Representation of the People (Boundary Commission Reports)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 December 1954.

Alert me about debates like this

3.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the first periodical re-ports of the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This is a notable constitutional occasion. We are to debate the first periodical Reports of the permanent Boundary Commissions, and, for the first time, the recommendations arising from a general review of constituencies are to be put into effect by means of Orders in Council, the drafts of which have been approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Whatever opinions hon. Members may have about the recommendations, I am perfectly sure that the whole House will join with me in thanking you, Mr. Speaker, and the four Commissions of which you are Chairman, for the very valuable work that has been done. I think the House will agree that it has not been an easy task to discharge and we are very greatly obliged to the Commissions for the careful, thorough and impartial way in which they have performed their duty in accordance with the rules laid down for them.

The Boundary Commission for Wales has recommended only three minor changes of constituency boundaries to bring them again into line with recently altered local government boundaries. The Commission for Northern Ireland has not found it necessary to recommend any changes. The Boundary Commission for Scotland, in addition to a number of minor changes to bring constituency boundaries into line with altered local boundaries, has proposed substantial changes to 12 constituencies in Glasgow, to four in Edinburgh and to four county constituencies. The Scottish Commission did not find it necessary to recommend an increase or decrease in the representation of any county or city, and it was able to base its proposals to a very large extent on the existing constituency pattern. I will not say more about the Scottish proposals, but any points which hon. Members may want to raise will be answered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland later in the debate.

I will now deal with the Report of the Commission for England. I am not here as spokesman for the Commission. As its constitution, under your chairmanship, Mr. Speaker, makes clear, the Commission is a completely independent body, and I have no power or right of any kind to interfere with its proceedings or to express its mind. It is my duty to lay its Report before Parliament, together with the draft Orders giving effect to its recommendations, Just as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in the first instance, included its initial recommendations without alteration in the Schedule to the Representation of the People Bill, in 1948, so I thought it right to lay before the House draft Orders giving effect to the Commission's recommendations without any modification.

The Commission was required to submit a Report showing the constituencies into which it recommended that England should be divided to give effect to the rules in the Second Schedule to the Redistribution of Seats Act. These rules require that the existing number of constituencies is not to be altered substantially, that so far as practicable each county, county borough and metropolitan borough is to have separate representation and is not to share a constituency with another local government area, and no non-county borough or urban or rural district is to be split between two constituencies; that subject to these requirements electorates are to be as near the quota as practicable; but that the Commission may depart from the rules if special geographical considerations make this desirable.

In giving effect to these rules the Commission considered that in general urban constituencies could support larger electorates than rural constituencies, and it avoided proposing constituencies with electorates of fewer than 40,000 or more than 80,000. It based its recommendations on an allocation of seats to each geographical county in proportion to its electorate, on the basis of the average for English constituencies—57,122 in 1953.

Let us examine for a moment why the Commission allocated seats on this basis, and, in particular, why it allocated them on the basis of the average electorate for constituencies in England when the rules in the Act refer to the electoral quota, which means the average electorate for Great Britain—55,670 in 1953. There are two points to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. In the first place, this is not a new departure. The Commission proceeded on exactly the same basis in 1947, as stated in its initial Report. Secondly, and this is a very important point, the fact that the total number of constituencies is restricted by the Act in effect obliges the Commission to proceed on the basis which I have mentioned.

Clearly, if seats were allocated in England on the basis of the average electorate for Great Britain it is mathematically inevitable that the total number of seats would come to something substantially more than the existing 506. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many more?] Substantially more. I cannot give the exact number. I am only quoting what the Commission says. If this had been done it would substantially—

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

If, in fact, the quota for Great Britain were applied to the English constituencies, it would mean the creation of 519 seats. Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously say that 519 seats is substantially more than the 511 which are now proposed?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I am trying to present the Commission's Report and I am explaining what it had in its mind.

Rightly or wrongly, the Commission says that it is mathematically inevitable—I think that is agreed—that the total number of seats becomes substantially more than 506. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am only quoting what it says in the Report, and the rules expressly forbid this. The Commission was forced, therefore, to allocate seats on the basis of the English average, although at the same time it had regard to the electoral quota, as paragraph 10 of the Report makes perfectly clear.

The procedure of allocating seats to geographical counties also follows in effect from the need to arrive at a total number of seats which is not substantially greater or less than the existing number. Parliament could have provided, for example, that each county and each county borough should be given the number of seats resulting from dividing its electorate by the electoral quota without placing any strict limit on the total number of seats. Parliament, however, did not choose to do this, and since it is clearly essential that all parts of the country should be treated on the same basis, an alternative method of allocation had to be adopted. I do not see what better or fairer method the Commission could have adopted.

In brief, what has it done? It has recommended that 11 new seats should be created in 10 counties; that six seats should be abolished in four counties; that in three counties only minor changes should be made, for instance, adjusting a constituency boundary to an altered local government boundary, with similar minor adjustments in eight other counties, which, in addition, are affected by more important proposals; that in 15 counties, including some of those affected by the creation or abolition of seats, other changes of some importance should be made, designed to produce a better balance between urban and rural representation or to remove undue disparities of electorates; and that in 24 counties no change at all should be made.

Why has the Commission found it necessary to make so many changes? The answer is indicated quite clearly in paragraphs 14 and 17 of the Report. It is the result very largely of the changes made to its recommendations in 1948. It is impossible to discuss the Commission's present recommendations intelligently without referring to what was done in 1948. Briefly, what happened was that 17 borough seats additional to those recommended by the Commission were created, first, by giving two seats to each of eight boroughs with electorates of between 80,000 and 88,000, which the Commission had recommended should have only one seat each, namely, Battersea, Blackburn, East Ham, Gateshead, Hammersmith, Norwich, Paddington and Reading; and, secondly, by giving an additional seat to nine other boroughs, namely, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The recommendations made by the Commission in 1947 were based on 1946 electorates. There were some substantial changes of electorates between 1946 and 1953. In particular, the electorate of Essex increased by about 72,000 and the electorate of Lancashire decreased by about 70,000. But in general the changes were not great. The real basis for most of the Commission's present recommendations is not, therefore, changes of electorates, but the fact that it had to review the whole of the country on the new basis resulting from the creation of those 17 extra seats in 1948. Clearly, a county whose electorate entitles it to x seats on the basis of a total of 489 seats could become entitled to x + 1 seats when the total is increased to 506.

The other side of the medal is that a county which received two or three extra seats as a result of the 1948 changes may prove not to be entitled to keep all of them, even on the basis of the increased total number. An analysis of the figures shows that almost all the Commission's recommendations for increases or reductions of seats are due to these factors. Similarly, most of its recommendations designed to increase borough and reduce county electorates by the inclusion of urban districts in county boroughs are designed to correct the undue favour shown to certain large boroughs in 1948.

Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the statement he has just made has a fundamental effect on the whole of our constitution; that, in fact, what he is telling the House is that, if Parliament decides to take a view different from that recommended by a Commission, the Commission can consider itself at liberty to go back for an indefinite number of years to the original recommendations which Parliament has rejected? Is this not a very serious challenge to the powers of the House as the supreme legislative authority in the country?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

It is obviously open for the House to make what rules it likes, and the rules under which the Commission is working are all rules prescribed by the House. It is not the fault of the Commission that its recommendations were departed from. One of the things that I would deplore would be vast changes in the recommendations made by an independent body. The rules the Commission worked under were those made by this House, and if they are not satisfactory to the House then it is for the House to change them. No one can challenge the fact that the Commission proceeded according to the rules laid down by this House under statute.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading South

The logic of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says is that if these proposals were, in a way, forced upon the Boundary Commission by the changes made from its 1948 recommendations, it would be going back to its 1948 recommendations. But in one case of which I know, that of Reading, it has refused submissions from many authorities that it should go back to its original 1948 recommendations. How does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman square that with the thesis which he has just put forward?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

The hon. Gentleman will know from the Report that the Commission has found it possible to retain some of the seats made against its recommendations in 1948.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading South

But that is not the point.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

The hon. Member will find that the figures for Reading in particular have dropped since 1948, and that according to the Commission's view Reading is not big enough to have two Members. I am only putting the Commission's point of view, which is contained in its Report. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to raise in the debate the point he is now making.

I am discussing purely what, the Commission has recorded. It said at the time that it did not think that certain cities should have two seats, but it was overruled by Parliament. It has found it possible in this Report, however, to retain some of them, while in others the argument is even stronger than it was in 1948 for a change. This is purely the Commission's own view which I have explained. When it comes to the draft Orders the hon. Gentleman and others will have a perfect right to raise particular cases.

Photo of Mr Percy Daines Mr Percy Daines , East Ham North

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that the Commission said that it was its job to reverse what Parliament said in 1948? Is it his own opinion he is putting forward, or is it the Commission's point of view he is putting forward, as he said in the first part of his speech?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I have not departed from what I said at the beginning of my speech. I am not the spokesman of the Commission. I am explaining, as best I can to the House, what is in its Report.

What the Commission did in this Report was to carry out the rules prescribed by Parliament. Parliament can do what it likes about the recommendations; it is for Parliament to decide. This independent body, which was appointed by Parliament, is only doing its duty in bringing a Report forward for the House to decide what shall be done. That is the position, no more and no less.

Every hon. and right hon. Member is entitled, when the draft Orders come forward, to debate them, and it is open to the House to do what it likes with the Orders. [An HON. MEMBER: "With the Whips off?"] I think we had better leave that question alone. I am going to recommend to the House that we accept the independent body's suggestions, rather than try to alter them.

It is clear that the Commission, both in 1947 and now, was faced with a difficult problem in the boroughs having electorates of between about 80,000 and 100,000, and also in larger boroughs with electorates which cannot be divided into constituencies each approximating to the national average.

The Commission could adopt one of three methods of dealing with these cases. First, it could treat them with special favour by giving them rather more seats than their mathematical entitlement and so creating borough constituencies with electorates well below the national average. Both in 1947 and now the Commission rejected this method, no doubt because, the total number of seats being limited, the more under-sized borough constituencies it proposed the fewer seats would have been available for rural areas, and, consequently, the more over-sized county constituencies it would have had to recommend.

The second method was to treat these boroughs unfavourably and create in them borough constituencies with exceptionally high electorates. This was the method which the Commission followed, on the whole, in 1947. The changes made to its recommendations in 1948 showed the Commission that this method was not acceptable, and, therefore, it has not felt able to follow it again.

The Commission, therefore, has clearly been forced back on to the third method, which is that of dismemberment. Thus, a county borough with an electorate of a little over 80,000—which Parliament, in effect, decreed to be the upper limit for a constituency in 1948—must have some of its wards included in a county constituency; or a larger borough with several constituencies having electorates below average must take in adjoining urban districts to boost the average.

The rules allow the Commission to depart from the rule about preserving the integrity of county and metropolitan boroughs if either the rule limiting the total number of constituencies makes it impracticable to comply, or if a departure is necessary to avoid an excessive disparity of electorates.

I have tried to illustrate the operation of the rule limiting the total number of constituencies. As to when a disparity becomes excessive, that, of course, is a matter of opinion and judgment. I will only say that, in general, it seems to me to be difficult to argue that the Commission's interpretation of the rules is mistaken or that it was not entitled to make the recommendations which it has made.

The Government believe that the Commission's recommendations are well-founded and that we should give our support to the recommendations of this independent body which has faithfully carried out the duty laid upon it by Statute. It is of the highest importance to the health of our parliamentary institutions that this matter should be kept, as the Act plainly intends it to be, above party politics. If successive Governments and Parliaments of differing complexions were to disregard the findings of these impartial Commissions, confidence in the justice of our electoral system—the essential foundation of democratic government—would be undermined, and the consequences would be incalculably grave.

Now a word about the orders themselves. We did not think it right to present to Parliament, on a take it or leave it basis, an omnibus Order covering the whole of the recommendations of the Commission. We have thought that it would be for the convenience of Parliament, so far as possible, to have a separate Order for each separate change recommended by the Commission.

When an Order has been approved and made, it will take effect in 14 days. This means that, assuming that the Orders are made within a short time, the 1955 register will be based on the new constituencies. For the purposes of an election, however, the changes will not take effect until the next General Election and—[An HON. MEMBER: "When is that?"] It is nearer than the last one; that is all I can say.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading South

In the future, not in the past.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

—any intervening by-election will be held on the old constituency.

London County Council elections are held on parliamentary constituencies. The London Orders accordingly provide that the changes which they make are to operate also for L.C.C. elections, and for this purpose will come into force for the next ordinary L.C.C. elections on 31st March next.

No doubt everyone will wish the county electoral divisions in London to remain identical with the parliamentary constituencies, and it has seemed to follow from this that the changes should operate for the next L.C.C. elections rather than that those elections should be held on out-of-date constituencies.

In conclusion, I should like to refer to paragraphs 19 and 20 of the English Commission's Report. These paragraphs make tentative suggestions which could only be given effect to by fresh legislation. Such legislation, if there is to be any, could be passed at any time before the next review falls due. The matters call for very careful consideration and for consultation between the parties, and it would be a great mistake to try to rush them. At this stage, therefore, I only wish to make one or two preliminary remarks.

The first suggestion in the Report is that the statutory interval between the general review of constituencies should be extended beyond the three to seven years fixed by the Act. Perhaps I might recall the history of this provision. A departmental committee on electoral machinery to some extent prepared the way for the Speaker's Conference as regards redistribution, and this committee, in its report, suggested that constituencies should be reviewed in the normal lifetime of every Parliament.

This suggestion was taken up by the Speaker's Conference and turned into a recommendation that reviews should take place at intervals of not less than three and not more than seven years. This recommendation was duly incorporated in the Act, and appears to have been accepted without any discussion at all stages. The fact is that no one foresaw the inconvenient consequences of such a frequent review.

We must remember that there is another side to this picture. The last redistribution before 1948 took place in 1918, and by 1939—after 21 years—the electorates of no fewer than 20 constituencies in England had increased to over 100,000—two, Romford and Hendon, to over 200,000—whereas the electorates of 40 were under 35,000, including 13 under 30,000. This suggests that the interval between redistribution should not be as long as that. New communities, in particular, should not be left without separate representation for long periods.

In some respects the present review is merely the completion of the review of 1947; it restores the balance that was upset by the changes made in 1948.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Is it not the case that, in the redistribution after the war, we had a special provision for the redistribution of abnormal constituencies? That was a lesser thing than a complete review, and obviously dealt with the abnormal constituencies mentioned by the Minister.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

Yes, but I do not think that anything was done. [HON. MEMBERS "Yes."] There was a special review in special circumstances. I am talking now about the general review and I think we all agree that five years is on the low side.

As I said, the present review is really a completion of the review of 1947 and restores the balance which was upset in 1948, but few of us would want another review quite so soon again. We shall listen with interest and attention to anything said in the debate on this topic, and we shall be ready to consider sympathetically the possibility of legislation at some convenient time later. For the moment, I want to make the tentative suggestion that the right interval between reviews might be 10, 12 or even 15 years.

The other suggestion of the Commissioners is that the rules should be relaxed to relieve them of any necessity to recommend changes purely for the sake of mathematical equality. This trouble arises principally in large boroughs, because the only one of the existing rules which applies within a large borough is the rule requiring numerical equality. In consequence, a Commission is bound to propose any rearrangement of wards between the constituencies in such a borough which will produce new constituencies which are more nearly equal numerically, even if the existing constituencies do not show gross disparities.

Much the same situation arises where it is a question of arranging a number of small adjoining boroughs or urban districts into groups to form constituencies. In many instances of this kind the existing rules allow the Commissioners little scope for exercising their own judgment: mathematics must rule.

On this subject, too, we shall be interested to hear the views of Members, and if there is general support for the suggestion of the Commission, no doubt an opportunity could be found for dealing with it before the next review. It may well be that—although no one foresaw the need for this—somewhat different rules are required for periodical reviews at regular intervals than were necessary for the far more drastic initial review made nearly 30 years after the previous redistribution and in the wake of the most destructive war in our history.

I hope I have explained all the general points arising from the Report. As I have said, we shall be able to discuss any specific change when we come to the relevant draft Order. I commend the Motion to the House.

4.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Mr. Speaker, I would like, first of all, to join in the tribute paid by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary to you and to your fellow Commissioners. Although I shall make some criticisms of the English Report, I want to make it clear that none of those criticisms will imply any challenge to the impartiality with which they carried out their duties as they interpreted them. What I shall suggest is that they did not interpret their duties correctly, and that the greater part of the difficulties which confront individual Members of the House arise from the failure of the Commissioners to carry out the instructions of the House.

May I, first, deal with the words used by the Minister at the conclusion of his speech? I think there is some feeling on both sides of the House that a review of the period is desirable. Whether a date which he may have mentioned is the right one or not, I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not expect me to pronounce upon at the moment, but it is a matter which might be explored, and we would be willing to enter into it.

As for the other question, while there are matters in which mathematics can be pushed too far in these considerations, one must have some regard to them. After all, the Divisions in this House are determined mathematically by a simple subtraction sum, and I have never known the Chair have any difficulty in arriving at a rough determination as to what the answer of the sum should be. The Chair does not declare by how many the Motion has been carried, but its occupant can clearly determine which is the bigger of the two numbers announced by the Tellers. And, of course, the number of people in the Division Lobbies is determined largely by the result of the redistribution of seats that may take place from time to time. Therefore, one cannot get away from mathematics entirely in dealing with this matter.

I have rarely read a Parliamentary document which gave me as much pleasure as the Report of the Boundary Commission for Scotland. It took each change which the Commissioners proposed to make and described to us how the change came to be suggested to them. For instance, the hon. Member for Aberdeen shire, West (Mr. Spence) tells the Commission that he thinks something ought to go from East Aberdeenshire to West Aberdeenshire, and the matter is considered. On another occasion the Commission has representation from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Trades-ton (Mr. Rankin), and there is a full description of the way in which all these things were considered.

One would have found it a great deal easier to consider the English Report if something of the same kind had been done. We might have found out how some of our colleagues spend a little of their spare time, and we might have got more indication than we get from the Report as to what influenced the Boundary Commissioners when they have made a modifying proposal. I have examined a good many of these proposals and the resulting Orders, and it seems that where the same circumstances arise, quite different decisions have been reached in England.

Speaking personally, I received nothing but courtesy from the Commissioners when I approached them in regard to the proposals concerning my own constituency. An inquiry was held and, although we are not told what the effect was, I am certain that one of the reasons for the decision being reached that was reached was the fact that both the major political parties came with almost precisely the same story to the Commissioners without any previous collaboration. I think we should have been helped if we could have had in the English Report rather more of the history of these proposals than we get, for there we deal only in generalities.

I think that the fundamental mistake which was made in the English case was the departure from the requirements of paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule to the Act, that in the application of these rules to a constituency in Great Britain, a number obtained by dividing the electorate for Great Britain by the number of constituencies in Great Britain existing on the enumeration date should be the electoral quota. Curiously enough, the Commissioners tell us that they did not use that formula, but when they came to the application inside the counties, then, for one reason or another, they appear to have used the electoral quota as defined by the Act, for some purpose which is not quite clear.

The effect of carrying out the Act would have been that the answer to the division sum, dividing the total electorate for England by the electoral quota, would have given 519 seats. I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was quoting something which the Commissioners had told him when he said that that would involve a substantial addition, but I should not have thought that 13 was a substantial addition to 506. At any rate, it is a vague word, and I should not like to say how far one would have to go before one reached a figure which was substantial. Certainly, I should not have thought that 13 on 506 was a substantial addition. If that figure had been used, a good many of the alterations which we have to consider would not have been called for.

Nor do I know where the Commissioners get their instructions to take the geographical county. There is no mention of the geographical county in the Act, and, in fact, it works in the most amazing way. We have huge counties like the West Riding of Yorkshire and we have smaller counties. At the moment, the West Riding of Yorkshire has 46 seats. Norfolk has eight, but, applying the quota, it is entitled to only 6·5; yet it retains eight. Despite figures of that size, no alteration is made; and there are other counties of about the same electoral strength in which the same result would be obtained. It is difficult to discover why no reduction is recommended in such cases.

Another way in which the Boundary Commissioners have gone wrong is that they have assumed that they know what is the right proportion which should exist between borough and county constituencies. It was due to the fact that there was so great a disparity between borough and county constituencies that when we had the previous recommendations in front of us, the House decided to create 17 borough constituencies beyond those recommended by the Commissioners.

It is interesting to note that they appear to have adopted the rule which the House laid down about the big constituencies—that is to say, they have said, as the House said in the previous Measure, that an electorate of more than 80,000 is too large for a single Member. Wherever they have found an electorate of over 80,000, as at Woodford, at Stoke Newing- ton and North Hackney, they have taken steps to reduce that figure. In fact, at Woodford they almost follow what we did; they have virtually divided the constituency into two halves, one of which retains the name of Woodford and hag just over 40,000 in its electorate.

The effect of what the Boundary Commissioners have done is this: before this review there were 291 borough constituencies. On the assumption that all these Orders go through as drafted, there will be 289—that is to say, there will be a reduction of two in the number of borough constituencies. There are now 215 county constituencies. That number would be increased to 222—an increase of seven. This gives us the net increase of five which the Report reveals.

Let us consider exactly what effect this has on the electorate, as between borough and county constituencies. At present, the average size of a borough constituency is 57,884 electors, Under these Orders it becomes 58,239. That is an increase of 445 per constituency. In the counties at present the figure is 56,091. When these Orders come into effect it will be 54,352, a decrease of 1,739.

The disparity between a borough and a county constituency, on the average, is now 1,793, which I should have thought, by and large, was a sufficient recognition of the extra difficulties concerned with county divisions. In future, the disparity will be not 1,793 but 3,977, giving an increase in the disparity of 2,184.

Let us take Essex, which has an electorate of 1,465,547, very nearly 1½ million. The difference between a borough and a county constituency in Essex in future will be, on the average, 5,512; 58,487 for a borough to 52,975 for a county. The view which we form is that that is too big a disparity. The average throughout the country is too big, and it is impossible to consider that we have a really democratic method of election when it is so easy for a minority of electors again to get a majority in the House.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I do not want to take up time later and perhaps I may make a point on Essex now. In page 3 of the English Report, paragraph 16 reads: In our recommendations for Essex and Hertfordshire we have had regard to the pro- bable effect upon the distribution of electorate of the growth of the new towns designated in Orders made under Section 1 of the New Towns Act, 1946. They have tried to look ahead.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Would the right hon. Gentleman read the next sentence?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I have read the whole Report. It notes that adjustments will be necessary.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me, because I wanted to deal with that point. Wokingham—it is not in Essex, but in Berkshire—has another new town, Bracknell, which is fairly rapidly filling. No allowance has been made for that, because a big chunk of Reading has been brought into Wokingham. In the near future that will involve a reassessment of the figures there.

It is no good the Home Secretary trying to say that this is what the Boundary Commissioners have done and that he has had no part in it. The Act expressly provides that he shall submit the Orders to the House, with or without modification. Therefore he must have considered—if he has discharged his duties—whether modifications are to be made. If he decided not, he must accept responsibility for what he puts before the House.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has been declining to see anybody before this debate. Representations have been made to me by corporations which are not of my political colour about their wish to put before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reasons why some of the Orders should have been modified. We shall discuss some of them and, therefore, I do not want to deal with particular instances before we come to them.

I wrote to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman about the case of the City of Nottingham. I understand that an inquiry has been held in Nottingham into the division of that city into wards. It was held in June, if my information is correct. Normally, a decision on such a matter would have been reached by now and that reallocation of wards would have been submitted in an Order dealing with readjustment of the ward boundaries.

I understand that the scheme of wards in Nottingham has been settled. As soon as these Orders come into effect, we shall almost immediately be faced with another revising the wards of Nottingham and the constituencies. Nottinghamshire is a populous county and there is a substantial number of seats in the city and in the county. Only one of these seats has been left undisturbed by the Orders. I understand that it was not until Monday of this week that a communication went from the Home Office to the Nottinghamshire County Council asking whether the Home Office could receive from its Clerk a copy of the representations that the county council and other local authorities made to the Boundary Commissioners when the proposals were put forward.

That brings me to a point on which I wish to speak with some emphasis. Only seven inquiries were held. Here is a case—and I merely take it as an illustration—where the county and the city are wholly revised, with the exception of one seat. Representations are made to the Commissioners that an inquiry should be held. Nothing comes from the Commissioners beyond an acknowledgment—

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading South

Not even an acknowledgment in one case.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

In this case, there was an acknowledgment of the receipt of the representations—until the Order is published indicating that no change is to be made.

It would be more in accordance with English practice, where we have wholesale changes of that nature and where representations are made by responsible authorities and by political parties, that there should be a local inquiry at which these representations could be publicly laid before the Assistant Commissioner.

I do not share the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's feeling that it is a good thing too often to overstep the boundaries between county boroughs and counties. I was rather amused at the wording that the Commissioners used: … we allocated seats provisionally to administrative counties with their associated county boroughs … If there were any description that was a satire on the relationship between county boroughs and counties at certain periods of their existence, no better phrase could have been found. Hon. Members who represent part of a county borough and part of a county frequently find themselves in difficulties owing to the relationship between these types of authorities. They have a very difficult rôle to play in their relationships with the Government Departments that may be concerned.

I cannot help thinking that the use of the discretion in difficult circumstances to form constituencies consisting of part of the county borough and part of the adjoining county has been used much too freely in an effort to secure a mathematical accuracy to a fineness that no one expects can ultimately be found in these matters.

The population of this country is not evenly spread over the land. People will not form themselves into nice little blocks of 55,000 or 57,000 people who are recognisable entities. I want to make it quite plain that I recognise the difficulties that confront the Commissioners in the task we have given them in England as compared with what happens in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has to have 12 and all one has to do is to divide 12 among the electorate. Scotland is to have not fewer than 71, and they have not tried to get beyond that figure. Wales is to have not fewer than 35; they have 36. With those small numbers static, it is easily possible to work out the constituencies, more easily possible than in England where this is a difficult task.

I believe that the assumption by the Boundary Commissioners that they are the people who ought to settle what is the right proportion between county and borough is a misconception on their part. I think that is a thing which comes so close to policy—if it is not policy itself—that it is a matter which this House must reserve to itself. I cannot accept the view that the present proportion, as so gravely disturbed by this review, is one which we ought to regard as the permanent proportion which should exist between these two main branches of the electorate.

I think, also, that the wording of the Act also belies one other assumption which the Boundary Commissioners have made. They say: We much doubt whether parliamentary constituency boundaries should be regarded as relevant to the consideration of the application for the alteration of local government areas, and we did not feel justified in giving weight to this objection. Anyone who has been concerned with local government in the neighbourhood of a growing county borough knows the way in which the clerk of the county borough council, quite rightly, thinks up all the possible things that link this village or that urban district with his county borough. I regard the statement that counties and county boroughs are so far as possible, to be kept apart in the construction of constituencies as stating, as it were, the reverse of what the Boundary Commissioners have put in their Report.

We shall have various Orders before us in due course and to some of these we shall make detailed objections. I am bound to say that I regret that London should be faced with the problem of reorganising its county council constituencies in the short time between now and the London County Council elections. It is well nigh impossible from the point of view of organising—and, after all, we are all concerned with political organisation, and we know its difficulties—to get this done and have an efficient working machine available for the elections to be held on 31st March.

I hope that some means may be found by which that situation can be avoided. The London problem would have been solved if the electoral quota that the Act lays down had been followed. It is only because the electoral quota was departed from that the problems of rearranging London assumed the proportions that the Commissioners allowed them to assume.

This is a difficult matter. But the curious thing is that when all these troubles have been gone through, and an effort has been made to bring constituencies more into line, so little change has, in fact, been made in the number of large constituencies and small constituencies. Now there are 112 constituencies with over 64,000, 47 of which are over 70,000. We shall still have 76 constituencies of over 64,000 and 26 of over 70,000. But this is still more significant; we now have 119 constituencies with under 50,000. That number is reduced by only 13. The number of small constituencies remains almost static, and the creation of the 11 new seats involves the creation of a high proportion of small seats among them. I cannot believe that this is an adequate discharge of the duties laid on the Commissioners, and I shall advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the Motion.

4.46 p.m.

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

I am pleased to be called to speak after the interesting speech on this difficult subject which we have heard from the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I prefer to approach this problem on the assumption that in the task which confronted them, and within their terms of reference, the Boundary Commissioners have been quite impartial. I believe it a matter for regret that the right hon. Gentleman should advise his hon. Friends in the way he said that he would at the close of his speech.

The right hon. Gentleman referred especially to the county of Essex, and I hope that I may be forgiven if I address a few remarks to the House in that connection. He mentioned that the disparity under these proposals as to representation in borough and county districts will be in the neighbourhood of 5,500. He also mentioned that there had been but few inquiries. My information is that there was an inquiry with regard to the Essex proposals at Romford on 29th June of this year. Unfortunately, I was laid aside for many months by illness and was not able to be present. But I am advised that there were only minor objections to the proposals; and indeed, from what I saw in the papers while I was convalescing abroad, they were concerned largely with whether the name of one of the new constituencies should be Brentwood or Billericay.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

As I had the good fortune to be present—and may I say that we all congratulate the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) on his return to health—I can inform the hon. Member that these very issues of the size of county and borough constituencies were raised. It is true that apparently the Commissioners paid no attention to them and made no reference to them in their Report. All they have done is to alter the names of one or two constituencies.

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his kind reference to me. I would say that he has not contradicted what I said. I have been in communication with the Essex County Council which has confirmed that there were no major objections to this proposal.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I happened also to be at this inquiry and I am able to say that what the hon. Gentleman has just said is not correct. Substantial objections about the size of the constituencies were made, and in particular were made most eloquently by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing).

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

I must accept what the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has said since he states he was present; but the objections did not figure very prominently in the local papers.

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

The Press in the County of Essex is certainly not in favour of any party.

The right hon. Gentleman spent a good part of his time wondering whether the divisor into the total electorate should be 506, 511 or 519.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not wonder at all; I know that it ought to be 519.

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

I am not disputing that. In fact, the Boundary Commission took a divisor of 506 and arrived at an average electorate of 57,122. That is a perfect example of fair shares for all, and when we are considering the distribution—or, to use a more popular term, the redistribution—of such an extraordinary commodity as Members of Parliament, it is perfectly right that we should go about the task in a precise and mathematical way. Having regard to all the considerations, I believe that the proposals of the Boundary Commission are perfectly fair and reasonable.

I want to underline the last part of the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend, in which he suggested that these changes seemed to be coming much too frequently. This fact can be illustrated quite simply by the situation which has developed in Essex. My county, which has 1,500,000 voters, has, together with Hertfordshire, suffered more than any other from the influx of the overspill population of the London County Council. in respect of L.C.C. estates and new towns. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, I am afraid that this influx is going to continue for some time.

Essex is to have two additional seats out of the total of 11 for the whole country. This involves major alterations in four county and four borough constituencies. The Secretary of State for Scotland has already drawn attention to paragraph 16 of this Report, which says: In our recommendations for Essex and Hertfordshire we have had regard to the probable effect upon the distribution of electorate of the growth of the new towns designated in Orders made under Section 1 of the New Towns Act. 1946. Some further adjustment of boundaries consequent on development in these areas appears to be inevitable in the years ahead. If we are going to have another review in from three to seven years it is quite clear that Essex will be confronted with more fundamental changes, and I cannot believe that it is in anybody's interest to have this constant chopping and changing of areas and boundaries of constituencies.

In 1945, when I was pushed rather unwillingly into politics, the place in which I lived, in the Brentwood urban district, was part of the Chelmsford constituency. As a result of the Representation of the People Act it was put into the Romford constituency, and under these proposals it will go into the Billericay constituency. It has therefore been divorced twice. I know that there are good precedents for a wife's occasional return to her original partner, but I do not know whether it will eventually happen in this case.

Ongar, which is in my constituency, together with Chigwell—which is part of the Woodford Division, represented by the Prime Minister—is being made into one of these new seats. That town came to us in 1918. Considered against the background of what I have just read from the Report, it is apparent that all these changes, which are very material, may be followed by further changes in the relatively near future. I do not propose to object to these proposals. I maintain that, within its terms of reference and the existing conditions, the Commission has given us some very sound and sensible suggestions, but I do think it is regrettable that the friendships which have been set up on all sides—and which cut across party lines—should be so easily set aside.

I hope that the right hon. Member for South Shields will forgive me for mentioning this, but during his speech I could not help remembering the story of the young cricketer who was playing in his first first-class match and who was given out 1.b.w. He showed quite clearly that he did not think that he was properly out and, as he passed the umpire on his way to the pavilion—as happens at Lords—he said, under his breath, "I was not out," to which the umpire, with Cockney wit, said, "Oh! weren't you—you look at the newspapers tomorrow." The party opposite, having made the regulations and appointed the umpires, do not like the decisions which they arrive at when those decisions work against their party. Thai is not the best way to approach this very difficult and human problem.

In conclusion, I do urge my right hon. and gallant Friend to consider providing for boundary alterations every ten to 15 years and not every three to seven years. The longer period would be infinitely better for the constituencies.

4.56 p.m.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

The result of the last boundary review, worked out according to representation in this House, has been that the Conservative Party has a bonus of half a million votes. In order that both parties should be equally represented, half a million more people have to vote for the Labour Party than for the Conservative Party. I should have thought that everyone, on whatever side of the House he happened to be, ought not to consider that as representing democracy.

The quarrel which hon. Members on this side of the House have with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission is that, far from altering this state of affairs they make it even worse. The Boundary Commissioners have seen fit to make a political decision which they were not entitled to make, which is nowhere contained in the rules and which is quite contrary to the views expressed by Parliament and also to commonsense. The Boundary Commission started with the view that it was proper to have smaller rural seats and larger borough seats, and proceeded on the basis that it must keep intact the small rural seats and if, in order to do so, it had to mess about with borough constituencies, it was perfectly prepared to do so. Instead of attempting to arrive at a reasonable solution of this problem the Boundary Commission has regarded its task as that of keeping in existence the small, historic areas.

Our duty is surely to secure what the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister, once stood for. In the great franchise debates which took place before the First World War, the Prime Minister put forward two propositions. He said, "One man, one vote," and added, "One vote, one value." That is just what the Boundary Commission is not providing for. It is quite wrong for any hon. Member to say, "My constituency is so valuable that the vote of one man in it will have twice the value of the vote of someone who happens to live elsewhere," as happens in some extreme cases. There is very little justification for the great difference between borough and urban constituencies.

What are the duties of a Member of Parliament? The Commission in fact is saying that the difficulties of a Member of Parliament in getting round a large rural area must be set above the problem of making certain that each person's vote has an equal value. In my respectful submission the Commission has grossly exaggerated the difficulties of dealing with rural areas under present circumstances. The problem of a Member of Parliament in a rural area is how to keep in touch with his constituents.

One of the ways in which we keep in touch now is by means of the Post Office. I suppose that hon. Members are more in touch with their constituents by post than in any other way. The size of the constituency does not affect that, but it is affected by numbers. If an hon. Member has a larger constituency, in numbers, he has more work to do in correspondence and less time to visit his constituency. That is an argument in favour of absolute equality.

Secondly, we keep in touch by meetings. How many meetings one can have does not depend on the number of square miles, but on the size and accessibility of halls in individual areas as meeting places. If one has a constituency of very large size but which, in fact, has only four large inhabited centres in which four meetings may be held, that will cover the whole constituency.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

No, the hon. and learned Member seems to have got it quite wrong about rural constituencies. If one has four big halls in a large rural area, such as mine in Cornwall, it is useless having four big meetings; one must have one meeting in each village. If one wants to see constituents, one has to go to them, as they will not come over long distances to see the candidate.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I suppose all of us, except my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who has a number of people coming to him, have the experience when we address a public meeting that for some reason or other the public do not come to meetings. I agree that we have to go to our constituents. If one has a number of centres it is just as easy to go there as to go with a loudspeaker and address everyone in a big scattered urban area. There is no real difference of problem except that in the rural area one has to travel through large comparatively empty spaces.

There is no political basis for this essentially political decision taken by the Boundary Commission. This mistake is going to lead to what might be a quite intolerable political situation in this country. We cannot always continue a situation in which a party which has fewer votes in the country as a whole than other parties continues to monopolise the system of Government by means of an electoral arrangement based upon a supposition which a Boundary Commission has no authority to make, which is quite contrary to the facts and has never been pronounced upon by this House.

Under these circumstances, I hope that at least the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will listen to the criticisms—the individual criticisms—of the Orders which spring from the departure of the Boundary Commission from its terms of reference. Starting on a proposition which was not justified, it goes on to make alterations, to use a wrong quota and misapply it, and give preference to rural areas. Norfolk is a typical example. Norfolk should lose at least a Member and a half and London should lose only half a Member, but Norfolk is not to be reorganised. Why is Norfolk not reorganised? It is because we get back to the "King Charles Head" of the Boundary Commission that rural constituencies ought to be protected at the expense of the towns.

I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not embody his provisions in a Bill as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) did. That would have enabled us to criticise each proposal by Amendments. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will listen to the criticisms and agree to withdraw those Orders where the injustice is greatest.

5.5 p.m.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

I will try to be short. I hope the House will forgive me if I am not as consecutive as I might be by making a longer speech but if I rather comment on one or two quotations from earlier speeches and perhaps a few quotations from the Boundary Commissioners' preface.

I was left unable to understand quite the logic upon which the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) advised his hon. Friends not to take note of the Report. I by no means wholly approve of the Report and, if given permission, I wish to speak upon one of the smaller parts of it; but I do not see how that could lead one not to take note of the Report. Nor did I quite understand the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) to which we have just listened.

I know well that of course Speakers' Conferences do not—and even debates in this House do not—control either the meaning of legislation or the way in which it ought to be administered. I know also that one's general impression of memory is highly deceptive, but I am bound to say that I should have thought that in all the preliminary discussions about this matter—in private, in the Lobbies, in the Speaker's Conference and in this House—there has been general agreement that both scatteredness of population—that is to say, area—and distance from London were reasons why a constituency should be rather smaller than it otherwise would be. Without making some such assumption, it is a little difficult to go on justifying the overrepresentation of Scotland and of Wales.

The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch is almost unique in my experience in having taken on this point the extreme mathematical view which his right hon. leader was, I thought, at so quite proper pains to avoid and which he avoided even more mathematically in earlier debates in this House with which I could trouble you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but which I am sure the right hon. Member will remember. The House will take from me and from his silence that I am not exaggerating anything he has said.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I did not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but if silence is meant to imply consent, I am bound to say that what the hon. Member quoted as to what I did showed that I took a strong view about this disparity between borough and rural constituencies.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

That was not quite what I said. The right hon. Member did indeed take a strong line about that; he took so strong a line that he made the opposite assumption. In some parts of the country he made the assumption, and used his majority to make effective the assumption, that borough status ought to be very considerably smaller than rural status. That is a very odd thing to do. I did not for a moment deny that he had done that.

What he said was that he had expressed his belief that to ride the mathematical principle to anything like a logical extremity was mistaken. He expressed that belief in at least two ways. One was in the speech he made on the Second Reading of the redistribution Bill in December, 1946, when he spoke of mathematics not really having the final word in this matter and the necessity of paying regard to organic considerations and so on. The other was in the very fact of what he was then doing.

He then came to the House and said that the Commission—not the one we are discussing now, but the pre-1946 Commission—had over-estimated the intention of the House in directing it to obey the mathematical factor. He said it was quite excessively obeying the mathematical factor and that was the very reason he was coming to the House for authority to do different things and alter the rules. Therefore, I was well within the truth and by no means tending to exaggeration when I said the right hon. Member took a quite different view on the mathematical factor from the view assumed and expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

One second please. (HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I shall give way in one second. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen can accuse me, as a rule, of discourtesy in not giving way. The fact is that I am just recovering from a bad sore throat and I do not want to go on for too long, as otherwise I may become completely dumb and not be able to speak tomorrow.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

On the point which the hon. Gentleman was making about my right hon. Friend, may I say that my reading of the debate was that my right hon. Friend reported that the Commissioners felt themselves greatly handicapped by the mathematical formula? It was not my right hon. Friend who was objecting, but he felt that the Commissioners were objecting.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend will tell him that he agreed with the Commission in that respect and asked the House to legislate in the way the Commission required, so one cannot distinguish between the two of them on that point.

We are getting into a paradoxical situation over short and long periods. Of course, everyone will say that we do not want the periods to be too short, but for too easily assuming that we do not want the periods between redistribution to be too short there are two reasons. The first is that we are going to make the periods between legislation much shorter. They are already frightfully short. Since 1944, we have already legislated four times and we do not want redistribution very often. Still less do we want the law about it altered too often. So I ask the House not too hastily to agree with the natural impulse to say, "Yes, we all think that five years is too short."

The second point in that direction is that unless what we are doing now is right, and is right, I will not say in every case, but in almost every case—I would even say unless what we are doing now is in no one case clearly wrong—then, to take it for granted that it would be a good thing to have more than a five-year interval before the next change would be very foolish and would very likely be of that vicious circle kind of foolishness that would lead to self-stultification. We should again have another Bill in two or three years' time, and therefore, we must watch this pretty carefully. That is the second point which I ask the House to remember.

The third point to which I invite attention is this. It was said by the right hon. Member for South Shields that the fundamental point in which the Commissioners had gone wrong was in not taking the English average rather than the Great Britain quota. I venture to disagree with him. I do not want to argue the mathematics of this. I am inclined to think that, on the whole, it was a good thing that the Commissioners took the English average rather than the Great Britain quota, but that is not what I am concerned to get the House to accept.

What I am concerned to get the House to accept, if I can, is the rather different point, that is to say, that as the Statute of 1944—I think that was the first of these series—was drafted, I think by some inadvertence, the mathematical factor was given excessive importance. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with that. It can certainly be shown that that Statute gave the mathematical factor more importance than the House had wished, and I think that those who are here will agree with me upon that.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

The hon. Gentleman was, I believe, a member of Mr. Speaker's Conference at that time. I also was a member of that Conference, and my memory does not charge me with any recollection that the hon. Gentleman then voiced the views which he is now voicing.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

I really do not see the relevance of that now. I would appeal to hon. Members not to interrupt me unless I really say something which, quite plainly, ought to be interrupted.

I think that why the Commission has found excessive difficulty this time is because it has not sufficiently recognised its own liberty. I think that as the Statutes now stand under the 1949 Act, which consolidated the 1944 and 1947 Acts, the Commission need not have paid so much attention to the mathematical factor as it has in fact paid. I think that is the mistake, and that that has led to paying insufficient attention to the factor of local organic unity, to the factor of boundaries cutting across counties and of putting bits of boroughs into counties, and so forth.

I think that the Commission has made mistakes of that sort, and that that has been the reason for the mistakes. What, if the Commission has made mistakes of that sort, ought to happen next? I differ with extreme regret from my right hon. and gallant Friend and from the Government, which I am supporting in any case. My right hon. Friend knows that I differ from him with more regret than that with which I differ from some of his colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We all have these irrational affections, and it does no harm to admit them.

It seemed to me that my right hon. and gallant Friend inclined to minimise the responsibility of the House and of the Minister directly concerned in this matter. Whether or not I am right about the law—and I would not for a moment he assertive upon that point—I am quite certain that what the House wanted to be the law was that the mathematical factor should be inferior to the organic factor. That is what was wanted, and although what anyone may have wanted or said in debate does not control the manner in which the courts interpret the Statute, yet we learned yesterday that this is not a matter which the courts w ill construe but one which we are under a duty to construe.

I quite agree with the Government that the less we can interfere with the Commissioners' Report the better. I am quite certain that the Commission had every intention of being impartial and of doing its best, but I am sure that this House ought not to deprive itself of the right to decide that in Case A, Case B or Case C the Commission has made mistakes. Indeed, I think that the Commission itself—in words which I will not quote now, because I shall quote them tomorrow—indicated that, in its judgment, it was perhaps doing what might well be regarded as mistaken in more than one case.

Whether that is so, I can see the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument. We do not want to have all these Orders debated at extreme length and voted on, because we should almost certainly get Divisions on a party line. It seems to me that if, in order to try to avoid the thin end of the wedge, it is being said that we must swallow the whole lot en bloc without any discrimination at all, then, in fact, this House is depriving itself not only of its own power but of its own duty in the matter. Not only have we that general duty, which is necessarily involved, but we also have the specific duty of having these things put before us and of deciding which we shall and which we shall not have.

All I am now pleading is that, unless the Government have already done so, they should not absolutely tie themselves to all of these matters. It should not be impossible to make an exception in the case of one or two of these Orders where it can be shown that no injustice would be done by leaving the thing as it stands and by not swallowing that Order or Orders. All that I am arguing is that where there are a few such cases—4 believe that I have one which I could show to any Committee of High Court judges to be the strongest of the lot—there shall be opportunity given for making an exception. Do not fall into the risk of trying to avoid the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument and, instead of that, cutting off our nose to spite our face—by destroying our own powers by refusing to decide how to exercise them. That is the risk which the House is at present running.

I promised to be short, and I have only one last thing to say, in case I have not a chance of speaking again later. I hope this is a proper thing to say. Mine happens to be the only constituency in the town and county of Nottingham which is not affected by these proposals. I am delighted. It was precisely for the reason that I was the only local Member not affected that the local authority came to me first, I think. I am not suggesting that I have any priority over my colleagues in the county and city, or any such silliness. The local authority thought that I could not be accused of any personal, critical interest in the matter.

I am certain that there are cases—and this is one of them, with which I will deal more elaborately later—where the Tories and the Socialists are agreed that what is proposed is not doing anything but follow up the mistaken and exaggerated importance given to the mathematical factor by the Commission. I am sure that three-quarters of the House would agree with me in saying that. In the course of doing so, the Commission say: "We regret this very much, but it hurts us more than it hurts you."

I cannot see how these reasons can lead me to be very desirous of co-operating with the right hon. Gentleman who last time had this remarkable light from on high about the 17 extra borough seats. Nor can I see how it can lead me not to take note of the Reports, after what I have said about the results and what the right hon. Gentleman said about them. I shall vote for taking note of the Reports but I shall find it very difficult to vote for all the Orders therein involved.

5.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) welcomed back after his illness the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton). I should like both to welcome the hon. Gentleman and to continue in that friendly spirit by welcoming the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) on emerging from that pall of silence which shrouded him during the time when he was one of Her Majesty's Ministers. We have all enjoyed his speech.

It would have been understandable if the hon. Gentleman as a former University representative, had taken some pleasure in the fact that the latest proposals of the Boundary Commission, no doubt quite accidentally, do something to restore to the hon. Gentleman's party the loss which resulted from the abolition of the University seats. But the hon. Gentleman set us a most excellent example. He made a plea to the House to treat this as a non-party matter, as the kind of matter about which every hon. Member ought to be in a position to make up his own mind. I hope that the Home Secretary will listen to the plea that his hon. Friend made and that the Government will not necessarily accept all the proposals of the Boundary Commission but will be prepared to discriminate between them after listening to arguments put forward from both sides of the House.

It is already clear that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction on both sides about many of the proposals which have been made, particularly with reference to the insistence on mathematical equality between constituencies. I agree with the hon. Member for Carlton on that score. The Home Secretary referred to the aim of the Boundary Commission to remove undue disparities in electorates. Personally, I do not think that is the most desirable or necessary thing to do, but it is even less desirable and necessary when it is done in the haphazard and topsy-turvy way in which the Boundary Commission seem to have done it on this occasion. That the Commission takes credit in its Report for the fact that 80 per cent. of the English constituencies fall within the very wide group of 45,000–65,000 electors shows how badly it has failed in achieving mathematical equality.

When we proceed from that admission of defeat on the part of the Commission to look at some of the disparities which it has allowed to continue, one is even more impressed by the failure which the Commission has produced. Let me give one or two examples. The first is West Walthamstow, which will, I hope, for many years to come be represented by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I hope he will represent it until well after his 80th birthday. That constituency has 41,298 electors. It is flanked on one side by Leyton with 76,457 and on another side by Edmonton with 72,984. It makes nonsense of the contentions of the Boundary Commissioners that they are evening out these electoral disparities when situations of that kind are allowed to continue.

It is a little ironical that West Walthamstow, with 41,298, is allowed to remain, while South Reading, with 41,624 electors, is abolished. The two Reading constituencies, with 39,510 in the North and 41,624 in the South, are abolished, whereas Battersea, South, with 39,980, remains in existence, and so does Battersea, North, with 43,277. In another part of the country we find Norfolk, South-West, with 40,782, and Ripon, in Yorkshire, with 40,654. Not only does the Boundary Commission allow those old-established small constituencies to continue in existence—I make no complaint of that—but it goes out of its way to create two new small constituencies in Northwich, with 43,815, and Nantwich, with 42,497. It is very difficult for the Boundary Commissioners, and the Home Secretary when putting their case in this House, to claim that they have succeeded in ironing out the inequalities.

Many of us are a little anxious about the way in which the machinery for lodging objections has worked out in practice. The Home Secretary, quoting from the Boundary Commissioners' Report, told us that seven inquiries had taken place. The hon. Member for Chelmsford apparently thought that the objections which were considered at one of these inquiries were not very substantial. If the objections in the case of the inquiry at Romford were not very substantial, how had the Boundary Commission time to conduct an inquiry there but were quite unable even to reply when the Reading Corporation asked for an inquiry to take place in the case of Reading? There are other constituencies—and London as a whole—where the Boundary Commissioners felt themselves unable to hold inquiries. I hope that these are points which the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs will deal with categorically when he replies to the discussion.

I do not want to take up too much time, and therefore I will pass over the point about the frequency of these Reports by merely saying that I entirely endorse what other hon. Members say on this score. But one point I want to stress is that we are not bound to accept these Reports when they are made. The Boundary Commissioners are under a duty to present them to the Home Secretary, but neither he nor this House is under any obligation to accept them. On this occasion I would have thought that there was everything to be said for not accepting them and for letting them lie on the Table. For that I have, I think, two very good reasons.

First, there is bound to be, within the next two or three years, some sort of review of the structure of local government. That is a subject on which, in my view, neither party has the best of all possible records. It is an issue which both sides of the House are, perhaps naturally, reluctant to face. But I understand that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is at present conducting negotiations, or holding conversations, with the various local government organisations about local government reform, and I hope that some constructive results will flow from those discussions. What happens if, in two or three years' time it may be, we do have this review of local government? It means that local govern- ment finance, local government boundaries and local government functions will all come under review and will be changed.

We then add further to the confusion into which the country is getting. We not only have planning areas, education areas, health areas, police areas, and Parliamentary constituencies and local government areas—few of them coinciding with one another—but we are now adding to the confusion by cutting across local government boundaries with those of constituencies. I think that it will be a great mistake for us to embark on a redistribution of Parliamentary seats at present. We should be wise to defer it until we have some positive proposals for the future of local government so that national and local government can be made to march together.

My last point may not be welcome to so many hon. Members. It is the need for reviewing our whole system of elections. We last had any comprehensive review of our electoral system in 1908. A Royal Commission was appointed then which reported two years later. It does not matter now what its recommendations were, but what is important is that, since that Royal Commission reported, 44 years have elapsed in which we have been able to acquire a good deal of experience which was not then available. Indeed, for the last few years we have had in this country governments which have been elected without a majority of the electorate behind them. Hon. Members opposite are now in charge of our Government, although they had, in fact, quite a substantial minority of votes at the last General Election.

Yet in the last 44 years our system of election has been exported to all parts of the world. In New Zealand, where the electoral system is based on ours, we recently saw rather curious results. Last year, in South Africa, the electors who voted for Dr. Malan numbered 601,850, and they elected 92 members of Parliament. The opponents of Dr. Malan numbered 614,689 and they, although greater in number than the supporters of Dr. Malan, obtained only 43 seats—less than half of what Dr. Malan obtained. We have recently had difficulties in British Guiana, where the electoral system was the same as our own. Last year, although 72,500 people voted against the People's Progressive Party, they only elected six representatives to Parliament, while the 75,100 supporters of P.P.P. elected 18. That kind of disparity and inequality can happen in any country which has our particular electoral system.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker:

This has nothing to do with the Boundary Commission.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

I am grateful to you for that intervention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not want to continue along those lines, but I would say that perhaps the time has come when we should consider whether the electoral system we have is the best possible in the world. It may well be that that is the case. I certainly am not committed—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker:

I have allowed the hon. Gentleman a great deal of latitude. He must not pursue that point.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

In view of what you say, Sir, perhaps I can conclude by saying that although I am, personally, inclined to think that there is room for a general review of these things, I am quite sure that it is inappropriate at the moment that we should commit ourselves to accepting this Report of the Boundary Commission.

5.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

I represent an area once represented in this House by 11 Members, including representatives of the famous borough of Grampound whose name every schoolboy knows. The boundaries of the Cornish divisions were altered many years ago, and there is no alteration in the present Report.

I am sorry to see that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is not in his place, because my only observation is with regard to his speech. I understood that he was advocating a strict mathematical calculation based on the number of constituents in a division, and said that the county divisions were being given undue weight. He said that Members in the county divisions could quite easily keep in touch with a larger number of constituents. That is a complete misunderstanding of the position in the counties. The contrary is the truth.

If one has a large, scattered division, divided, as many of the county divisions are—including all the divisions in Cornwall-into small hamlets—there are hardly any villages—it is really impossible for a Member to deal with the same number of constituents as he could within a compact borough area. He has to travel over a large distance to keep in touch with a large number of small groups of people, which is in contrast to the compact town divisions. It is not at all unfair that the county divisions should have slightly fewer constituents than have the borough divisions. It is much easier for the Member of a borough division to keep in touch with his constituents. I do not want to delay the House, but I thought it worth putting that point on record from the personal experience of a county Member.

5.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I really find myself so much in agreement with the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) that I am sorry he is not in his place for us to celebrate this happy occasion. I agree with him completely that we should not disturb the provisions of the Boundary Commissioners more than we think necessary, but I agree with him, too, that we must apply the Act, which we ourselves have passed, particularly as it is for practical purposes outside the scope of the courts. We must ourselves interpret and apply the Act to the Report today.

I say at once that I am approaching this subject with, I hope, the coolness of the lawyer rather than the ardour of the Celt, because my own constituency is not in the least affected. When I read the English Report I was astonished at the fundamental departure which it makes from the provisions which we ourselves laid down in the Act to be applied by the Commission. My objection to this Report goes to its very root. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend advising us to vote tonight against the Report. I will state my objection as briefly as I can, and, I hope, with a logic which would commend itself to the hon. Member for Carlton.

The fundamental objection to the Report is that which was emphasised so clearly, if I may say so with respect, by my right hon. Friend in his opening remarks. It is that the electoral quota which has been adopted in the Report is based upon the calculation for England in place of the calculation for Great Britain. That calculation has resulted in a higher normal figure per constituency—a higher quota per constituency—than would have been the case had the Commission applied the provisions of the Act.

Two things result from that. First of all, if the quota laid down in the Act had been applied, we should then have found ourselves with 519 seats for England in place of 506. The result would be that it would be quite unnecessary to abolish the six seats that have, in fact, been abolished. No abolition would have been necessary if the rules prescribed in the Act of Parliament had been carried out. That is one result.

The second result is this. The norm taken by the Commission for deciding whether a constituency shall be preserved or whether it shall be altered was higher than the norm prescribed by the Act. The result has been that we have the whole pattern of alterations prescribed by this Act—this enormous mass of substantial alterations in 30 per cent. of the constituencies—resulting and working out on a quota which is not the quota prescribed by the Act. Therefore, we have a Report which is based upon a fundamental departure from the rules prescribed in the Act of Parliament. Those two results were the results of the misapplication by the Commission.

Let me come to the Act and the rules themselves. The Commission is not given some wide discretion to do what it thinks right and just. The Commission is charged with a duty, and that duty, specifically stated in Section 2 of the Act, is to give effect to the Rules set out in the Schedule. Apart from giving effect to the Rules set out in the Schedule, it has no discretion, no purpose, and no authority.

Therefore, it exists only as an instrument to put into operation the Rules that Parliament has prescribed. Therefore, it is bounded and limited by those Rules. They are not instruments that it can disregard or apply at its leisure and its pleasure. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) pointed out, it is not competent for the Commission to say that it will weight Parliamentary distribution in favour of rural constituencies. That, as my hon. and learned Friend said, is a political decision which is completely outside the authority of the Commission. That is a political decision which the most innocent creature knows perfectly well is charged with party political implications.

Now let us look at the Rules themselves. Rule 1 provides that in Great Britain the numbers of the constituencies shall not be substantially greater or less than 613. After deducting 71 for Scotland and 36 for Wales, that leaves 506. This 506 is not taken by the Rules as a factor in arriving at the electoral quota. What the Rules do is to define the electoral quota, in Rule 7, and apply it in Rule 5.

The electoral quota is not arrived at with any regard whatsoever to 506. It is arrived at by taking Great Britain as a whole, and making the calculation on that footing as prescribed in the Rules, resulting in the figure of 519 which I have mentioned. What the Commission does without any kind of explanation or apology is, in paragraphs 8 and 9, to make this figure of 506—not the figure of 519—the whole basis and foundation of the recommendations which it makes in its Report.

We see in paragraph 9 that the Commission puts it right in the forefront: Our aim was to create 506 constituencies … It is not entitled to make it its aim to create 506 constituencies. Its aim should be to create 519 constituencies. The Commission is not entitled to make that departure. There is one limitation, and one only, on this figure of 519, and that is the provision in Rule 1 that the number of constituencies shall not be substantially greater or less than a total, including Scotland and Wales, of 613. In other words, for England the figure shall not be substantially greater than 506. The Commission itself has, in fact, prescribed 511.

So the difference which we are fighting about is the difference between 511 and 519. Is anybody going to suggest that that is substantially greater? Whether they are or whether they are not, the point is that that has not been considered at all in this Report. The Report does not set about it in the right way.

The Commission do not calculate the 519, then in the Report consider the figure of 519 and say, "Having considered that figure, we have come to the conclusion that 519 is substantially greater than 506, and, therefore, we will not have it but we will have 518, or 517, which is not substantially greater than 506." The whole basis of the Commission's calculation is entirely different from that which is laid down as the only method of calculation which the Commission is entitled to adopt at all. Therefore, we have in these Rules a fundamental departure from the authority under which alone the Commission is entitled to operate.

The Home Secretary was rather shy about this figure of 519 when my right hon. Friend mentioned it. Does he not know that the figure works out at 519? Has he not calculated what the figure is? Is he really recommending this House to take a certain course on his analysis of this Report without himself having considered the Rules under which alone the Commission is entitled to operate, without himself working out that the figure which should be taken as the norm for England is not 506 at all, but 519?

Is he coming to this House and recommending this Report without himself appreciating the difference between the electoral quota adopted in the Report and the electoral quota recommended in the Act? Let us look at the effect of it in the case of London.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the Act only laid down a maximum.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman. What does he mean by "a maximum"?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

It never stated that the figure should be 519. It gives a maximum.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

No. The right hon. Gentleman ought to read his brief rather more carefully.

Would he look at Rule 1, which I may say for his convenience, is set out in Appendix B of the Report? It says that in Great Britain the number of constituencies shall be: not substantially greater or less than 613. If the right hon. Gentleman deducts from 613 the 71 for Scotland and the 36 for Wales—it is not 35 as given in the Appendix—he will arrive at a figure of 506. The "not substantially greater … than 613" works out at "not substantially greater … than 506 in the case of England." What is at issue is the difference between 506 and 519, 519 being precisely calculated by dividing the total electorate in Great Britain by the number of constituencies in Great Britain. There is no escaping the figure of 519 to either side of it.

Coming to the operation of the system in the case of London, I will give one case to show how the Commission's misconception has worked out. In paragraph 18 of its Report, the Commission says that it must eliminate one seat in London. Why must it do that? We see that the Commission found that the selection was not easy. One can sympathise with it about that. It is a task which it should never have set itself at all. I understand that the average electorate in London is 56,399. That figure is less than the 57,122, which is the figure arrived at by the English quota calculation which the Commission adopted. The Commission said that it must eliminate one seat, because in addition to the mistake about the electoral quota it adopted a system of taking county units for its calculation which seems to be quite unjustifiable.

Leaving the county unit aside, if, instead of its own quota, the Commission had taken the quota prescribed by the Act, the figure would have been not 57,122, which is greater than the average of 56,399 for the London constituencies, but 55,670, which is less than the 56,399 for the London constituencies. Therefore, if the Commission had followed what was prescribed by the Act it would never have had to abolish a seat in London—it would never have put itself in the position of having to perform this extraordinarily difficult operation which has resulted in the shambles that we now have in Hammersmith and Fulham.

The Commission then goes on, in paragraphs 19 and 20, to describe what it recommends to get itself out of the difficulty. I will quote one sentence from the end of paragraph 20: It would ease the future labours of the Commission and remove much local irritation if Rule 5 That is the one prescribing the electoral quota. … were to be so amended as to allow us to make recommendations preserving the status quo in any area where such a course appeared to be desirable and not inconsistent with the broad intention of the Rules. The Commission says that the remedy is to give it more discretion. I say that the remedy is that it should not attempt to exercise a discretion which was never given to it at all. What it should have done was to apply the Rule strictly. If it had done so, it would not have caused what it calls "local irritation" but which I should describe as "a general eruption all over the country." It is by disregarding the Rules laid down by Parliament that it has put itself in the position of causing the enormous quantity of alterations which is now disturbing the whole country. If the Commission had followed the Rules, we should have had instead a restricted recommendation, which was exactly what Parliament had in mind when it passed the Act. The remedy for that is to apply the Rules and not to give more discretion.

I come again to the observations made by the hon. Member for Carlton. Of course it is for us to apply the principles which we ourselves have laid down, and we should not depart from those principles by any hurried decision in the heat of specific Orders which are before us dealing with particular constituencies. We should apply the principles judicially.

When we look at what the Commission has done we find that it has not applied the principles at all. The Commission not having applied those principles, surely we are not going to stand by and say, "We are nevertheless going to adopt recommendations made contrary to the principles that we laid down." That should not be done. This House will do a thoroughly bad and pernicious thing if it tonight approves the Report.

We have had Crichel Down. What is essential is that people outside the House, whether they be civil servants, commissioners or anybody else, however exalted or however lowly they are, should strictly apply the law laid down by the House, and we should not have departures from those Rules exercised by virtue of a discretion which has never been given. We ought to apply equally to all the principle that when Parliament has made a decision we ourselves should ensure that it is carried out. I hope that we shall tonight abide by our own decision.

5.57 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes

I agree with the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that it is very important that we should approach a problem such as this with as little party spirit as possible. I wish to make a few observations, fortified by the thought, if it be a fortification, that I can approach the problem in an objective fashion, because, whatever happens, it will not make any personal difference to me, because I am not offering myself for election to the House again.

The general problem of redistribution is, as most hon. Members understand, vastly more important than is perhaps generally understood in the country. Many people in the country, having seen the changes in the distribution of seats that took place as between the General Elections of 1945, 1950, and 1951, argue and give their explanations on the assumption that there was some turning of opinion corresponding to the change in the distribution of seats.

I think hon. Members are aware that that was by no means what happened. On the contrary, the vote of the Socialist Party at each of the last three General Elections, though they got fewer seats, steadily increased. The Socialist Party polled 12 million votes in 1945, 13 million in 1950, and just under 14 million in 1951. It is true that the vote of the Conservative Party also increased, especially as between 1945 and 1950. But the Conservative Party mainly attracted votes, not from people who were converted from Socialism, but from people who did not record their votes at all in 1945. That is an objective fact. I am not arguing whether we like it or not. We have to face the fact that it was so.

We must also face the fact that the main difference between the results of the 1950 and 1951 General Elections was not any change of opinion. More people voted Socialist in 1951, but almost exactly the same number to a digit voted anti-Socialist—voted for other parties. The main consideration was that the vote was distributed differenty as between the Conservatives and the Liberals, which under our electoral system made all the difference to the representation. In the same way, between 1945 and 1950 the greatest reason for the enormous turnover of seats was the redistribution which took place rather than any change in opinion.

That being so, so long as we have these two vast monolithic parties almost equal to one another in strength—the Gallup polls go up half a point and down half a point; substantially equal, and there is not the least reason to think that it will not continue to be so for a considerable time to come—the situation that we face is that who wins or loses General Elections depends more on how the boundaries of constituencies are drawn than on anything else. It is most important that we should understand that, and face the fact.

What are we to do about it? I should not be allowed to follow the line of thought suggested by the hon. Member for Rossendale and say that we should consider whether reform of our electoral system is not necessary. The hon. Member has been rebuked for attempting that, and naturally I do not want to have to join him on the stool of repentance. Instead, I propose to confine my remarks strictly to the consideration of this particular but smaller problem which is before us today.

What should we say about the Report of the Commission? I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), and I cannot see the point of refusing to take note of the Report; but, on going on to argue the merits, I would not put the point in exactly the same way as did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas). I would not say that the Commissioners have refused to follow the instructions of Parliament.

If I were holding a brief for the Commissioners, I would argue on their behalf that the instructions of Parliament are extremely unclear, that it would be very difficult to follow the contradiction in the two obligations which have been placed upon them, and that it is very difficult to know how to equate the one with the other. The hon. and learned Member tried to get out of the difficulty and minimise the confusion in the instructions by soft-pedalling the instructions about the substantial increase in the number of Members.

I myself would not feel at all happy if we had a system in which there was a steady increase in the number of Members of Parliament every five years—we ought to watch against that—but whether the confusion comes through the fault of Parliament or of the Commission does not matter. Wherever the fault may lie, the fact is that the consequence of this Report is to deal grave damage to the principle of organic unity.

I think that, at any rate, there is sufficient honest doubt in the minds of hon. Members in all parts of the House as to whether the intentions of Parliament are being carried out to make it very improper that we should automatically accept this Report as a mere technical document to implement something upon which we have already given a decision. We must agree that there is a sufficient amount of disturbance in the minds of hon. Members in all quarters of the House to make it wrong that we should do anything of that nature.

Therefore, what are we to do? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton, and I do not think that we can really honestly avoid the difficulties, or that we should give a blank cheque to the Commissioners. I do not see how hon. Members can be expected to accept that as an obligation which is necessary in all circumstances before we have even debated the details.

On the other hand, from the very fact that I have argued that there is this close balance of parties, and that who wins or loses an Election depends enormously on the way in which redistribution takes place, it is obviously going to be very undesirable indeed to allow a custom to grow up of settling the boundaries of constituencies by party divisions in this House, because, in the nature of things, party divisions in this House are always won by the Government. That would be an enormous temptation to put into the minds—let us put the case in a hypothetical future—of whatever right hon. Gentlemen might be sitting on the Government Front Bench in order to perpetuate their own power by the use of this extraordinary weapon. Therefore, that is very highly undesirable.

What, therefore, can we do? I have two suggestions to make. The first is in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton, and the second is that suggested by the hon. Member for Rossendale. When we come to consider these particular recommendations, I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary will allow the recommendations to be considered on their intrinsic merits, and if it occurs, as I believe it will, that there are a number of cases in which there is a general local opinion on non-party lines that the boundaries have been wrongly drawn, that he will allow detailed rectifications to be made. It may be that, as a result, there will emerge a scheme that might be accepted by all. That would be the best result. If that be difficult, and if time be limited, or if it is not possible to obtain general agreement, I would then fall back on the point made by the hon. Member for Rossendale, with which I quite agree.

The one thing upon which everybody in this House seems to be agreed is that redistribution happens too frequently, and that in future we are not going to have it as often as once in five years. If we are going to do that in the future, why not start now? If we cannot get a proper scheme along the lines which I have suggested, I do not think it would be a disaster if we were to go on to the next General Election with the present distribution. It is true that there will be anomalies, but is it not equally likely that there would be as many anomalies in the new scheme as in the old? In that case, would it not be better to go on as we are, and settle the matter at more leisure, in the future?

6.6 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

From the speeches which we have heard from all sides of the House, more particularly the last two speeches from the other side, the Home Secretary will realise that the Commission's Report for England has caused a good deal of uneasiness, which is not in any way determined on party lines or by party allegiances.

I think all of us realise that the Boundary Commissioners for England had a very difficult task—in fact, an almost impossible one—but we can also say having looked at all the circumstances, that they set about it in a way never intended when the Commission was set up. We can also say that its proposals are quite unjustifiable, having regard to the widespread changes that took place only four years ago, when the changes previously authorised in 1948 took effect; and that the recommendations create almost as many anomalies as, in fact, the Commission attempts to solve.

I do not think any of us should be at all inhibited about making criticisms because of the fact that the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1949, which was only recently passed, and happened to be introduced by a Government of the party on this side of the House. We must speak if we find that the Act is not working as the parties intended it to work, or that the Commission has not been using the machinery of the Act as specifically authorised. Any Government would have been morally bound to introduce an Act somewhat on the lines of the 1949 Act, because all the parties in the House were represented at the Speaker's Conference, which unanimously agreed to set up a permanent commission, with these periodical reviews. If we find, as undoubtedly I think we shall, from the speeches already made on both sides of the House, that there are serious misgivings, we must look again at this kind of machinery, and the nature of the Act itself.

When the provisional Reports began to appear last May, I think it is true to say that there was very widespread concern, not only among Members of Parliament, but even more perhaps among members of local authorities and officials who have to carry out these changes and make the necessary adjustments; and, there was certainly anxiety among the workers in political organisations. Nobody had expected that the English Commission would make such wholesale proposals for changes so soon after the last dislocation. It is important for the House to remember that in the 1948 Act, when the number of seats was reduced from 640 to 625, only 80 constituencies in the United Kingdom were at that time unchanged; and the effect of the 1948 proposals took place only four years ago.

Most people were reconciled to a fairly comprehensive review in 1948, because there had been only minor proposals in relation to the very large constituencies in 1944; and there had been no general review since 1918. But everyone who is familiar with the nature of this problem was, I am certain, surprised that, on top of the 540 changes under the 1948 Act, another 181 alterations to constituencies for England alone should be suggested at the present time. Indeed, the provisional proposals for England contained no fewer than 250 suggested changes, although some of them have been dropped.

On general principles, it seems to me that three most unfortunate consequences flow from frequent alteration. First, electors get the feeling that they are being pushed around to achieve some kind of mathematical equation. Second, Members of Parliament do not get the time in a short period, to know their constituency, or constituents to know their Members. This point was very well put by Professor Mackenzie, of Manchester, in a letter in "The Times" of 18th May, when, commenting upon the provisional proposals of the Commission for England, he said: Academic students of the constitution had assumed, perhaps too quickly … that our present system of constituencies is based on a compromise between the theory of equal electoral districts and the tradition that M.P.s represent local communities and local continuity as well as individual voters. I am quite certain that we cannot depart from that generally agreed constitutional principle without serious consequences.

Thirdly, there is the dislocation, chaos, and confusion caused to political parties. This does not matter to political parties as such, but in these days of universal suffrage political parties are part of the democratic apparatus of representative Government. It is important that attention should be given to the difficulties which are created for political organisation by frequent changes of the kind that we have experienced in 1948 and as are now proposed.

In this connection I want particularly to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the case of London in respect of the London County Council elections. The right hon. and learned Gentleman quite blithely seemed to suggest that, because there was a provision in the Order saying that the county constituencies should be equivalent to the Parliamentary constituencies, another awkward little problem had been solved. But it is not solved at all.

I do not know when these proposals will finally get the force of law, but let us suppose that it happens within a few days. It will mean that political workers have to create new constituency parties, with all the merging and amalgamation that that entails, to secure new candidates and, in this case of London, to eliminate a certain number of candidates who will not be required, since another incidental result of the Commission's proposals is to reduce the number of London county councillors from 129 to 126.

All that must be done in time for the local elections in March, and it is putting a quite unnecessary strain upon local political organisations, and also upon the administration of the electoral affairs of the County of London. And this, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) said, arises because the Commission has used as the electoral quota a figure which is quite unauthorised.

Those three difficulties flow from these repeated changes. I hope, particularly in connection with the last one I have mentioned, that if these proposals go through—I still hope that in the case of London and some of the other more outrageous suggestions they will not be accepted by the House—the Home Secretary will consider making some standstill arrangement so far as the county constituencies for London are concerned.

Having regard to the three disadvantages which I have indicated, I should like to give two specific physical examples to show what can occur. The first is an extreme example, which I do not pretend is typical, but it has in fact happened. People in the locality in question feel that they are being pushed around by the application of some rigid artificial formula.

The small district of Woodlands, in Kent, an area of a few hundred electors, will have been in four constituencies in the last nine years. The fact that it is a county area should make no difference to the attention that we pay to its inhabitants. Before 1945 this small district was in the Sevenoaks area. Then, it went into Chislehurst. In 1950, it was placed in the Orpington constituency, and now it is proposed that it should go into Dartford. It is quite unjustifiable to suggest that this sort of change is either necessary or achieves any useful democratic purpose. In the meantime, the individuals affected do not know who their Member of Parliament is, because there have been so many changes. We really must put a stop to that kind of nonsense.

To take a much larger area—it, too, happens to be in Kent, although I could quote many other instances—the 5,000 electors of Swanscombe were formerly in Chislehurst. Now, they are in the Gravesend constituency; and again, it is proposed that they should go into Dartford. It may well be that they ought to have been in Dartford in the first case—I do not know; but what I do suggest is that to push and pull people in and out of constituencies like this is not in the best interest of representative government anywhere.

Reference has been made to the much more serious action of the Commission in departing from the statutory electoral quota laid down by the Act. The Home Secretary's defence of this action—obviously, he had anticipated that it would be raised—was extremely weak and unconvincing. He said that he thought it was not a bad idea, having regard to the circumstances of there being so many constituencies for Wales and so many constituencies for Scotland.

The Commission for England, I notice, referred to the fact that it heard earlier in its inquiries that there were not likely to be any spare seats in Wales or Scotland. What on earth has that to do with the findings of the Commission for England? It should decide on the merits of the English electorate.

The Commission ought to apply the statutory quota, which is clearly defined in the Act. I could not understand what the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) meant when he said that the Rules were not clear. This is quite specific. One divides the electorate of Great Britain by the number of constituencies existing at the time of the enumeration. But the Commission for England says quite blatantly, in paragraph 8, that it departed from that formula. Apparently, the Commission departed from it because it was mesmerised by the figure of 506, the existing 'number of English constituencies, and the fact that it would not gain any extra seats from Wales or Scotland.

It is a good job that the Commission did not go on to make any further comparisons with Wales or Scotland, because if we compare the average of English constituencies with the average of Scottish constituencies we find that we are very much under-represented as far as England is concerned. The average electorate for Scottish constituencies is only 48,000 as compared with 57,000 for England. However, I do not wish to upset the Act of Union, and I do not pursue that matter further, except to say that, in my view, the Commission for England has no need or occasion to take into consideration the number of seats in Scotland or in Wales.

If, for instance, there was an even greater migration from Scotland to England than now habitually takes place, are we to say that for all time there must be no substantial alteration in the number of English seats because of the particular requirements of the Act in relation to Scotland and Wales? This preoccupation of the Commission with constituencies in other areas has nothing whatever to do with the Commission's task in England, and in so far as it influenced the Commission in its decision it was quite wrong of the Commission to have taken note of it.

Clearly, the electoral quota was intended by Parliament to be a measuring stick of the size of constituencies, and there is no authority to adopt any other. That is clear beyond peradventure. Many of the Commission's difficulties would not have arisen had it adhered to the quota which the House laid down for it.

If we divide the 28 million English electors by the quota of 55,670, which is the quota for Great Britain, we get 519 seats. When the Home Secretary was discussing whether the number of constituencies was substantially greater or less than the number specified in Rule 1, I interrupted hirn—I am grateful to him for giving way to me—but he did not seem to know how many seats would be required if the quota for Great Britain were applied to the English electorate. The number of additional seats over that which is now proposed by the Commission is quite small. The Commission is now proposing 618 seats.

We should give England a fair share by using what Parliament intended should be the quota, the number 55,670. We should then have 519 English seats, making a total of 626. Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman honestly say that 626 seats is substantially greater than the figure of 613 in the Act, whereas 618, as proposed, is not? It is quite intolerable to pretend that a difference of eight seats is substantially greater, and I hope he will see whether, even now, he cannot save the Government from embarrassment and the Commission from the difficulties it has got into by using a quota which was not authorised. I hope he will see whether England cannot at last have its proper representation of 519 seats.

The practice of the Commission of choosing a phoney quota and then dividing it into artificial administrative counties has produced the most astonishing results. It seems to have produced the maximum dislocation with the minimum removal of the anomalies that it is supposed to be the business of the Commission to rectify.

I do not know whether the Home Secretary gave the Commission any direction, but there is nothing in the Act which says the Commission should use a county as a unit of the electorate. In some cases the county is an entirely artificial creation. London is an example of this sort. Indeed, many people would say that it is artificial for many other purposes. The mutilated condition of Middlesex since 1888 does not make that county a convenient unit for this or many other purposes. The dislocation proposed by the Commission, not only in London but for the West Riding and in other areas, was never intended by Parliament, and certainly does not benefit representative Government.

If we divide the unauthorised quota into the electorate of London we get a fraction of just over 42. Therefore, the Commission says, "We have to reduce London's seats by one." As a result of that the boundaries of four Metropolitan boroughs are to be merged, a proceeding which under paragraph 4 (1, a) of the Second Schedule to the Act, the Commission is asked particularly not to do, unless there are exceptional circumstances. What are the exceptional circumstances which makes the Commission mess about with four Metropolitan boroughs and change eight constituency boundaries, at the same time leaving Hackney and Stoke Newington with only two Members?

The Commission said that it had great difficulty in effecting a reduction in London, and no wonder. It is only because four rather smaller constituencies occur together, though by no means the smallest, Hammersmith and Fulham, that it could, in fact, make this unfortunate reduction. As a result of all this we find no fewer than 13 out of the 19 Metropolitan boroughs north of the River have their boundaries infringed.

This creates all sorts of difficulties for the returning officers, particularly for the returning officer who finds that his town hall is not in his constituency at all, for election agents, polling officers, etc. If the quota defined by the Act had been used no reduction need have been made in London. I suggest that the London proposal is quite unjustified on the facts.

A similar argument applies to the West Riding, where 44 seats are reduced to 42. To achieve that the boundaries of no fewer than 20 constituencies are changed. The playing about with boundaries in this way is entirely unjustified, and I hope that Members in all parts of the House will show what they think about it later tonight.

Of course, this artificial and unreal way of analysing constituencies breaks down in the small counties, because it cannot be applied, and so the disproportion between the electors in boroughs and those in small county districts is even greater. In Cumberland there are four constituencies, rather small ones, with electorates of 48,000. Even the Commission realised that, if it was working county by county, it could not effect a reduction there, because that would have meant three constituencies with electorates of over 67,000. So the smaller counties are left alone, thus making greater the differences between the large counties and boroughs and the small rural areas. After this fiddling about with the quota we still have 65 constituencies with more than 65,000 electors, 27 of them with more than 70,000 electors, and 106 with 50,000 electors, or less; 36 of the 106 have less than 45,000 electors.

One would have thought that the Commission, if it was creating a new seat, would at least have tried to prevent it from being either very small or very large because those are the very anomalies it is supposed to remove. Let us look at the new creations. They are very small or very large. The new Wimbledon creation has only 44,000 electors. In Middlesex the new Spelthorne division has only 44,000. Feltham has 50,000, and Erith 52,000, and Meridon 52,000.

Yet the three new Hull seats all have an electorate of 67,000 or over. These are the new creations of the Commission which was supposed to clear up anomalies. These changes show that the Commission's work has not only been badly done but creates as many difficulties for the future as it has solved. In Middlesex, there are still left four constituencies with more than 70,000 electors. I suppose the Commission had the same difficulties there as in London in applying its artificial Rule, and so created two small constituencies in one corner of Middlesex, leaving a number of large constituencies in another part of the country.

I have no doubt that the Commission did its work with diligence and in a conscientious manner, but I think that whoever handled the public relations did it pretty badly. I want to give three examples of that. First, representations were made in connection with inquiries. I have come across a number of instances in which representations were not even acknowledged. Even when representations were acknowledged, many of those who sent in objections were not informed whether or not there was to be an inquiry.

I met a town clerk yesterday, whose name I am prepared to tell the Home Secretary if he wants to know it, who said he had not yet heard—although, of course, he knows the answer now—whether there was to be a public inquiry in the case in which he was interested. That kind of thing is quite unnecessary, and it adds to the uneasiness people feel about what they consider to be the arbitrary conduct and the indifference to public opinion on the part of the Commission. All objectors should have been notified.

In this connection I do not understand how the Commission used its discretionary power about inquiries. It found time to go to Essex, where perhaps matters were not of major importance, but it certainly did not find time for the West Riding, or for London, where representations were made by all the political parties, by the London County Council, and by the Metropolitan boroughs. Yet there was no inquiry into this widespread dislocation and merging of borough boundaries in London.

Why were there only seven inquiries? Why also did the Commissioners not print, as do the Scottish and Welsh, their reasons for not adopting objections? I believe the reason was that one of the early inquiries was in Surrey, and there was so much criticism of the arbitrary way in which the Commission was proposing changes for Surrey that I think the Commission decided to hold as few inquiries as it could, with the result that they were held generally in places where there were only comparatively minor matters in dispute.

I am quite sure that, whatever happens in the future, these periods of review must be of much greater length. We must also pay much more attention in general to the infringement of local government areas. The classical example in this redistribution is Reading, where the city of Reading will be in three constituencies, one bit in the town of Reading and two bits in two county divisions. Yet the people who live in Reading, and their political organisations, will be expected to come together for local government purposes. This creates quite unnecessary difficulties in the working of municipal affairs.

Finally, I wonder whether the House will come to the conclusion that permanent Boundary Commissions may be an unnecessary luxury. Perhaps I use an argument that would come better from the other side of the House, but I believe that if we have permanent Commissions there will be a tendency for the Commissions to feel that they must justify themselves, and a tendency to make alterations, if only minor ones, to Parliamentary constituencies, as those for Chatham and Rochester, which affect only two electors. Why make that sort of alteration at all? We might have machinery to deal from time to time with very large or very small constituencies—those above 80,000 and those below 40,000 electors.

If we can have no assurance from the Government about these serious points, and unless we see that the Government are going to be reasonable with regard to these proposals, I hope that opinion will consolidate along those lines of abolishing for the future the permanent Commissions.

6.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Thompson Mr Kenneth Thompson , Liverpool, Walton

Two things emerge from the debate. The first is that the drawing of constituency boundaries is an extremely difficult, complicated and tender job. The second is that, so far as the Rules provided for it permitted, the Commission has presented a Report which reflects a completely impartial approach to its job. It would be a great pity, from everyone's point of view, if the debate gave the impression that the Commission had behaved otherwise. Whichever is the electoral quota which is proper for the assessment of the number of seats allocated to England, Scotland or Wales, I am sure that the Boundary Commission chose its quota not for any party political reason or sinister motive whatsoever, but because the reasons to its mind seemed to be good.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Thompson Mr Kenneth Thompson , Liverpool, Walton

If I may speak a dozen sentences without interruption, it may help the flow of the debate.

It seems to me a major criticism of the Report which is before the House that those who have presented it to the Home Secretary have too little rather than too much political knowledge of what makes a political organisation tick. It seems to me that these gentlemen, with the very best motives and most honourable intentions, have confined themselves unnecessarily within an ivory tower of their own and have attempted to shield themselves quite artificially from the political and party considerations by which Parliamentary life is controlled and by which we who represent constituencies find our way into this Chamber.

It may be that the Boundary Commission did not conduct its affairs in the way that I think it did, but I submit to the House the picture as it presents itself to me. I see these gentlemen—I say with regret under your presidency, Mr. Speaker—establish themselves in a room, shielded and protected from the glare of publicity and Press reporting, armed and equipped with an impressive bundle of Ordnance Survey maps, regarding this as entirely a business of lines on those maps, considering figures, not electors, as the basis on which their considerations are to be conducted and trying to fit figures and lines into some coherent pattern. Mainly as a result of that fact, the House finds itself faced with a Report which pleases nobody and is causing in most of the constituencies a great deal of concern.

We in this House are compelled to face the facts of political life. Political party organisation consists of the little constituency club, a polling district committee, a ward organisation, a constituency organisation, all pyramiding up from the modest, humble unobtrusive men and women who knock on doors, write names and addresses and do the slogging, day-to-day work of a political party. That is the system under which political organisation has grown. Every time a unit is taken from the electorate of a constituency, every time a boundary line is altered by however much or however little, some Mrs. Jones is chivvied out of this organisation and hived off to what is to her a foreign land, where there are a lot of people who do not speak her language. At the whim—if that is not an offensive word—of the Boundary Commission, she is expected to accept this as her lot and destiny and the pattern of her future political activity.

That is the immediate concern of hon. Members. We are a part only of that structure, but it goes further than that. It does not concern itself only with the party political organisations by which we live. It concerns itself also with the ordinary people who live in the streets and villages of our constituencies. Time goes on and they may not like us very much, they may tolerate us but they do get to know us as their Member or their candidate. Something happens in their lives, big or little. There is a question of a pension or a war damage claim, or John Willie in some foreign land is in trouble, and they think in the first place of their Member of Parliament. If he has done his job reasonably well over the passage of years, it is not difficult for them to recall his name or his face, even if it gives them the horrors to do so. Then the Boundary Commission draws a line and out of their lives completely goes this man or woman who has performed this function without too much offence over the years, and in comes an entirely different individual.

As a local boy representing part of the city in which he was born, it has always seemed to me of the uttermost importance that the individual elector should feel at ease and confident in the company of his Member of Parliament. It is wrong that a Member should be worlds apart from those whom he represents. Once we play about with this relationship between the individual elector and the Member we do our democracy no good.

I do not demur from the argument that some change has to be made from time to time because the population of the country is eddying about from place to place all the time. We must recognise the fact that these changes are occurring, but the feeling of the House, certainly the feeling of the political parties and, I believe, of the great majority of the electorate, is that these changes are coming too soon on the heels of those made five years ago, and than changes specified under the Act under which the Boundary Commission operates must be at greater intervals.

I was very interested in the proposal of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), and I am in complete harmony with him. We in this House who are interested in and concerned with local government matters are agreed on at least one thing, and that is that it is high time a complete overhaul of the pattern of local government was made, including finances, functions and certainly boundaries. When the 1947 Report was presented to this House and laid the foundations for the first changes that were proposed after the end of the war, it contained the following sentence: We have from the outset been conscious that substantial changes in local government areas may be expected to take place within the next few years … and our recommendations, if accepted, may require considerable revision at an early date. In fact, we are still expecting considerable changes in local government areas to take place within a few years, and to introduce these distortions of Parliamentary boundaries in between 1948 and what we can expect to happen in local government boundary matters seems to me to be unnecessary, harmful and wrong.

I want to refer especially to a matter which seems to me to be of very great importance. The Boundary Commission has established itself in an ivory tower surrounded by papers, calculations and computations. The Commissioners sit on a problem from the city of Liverpool, for example, and see a line on the paper representing an area of the city. They recognise that the city of Liverpool is entitled to nine Members of Parliament by the simple process of counting the heads of the population. They find as a result of the last redistribution which took place that the city of Liverpool, instead of being confined to areas entirely within the municipal boundaries, had incorporated a little bulge on the edge of the city overlapping the perimeter, thus embracing a small part of the Lancashire county area.

For four and a half years a Member of this House representing an area within the city has represented this rural district council area of the county of Lancashire. It would come ill from me to say how that Member has represented the area in question. Suffice it to say that the area makes no complaint now of the proposal of the Boundary Commission to remove it from the representation of a Member from Liverpool, but my point is this. That area as it stands is not, in fact, a rural area. It is not a parish in the accepted sense of the term at all. It is an outgrowth of Liverpool, and I am flattered to think that the electors in that area do not part company with me because they dislike me as much as because they fear that Liverpool is about to bring them into its somewhat cold embrace.

They may not like the fact that they are an outgrowth of Liverpool, and I can quite understand it, but nevertheless they are an outgrowth of that city. The Boundary Commission, examining this problem, has come to the conclusion that it is an abortion of some kind. It does not fit in to the present pattern which it has got to draw, and so the Commission proposes to take these people away after they have been five years in the Parliamentary organisation of this particular city constituency.

While doing this in Liverpool, the Boundary Commission, in Hull, Leicester, Bradford and other parts of the country, is busy bringing county areas into borough constituencies and creating the very anachronisms and abortions about which it has taken action in this area in Liverpool. It seems to me that while the House quite fairly must take note of the proposals of the Commission, we cannot be expected to like the whole of what it is proposing to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) suggested that the House should resolve itself into some sort of complicated Committee to argue about the pros and cons of every aspect of each Order now tabled by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary. Heaven forbid that we should set out on such a task. If we did we should be here long after Boxing Day, never mind next week, and none of the Members would be able to do his or her Christmas shopping, which would be a pity.

But we clearly have to have some second thoughts on what is suggested in this Report and on what is going to be applied. I very much hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will approach with an open mind every one of the Orders, and will be ready to receive suggestions from some of us on these benches as well as from some hon. Members opposite.

6.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) said quite rightly that nobody liked the proposals in this Report. This debate has now been going on for over three hours, and an interesting thing to note is that only one hon. Member has manifested any enthusiasm at all for the Report, and that was the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton).

Photo of Sir Hubert Ashton Sir Hubert Ashton , Chelmsford

If I may, I should like to make my position clear. I did not say that I welcomed the Report on personal grounds, because, in fact, it affects me adversely. But I said that, taking the proposals as a whole and viewing them generally, I thought they were perfectly reasonable.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

That means that the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for the Report is extremely modified. His enthusiasm for it, such as it was, was based, I am obliged to say, on a complete misconception of the whole nature of the Report. He used this analogy. He said that the Boundary Commission was an umpire and that we ought to accept its decisions without question. But what is one of the essential features of an umpire? It is that his decision cannot be questioned by the players. What is one of the essential features of a body like the Boundary Commission set up by this House to report to it? It is that its decision can be and ought to be questioned by this House. We are not in the position of players vis-à-vis the umpire. The Commission has to submit a Report to us and we both have the right and duty to comment on it.

I should like very briefly to refer to the case in the courts yesterday to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) previously made reference. The judge in that case declined to comment on any of the aspects of the matter which would be of most interest to us. He took the view that he could not intervene, because it was possible for this House to intervene. He said that the persons who had a grievance or felt they had a grievance were represented in Parliament like other citizens and could air their grievances there if they thought fit, and would have a hearing there like other aggrieved persons did"— always provided that they are lucky enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speakerand if there was justice in what they said due weight would be given to it. The learned judge is not acquainted with the operation of three-line Whips.

I stress those remarks as serious and important because they underline, if underlining were needed, the fact that this House is fully entitled to disagree with any or all of the Commission's proposals. So it is no good suggesting that there is something unsporting, or almost immoral, in our criticising these Reports. There was an echo of that attitude even in the remarks of the Secretary of State himself; there was a feeling that we were not quite playing the game by not immediately falling into line with the recommendations of the Commission. I am not sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would have taken that line if he had realised what was to be said from the benches behind him in the course of the debate.

Another feature about an umpire—even if we were prepared to put this Commission in that position, which it is not—is that his decisions are to be based on the definite rules laid down in the rule book. What would we say of an umpire in a cricket match who said, "While I am umpire there will be five balls in the over, and not six as it says in the book"? That would be comparable to what this Commission has done by inventing its own English electoral quota instead of the quota laid down in the Act.

I am sorry if I interrupted the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton too soon, but I wanted to put to him what I thought was a pertinent question. The hon. Gentleman suggested that whatever quota the English or Scottish Commissioners had used, no doubt they had done so because they thought it was fair and proper. But they were not asked to use the quota they thought fair and proper but the quota that the Act of Parliament which created them told them they ought to use.

What should we say to an umpire who announced, "While I am umpire there will be five balls to the over?" Or an umpire who added another rule to the book to the effect that, in the case of any doubt, the benefit of the doubt shall be given to any player who happens to live in a rural area, but shall not be given to any player who happens to live in an urban area?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

That is what is being done by these recommendations. I must submit, therefore, that the tempered enthusiasm for the Report shown by the hon. Member for Chelmsford was based on an entire misconception of the constitutional position, and we were happy to find that the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) was, as might have been expected, far too good a constitutionalist to fall into the error into which his hon. Friend had fallen, and into which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State had managed to thrust one foot.

I do not propose to rehearse in detail all the complaints that have been made about the Commission. In sum, they amount to this: that it used for England a measuring rod which was not laid down in the Act. And what excuse had been given for this by the Commissioners and repeated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman? They said that if they did not use such an English measuring rod they would have to depart from the rule that the total number must not be substantially greater or less than 613, which works out in this case at 506 for England.

That was the excuse of the Commission. What does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman do? If I may say so, with much less consideration for the rights of the House than he usually shows, he simply repeats to the House the excuse of the Commission. Surely, before putting that excuse before the House, the Secretary of State ought himself to have tested out its validity, and that could be done quite simply by a long division sum.

If they had used the English quota, would it have obliged them to break the rule about not substantially greater or less than 613? As has been repeatedly pointed out, it would not have obliged them to break the rule. Yet the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not find that out because he did not know what was the answer to that sum. That is why I cannot include the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford as somebody who displayed any enthusiasm for the Report. Because, I am sorry to say, he gave us merely a wooden presentation of what the Report said, without the slightest reason why anybody should feel any enthusiasm for it.

It has been pointed out, then, that the wrong electoral quota has been used which has done an injury to a number of areas, of which London is one. I know, of course, that London is not Scotland, but those who are Londoners feel that occasionally a word should be put in for the claims of the greatest city in the Empire. Further, the Commission has deliberately tilted still more in their favour the balance of advantage which rural constituencies possess. While there may be some arguments in the House, perhaps on party lines, as to whether there ought to be a balance in favour of rural constituencies at all—and I do not think the case is proved—nobody has suggested that there is any justification for what the Commission has done in tilting the balance further in favour of the rural constituencies. There is no warrant for it in the Act of Parliament, there is no necessity for it if the Commissioners are to do their job properly.

Then there is the practice of taking the country county by county, for which again there is no warrant and which, the way things work out, again has the result of giving a further advantage to thinly populated as against thickly populated areas. I do not believe that if people go to live in a thickly populated area, we can then treat those people as if they were bundles of goods counted 13 for a dozen, or for which one gets a rebate for taking a quantity. I think a voter is just as important whether he lives in a thinly populated or a thickly populated area.

There is a further complaint, which has not been answered, about the discourteous—I am sorry to use the word, but I must—attitude of the English Commission towards the public. The Report does not include any reasons for the decisions of the Commissioners. It does not give us a list of objectors. Their attitude with regard to inquiries is most cavalier. I will not elaborate this point, Mr. Speaker, because I shall hope to catch your eye much later when we are discussing a specific Order. However, when the Standing Committee of the Metropolitan Boroughs, and the London County Council—a body which is divided on party lines on most matters—speaks unanimously, it ought to get something better than no answer at all. And when, in addition, all the Metropolitan Boroughs individually affected by the proposals voice their objections, it is wrong that there should be no possibility of an inquiry from the English Commissioners.

Finally, after doing all these things, breaking all these rules, being discourteous to so many people, the English Commission ends with a Report which cannot be justified on any principle, mathematical or geographical or historical—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or ethical."]—or ethical—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or legal."]—or legal, I am grateful to my hon. Friends. One could understand it if the Commissioners had said in effect, "We cannot possibly reconcile all these principles. We cannot get the organic representation of communities fully recognised side by side with doing full justice to the mathematics of the matter, and therefore, in the interests of mathematics, we have had to cut across boundaries." One could understand it if, alternately, they had said, "In the interests of not cutting across boundaries, we have had to push mathematics overboard." If they had said that, one could have sympathised with them.

What they have succeeded in producing, as has been pointed out by a wealth of examples, departs from every possible principle on which the Report might have been justified. And this is now what we are being asked, in effect to approve of. As hon. Members know, there is not really any substantial point in saying that we refuse to take note of it. We know that to divide on the Question of taking note of the Reports is simply an ordinary Parliamentary way of showing that we do not like the Reports and asking the Government to think again before they ask us to assent to the various Orders which will follow.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

That is an extraordinary method. We have never had a Division on a Motion of this nature.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

If it is an extraordinary method, it is at least a very simple and obvious one. One does not need to be very well versed in Parliamentary life to appreciate the common-sense interpretation of the vote which will be taken on the Motion.

Will not the Government look at the matter again? We have had a wooden presentation of the case by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who usually speaks so well and so persuasively. There has been no enthusiasm on either side of the House for the Reports. A great many devastating criticisms have been made against them, and none of them has been answered. Have we the possibility that the Joint Under-Secretary, in face of all this, will be able to convince the House with a powerful, telling oration? I do not believe that even he will be able at this point to sway the House. Perhaps it is the Secretary of State for Scotland who will reply. I do not believe that even he will be able to sway the House, for he has already shown, by an unhappy intervention during the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), that he was unacquainted with the first of the rules on which the English Commission operated.

Is there any reason for us to take medicine which is both nasty and unwholesome simply because the dispenser to whom we committed the work has completely misread the prescription and put in all the ingredients in the wrong proportion? The medicine cannot possibly do us any good. On the contrary, it will do a great many people harm. This is a serious consideration. It will create very great political grievance on the part of a large number of our fellow-citizens. It will create a great deal of unnecessary disturbance and heart-burning. As far as can be discovered, nobody either inside the House or outside it wants the Reports. Surely in those circumstances the Government should ask the leave of the House, which would be enthusiastically given, to withdraw the Motion, and then we might hear no more of either the Reports, or their unfortunate proposals.

7.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

I stand in what is probably a unique position in a United Kingdom debate. I do not think that a Scottish Member has ever been in the position which I find myself tonight. I represent Scotland in a debate in which Scotland is not complaining about any injustices. Indeed, I am in the peculiar position of being envied by all the English hon. Members, because, for the first time in the history of Parliament, so far as I know, they are complaining of injustices compared with the situation in Scotland.

The Home Secretary obviously had no faith or belief in his brief. In fact, on several occasions he washed his hands of any responsibility for the Report. Several times he said that he was not accepting responsibility for it but was merely trying to explain the Commission's reasons for it. If that is actually the Government's position, it would be logical that when we discuss the detailed Orders the Government should not put any Whips on, but should allow the House to decide on the merits of the discussion.

In appointing the Commission, Parliament gave it the very delicate task of adjusting constituency boundaries to changing electorates. That was done because, as a result of the efforts of successive Governments, we had had a revolution in housing; we had created new communities and new towns, and many older communities had almost disappeared. Therefore, the Commission had a duty to try to adjust boundaries to meet the changed conditions.

Hon. Members in all parts of the House have shown that they disagree to a large extent with the judgment which has been exercised by the Commission, and they have even complained, some evidence being produced, that the Commission has not taken the fullest opportunity to consult the people in the localities who best know the circumstances. That is a serious complaint against the English Boundary Commission.

I am in a position to say that because Scotland has been given an explanation about every constituency; we understand why the Commission has come to its conclusions about Scottish constituencies, and are able to discuss the Report intelligently. Perhaps because of this my hon. Friends, with one exception, will not be objecting to the Orders which are to be presented.

However, we do not deny that the English Commission and the other Commissions have devoted energy and enthusiasm to their task. Indeed, the complaint is that they have been over-energetic and over-enthusiastic, and if they had been less so, there would probably have been less trouble in the House. The English Commission did not decide to leave well alone.

Our debate has disclosed a remarkable unanimity of objection to the Report. I have never listened to a debate of this kind in which so much unanimity has been expressed by one hon. Member after another. I thought at first that the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) was going to praise the Commission, but in the end he made perhaps the most telling speech from a human point of view against the Report that we have been debating today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) raised the whole question of proportional representation as a likely solution. The Speaker's Conference took long evidence on the subject of proportional representation, and the matter was debated in the House after perhaps the most exhaustive investigation into the subject which has taken place in any part of the world. Parliament turned it down for the reasons that were disclosed in that debate. Consequently, I would refer any hon. Member who is not conversant with that investigation to the discussions which took place at that time, and to the Speaker's Conference.

The Home Secretary suggested longer gaps. A gap of 10 years has been suggested. I am a little doubtful about that. If there is to be the slightest suggestion that the political party in power will have any influence on the Commission's Report, it would be rather unfortunate for the Labour Party if there were alternate Labour and Tory Governments and it were always a Tory Government which recalled the Commission.

We shall have to look very carefully at the kite which has been flown today. We must obviously ensure that this is done impartially. There must be no question of the sort of impartiality in politics that we get in a great many organisations which regard matters as political if the Labour Party is concerned and non-political if it is the Tory Party. We must see that that does not happen with the Boundary Commissions.

The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) made a very effective speech, and brought to our attention some very important factors governing the Commission. He suggested in the end that we ought to leave well or ill alone, as the case might be. Honestly, after the reception that the Report has had today, I think that on the whole it would have been better to have left well alone.

Having listened to the debate, I must confess that I cannot understand why the Commission clung to the figure of 506 for England. After all, the House had 640 Members in 1945. There was no great need to say that the House must be restricted to a certain number of Members. I am told by one of my hon. Friends that the membership of the House was 675 when the population of the country was much smaller, although that included Irish representation. In any event, the confines of the House did not make it physically impossible to accommodate 675 Members of Parliament.

Therefore, as a Scot, while I would resent any interference with Scotland, I see no reason at all why England should not have had justice, if giving a larger number of Members, such as 519, was the right thing to do. I see no reason at all why the Home Secretary, even at this late stage, should not take back the whole proposal and go into this question to see if that could not be done.

The Report is generally acceptable to Scotland. We have differences of view here and there, and some people would have divided constituencies differently. But there was a feeling that we got a fair deal from the Commission, which heard objections and counter-proposals, and the Commission gave its reasons why they were rejected. On the whole, I think that that Report is accepted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) takes exception to the creation of the enormous constituency in three counties which geographically and for physical reasons is almost impossible to cover in a winter Election. No doubt he will state his case at the proper time.

As a House, we must accept part of the blame. We have asked the Commission to reconcile irreconcilables. If I may quote my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede): We desire that the principle of community of interest, of local government boundaries, shall be made superior to mere mathematics, … the Commissioners had felt themselves gravely handicapped by the strict mathematical formula within which their activities had been confined."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1560.] By the marvellous achievements in housing, we have created new communities and lessened old associations. The Commissions' Reports are in some cases bound to offend either our sense of community or our sense of arithmetical fairness. The results of the previous spring cleanings by the Commissioners have been to make Parliament wish that the Commissions had not been so thorough.

This is not a division sum. It is an operation on living things: what is not realised is that a constituency is a living thing. As the hon. Member for Walton so graphically described it, we are dealing with human beings in association with each other, and their association is being severed, and ruptured, and torn apart, without reason.

It is really frightening to think of the power and duties that we have given these Commissions. The hon. Member for Devizes showed that these Commissioners could actually decide an Election. So nearly are the parties balanced at the moment that the Report of the Commissioners could decide the fate of parties at an Election one way or another. That is a responsibility that should rest with the electors and not with the Boundary Commission.

If I were a member of the Boundary Commission, I should feel that that responsibility should not be placed upon private individuals who were not responsible to the electors. As was suggested by the hon. Member for Devizes, the effect of the Report on the next Election may decide the fate of the Government of the party opposite.

This Commission can guillotine the life of a Member of Parliament who has served in this House for 30 or 40 years, or as long as the Prime Minister, by just a freak of redistribution, and expel him from Parliament without any right of appeal, almost like an act of God. That should not be the case. The Commission can make a constituency of long standing disappear.

The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) complained bitterly at the time of the last redistribution that Govan was taken out of the constituency of Govan. Now, by this miraculous Commission, it is made to reappear as part of the constituency of Govan once again. It is a strange proceeding. Constituencies can disappear, Members can disappear without the responsibility of the electors being invoked. In this shuffling, Members cannot appeal to the electors and ask them whether they endorse or reject a Member's behaviour in Parliament. They simply disappear, and electors have no chance of expressing their views on the behaviour of the Member.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), when he presented the 1945 Act, said it was introduced in an effort to make a further report to the House more in accordance with the historic precedent of representing communities than would have been possible under the Act of 1944. In discussions from the time of the Speaker's Conference to the present day there has emerged the feeling that Members of Parliament for communities and for living entities of areas was the right conception.

It is very difficult to reconcile that with a mere mathematical division. I am quite sure that the House as a whole feels that some way must be found of creating these communities, even though it might mean a certain amount of mathematical discrepancy. But we could not agree that constituencies should be frozen, and the Commission have the power to make adjustments without having a wholesale general post, as seems to be its interpretation of its duties.

If the constituencies are to be involved in a general scramble every few years, no Member can ever get settled down to any continuity of work or representation. My hon. Friends feel very strongly about the Report of the Commission, and when we debate the Orders many of them will express their views. This is not entirely a party matter, because there may be differences of views even within the parties themselves. I hope that the Home Secretary will allow the Orders to be decided according to the merits of the discussion and the cases put by hon. Members who may oppose the Orders.

If that were done, then the Commission's Report might be improved by the work of the House. Hon. Members feel that the Commission could have had better guidance. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) delivered a speech in very strong terms condemning the methods and the whole attitude of the Commission in England in the way it went about its work.

Other Members feel very strongly about it, and because the House is anxious that Members who want to discuss these particular Orders shall not be unduly delayed, it has been impossible to keep the general debate going long enough to allow all hon. Members who would like to object to make their speeches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] That is a matter for hon. Members themselves, but I should have thought that the general agreement would be that hon. Members who were affected by these Orders, and who feel very strongly about them, should not be denied the opportunity of expressing their views.

So far as we are concerned, we agree that when these debates take place the Government should give consideration to them; and that, instead of periodic upheavals in the settling of the boundaries of constituencies, there should rather be a method of evolutionary adjustment. Whatever may be the decision of the House in regard to particular Orders, it has been the general view of the House that the much better course would be for the Home Secretary now to withdraw all the proposals and consider them again. It is quite obvious that the Commission's Report for England is not acceptable to hon. Members on either side of the House.

The Home Secretary showed that in his conscience he did not accept the Report either. He gave no enthusiastic support to it and he washed his hands of any responsibility. The Government should take it back and allow a report to be introduced which will do justice to England, as, we admit, justice has been done to other parts of the country.

7.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary had not got his heart in it, or words to that effect. I should like to say that my right hon. and gallant Friend was being impartial, just as the Commissions themselves have been impartial, in presenting the matter to the House. He said that these are not Government proposals. They are the proposals of impartial Commissions set up under an Act passed by the previous Socialist Government. We felt it our duty to report the conclusions or recommendations to Parliament without tampering with them in any way whatever. It is up to the House to decide what it wishes to do with them.

The right hon. Gentleman also spoke as though the Home Secretary had advocated a lengthening of the period. He did not himself advocate a lengthening of the period. He said that the Government were prepared to consider such a course. On page 4, paragraph 19 of the English Report, appear the words: … we think that consideration should be given to lengthening the minimum and maximum periods between reviews. The Home Secretary was therefore pointing out that the Commission had made the suggestion and that the Government did not close their minds and were prepared to consider this and other suggestions with representatives of the party opposite if that should be wished.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire were very generous in their references to the Commission which sat in Scotland. I am sure that the members of the Commission will be grateful. The problem in Scotland is not such a large one. The right hon. Member for South Shields and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) both referred to the total number of seats. I was accused of not stating the position accurately, but the rules do not state a definite principle. In this country we are not in the habit of being bound to definite figures.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) referred to the differences between rural and urban constituencies. These differences have always existed and I do not think that it is right to say, as certain hon. Members have said, that just because arithmetically the thing is not completely accurate throughout the country, we should scrap the whole lot and start all over again.

If we pursued the line which the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire advocated we might never have got away from the days when Corfe Castle in Dorset, with about 18 cottages, returned two Members of Parliament. I do not know whether hon. Members approve of the advance. I am not one of those rapid advancers, neither am I leader of a party but, if I were, I should probably be found in the position of the Duke of Plaza Toro. At any rate we have to move and even he did lead a regiment from behind. He had to move with the regiment or he might have got left behind and starved.

To divide the House on the Motion that we take note of the Report is a novelty. Our endeavour in the past has been to devise a Motion which would avoid divisions, and this was supposed to be a method of doing that. I should not have objected personally to a division on a Motion to the effect that the House approved, but it seems very odd to refuse to take note of the Reports which we have been debating for the last four hours. Surely some of the people who took part in the debate took the trouble to read at least some parts of the Reports, and to do that, they must have taken note.

These Commissions are impartial bodies, and I do not want hon. Members to have in their minds any feelings of suspicion that the Government are responsible for these recommendations. They are the recommendations of these impartial bodies. They have been tabled separately so that, unless the House wishes to take together a small block of four or five affecting, for example, Edinburgh, each Order can be debated and voted upon separately. The matter is entirely in the hands of the House.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

What about the three-line Whip?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I was a Whip. I have a great belief in the utility of Whips. They serve a very useful purpose. The late Mr. Disraeli had some remarks to make about Whips, but I will not bother the House with them. He found that with the aid of Whips a certain degree of order was attained from what might well have become chaos.

I do not see what better or fairer method the Commissions could have adopted. I should like to repeat the thanks which my right hon. Friend has already expressed to the Commission. I do not know of a better system. As the House knows it was not devised by the present Government, but that does not mean that we will close our eyes to improvements in future, and we will consider, in consultation with representatives of the party opposite, certain suggestions which have been made by the English Commission.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

May I put the right hon. Gentleman right on one point? He has said several times that the Rules were not devised by the present Government. I remind him that they are, if not entirely, then at any rate largely, the result of Mr. Speaker's Conference which sat in 1944 and which was composed overwhelmingly of hon. Members opposite.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I thought that it was an impartial body. I am sure that it carried out its functions impartially. One party or another has to be in a majority; otherwise, I do not know what would happen. We tried to be fair and, as I say, the Commissions are impartial. My mind is carried back by that interruption to the days of 1915 or 1916 and the celebrated cartoon of Bruce Bairnsfather, "If you knows a better 'ole, go to it." Well, I do not.

In Northern Ireland the constituencies remain unaffected. As to Wales, as my right hon. and gallant Friend said—and he has a great responsibility there as well as certain blood connections—there are three minor changes of constituency boundaries. My right hon. and gallant Friend has already referred to them, and I do not think that I need go into detail.

In Scotland there are a few minor changes to bring boundaries into line with altered local boundaries affecting six constituencies. In addition, the Commission has proposed substantial changes affecting 20 constituencies; 12 in Glasgow, four in Edinburgh and four county constituencies. But, as the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire has just said, there will be a debate upon the Midlothian and Peebles Order. I will not go into detail about that now, in order to save the time of the House and because certain hon. Members may not be particularly interested in that constituency. There are two Members who are particularly interested, obviously. One is the hon. Gentleman who at present represents Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) and the other is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson), who is likely to take on a part share of that constituency. In the end, the result will be that 71 Members of Parliament will still be returned to this House from Scotland.

I do not think that the House would wish me to go into a lot of detail regarding the English changes. I am doing my best—

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading South

Do not shoot him, he is doing his best.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

Yes, and I am not a pianist, either.

The main recommendation of the Commission was to the effect that there should be a longer period between reviews. I repeat that the Government do not rule that out. We are prepared to consider it, as has been said. Obviously, however, it would require legislation and would require consideration and consultation. The other point was that there should be—

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), so I had better leave it there. I think that I disagreed with the whole of his speech.

There is the further proposal that the Commission should be relieved of any necessity to recommend changes purely for the sake of mathematical equality. I should have thought, on reading the Rules, that the Commission is not unduly bound in this respect. I think it has latitude, and I think that in Scotland it can be seen that it exercised that latitude. However, I do not rule that out. But, as an example that mathematics cannot rule us entirely in these matters, I would mention one point which I think is a very good example of how rural constituencies may not have so heavy an electorate as urban constituencies.

Take, for example, two Northern Scottish seats, Ross and Cromarty and the Western Isles—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wales?"]. I think my right hon. and gallant Friend would agree that in Wales it would be possible to find examples, and we could take for example the electorate of Orkney and Zetland. But for the moment let us take Ross and Cromarty and add that to the Western Isles. We then get a total electorate of 51,210, which is below the average. I mention that to show the difficulties, and the fact that in my view we cannot be governed by any exact rule. Indeed, this country never has been so ruled. We make do, we do the best we can.

I have tried to answer some of the points raised. I have not dealt at any length with individual cases, for the very good reason, as hon. Members well know, that each and every Order is tabled separately, and will be moved separately and is debatable and may be voted against. In conclusion, and in the absence of Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to convey to him and to the Commission our thanks for the way they have carried out their onerous duties.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I say that hon. Members on this side of the House were interested in his last observation that we all do the best that we can. Would he say that the fact, for example, that the constituency of Moray and Nairn has an electorate of 35,800 while the constituency of Hornchurch has an electorate of 76,000 is an example of that principle?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I will readily answer that, because I happen to know something about the constituency. It is actually pronounced "Murray and Nairn," which is one of those little difficulties. If we added Banffshire on to it—my hon. Friend who represents that area may not be present, but I am sure that he would object to that—we should get a vast area; and we certainly could not add on Inverness-shire which is, if not the largest, the second largest territory in the whole of Great Britain.

7.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Droylsden

The House of Commons is very often a frustrating place. Probably it is most frustrating at a time when the House deems to act in a judicial capacity. The position today has been very like that. The Government are both judge and plaintiff in the matter before the House today.

In opening this debate, the Home Secretary said that all he was seeking to do was to present to this House the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. In a very amusing, but utterly uninformative speech, the Secretary of State for Scotland refused to make any comment about any of the matters which have been raised and which were of substance. He said of them that, because he did not agree with them—and quite possibly because he did not understand them—he was not going to say anything about them.

The position in the House on this subject may be stated quite simply. The Whips are on. The Government supporters will vote as the Government direct, whatever the merits of the discussion. There can be no doubt that a Conservative Member of this House to whom I was speaking some little time ago was completely right when he said, "As soon as I heard that Lord Woolton had said that there is nothing in the Boundary Commission from our point of view, I knew that the Whips would be on and the Government would force it through."

The position is quite clear. If this House were exercising its judicial function judicially, the statement made by Mr. Justice Harman yesterday would apply and would have weighed in the minds of the Ministers who have spoken in this debate—that Members who have grievances would be able to have their grievances heard, weight given to them and justice done. The position is—whatever the merits of the discussion, whatever the merits of the arguments put forward by hon. Members not only from this side of the House but the other side as well—that were they presented in a court of law in this country no judge would have taken the attitude which has been taken by the Ministers on this occasion. Both Ministers have taken a dishonest and cowardly attitude to the arguments which have been presented.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

The word "dishonest" cannot be used.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Droylsden

I was not speaking about their morals but their intellectual approach and—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

The word "dishonest" cannot be used in this House.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Droylsden

Then upon your instructions, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I withdraw it. But it is the fact that the Minisers have been faced with a legal argument of some substance which they have chosen to ignore. Section 7 of the Second Schedule of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, lays down that the Rules that shall guide the Commission shall be rules obtained by reference to the constituency electoral quota affecting Great Britain. The Boundary Commission has chosen to ignore those rules and has made for itself an electoral quota affecting only England. When that matter was taken before a High Court judge, yesterday, he refused to pass judgment, but he made some very interesting comments, one of which was that Parliament would approach this question in a judicial fashion.

The Act upon which the Boundary Commission acts is a legal document and must therefore be strictly construed. If it is strictly construed it is quite clear, legally speaking, that the Boundary Commission has acted ultra vires and it is equally true that the Government are prepared to accept guidance and advice from, and force through this House orders based upon recommendations made by, a Commission acting ultra vires. There has been no argument about that, and the Ministers have not tried to argue about it. Parliament must be understood to intend the legislation that it passes, and it is not within the competence of the Government to accept the advice of a Commission which acts ultra vires.

The same argument could be applied, though perhaps not a strongly, to the acts of the Commission and its recommendations in respect of the crossing over of Metropolitan borough and county boundaries. My concern, however, is not related strictly to the technical aspect of the Commission's interpretation of its own function. I am persuaded that the very fact of its technical legality should have prevented the Government from forcing through these orders. By their failure to do so, not only has justice not been done but injustice has been done to the electorate.

The Home Secretary received a letter from my borough with regard to what is in many ways one of the most unjust of all the recommendations of the Commission. He refused to see either the representatives of my borough or the Parliamentary representatives of the four affected boroughs. I wrote him a letter asking if he would be prepared to see us, and his answer was that because the Orders were before the House he thought it would be improper for him to see anybody, in case his mind was affected by what was said. He said that he was only prepared to read what was put down by way of submission. It would be interesting to know if he has done that, because, except in very small matters, the Commission has given no interviews and has been guided entirely by mathematical considerations.

One of the councillors of my own borough recently said that he thought that the greatest mistake made by my borough was to put up too strong an opposition. He said that it would have been much better if it had merely objected to calling the new constituency after a railway station—because the Commission would then probably have been prepared to hold an inquiry.

Looking at the situation that has been created; remembering that not one-tenth of the House has been present to listen to the arguments; that of those Members who have been present only one, apart from the Ministers, has had anything good to say about the recommendations; bearing in mind that they will create the maximum dislocation in order to obtain the minimum achievement and, in particular, that their consequence will be to increase the injustice to borough areas as opposed to country areas and, further, to ensure that a majority of the population will never be able to command a majority in this House, it would seem to me that these Orders ought never to have been laid, and that the recommendations of the Commission should be referred back to it.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been saying that they agree that these boundary changes ought not to take place as often as is laid down in the 1949 Act. I have only one thing to say about that. I am persuaded that if the Act is operated these boundary changes will be too frequent, but if the Government and the Opposition agree that in future these changes shall not be made so frequently it is all the more important that when they are about to take place the Government should be scrupulous in seeing not only that justice is done but that it is seen to be done, and that the injustice of these recommendations is not carried forward over the next 15 years.

7.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Plymouth, Devonport

My experience in the House of Commons has not been a very long one, but of all the replies to debates affecting a large part of the country, affecting constitutional issues and the status of the House of Commons, I cannot recall any which has treated the House quite so contemptuously as that of the Secretary of State for Scotland. It could be said that he spoke with his usual wit and his usual wisdom. He made some good jokes, and we laughed at them, but we expected that he would make some attempt, within his capacities, to reply to the arguments which have been put forward.

We were told—and it was all very amusing—that on balance he was now in favour of the change which had resulted in Corfe Castle ceasing to return two Members to the House of Commons. It was an interesting revelation that the Secretary of State is now in favour of the Reform Act of 1832. We are all grateful for these changes of attitude. It was also interesting to hear him tell us that he was going to quote Disraeli, and then fail to do so. I would remind him that Disraeli expressed a very simple sentiment, which would probably appeal to the Chief Whip, namely, that: A majority is always the best repartee. That is the principle upon which the Secretary of State solemnly asked the House to deal with this issue.

After the formidable speeches from my right hon. Friend who was the spokesman from the Opposition Front Bench, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), and others who have spoken in the series of speeches from the other side of the House attacking the Report and its recommendations, I think that the House of Commons deserved something better than what we have received, and it certainly would have been improper if we had allowed a vote to take place after the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland and had not informed the Government of what the House thinks about the way in which this matter has been dealt with.

There was, for instance, the point raised by the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) and others as to the manner in which the Government propose to deal with the separate Orders, when we come to them, because it was argued by the hon. Member for Carlton and others that it would be quite improper if the Government were to accept all the recommendations en bloc, as it were, so that we were not to be able to argue each issue separately. Therefore, the Government should not seek to obtain a kind of blanket approval, and turn down all the arguments and objections that may be made on particular Orders.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

If the hon. Gentleman will refer to my speech—and I am not accusing him of being unfair—I think he will find a slightly different version from that which he has given, which was not quite exact.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Plymouth, Devonport

I hope that I have not misrepresented the hon. Gentleman in any way, and, if so, it was quite unintentional, because I agree with him. I thought that his argument, apart from his general criticism of the Report as it stood, was that, in any case, the House should exercise its judgment on each of the Orders as it came along. I thought that argument was sound, and I am sorry if the hon. Member should be offended.

Other hon. Members have raised the point of the criteria which the Minister will apply when he deals with the separate Orders, and I think that we should have been given some general guidance before the debate on the individual Orders takes place. When we discuss the individual Orders, is the Minister to defend each one on the ground that the Boundary Commission had to make such an Order? Will that be his defence? That would appear to be his general claim.

Or are we to be able to argue on each separate Order that, whatever the Boundary Commission may have done or may not have done, the proposals made by the Government—because they are no longer the recommendations of the Commission, but Government proposals now—are unjust and improper? We should have been told in advance what criteria the Minister will apply.

I say that, because it will make the whole of this procedure even more contemptuous of the House of Commons if, when we come to debate the separate Orders, the Minister rises and says that we have already discussed the Boundary Commission's Report and have shown, by approval of the Report, that the recommendations of the Boundary Commission appear to be in accordance with its Rules, and that, therefore, we cannot argue the merits of the case. If the Minister has nothing to say on the merits of each case, we shall be in a position in which this House of Commons will be effectively deprived of its rights to have a proper debate on these Orders.

In this connection, I took up the case of my own constituency with the Home Secretary. I asked him to receive a deputation from the city council, a public inquiry having been refused. The Home Secretary wrote back a letter, in which he said that he would have an open mind in the debate, and would listen to the issues raised on each of the separate Orders. I want to know what that means. Does it mean that there has been no Cabinet decision to back all these separate Orders, but that there is a decision, as the Minister told me in his letter, that he would have an open mind in the case of the constituency which I represent, and, presumably, that that will apply to any other? Therefore, we ought to have the answer.

If, unhappily, both the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland have departed, perhaps the Joint Undersecretary would tell us whether, in fact, each Order is to be treated cm its merits and the Home Secretary will carry out the pledge which he gave to me in his letter that he would have an open mind on each of these Orders. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] If the Joint Under-Secretary could tell us, it would save time in the debate on the Orders, because each hon. Member who wishes to attack any particular Order may want to ask the same question on the Order relating to his own constituency.

It would be very much sampler if the Joint Under-Secretary could say that what I was told by the Home Secretary in his letter on this subject still stands. I have the letter here. It says: I can promise that I will keep an open mind, and that I shall bear in mind what you and the hon. Member for the Sutton Division have said to me. I will pay careful attention to what you or he or anyone else says in the debate. On that basis, we should have an assurance that this promise will be honoured, and, if the Joint Undersecretary does not feel that he ought to participate in the debate by telling me that that promise will be fulfilled, perhaps we shall hear from the Minister when he returns.

Returning to the main theme of the debate, to which the Secretary of State for Scotland did not take the trouble to refer, everyone understands that there is a real dilemma here. Everyone knows that there is a clash of good arguments, a dash between the claims of mathematical equality and those of sentiment, tradition, or historical association. There is a clash between the claims of mathematical equality and what we may describe as the convenience of Members of Parliament. I am not using the word convenience in any derogatory sense, because I think that Members of Parliament have a right to their convenience being considered.

Of course, there is a conflict. The claim of mathematical equality means that these reviews should be made as often as possible, but, in regard to the claim of the convenience of Members of Parliament, or their satisfaction, and consideration of their position, these reviews ought to be made at much longer intervals.

The whole case which has been made in this debate, both from this side of the House and from the other, is that the Boundary Commission cannot be de- fended on either of these grounds. It has offended against both claims. It has offended against the claims of mathematical equality in the sense that, without any sanction at all from this House, it has altered the mathematical calculations in favour of the rural constituencies and against the urban ones. In doing so, and in carrying that out, it has also offended against the idea of historical associations and the convenience of the various constituencies.

In many cases, in order to carry out a transfer of a few thousand votes, the Commission has made a change in a whole number of wards on a vast basis. In the case of my own constituency, which is similar to Southampton and many other places, they have made a change of 5,000 votes in the interests of mathematical equality, and in order to achieve it, have disturbed the position of 30,000 electors by making changes in five wards, when the first person they might have met in the street could have told them that, if they wanted to carry out that mathematical change, all they had to do was to transfer one ward. Anybody could have told them a simpler method or doing it than the method adopted. The same applies to many other constituencies which are affected by this Report.

Therefore, we were entitled, at any rate, to expect in this debate that, if these constituencies were not to be allowed a public inquiry or be told the reasons for the change, at least they would be told in this House, but what do they get? They get the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Is it to be circulated round the country? If the people of Southampton, Plymouth, and other places want to know why these convulsions are taking place in their areas, are they to be told "Read what the Secretary of State said; it is all there"? I do not think that even the Government would dare defend such a procedure. It is really asking too much that we should not have had any explanation at all of the facts, or any answer from the Government.

One of the reasons we have got into the difficulty is the dilemma in which the Commission found itself, but the other is the way in which the Commission has broken the Rules which it was supposed to apply, and the clumsy way in which it has applied the Rules which it respected. In most cases, the Commission failed to carry out a public inquiry. Six or seven hon. Members have asked why there were only seven public inquiries.

Why was it that the Commission did not even reply to almost all the corporations and councils which had asked for a public inquiry? In my own constituency, as in others, we did not receive an acknowledgment. We had to write six months later and ask why we had not had a public inquiry, to which the Commission replied, "You will have to wait until we send our Report to the Home Secretary."

The Secretary of State for Scotland did not refer to this, and so these constituencies are still waiting to know why they were not granted a public inquiry, and why they were unable to state their case in the matter. If hon. Members dealt with their correspondence in the same way as the Boundary Commission has dealt with correspondence in this connection, their constituents would have every ground for complaint.

Why could not the Commission reply, even as Ministers reply to letters from hon. Members or to representations from different corporations? As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East, the Commissioners have treated the electorate of this country in the most discourteous fashion, in addition to which we have received no assistance from the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

At the beginning of his speech, the Minister said that no one really expected that the idea of periodical reviews would work out in exactly the way it has done. I think that that is perfectly true, and that, when the idea of more regular changes was first introduced, it was expected that every four or five years we might, perhaps, have changes in 10 or 12 constituencies where the figures had gone over 80,000 or dropped seriously below 40,000, but that we should not have such a big change as this.

If that was the expectation, what is the justification for carrying these proposals into operation? The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) suggested that the Government could perfectly well have said that, as this had worked out entirely differently from what everyone expected, that as the Commission had not acted according to the directions given it by Parliament, and that as it was known that this was causing grave difficulty and dislocation all over the country and that almost everybody wanted some changes in the procedure, they did not propose to put these proposals into effect. The Government, he suggested, could have proposed that the matter be discussed between the parties in order to i5nd the best way of dealing with the situation, so that when the position was reviewed we should not have to have another big change in two or three years' time.

It would have been perfectly simple for the Government to do that. Or they could have taken another course which would have fitted in much better with the traditions of the House. They could have said, "Let us have a debate on the Report and the principles involved, and then let us see what the House has to say about it, following which we will decide whether to go ahead with the separate Orders."

But the Government preferred the choice of saying, "We are going to have a debate, may be up to six or seven o'clock. It does not matter what the House of Commons has to say on this matter, because we have decided in advance that we are going to push these Orders through. "And this on a matter on which the Government have hardly been able to find one speaker in the House, apart from those on the Government Front Bench, to say anything in favour of the proposals.

There is an even more invidious aspect of the matter. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) pointed out, the Government are a minority Government. They got in with fewer votes than those polled by the Labour Party. The Labour Party has got to got 500.000 more votes than the Tories before it starts with an equal chance. The Government have the benefit of that situation, and these proposals carry that situation even further to the advantage of the Conservative Party.

Whatever we may think about whether there should be a more detailed and careful mathematical calculation, it is most invidious that the party which happens to draw the advantage from this system, and which will get further advantage under these proposals, should say, "We are going to push these proposals through the House with the Whips on, and are going to do so as fast as possible. Whatever the House may say on the general principle, we have decided in advance that we are going to get the Measure through."[An HON. MEMBER: "As you did in 1948."] I voted against my Government on this matter in 1948, even with the Whips on.

I do not think that the Whips should have been on then, and I do not think that they should be on now. I invite hon. Members opposite to do what I did in that case, and to vote against these proposals. In any case, what the Labour Party did then—we may say that it was very unwise to do it—was to introduce proposals for changing the distribution of seats and the boundaries which adversely affected the Labour Party. It is unique in British political history. After all, the Reform Bill was not carried out by the rotten boroughs party, but by its opponents.

For the first time in history, the Labour Party carried through a redistribution system which gravely injured its own chances, and which gave a considerable advantage to the rural constituencies. There is no need for anyone to question this fact. It has all been worked out in detail, and the recent articles in the "Economist" prove the case. Everyone knows it to be the truth. Everyone knows that the 1948 Act injured the prospects of the Labour Party.

What the present Government are doing, without proper debate in the House, and without any attempt to answer the case put against them, is to push through a Measure which is to their own political advantage. They are doing it in such a way that in a few years' time we shall be faced once again with another redistribution.

Many of these proposals exaggerate the mathematical disparities which will arise in three or four years' time. Therefore, not only are the Government seizing a political advantage for themselves, but they are inflicting a serious injury on the House of Commons.

I believe it wrong unnecessarily to add to the hazards which Members of Parliament have to undergo, for the same reason that I was in favour of a greatly increased salary for Members of Parliament. I believe that the status of Mem- bers of Parliament over the past 20 or 30 years has, for a variety of reasons, been greatly reduced. This is due partly to financial reasons, partly to the operation of party machines, partly to the operation of caucuses, and partly for a variety of other reasons.

If we add to that the hazard that every three or four years Members of Parliament are going to have their position undermined or destroyed by the arbitrary decisions of a Boundary Commission which, we are told today, we shall hardly even consider, then we are inflicting grave damage on the House of Commons. If the Government are not prepared to listen to the almost unanimous objection which has been made to this Report from all sides of the House, they can never again get up and say that they are preserving the prestige and authority of this House. Today they are treating the House of Commons with contempt.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham

It is with the last sentences of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) that I am mostly concerned. Anyone who heard the brilliant analysis of these proposals in detail by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) would feel that I was guilty of obstruction if I attempted to retraverse that ground.

I am rising because I feel that something more should be said about the general position, of which a hint was given in the closing words of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, namely, that this matter closely affects the rights of private Members of Parliament and the position of Parliament. In the circumstances of this debate, the House ought not to allow these proposals to go through. I hope that my speech will at least give the Government time to reflect—it will not give them as much time as I would like to give them—upon the matters which have been discussed today.

In the last period of our history, the independence of the House of Commons has been steadily undermined. We all know that the independent Member has been eliminated, that the Liberal Party is virtually eliminated—although it repre- sents the views and feelings of millions of our fellow-citizens—and that we now have a state of affairs where the well-drilled puppet is becoming a far more common figure on the benches of the House of Commons than either was the case in the past or is desirable in the future. The present proposals are another stage in the debasing progress of the position of Member of Parliament, referred to briefly by my hon. Friend, and I want to voice my protest about it today.

The Member of the House of Commons has at least a territorial basis for his independence. He is not altogether at the mercy of the frowns of the party caucus. He has some roots in his constituency and some connections with the people who have elected him to represent them in the House of Commons. His position has been undermined in ways that have been outlined. If we are to kick away the last bases of his freedom and independence of thought, as we shall do if we accept these proposals, the House will not do its duty to itself or to the more glorious aspects of its history, or to the prospect of the House of Commons in the future.

This debate illustrates more than anything else the urgent need for a protest of this kind. I have not heard one person speak in this debate in favour of the proposals, other than those who have spoken from the Government Front Bench. I did not hear the Home Secretary's speech. I have no doubt that it was lucid, cogent and to the point, but apparently it was not sufficient to convince anybody, either on this side or on his own side, about these proposals. The reply, if such it may be called, given by the Secretary of State for Scotland, was marked by a light-hearted indifference of the matters raised in the debate. It had a certain charm and gave us the impression that if only we had approached the Secretary of State for Scotland in good time we could have dealt with these matters by the toss of a coin rather than by the tedium of a long debate. The right hon. Gentleman did not make the slightest attempt to deal with the arguments that had been used in the debate.

How can it be that although not a soul has spoken in favour of this Measure except its formal supporters on the Front Bench, it is a moral certainty that it will be carried in the Division Lobbies tonight? How can it be that proposals which cannot stand up to serious examination in detail or to the general examination which has been applied to them, and which cannot find even a single Member to support them, will, with absolute certainty, be carried in the Division Lobbies? Is it not a great shame to the House of Commons that this can be so? We all know that Members on the Government side of the House are not happy about the matter, but because of the debasement of the position of the Private Member to which I have already referred, it appears that hon. Members opposite will not abstain or vote against proposals which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) rightly pointed out will cause damage of profound constitutional gravity and importance, in that they throw upon, bureaucrats the right to decide the political probabilities of the next Election.

The House has been warned where we are going with our rights in this matter. In the first place, we are to vote through something that nobody likes. That is such an incredible piece; of business that it is only an accident that it does not have the ultimate seal of discredit, the support of both Front Benches. It is amazing that this matter was not only agreed to as to time-table but as to principle by the two Front Benches. According to my newspapers, it happens by an accident that hon. Members on this side of the House have more independence of spirit than is likely to be shown by hon. Members on the Government side. There will be a full expression of our opinion on this matter in the Lobby, but it appears that there will be no expression at all of the opinions of hon. Members opposite.

Let us decide whether we are going to introduce an iniquitous system of gagging in order to force through measures of this kind by stifling hon. Members' opinions and consciences. It is no accident that I have got up amid the frowns of the Whips on both sides, because a neat little timetable has been disorganised by an hon. Member wanting to express his views about the fundamental importance of these proposals to the liberties of this House and to freedom of speech. It is not an accident that all that was arranged. Hon. Members are not going to give expression tonight to their consciences because it is desired to hurry on as quickly as possible. This has happened time and time again. This House has passed with overwhelming majorities matters on which there has been great dissent, and matters which were not felt to be right by hon. Members, although they voted against their consciences.

I am not an antique Liberal left over from the 19th Century, although there was much in their doctrines which we would do well not utterly to disregard. I realise that the party system is necessary if we are to have a stable and workable Parliament, but it should not be a party system which drives Members over and over again into the wrong Lobby as it will do tonight. It has done so already on matters like German rearmament. It means that instead of the House being a reflecting board for the opinions of this country it acts as a distorting mirror. It will be more so in the future if we take away the last bit of support from the private Member in the shape of the territorial connections he has with the people who have put him into the House of Commons.

We shall have in that case not an independent Member, but a Parliamentary delegate. It has already been recognised that it is not true democracy. It will be worse. The Member of Parliament will be the delegate of a party machine or a party centre if we go on with this sort of proposal. I protest in the strongest terms I can about it, more particularly as the vote which is likely to be taken will illustrate the very evil against which I am protesting and the very debasement of the Member of Parliament which has already been proceeding and will proceed further if these proposals are passed.

The House has even less excuse for allowing this to be done because of the complete impertinence with which it has been treated by the Government and the manner of reply to our detailed argument in this debate, and by the manner of the Commission itself, which has shown the arrogance and indifference to dissenting opinion which is typical of all these great agglomerations of power which we see in this day and age, and against which this House is supposed to be the shield and protection for the people of this country. To allow the Whips' department of either side of the House to cause us to fail in our duty in protecting, at any rate, our own House of Commons and the position of its Members would be very grave indeed.

The people of this country in the past regarded, and since the end of the war in 1945 have come still more to regard, the affairs considered in this House as matters closely affecting their lives. In a world in which the little man finds there is very little he can do by himself in protecting individual freedom and rights against the great agglomerations of power, whether in private or public hands, the British citizens have come to regard their Members of Parliament as their champions and protectors. If the citizens saw the way in which the present party system is developing, if they saw those they perhaps regard as the lions of the platform behaving like lambs here, and wheedling half an hour's liberty from their Whips now and again, they might modify their view of their Members of Parliament as great and free individuals charged with the defence of British liberties.

The Government have shown in their treatment of this matter, the Commission has shown in its treatment of this matter, precisely the indifference to Parliamentary interests I have attempted, however imperfectly, to describe tonight, and I hope that there will still be enough Members on the other side prepared to give their consciences at least rein enough not to vote for proposals which they know in their hearts and consciences are wrong, and even a menace to the House of Commons itself.

8.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I promise that I shall not occupy more than a few minutes of the time of the House, but the debate, and the discussions outside the Chamber, have left me very deeply uneasy about these proposals, and especially about the Government's action on them. I confess at once that I had very considerable doubts about the wisdom of the Opposition in challenging these proposals. The reasons why I had those doubts have been to some extent already expressed. It is a very serious thing for the House of Commons to convey to the public outside the impression that election to the House is rigged—extremely serious.

I can think of nothing that could undermine the authority of Parlia- ment more than that people outside should feel that the constitutional mechanism by which the House of Commons is elected has been framed so as to favour one party in the State. Once that impression becomes embedded in the national consciousness, Parliamentary democracy in Great Britain is at an end, because the parliament of policy is transferred from the Division Lobby here to forces outside. Therefore, I did not accept the decision to oppose the principle of these proposals very lightly, and I am still hesitant whether the charge against them is, up to now, sufficiently substantial as to create that suspicion.

However, I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that what has been said is very disturbing—very disturbing indeed. It is a most serious thing if it can be established—and so far we have had no answer to the contrary—that we have a constitutional mechanism which bestows some 750,000 more votes on the Conservatives in the country and thereby consolidates the position in which the British Labour Party has to secure substantially more votes in an election to secure a majority in the House of Commons. That is a very serious charge which ought to be answered.

I think the Government have been guilty of frivolity in putting up the Secretary of State for Scotland to answer it. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for many years, and I have a considerable personal affection for him, but I have never regarded him as a sort of political howitzer. I personally should think that if it is true—and after the Opposition have put this matter before the House in a most serious way—that it can be shown that the Commission's Report casts any doubt at all on the equity of the electoral mechanism, it is a charge so serious as to warrant the most important spokesman in the Government answering it.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

The right hon. Gentleman will admit that the proposals affect Scotland also?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I admit that at once. I did not say that the Secretary of State for Scotland ought not to have views on a matter which affects constituencies in Scotland. That was not my case. My case is entirely different from that. It is that the debate has disclosed on both sides of the House anxieties about the Commission's Report of such a kind that they ought to be replied to by the most responsible spokesman the Government can command, because if these suspicions and anxieties are transferred from the House of Commons to the electorate, then, as I have said, the authority of the House of Commons immediately suffers.

In the past we have always sought to arrive at agreements upon electoral arrangements by non-party decisions, which raise them above party controversies, and it was hoped when this piece of machinery was created that it would redress inconsequential disparities between constituencies without violating the fundamental tenets of the Constitution. That is what we thought. Now fears have been expressed. I am not saying they are fully justified. I am prepared to suspend judgment.

I am not a person who believes in strict mathematical accuracy in these matters, because I think that once we accept that we must reach logically the list system on the Continent which, I think, is deplorable. Nevertheless, because we are a democracy, and because we try to govern our affairs by counting heads and not breaking them, we cannot entirely disregard the principle of numbers, and if the people outside find that one Conservative counts as much as one and a half Socialists they will cease to have the same enthusiasm for counting them. Therefore, we ought to have from the Government a much more serious and responsible reply to the discussion than we have had so far.

I have a second point, and this is one of the main reasons I rose to speak. It is rumoured in the places where rumours circulate in this institution that the Conservatives have had a three-line Whip to turn up on the Orders, that they are going to be forced through the House of Commons before discussions are even heard and decisions have been taken. I should like to know from the Home Secretary if it is a fact that three-line Whips have already been issued for these Orders, because if that is the case the electoral mechanism of Great Britain and the principles on which this House is to be constructed in a future election are being determined not by the constitutional processes with which we are familiar but by the Conservative Central Office.

That is a most serious situation. Here is a matter above all things in which the House of Commons itself occupies a quasi-judicial situation. It is far more than that. It is the very basis of our laws, because we are a law-making body, a sovereign body, and all the classical arguments in the House of Commons in which Blackstone, Burke and Fox took part are based entirely on the principle that the House of Commons ought to be recruited in a way which sustains and enlarges its authority from the people as a whole.

Do hon. Members opposite think that the people, the organised workers of Great Britain, who are being brought more and more into our discussions as the State intervenes more and more in economic affairs, are going to accept the sanctity of Parliamentary decisions framed by the Conservative Central Office? Hon. Members opposite are really toying with very serious matters. If this House reaches a decision on important questions of policy about which people feel deeply, are those people going to be asked to accept the democratic sanctions of Parliament when they will know beforehand that by Conservative behaviour the House of Commons is being rigged? I ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite to be exceedingly careful of what they are doing.

I should have thought that the best thing that the Government could do would be to call off tomorrow's business and seriously to consider what has been said tonight. [Laughter.] This is not a matter for laughter at all. We in this country have been trying to establish progressively over many years the supremacy of democratic principles, but that supremacy can be preserved only if the basis of those principles is above suspicion. It is not above suspicion. The Orders, prepared by a bureaucratic body which itself admits certain doubts, are being pushed through the House of Commons, before a debate is heard, by Whips inspired not by the policies of political programmes but by the convenience of electoral machines outside the House.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Thompson Mr Kenneth Thompson , Liverpool, Walton

Is the right hon. Gentleman really resting his argument on the basis of the rigging which he alleges has been performed by Mr. Speaker and those who were associated with him on the Commissions?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

It is within the recollection of hon. Members that no such construction could be placed on what I have said. I am arguing that after this general debate is concluded the House of Commons ought to be able to approach the individual Orders without knowing beforehand that the convenience of party has already been consulted by the issue of Whips. If the Government are not prepared to concede that, I am afraid that following this debate there will be other debates in the country, in which the country itself wall begin to believe that the constitution is now being weighted against a Socialist Opposition.

8.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I can only Speak by leave of the House. I want to say a few words in reply to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has just said. He said it would be a serious thing if it were thought that these dicussions today were rigged for any party reason. I agree entirely with him. I made it perfectly dear in my speech that it would be a very bad thing for Parliamentary institutions if that ever became common knowledge or common thought. All I have to say is this. This Commission, whose Report we are discussing, carried out its work under Rules laid down by Statute.

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I must really finish what I am going to say. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite have all day, without the slightest evidence, tried to indicate that the rules have been broken. I issue this challenge. Not one single Rule has been broken in any recommendation by members of the Commission.

Hon. Members:

Give way.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

The right to give way is in my own hands, and I never refuse to give way, as hon. Gentlemen know.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is only speaking by leave of the House.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

And leave has been given to me. I am only getting up to give an absolute denial to any suggestions that have been made about breaking the Rules, and I will finish this by saying—

Hon. Members:

Take the Whips off.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

It would be interesting to hear why certain Members opposite are here tonight. I am not asking any questions and I am not giving any answers.

But the real point, and the very important point, is that we are carrying out the recommendations of an independent tribunal. No suggestion has been made that the tribunal has not been independent. No proof has been advanced of the breaking of any of the Rules by the Commission. Therefore, I am perfectly satisfied to carry on as we are.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has missed the point, though it may be that this is not the moment to raise it. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) put a question to him, and he has not answered it. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman prefers we will wait till we come to the Orders and put it then. But what is absolutely essential for us to know is whether we are wasting our time on these Orders are not. If, in advance, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has decided that every one of them is to go through as printed, then we say we are wasting our time, and it is also in contradiction of the letter which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) when he promised to treat these Orders with an open mind when he came to them. He cannot treat an Order with an open mind if there is a three-line Whip.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

On a point of order. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the argument that had been put forward by several hon. Members on this side of the House to the effect that the Rules laid down by the Act have not been observed by the Commission. We have not had a single answer, and not a reasoned answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is not a point of order."] May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to deal with one point?

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I understood that the hon. and learned Member rose to a point of order.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Very well, Sir, I will put it in the form of a point of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I can do it in one of two ways. I shall ask in the first instance for courtesy to be extended to myself in the same way as it was extended to the Minister, and I shall ask the Leader of the House to deal with one point which was raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Order. I agree that the hon. and learned Member asked for the leave of the House, but if the House does not give it, he cannot speak a second time.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Then I ask leave of the House—

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

The hon. and learned Member—

Hon. Members:

Order.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Order. As the hon. and learned Member knows, he can speak a second time only by the leave of the House. As leave is denied, he cannot speak.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I appreciate that I cannot speak without the leave of the House, and I ask the leave of the House simply to deal with one point. I shall be brief. I appreciate that the Secretary of State for Scotland—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Order. Objection is taken to—

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

On a point of explanation, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I cannot hear what is being said with all this noise going on.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

We are asking whether you. Sir, said that leave was refused? Do I understand it was refused?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

As I understood it.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

On my right-hand side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If leave is not objected to but is granted by the House, then the hon. and learned Member is entitled to speak.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I think the only one who objected was the Secretary of State for Scotland—

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

If an objection is made to a second speech, then of course the second speech cannot be made. That is quite clear.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I have heard the objection taken on two occasions, and therefore the hon. and learned Member cannot make a second speech.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

If you rule that way, Sir Rhys, you rule that there was objection from the other side, that there were no objections to my hon. and learned Friend speaking.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

With all this noise going on, I cannot hear what is being said. I understood that there were objections. If there were no objections, the hon. and learned Member can be heard.

Hon. Members:

Object.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I know that the one thing the Secretary of State for Scotland wants to avoid is dealing with the merits of this case. The Home Secretary said that it had been pointed out in the course of this debate that the Commission had not observed the Rules laid down by this House, but had acted contrary to them. Then he said that no proof had been given that this was so. My first observation is that no answer has been given to any of the arguments put forward to show that the Commission acted in contravention of the Rules laid down by the Act.

My second point is that the basis of our objection, made so forcibly by my right hon. Friend, is that the electoral quota laid down in the Rules has not been observed. Nowhere in the Report is there the statement that the electoral quota has been adopted as the basis of calculation. On the contrary, the very opposite appears perfectly clearly in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Report. Paragraph 9 says: Our aim was to create 506 constituencies … those 506 constituencies being calculated not in accordance with the electoral quota but in accordance with paragraph 1 of the Report, which has nothing at all to do with the electoral quota, as the Minister must have realised if he had followed the debate.

Therefore, we say that the whole basis of the Report is wrong and entirely contrary to the Rules laid down by the Act of Parliament. That being so, we are entitled to know whether the Government have been advised on this point, and, if so, what the advice was. The Attorney-General was here at the beginning of the debate, but he has not been here since. This is a serious matter, and it has already been raised in the courts, and the House is entitled to know whether the Government are deliberately advising it to vote contrary to the Rules laid down by Act of Parliament.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

My hon. and learned Friend has raised a matter of very great importance. He alleges from a reading of the Report that the Rules laid down by Parliament have been contravened by the Commission. Surely, before it comes to a decision upon this matter, the House is entitled to an answer to that question, not from the Home Secretary, nor the Secretary of State for Scotland, but from the Law Officers, who are primarily responsible to the House.

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned. Will you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, accept a Motion that the debate be adjourned until one of the Law Officers appears in the House to give an answer on this very important constitutional point in reply to what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I cannot accept such a Motion from the right hon. Gentleman.

Hon. Members:

Why?

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

On a point of order. Surely, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if on a matter of such grave importance as this an hon. and learned Member, speaking responsibly in the Chamber, makes a statement to which no reply is given—none was given by the Home Secretary in his statement just now—we are entitled to move that the debate be adjourned? In our view, this is a matter upon which we are entitled to the views and opinions of the Law Officers of the Crown.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I express no opinion at all on the matters at issue. It is for me either to accept or reject the Motion, and I do not accept such a Motion by the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Might I, therefore, ask the Home Secretary whether, in view of what has been said, he will now attempt to reply, or whether he desires that the debate shall be continued while in the meantime he ensures that the Law Officers come here to reply to the point?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

On a point of order. I should like to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, now that you have decided not to accept the Motion suggested to you by my right hon. Friend, whether you can advise the House how it ought to proceed. The circumstances, as I apprehend them, are that the Government are asking the House to accept certain Orders made within the terms of a Statute. The allegation has been repeatedly made throughout the debate that the Orders are ultra vires because the Statute under which they are purported to be made has not, in fact, been complied with.

No answer whatever has been made to that allegation. No legal opinion in support of the Government's case has been offered. Yet we know that the Government have put out a three-line Whip in order to compel the House to accept what may be illegal Orders. In those circumstances I ask you what advice you can give the House as to how it is to protect itself against this unconscionable manoeuvre. Are we not to have any legal advice on the point at all?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

That is a matter of argument and debate. It is not at all a matter for me to decide.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Further to that point of order. The Leader of the House is within the precincts of the House. May I therefore put a Question to the Leader of the House, who has a responsibility to the House as Leader? In view of the situation which has developed in which statements have been made to which no rebuttal has yet been proffered, when these Orders have been carried out—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I must remind the House that the Motion before the House is the Motion on the Order Paper. That is the Motion to be debated. I am expressing no opinion one way or the other about what is involved. It is a matter of debate.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

If I may have an opportunity to speak—

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

May I raise a point of order with you, Sir Rhys? The right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary, sitting on the Bench to which he has just returned, ventured a remark to one of my hon. Friends behind me that he was a rat. I wish to ask you whether that is a Parliamentary expression.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I heard nothing of the remark.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Naturally, Sir Rhys, we accept what you say, that you did not hear the observation from the Patronage Secretary. Can I assure you that I heard the remark, and that the remark was heard by several of my hon. Friends? In those circumstances, will you say whether such language is proper or improper, and will you request the right hon. Gentleman unreservedly to withdraw an unparliamentary observation?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I heard no such remark, but if such a remark were used, of course it is clearly not a proper remark.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan Hepburn):

I certainly withdraw that remark, and I apologise to you and the House, but I do think—

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to consult the dignity of the House itself.

Photo of Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn , Beckenham

I could have said this before I apologised to the House. Perhaps the House will let me do it now. I think it a little ungenerous that all this commotion should come from the other side when it is well known that the Leader of the House is dining somewhere else, as well as the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]—but I think it a little ungenerous.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

When I first rose and asked that the Law Officers of the Government should reply, I put it to the Home Secretary, and I referred to the Leader of the House only when I saw that he was within the precincts of the House.

8.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Parker Mr John Parker , Dagenham

I wish to ask the Home Secretary why he has not answered the point that we have to have half a million more Labour votes in the country in order to get an equal number of seats in the House of Commons. Those are not party controversial points made by a party central office. They were made by the Oxford University Study on the Election of 1950 which showed quite distinctly—

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

On a point of order. This is becoming a very serious matter indeed. An hon. Member opposite, I think that it was the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), described my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) as a half-wit. May I ask whether the term "half-wit" is a Parliamentary expression? For example, if I were to describe the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport , Knutsford

Do not point at me. I did not say "half-wit." I said "nit-wit."

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

If I were to describe him as he ought to be described in this House, would you regard that as being appropriate?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I will not be drawn into discussing hypothetical cases. I rose originally to interrupt the hon. Member who was in possession of the House to appeal for him to be given a hearing. As I said, I hope the House will consult its own dignity.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

On a point of order. It was within the hearing of the whole House that first the Patronage Secretary described an hon. Gentleman on this side as a rat—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

The right hon. Gentleman has apologised for that and the matter has been disposed of.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

—th the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) used a similar term of another hon. Gentleman. On both occasions you failed to hear those remarks. Would not it therefore be more seemly if Mr. Speaker were sent for to take the Chair, because quite clearly the business of the House cannot be carried on if hon. Gentlemen opposite are at liberty to use what language they like without the Chair taking any interest at all?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Order. That is a very improper remark.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

On a point of order. The House has become much fuller than it was just now when we were discussing the merits of this issue. I want to ask the Leader of the House a question. Does he consider that a debate of this sort ought to be continued? We are discussing Orders under which the House of Commons is to be elected. We were discussing the Report and we are to proceed to discuss the Orders later on. I wish to ask the Leader of the House—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that for the moment the hon. Member for Dagenham is in possession of the House.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) was addressing a question to the Leader of the House. I wanted to follow up that question—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

That was disposed of before I called the hon. Member for Dagenham.

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The matter is within the recollection of the House and, with all respect, we cannot recall that here. We understood that the Leader of the House was being asked a question by my right hon. Friend as to whether it was not desirable that the Law Officers of the Crown should be here to answer questions that have been put in the debate of the most serious moment, many of which were put before many hon. Members were in the Chamber. Would it not therefore be conducive to the elucidation of the issue before the House if my hon. and learned Friend were permitted to put to the Attorney-General the points which have not been answered?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

This is most irregular. The hon. Member in possession of the House is the hon. Member for Dagenham—Mr. Parker.

Photo of Mr John Parker Mr John Parker , Dagenham

May I press the Attorney-General for an answer to the points made? We have not had any answer to the whole question raised in this debate as to whether the Boundary Commissioners have exceeded their powers or not, or if they have kept within their instructions in making that Report. Can we have an answer on that point?

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

This point, of course, was raised in court yesterday, and directly I had notice that it was going to be raised, I naturally looked into the question of law as a matter of urgency. I must say that I can find no ground for saying that in law the Boundary Commission, in any sense, acted ultra vires. The Commission clearly made a calculation, as we can see from paragraph 10, of what should be the electoral quota. They said what that figure is in paragraph 10—

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

It is in paragraph 10, where they get the figure of the electoral quota of 55,670. If we divide the electorate of England by that figure we shall get a number of seats which is substantially in excess of the number of 506—

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

I should like, if I may, to be able to finish my sentence, as I have been asked to reply.

The electoral quota is mentioned in paragraph 10. If the hon. Gentleman can read, he will see that it is there stated. Dividing the population of England by that figure, we get a number of seats substantially—

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

For determining the electoral quota—I am making it quite clear. You have regard to the population of Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "The electorate."] You have regard to the electorate of Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] That is specified by the Rules, and the quota resulting from that calculation is set out in paragraph 10. If we then divide the electorate of England by that quota we get a figure of 519, which is substantially greater than 506. When the Welsh and Scottish seats have been subtracted the balance is 506, and so the figure for England must not be substantially greater or less than 506. That is the effect of Rule 1.

The other provisions of the Rules for the redistribution of seats are subject to that Rule. That is the guiding principle which the House laid down when the Act was passed. The number of seats must not be substantially greater than—

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

I know that this question was argued in court yesterday, but we cannot argue it again here.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

No point of order can arise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The Attorney-General is making a statement, and if he does not give way other hon. Members should resume their seats.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

May I point out what my point of order is?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I do not see how any point of order can arise, but if the hon. and learned Member's point of order is genuine, I shall be glad to hear it.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

My point of order is this: the Attorney-General has said that all the Rules are subject to Rule 1, and I ask him to look at Rule 7—

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must know perfectly well that that is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

As I was saying, that calculation results in a number which, in the view of some, is substantially greater than 506. If one studies the Report one sees that it was clearly for that reason that the calculation mentioned in paragraph 8 was entered into. That calculation gives the unit—and it is so expressed in the Report—for each English division of 57,122. The Report does not refer to that unit as the electoral quota. There is no reason to suppose that the electoral quota was not calculated in accordance with paragraph 7 of the Rules, which is merely a definition paragraph, showing how that quota is calculated.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

When is a definition not a definition?

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

Rules 4, 5 and 6 are subject to the principle laid down in the first Rule, namely, that the number should not be substantially greater or less than 506, in the case of England.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I have a great fellow feeling with the learned Attorney-General for having to deal with this matter rather quickly in this way, and I do not want to be in the least hostile. First, I am sure he would agree, upon reconsideration—[Interruption]—I intend to put what I have to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, whether or not hon. Members opposite like it.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I believe that the hon. and learned Member has already made a speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Two."] I hope that he will confine himself to a question.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Leicester North East

I hope I was merely making a courteous opening to my question, and no more than that. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look at paragraph 10, I am sure he will find that it has nothing at all to do with it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly. If he will look again at paragraph 10, will he corroborate that paragraph 10 has nothing at all to do with it? If hon. Members wish, I can give it in its full form, but it will only take up more time.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked that question and I gave him the answer. I think that paragraph 10 has a good deal to do with it, for the reason that it makes it quite clear that the Boundary Commissioners are treating the unit of electors, to which they refer in paragraph 8, as something quite different from the electoral quota, to which they refer in terms in paragraph 10, giving the figure of that quota. I would add, in conclusion, that I gather that the same process of calculation was used by the Boundary Commission in relation to the 1947 Report.

Photo of Mr John Parker Mr John Parker , Dagenham

Mr. Parkerrose

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I cannot hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but he has already spoken once.

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I have only just come into the Chair, I thought the hon. Member had already spoken.

Photo of Mr John Parker Mr John Parker , Dagenham

I should like to argue some points made by the Home Secretary and to ask some further questions. He has not answered the point that half a million more votes are required by the Labour party in the country to get an equal number of seats in this House than are required by the Conservative Party under our present distribution of seats. That will now be worsened by the new distribution. This is mainly due to the fact that the Boundary Commission have not interpreted and acted upon the Rules laid down by this House in the way that they should have done.

May I take paragraph 14 of the Report, in which the Boundary Commission say: In our initial report we expressed the view that, in general, urban constituencies could more conveniently support large electorates than rural constituencies and our recommendations were framed so as to enable recognition to be given to this view. They go on a little later: —we see no reason to recede from the view expressed in our initial report. The point which has been made by hon. Members on this side of the House is that, so long as the Boundary Commission act upon this idea of over-representing rural areas, we shall not have a fair representation in this House, and, what is more, under the new proposals, the bias in favour of county seats as against borough seats is greatly enlarged. To take the figures of the 1951 electorate, average electorates in the boroughs was greater than that in the counties by 2,357, but under the new distribution proposed by the Commission it is 4,075—that is the difference between the electorate in a county constituency and a borough constituency. All of us agree that the Boundary Commission is composed of honourable men, but, in giving this rural bias, they are in fact exercising a political bias, and, as long as we have this political bias—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. I have been sitting here trying to hear what my hon. Friend is saying, but, owing to the continual hubbub that is going on, I cannot hear a word. May I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you would try to keep the House in order?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I cannot hear him either—I wish I could.

Photo of Mr John Parker Mr John Parker , Dagenham

As I was saying, county constituencies are over-represented, as compared with boroughs, making for political bias.

I will take the last election and show the party difference between borough and county constituencies. In borough constituencies in England the Labour Party won 170 seats, and the Conservative Party only 114. There was thus a very large majority in favour of the Labour Party in these larger constituencies, but in the county constituencies, there were only 63 Labour Members compared with 145 Conservative Members.

The point I am making is that by having this system with a rural bias there is a bias against the Labour Party. Until the House insists on the rules being strictly carried out and tells the Boundary Commission that it cannot make its own rules, this advantage to the county areas against urban areas will continue.

Take the constituencies in the country which have very large majorities. Out of the 48 constituencies which have a majority of over 20,000, 37 are held by Labour and only 11 by the Conservatives, and of the first 13 there is only one Conservative, and that is in Northern Ireland.

At the present time, the Labour vote is much more concentrated than the Conservative vote. Under the Commissioners proposals, my constituency will be the largest in the country with over 77,000 electors. In areas such as mine and of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr.Bing) and in a great many mining areas and in the East End of London there is a big concentration of Labour votes. But the Conservative vote is much more spread over in rural areas, and we shall not get a fair representation for the Labour Party so long as we have this bias of the county against the urban areas.

I once fought the constituency of Holland with Boston which has a large area and a large electorate. I fully appreciate the difficulties that hon. Members have in going round such constituencies at election time trying to contact people in a large number of villages. At the end of the last century, before motor cars and tarmac roads were available, there was obviously a strong case for giving an advantage to the rural areas over the urban areas because of this difficulty of getting from one place to another. But that difficulty is no longer so important.

When the Speaker's Conference met one point which interested all hon. Members was that of the difficult scattered constituencies in the Western Isles, Inverness-shire, other parts of the Highlands and in the rural parts of Wales. It was definitely decided by the Speaker's Conference to give over-representation to those in the remote rural areas. But the position is very different in. the county constituencies of the Midlands or south of England.

I agree that at election time there it is difficult to get round to the electorate, but all of us, whether we sit for an industrial or a rural constituency, know that the public meeting is less and less important nowadays from the point of view of electioneering. In my constituency, only a very small part of the electorate come to meetings. This is not only true in the urban areas, but also in the rural areas.

The great mass of political propaganda is put over nowadays by the wireless and television. Though a case may have been made out at the beginning of the century to give slightly larger representation to rural areas, I do not think that such a case can be made out today.

It is high time the Boundary Commission recognised these facts and reviewed the boundaries of the constituencies by trying to give a more equal representation. It should continue to allow these exceptional areas in the rural parts of the Highlands and of Wales a much larger representation than they would have on the actual numbers but there is no longer a case for over representing county areas elsewhere.

I hope that the House will turn down these proposals as a whole and will ask the Boundary Commission to do its job afresh. It should in particular abolish the proposals relating to rural areas and give them a fairer representation in accordance with the votes of the people. It is all important, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out, that the people should feel that Parliament represents them and that there is no jerrymandering going on. If they feel that the majority of the House of Commons is elected by a minority in the country people will not have the proper respect that they ought to have for the House of Commons. I hope that we shall turn down these proposals.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

On a point of order. I notice that this Report is signed by the members of the Boundary Commission, one of whom, the Chairman, is a Member of this House, that is, Mr. Speaker. As I understand the gist of this debate, it is that the Orders which shortly we shall be asked to pass are ultra vires the Statute, and that the effect of them— whatever the intention—is to show political bias against one of the two main parties in the State. If those allegations are being made, and a member of the Commission is a Member of this House, and a fortiori if that Member is Mr. Speaker himself, is it not something which ought to be inquired into before this debate proceeds any further?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Yes, and perhaps the hon. Member will listen to what I am going to say. The Motion before this House is that the House shall take note of the first periodical Reports. Their validity is another matter altogether.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

I quite follow that, land I am grateful to you for the assistance which it affords. Although it is true that this is only a Motion to take note of what is in the Reports, the debate has said that we are to take note of the fact that the Reports are ultra vires the 'Statute because their effect is to work unfairly, and with a political bias against the Opposition, and in favour of the Government. I am not saying for a moment that any of that is or is not established, but that these allegations are made. When the Chairman of the Commission who is responsible for the Report is not merely a Member of the House of Commons but is the Speaker of the House of Commons there are all sorts of the most weighty possible implications, which ought to be fully considered. Any doubt about them should be fully cleared away before we are asked to proceed further in this matter.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Whatever the arguments and implications may be, they are not a concern of mine. The Motion before the House is to take note of the Reports, and nothing further.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

May I then ask if I am to understand that the effect of your answer to my point is that the point is prematurely taken, because of the terms of the Motion before the House? Would it follow that the right place to take up the point is when the first Order is moved, after the Motion is disposed of?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I cannot say which is the right point at which to take it up. I am saying that this is not the point.

Photo of Mr James Hudson Mr James Hudson , Ealing North

Further to that point of order. Despite what you have just said, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you are concerned, by your occupancy of the Chair, with the issue that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has put forward, and with this question of the Boundary Commission and redistribution. In the long period of our history, in order to keep a fair level between political parties and contestants, the Speaker has been called in to be judge between the parties and, by virtue of his great position, to ensure an impartial approach to the problems. Mr. Speaker stands in a special position of authority and above parties in this matter.

We have had an admission tonight, and at a time when you were in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by the right hon. Gentleman, that the Government intend to proceed to make these Reports and the related Orders effective, all of which should have been above party. We have had an announcement while you were in the Chair that there will be three-line Whips and party orders to get a decision against one of the main parties in the State. I ask you, therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as representing Mr. Speaker, who has always been put above party, whether you are not called on at this point to adjourn the House, or to accept a Motion for the adjournment of the House, to enable the matter to be further considered.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I am not concerned with the issues between the parties, or with the arguments on either side. I am concerned with the Motion before the House, and the Motion before the House is that the House takes note of the Boundary Commission Reports. The argument about the Reports is no concern of mine.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

May I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, having regard to all that has happened, and to the very serious issues, and to the fact, although I am not a very old Member to say so, that this is not the atmosphere in which to decide these things, whether you would be prepared to accept a Motion that the debate be now adjourned?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I have already declined to accept such a Motion from the right hon. Gentleman, and I am not going to accept it at this stage, because these points of order arising now are not relevant to the Motion being debated by the House.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

Following what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr, S. Silverman) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), may I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that if there is any substance in what they have said it is quite immaterial what is in the Motion? The point that they are making is that during the debate, and irrespective of the terms of the Motion, certain allegations have been made, which may or may not reflect on Mr. Speaker. That is the point they have put to you.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Any Motion which reflects on Mr. Speaker is a totally different matter. I am not concerned with that. I am concerned that the debate on the Motion before the House should follow the ordinary procedure. These matters, in my view, do not arise on the Motion at all, because all that that Motion says is that the House takes note of the Boundary Commissions' Reports. These matters of the validity of the Reports are totally different, and are not my concern.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

As I understand it, this Motion to take note of the Boundary Commission Reports will have to be decided by the House in half an hour. May I ask you, therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether before ten o'clock you will consider a Motion to adjourn the debate?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I cannot answer hypothetical questions. Mr. Hector Hughes.

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

On a point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) had already been called, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when there were interventions on points of order.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

On a point of order. It arises out of a statement which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) just now that we had reached a suitable point to accept a Motion which it was sought to put earlier. It has been submitted to the Chair, but at that stage of the debate your predecessor, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, said that it was not right to accept it. He did not accept it, but since then there has arisen a totally new point. It is that allegations made in the course of debate, if there is anything in them at all, are possible reflections on Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I happened to be standing by the side of the Chair at the time and I heard that. The question of Mr. Speaker does not arise on the Motion. If anyone has anything to say about Mr. Speaker, it cannot be said on this Motion.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

I wanted to finish my point of order.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I thought that I had appreciated the point of order and had answered it to the best of my ability.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

With respect, it is impossible to appreciate a point of order until it is completed.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I think that it might be in this case.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

I appreciate that it might be possible in this case, and perhaps we shall know in a moment or two whether it was or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There are two quite different points involved here. One has already been disposed of, and nobody would have presumed to question it after the Chair had rejected it. That was the point whether it was proper at all to continue debate as a matter of order. Your predecessor, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, said that if there was any time at which to raise that point at all it was not the time then, though possibly, and possibly not, it might be the time later on.

That is finished, but since then my right hon. Friend has submitted to the Chair the question whether it is in order to continue, having regard to these other matters. There is the further point that although it might be in order to continue the debate, nevertheless it would be improper to do so. I submit that the House should have an opportunity of considering whether it should do so or not on the Motion which my right hon. Friend wanted to move, with your permission, and which is not a question of order at all; that is, the Motion that the debate be now adjourned.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I can answer that. Under the Standing Orders I have power to accept or refuse it, and I refuse it.

9.33 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I want to go back to the remarks which were made by the Attorney-General a few moments ago in answer to some pertinent points which were put to him by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas). I regard them as one of the most important issues which the House has to consider before coming to a decision on this matter today, if—and here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—it would be indeed proper for the House to come to a decision until the very serious constitutional question has been considered.

You have ruled, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the reasons for asking you to accept a Motion that the House should be adjourned have not convinced you, but a good many of those same reasons are very relevant to the question whether this House can properly and consistently with its dignity and duty come to a decision until we have had a much more satisfactory reply from the Attorney-General. It is obviously no accident that Mr. Speaker is Chairman of the Boundary Commission. He is Chairman of the Commission in order that a Report may have that degree of impartiality which we would have expected of it.

The criticism that has been made from these benches, and to which there has been no reply, is that the Boundary Commission either deliberately or inadvertently had departed from the rules which were laid down for its guidance in the Act of Parliament. Whatever respect we may have for the members of the Boundary Commission, and putting aside altogether the criticism which many of my hon Friends have made about what we think of the absurd conclusions to which it has come, it is a very serious matter if allegations are made both in the House and in the courts of law about the Boundary Commission departing from the Rules laid down for it to observe.

It was only relatively late in the debate that this matter emerged. It was only then that we were able to require the presence of the Attorney-General to deal with it, and I for one do not think he has dealt with it. For example, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not told us the effect of the judgment given by Mr. Justice Harman in the Chancery Division, which is reported in some detail in today's newspapers. It is very important that the House should know what a Chancery judge has to say about these allegations, the very allegations which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East put to the Attorney-General just now, and which were also put with very great force in the Chancery Division on a motion yesterday and widely reported in the columns of today's "Times."

What is to be inferred from this judgment? I will come to the details in a moment, but there is no decision by the Chancery judge that the Rules were observed. I will read the judgment to the House in a moment, because it is important that it should be carefully considered. If one can interpret what Mr. Justice Harman had in mind when he was asked to rule whether the Boundary Commission had observed the Rules, I would paraphrase his judgment as indicating a doubt whether the Rules had been observed. One can well ask if the court was the appropriate forum to give redress. Can it compel the Home Secretary to issue a direction to the Boundary Commission that what in fact it sanctioned is, as has been contended in the Law Courts and in this House, ultra vires' That is the allegation that is made, and it is because Mr Speaker is Chairman of the Boundary Commission that it seems to me that it would be most unfair for this House to come to a decision about this Report until this other matter has been fully debated.

In my respectful submission, when an allegation of this kind is made it must be explained to the House and there must be a full reply from the Law Officer. I am very surprised that neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General volunteered to deal with this matter at a much earlier stage of the debate. I regard it as a shame that the whole of this matter was left until it was hoped the debate would have been concluded. The Attorney-General was not in his place, and we had to protest that the House was without the presence of the Leader of the House or the guidance of any Law Officer before we could get any attention at all for this matter.

The case reported in "The Times" is that of the Hammersmith Borough Council and Others v. Boundary Commission for England and Others. The contention put forward was that the Rules contained in the Second Schedule to the Act— provided that the commission should consider and base their report and recommendations on an electoral quota to be obtained (rule 7) by dividing the electorate of the whole of Great Britain by the number of constituencies of the whole of Great Britain. It appeared from information obtained from the commission and the Scottish Office that at the enumeration date … the electorate of Great Britain was 34,125,973, and the number of constituencies was 613 making an electoral quota of 55,670. The report showed that the commission had obtained a purported electoral quota by a different method. That is, they had disregarded the injunction to calculate by reference to the figures for Great Britain and had worked on something totally different, the figures for England, and had thereby produced a different arithmetical result. The contention was that all the subsequent recommendations in the Report flowed from that initial divergence from the Rules which they were enjoined to observe.

That was not denied, and I think the House should I know that this, was fully argued. The Boundary Commissioners were represented by counsel, other matters were dealt with, and then we had the judgment of Mr. Justice Harman. I will read the relevant part. His Lordship was asked— to order the Boundary Commission, or its members or some of them, to indicate to the Home Secretary that their report was a nullity, because they (had not observed the rules prescribed for them in making it. Then the learned Judge said: The conflict which, it was said, the Court could and ought to animadvert on was that the commission, to performing a statutory duty, had not complied with the rules laid down … These are the relevant words: The other provision said to be transgressed was that it was an injunction put on the commission that no metropolitan borough or any part of it should be included in a constituency which included part of another metropolitan 'borough.… Then the learned Judge said: It was certain that what was here proposed did do that very thing, and it was said that it had not been shown that it was not practical to do otherwise, and that the commission had therefore broken two of the rules laid down, and that its report was therefore a nullity because the commission had exceeded its own rights and powers. In other words, as I understand it, there were two points at issue in this case. It was contended that two quite different Rules had been broken, and the learned Judge decided on one of them but did not rule on the other. What was the reason why he did not rule on the other? He gives his reason.

I am sorry that I have to give it because I would have hoped that the Attorney-General would have done so. I would have thought it was his duty, as the chief Law Officer of the Crown, to explain this matter. It is hard that I, at this late hour, not having had a great deal of notice of this problem, should have to explain this matter. It is the constitutional duty and function of the Attorney-General. That is why we have Law Officers.

In the old days a Law Officer would assume the responsibility which has always been the traditional duty of the senior Law Officer of the Crown, namely, to explain at the outset of any debate of this kind, certainly when grave constitutional matters are raised, which reflect, if we are right, on the members of the Boundary Commission, including Mr. Speaker. Therefore it is the duty of the senior Law Officer of the Crown to explain to the House of Commons what it is all about, to explain it fully, to explain it impartially, and to explain it as clearly as he possibly can. Consequently, I apologise if I have to do what I think ought to have been done earlier by the Government.

I was asking why the judge did not give a ruling. The reason was that he knew that this debate would take place today. He realised that a very serious matter had been raised involving con- stitutional matters and, Mr. Speaker, involving reflections upon you as Chairman of the Boundary Commission, as to whether or not the Boundary Commission over which you presided had acted ultra vires or not.

I have just been saying, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday one "of the senior and most respected Chancery judges was faced with the very difficult problem of giving a ruling in a court of law on submissions made by counsel that the Boundary Commission, over which you presided, had acted ultra vires in having departed from Rules which were specifically laid down for its observance and guidance by an Act of Parliament. Those were the allegations made in court yesterday, and they are the allegations which have been made from these benches today, to which no adequate answer has been given, and there would have been no reply at all if we had not pressed for a Law Officer to be present.

I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that the House should inform itself about what the position was in court yesterday. It is apparent that the Chancery Court felt some diffidence and delicacy about giving a ruling on this matter if it could be avoided, knowing that there would be this debate in the House today. It is a recognised principle—and constitutional tradition—to try to avoid, if possible, a conflict between the legislature and the judiciary, particularly in a sphere which is of particular domestic interest to Parliament itself.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Might I draw to the attention of my hon. Friend the fact that, according to "The Times" report this morning, counsel who appeared on behalf of the Boundary Commission expressly said that the proper place for these allegations to be answered was in the House of Commons, which supports what my hon. Friend is saying and also his complaint that no answer has so far been given?

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. That bears out what I was saying. Counsel for the Boundary Commission, as I read it, invited the Judge to refrain from giving a judicial decision on the point for the very reason that, in counsel's opinion, the proper place to take any point would be in debate and before voting. That is precisely why the matter is being raised in this debate and it is precisely why, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East said just now, it is essential that it should be considered.

I should have thought, Mr. Speaker, with very great respect, that it was essential from your point of view that, as you presided over the Commission, you might wish to consider what has been said in your absence. In view of the serious allegations which have been made, it does not seem to me that it would be fair to you that the House should attempt to come to a decision on a matter of this kind until it has had full opportunity to consider the legal point of ultra vires and the Attorney-General has had an opportunity to consider what has been said tonight so that he may reflect upon it and give the House the benefit of his considered advice.

9.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

I want to make this point as emphatically as I possibly can. It is a point that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). Very serious issues have been raised in the course of this debate today with which you, Mr. Speaker, cannot possibly yet have acquainted yourself.

It so happens that you are not only the Speaker of this honourable House, but you are also the Chairman of the Boundary Commission. It is therefore, I submit, most desirable that you should have an opportunity of considering the arguments that have been put forward in the course of the debate today. You can best do that, I suggest, by studying the HANSARD report of these proceedings tomorrow morning.

It is not only the cut-and-thrust of the debate that is of importance, it is the personal position of yourself, Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Boundary Commission. I therefore suggest that, in those circumstances, it would be advisable for the House to agree that there should be no vote on the Motion now before the House until some time tomorrow. That would not only give you an opportunity of considering the issues that have been raised, but would give the Attorney-General a further opportunity of considering the legal submissions that have been made.

It was unfortunate that the Attorney-General could not be in his place when serious allegations were put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) and other speakers from this side of the House. The Attorney-General was called in at rather short notice, and he was doing himself less than justice when he attempted, without adequate preparation, to deal with the arguments that had been adduced in his absence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East has drawn the attention of the House to the very relevant considerations, which the House ought to have in mind in deciding this matter, arising from the proceedings in the Chancery Court yesterday. That is also a matter which the House itself has not yet had full opportunity of considering.

It raised issues with which the Attorney-General has by no means adequately dealt. In those circumstances, it would perhaps not be too much to say that it would be an abuse of our processes to rush the House into a decision by ten o'clock tonight, a decision on which you, Mr. Speaker, may wish to take further advice before allowing yourself to be placed in a false position by reason of the fact that you occupy the chairmanship of the Boundary Commission.

The points that have been raised are serious and of substance. They are not merely time-wasting devices, because, when we look at the whole picture presented in the Report of the Boundary Commission, we find one or two very curious aspects which have to be very carefully examined, and this is our only opportunity of considering these important matters. I refuse to be put off my stroke by the noises of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because at my time of life I have had a long experience of dealing with disorderly meetings of one kind and another. The efforts of hon. Gentlemen opposite will not deter me in the slightest.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I remember you complaining on one occasion that you could not hear what was being said. I cannot hear what is being said. Can you do anything about it?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There has been a good deal of conversation during the speech of the hon. and gallant Member. I hope that he will continue in comparative silence.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

So long as I am not subjected to the comparative silence to which you have referred, Mr. Speaker, I shall be only too happy to take advantage of your kind consideration.

The English Commission has adopted two procedures which are wrong because they are not specifically authorised in the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949. I hope that the Attorney-General is listening or, if he is not, that he will read what I have said when it appears in the Official Report tomorrow.

I have said that the English Commission adopted two procedures which are not specifically authorised in the 1949 Act. First, it has used as an electoral quota a figure of 57,122, which is said to be the average electorate of English constituencies when the review was made. Rule 7 of the Second Schedule of the 1949 Act says: the expression 'electoral quota' means … a number obtained by dividing the electorate for Great Britain by the number of constituencies in Great Britain existing on the enumeration date. The other Rules are subject to that overriding proviso. I submit that that proviso is overriding, and cannot either be put on a par with, or subjected to, the other Rules in the Schedule. I am happy to think that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) concurs with me in that submission.

Photo of Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn , Beckenham

Mr. Buchan-Hepburn rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put:—

Question put, That the Question be now put: —

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 259.

Division No. 10.]AYES[9.58 p.m.
Aitken, W. T.Fletcher-Cooke. C.Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Ford, Mrs. PatriciaMcKibbin, A. J.
Aiport, C. J. M.Fort, R.Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Foster, JohnMaclay, Rt. Hon. John
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Maclean, Fitzroy
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Arbuthnot, JohnGalbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Armstrong, C. W.Gammans, L. H.Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)Gamer-Evans, E. H.Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Glover, D.Manningham-Butler, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald
Astor, Hon. J. J.Godber, J. B.Markham, Major Sir Frank
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.Marlowe, A. A. H.
Baldwin, A. EGough, C. F. H.Marples, A. E.
Banks, Col. C.Gower, H. R.Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Barter, AnthonyGraham, Sir FergusMaude, Angus
Barlow, Sir JohnGridley, Sir ArnoldMaydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Baxter, Sir BeverleyGrimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Medlicott, Brig. F.
Beach, Maj. HicksGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Mellor, Sir John
Bell, Philip (Belton, E.)Hall, John (Wycombe)Molson, A. H. E.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Hare, Hon. J. H.Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Harris, Reader (Heston)Moore, Sir Thomas
Bennett, William (Woodside)Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Harvey, Air Cdre A. V. (Macclesfield)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Birch, NigelHarvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Nabarro, G. D. N.
Bishop, F. P.Harvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeNeave, Airey
Black, C. W.Hay, JohnNicholls, Harmar
Bowen, E. R.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. AHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelNield, Basil (Chester)
Boyle, Sir EdwardHeath, EdwardNoble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Braine, B. R.Henderson. John (Cathcart)Nugent, G. R. H.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Higgs, J. M. C.Odey, G. W.
Braithwaite, Sir GurneyHill, Dr. Charles (Luton)O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Hill, Mrs. E. (Wvthenshawe)Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Hinchingbrooke, ViscountOrr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Browne, Jack (Govan)Hirst, GeoffreyOsborne, C.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Holland-Martin C. J.Page, R. G.
Bullard, D. G.Hollis, M. C.Partridge, E.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Holt, A. F.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Burden, F. F. A.Hope, Lord JohnPerkins, Sir Robert
Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. HenryPete, Brig. C. H. M.
Butcher, Sir HerbertHornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Peyton, J. W. W.
Campbell, Sir DavidHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Carr, RobertHoward, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Cory, Sir RobertHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Pitman, I. J.
Channon, H.Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Pitt, Miss E. M.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir WinstonHughes Hallett, Vive-Admiral J.Powell, J. Enoch
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Hurd, A. R.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Cols, NormanHutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)Profumo, J. D.
Colegate, W. A.Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)Raikes, Sir Victor
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerHyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Ramsden, J. E.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertHylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.Rayner, Brig. R.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Iremonger, T. L.Redmayne, M.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Jennings, Sir RolandRees-Davies, W. R.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Johnson, Eric (Bleckley)Remnant, Hon. P.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)Renton, D. L. M.
Crouch, R. F.Jones, A. (Hall Green)Ridsdale, J. E.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Kerby, Capt. H. B.Robertson, Sir David
Darting, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Kerr, H. W.Robson-Brown, W.
Davidson ViscountessLambert, Hon. G.Rodgers, John (Sevencaks)
Deedes, W. F.Lambton, ViscountRoper, Sir Harold
Digby, S. WingfieldLancaster, Col. C. GRopner, Col. Sir Leonard
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Langford-Holt, J. A.Russell, R. S.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Leather, E. H. C.Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Donner, Sir P. W.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Doughty, C. J. A.Leah, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Drayson, G. B.Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)Lindsay, MartinScott, R. Donald
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Llewellyn, D. T.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Duthie, W. S.Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)Sharpies, Maj. R. C.
Eccles, Rt Hon. Sir D. M.Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Shepherd, William
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lmgtn)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Errington, Sir EricLongden, GilbertSnadden, W. McN.
Erroll, F. J.Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.Soames, Capt. C.
Fell, A.Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Spearman, A. C. M.
Finlay, GraemeLucas, P. B. (Brentford)Speir, R. M.
Fisher, NigelLucas-Tooth, Sir HughSpens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.McAdden, S. J.Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.Stevens, Geoffrey
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.Watkinson, H. A.
Storey, S.Tilney, JohnWebbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Strains, Henry (Norwich, S.)Touche, Sir GordonWellwood, W.
Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Turner, H. F. LWilliams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Summers, G. S.Turton, R. H.Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Sutcliffe, Sir HaroldVane, W. M. F.Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.Wills, G.
Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)Vosper, D. F.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Teeling, W.Wade, D. W.Wood, Hon. R.
Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)Woollam, John Victor
Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)Walker-Smith, D. C.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)Walt, Major PatrickSir Cedric Drewe and
Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)Mr. Kaberry.
NOES
Acland, Sir RichardEvans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Adams, RichardFernyhough, E.Lewis, Arthur
Albu, A. H.Fienburgh, W.Lindgren, G. S.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Finch, H. J.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Logan, D. G.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Foot. M. M.MacColl, J. E.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. RForman, J. C.McGhee, H. G.
Awbery, S. S.Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)McInnes, J.
Bacon, Miss AliceFreeman, John (Watford)McKay, John (Wallsend)
Baird, J.Freeman, Peter (Newport)McLeavy, F.
Balfour, A.Gaitskell Rt. Hon. H. T. N.McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Bartley, P.Gibson, C. W.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Glanville, JamesMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg.)
Bence, C. R.Gooch, E. G.Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodGordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. CMann, Mrs. Jean
Benson, G.Greenwood, AnthonyManuel, A. C.
Beswick, F.Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Grey, C. F.Mason, Roy
Bing, G. H. C.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mayhew, C. P.
Blenkinsop, A.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mellish, R. J.
Blyton, W. R.Griffiths, William (Exchange)Mikardo, Ian
Boardman, H.Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Coins Valley)Mitchison, G. R.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Monslow, W.
Bowden, H. W.Hamilton W. W.Moody, A. S.
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethHannan. W.Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.
Brockway, A. F.Hardy, E. A.Morley, R.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Hargreaves, A.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Harrison, J. (Nottingham E.)Mori, D. L.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Hastings, S.Moyle, A.
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hayman, F. H.Mulley, F. W.
Burke, W. A.Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Murray, J. D.
Burton, Miss F. E.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Nally, W.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Hewitson, Capt. M.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Callaghan, L. J.Hobson, C. R.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Carmichael J.Holman, P.O'Brien, T.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Holmes, HoraceOldfield, W. H.
Champion, A. J.Houghton, DouglasOliver, G. H.
Chapman, W. D.Hoy, J. H.Oswald, T.
Chetwynd, G. RHubbard, T. F.Owen, W. J.
Clunie, J.Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Padley, W. E.
Coldrick, W.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Paget, R. T.
Collick, P. H.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Collins, V. J.Hughes. Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Corbet, Mrs. FredaHynd, H. (Accrington)Palmer, A. M. F.
Cove, W. G.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Pannell, Charles
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Pargiter, G. A.
Crossman, R. H. S.Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Parker, J.
Cullen, Mrs. A.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Parkin, B. T.
Daines, P.Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Paton, J.
Darting, George (Hillsborough)Jeger, George (Goole)Peart, T. F.
Dairies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Jeger, Mrs. LenaPlummer, Sir Leslie
Davies, Harold (Leek)Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Johnson, James (Rugby)Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Deer, G.
Delargy, H. JJones, Rt. Hon. A. CreechProbert, A. R.
Dodds, N. N.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Proctor, W. T.
Donnelly, D. L.Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Pryde, D. J.
Driberg, T. E. N.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Reeves, J.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon.John (W. Bromwich)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Keenan, W.Reid, William (Camlachie)
Edelman, M.Kenyon, C.Rhodes, H.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)King, Dr. H. M.Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Lawson, G. M.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Lee, Frederick (Newton)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Ross, William
Royle, C.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.Wheeldon, W. E.
Shackleton, E. A. A.Swingler, S. T.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Sylvester, G. O.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Short, E. W.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)Wigg, George
Silverman, Julius (Erdington)Taylor, John (West Lothian)Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)Thomas, George (Cardiff)Wilkins, W. A.
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)Willey, F. T.
Skeffington, A. M.Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)Williams, David (Neath)
Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)Thornton, E.Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)Timmons, J.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)Turner-Samuels, M.Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Snow, J. W.Ungoed-Thomas, Sir LynnWilliams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Sorensen, R. W.Usborne, H. C.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankViant, S. P.Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Sparks, J. A.Wallace, H. W.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Steele, T.Warbey, W. N.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)Wyatt, W. L.
Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.Weitzman, D.Yates, V. F.
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Strass, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)Wells, William (Walsall)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stross, Dr. BarnettWest, D. G.Mr. Pearson and Mr. Popplewell.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 259.

<
Division No. 11.]AYES[10.10 p.m.
Aitken, W. T.Crouch, R. F.Higgs, J. M. C.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Alport, C. J. M.Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Davidson, ViscountessHirst, Geoffrey
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Deedes, W. F.Holland-Martin, C. J.
Arbuthnot, JohnDigby, S. WingfieldHollis, M. C.
Armstrong, C. W.Dodds-Parker, A. D.Holt, A. F.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Hope, Lord John
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Donner, Sir P. W.Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry
Astor, Hon. J. J.Doughty, C. J. A.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Drayson, G. B.Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Baldwin, A. E.Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Banks, Col. C.Duncan, Capt. J. A- L.Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Barber, AnthonyDuthie, W. S.Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Barlow, Sir JohnEccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.Hughes-Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Baxter, Sir BeverleyEden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk &amp; Lmgtn)Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.
Beach, Maj. HicksEden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Hurd, A. R.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Errington, Sir EricHutchison, James (Scotstoun)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Erroll, F. J.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.
Bernnett, William (Woodside)Fell, A.Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Finlay, GraemeIremonger, T. L.
Birch, NigelFisher, NigelJennings, Sir Roland
Bishop, F. P.Fleetwood-Hesketh, R FJohnson, Eric (Blackley)
Black, C. W.Fletcher-Cooke, C.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Bowen, E. R.Ford, Mrs. PatriciaJones, A. (Hall Green)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Fort, R.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Boyle, Sir EdwardFoster, JohnKerby, Capt. H. B.
Braine, B. R.Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Kerr, H. W.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Lambert, Hon. G.
Braithwaite, Sir GurneyGalbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Lampton, Viscount
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Gammans, L. D.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Garner-Evans, E. H.Langford-Holt, J. A.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Glover, D.Leather, E. H. C.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Godber, J. B.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bullard, D. G.Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Gough, C. F. H.Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Burden, F. F. A.Gower, H. R.Lindsay, Martin.
Butcher, Sir HerbertGraham, Sir FergusLlewellyn, D. T.
Campbell, Sir DavidGridley, Sir ArnoldLloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)
Carr, RobertGrimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Cary, Sir RobertGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Serwyn (Wirral)
Channon, H.Hall, John (Wycombe)Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon G.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir WinstonHare, Hon. J. H.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Harris, Reader (Heston)Longden, Gilbert
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.
Cole, NormanHarvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Colegate, W. A.Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerHarvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Cooper, Son. Ldr. AlbertHay, JohnMcAdden, S. J.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Crockshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Heath, EdwardMcKibbin, A. J.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Henderson, John (Ca 'heart)Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnPitt, Miss E. M.Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Maclean, FitzroyPowell, J. EnochStuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Summers, G. S.
Macmillan, Rt. Hon, Harold (Bromley)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Profumo, J. D.Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)Raikes, Sir VictorTaylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir ReginaldRamsden, J. E.Teeling, W.
Markham, Major Sir FrankRayner, Brig. R.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)