed the maritime parishes—be alloted to Southampton. It might be possible to keep Bursledon and Hedge End in the Petersfield Division. I suggest that if the Home Secretary thinks that all this would be too much to transfer to Southampton, at a later stage he might introduce an Amendment embodying that suggestion.
I support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys), who made the position extraordinarily clear. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has lived in Hampshire for the whole of his life, and has represented Petersfield for seven years. He knows the district intimately from a Parliamentary point of view, and he has served on the county council and other local authorities for a long time. It is entirely unreasonable that more miles should be added to the south-west corner of an already long constituency, the result of which would be to make it 35 miles in length.
I hope that this Amendment will not be accepted. Its purpose is to add 10,000 additional voters to the Itchen Division of Southampton. Since 1832 Southampton has been a constituency returning two Members. It is now proposed that there should be two single-Member constituencies. Neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party in Southampton has objected in any way to the division proposed in the Bill. Both parties agree that Southampton has been equitably divided into two Divisions. If these parishes were added to the Itchen Division, that Division would have considerably more voters than the Test Division. On the other hand, if these 11,000 voters were added to the whole Southampton Division, and if we are to have two equal constituencies, the lines of demarcation would need to be redrawn. That would be a difficult operation.
I hope I made it clear that what I proposed was that the Divisions, which had never been formed and did not exist, should be divided again, that there should be some re-allocation which would result in each constituency having an equal number of voters. I specifically said that 74,000 electors were too many for one Division.
The Amendment proposes that the parishes should be added to the Itchen constituency. If it was proposed that they should be added to the whole of Southampton, and then again divided, it would be difficult to find a line of demarcation. The present division is a natural one. A long street runs through the middle of Southampton. It is two or three miles long, and the area fall roughly into two constituencies, one on the Test side of the street and the other on the Itchen side. It would be most complicated to divide the area in any other way. It is true that the Borough of Southampton hope to extend the municipal area to include Hamble and other places which have been mentioned. However, that is not likely to take place for some years. By the time it does take place, there may be a population in Greater Southampton of approximately 210,000 people. In that event, in any future redistribution, the area should be represented by three, and not two, members. The present Divisions give reasonable satisfaction. No complaint has been made, and it is better to leave the matter alone for a while. Perhaps in three or four years' time, when these areas are added to Southampton and the borough has a bigger population, the question of re-distribution may be more necessary.
I am concerned in this matter, since I represent the Winchester Division. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) did not do me the courtesy of discussing his proposal with me. The result of his Amendment would be to take away part of the area which I represent. If I might return good for evil, I say right away that I would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give most sympathetic consideration to these proposals. The area which I represent has about 83,000 electors. The new proposals bring down this number to 69,000. The proposed Amendment would bring the figure down to 65,000. The 4,000 electors whom it is proposed to retain in the Petersfield Division would be more an asset to that Division than to the Winchester Division.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to every aspect of the case but the political one. It is worth mentioning that although the parishes which he desires to retain in the Petersfield Division are more accessible from Petersfield, more easy to work and generally more convenient for that Division, they are also parishes in which there is the very least amount of political organisation from the Labour Party point of view. That might be borne in mind, as well as the fact that the 11,000 electors whom it is proposed to transfer to Southampton, much against the will of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley), are in the main very well politically organised from our point of view. Consequently, they would cause no little trouble to the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield, if they were transferred into that Division. We should face all the issues squarely. If the Home Secretary would consider the readjustment on the lines suggested, it would benefit not merely the Petersfield Division but also the Winchester Division.
I am bound to say that the last considerations put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. G. Jeger) would not influence me one way or the other in a matter of this kind. One cannot have regard to the way in which shifting the population or taking villages is going to affect the political representation of any one of these constituencies. It may be that the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) was doing himself a good turn, but I am quite sure that he would be most surprised of all people if it turned out that way. In the conversations I had with him—and he did consult me about these Amendments—there was no question of the way in which the political representation of the Division might be affected.
I do not think sufficient consultation has taken place in this matter, because a very serious difference is being made to the Borough of Southampton by including within it for Parliamentary purposes certain parishes which are not associated with it for local government purposes. So far as I can ascertain, no consultation has taken place with the authorities of Southampton or with the political parties there with a view to finding out what their reactions to this proposal are. I do not think that, at this stage, one could add 11,000 electors to the Parliamentary Borough of Southampton without ascertaining whether or not Southampton regards the arrangement as a good one.
May I say, with regard to the arguments on the recommendations of the Local Government Boundary Commission, that I do not recommend the Committee to take them into consideration on this or any other Amendment on which they may be quoted? It is not for me to make any general observations with regard to the recent Report of the Local Government Boundary Commissioners, but I am quite sure it will be generally recognised that they have now raised issues with regard to the future of their work which will require the very serious consideration of the Government and the House, and, if effect were to be given to their new recommendations, additional legislation, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said the other day would be most contentious, would have to be promoted. I cannot think, therefore, that the Committee would be well advised to have regard to anything other than the existing local government boundaries.
If I were to accept a series of Amendments such as this, I should have to be assured not merely that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester was in agreement, but also the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield and the hon. Member for Fareham (Sir D. White), and that Southampton itself had been consulted, and that, at any rate, as a result of these consultations, one could feel that one was moving forward with fairly general agreement, and that it would not mean that there was one body standing out against a case which was demonstrably reasonable and trying to prevent it from being carried into effect. I suggest it would be very undesirable at this stage to amend the representation of Southampton and of the county borough of Southampton in the way suggested, unless we could have an assurance that real consultations had taken place with all concerned.
May I say that, in fact, as far as present Parliamentary representatives are concerned, I had considerable talks with one of the Members for Southampton, and I was in correspondence with the Member who has just sat down. The latter was entirely opposed to the idea, and I did not pursue that any further. As regards the other Member for Southampton, I had a talk with him, and I think he was interested in and not strongly opposed to this Amendment.
After all, I do not think sitting Members can dispose of their seats as easily as that. I begin to wonder whether, at one time, there 'might not have been some telepathic communication between the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. G. Jeger) and the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). I suggest that not merely the concurrence of sitting Members is required, but some views from representative bodies in the constituencies, and that these should be considered before any Amendments as wide in their scope as these Amendments could be recommended to the Committee.
I beg to move, in page 83, line 34, column 1, to leave out "East," and to insert "Langstone."
This is rather a special case of asking for an alteration of name. The Division of Fareham is being split into two under the new proposals. The Eastern part includes Cosham, which is part of the borough of Portsmouth, and the whole of the area of the Havant Urban District Council. It is to be united with one ward—the island of Portsea Island—to form the new division. Practically the whole of that division including the ward of Portsea Island, Cosham and Hayling Island borders on Langstone Harbour, which derives its name from the little village of Langstone. As the urban district is going to share a seat with Portsmouth and take Portsmouth's name, it struck me that it would be very nice to retain some semblance of the urban district by using the name "Portsmouth (Langstone)." I agree with hon. Members who have spoken earlier that it is desirable to get away from the points of the compass.
In regard to the point which has been made about consultations, I made it my business to state what I was going to do at several meetings, including a meeting in the Cosham part of Portsmouth. That meeting has been widely reported in the local Press, and I have had no objections. On the other hand, I have been complimented on the idea, and asked where I got it. I must say that it was not my idea, but that of one of my sons.
I think it would be in order for me to join in this discussion, as I had the honour of opposing the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite at the last Election, and I was a candidate for the Division for a period of six years. I am quite sure that it must have been rather a bitter pill for people in part of that division to find that they are to be included for Parliamentary purposes in the city of Portsmouth. I am sure the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Fareham (Sir D. White), will go some way towards meeting the resentment which they probably feel at being included in the larger city, with which they have very little in common.
In this division there are only two wards; one of them is on the mainland, whereas the bulk of the city of Portsmouth is on Portsea Island. Here we have a division which is brought into Portsmouth, although only a small part of it is on the island which forms the main part of Portsmouth. I am sure that the proposal which has been made by the hon. Member for Fareham will do something to humanise the name of the division—because I think these geographical names are far better than the points of a compass—and will also help in the problem of the Havant and Waterlooville Urban District Council.
I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir D. White). As has already been said, there is only one ward in Portsmouth proper—that, is, the City of Portsmouth on Portsea Island—which is to be included in this new division. Most of the remainder is in the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham. A certain part of it, however—the northern part—was and is in my division. Therefore, I believe I know something about the feeling of those people who are in that part which is to be made a division of Portsmouth City. It may be a great honour, but they feel that by far the greatest part of that division will be outside Portsmouth City, and that a large part of it adjoins Langstone harbour from which it is proposed that the name of this new division should be taken. It occurs to me that it would be a very appropriate name if it were called the Langstone Division of Portsmouth.
I beg to move in page 85, column two, to leave out line six, and to insert:
(iii) the rural district of Ware, the rural district of Braughing, except the parishes of Anstey, Ardeley, Aspenden, Broadfield, Buckland, Buntingford, Cottered, Hormead, Meesden, Throcking, Westmill and Wyddiall, and the rural district of Hertford, except the parishes of Aston, Bennington, Datchworth, Sacomb, Walkern and Watton-at-Stone.
I think it might be convenient if I were to refer to the next Amendment at the same time. The purpose of these two Amendments is to leave matters exactly as they are in so far as the boundaries of the Hitchin and Hertford Divisions are concerned. That fact in itself will be sufficient to commend these Amendments to hon. Members opposite. The political parties in my constituency are all agreed upon it. The county council is agreed upon it, and I understand the Home Secretary also agrees. In these circumstances, there is no need for me to detain the Committee any longer.
I too am very glad that the prospect of the harmonious, if temporary, alliance of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) and myself is likely to yield good fruit. This is one of those occasions when to leave things as they are is also the truest form of progress. In regard to that part of the Hertford rural district which would be severed from the Hertford Division if these Amendments were not carried, I would like to say that those villages have their natural, social and economic vortex in the Borough of Hertford, and it would be wrong in principle and inconvenient in practice if they were severed from it politically. If the Committee will accept this Amendment on the recommendation of the Home Secretary, it will bring great satisfaction to the people of those villages.
The Commissioners endeavoured to avoid dividing rural districts and allocating a part to one constituency and a part to another constituency. I cannot help thinking that this is one of the rare occasions on which that principle ought not to be applied. I am informed that there is general agreement not merely among the political parties but among all the other interests concerned that the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) should be adopted. It also gives a much better boundary line between the constituencies, even as seen on the map. In the light of all these considerations, I advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
Further Amendment made: In page 85, column 2, leave out lines g and 10, and insert:
(ii) the rural district of Hitchin, the rural district of Braughing, except the parishes included in the Hertford constituency and the rural district of Hertford, except the parishes included in the Hertford constituency.' —[Mr. Asterley Jones.]
I beg to move in page 85, line 28, column 2, to leave out "borough of," and to insert:
boroughs of Lydd, New Romney and.
The Committee will have noticed that there are on the Order Paper four other Amendments in my name: In line 31, column 2, after first "Ashford," insert "Romney Marsh;" In page 86, line 7, column 2, after "Folkestone," insert
"and;". In line 7, column 2, leave out "Lydd and New Romney;" In line 9, column 2, leave out "districts of Elham and Romney Marsh," and insert "district of Elham." As they are all interwoven and, in fact, consequential on the Amendment which I am now moving, I think it would be convenient to discuss them altogether.
This Bill seeks to divorce the Romney Marsh from the Ashford Division, and my Amendment seeks to retain it. I have given i8 years of my life to public work in the Ashford Division. I have represented it in this House for five and a half years and I have lived for a quarter of a century in the Romney Marsh. I, therefore, feel that I am qualified to speak as one having authority and not as the scribes. No party advantage arises out of this Amendment, because I regret to have to inform hon. Members opposite that neither the Ashford Division nor the new division of Folkestone and Hythe to which this Bill would attach Romney Marsh are likely to change their political colour so far as one can possibly see ahead. I am glad this should be so, because it enables me to move this Amendment without any arrière pensée, and simply and purely on its local and human merits.
The Romney Marsh is the newest and the youngest land in England. It has been well and truly called the "Achilles Heel of England," and it was likely to have proved so in the late war. It has been partly won from the sea by long years of inning and dyking; and it has partly been given up by the sea to England in general, and to the Ashford Division in particular, by reason of the curious and strange law of Eastward Drift which operates in that particular section of the English Channel.
There is a deep integration between the town of Ashford and the Romney Marsh. The Romney Marsh has for centuries been peopled by the hinterland of Ashford and its surrounding districts, and the whole economy of the Marsh is based upon Ashford and its agricultural markets. I will go so far as to say that no Member of Parliament can properly and truly represent the Romney Marsh unless he also represents the Ashford Division, because the problems of the one are dependent upon the problems of the other. Ashford is the converging railway centre for all sections of the Marsh, and it is the shopping and the social centre for the whole district. The very high efficiency of education in Ashford itself, as remarkable as any in England—and I should think that would interest the right hon. Gentleman—results in many of the Marsh children being educated in Ashford and travelling to and fro daily by train. Ashford is, in the truest sense of the word, their material and spiritual mother.
These districts are linked together by every historical, ethnographical and sociological bond. This Bill seeks to add Romney Marsh to the Folkestone and Hythe Division with which it has no natural or even artificial affinity; and this is being done because there are 53,000 voters in Ashford Division and 41,000 in Folkestone and Hythe at the present moment. This difference is more apparent than real because, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson) informs me, his electorate is constantly and rapidly growing and will soon increase by 6,000 voters. Six thousand voters is precisely the electorate of the Romney Marsh together with the two non-county boroughs of Lydd and New Romney. Take these two electorates together and the electorate of Hythe will increase under this Bill to 53,000 voters while that of the Ashford Division will decline to 48,000 voters. We are, therefore, playing with figures. If matters are left as they are, the Ashford Division will remain at 53,000 and Hythe will increase to 47,000. In other words, either way we shall be as we were numerically, and yet a fundamental violence will have been done to an ancient allegiance and what is in solemn truth a family relationship.
If one has two neighbouring constituencies, one with an electorate of 60,000 and the other, adjoining it, with an electorate of 30,000, I agree that a drastic rearrangement may be necessary; but, if the differences between neighbouring constituencies are of 11,000 or 12,000, which will dwindle to 5,000 or 6,000, I submit they need not be equalised if violence is thereby done to the feelings, traditions and social history of the one as against the other. I am convinced in my own mind that that is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, nor of the Boundary Commission. I shall reserve a few remarks on the latter for a little later on. It is said that the Ashford Division is a very large geographical area. So it is, but its size is not such as to prevent me, or any hon. Member who has preceded or will succeed me in representing that Division, from doing our duty to the full.
I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the political history of the Romney Marsh, as affiliated to the Ashford Division. The Ashford Division was first created by the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885; and it comprised the petty sessional divisions of Ashford and Cranbrook and the municipal borough of Tenterden, the corporate towns of Lydd and New Romney and by far the major part of the liberty of the Romney Marsh. It is interesting to note that the ancient borough of Tenterden in the uplands was at one time a limb of the ancient borough of New Romney in the Marsh. The population of that Division in 1891 was 68,000. It is today 53,000—that is, a decline of 15,000. Apart from some minor adjustments made by the Representation of the People Bill in 1918, that today remains the present area of the Division—the rural districts of Cranbrook, East and West Ashford, Romney Marsh, Tenterden, the municipal boroughs of Lydd, New Romney and Tenterden and the urban district of Ashford.
By every tie of history and tradition, by every economic, sociological, cultural and ethnographical claim, Romney Marsh is firmly and irrevocably wedded to the Ashford Division, and whom God hath joined let not Jimmy Chuter Ede put asunder. The relations between Ashford and the Romney Marsh have evolved in the course of time and naturally out of geographical and political traditions. Furthermore, the Romney Marsh is in this tragic position: while it is eager to remain within the political ambit of its natural parent, Ashford, and while Ashford clings desperately to its child, the Romney Marsh, the Division of Folkestone and Hythe does not want the Romney Marsh. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe knows perfectly well that what I have said is true, and that so far as his Division is concerned the Romney Marsh would be a strange and alien territory to which it has no desire to lay claim. After all, the Folkestone and Hythe Division comprises magnificent seaside resorts. They are by their very nature something far removed from the tillers of the good earth who live and move and have their being in the lonely stretches of the great Marsh.
The right hon. Gentleman has paid an eloquent and almost lyrical tribute to the Boundary Commission. I regret that I cannot follow him. My hymn to the Boundary Commission is not to be found in "Songs of Praise." After their initial suggestion for the removal of the Romney Marsh from Ashford they received protests from (1) the borough of New Romney, (2) the borough of Lydd, (3) the Romney Marsh rural district council, (4) the Ashford urban district council, (5) the Ashford chamber of trade and also the Ashford and Romney Marsh branches of the National Farmers' Union. I understand these were all politely acknowledged, and the rest was silence. A local inquiry was not even granted. I have made most minute investigations and I cannot trace one single representative person either of the Romney Marsh or of Ashford who was ever consulted by the Boundary Commission.
This has not been so in other cases. In Scotland, for example, I am informed that in Lanarkshire a number of local inquiries were instituted. That strikes me as very strange and inequitable treatment. I do not cavil at what happened in Lanarkshire. I only regret it did not happen in my own Division, and I cannot help feeling that the Boundary Commission has treated Kent in this respect with less than courtesy and a definitely minus quantity of consideration. However, I feel quite sure that, after hearing me, the right hon. Gentleman will put this right. The right hon. Gentleman has a chance to make a wise, benevolent and statesmanlike gesture. The Romney Marsh is appealing against its death sentence. It is at the moment enduring all the agonies of the condemned cell. I plead for its reprieve
It is going to be hanged and quartered. It may be damned as well. My grounds of appeal are misdirection by the judge—that is to say, the Boundary Commission—and the failure of the court to hear and admit evidence of vital moment to the defence. We have been tried and condemned in absentiâ, and deprived of the right of representation by counsel. All the dwellers in the Romney Marsh and most of the 47,000 of the electorate in the rest of the Ashford Division feel deeply and keenly about this. There is a genuine emotion; and, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept my Amendment straight away—though, of course, I hope he will—I trust that before the Report stage—and I plead with him to do this—he will have inquiries made with a view to seeing whether he cannot consider it further.
The Committee will have listened with great interest to the eloquent and erudite plea of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith). It is not for me to defend the action of the Boundary Commission in saying whom they would see and from whom they would receive only written representations; but if there was the great amount of feeling in the constituency to which the hon. Member has alluded I think this was a case in which, perhaps, an interview might have gone some way towards removing misapprehensions and difficulties. I have not, so far as I know, received any representations myself from those bodies. However, I shall be perfectly willing to receive them if they desire to make them. I am not at all impugning the good faith of the hon. Member in the statement he has made.
I should be perfectly willing to consider any representations that local authorities and other bodies may feel it advisable to make on this subject. My real difficulty is the fact that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman would have the effect of reducing the electorate of the Folkestone and Hythe constituency from 45,292 to 40,324; and, as he has heard me say during the clay, I cannot take into account, for the purposes of this Bill, prospective growths in electorates in various constituencies. That is a substantial reduction, and it would reduce the Folkestone and Hythe constituency—by itself a very reasonable compact constituency. It would appear to be quite wrong to reduce the electorate to 40,324 and, at the same time, increase the electorate of an adjoining constituency, which is certainly much larger, to 53,598.
I am taking the Boundary Commission's recommendations which would increase the new Ashford Division electorate from 48,350 to 53,598. I would not say that 53,598 taken in isolation represented an intolerable burden for a Member in a county division, but one of the things to which the Boundary Commissioners had to have regard was whether, in the adjoining constituencies, the electorates varied in number. To have had as big a gap as 13,000 between two adjoining county divisions would, I think, have been going against the instructions the Commission were given by the House.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel I have been impressed by the historical case he has put up. I am the last person who would desire to destroy the historical connections between two parts of a division, and to attempt to isolate them politically, but I cannot, at the moment, get over the difficulty of creating constituencies adjoining another with as big a difference as 13,000 in their present electorates. I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel, therefore, that I, at any rate, recognise the strength of this case. If his constituents in the Romney Marsh and at Ashford, and, I would hope, also the political parties concerned, would make it clear that they would not themselves regard this disparity in the electorate as a grievance under which they ought not to labour, I should be very happy to consider the matter again between now and the Report stage.
I waited to see if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the proposal. I feel that this is a matter of great local importance, and so I must put forward a few views. I have no complaint with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman or with the very fair case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith). However, this matter has caused a great deal of local discussion.
Let me first congratulate the Commission on finding what I think is a happy solution to a problem which caused a good deal of argument, and that was about the name of the constituency. The name of Folkestone and Hythe is a compromise. I should have had to oppose the abolition of the name "Hythe" because Hythe is one of the ancient Cinque Ports. I do welcome the introduction, in the name of the new constituency, of the name of "Folkestone." We can dispose of the question of the name as having been answered by a very good compromise. The introduction of the name of Folkestone is a compliment to a lovely town which has borne—possibly next to Dover—as much suffering as any other.
There is a slight difference in the situation we are considering now and that which the Committee was considering in the case of Plymouth, because the reduction of the population in Folkestone and Hythe was caused, not so much by destruction, as by compulsory evacuation. I think something like 27,000 were evacuated from Folkestone and 5,000 from Hythe. The people are, in fact, back now, although there is always a lag in the register, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate. I imagine that for another year or two there will be a further jump in population. It was 18,000 in 1944 and is now 42,000, but, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the registration is not all that we can have desired.
As far as the Elham Rural District is concerned, at the back of Folkestone and Hythe, I do not think any political party or anyone else argues about it. The run of the roads thence is down to these two lovely seaside towns of Folkestone and Hythe, and the people go there for their football, their shopping, and everything else, and they have contacts there far more than in North East Kent and places such as Herne Bay or Whitstable. I think that we can dispose of that question of the Elham Rural District fairly quickly; and my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker-White), who is sitting beside me, entirely agrees, although I know he will regret losing this area.
I feel that the main question is whether we should go on an acreage and population basis. I appreciate the Boundary Commission's attitude, and the Home Secretary said more or less what I expected him to say. But in this case it is a little different. I should be only too honoured to represent the Romney Marsh if duty called upon me so to do, but I am certainly not rushing after extra work. As my hon. Friend has said, among the rural community there is undoubtedly a trend into Ashford. I quite see the right hon. Gentleman's point in not wishing to have a constituency of 40,000 alongside one of 53,000, but I am inclined to think that there is a strong case for leaving Ashford unchanged in view of the population having returned to Folkestone and Hythe which suffered just as much from the occupation of the allied troops as it did from enemy action—in the big hotels, and so on.
To leave the situation as it is, and to add Elham rural district to Folkestone and Hythe would entitle East Kent to five Members, because the population is 272,000, which would give an average of 54,400. Also, from my own inquiries, I know that for many reasons, including historical ones, these proposals are not popular in Romney Marsh, which is being investigated by the Minister of Agriculture. In those circumstances, I hope that the matter will be reconsidered by the Home Secretary, and that my hon. Friend will be allowed to get his local authorities and other people to make such representation as they may wish to make.
I beg to move, in page 86, to leave out lines 40 and 41, and to insert:
4. Rochester and Chatham. The borough of Rochester and Chatham.
The purpose of this Amendment is merely to alter what stands in the Schedule as "Chatham and Rochester," in alphabetical order, to "Rochester and Chat-
ham," out of alphabetical order, but not out of order of seniority. At present, there is the Parliamentary borough of Rochester, with two Divisions, one Chatham-Rochester and the other Gillingham-Rochester. Rochester is a very ancient city, and a bishopric, and we give an element of seniority in terms of words. My Amendment would leave the organisational position of the electoral arrangements as they are already laid down, but would give the City of Rochester a verbal seniority, which both Chatham and Rochester would be very pleased to see. I trust that the Home Secretary will be able to accept this very minor Amendment.
I am assured that there are no local differences on this Amendment. As printed on the Order Paper the Amendment needs a slight correction, and should be:
The boroughs of Rochester and Chatham.
Although there are certain proposals about the area, I do not think they have reached any advanced stage yet. With the correction I have just indicated, I shall be pleased to accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 87, line 5, column 2, to leave out "and."
Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the following two Amendments: in page 87, line 6, column 2, at end, to insert "and Withnell," and in line 16, column 2, to leave out "districts of Turton and Withnell," and insert "district of Turton."
The recommendation of the Boundary Commission is one which, we feel, adds 2,000 electors to the Darwen constituency without taking into consideration all the connections which the Withnell area has with the Chorley constituency. This recommendation simply separates the Withnell urban district from the Chorley constituency and attaches it to Darwen, although it has no connection whatever with the Darwen constituency. The Chorley Borough Council, the Chorley Rural District Council and the Withnell Urban District Council all feel that consideration should be given to the local connections between Withnell urban district and the Chorley borough. Also, the political parties in the Chorley borough are agreed that to take Withnell from Chorley and transfer it to Darwen would be quite wrong. My right hon. Friend has the notes of the inquiry which was held at Blackburn, and he will see that all the political parties agreed that this was a mistake.
Today, the proof of interest between the two areas is to be found in the transport arrangements. Between Withnell and Chorley the transport is at least half hourly, and is direct between the two areas. Between Darwen and Withnell there is no direct transport. Anyone wishing to travel from Withnell to Darwen must first go to Blackburn—and there is only an hourly service—and then change buses and travel from Blackburn to Darwen. That illustration of the transport arrangements shows that the major interest lies between Chorley and Withnell, or between Withnell and Blackburn, and that there is no interest and no connection between Darwen and Withnell. Moreover, Darwen and Withnell are separated by a ridge of moors over which there is no road, and anyone travelling even by car from Withnell to Darwen must go 10 miles; whereas anyone travelling from Withnell to Chorley needs to go only five miles.
All the social amenities and social services are with the Chorley area; Withnell is in the Chorley educational area; and public assistance, town planning, public transport, and all the remaining services connect Withnell with Chorley. There is very strong feeling in Withnell against being separated from a constituency with which they have always been connected, and being transferred to another constituency with which they have no interest at all. My right hon. Friend will be aware that a vote was taken in this area, which was largely in favour of remaining where it is. Of the 97 per cent. who voted, only 3 per cent. were in favour of a change. I urge upon my right hon. Friend the advisability of considering this position very carefully before he accepts the recommendations of the Boundary Commission.
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), but I am sure he will not expect me to agree with everything he has said. The first thing to remember is that the Darwen Division does not consist of Darwen alone, but includes the non-county borough of Darwen, the urban district of Turton and the rural district of Blackburn. When he talks about connections with Withnell and Darwen, he has to remember these other parts of the constituency. This is the first time that I have heard of the vote he mentioned. I do not know how many people voted. A public inquiry was held in this area, and the hon. Member for Chorley appeared at that inquiry and made a very eloquent plea in the matter. There was indeed a common view, among all political parties in the Chorley Division, that Withnell ought to remain in Chorley, but all political elements in the Darwen Division took the opposite view. They were fighting for the retention of the Darwen Division from a numerical point of view, and not from any other. That is one reason why they welcomed this Billl, which includes Withnell in the new Divison.
I have not been able to find any great feeling in the matter. We made a peaceful penetration into Withnell, and we had a very happy reception there. I think that the urban district area of Withnell will fit in very well with the Darwen Division, because there is a community of interest between the different parts of the Darwen Division. It is true that transport facilities from Darwen town to Withnell are not too good, but we have to consider the transport facilities from other parts of the Division. I suggest that it is no more difficult to get from Withnell to parts of Darwen town, than it is to go from Darwen town to other parts of the Division. As I have said, I have not been able to discover all the feeling which the hon. Member for Chorley has led us to believe exists, but in saying that, I am not in any way suggesting that he is misrepresenting the situation. I think it is in the interests of the Darwen Division to increase the electorate, and that the Withnell urban district will do well under this scheme, and will be happy with the new arrangement in a few months' time.
The effect of this Amendment would be to reduce the small electorate of Darwen from 42,679 to 40,592. I must say that the smallness of this electorate in the county of Lancashire has given me more trouble than any other constituency which has been carved out by the Boundary Commission. I am not at all sure that there may not be some people who think it would not be a bad thing to reduce it to 40,000, to get rid of it altogether. I could not recommend the Committee to accept an Amendment which has the effect of reducing the electorate of this constituency in this way. A local inquiry was held by the Boundary Commission, where, I am sure, the whole of the case was heard. The Boundary Commission came to the conclusion that this was the best way to deal with the situation which confronted them. I regret that Withnell should be removed from the Chorley Division and should be placed in the Darwen Division, if feeling is as strong as has been suggested, but I could not advise the Committee that it would be right further to reduce the size of the Darwen Division.
I beg to move, in page 88, line 1, column 1, after "Morecambe," to insert "and Lonsdale."
There are no party considerations involved in this Amendment, nor does it alter any boundaries or conflict in any way with the major recommendations of the Boundary Commission. What it seeks to do is to call things by their proper names. Under the Bill, a new Division, to be called the Morecambe Division of Lancaster, is to be set up. It will consist of Morecambe and Heysham, and a very great area in the Lake District, called Lonsdale. These two elements, coming in to form the new constituency, are approximately equal in numbers of electorate. Two-thirds of the old Lonsdale Division are to be joined with Morecambe. These cover some 140,000 acres; that is about 60 or 70 times the size of Morecambe.
Morecambe is a fine town. It is a famous seaside resort, and Morecambe is a euphonious and pleasing name. However, my constituents live far from Morecambe, as the House will ascertain if they will be patient with me for a very few minutes. Before the Boundary Commission during its two sessions, we pleaded that because of the agricultural and widespread nature of our constituency we should be left as we are. It is a vast area in the lakelands, and enough for an hon. Member to travel over with its 43,000 or 44,000 voters, and we might have been left as we are. Our plea is much stronger now that the average number for constituencies has come down. We were not allowed to stay as we are and so at a later stage we put in a second plea—namely, if we were to be joined to Morecambe, then might we at least retain our name as part of the name of the new constituency?
This Amendment asks that the new division shall be called instead of the "Morecambe Division of Lancaster," the "Morecambe and Lonsdale Division of Lancaster." Are there precedents for double names? There certainly are. There are no fewer than 34 double-named constituencies, and 21 of them contain the names of two towns. There are many that contain the names of a town and part of a county, and there are two constituencies which contain the name of a town and a district, the district being neither a county nor a modern borough or rural district but just a name which by history and tradition has come to stand for a particular part of the country. One is Holland with Boston and the other is the New Forest and Christchurch. There we have a case where the name of a town is joined to the name of a district, not necessarily an administrative district but just a district.
I have said that the name of Morecambe is euphonious and pleasant. It does not give offence to anyone. My constituents, if joined to those of Morecambe, will work happily and well with Morecambe, but they would like to retain the name that means so much to them. It is a great area, and it has a geography and a history that are notable. Can we imagine Coniston Old Man, who is 40 miles away by road, being agreeable to being called by the name of "Morecambe," and can we imagine part of the Lake of Windermere and many of the fells and districts there, so remote and so different, being happy at being called by that name? It is important that the constituency should be happy and that the two parts which are to be joined together in holy wedlock should live happily ever afterwards, and I can tell the Home Secretary that the people will more readily accept the destruction of their historic constituency, which is to be completely abolished, if their name continues.
Morecambe is a fine and good name but it goes back only to the year of the rail- ways. The name of Heysham, a quarter part of Morecambe, is an ancient name. It represents only a small part, so we cannot ask that the name of Heysham should be included, though Heysham has a very great claim. However, the name of Lonsdale is in the Domesday Book. How many constituencies have their names in the Domesday Book? Lonsdale has been a part of our geography and a recognised part of our history for a thousand years.
In the Debate on the Forest of Dean, the Home Secretary said that there was a difference of opinion between Gloucester and the Forest and suggested that the hon. Member should go back and see if he could get a name which would bring in both the Forest of Dean part and the Gloucester part. The Home Secretary said he would then look at the suggestion with sympathy. I am ready with the name "Morecambe and Lonsdale." I have not to go back and ask for a name. However, there is a slight difference of opinion here and I will explain it.
I said that there is no party issue, and there is not. Hon. Members opposite, some of whom are my neighbours, are supporting me. There is the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow), the hon. Member for Cumberland, Northern (Mr. W. Roberts), and the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). To the south of us lies the constituency of Lancaster. Twice before the Boundary Commission they came with us and did not oppose our request, which we made at the second meeting, for the change of names. I understand that through their Member, the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean), they are going to register their disapproval to this proposal. It is right that the high court of Parliament should hear both sides, but I hope that the Home Secretary, bearing in mind what he did in the case of the Forest of Dean, will not make the modest difference of opinion which will be exposed a reason for turning down this most important proposal.
Morecambe is fortunate indeed, and deserves its good fortune, in coming into the exclusive and limited list of places whose names become Parliamentary constituencies, and I am sure that the wider and better opinion of the people of Morecambe and Heysham wish to be generous about this matter, and even if some have asked their Member of Parliament to come down and express their disapproval, I hope that the Home Secretary will believe that he will make for a happier new constituency if he grants us this Amendment so that we may henceforth be called "The Morecambe and Lonsdale Division of Lancaster."
I desire to supplement what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and I feel that, in view of the forensic eloquence with which he has expressed himself, this concession will be granted.
It is only natural that the electors of the present Lonsdale Division should be sorry to see its name disappear from the political map, and I should like to say at once that I see their point of view and feel much sympatthy for it. I happen to be one of them myself. At the same time, there is another point of view, and, as the representative here of the other group of people concerned, namely, the people of Morecambe, I feel that I should be failing in my duty if I were not to state it.
Many people in Morecambe, including, may say, the local authority, feel that in the present case there is not sufficient justification for departing from the general rule that a constituency which contains say, a borough and a country district, with, possibly, one or two smaller towns in that country district, it is usually known by the name of the borough. Now, in the proposed new Morecambe Division not only is the borough of Morecambe and Heysham the only borough, but it contains a greater number of electors than the whole of the country area and the smaller towns put together.
A good deal has been said about the historical associations of the name of Lonsdale. But that is an argument which cuts both ways. It is true that in feudal times there was a Hundred of Lonsdale, and in this connection I find it rather enjoyable that two hon. Members opposite should be pleading for the retention of a relic of feudal times. Surely, that is not very good Socialism, but in any case the boundaries of the old Hundred of Lonsdale did not correspond with the boundaries of the proposed new Division, and when it comes to historical research I would be inclined to go further back, to the original meaning of the name Lonsdale, which is the valley of the River Lune. If hon. Members will look at the map they will find that the Lune does not flow through the new Lonsdale Division but through the new Lancaster Division, which is most appropriate because the name "Lancaster" means the castle on the Lune. Therefore, if we go back to the origin of the name of Lonsdale we find there is not such a very strong case for adding it to the name of Morecambe.
It must also be borne in mind that the name of Morecambe, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is just as old as that of Lonsdale and, in one way, more applicable to the area in question. The new Division is situated on the shores of Morecambe Bay, and I am reliably informed that the name of Morecambe Bay appears on Ptolemy's map, which was drawn about 150 A.D. Surely that should be good enough for any antiquarian. Finally, in character, the new Division is a coastal constituency which stretches for a very long way along the shores of Morecambe Bay, so it does not seem altogether unfitting that the Division should, after all, take its name from the famous bay on whose shores it is situated.
We have had a very interesting antiquarian controversy on this matter. I should have been more impressed by what the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Maclean) said if he proposed that the words "and Lonsdale" should be added to the name of the Lancaster Division. I might then have thought there was something in his contention that Lonsdale ought, even in these days, to be regarded as the Dale of the Lune. Undoubtedly, Lonsdale is a very ancient name, I always understood that the Hundreds went back to pre-feudal times and were parts of the Saxon division of the country for local government purposes. The Lonsdale Hundred, I am informed, was one of the six Hundreds of the county of Lancaster from the earliest times of which there is any record. I should have thought that it would have been desirable, if possible, that this should be retained, although it is true, as I understand it, that the original Hundred of Lonsdale included the proposed Morecambe Division and the greater part of the proposed Lancaster Division as well. I do not know whether we could have compromised by using the names Morecambe and North Lonsdale and Lancaster and South Lonsdale, but the introduction of geographical terms into the name of the Hundred might offend all the antiquarians on both sides, as most compromises generally do in such circumstances.
I think the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has made out his case for the retention of the name; I propose to advise the Committee to accept this Amendment, and to let the Division be known in future as Morecambe and Lonsdale.
I do not know whether, if I sit down, the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) will undertake not to speak after I have sat down, but I would have been prepared to make him that offer. I must dissent from the view that, merely because there is a borough in a constituency, of necessity in a county constituency, the constituency must be known by the name of the borough and nothing else. Some boroughs are exceedingly tiny, and it would not give an appropriate name to a county Division merely to confine it to the name of the borough. I believe that if Morecambe, as well as Lonsdale, is named in the title of the constituency, it will have no reason to feel aggrieved.
I merely wish to say how glad I am to see that the right hon. Gentleman is preserving historical Parliamentary names. As he said, the name of Lonsdale goes back a very long way, and I am sure that anybody who is interested in Parliament will welcome the preservation of that name. I must congratulate, also, my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Maclean), who stood by Morecambe so well in his historical description. As far as I know, however, no constituency has yet been named after a bay or after what was a bay in olden days. I point this out because I think it is relevant when quoting historical facts to support geographical objections which have no connnection whatever with centres of population. I have to congratulate the Home Secretary on having taken what is, I think, a sound Parliamentary decision in deciding between the views of two of his opponents.
I beg to move, in page 89, to leave out line 2, and to insert:
4. Blackburn, North-West—The following wards of the county borough of Blackburn, namely, St. John's, St. Luke's, St. Mark's, St. Mary's, St. Michael's, St. Paul's, St. Peter's and St. Silas's.
5. Blackburn, South-East.—The following wards of the county borough of Blackburn, namely, Park, St. Andrew's, St. Matthew's, St. Stephen's, St. Thomas's and Trinity.
This Amendment concerns another of those boroughs which had an electorate of over 80,000.
I find myself suffering from something very much like split personality in considering this Amendment. Of course, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend on having recognised Blackburn's title to have two Members of Parliament. This is a matter on which all the parties in my constituency felt very strongly indeed. Blackburn, in addition to having an electorate of over 80,000 and therefore, coming among the eight constituencies which are in a rather special position, had other titles to consideration in this matter. Under Rule 5A alone, the rule in which the Commission said they would try to avoid excessive disparity between neighbouring constituencies, Blackburn stood to gain. Here we had the situation of Blackburn, with an electorate of 84,000, standing cheek by jowl with Darwen, with an electorate of only 42,000. The proposition that Blackburn should be reduced to the status of Darwen was one which no Blackburnian worthy of the name could tolerate for a moment.
While I congratulate the Home Secretary on having invited the Committee to provide for two constituencies for Blackburn, I wish to point out to him that all-party and very strong representations are being made to the Boundary Commission with regard to the proposed line of division which is now suggested. This is not a matter of a party point of view. All the parties in the constituency are agreed in regretting that the Boundary Commission should have proposed this particular division as between North-West and South-East Blackburn. We are at a loss to understand why the Boundary Commission should have put forward a proposal which varies from the one presented to the Commissioners. When they came to Blackburn in the first place a very simple and obvious line of division was put to them, one which would quite clearly and directly have divided the constituency into East and West, with an almost perfect numerical balance and a ward balance between the two constituencies.
Instead of that the Boundary Commissioners have chosen to suggest a line of division which is less numerically balanced and which gives South-East Blackburn 1,100 more electors than the North-West at the commencement, and in addition puts into South-East Blackburn all the coming housing development, which is likely to throw it even more out of balance in the near future.
Even more important, instead of a clear line North to South the new proposed boundary line will wobble all over the place and make an administratively inconvenient division—one straggling constituency winding around and encircling one compact constituency. All parties are making representations to the Boundary Commission and I hope, therefore, that if the Boundary Commission are persuaded by their arguments there will be an opportunity at a later stage for this particular form of division to be amended.
It would be wrong of me at this stage to express any views as to what the Boundary Commissioners should do. I have already promised the Committee today that such recommendations as they may choose to make will be reported to the House so that the House will have an opportunity of taking such action as it thinks fit.
I beg to move, to leave out lines 34 to 43, and to insert:
15. Liverpool, Edge Hill.—The following wards of the county borough of Liverpool, namely, Edge Hill, Fairfield, Low Hill and Kensington.
16. Liverpool, Exchange.—The following wards of the county borough of Liverpool, namely, Abercromby, Brunswick, Castle Street, Exchange, Granby, Great George, St. Anne's, St. Peter's and Vauxhall.
I should draw the attention of the Committee to the three following Amend-
ments in my name. They are all Amendments to give to the City of Liverpool one additional Member, it being one of the large cities the representation of which can be increased by one Member while still keeping the average size of the constituency above 50,000 electors.
There is one matter I wish to comment on which affects the Kirkdale Division as it is revised under this Amendment. Representations which have been made, at least from my party, do not seem to have had any weight at all with the Commission, because nothing that we have suggested to them seems to have been agreed to. While I am not taking any exception to the new set-up, which provides an additional Member for Liverpool, I would point out that the Kirkdale Division, which was formerly two large wards, and is now three, is actually in two separate parts of the city. It has been disconnected. I do not know whether representation has been made to the Commission about that and other matters, but in case the Commission do not do more than they have done in the past regarding representations made to them, I wish to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the need for something to be done to connect the wards together so that the division will be in one piece.
I beg to move, in page 90, line 17, column 2, to leave out from "Ardwick," to the end of line 20, and insert "Longsight, New Cross and St. Mark's."
This Amendment and the following Amendments down to the Amendment to leave out lines 32 to 41, are the Amendments necessary to rearrange the constituencies in the City of Manchester to give Manchester also an additional Member.
Leave out lines 32 to 41, and insert:
27. Manchester, Hulme.—The following wards of the county borough of Manchester, namely, All Saints, Medlock Street, Oxford, St. Anne's, St. Clement's, St. George's. St. John's and St. Luke's.
28. Manchester, Moss Side.—The Chorltoncum-Hardy, Moss Side East and Moss Side West wards of the county borough of Manchester.
29. Manchester, Newton Heath.—The following wards of the county borough of Manchester, namely, Beswick, Bradford, Miles Platting and Newton Heath.
30. Manchester, Withington.—The Rusholme and Withington wards of the county borough of Manchester."—[Mr. Ede.]
I beg to move, in page 91, line 22, column 1, to leave out "East," and insert "North."
I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty about this small request. The matter was considered by the Salford City Council and it was unanimously agreed by all political parties that this small change should be requested. At present 'there are three Divisions in Salford. One of them, South Salford, will disappear. In view of the fact that North Salford has been the name of one constituency since 1885, there is a strong feeling that that description should be retained. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take a reasonable view and grant this request.
I have no strong feeling on this matter, but I must point out that one can hardly divide a borough into two divisions and call one "North" and the other "West." That would appear to be an anomaly. Also it must be pointed out that the constituency which my hon. Friend wants to call "North" includes the southernmost point of the borough. I examined the position carefully on a map. It would appear that the correct description of these two constituencies, geographically at any rate, is "East" and "West." I advise the Committee to adhere to the nomenclature of the Bill. If between now and Report stage my hon. Friend can suggest any reason for alter- ing the description, I would be willing to consider it.
The information which the Home Secretary has obtained appears to be absolutely wrong. Four of the present wards in the North Salford Division remain; four are added from the south, and one from the north goes to the west. In the new constituency the wards are situated in the north and south of the city and not in the east.
If my right hon. Friend would reconsider the matter, I suggest that as an alternative he should consider calling the new constituency the "North-South Division." On the Order Paper there are divisions described as North-East and South-West. As there are eight municipal wards in this Division and four are coming from South Salford and the others will remain in East Salford, it might be reasonable to consider my suggestion. I would say to my right hon. Friend that it is the people of Salford who are responsible. The local council have expressed their wish and we are here to ask the Home Secretary to agree to it.
I beg to move, in page 92, to leave out lines 3 to 11, and to insert:
I beg to move, in page 92, line 39, column 2, to leave out from "namely," to "Swaton," in line 42.
I think I have gone through every possible form to give to the Home Secretary the sort of thing for which he has been asking. When the Grantham Division was first reduced from 62,000 to 55,662, I went very carefully into the matter with everyone I could find, including the Boundary Commissioners. This Amendment has nothing to do with any kind of political balance in the division, because, in respect of the Fosse Ward of Lincoln City, where from 6,000 to 7,000 of the electorate have been taken away, I did not go before the Committee and ask the Home Secretary to reconsider that situation. After all, the Fosse Ward is the dormitory ward of Lincoln City. When it comes down to the question of these villages which are concerned here, representing something like 1,300 electors, I do it specifically, because, geographically, there is no logic at all in tying up these villages in the Rutland and Stamford Division. Nor is there any social or economic contact or tie-up between Stamford and these villages. In fact, one of the villages concerned, with over 400 electors has its closest social and economic contacts with either Sleaford or Lincoln, and has nothing in common with the Stamford Division. It is, indeed, 30 miles from Stamford.
I took the trouble to see that every elector in all these villages, without exception, was contacted in regard to the Commission's Report, and, again without exception, all of them desired to remain in the present division. In addition, I went before the Boundary Commissioners myself. It is true that, in the original proposals of the Commission, they did hand back to the Grantham Division four of the villages originally taken away. I understand that the objection of my right hon. Friend here is that he feels, as he said to me in a letter, that it is hard for him to accept the Amendment, because it would mean that the Rutland and Stamford Division would be reduced to an electorate of 40,337, which he feels is rather too small.
Another important question is: Can we ignore the desires of the electorate themselves? Surely villages should not be taken away from one constituency and added to another just for the sake of boosting up another division. I am quoting from memory, but I believe that in the 1945 Election the electorate in the Rutland and Stamford Division was something like 38,000, so that in any case if the Amendment is accepted the number will have increased to over 40,000.
I have had 100 per cent. support of the electors in this matter. I tried to see the Home Secretary himself last week to discuss this matter with him, but he was rather busy and was not able to give me the time that I had hoped he would give so that we might come to some agreement or arrangement. I ask him most earnestly to consider this Amendment from the point of view of the desires of the electors themselves. It is true that there are only 1,300 of them concerned, but in no circumstances would the acceptance of this Amendment have any effect from the political point of view. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary will either accept my Amendment in its present form, or accept the principle of the Amendment and introduce one in a varied form, bearing in mind the villages which, by the biggest stretch of the imagination, could not possibly have any connection with the Rutland and Stamford' Division.
I have considered this matter very carefully. The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall), as he has said, has been most persistent about it. He was granted an interview with the Boundary Commissioners and placed his case before them. I understand that as a result of that interview some alterations were made, but they did not go all the way which the hon. Member desired them to go, and, therefore, he has appealed from them to the Committee. The real difficulty about this case is that if this Amendment were accepted, we would have two adjoining constituencies, one with 40,337 electors and another with 56,954. I would suggest that where it can be avoided, so great a disparity between the electorates of adjoining constituencies should not be established by the Bill. That is the only reason against this Amendment, but I believe it is a sound one.
I beg to move, in page 93, to leave out line 24, and to insert:
I beg to move, in page 93, line 36, column 2, to leave out from "Chelsea," to the end of line 39.
I think it would be convenient if the Committee took this Amendment with the other Amendment in my name, at the top of page 2361, in page 95, column 2, to leave out lines 18 and 19.
The City of Westminster, which at present returns two Members, and the Borough of Chelsea, which at present returns one Member, are merged under the Bill into the two-constituency Parliamentary borough of Chelsea and Westminster, of which one division will comprise Chelsea and part of the present St. George's Division of Westminster, and the other division will comprise the rest of the St. George's Division and the present Abbey Division of Westminster. This is in accordance with the Boundary Commission's recommendation, but they say that they recommend the union of Chelsea and Westminster with some reluctance, and I may point out that this is the only recommendation which they make with reluctance.
My Amendment reduces the representation of Westminster slightly and increases the representation of Chelsea slightly, but it does not increase the total number of seats. My Amendment proposes that Westminster should have one Member instead of one and one-third Members, and that Chelsea should have one Member instead of two-thirds of a Member. As a result, on the 1946 register the Westminster Division will have 77,000 electors and Chelsea will have only 39,000, but the 1947 register brings Chelsea nearly up to 43,000. On the 1946 register, therefore, Chelsea will be slightly, but only slightly, smaller than any other urban constituency, whereas Westminster, with 77,000 electors, will not be open to any objection as a one-Member constituency because it will still be smaller than York, Hackney North, Heston and Isleworth, Leyton, Twickenham—my own constituency—and Dartford.
The whole purpose of my Amendment is to preserve the ancient parliamentary integrity of the City of Westminster. Westminster has had separate representation since the year 1306—almost as long as Parliament itself has existed. From 1306 to 1540 it was represented by the Abbot, who ruled most of the area now governed by the Westminster City Council, and ever since 1544 it has been represented in this House by two Members, except for two short periods when it was represented by three Members. Even if, for the first time in its history, it is now to be represented by only a single Member, Westminster prefers that to dismemberment.
Westminster is a city, and for over 400 years the King's Writ has summoned Parliament to "our City of Westminster." It has the largest rateable value of all the cities of England, not excluding the City of London. I do not, however, base my argument on wealth, but on the unique position of Westminster as the seat of government of the United Kingdom and the Empire, and as the centre of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Every sovereign from Canute onwards has had a palace in Westminster. Ever since the 12th or 13th century the Government, Parliament, the Privy Council, the Exchequer, the Law Courts have all been in Westminster. For the greater part of that time its boundaries have been much the same as they are now.
I should like to read to the Committee some language used about Westminster, not the other day during the controversy between Westminster and the City of London as to which is the capital of England, but in a Statute of Queen Elizabeth:
The City and Liberty of Westminster, the Seat Royal of our sovereign Lady the Queen's Majesty and of her most noble progenitors, the Receipt of the nobles and of the Estates of the Honourable Council, the Sanctuary of all justices and other Ministers of Her Majesty's Court, the place of assembling the Parliament, the Show of all nobles and of all ambassadors coming from foreign parts, and generally the very monster of all Estates of this Realm.
I may add, in modern language, that ever since Parliament has existed Westminster has been respected—one may almost say, revered—throughout the English-speaking
countries as the cradle of their laws and liberties.
The proximity of the citizens of Westminster to Parliament gave them a political education and consciousness unknown in other parts of the country— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which were dependent almost entirely on travellers' tales.
Wait a minute. He went on:
Westminster's electoral verdict was looked on with national and almost international interest.
To those who have just now jeered I produce evidence not mentioned by Mr. Balfour. The first serious check that George III encountered in his attempt to return a servile House was the famous Westminster Election of 1784, when the people's candidate, Charles James Fox, was returned. My Amendment, therefore, is based, quite frankly, on historical considerations; and as I know that the Home Secretary is not unmoved by such considerations I hope he will be sympathetic.
One other point I should like to add. It may appeal to those hon. Members who scoffed at my suggestion that Westminster had shown a great example in democracy. It was a Member for Westminster, Sir Thomas Knyvett, who discovered the Gunpowder Plot, and so saved the lives of a great many Members of the House, including, possibly, some ancestors of present Members.
The Home Secretary, in proposing, 18 months ago, the revised terms of reference to the Boundary Commissioners which led to their present proposals, deprecated the dismemberment for parliamentary purposes of communities unified by historical ties. If ever there was a constituency united by historical ties, surely it is Westminster.
In supporting my hon. Friend I have to face the rather difficult situation of arguing in favour of an Amendment whose greatest defect is its modesty. Any number of facts and figures could be produced to show that the City of Westminster was entitled to two constituencies, yet here is an Amendment which asks that it should be under-represented and have only one constituency. Now, what is the reason for that? The reason is that there are still some people in this country who think that there are greater values than mathematics and figures—the value of a community, of being a member of a community, and feeling a member of the community. That may be an old-fashioned loyalty in these days, but it is a very real and genuine one. Here we have the elected representative of the City of Westminster notwithstanding that mere numbers would show that the citizens of Westminster were entitled to more than one Member, asking that they should have only one Member in order that they may preserve their integrity. That is really the case that I wish to put to the Home Secretary: that there are values greater than mathematics, and that one of those values is this old-fashioned type of loyalty, of which I am not the least bit ashamed, and which I think all hon. Members feel about the districts from which they come.
I feel very strongly on this, because the first public appearance I made in my life was at my baptism, which took place in the City of Westminster. No doubt I made even more noise then than I am making now, but probably the occasion was not so important. I also have had the honour of serving in the local government of this city for something over 20 years, and I frankly declare my interest in that respect. Having said that, let me declare my other interest. Under the proposals of the Bill the constituency which I now have the honour of representing will be abolished. Under the proposals which this Amendment seeks to produce my constituency would still be abolished. So I think I can claim that, while I have an interest, and a personal interest, it is not one which reflects directly to my own advantage by my continuing as a Member of the House of Commons. I fully appreciate that the Home Secretary may find it difficult to indicate his acceptance of this Amendment here and now; but I do beg him to give very careful consideration to the sincere, genuine and, I think, sound arguments which have been advanced in support of it, and, if he can, to give an undertaking that he will at least keep an open mind on this question when we reach the Report stage.
My main difficulty on this Amendment is not what it does to Westminster but what it does to Chelsea. I would have been helped in my consideration of it had the hon. Members who supported it devoted more of their time to that problem than to the problem of Westminster. Chelsea has an electorate of approximately 39,000, and the effect of accepting this Amendment would be to give Chelsea one Member for 39,000 electors, thus making it the smallest constituency in England.
No—I said England. I was very careful about what I said. Part of the difficulty in this matter is the under-representation of England, as compared with other parts of the United Kingdom. The figure of 39,000 is smaller than the smallest Division in the Bill. I could not contemplate a borough constituency of 39,000. It is difficult to see with what area Chelsea could be associated other than Westminster. I am quite sure that Chelsea would not care to be associated with Fulham, although I do not want make any of those comparisons which are said to be odious. I should very much doubt whether the electorate of Chelsea, if they were consulted, would desire to be associated with Fulham. Therefore, there is no solution to this matter, other than some association between Chelsea and Westminster.
The matter is still further complicated by the fact that I have intimated that I shall be willing to listen to such representations as we may receive from the City of London, or those capable of speaking for it, with regard to the ultimate partners of the City of London in the new Parliamentary representation. If this Amendment were carried, the effect would be—I do not suggest there is any design about this—that if the City of London were added to Westminster, we should then have a combined cities constituency with an electorate of approximately 81,000 or 82,000. We have already said that 80,000 is too large an electorate for one Member. That would involve splitting the new constituency for the two cities into two, and we should then have, side by side, constituencies of 39,000, 41,000 and 41,000. I cannot think that that would be a reasonable way in which to divide these two boroughs.
I suggest that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) should withdraw this Amendment, and when we ascertain the view of the city in regard to its representation, it may be possible to make some arrangement which will be rather more acceptable to him. I cannot hold out any hope that we should increase the number of Members involved in the division of these various constituencies. It was quite refreshing to find that at last Charles James Fox is one of the heroes of the Conservative Party. When the Opposition plead for their lives, it is astonishing the distinguished people with whom they desire to be associated. I cannot help thinking that Charles James Fox would be even more severely shocked than I was, had he heard the words of praise given to him by Members of the Conservative Party. It is a pity that in alluding to the great election of 1784, the hon. Member for Twickenham did not refer to the distinguished part played by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, whose kisses, with the guineas tendered to the Westminster electors between her lips, were even more potent in securing the admirable result than the eloquence of Charles James Fox.
I must correct the right hon. Gentleman. I was not suggesting that Charles James Fox was a hero of the Conservative Party but that at the time he was a hero of Westminster. My speech was entirely devoted to the historic claim of Westminster. On the basis suggested by the Home Secretary, I am quite willing to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 94, line 4, at the end, to insert:
12. Hackney North.—The Chatham, Ridley, Downs, Leaside, Southwold and Springfield Wards of the Borough of Hackney.
Perhaps it might be convenient also to discuss the further Amendments which stand in my name: in line 7, column 2, leave out "constituency," and insert "constituencies"; and in page 95, line 3, column 2, leave out from beginning, to "wards," in line 4, and insert "Maury and Stamford."
I want to trouble the House, quite frankly, with a piece of special pleading on behalf of the borough which I have the honour to represent, Stoke Newington, and the Borough of Hackney which adjoins it. To day we have listened very patiently to all sorts of pleas. We have listened to the plea on behalf of Plymouth, the plea on behalf of Leyton, the plea on behalf of East Ham, and even a plea for Westminster.
My plea is rather different. I am suggesting respectfully to the Committee that in the case of Stoke Newington and Hackney, the division made by the Boundary Commissioners, which has now been adopted, is an unfair one, and unfair having regard to the very principles which the Home Secretary has enunciated and one which cannot be justified by the views which he put forward. We have heard that there is a datum line of 80,000 and that when we get below 80,000 we must not divide the constituency. I am not putting forward my plea on the figure of 80,000 or any figure of that kind. What has happened in this case is that when the Boundary Commissioners made their arrangements, they so divided it that they made, I suggest, something in the way of recommendations which were unfair.
Stoke Newington has had its Parliamentary representative and Hackney has had three Parliamentary representatives. The Bill combines the Metropolitan Boroughs of Stoke Newington awl Hackney which on the October, 1946, register had together over 151,000 electors. One would have thought that there was the ideal figure which the Home Secretary wanted in order to make electorates of 50,000. From 151,000 he could make three electorates of over 50,000 each. However, the Boundary Commissioners fashioned two constituencies out of the 151,000. One is called "Stoke Newington and North Hackney" and comprises 77,504 electors, and the other is called "Hackney, South," and comprises 74,019 electors. They are two very unwieldly electorates. It is true that they are each a little below the figure of 80,000, but it is not a case of taking an electorate of 80,000 and dividing it in two. It is a case of taking an electorate of 151,000 where there was the opportunity of forming three compact electorates each of the required figure; but what has been done is that they have been divided into two unwieldly electorates.
My Amendments, which I hope the Home Secretary will recommend to the Committee and the Committee will pass, are arranged to achieve this result. Hackney, South, has 50,009 electors, Hackney, North, has 49,944 and Stoke Newington and Hackney has 51,576. If it were thought that Hackney, North, suffered by having slghtly fewer than 50,000, an adjustment could be made. There we have three convenient, compact and workable electorates of around the 50,000 mark, the number recommended by the Home Secretary. Moreover, there is a very strong factor which supports the proposed Amendments. Stoke Newington is very much allied with the adjoining constituency of Hackney and the manner in which the Amendments divide up the constituencies preserves the local tradition, and the community of interest which the two constituencies have always enjoyed.
I know it will be said by the Home Secretary that in dealing with this Bill no regard should be had to anything but the 1946 register, and that if one ventured to put forward an argument about the figures today the Home Secretary might very properly object. But it is clear that under Section 4 of the 1944 Act no change can be made or recommended in less than three years, or more than seven years. That means that in 1950, when I suppose we shall have a General Election, the electorate contemplated for Stoke Newington and North Hackney will be something approaching 90,000 and the electorate for Hackney, South, will be something approaching 85,000—obviously quite unwieldly and unworkable electorates. I have support for my Amendments in what the Home Secetary has recognised and done. In Liverpool, Manchester and Bradford, to mention three towns only, the Home Secretary has recognised that the figure ought to be about 50,000. He has taken those constituencies and so divided them, and offered Amendments to the Committee and made the necessary correction in the matter. I suggest to the Committee that my proposals should receive sympathetic consideration, and that in the interests of justice to the borough I represent, and the adjoining borough, the adjustment I put forward should be made.
I wish to support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman). Right from the beginning of these proposals the Borough of Hackney was prepared to make its contribution to the redistribution of seats and it was recognised that no longer, despite its size—it is one of the largest boroughs in London—would it be able to claim three Members of Parliament. It was a shock, however, to find they were not to have two Members of Parliament of their own, but that the two Members must, in future, represent not only Hackney, but Stoke Newington as well. A reasonable plea has been made to divide Hackney and Stoke Newington into three constituencies of approximately 50,000 each on the 1946 figures, and it is one which the Home Secretary ought to be able to accept. A few moments ago he said that great disparities between electorates of adjoining constituencies should be avoided as far as possible. I suggest that the great disparities he quite rightly does not like will exist if the proposals in the Bill go through unaltered.
It has already been shown that the proposed Stoke Newington and North Hackney Division will have more than 77,000 on the 1946 register. Already, everyone can see huge blocks of L.C.C. and borough council flats being put up in the area, and what the electorate will be this year, next year or in 1950 can be left to the imagination. It will certainly be well beyond the figure proposed in the Bill for a reasonably sized constituency. I may not be the representative of one of the new divisions, but if I were, I would tremble to have to handle an electorate of 80,000, which is what it would mean by the time the next election comes along. It so happens that in the proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington there is a convenient division which, in effect, gives the large borough of Hackney two Members and the borough of Stoke Newington one Member, with each of the three Members representing approximately 50,000 electors. Because the borough of Stoke Newington, by itself, does not entirely justify one Member, a very small portion of the borough of Hackney—known locally as Stoke Newington High Street, and the district of Stoke Newington—is added. I would point out that this is nothing new, because the Measure already proposes that a much larger slice of Hackney should go into Stoke Newington. Therefore, it is not introducing anything fresh to suggest that a much smaller portion should be added to enable the Home Secretary, in accordance with the principles he has enunciated in these discussions, to make a convenient division allowing three Members for the two boroughs. I plead with him to look carefully at this proposal, which I hope he will be able to accept.
My hon. Friends the Members for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) and Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) have put forward their case with skill and persistence but I do not think I should be justified in altering these two constituencies into three, with an average electorate so very close to 50,000, as would result if the Amendment were carried. I considered this matter for a long time when I was making my proposals for Amendments for the Committee but I came to the conclusion that the figure was too near the line for me to be able to recommend it.
Once again, I must insist that we cannot take into account electorates that may come about in future as the result of housing schemes. The more strongly Members feel on this point, the more safely they can leave the ultimate division of their boroughs to the next review, which will have to be undertaken by the Boundary Commissioners within three to seven years from the passing of this Bill. If their recommendations are carried out it may well be that there will be not merely three, but possibly four, Members for the two boroughs which are the subject of the present Amendment. I regret that I must ask the Committee to turn down this Amendment. It is one over which I have pondered for a very long time, but which I cannot recommend.
If it is considered proper, as in the cases of Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester, to divide seats with a regard to the figure of 50,000, why should not the same attention be paid to the case of these two constituencies, whose electorate totals nearly 152,000, and which could well provide three constituencies of 50,000 each?
I beg to move, in page 94, to leave out line 8, and to insert:
13. Hammersmith, North.—The College Park and Latimer, Starch Green and Wormholt wards of the borough of Hammersmith.
14. Hammersmith, South.—The Brook Green and St. Matthews, River, St. Stephens and The Grove and Ravenscourt wards of the borough of Hammersmith.
In dealing with this Amendment I would mention also the three which, follow. They are merely small drafting Amendments.
I beg to move, in page 94, to leave out line 41, and to insert:
27. Paddington North.—The Harrow Road, Maida Vale, Queen's Park and Town wards of the borough of Paddington.
28. Paddington South.—The Church, Hyde Park, Lancaster Gate East, Lancaster Gate West and Westbourne wards of the borough of Paddington.
This Amendment arranges for the division of the borough of Paddington, another single Member borough, with an electorate of over 80,000.
I beg to move in page 96, to leave out lines 45 and 46, and to insert:
17. Tottenham North.—The following wards of the borough of Tottenham, namely, White Hart Lane, Park, Coleraine, West Green, and Bruce Grove and Central.
18. Tottenham South.—The following wards of the borough of Tottenham, namely, Seven Sisters, Chesnuts, Town Hall, Green Lanes, Stamford Hill and High Cross and Stoneleigh.
We are all agreed that the redistribution of Parliamentary seats is long overdue. In the last 30 years which have elapsed since the last general redistribution a great movement of the population has taken place, causing over-burdening in many constituencies and deflation in others. We should also agree that the Boundary Commission have had a very difficult task and that they have, on the whole, performed a very good job, despite the fact that they were tied down by certain rules. It is with those rules that I am particularly concerned in moving this Amendment. One of the rules say that the number of constituencies should be approximately those in the last Parliament. Secondly, Rule 5 (a) was to the effect that there should not be undue interference with the local government boundaries.
My chief reason for moving this Amendment is the fact that the boundaries of the boroughs of Wood Green and Tottenham have been unduly disturbed. The Borough of Tottenham had an electorate on the 1946 figure of 94,500. Wood Green has been added to the borough of Tottenham, and having regard to the two rules which I have argued, I am perfectly satisfied that if the Boundary Commission had known, which obviously they did not, that it was proposed, and was in the minds of the Government, to abolish university constituencies in the City of London, Tottenham would have been included as a constituency borough with two seats. I am fortified in that argument because Walthamstow, which is a contiguous borough, and has 4,000 electors less than Tottenham, is left undisturbed.
I have heard hon. Members arguing about the historical importance of their boroughs and constituencies. I do not think that has carried much weight with the Home Secretary, but if it is a question of arguing historically, Tottenham is without doubt the most historical part of Middlesex. The question of famous personages has been argued. Tottenham gave us Sir Roland Hill, and those who can remember the penny post will appreciate that he rendered a great service to the nation. So far as the blitz is concerned, Tottenham had its fair share of the blitz on North London. However, none of these arguments has prevailed with the Home Secretary, and I do not intend to pursue them. I would confine myself to the prin- cipal argument that if the Boundary Commission had known that there were to be another 17 seats added to their recommendations, the borough of Tottenham, with 94,500 electors, would have been left undisturbed. I have great faith in the Home Secretary. I hope that when he replies he will not destroy that faith.
Again, I should have been helped in the favourable consideration of this Amendment if my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Irving) had told us what he would propose to do, in a Parliamentary sense, with the borough of Wood Green, because that borough which is, in this Bill, linked with Tottenham for the purposes of Parliamentary representation, has an electorate of only 40,406. It would obviously be wrong, in a county like Middlesex, to have one seat with as small an electorate as 40,406. The Boundary Commissioners were undoubtedly faced with the same difficulty. They decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to put together Tottenham and Wood Green, two boroughs which certainly have some affinities and are contiguous, and divide them by two. That is what they have done, and it seems to me to be the only way unless some other alternative can be produced by my hon. Friend for dealing with the problem which is created by the borough of Wood Green. I advise the Committee not to accept the Amendment.
This is an area in which, on examination of the figures, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has, in the suggestions which he has gut forward, taken some interest. When we look at the proposed representation of Tottenham, in connection with the adjacent constituencies of Wood Green and Hornsey, we find there three constituencies which under the Boundary Commissioners' proposals will each have an average electorate of over 69,000. Therefore, this is one of the areas which we have brought to the notice of the Boundary Commission with a view to substituting four Members for the three Members proposed in the Report of the Boundary Commission. While I have not yet had time to examine the proposals in regard to this matter which the Commission have kindly made at our request, and as I have, therefore, not been able to discover whether the proposed alterations would cut across too many local government boundaries, I would like the hon. Member for North Tottenham to be aware that this is an area in which we are taking an interest, and in regard to which we may put forward an Amendment on the Report stage.
The disclosure which the right hon. Gentleman has just made puts the Committee in a difficult position. In connection with the letter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has written to the Chairman of the Commission I understand that, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, and two or three other districts are mentioned. There seems to be a process of striking a bargain at the present moment. I do not think that my hon. Friend will be in danger of "falling for it," but there seems to be an attempt to ask for further consideration of this matter on the ground that we are to know more a little later about what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford is proposing.
As I have listened I have been wondering whether, or to what extent, for example, the right hon. Gentleman's proposal will cover other parts of Middlesex. We do not know; I suppose that I shall have to look in the newspapers for that information. Then we may begin to wonder whether there were not several other districts that we should have had in mind. I complain very strongly that the Committee should be put in this position. This is a proposal of a highly uncertain character about which the right hon. Gentleman is able to speak in a way which shows that he has superior knowledge, and of which the rest of us know practically nothing.
"(b) Borough Constituencies
I beg to move, in page 100, line 29, at the end, to insert:
1 Nottingham, Central:
I would like a little information on this matter. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us what is the average number of voters in the four constituencies? I do not ask in any controversial way. We are proposing to add a whole constituency. There have been some doubtful cases mentioned today, and I want to be sure that Nottingham is not getting an overrepresentation.
I beg to move, in page 101, column 2, to leave out line 10, and to insert:
I am not quite sure what the intention of this Amendment is. It may be an effort to give the City of Oxford two Members. If so, it would appear to be defective in form, because it does not stipulate the names of the two constituencies. I cannot think, however, that, even if that were the intention, there is any case for it, because the total electorate of Oxford is 74,316, and its division by two would give another electorate of 37,158, which is below anything previously suggested for an English constituency.
I beg to move, in page 101, line 36, column 1, to leave out "North Somerset," and insert "Frome."
There are other Amendments standing in my name, but they are consequential on the one I am now moving. Its object is to retain the boundaries of the present Frome Division, with the exception of the loss of some 10,000 electors which will come within the Bristol boundaries. The present geographical and physical boundaries of the Frome Division, with its present communications and accessibility, are exceptionally good for this type of constituency, and objection is taken to the proposed redistribution on the ground that this will dismember, for Parliamentary purposes, the present Frome Division, which is unified by industrial, social and historic ties, and that it will create pockets of inaccessibility in North Somerset and in the Wells Division.
One of the chief objects of a Bill of this kind should be to incur as little change as is necessary and to retain the principle of accessibility and the continuance of the present social, industrial and cultural associations. The accessibility by road and rail is exceptionally good, there being regular daily transport. The town of Radstock is a radial centre of good road and rail communications which put practically all parts of the Frome Division within reasonable reach of one another. Wit h the complete network of branch communications, the constituency is easily accessible to its representative in the House of Commons.
The A.367 road connecting Bath with Shepton Mallett runs through Radstock and dominates the north and south portions of the Norton-Radstock urban district, strongly influencing the disposition of recent building in these areas. The A.362 road linking Frome with Radstock continues westward through Midsomer Norton to join the A.37 Bristol-Shepton Mallett road at Farrington Gurney. Good alternative secondary roads join the A.39 road to connect Radstock with the urban district of Keynsham and the City of Bristol, which is situated about 15 miles to the north of Radstock. Frome also has excellent road transport communications with Bath and Bristol along the A.361 and A.362 roads. In addition, there is the railway link with Bristol passing through Radstock.
Good bus and train services are provided on these routes. The Radstock—Bristol bus service through Keynsham provides an average of 14 buses daily in each direction, while the Frome—RadstockKeynsham—Bristol service provides seven buses daily in each direction. The service from Frome to Bath through Radstock provides nine buses daily in each direction and there is a Radstock—Trow-bridge service via Kilmersdon and Norton St. Philip in Frome rural district. So far as communications are concerned, therefore, Radstock has good access over a wide radius by both rail and road transport. Frome also has good road transport communications with Bath and Bristol along the A.361 and A.362 roads and intercommunications between Frome and Radstock are good.
The present Frome Division is centred on the Somerset coalfield with allied and other industries in the coal basin. The geographical position of this coalfield makes it the natural source of supply for a large part of the South West of England. The Bristol and Somerset coalfield Regional Survey Report, published in 1946 by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, defined the coalfield as extending from the slopes of the Mendip Hills in the south to Cromhall in the north, a distance of 26 miles, and from the neighbourhood of Bath in the east to Nailsea in the west, about 24 miles. This report indicated that the coalfield falls structurally into two parts; the northern or Bristol area is separated from the southern or Radstock area.
With the exception of the town of Radstock, around which is situated a number of collieries, the mining population of the Somerset coalfield is scattered over a fairly large area and the majority of the men travel considerable distances to their work. The town of Frome, situated eight miles to the south-east of Radstock along the A.362 road, is set on a hillside along the foothills of the Mendips. Radstock is the nearest large centre of population within the county boundary. Beyond the Mendip Hills to the south-west of Frome, lie the towns of Bruton and Shepton Mallet, about 12 miles away. The range of Mendip Hills has tended to act as a barrier to the development of a community of interest in a southerly direction. The Frome urban and rural districts are bound to north Somerset by social, industrial and historic ties which derive from their geographical situation and lines of communication. The industrial and social interests of the Frome district look to Bath, Bristol, Keynsham and Norton-Radstock in the north. The A.361 road which connects Frome with Bath, situated about 11 miles to the north, is a busy motor artery, and Bristol is easily reached about 24 miles to the north along the A.362 road, passing through Norton-Radstock and Keynsham on the journey. The town of Frome has the appearance of a prosperous urban centre with a population whose life is closely associated with the activities of the surrounding districts and the important industries which have grown up within its bounds.
The problem of straightening out these constituencies is not caused by any dis- ability in the Frome Division, but is caused by the inequitable distribution of the electorate in the Wells and Weston-super-Mare Divisions, where at present one has an electorate far in excess of the other, and it can easily be adjusted by the adding of the rural district of Axbridge, with the exception of the parishes of Kewstoke and Wick St. Lawrence, to the Wells Division. This would even out the electorate to approximately 58,000 each. This course would retain the accessibility of the three seats, Frome, Wells and Weston-super-Mare. It is appreciated that it does make changes that perhaps are not desired by the other two constituencies, but at least it does retain a natural sense of equity between the three seats. In addition, it does give more satisfaction in the realm of contact and accessibility.
The dismemberment of the Frome Division is opposed by all sections of the present Frome Division, and, when the Boundary Commission's Report was first announced, the public authorities in Frome and district discussed the matter and passed resolutions of opposition to the proposal. This, I think, is very important. I am aware that many prominent Conservatives are opposed to the proposal. It is also argued that this suggested change from the Boundary Commission's Report preserves the natural boundaries with Dundry Hills to the north and the Mendip Hills to the south. To accept the principle of the Commission's Report will, to some extent, destroy these natural boundaries and create problems of inaccessibility, especially in the Frome Division.
All road and rail traffic lines run in a south-westerly direction from Bristol and Bath, and provide a good service to Keynsham, Radstock, Midsomer Norton and Frome, plus contact with scores of villages. This is regarded as being one of the highest importance to a Parliamentary constituency and in the interests of all parties. The change suggested by the Boundary Commission will completely destroy these facilities if the new North Somerset Division is created, for there are really no road and rail facilities crosswise, and as to the Long Ashton part of this change, it would necessitate going in and through Bristol, with its labyrinth of roads and traffic, to approach this part of the new division.
It is, therefore, suggested that the proposals for the new Parliamentary constituencies in the County of Somerset should be amended as follows: North East Somerset and Frome Division, consisting of the urban districts of Frome, Norton Radstock and Keynsham, and the rural districts of Frome, Bathavon, and Clutton. The electorate would be 57,767.
Wells Division, consisting of the municipal boroughs of Glastonbury and Wells, the urban districts of Shepton Mallet and Street, the rural districts of Shepton Mallet, Wells and Wincanton, and the rural district of Axbridge, less the civil parishes of Kewstoke and Wick St. Lawrence. The electorate would be 58,943—an exceptionally reasonable proposal.
This Amendment would involve a substantial rearrangement of three proposed constituencies—Weston-superMare, Wells, and North Somerset. As far as I know, there is no support for this proposal in the other two constituencies which would be involved as well as the present Frome constituency. In those circumstances and because, as far as I can discover, no negotiations have taken place with regard to it, I am bound' to advise the Committee to adhere to the constituencies as set out in the Bill. I understand that the Commissioners at one stage of their proceedings received representations somewhat on the lines of those put before the Committee by my hon. Friend and rejected them. I fail to find any reason for suggesting that their recommendations should be departed from.
I want to make my position clear. I do not know whether I am between the Scylla of Frome and the Charybdis of Axbridge, or whether I am in the position of a siren whom the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. Farthing) is trying to get past. Perhaps he has got his ear to the ground; if he has, he will find he should not proceed further with this proposal. He should change his course. I am opposed to the Amendment.
We have had a long, most interesting, and precise explanation of what the Amendment means. The Committee has been absorbed in listening to the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. Farthing) and also to the Home Secretary's reply which, though it was brief, certainly dealt with the point. If on this occasion the hon. Member for Frome and his supporters, who are absent, as usual, from the Committee, should vote for the Amendment, I shall have the greatest pleasure in going into the Lobby with the Home Secretary. These Amendments have been put down by hon. Gentlemen who have no great connection and no great Parliamentary association with the district in question. They have been put down in a completely and utterly irresponsible way and they should never have appeared on the Order Paper. It is regretted that they are there; they have been needlessly put there, and I must say I am glad that the Home Secretary has stood up against this Amendment. May I also say how glad I am to have persuaded some of those who are supposed to be supporters of the Home Secretary to support him?
I withdraw my remark absolutely and completely. I did not notice the hon. Lady and I feel sure that she will not take to heart too much what I said. I would never wish to displease the hon. Lady; in fact, I have often travelled as quickly as I could all the way from Devonshire to support her when she has been in trouble. I will do my utmost in the future always to notice the hon. Lady, and for the moment I thank her for having given way to allow me to make this apology, poor though it may be, although I must add that sometimes I have to move Amendments when she is not here.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not in any trouble, and furthermore I must tell him that he is completely misinformed when he says that the supporters of this Amendment know little or nothing of the district concerned. I put my name to this Amendment because, apart from anything else, I have done 15 years' political work in this area. In my earliest political days I was vice-president of a political party concerned in this area, and from my knowledge of the geography of the place, I submit that there is very good ground for putting forward the proposal in the Amendment we are discussing.
In common courtesy, Major Milner, if I have done the hon. Lady any wrong in saying she has no geographical knowledge of the district, I feel quite sure you would wish me to apologise most sincerely. I am certain you would not want me to omit that detail. I would also add that the hon. Lady was extremely wise in saying nothing to controvert the very accurate statement of the Home Secretary.
I beg to move, in page 102, line 46, at the end, to insert:
2. Dudley—The county borough of Dudley.
All parties in the county borough of Dudley unanimously oppose the proposal put forward that Dudley, a small island in Staffordshire, should be linked on to the municipal borough of Stourbridge, with which it has no connection at all. Dudley wants to be linked with Staffordshire. The first report of the Boundary Commission linked it with Sedgley, situated in Staffordshire—a contiguous authority. The county borough of Dudley is in the heart of the Black Country. It is an enterprising authority with a life of its own and wishes of its own, and surely the commonsense proposal must be to link it with a neighbouring area of Staffordshire. It has nothing whatever to do with Worcestershire, and the Stourbridge Council is as vehement in its opposition to this proposal as is Dudley itself. In addition, the Worcestershire County Council are also opposed to the proposal, and the borough of Halesowen does not want it.
I ask the Home Secretary, in the interests of efficiency and of having some regard to community interests, to do the proper thing and accept this Amendment. It would bring Dudley into Staffordshire, where it wants to be. It would create a separate constituency numbering 42,254. Such a proposal would have the overwhelming support not only of Dudley but also of the surrounding area, and it would obviate a major injustice and a piece of gross inefficiency.
The effect of this Amendment would be to leave Stourbridge unrepresented in this House, a contingency which I do not imagine my hon. Friend means to create. That would be the effect, because there is no other Amendment to place Stourbridge in some other constituency or to give it a Member of its own.
The Home Secretary is being rather unfair. In the earlier stages of the Bill, I moved an Amendment which would have thrown the onus on the Home Secretary to put this right. It is not my business, nor is it the business of, the local authority in Dudley, to make proposals for Worcestershire. I am asking the Home Secretary, if he cannot do it tonight, to give the proposal further consideration and to put down an Amendment on the Report stage. It is clear that the proposal to link Dudley with Worcestershire is a piece of administrative convenience, and nothing more. In the Boundary Commission's original proposal, they linked up parts of Worcestershire with the neighbouring county of Herefordshire, but they dropped that one in view of local opposition, and thus, having a bit of Worcestershire left over, they tacked it on to Dudley, leaving a gap of many miles. Neither Dudley nor anyone else wants this, and the responsibility for putting it right rests with the Home Secretary, who is responsible for piloting this Measure through the House.
All I can say in answer to the latter part of what my hon. Friend has said is that he is responsible for the effect of the Amendments which he puts on the Order Paper. The effect of this Amendment would be to create Dudley, a borough with 42,000 electors, and leave Stourbridge, which has 26,000 electors, unrepresented in the House. Historically, Dudley is part of Worcestershire—
No, historically Dudley is part of Worcestershire. It is true that it is situated inside the geographical county of Staffordshire. I have had a considerable number of interviews with representatives of Dudley in the course of my Ministerial career, and when I was at the Board of Education, they were exceedingly anxious not as part of Staffordshire. At that time they wanted to preserve their historical continuity as a part of Worcestershire detached. I think there are objections to having island constituencies, and to that extent I am with my hon. Friend. The proposal put forward by the Boundary Commissioners is one which creates a constituency which is not unwieldy in size. I am, however, prepared to consider between now and Report Stage whether it would be possible to make some arrangement that would enable Dudley and Stourbridge both to be represented in the House without the difficulties that are created geographically by the island position of Dudley. I am bound to say that, having given some thought to the matter and considered the various possibilities, this would appear to be a very difficult matter to achieve, as it would create an island in another county. I opposed this when it was proposed earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Captain Peart) with regard to a much smaller urban district, Keswick; but I am willing to consider meeting the difficulty created by this ancient and historic association of Dudley with Worcestershire.
I should be less than generous if I did not thank the Home Secretary for meeting me thus far, but I must say that, while it is true that Dudley went to him when he was at the Ministry of Education, they were obviously making the best case they could. However, he refused their suggestion and insisted that they should remain with Staffordshire. I ask him therefore to adopt the same attitude here as he did about education and police and fire services, and between now and the Report Stage to do his best to recognise that Dudley is the heart of the Black Country and is the most progressive borough in that area.—[AN HON. MEMBER: "It has got a zoo!"]—I am not talking about size or about zoos. Hon. Gentlemen know more about zoos than I do. It has a soul of its own. It is the most progressive borough, even if not the largest, in the Black Country. If the Home Secretary, in view of the generous way he has met my Amendment, does what he has promised, I shall be well satisfied; and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 106, to leave out lines 13 to 17.
The object of the Amendment is to retain for Hastings her status as a Parliamentary borough. The provisions of the Schedule affect the constituency in two ways. By increasing the size of the constituency to include a rural area, the electorate will be increased from 45,000 to 67,000. To this we make no objection. But objection is taken, and very strongly taken, against the second proposal, which is to change the status of Hastings to that of a county division. This is considered wrong treatment of a town which, since 1265, has been represented in this Parliament by Members of its own choice, and where also there has been a mayor since 1588.
Here I should make it clear that it is not our case that, because there has been no change in the past, there should be no change in the future; but in the absence of any practical reason for the loss of our status, it is felt that regard should be paid to our ancient historic record. Again, objection is not confined to the town hall. It is not really a matter of the personal prestige of the mayor and town council. I have received representations from the leaders of all political parties, from non-political organisations and from individuals, all concerned in protesting against what is considered an, affront to the town.
What is the reason for the proposal? The effect of the Bill as it stands would be to remove the responsibility of holding Parliamentary elections in Hastings constituency from the mayor of Hastings to the sheriff of the county. It is agreed that some delegation would be made to Hastings in regard to registration and the holding of elections, but that does not meet the obvious objection that this extreme eastern corner of Sussex is far better administered from Hastings and not directly or indirectly from a county centre a great distance away. The nearest point of the new increased area to the county centre at Lewes is much farther away than Hastings. It is more convenient administratively that the preparation of electoral registers and the holding of Parliamentary elections should be carried out from Hastings.
Finally, as regards the treatment of Hastings in comparison with other constituencies, the figures from Hastings county constituency after this Bill has been passed will be that within the county borough there will be approximately 45,000 electors, and outside the county borough approximately 22,000. There are other Parliamentary boroughs with large rural areas outside—for instance Worcester, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Southend-on-Sea. There are many Parliamentary boroughs where the bulk of the electorate lie outside the municipal borough; but no other county borough except, possibly, Great Yarmouth, has lost its Parliamentary borough status and the circumstances of population in that case are not the same.
To sum up, the people of Hastings want to retain their Parliamentary borough status, and it is to the convenience of the electorate that it should do so. Tradition should have some place in the consideration of this matter. It is thought that we in Hastings have been singled out under this Bill for exceptionally severe treatment for which no adequate reason has been furnished, and that no advantage will be gained from the proposals in the Bill.
The effect of this Amendment is to make the proposed Hastings constituency a Parliamentary borough instead of a Parliamentary county constituency. It is true, as the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Cooper-Key) has said, that Hastings has been a Parliamentary borough since the institution of Parliament, and I am sure that the Boundary Commission took that into consideration before they made the present recommendations.
I would point out that if this constituency is made a borough constituency, it would have a larger proportion of non-borough electors than any other borough in the country. There are certain others, like Worcester, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Wakefield, which have some rural voters associated with them; but so far as I can find, in all these cases the urban content of the electorate is more than 80 per cent. of the total. In the case of this constituency, only about two-thirds of the electorate are resident in the borough. It would, of course, impose some disadvantage on candidates if this constituency, which will be a fairly scattered one, were made into a borough, because the amount of money that can be spent in a borough constituency is less than can be spent in a county constituency. I should have thought that candidates in this scattered constituency might have suffered as a result of this change being made. I regret myself to see the passing of Hastings as a Parliamentary borough, but I am bound to say that I do not think there is any case for retaining its borough status when one has regard to the distribution of the electorate.
There is one thing which the hon. Gentleman mentioned and on which I think there is some accommodation reached in the Bill. This is a constituency which consists partly of a county borough, and has some districts added, but it does not follow that the work done in connection with it will be done in the county town. It is possible, under the Bill, where there is a mixed constituency of this kind, and where there is partly a county borough and partly a county council, to have arrangements made whereby registration and other similar work can be done from the county borough offices, and not from the county council offices. While I cannot foreshadow what the arrangements might be, I think the hon. Gentleman has made out a good case for retaining that part of the work in connection with the constituency within the county borough.
I beg to move, in page 107, to leave out line 17.
As this Amendment is similar to the one moved by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Cooper-Key), I need not detain the Committee for more than a few moments. The effect of this Amendment, and the complementary one in page 108, line 24, is to remove Solihull out of the county constituencies of Warwickshire and place it in the borough constituencies. The advantages of this Amendment would be to make the urban district independent of the county council in the conduct of Parliamentary elections. It would mean that instead of the sheriff of the county and the clerk to the county council being controlling officer and deputy returning officer, these functions would be performed by the chairman and the clerk of the urban council. With their particular local knowledge the arrangements they could make would be more efficient than the arrangements which could be made by the county council. This would have an additional advantage as Solihull hopes shortly to be raised to borough status, and this would help to reduce the cost of elections.
—I was a little surprised when I examined the composition of the Solihull Division to find what a very wide area this urban district covers. It is substantially over 30 square miles in area, and appears from the description given in the municipal directory to consist of a number of old hamlets or villages and to have expanded in recent years. I have only passed through it by road, and certainly the part through which I passed appeared to be very built up. The number of electors per acre is approximately two, and in an earlier discussion this afternoon it was generally agreed that a density as low as that was a justification for making a constituency a county rather than a borough constituency.
That is the only reason I have for suggesting that this, at the moment, is the appropriate designation for this particular constituency. To say that two electors per acre represent the appropriate distribution of the population for a borough constituency would be to go against what we have been doing throughout our discussion on this Bill, and I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. With regard to the suggestion that in the near future this urban district may become a borough, we must leave that to take care of itself, and I have no doubt that when that has taken place it would be a reasonable argument to put forward to the Boundary Commission in connection with one of their reviews, together with a suggestion that the time had arrived for altering the status of the constituency. But I cannot see that at the moment the case has been proved, mainly owing to the number of electors, and having regard to the widespread nature of this constituency.
I beg to move, in page 107, to leave out lines 30 to 40, and to insert:
Leave out lines 6 to 13, and insert:
9. Birmingham, Small Heath—The Duddeston and Nechells, St. Bartholomew's, Saltley and Small Heath wards of the county borough of Birmingham.
10. Birmingham, Sparkbrook—The Balsall Heath, St. Martin's and Deritend and Spark-brook wards of the county borough of Birmingham.
11. Birmingham, Stechford—The Stechford and Washwood Heath wards of the county borough of Birmingham."—[Mr. Ede.]
I beg to move, in page 111, line 16, column 2, at the end, to insert:
(iii) The parishes of Hessay, Knapton, Moor Monkton, Poppleton Nether, Poppleton Upper and Rufforth in the rural district of Nidderdale.
Now that we have reached the best Riding of the best county, it is time that someone paid a compliment to the Home Secretary for the extensive and detailed knowledge he has shown of all parts of England. If this Amendment is accepted, the result will be that the parishes mentioned will remain in the constituency of Barkston Ash, and will not be transferred to the new division of Harrogate. The number of electors concerned is very small —1,255 I think is the number shown on the last register. The Home Secretary has told us more than once that he considers rivers to be good boundaries to constituencies, and as the boundaries are drawn at present the River Nidd is the boundary between Barkston Ash and that part of the Ripon Division which will become known as the Harrogate Division.
I am sure that I am right when I say that the residents in the parishes have their interests centred south of the River Nidd rather than over the river in the Harrogate direction. I am not sure that I can genuinely claim that the electors have great interests confined to Barkston Ash. I think, perhaps, it would be more true to say they share them with the City of York, the City of York being in close proximity. However, the proposals of the Boundary Commission would entail topographically the most unnatural division, and, although I cannot speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York), I think the suggested boundaries would prove awkward for the Harrogate Division. The proposals along these lines were made before the local committee of inquiry, and were not opposed by any political party, or by any other constituency.
I think the Home Secretary is right when he tells the Committee not to pay too close attention to what may happen in the future, but it is perhaps worth while to mention that, so far as I know, the town of Harrogate is more likely to show rapid development and increase of population than any town or village situated in the constituency of Barkston Ash, and that, therefore, in a comparatively short period of time the loss of 1,200 potential voters would probably be made up by the Harrogate Division. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that, to the best of my belief and after careful inquiry, I can find no sort of local objection on the part of any of the inhabitants of these parishes to remaining in the con- stituency of Barkston Ash. On the contrary, I have found no one who does not welcome the suggestion that they should remain in the constituency in which they have been ever since the constituency was formed.
This Amendment creates a certain disturbance within my frame, because the district under discussion is my home district, and the suggestion is that the electors in this area should not come to what is now the Ripon Division. But, much as I should like to see these electors, a great number of whom I know, come to me, the arguments put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) make it quite clear to the Committee that to leave this part of the Barkston Ash Division within that Division would be far more convenient. Therefore, I certainly would raise no objection to my hon. and gallant Friend's pro