I hope that the House will forgive me if I venture to take a little time to address right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the details and the effects of this Order. I begin by saying that, like some hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House in the main debate yesterday, I can speak without any subjective considerations in mind because I personally am not directly affected by the Order.
Yesterday, some hon. Gentlemen said that they were not affected because their constituencies were not to be altered. I remain unaffected for a different reason. If the Order is withdrawn or not carried, I shall be in the next Parliament, as I am now, as the Member for Reading, South. If the Order is pressed to a Division and carried, I shall be in the next Parliament as the Member for Reading. The only difference it will make to me personally is that I shall have the honour of serving about 20,000 more constituents than I have now.
The Order proposes that the two constituencies of Reading, North and Reading, South shall be merged into a single constituency and—to bring that constituency down to manageable size, as the Commissioners think—one ward at the eastern end of the borough shall be taken out and put into the Wokingham constituency and another ward at the western end of the borough shall be taken out and put into the Newbury constituency. Until the last redistribution, Reading was a single constituency, the constituency boundaries being coterminous with those of the county borough. There was no part of the borough which was not within the constituency and no part of the constituency which was not in the borough.
In the last redistribution this constituency, without alteration of boundaries, was divided into two, so that at present the two precisely cover the whole of the borough, no more and no less. What is now being proposed is that there shall be a Reading constituency consisting of the central 11 wards of the borough, the easternmost ward going into Wokingham and the westernmost ward into Newbury.
When the Commissioners first published this proposal certain objections to it were received by them. The people and parties who objected to this proposal were: the Newbury Conservative Association; the Newbury Constituency Labour Party; the Reading Conservative Federation, representing the Reading North Conservative Association and the Reading South Conservative Association: the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett); the Reading Labour Party; the Wokingham Constituency Labour Party; the Wokingham Conservative and Unionist Association; the Wokingham Liberal Association; the Reading County Borough Council, by a unanimous vote; and the Berkshire County Council, by a unanimous vote. Apart from that, everybody seemed to be in favour of it.
What is interesting is that whilst, so far as I know, none of them consulted each other, nevertheless they all, independently, put in objections on what were approximately the same lines. They all had the same view of the Commissioners' proposals, which they reached independently. I wish to dwell for a moment on the question of what happened to the objections. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said yesterday that when he made some observations to the Commissioners on the subject of his constituency he got nothing but courtesy from the Commissioners and also got a public inquiry. As is well known, my right hon. Friend is a man of great charm and great persuasive powers.
May I be allowed to say that I was not the only person who made representations on those lines? I would not like it to be thought that the qualities to which my hon. Friend has alluded were so displayed on that occasion as to outweigh the representations that were made by other people in the same respect.
My right hon. Friend, as always, is a shade too modest. I believe that the experience which he had not only testifies to those powers of charm and persuasion to which I have referred, but also tends to show how considerably one's powers of charm and persuasion may sometimes be reinforced by being a former Home Secretary and a possible future Home Secretary.
But we in Berkshire, where we can boast of nothing more exalted than a Parliamentary Private Secretary to an Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, did not share the happy experience of my right hon. Friend with the Commissioners. The most and best which any of our objectors got was a printed acknowledgment. Some did not even get that elementary courtesy from the Commissioners. I understand that the Reading Conservative Federation did get such acknowledgment, but I know that the Reading Labour Party did not get one, although I am not saying that there is any significance in that.
The really serious part of the situation is that everybody in the area affected went on for a very long time—not unnaturally, as I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree—expecting that an inquiry would be held wondering when it would be held and not knowing that it was not to be held until the Commissioners actually published their Report. Leaving aside the political parties who made representations—eight of them altogether, in three constituencies—I ask the Home Secretary, is that the sort of way in which the Commissioners ought to treat a county borough council and a county council, both of whom reached their conclusions by a unanimous vote of members of all parties?
The objections which were made to the Commissioners' proposals are based upon two main points. I hope the House will bear with me if I try to explain them. The first is the acute disorganisation which will be caused by the proposals to the work of the various political parties there. The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) yesterday gave the House, if I may be allowed to say so, a most effective and graphic account of the way in which ward associations and similar party organisations are seriously disturbed when they are shoved around in this way.
I think every hon. Member will know from his own experience how difficult it is at any time, even when it has got to be done, to merge together ward associations of a borough party with local parties of a county party. In the case of Reading, those difficulties are intensified because we shall have involved not merely a borough party and a county party, but a borough party and two county parties in the same medium-sized borough.
In his opening speech yesterday, the Home Secretary referred to the way in which cases similar to that of Reading—boroughs with an electorate of a little more than 80,000—have been handled by the Commissioners. I wish to put to him that the observations he made apply to every one of the Commissioners' proposals of this type except their proposals with regard to Reading. This is what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said:
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 … must have same of its wards included in a county constituency;".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1791.]
That is understandable if it is a—and I emphasise "a"—county constituency, but if hon. Members will examine the whole of the Report and the appendices they will find that Reading is the only place where parts of the borough have been hived off into two separate county constituencies.
Just imagine what it will be like to run borough council elections in Reading, what it will be like for the Conservative Party, for the Labour Party and any other party which chooses to run candidates, if they are to be involved annually in borough council elections with two county constituency parties on each side as well as a borough party on each side. Taking one ward in the extreme west of the town and putting it into one county constituency and another ward in the extreme east and putting it into another county constituency, and leaving the rest truncated, is not dismemberment, but being hanged, drawn and quartered. It is making an absolute mess of the poor borough of Reading.
That, therefore, is one of the reasons why I think that there was so much indignation in and around Reading about this, not based on purely parochial and local considerations. We know that throughout the country there has been a great deal of abjection based only on real or imaginary hurt to local pride. No local borough likes to have its boundaries invaded one way or the other, either by addition or subtraction.
I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to believe that there would not have been anything like the volume of objections to this Berkshire proposal that there was if it had been proposed to take some part of Reading—one or two wards—out of the borough, and put it into one of the county constituencies. As it is, the proposal will be very difficult to work, and the authorities in Reading are very concerned about the grave disorganisation which will be caused to their work by having three constituency boroughs in their county elections. This is the first major ground of this objection.
The second is the obvious instability of the proposals as they are now, because they cannot remain for very long. The effect of all that is proposed to be done now in the Commission's present Report will have to be undone in a very short time, largely because of the growth of the new town of Bracknell in the constituency of Wokingham, as well as because of other major developments of atomic energy establishments in a fairly close ring round the borough of Reading.
On this matter, I would draw the attention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and of the House to paragraph 16 of the Commission's Report, in which the following passage appears. The Commissioners say:
In many areas projected housing development leading to a probable movement of population has been urged as a reason for either abandoning our recommendations or for creating additional constituencies elsewhere. The full effect of movements from such causes will not become apparent for some years, but we have shaped our final recommendations so far as practicable, having regard to the Rules laid down for our guidance, to meet present and imminent local conditions.
I think the House will probably agree that that is in general a sensible attitude to take. Obviously, the whole matter is in a state of flux, and if one can say that
one can never make a decision now because of what is likely to happen in the future, there never will be a point of time at which we can make a decision. Therefore, I think that we can say that the Commissioners were right, with respect to you, Sir, as Chairman, in refusing to take into account projected changes, except those which they thought to be imminent.
In the case of this area in Berkshire, I would have thought that it would have been reasonable to argue that the known plans of the Ministry of Supply for the development on a large scale of new and existing atomic establishments, especially at Aldermaston, could be considered to be imminent; but even if one disallows that, one faces the anomaly of what the Commission is proposing for Berkshire and its own definition of what it includes as being imminent.
I pass on from what I have just read to the next sentence. The Commissioners say:
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.
There the Commissioners say, as I interpret it, that one thing which they consider to be imminent, one thing that they have allowed for as being imminent, and one thing which they have, therefore, taken into account in drawing up their proposals, is the growth of the new towns designated in Orders made under that Act.
I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman—and I hope that he or the Under-Secretary will answer the question explicitly—why Essex?; why Hertfordshire?; why not Berkshire? Bracknell is a new town in exactly the same way as Harlow is a new town and as Hemel Hempstead is a new town in Essex and Hertfordshire respectively. Why Essex?; why Hertfordshire?; and why not Bracknell? It is clear that the effect of this growth at Bracknell is something which, I say with respect, the Commissioners ought to have taken into account.
What is to happen? Before very long, as Bracknell grows, because of this growth, and because of putting over 80,000 electors of Reading east ward into the Wokingham Division under this present proposal, the Wokingham Division will rapidly become oversized. It will have to be cut down. What will then happen? We cannot forecast the action of the Commissioners, but it is reasonable to suppose that when they get to the situation of another examination in which they have to cut down Wokingham which has then become oversized, the obvious cut which they will make will be to take the east ward of Reading out of Wokingham and put it back into Reading again.
I think it is fairly easy to deduce from this that the proposal to put the east ward into Wokingham is a temporary, and, as I have said, an unstable proposal. I am fairly sure that the reasons why all three political parties in the Wokingham constituency—Conservative, Labour and Liberal—objected to the proposal is that each one of the three will have to change its organisation or set up a new organisation and machinery to look after the east ward of Reading for what it knows is only a very short time. Then it has to lose it.
It is, I believe, a reasonable assumption that that is the case, and I hope we may hear on this subject from the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant). I know that is the reason for the objection of the Wokingham Labour Party, and I think it is reasonable if I assume that that is probably the reason for the objection of the other two political parties in Wokingham.
It is not my job, or that of any other hon. Member, to do the Commission's work for it by devising alternative schemes. But I would say that if one had sought to take into account the growth of the new town in Berkshire, as the Commissioners say they have taken into account the growth of the new towns in Essex and Hertfordshire, it would have been comparatively easy to do so by a method which would have remained much more stable, and which could have been continued for a very long time, because in the Wokingham constituency, contiguous with Reading and part of Reading in everything but name, are the two parishes of Earley and Woodley, which could have been moved into Reading, South, with a compensating adjustment to Reading, North, thus keeping the Wokingham electorate, notwithstanding the growth of the new town of Bracknell, at a reasonable level.
I do not want to pursue that point, because it is not the business of hon. Members to devise alternative schemes. I merely make the point to show that there was, had the Commissioners sought to take into account the growth of the new town, a fairly easy way of doing this.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may put it to me that, notwithstanding all I have said, it would be intolerable to maintain two such small constituencies as Reading North and Reading South. Anticipating that possible point, I want to say a word or two about it. First, I want to say that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) pointed out yesterday, there are a considerable number of proposed constituencies, both existing ones and new creations under the recommendations which are about the same size as Reading, South or smaller than Reading, South. There are also quite a number of boroughs with only a few more electors than the borough of Reading which are to retain two constituencies.
Secondly, I would direct the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to the fact that many of the people and organisations who objected to the Commission's proposals—notably the Reading Borough Council—put forward a second line of defence. They said, "We want the two constituencies as they are, but if we cannot have that, because it is thought that they are too small, we should like to go back to having the whole borough as a single constituency, as we had before 1950." That bears a little thinking about, because I can see no reason why, within their terms of reference as they themselves interpret them, the Commissioners should not have considered that as a possible alternative to their own proposals.
They may so have done. Since they have not published any of the reasons which induced them to arrive at their various conclusions; since they have neither replied to any of the objections made, nor published any observations upon them, we have no method of knowing whether they ever considered the alternative proposal of the Reading Borough Council and others. They may have considered it and said, "Ah, that would create a constituency of just over 80,000 electors, which would not enable us to say the one thing in our Report of which we are most proud, namely, that we have not made a constituency of under 40,000 or over 80,000 electors."
In this case the electorate would be only just over 80,000, and, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman observed yesterday, this is an electorate with a falling trend. It will go on slightly exceeding 80,000 for only a very short time. In those circumstances, I put it to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that this solution—which I am not saying is the best one—should have been considered by the Commissioners because, unlike their own proposals, it will provide a situation which will remain reasonably stable, even if it is viewed from between the Commissioners' own mathematical blinkers.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman yesterday referred to the fact that most of the recommendations laid down by the Commission arose from the departures made from the Commission's recommendations in 1948. I endeavoured to put a point to him by way of intervention, but I obviously did not make myself clear. It is not easy to do so in a short intervention, but if I now develop the point the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will probably see what I mean. In his speech yesterday, he said:
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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1787.]
If that proposition could be fully defended one would infer, in logic, that what the Commissioners would now do—or art least not seriously object to—is to revert to their original proposals in 1948, before they were changed. The logic of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says is that if we were merely rectifying the discrepancies caused by the House varying the 1948 recommendations, we should make a single constituency of Reading.
I put that proposition to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman yesterday, and he appeared to think that I was arguing the case for two separate constituencies, in which case I agree that it would be a weak point. But I should like to know his answer to my present proposition, that if, as he says, we have landed all this upon ourselves because we varied the Commissioners' 1948 proposals, we should revert to the 1948 position before the House altered it. I am not putting this forward as an ideal solution; I am merely asking why it could not possibly be considered. Most important of all, I am trying to show that, whether considered on the basis of the present status or the status of a single constituency of the whole borough, it is possible to provide an arrangement which will remain stable and sound far longer than any which can be expected to result from the Commissioners' proposals.
I apologise for having wearied the House with these details, but there is one more point which I wish to make. I should have thought, with great respect, and not subjectively, that this was almost the perfect case for the House not rubber-stamping automatically the proposals of the Commission. It was said many times, with great effect, yesterday, that the Commission is an impartial body, but impartiality is not omniscience, and the members of the Commission would be the last to claim that they were omniscient, however impartial they may be. Hon. Members on both sides of the House yesterday urged that we should look at these matters on their merits.
Among hon. Members opposite, the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), and the hon. Member for Walton said, in effect, "Let us have a look at each of these things on its own merits or demerits. Do not let us deny ourselves the right to change the proposals, or evade our responsibility for doing so, where we think that the Commissioners have not made the best job they possibly could, with all the skill and impartiality at their command." I should like to quote a passage from the speech of the hon. Member for Carlton, because it should commend itself to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and to the House. He said:
All I am now pleading is that … the Government … 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 not swallowing that Order or
Orders. All that I am arguing is that where there are a few such cases … there shall be opportunity given for making an exception. Do not fall into the risk of … destroying our own powers by refusing to decide how to exercise them. That is the risk which the House is at present running."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1814.]
This is the first of the Orders to be debated today—we have passed one without debate—and I submit that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would be doing a service to the House and to the institution of our Parliamentary democracy if he showed some flexibility in this matter and gave further thought to it, rather than forcing this Order through the House.
I find myself in the rather unusual position of agreeing with a considerable amount of what was said by the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), so I should first like to dispose of the few points upon which I disagree with him.
The hon. Member started by saying that he would be unaffected whether or not this Order was accepted by the House. As I understand, he is—or was—a business efficiency expert and, as such, must be a realist. If I may use the language of another sphere, I would offer him a shade of odds that in this case he is wrong. I think that I should find that he was not in a unanimous circle on this point, and, at any rate, I believe that I could count upon my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) to think he held an equal or greater chance of being the hon. Member for a single Reading constituency than I would give the hon. Member for Reading, South.
On the question of the possibility of adding Earley and Woodley to Reading, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he fell into the trap into which he accused others of falling. I think he has overlooked the interests of the local authorities concerned, because there will be the strongest possible objection from the Wokingham Rural District Council on the ground that a large part of their rateable value lies in these particular areas.
The next point that I wish to take up with the hon Member for Reading, South is in regard to the east ward of Reading. The east ward regards itself as part of Reading Borough, and, in my view, it is in effect as well as in name part of Reading. Therefore, if the Commission's proposal is carried out, the east ward of Reading will have to look west for municipal affairs and east for its political affairs.
I ask the House to try to picture the position of the hon Member for Wokingham, whether he be myself or anybody else, when the time comes, as well it may, when Reading Borough desires to extend its boundaries. Such a proposal from Reading Borough would be most bitterly and strongly opposed by the Wokingham Rural District Council.
What would be the position then? We should have part of the Borough of Reading asking me to agree to proposals to extend the borough boundaries, and, on the other side, I should have the rural district council opposing them with all the force at their command.
That is only part of the answer. Every conscientious person has to face this possibility. I suggest that it would place the hon. Member for Wokingham in a position in which he ought not to be placed
I want to move to the other point which the hon. Member for Reading, South raised in regard to the counterbalancing effect of the new town of Bracknell. If I am right, the Wokingham constituency as it now stands is roughly about 6,000 people under the norm, and one of the reasons for adding the east ward of Reading, which has an electorate of about that figure or slightly more, is to bring it up to the norm.
Bracknell new town is to have an additional population of about 20,000, of which I suggest we might take about 13,000 or 14,000 as being electors. It has already 1,500 on the new electoral roll, so that, if we take approximately an additional 11,000 on the electorate and add this figure to the present electorate, it would bring the present Wokingham constituency above the norm. I suggest that by adding the east ward of Reading, purely for purposes of numerical accuracy or propinquity, and then extending the time for the revision of boundaries, Wokingham will become an over-sized constituency.
My final point on this subject is that, when Bracknell new town, which is growing fast and well, reaches its full size, some further change will have to take place, particularly in relation to Reading. The Wokingham constituency has been a separate constituency only since 1950, and I think that both sides of the House will agree that it is settling down very well. I think it is a little tough that the people of a ward which regards itself as part of Reading Borough, and which is actually part of the borough, should be asked to be absorbed in another constituency and taken out again on some future occasion, because the people concerned will not know where they are.
There may be an extremely good reason for the Boundary Commission's decision, but, in the absence of any reason being given, and in the absence of any local inquiry being held, I just do not know what it is. After the objections made by these various bodies, including, I think, the Wokingham Rural District Council, with which I am in agreement, I should be very grateful if my right hon. and gallant Friend could tell me what was the overriding consideration or reason for not acceding to the objections made by all these authorities, or why an inquiry was not held.
All of us in Berkshire think that this is a bad proposal which is now before Parliament from the Boundary Commission. The hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) listed the responsible elected authorities which had made representations which were brushed aside by the Boundary Commission, which did not think it was worth while having a public inquiry. I should have thought that this was certainly one of the cases where a principle was involved which deserved a local inquiry by the Commission.
As far as the political implications are concerned, I do not myself think that there is very much in it, one way or the other. I think that, if these proposals go through, the voting strength of the abridged Reading constituency might be shown on the Conservative side or on the Labour side. So far as my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) is concerned, I think his adherents are fairly staunch and I think that perhaps I am rather more staunch with my friends in Newbury; and, therefore, I do not think there is any political content in this discussion.
Having met some of the 12,000 citizens of Reading who would become constituents of mine in the Newbury division, I can say that they cherish their full citizenship of Reading, both as local electors—because they have their own police force, education arrangements, and so on—and also as Parliamentary electors. I do not think that Parliament should attempt to deprive them of that citizenship. If it does so happen that the Tilehurst Ward in the west of Reading goes into the Newbury constituency, I have no doubt that in the hon. Member for Newbury they will be very adequately represented in this House, but they will not feel that their citizenship of the borough as a whole is as complete as it is today.
All I would add is this. If the Home Secretary, having listened to the arguments put up by the hon. Gentleman opposite, by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and myself, still feels that he must ask the House to endorse the recommendations of the Commission, I shall not be able to support the Government in the Lobby.
As has been said, this Order abolishes one constituency at Reading. It transfers one ward of Reading, the Tilehurst ward, to the Newbury constituency, another ward, the east ward, to Wokingham, and makes the remainder of Reading a single constituency.
Reading was one of the boroughs with electorates slightly exceeding 80,000 people which the Boundary Commission, in 1947, recommended should have only one seat, but it was given two seats in 1948. As was explained, in its Report, the Commission allotted seats to geographical counties in proportion to their electorates, and that question was discussed generally on the Motion before the House yesterday.
The electorate of Berkshire, including Reading as a whole, has hardly changed since 1946. Reading's electorate has gone down from 84,068 to 81,134. There has been a compensating increase in the county. The result of the addition of a seat at Reading in 1948 was, of course, that Berkshire as a whole became overrepresented. The position is that the existing six seats for Berkshire have an average electorate of only 47,036 and that the proposal now before the House will rectify that, in accordance with principles laid down by Parliament, by giving five seats, with an average electorate of 56,443.
I will say a word about that point later.
The proposed change is as I have described it. It seems clear that the Commission is justified in its views that a seat should be abolished and that the proper place for abolishing it is Reading.
If so, the Commission had two alternatives. The first was to give the county borough of Reading one seat. That alternative was suggested by the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) today. Reading was to have had only one seat in the original proposals in 1947, but Parliament decided that Reading should have two seats. If the Commission had proposed that we should go forward now with abolishing two seats by simply amalgamating them, and giving Reading only one, I am sure that the hon. Member for Reading, South would have been the first to say that the Commission was flouting the opinion of Parliament; and, indeed, he would have been right.
The hon. Gentleman cannot possibly know what I would have said in hypothetical circumstances. Even if he is right, two blacks do not make a white, especially where one is blacker than another. What has been said by Reading Borough Council and others is that the alternative of one seat for the whole borough is less repugnant than the Commission's present proposal.
I quite agree that I have the greatest difficulty in prognosticating what the hon. Gentleman is going to say, but on this occasion I have confidence that what I said is correct. I will leave it at that.
The county borough, however, has still an electorate of more than 80,000. Parliament made it clear to the Commission in 1948 that it should not propose constituencies of more than 80,000. That is stated in the Report of the Commission. In consequence, the Commission was forced back to the other alternative of detaching parts of Reading and joining them to one or more adjoining county constituencies. That is the proposal before the House.
Hon. Members have said that there are unanimous local objections from Reading. That is not surprising. If we take away a seat from a county or a city we get local objections. That is natural, but is certainly not conclusive. If it were, we should never be able to take away a seat. The Commission, the Government, and, indeed, this House, must look at the position as a whole.
Hon. Members have asked why there was no inquiry. Whether or not to hold an inquiry is a matter entirely at the discretion of the Commission. It was so left by the Act which, I need not remind the House, was not passed by this Government.
It is not for me to explain what went on in the mind of the Commission. That matter was given to the Commission to consider by the Act of Parliament to which I have referred.
The Commission, in its discretion, held inquiries only in certain cases. The purpose of the inquiries is to assist the Commission. I quite understand that a great number of people wish to express views strongly, and feel—as the Attorney-General in the late Government expressed it—that they would like to let off steam. The purpose of the inquiry must be to assist the Commission in coming to a decision. It may well be that parties and individuals feel very strongly and sincerely, but they may have nothing fresh to bring to the notice of the Commission. It is for the Commission, in its discretion, given by Parliament, to arrive at a decision whether or not there should be an inquiry.
Would it not have been discreet on the part of the Commission to take notice of the representations it received from the county borough, two county councils, and both political parties?
I have no doubt the Commission took notice of all representations received. All I am saying is that it rests with the Commission to decide, having taken notice, whether there is a case for an inquiry. In the present case, the Commission decided not to hold an inquiry. I cannot go further than that.
Is the Minister suggesting that where a discretion is vested, whether in a Minister, a Commission or anyone else, we are not entitled to criticise the exercise of it and say that it is unreasonable? There are many cases where inquiries may have been held and it is always open to us to say whether we think they should have been held.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not complain in the slightest degree that his hon. Friends were complaining. I think it is no more than natural. I said that it was a matter within the discretion of the Commission, and I have no doubt that it exercised its discretion according to the views at which it arrived.
I cannot possibly give an answer to that. In reply to a Question the other day I said that 900 requests had been put in. I think that was the figure, but I gave it offhand. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) may remember, because it was his Question. Beyond that, I cannot answer the question asked of me by the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen).
I was not asking for the number of individuals or associations, but how many inquiries would have been held—how many constituencies would have been the subject of inquiry—if the requests, be they 900 or 2,000, had been acquiesced in?
Order. I think that we are getting on to the Question which we debated yesterday. These are particular Orders, and to go back over yesterday's debate would be out of order. It is only the Reading Order which we are discussing.
On a point of order. This question arises on each of the disputed Orders. It was not at all clear from the debate yesterday how the Commission could exercise its discretion without consulting local opinion. I do, with great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, suggest that, as we are all involved in this respect, some latitude should be allowed by the Chair.
I do not think so. I think that on each particular Order this point can be raised individually. We are only dealing with the particular Order before us and not with the lot. We cannot again deal with them en masse, as we did yesterday.
Further to that point of order. I think that the House is in this difficulty. Whether one or the other Order is just can only be seen, very often, in comparison with other Orders. It is quite impossible to deal with them separately, because the justness or otherwise depends on how the Commission has treated another area. If, in fact, the Commission has exercised its discretion in quite a different way in regard to another area, that is surely a reason for rejecting the way in which it has dealt with a particular area which is under discussion.
Perhaps I may put a question to the Joint Under-Secretary on this particular Order, relating to the way in which the Commissioners declined to exercise their discretion. There may be two views about that but, in the unfortunate and unaccountable absence of the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett), may I ask the hon. Gentleman his view as to the discourtesy shown by the Commissioners in not even acknowledging the request for an inquiry in this case?
On a point of order. Do I take it that, if we cannot get a general answer to a general question, it would be in order to oppose every separate Order so as to find out whether, on that particular Order, an inquiry had been asked for and refused? After all, it would be more for the convenience of the House to have a general answer, than that we should obstruct every Order in that way. But we are determined to have this explanation.
I do not think that I am in a position, under the rules of order—which I only carry out—to allow that. The rules are that we discuss one Order at a time. I would be only too happy to do anything I could, but I am precluded from doing so on this point.
You have stated, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it would be out of order to discuss generally the question of the exercise of discretion by the Commission, because that was fully dealt with generally in yesterday's debate. From the beginning of his statement in support of acceptance of the recommendations of the Commission the Joint Under-Secretary has dealt generally with the exercise of the discretion of the Commission in its refusal to hold a local inquiry. As he was allowed to develop that argument in this particular case, I presume that he will be allowed to develop the same argument in several other cases. Why should it be ruled out of order for hon. Members, in a particular case, to refer to the argument which is adduced by the Minister in support of his case?
I think the position is quite clear. Since the point was raised I have taken further advice. I am not in a position to allow a debate on the general question, but, on each particular case, the question can be asked, and an answer given, why an inquiry was not allowed. Probably the answers will be different; but I do not know.
I am sorry that I was led beyond the bounds of order in replying to the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Crewe. His question does involve some figures, and raises a much wider issue. I will see whether I can have the figures worked out, and, if so, I will let him have the answer as soon as possible.
The hon. Member for Reading, South said that this Order would cause inconvenience. The truth of the matter is that all redistribution involves some degree of inconvenience. He cited some particular instances. Those inconveniences are to be regretted, but they are a necessary concomitant of any form of redistribution. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields would be the first to agree that inconveniences cannot altogether be avoided.
A point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) and by the hon. Member for Reading, South, was that these proposals, owing to the proximity of the new town of Bracknell, would necessarily be of a somewhat temporary nature. In paragraph 16 of their Report, the Commissioners say:
… we have shaped our final recommendations so far as practicable, having regard to the Rules laid down for our guidance, to meet present and imminent local conditions.
No doubt the question which the Commissioners asked themselves in each case, when they found they were dealing with a new town, was, "How far is a change imminent?" I cannot, of course, say what particular logical process went through the minds of the Commission, but, while the debate has been going on, I have obtained some figures in this connection. I find that there is a substantial difference between the case of Bracknell and some, if not all, of the new towns to which reference has been made.
The figures I have are that, in Bracknell, 743 houses are now being built; in Stevenage, 2,200; and in Hemel Hempstead, 1,202. These figures are of houses building and are, of course, relevant to imminence. In Basildon, the figure is 1,050. At Harlow, 1,442 houses are being built. They are all in excess of the figures at Bracknell. This is a question of degree. I can only assume, and ask the House to assume, that the Commission, in its discretion, came to the conclusion that the degree of imminence was not such as to vitiate the particular proposals put forward.
I hope that I have dealt with the various points that have been made in the debate, and I therefore recommend the House to approve the Order.
I had hoped to be able to say that it would not be necessary for me to do more than to commend to the House the speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant), and by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), and that I hoped that the House would agree that they had made out the case which they put forward against this Order.
But the speech which was made by the Joint Under-Secretary really raises one or two other matters. Let us be quite clear on this. These Orders are not the Commission's Orders. The Orders are those of the Secretary of State, and the Act expressly provides that the draft of any Order in Council laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State under this Act for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Boundary Commission, may make provision for certain matters.
It is quite clear that the intention of Parliament there was that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman received the Report, he should, before he drafted and laid the Orders, himself consider whether, and if so what, modifications might be required. Therefore, the evidence that had been laid before the Commissioners, and the weight that they attached to particular representations in reaching their decision, all became relevant to the consideration of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman before he submitted the Order. It is quite clear from what the Under-Secretary has said that no such consideration was given in this case.
I am not closing this debate. If my hon. and learned Friend's ambition is merely to add a word, I would rather that he added it and did not interpolate it. These are very complicated and difficult matters for laymen to deal with. I purposely did not interrupt anybody because I was anxious that other hon. Members should make a connected statement to the House, and I want to have the same privilege.
The action of the Commissioners is a relevant consideration for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but he cannot shrug off responsibility for this Order. I should like to deal with this question of the 80,000. It so happens—it was a peculiar coincidence—that in 1948 when the eight seats that had over 80,000 were divided by two, each of them could, without dividing wards, produce a constituency of over 40,000. Reading has still over 80,000 electors, but the difference now is that Reading cannot be divided into two constituencies of over 40,000 without dividing a ward. One constituency would be about 41,000 and the other, speaking in thousands, would be just over 39,000.
While I agree that, on the whole, it is desirable that seats should not be under 40,000, the Commission itself has proposed that Battersea, South, with under 40,000 in 1954, shall remain a constituency. That was dealt with precisely in the same way in 1948, when an electorate of over 80,000 could be divided into two and produce two constituencies, not cutting across ward boundaries, each of which would have over 40,000 electors.
I am bound to say that those Members who have listened to the speeches which were made by the representatives of three of the constituencies concerned—the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) has not spoken; I see that he has just returned to the Chamber.
The hon. Member for Reading, North did not speak, but he did not show any very violent signs of dissent from any of the views which were expressed by the three other Members representing this locality.
I accept that explanation at once. I know the difficulties that occasionally attach to Parliamentary Private Secretaries who, for no reward at all, have to submit to many hardships. I hope that nothing I have said will be taken to indicate that I implicate the hon. Member either way in the quite legitimate controversy that has arisen with regard to this area.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more. Frankly, I do not want to speak unduly on these Orders after hon. Members representing the constituencies concerned have spoken, but I sincerely hope that the House will accept the views of the Members representing the area and that the Order will be rejected.
I did not want to make a speech on this matter at all. The reason I interrupted my right hon. Friend was that I wanted him to put to the Home Secretary this question: as he has vested in him a definite duty under the Act to look at these results and make such modifications as he thinks proper in all the circumstances, how could he possibly exercise that duty, if necessary, to make modifications when he even refused to see and listen to people who wanted to make representations?
I think that everyone was surprised that one very important aspect was not dealt with by the Minister. In this case there is an absolutely clear and flagrant departure from the rules laid down by Parliament. As the Home Secretary is aware, Rule 4 (1) begins by saying:
So far as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules"—
and the foregoing Rules merely provide that every constituency shall return a
single Member, that the number of constituencies shall, so far as Great Britain is concerned, not be substantially greater or less than 613, and that there shall continue to be a constituency which shall include the City of London—
… in England and Wales,—(i) no county or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other county or the whole or part of a county borough or metropolitan borough.
So here there has been a complete departure from the Rules. There is no rule which prohibits the Boundary Commission from dividing up a ward if they so sec fit. Indeed, if Reading Corporation was anxious to preserve the Parliamentary divisions, no doubt there could have been some discussion with it on how to redistribute the wards in such a form as to give, for convenience, two Members. However, this proposal before us is a complete departure from the Rules.
It would not be so serious had not the Commission taken the view, and everywhere taken the view, that it could not split up county divisions. Whenever a county division was considered the Commission's view was that it could not be split up.
I take, as an example, Herefordshire, which has the advantage of being represented exclusively by Conservative Members. At least one seat there has only just over 40,000 electors—the average for the county being only 42,000—but it is not split up because of the principle that that is impossible because the Rules prevent the splitting up of a county division.
Before we leave the matter we ought to hear from the Home Secretary why he thinks it proper not to apply to a county borough the same Rules as apply to an administrative county. This is a complete departure from the Rules. If the Home Secretary is introducing an Order which flies in the face of the Act under which it is supposed to be introduced, he should explain to the House why he has departed from the principles which Parliament saw fit to lay down.
|Division No. 13.]||AYES||[5.2 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gough, C. F. H.||Moison, A. H. E.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Gower, H. R.||Monokton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Neave, Airey|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Odey, G. W.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hay, John||Page, R. G.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H||Partridge, E.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Perkins, Sir Robert|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Heath, Edward||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Black, C. W.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Hollis, M. C.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Holt, A. F.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hope, Lord John||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Redmayne, M.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Russell, R. S.|
|Carr, Robert||Hyde, Lt.-Col, H. M.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Channon, H.||Iremonger, T. L.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Cole, Norman||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Kaberry, D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Kerr, H. W.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lambert, Hon. G||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Speir, R. M.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Leather, E. H. C.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finehley)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Llewellyn, D. T.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Summers, G. S.|
|Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. McA.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Teeling, W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||McAdden, S. J.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Fell, A.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Tilney, John|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Turton, R. H.|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Fort, R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Foster, John||Marples, A. E.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maude, Angus||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Glover, D.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Godber, J. B.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col A.||Mellor, Sir John||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Watkinson, H. A.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wellwood, W.||Wood, Hon. R.||Mr. Wills and Mr. Robert Allan.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paton, J|
|Albu, A. H.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Peart, T. F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hamilton, W. W.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hannan, W.||Popplewell, E.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hardy, E. A.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hargreaves, A.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Probert, A. R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hastings, S.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Baird, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Balfour, A.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Rankin, John|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Reeves, J|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Hewitson, Capt. M||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hobson, C. R.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Benson, G.||Holman, P.||Rhodes, H.|
|Beswick, F.||Holmes, Horace||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Houghton, Douglas||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hubbard, T. F.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Ross, William|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Royle, C.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Short, E. W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon.. George (Belper)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Kenan, W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Kenyon, C.||Snow, J. W.|
|Clunie, J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Sorensen, R. W|
|Coldrick, W.||King, Dr. H. M||Sparks, J. A|
|Collick, P. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Steele, T.|
|Collins, V. J.||Leo, Frederick (Newton)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lipton, Lt. Col. M.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Crossman, R, H. S.||MacColl, J. E.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||McInnes, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Daines, P.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||McLeavy, F.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thornton, E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Viant, S. P.|
|Deer, G.||Manuel, A. C.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mayhew, C. P.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Donnelly, O. L.||Mellish, R. J.||Weitzmann, D.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Moody, A. S.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Moley, R.||West, D. G.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Moyle, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mulley, F. W.||Wigg, George|
|Finch, H. J.||Nally, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Foot, M. M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Willey, F. T.|
|Forman, J. C.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Oldfiefd, W. H.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Oswald, T.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Gibson, C. W||Owen, W. J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Padley, W. E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Grey, C. F.||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Pannell, Charles||Mr. Turner-Samuels and|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pargiter, G. A.||Mr. Mikardo.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Parker, J.|
I propose to ask the House to refuse to give its approval to this Order. I shall have to weary hon. Members with a little of the history of this constituency, but I do so because it has some bearing on the decision taken recently by the Boundary Commission and the decision to be taken by this House today.
Before the Election of 1945, the constituency was called South Derbyshire, and it then had a total electorate of 104,000. At that time, it comprised the whole of the urban district of Long Eaton, the whole of the urban district of Swadlincote, the whole of the rural district of Shardlow and part of the rural district of Repton.
As a result of the work of the Boundary Commission in 1947, the electorate was reduced to 70,000 by taking away 34,000 of the electors. Then the urban district of Swadlincote was taken away, and so was part of the rural district of Repton, leaving the re-named South-East Derbyshire constituency with the whole of the urban district of Long Eaton and the whole of the rural district of Shardlow.
As I say, it was left with 70,000 electors which is, of course, above the average for the country. But the constituency did comprise two whole county districts, so that the county district boundaries were not violated by the decision of the Boundary Commission and the eventual decision of this House. In the four years since the actual dismembering of the original constituency the political parties have settled down to the task which the alteration left them. They have adjusted themselves to the job which is theirs. They have modified and rearranged their political organisation to suit the new boundaries.
So far as I am aware, no particular difficulty has been experienced by the Member of Parliament concerned with the constituency on the ground of his inability reasonably to represent the area because of its numerical or geographical size. While many of his constituents may strongly object to his political views, I gather that he has never received a complaint from any quarter about his inability to put points on their behalf in this House.
I would add, in parenthesis, that the Member of Parliament is not asking his constituents to "start something" on the ground of this being an invitation to do so. It is nothing of the sort. But I think it of special note in this connection that no local government boundaries were violated by the Boundary Commission and by the action which followed in this House when the previous dismemberment of the South Derbyshire constituency took place.
I think it an important point that great care was taken by the Boundary Commission, in its Report in 1947, to remove the dual representation of the Repton Rural District which existed in 1945. That dual representation was removed and a single representation established for the district, as it was for the two districts which were left to the new South-East Derbyshire constituency
At the same time as South Derbyshire was altered, the Parliamentary borough of Derby was divided into two seats; the North, with an electorate then of 46,000, and the South, with an electorate of 52,000. So that, after the Boundary Commission had completed its work, we had adjoining constituencies of 46,000 and 52,000 inside the Borough of Derby, and outside, in the county, a constituency of 70,000 electors.
The position facing the Boundary Commission in 1954 was that the South-East Derbyshire electorate had grown to 74,000 and the Derby, North electorate had grown to 48,000, but the Derby, South electorate had fallen to 49,000. It will be seen from those figures that although the South-East Derbyshire constituency electorate has grown by about 4,000 since the boundary revision, and the combined electorate of the County Borough of Derby has fallen by 1,000, the change in the proportions of the three constituencies has not been of a substantial nature. I know the difficulties about using the word "substantial"—we heard so much about it yesterday—but I believe it right to use that word in this connection.
It is fair, I think, to argue that the changes which have taken place have certainly not been of such a nature as to justify the proposals now before the House. The alterations in the electorate has not been sufficient to justify the upset for everyone which will result from a proposal of this character. Neither is it the case that the figures anywhere in these three constituencies either exceed the maximum figure of 80,000 laid down, or fall below the minimum figure of 40,000.
I have no complaint to make on the ground of failure to hold an inquiry. I rather regret that I cannot bring that into my argument. I have to take another line for obvious reasons. Art inquiry was held in this case, but my complaint about the Commission in this connection is that it failed to have regard, in its final recommendations, to the mass and the weight of evidence submitted by the people who appeared at the inquiry.
What does this Order do to the three constituencies, and particularly to the South-East Derbyshire constituency? It carves up a single rural district—Shardlow—and it gives one parish with 6,000 electors to Derby, South, within the Borough of Derby, and another parish of 8,000 electors to Derby, North—also within the Borough of Derby. So that the area of this single rural district will in future 'be represented by one county Member and two borough Members. It is carved up in such a way that three separate Members of Parliament will represent one rural district area.
I admit straight away that if boundary revisions are to take place on a purely numerical basis, there is a strong case for the Order; for if it goes through, we shall be left with three constituencies with electorates of about 55,000, 56,000, and 62,000. But I had the privilege of being in the House when the 1949 Act was passed, and as I understood it, it was never the intention of Parliament that the numerical basis should be the prime factor in this connection. It is true that it was one of the factors to be considered.
I agree with the main principle that, I believe, was embodied in the Act, and as the intention of Parliament has been for many years, that the franchise should be based upon the principle of one person, one vote, one value. But no principle is ever carried out completely and logically under the British Constitution, and surely this principle is no exception. The electoral quota basis should not be completely and logically applied to the job of carving up the electorate between the various constituencies. As the 1949 Act clearly said, other important factors have to be taken into consideration.
During the discussion on the previous Order, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) called attention to the Rules which were laid down in the 1949 Act. Rule 4 (1) states:
no county or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes … part of a county borough.
It goes on to say:
no county district shall be included partly in one constituency and partly in another.
It provides two things: that no county borough should spread out into the surrounding county council district, and that no Member of Parliament should represent two county districts.
I am not attempting to ignore Rule 5, of which, I am sure, the Joint Under-Secretary will remind me. It states:
The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules"—
those are some of the Rules about which I have been talking—
and a Boundary Commission may depart from the strict application of the last foregoing rule if it appears to them that a departure is desirable to avoid an excessive disparity between the electorate of any constituency and the electoral quota, or between the electorate thereof and that of neighbouring constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom with which they are concerned.
In this case, what the Boundary Commission has done, and what the Order seeks to do, is to act upon the latter part of Rule 5 but to ignore the important words in Rule 4. For the sake of a closer approximation to numerical
equality, the Commission has ignored everything that the 1949 Act intended on the point of county boroughs not including within their Parliamentary constituencies any part of bordering counties. The Commission has offended against that Rule, and also against the further intention of the Act that no county district should be represented by more than one Member of Parliament.
The four local authorities in the county are against the conditions set out in the Order. The county council has stated clearly, in its submission to the Boundary Commission's inquiry, that confusion would be created in the minds of electors who would vote in the Parliamentary Borough of Derby for Members of Parliament and in the county for county council and rural and parish elections. We are all practical politicians here, knowing something about the difficulty of organising our political work, and everyone, I am sure, would agree with those comments by the county council.
The county council said, secondly, that the proposed transfer would inevitably give rise to great administrative difficulties. Its third main point, and one which already has been well made in the debate, both yesterday and again today, is that Members representing both the county borough and part of the county district would inevitably have conflicting loyalties on the differences which must arise from time to time between county boroughs and county councils. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whose experience of local government work is probably unsurpassed in this House, made this point very forcefully yesterday. The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) made it again this afternoon. It is, in my opinion, a very pertinent point to make in this connection.
The rural district concerned—Shardlow—advanced two main points of objection to the proposals. The first was that it attached great importance to the whole of the rural district being comprised in the same Parliamentary constituency. It supported all the county council points which were made in this connection; and modesty almost, but not quite, forbids my saying that the rural district council expressed satisfaction with the work of its Member.
The parishes of Chaddesden and Littleover, both of which objected to the proposals, are considerable parishes with a total electorate of 14,000. Both of these parishes have had a separate life since the time of the Domesday Book, in which both of them are mentioned. They have had a life separate from the county borough of Derby. They strongly oppose the proposals and hope that this House will reject the Order.
The other main council concerned—the county borough of Derby—held aloof. It made it quite clear that it would not participate in any attempt either to support what the Boundary Commission proposes or to object to it. The attitude of the county borough throughout has been one of holding aloof from the proposals which are before us today.
Let me sum up the points of objection. No sufficient changes have taken place since the last revision to justify the further upset in Derbyshire, South-East, or in any of the areas covered by these proposals, where there is a rural district council area to be divided between three Members of Parliament, and where there is a county district to be included in parts of two county borough constituencies.
I believe that there is neither in existence, nor proposed, a case of three Members of Parliament representing a single county district. Even if there is in existence such a case, I am sure there is no justification for adding to the number. Certain it is that no other rural district council area is, or will be, represented by one county Member and two county borough Members. We certainly ought not to support tonight such a cock-eyed method of representation as this.
We have against the proposal the county council, and the rural district council and parish councils concerned. We have against the proposal, too, one of the main political parties, the Labour Party. The other main party, the Conservative Party, put in an alternative proposal expressing its opposition to one half of the proposals made by the Boundary Commission; it made an alternative proposal, and the ward Tory organisation concerned violently protested against the alternative proposal. So we see that there was no unanimity about any suggestion by the Tory Party in this connection.
Also against the Boundary Commission's proposals is the common sense of all those who think that there is still a place in our national life for local communities, based on local government areas. I ask the Government either to withdraw this Order or to permit the House to turn it down, because I believe it is unsound, and that it violates every principle of decent representation which ought to obtain.
As the Member for a neighbouring county division I should like to support the case my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) has made, and made very convincingly, so that anybody who listened to it and was willing to consider the arguments must by now agree with my hon. Friend. This Order will create an electoral and local government monstrosity for no reason at all that at present exists, and I hope that this time the Home Secretary will show that he is willing to listen to the arguments.
There is inevitably a somewhat thin House to hear detailed arguments about individual areas, and one cannot complain about that, but it follows that it is difficult to persuade many of the hon. Members who, in a moment, will have to cast their votes; and if, on top of that difficulty, we are to have the further one that the Secretary of State will not listen to the arguments in individual cases, the debate will be reduced nearly to a farce. We shall certainly be a long way from effective Parliamentary control of a matter which affects the lives and liberties—the liberties Parliament has the duty to defend—of our people and their proper representation.
Those who have heard my hon. Friend will agree with me that he has in no sense made a political or a personal case. He started by saying that the Member of Parliament for Derbyshire, South-East is thought by the county to be a good Member. I could not help observing to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) tha1, with the exception of one or two of us, he is probably the best in the county. However, I think everybody will agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East is regarded throughout the County of Derby as a model of what a Member of Parliament should be. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to try to make out that since the last redistribution there has been any insuperable difficulty in representing the constituency as it is now drawn.
It is not so large as mine, which is a neighbouring one. Its terrain is no more difficult to cover than that of mine, and less difficult than that of Derbyshire, West. It is not an unduly large constituency. Its size was put right in the previous redistribution. Nor is it an outstandingly large one in terms of electorate. Those of us who sit for county constituencies know very well that in judging whether a county division is tolerably easily representable we must have regard to both the acreage and the question of how scattered or densely congregated the electors are.
An important factor is the number of miles one has to travel between one community of electors and others, and the sort of ground one has to travel. This constituency is not unduly large in terms of acreage. Although the number of the electorate is certainly larger than the electoral quota it is by no means so large as to impose an undue difficulty on its Member or to make the constituency outstandingly illogical.
The proposals of the Commission leave 27 divisions with electorates around or above the electorate of this constituency. If those 27 are to be left, one ought to find some other reason than electoral size for interfering in this case, and since there is no outstanding reason for the change on the ground of size, since this constituency is smaller than others and the electorate is not more numerous than that in a large number of other cases, one is left wondering why the Commission felt it had to intervene here at all.
There cannot be a case on the ground that the constituency is growing at a tremendous rate. The figures given in Cmd. 9319 show that the electorate in Derbyshire, South-East in 1953 was 74,699 and 74,857 in 1954, an increase of less than a couple of hundred. There are other constituencies in the county where the electorate is increasing by that rate or more. There is Ilkeston with nearly 71,000 electors, where the electorate is increasing at a greater rate than that, and there is my own constituency, with 67,000, where it is increasing at that rate. Are we all to be in fear and trembling in Derbyshire that any one of us may be completely upset because the electors are increasing at a rate of 100 or 200 a year? If that is not a good reason for interfering—and I think it is not—there is left no single reason at all for this proposal.
Nobody has complained about the constituency as it is. I have read the transcript of the evidence at the local inquiry, and nobody suggested that there was any reason for this change. Apart from the guess hazarded by counsel for the Conservative organisation of what the electorate might number at some unstated number of years from now, no point was made for the change. I urge on the Secretary of State that here is a proposed change for which no valid reason exists at all, and that, therefore, in fulfilment of his function, which he must accept, he himself should produce a reason for bringing forward this proposal and pressing it upon the House. That is the first and overwhelming objection to interfering in this case at all.
There is a second objection, which really is a substantial one. Having decided to interfere, for no good reason at all, what then has the Commission decided to do? Here we have the whole of a rural district—a county district—taken for Parliamentary purposes. Two-thirds of it is to be taken out of the county and placed not in one county borough division, but one-third in one county borough division and one-third in another county borough division, the one-third remaining to be in the county division.
If there is roam for argument in the House before these Orders are pressed through, then surely it can be argued that this is a silly situation. If there was a tremendously compelling reason for doing something and, in the end there was no other way, it might be said that it was unhappy and undesirable but there was no alternative to doing it, but in this case there is no compelling reason at all; and to arrive at this result is to justify the word "monstrosity."
This is a case of not merely making difficulties for councils, councillors, clerks and Members of Parliament. This is an interference with the ordinary community of interest that must exist. Here we have the electorate of this county district being asked to vote and take an interest Parliamentarily in the affairs of the borough and the two county borough constituencies, and to take an interest for all other local government purposes in their own county district. They live in an area not of possible but of actual conflict of interest between the county borough and the county. That has been very clear and marked, as we Members of Parliament who are concerned very well know.
There are legitimate differences of opinion and of interest, but here we shall have a situation in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby, North (Group Captain Wilcock) will be representing the county borough, with possible continuing conflict of interest with the county district, on which very high feelings exist. They will have to interpret both the will of the county borough, in which the bulk of their electorate reside, and the wishes of the county district in which the minority of their electorate reside.
This is more than electoral awkwardness. What will happen will be that virtually the electorate in those two-thirds of the county district will be disfranchised as far as Parliament is concerned. No matter how my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby, North interpret their responsibilities, it is bound to happen that the third of the county district transferred to each of the county borough constituencies will be swamped by the two-thirds of the electorate who are in the county borough and who owe their loyalties and allegiance to the county borough.
Can it be a good thing for the sake of something that looks tidy on the map, and for no other reason at all, to put Members of Parliament in a most difficult position? There will be conflicts of ideas, loyalties and interests to be worked out. The inhabitants of the county district will be left feeling that for four years out of every five they must look to the local government or the county council and take part in all the arguments there and then for a short period in the fifth year turn up in the borough and pick up contacts there for a short time. For all effective purposes they will be represented on local government but will be left feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they are disfranchised as far as we are concerned.
Let us think of the administrative difficulties. Perhaps it is a small point, but it is a good point. Parliamentary democracy works only as long as the wheels go round, but let us imagine the administrative difficulties of county districts which have to have Members representing areas with different interests and the inhabitants of which have to cross the county border in order to raise certain matters. Rule 4 (1, a) in the Second Schedule of the Act treats counties and county boroughs as the same, and says:
So far as is practicable … no county or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other county or the whole or part of a county borough.…
If it had been proposed to take something from the other end of South-East Derbyshire and add that to Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire it would have looked silly, but this is no better—this taking out of the county and putting into a county borough and the creating of administrative difficulties for no purpose at all. It still produces quite a sizeable constituency and leaves other constituencies in the county of about the same size. I suggest very strongly that both the evidence for the reason for doing this and the evidence of the absurd situation that emerges are strong arguments against it.
There is a third reason, though I admit that that reason would not be so compelling by itself if the other two reasons were not so very good. It is the complete united front of interests there, a united front which goes right across political considerations. All the county local authority bodies concerned have opposed this and they are not all of them of the same political complexion in their majority. I am leaving out the Borough of Derby, which decided to express no opinion.
The rural districts, the parish council and the county council, all of different political make-up, feel exactly the same—that this is an outrageous thing to do, giving them no benefit at all, introducing considerable problems and simply producing something on a map. I know a large number of the personalities who are concerned, the leaders of local thought and public opinion. Whether they agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East politically or not, none of them has a good word to say for this scheme. They all regard it as outrageous.
There is no sense in interfering with a constituency which my hon. Friend is representing successfully and well in this House. There is no sense in interfering with local government units which are recorded in the Domesday Book and have had a separate independent existence ever since then. There is no sense in interfering with the whole process of local government operation there and producing in the end a constituency which I urge very strongly goes against the Rules of guidance in the Act, messes up the county by mixing it with two county boroughs and leaves a county district where the density of population is quite low to become a very small part of a county borough constituency where the density of the electorate is very great.
I hope that the case made out by my hon. Friend will meet with the approval of the Joint Under-Secretary. To an impartial audience it must seem a very strong case and I hope it will have some weight with the hon. Gentleman and that he will not just rely on the automatic majority on the other side of the House to see this Order through. Not only are his own political friends strongly opposed to this, but so is the ordinary voter who is not attached to any party machine. This Order produces a result which is quite indefensible and I would urge the hon. Gentleman to take it back and reconsider it.
I only want to say a few words to the Joint Under-Secretary. If he supports this Order he should be frank with the House and tell us on what grounds he is doing so. Quite clearly, this is a departure from the Rules. It is no use the Joint Under-Secretary getting up and saying, "Oh, well, this constituency is too large," because if we cast our minds back to the Order dealing with Chester, which we passed without a Division, it will be found that we leave in existence the constituency of Wallasey, which has practically the same electorate to within a few hundreds as is to be found in Derbyshire, South-East.
If it is said that Derbyshire, South-East is too big, why have other equally big constituencies not been sub-divided? On what principle did the Commission decide that certain constituencies should continue and certain others should cease to exist? At this time we need a statement of principle from the Under-Secretary. This is his Order; it is not the Commission's and it is his duty to justify it. Why should it be necessary to increase the size of certain Derby seats which are larger than the new seat which we created under the last Order?
The House may recall that we have created the now constituency of Nantwich, which has an electorate of 42,000. If that figure is large enough to create a new seat, by what principle is the Under-Secretary of State working in saying, in this case, that Derbyshire, North-East, with an electorate of 48,000, and Derbyshire, South-East, with 49,000, are too small? This whole thing seems to have reached a stage of illogicality, and we are entitled to know on what grounds the Boundary Commission decided this issue and why the Under-Secretary has decided to support it in departing from Rule 4. Why has it refused to depart from that Rule in other cases?
It is quite intolerable that the House should be asked to support something because it is too big judged by Rule 4, and, in another case, to support something which is not too big though the numbers in both cases are nearly the same. Why should the Boundary Commission say that it is entitled to depart from Rule 4 when no ground of principle has been given to us for that departure? The Government should tell us.
The effect of this Order is to transfer two parishes from Derbyshire, South-East, one called Chaddesden, to Derby, North and the other, called Littleover, to Derby, South.
As hon. Members have suggested in the course of the debate, a fairly obvious reason for the making of this Order is the size of the constituencies concerned. The electorate in the existing Derbyshire, South-East constituency is high for a county constituency and the electorates in Derby, South and Derby, North are low for borough constituencies. No doubt it is on that account that the Commission has recommended this change.
If that is the best point that the hon. and learned Gentleman can make it shows us the value of his argument. When I say size I mean size in connection with that about which I am talking, namely, the size of the electorate.
No, I cannot.
I will give the House the figures. They have already been mentioned, but it may be convenient if I give them again. The present electorate of Derbyshire, South-East is 74,699 and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) suggested that that was not a very high figure. He mentioned that there were 27 other similar constituencies. Of course, the 27 constituencies which are referred to in the Report are not all county seats and in fact, this is the largest county seat—and I mean that from the point of view of the size of the electorate—in the country with only two exceptions, namely, Barnet and Spelthorne, It is proposed in subsequent Orders that both of these should be altered. This would be, in fact, the largest county seat if it were left unaffected.
The two neighbouring seats of Derby, North and Derby, South are small. They are 47,634 and 50,142 respectively. The effect of the Order will be to produce three seats, roughly speaking of the appropriate size. Derbyshire South-East will have an electorate of 60,230; Derby, North 55,687; and Derby, South 56,558.
I certainly do not complain of anything that has been said during the debate. Hon. Members are entitled to make the kinds of points that they have made, and, if I may say so, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) made a very fair speech, in which he brought forward all the arguments that can be advanced against this Order. On a question of this kind there are two sides, and it was obviously for that reason that the Commission, in this case, held an inquiry. It then came to the conclusion that the alteration proposed was a proper one, and I am bound to tell the House that the Government agree with that view. We have to have regard to the extremely explicit provisions of Rule 5. I do not think I need read those provisions again to the House, but they are explicit.
Would the hon. Gentleman say what is more explicit about Rule 5 than about Rule 4 (1, a)? Rule 5 says:
The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules.…
One of the foregoing Rules is that
no county or any part thereof shall be included in a constituency which includes the whole or part of any other county or the whole or part of a county borough…
It does not seem to me that Rule 5 is any more explicit than Rule 4 (1, a).
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman read all the relevant parts of Rule 5, because it also says:
… and a Boundary Commission may depart from the strict application of the last foregoing rule if it appears to them that a departure is desirable to avoid an excessive disparity between the electorate of any constituency and the electoral quota, or between the electorate thereof and that of neighbouring constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom with which they are concerned.
I agree. The Boundary Commission had a discretion, but it had to use it having regard to the circumstances of the case. Here was a balance of considerations and, having held an inquiry, the Commissioners came to the conclusion, I think rightly, that the important consideration of Rule 5 over-rode other considerations in other parts of the Rules. For those reasons I advise the House to agree with the Boundary Commission and to pass this Order.
I did not say anything of the kind. It is plain that it is undesirable that a county constituency should consists of 74,000; and when it is adjacent to two much smaller constituencies well below the appropriate unit, clearly the Commissioners are well within propriety in suggesting that there should be a transfer, and I think that their suggestion in this case is a proper one.
There is little I need add to what has been said from this side of the House on this Order, but I must indicate to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary and to the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department how disappointed we are with the hon. Gentleman's reply. The hon. Gentleman has not really answered the points put from this side of the House. This is the twelfth Order, I think, with which we have dealt and I have been waiting for that open mind which the Home Secretary promised us; but up to now we have seen no sign of it.
We object to this Order, because it divides a rural constituency into three. Solomon was content to divide the baby into two, but the Boundary Commission and the Home Secretary want to go one better. Here is a living entity in Derbyshire, a rural district, which is to be divided into three different constituencies. We think that it is grossly unfair. There is no reason for it. If the hon. Gentleman had advanced any reason for this action we would have been quite willing, unlike the Home Secretary, to have had an open mind and to have considered the matter.
All the facts are against the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. A few moments ago we passed an Order which created—not allowed to continue to exist—a new seat, that of Nantwich, of about 42,000 electors. So that if, as we agree, the electorate of Derby, North and Derby, South are both round about 50,000, and thus below the quota, there is obviously no reason why additional electors should be added, if by so adding them we do this injury to a rural district council.
After all, a 70,000 or a 74,000 electorate is not unique. There are at least 27 divisions of between 70,000 and 80,000, eight of which come in the 75,000 to 80,000 class. Therefore, if we have a self-contained community, as we have here, there is no reason why we should not let that community continue. We have another area of a similar kind in Derbyshire itself, Ilkeston, and we wonder why we were not told why this division has been picked out and Ilkeston has been left. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked the Minister to tell us, but he has not done so.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman got very hot round the collar yesterday because, in his view, the charge we had made, namely, that the Rules had not been obeyed by the Commissioners, was ill-founded and had not an atom of truth in it. He demanded—rather rhetorically for him, because normally he is not given to that kind of thing—that we should give proof. Proof has been given, over and over again, and here in this debate we have given further proof.
Rule 4 of the instructions for the redistribution of seats is quite definite. It says:
So far as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules—(1, a) in England and Wales,…
no county shall be included partly in one constituency and partly in another. This constituency is in England and the only question for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is whether it is practicable to leave it as it is. From the fact that a number of others have been so left, it is obvious that it is practicable so to leave it. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman refuses to see reason, and to acknowledge that here we have an excellent case. I must, therefore, invite my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House to divide against this Order.
|Division No. 14.]||AYES||[6.7 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Heath, Edward|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crouch, R. F.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Davidson, Viscountess||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Deedes, W. F.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Holt, A. F.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hope, Lord John|
|Barber, Anthony||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Donner, Sir P. W.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Doughty, C. J. A.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Drayson, G. B.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Errington, Sir Eric||Hurd, A. R.|
|Birch, Nigel||Erroll, F. J.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fell, A.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Black, C. W.||Finlay, Graeme||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C||Fisher, Nigel||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Braine, B. R.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Fort, R.||Kaberry, D.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Foster, John||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Kerr, H. W.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Glover, D.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Godber, J. B.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gough, C. F. H.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Graham, Sir Fergus||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Carr, Robert||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Cole, Norman||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hay, John||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Profumo, J. D.||Summers, G. S.|
|Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Ramsden, J. E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Rayner, Brig. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Redmayne, M.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Marples, A. E.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Renton, D. L. M.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Maude, Angus||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Robertson, Sir David||Tilney, John|
|Mellor, Sir John||Robson-Brown, W.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Roper, Sir Harold||Turton, R. H.|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Russell, R. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Neave, Airey||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Scott, R. Donald||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Noble, Comdr. A. M. P.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Sharples, Maj. R. C.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Odey, G. W.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wellwood, W.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Page, R. G.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Partridge, E||Speir, R. M.||Wills, G.|
|Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Perkins, Sir Robert||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Woollam, John Victor|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pitt, Miss E M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Mr. Robert Allan and|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Mr. Edward Wakefield.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech|
|Albu, A. H.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Keenan, W.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Fienburgh, W.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Baird, J.||Foot, M. M.||Lawson, G. M.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Forman, J. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Benson, G.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Gibson, C. W.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C||MacColl, J. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Greenwood, Anthony||McInnes, J.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Grey, C. F.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McLeavy, F.|
|Braddook, Mrs. Elizabeth||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colney Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hamilton, W. W.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hannan, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hardy, E. A.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hargreaves, A.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hastings, S.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Clunie, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Moody, A. S.|
|Coldrick, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morley, R.|
|Collick, P. H.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Collins, V. J.||Hobson, C. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Holman, P.||Moyle, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Holmes, Horace||Mulley, F. W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Houghton, Douglas||Nally, W.|
|Crossman, R, H. S.||Hubbard, T. F.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J|
|Daines, P.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oswald, T.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Owen, W. J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Padley, W. E.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Deer, G.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Pannell, Charles|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Parker, J.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Paton, J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Peart, T. F.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Skeffington, A. M.||Weitzmann, D.|
|Popplewell, E.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||West, D. G.|
|Probert, A. R.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Proctor, W T.||Snow, J. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Pryde, D. J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Rankin, John||Sparks, J. A.||Wigg, George|
|Reeves, J.||Steele, T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Rhodes, H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Swingler, S. T.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Yates, V. F.|
|Ross, William||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Royle, C.||Thornton, E.|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Turner-Samuels, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Mr. George Brown and|
|Short, E. W.||Viant, S. P.||Mr. Champion.|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Wallace, H. W.|
During the course of yesterday's debate I quoted a letter which the Home Secretary had sent to me in which he said that he could not receive a deputation from the Plymouth City Council, which wished to protest against the Boundary Commission's recommendations. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave me a promise that he would come to the debate, would listen to the arguments with an open mind and would be concerned about anything which we put to him. It is in that spirit that I approach the discussion on this Order, as, I hope, we all approach the discussions on all the other Orders, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a man of honour and he gave me a promise, as no doubt he gave a promise to other hon. Members, that he would deal with this question on its merits. I trust that he is prepared to do so.
A further reason for which he should do so is that in this case, as in so many others, the Plymouth City Council was never able to put its case at a public inquiry. When, after several months, we discovered that the demand for a public inquiry had been rejected—and we dis- covered that only by writing to the Commission—I wrote to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on behalf of the city council and asked whether he would receive a deputation. This was just before the recommendations were published, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman at that time sent me a very interesting reply, dated 18th November, just before the publication of the Commission's recommendations.
In this letter he said that he could not receive a deputation before the recommendations had been published, and the last sentence of his letter read:
The Commission's Report will be laid be-for Parliament and published during the next few days. If, when the Plymouth City Council have seen the Commission's final recommendations for Plymouth they still want to send a deputation to the Home Office, please let me know.
I did let the right hon. and gallant Gentleman know, and I have no doubt that several other councils dealing with other Orders also let him know. When one receives a letter suggesting, in effect, that he could not receive a deputation before the recommendations were published but that if, subsequently, the city council still wanted to send a deputation they were to let him know, surely there is, at any rate a suggestion of a chance that a deputation would be received.
It appears that for some reason or other the right hon. and gallant Gentleman changed his mind about receiving such deputations and therefore, because no deputation has been received in this case and because no public inquiry was permitted, it is all the more necessary that he should be prepared to deal with the argument in this debate on its merits.
I must confess, however, that from the replies of the Joint Under-Secretary of State so far, we have been given no indication that this is the way in which these matters are being treated. The Under-Secretary seems to say, "We are doing this because the Commission recommends it," and then he adds, "Of course, I cannot be expected to interpret the mind of the Boundary Commission."
This lands us in almost a deadlock. It is my contention that if the House of Commons is properly to deal with these Orders, and this Order in particular, we have the right, on each Order, to ask if the Boundary Commission has abided by its rules. We have the further right to ask, even if the Boundary Commission has abided by its rules, whether a particular proposal, which is now the Government's proposal, is just and proper.
I should have thought that was the right way in which we should proceed, but the Under-Secretary seems to take a different view. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will take a different attitude in dealing with this Order, because his hon. Friend seemed to claim that although he would congratulate those who had made the case against the Order, for some reason, which he was not fully prepared to explain, the Boundary Commission had not been in favour and that, therefore, we should proceed with the plan.
The Under-Secretary's attitude seemed to remind me of an epigram attributed to the late Ramsay MacDonald, "The longer I remain in political life and the more I see of the varieties and discrepancies of political experience, the more I am coming to recognise that it would be neither unwise, nor an exaggeration, to say that upon all topics there is much to be said for both sides of the case." That seems to me to be the reply which the Under-Secretary has been making. I hope that we shall have a more satisfactory and pithy reply from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
The first thing I want to make clear about this Order is that it is unanimously opposed by the Plymouth City Council. Other Members in dealing with other Orders have given long lists of all the various bodies that opposed various recommendations of the Boundary Commission and the proposals of the Government. I do not want to weary the House with another long list, although I could give a very long list of all the bodies and various individuals who have expressed opposition to the Government's proposals and the Boundary Commission's recommendations.
I will content myself by saying that, since this is a West Country constituency and, as I understand, other objections have been received, as well as those of Plymouth, the recommendations are further opposed by "Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davey, Dan'l Widden, Harry Hawke and old Uncle Tom Cobley an' all." That seems to cover the objections that have been presented to the proposals.
When the Boundary Commission produced its earlier proposals, it was seen that the changes involved five wards being transferred from the constituency of Devonport to the constituency of Sutton. They also involved the tranference of about 30,000 electors and the abolition of the historic names of Devonport and Sutton. The Council protested on both those grounds and all were agreed in their recommendations, backed by many other bodies, in asking for no change in the city boundaries and for the restoration of the historic names.
The Boundary Commission has produced the different proposals which we are now debating. It is true that these recommendations restore the names of Sutton and Devonport and for that small mercy we must express our gratitude. But for the rest of the recommendations we take precisely the same objections.
These proposals are open to these objections, because to secure the shift of 5,000 votes from one constituency to another—at present, Devonport is about 10,000 bigger than the Sutton constituency—about 30,000 electors in five wards are to be changed over. The council has unanimously protested against that on precisely the same grounds as their other objection to the equal convulsion that was produced in the previous recommendation.
The first reason the council so strongly objected is because of the convulsions that have already taken place in Plymouth during the war and since the war. The last person who attempted to mess around Plymouth in this way was Adolph Hitler. We succeeded in dealing with him and I hope that we shall be equally successful today.
The 1948 proposals involved a very drastic change in the City of Plymouth. They reduced the membership of this House from the City of Plymouth from three to two. As a result, the constituency of Drake was altogether wiped out. Some hon. Members may recall the debate we had when the earlier redistribution proposals were put forward. I think that everyone will agree, including my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was responsible for that proposal, that the arithmetical balance under which one of the constituencies of Plymouth was abolished was very narrow.
Even if we had kept three constituencies in Plymouth, as we had in 1945, we would have had three constituencies with 47,000 members, which would not have been altogether different from what was proposed in other parts of the country. As a result of the change about 40,000 electors in the City of Plymouth had to be moved to new constituencies. Now a second change is proposed in which about 30,000 electors are involved.
I should like the Home Secretary specifically to answer this: even if the necessity of equalising the two Plymouth constituencies is granted—and I do not necessarily accept that it was essential to make the two constituencies equal—why is it that five wards had to be changed around instead of changing one ward? It passes my comprehension to understand that. It would have been easy to have carried out the same numerical transference, if only one ward had been moved. If we had been allowed a public inquiry, that is one of the matters that would have been presented as, at any rate, a second best alternative to the proposal which the council preferred, which was having no change at all.
It was said by the Under-Secretary, in replying to a debate on an earlier Order, that some inconvenience is bound to be caused in any change. I quite agree. But surely it is the duty of the Commission to try to minimise the inconvenience as much as possible. Instead, in this case it has maximised the inconvenience.
It could quite easily have transferred one ward, which would have had exactly the same numerical effect, instead of causing turmoil among precisely those electors who suffered previous turmoil in 1948. Twenty thousand electors, shifted in the previous redistribution, are again unnecessarily to be shifted when the numerical change could have been carried out with only one ward's transference.
Why was not the change confined to one ward, if the sole purpose of the operation was to secure numerical equality between the two constituencies? But that is not the worst feature in the plan. The present proposals will make more inevitable a third redistribution in three or four years' time. That is for the simple reason that the new housing development plans over the next three or four years in Plymouth—and they are approved plans and some houses are already built and others are being built and the plans have been accepted by the Ministries involved—provide for new housing development to take place in the Sutton division with hardly any in the Devonport division.
That brings us to the issue of what is meant by the Commission taking into account imminent changes in different constituencies. That is a matter of great importance. There is no rule laid down about how the Commission should interpret the word "imminent." the Commission does that quite arbitrarily, and the only explanation of the test of what imminent developments may be taken into account was given by the Joint Under-Secretary when, earlier, he compared the figures quoted in Berkshire with the figures in the new towns.
Apparently the test of what imminent developments may be taken into account, according to the Under-Secretary, depends on how many houses have been built or are being built in the area. I should like to know whether that is, in fact, the test which the Commission applies. If that were so, I am sure that all of us could justify our cases extremely well.
If this was the test which the Commission was applying, at least we should have known it in advance so that all of us could check our own areas to see whether we are not building, in some of the areas which might be taken into account on grounds of imminence, more houses than the numbers cited by the Under-Secretary in reference to the new towns. I think that that probably is the situation in the City of Plymouth. It is all very well to have a special arrangement for new towns. Blitzed towns are in a similar situation to new towns in the sense that they have vast new estates being built in their areas. We have as much right for the imminent developments in Plymouth to be taken into account as anyone has to take into account the imminent developments in the new towns.
I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would agree with that principle, but how does it work out in practice? In the circumstances, in the next three years there will be a big growth in the Sutton division and a big reduction in the Devonport division. The figures were worked out not by the City of Plymouth Corporation to deal with this problem, but for the city development plan long before the boundary proposals were ever heard of.
According to the figures what will happen will be that under the Order in the next five years the Sutton constituency will rise from a total of 71,000 to a total of 78,000. Devonport will fall from 69,000 to 63,000, leaving a disparity between the two divisions of over 15,000.
What happens if the Order is rejected? I will not go into detailed figures of what would be the rise and fall. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had the figures sent to him by the city council. Under the existing division of the constituencies the disparity between the two in five years' time will be less than it is under the Order which is being put forward. Therefore, if the argument for the Order is that it must be done in the name of establishing a better numerical equality between the two constituencies, the Order is defeating its own purpose because within an imminent period the disparity between the two constituencies will become much greater.
Therefore, we in Plymouth cannot understand why the Government have accepted the Commission's proposals, or why they appear to be accepting them by presenting them to the House. We hope that, having heard the case which we and the city council were not able to present to a public inquiry, the Government will be willing to withdraw the Order. We say "Why not wait for a few years until this imminent development is fulfilled or partly fulfilled, and then at least we would avoid a third convulsion? We would have to have a change after a few years, but let us have two convulsions instead of the three which these proposals by the Commission would make inevitable."
I do not know whether one could add to the arguments the case on the ground of sentiment and history, but the manner in which the line has been drawn in the City of Plymouth passes all understanding. Not only does it take Home Park out of my constituency and put it into the next one, but it does something very much more serious. It puts into the Devonport constituency Plymouth Hoe, the city centre of Plymouth, the Church of Plymouth and all the institutions in the city which have been associated with the Sutton division or with the name of Plymouth. The main institutions are put into the Devonport constituency.
This could easily have been avoided entirely if the Commission had left the constituencies the same, or if it had adopted the principle of changing only one ward. There is no one in the city who can understand why it is that the line has been drawn on historical grounds in this way. I have sought to put to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the case as the city council sees it. It is their unanimous opinion. I have spoken with the utmost moderation, but I must confess that when I look at the ravages which it is proposed to perpetrate on the precious soil of the City of Plymouth, where I was born, I feel myself saying:
O! pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) has put forward some important points, many of which I agree with. The first point that I want to emphasise to the Home Secretary is that the hon. Member for Devonport and myself are not speaking from the party point of view. It would be possible for two Members in our position to support each other, because inevitably, in a city such as Plymouth where there are two constituencies, if the boundary change means an influx into my constituency of many Socialists it would obviously be to my disadvantage and to the disadvantage also of the hon. Member for Devonport. The yardstick by which I hope the House will judge the matter is the opinion of the city council, for the majority opinion of both parties in the council is against the Order.
The main reason for rejecting the Order is that the population of Plymouth is a shifting population. If the Order is agreed to, in a few years' time the inequality of numbers will be greater than if the Order is rejected.
So that the matter can be fully understood. I must touch on one or two background points and circumstances which have led to the present position. In 1941, there was the blitz on Plymouth. This, naturally, resulted in a major exodus, and even now there are about 10,000 fewer electors in Plymouth than there were in 1939. Four years later there was a vigorous campaign to rebuild the city along lines known as the Plymouth Nan. This has altered the whole nature of the city. In the middle there will be the civic centre and the shopping facilities, and the housing estates will be on the perimeter.
Three years later the boundaries were recast, and 42,000 people were affected. The constituency of Drake was annihilated. Six years after that we have the new scheme, the Devonport Dockyard Development Scheme, and a slum clearance scheme in Devonport. This must mean that further population will be moved in the next few years to the housing estates on the perimeter.
I mention these points so that the House can be convinced that not only has the population of Plymouth moved, but that it is moving and will move in future. One would have thought that if it were numerical equality at which the Commissioners were aiming and if, as they say, they were making allowance for the future, they would have taken into consideration the positions of the housing estates, for it is the positions of the housing estates which dominate the problem.
As the hon. Member for Devonport pointed out, if the boundaries were left as they now are the disparity would increase by 2,000 for two or three years and then decrease. If the Order is agreed to the disparity will for the moment decrease and there will be a difference of 2,000 or 3,000, but in five years' time there will be a difference of 15,000. Every week, month and year after the disparity will increase because the housing estates are all in the constituency on the east side. In a city which has undergone a series of convulsions, if this Order is passed there must be another rearrangement in 1959, or before.
It seems a masterpiece of mismanagement to affect five wards, move 31,000 people and yet, in five years' time, to have greater disparity than there would be if the present boundary were left. The House must accept that this is based not on hypothetical figures, but concrete figures. If the Home Secretary agrees with numerical equality it is difficult to support this Order.
An aspect of the matter which has caused considerable resentment in Plymouth is that the Boundary Commission appears to have acted with no regard to the historical features of the city. Plymouth is no new town; it is steeped in history. It has been pointed out that under this Order Plymouth Hoe will no longer be in the Sutton division but will be associated with Devonport, as will other features of the city. I wish to draw to the attention of the House a letter recently written in "The Times" by a distinguished Plymouthian, a former Liberal Minister, the right hon. Isaac Foot, father of the hon. Member for Devonport. He ended his letter by saying:
The surgeon's knife is to cut through the veins, arteries and tissues of our body politic, regardless of the history of a thousand years.
Anyone who knows anything about this problem will realise the truth of that observation.
I am still hopeful that the Home Secretary may give way on this matter, for he did say that he was approaching it with an open mind. I ask him on what grounds this Order can be supported, if it is supported. It cannot be on the grounds of numerical uniformity, because the difference will be greater in a few years' time than if the boundaries are left as they are now. Can it be to satisfy local opinion, to redress a wrong written into the last effort of the Boundary Commission? The answer to that must be no, for local opinion is against this Order. Can it be to conform with some neighbouring constituencies which are affected and to whose advantage it might be while it is to the disadvantage of Plymouth? That cannot be the case because the change does not affect any neighbouring constituency.
If this Order is supported by the Government it will show that the Government are disinclined to be selective in this matter. I cannot believe that if the case is judged on its merits it can be accepted. If there are many places worse than Plymouth, that is a still greater reflection on some of the work of the Boundary Commission. I appeal to the Home Secretary—this is the only method of appeal—to pay some attention to local opinion.
I do not know whether I am in order in making this suggestion. Having listened to practically all the speeches yesterday and today, it seems to me that it might be possible to have a better method of appeal. Inevitably, only a handful, perhaps two or three hon. Members, really know the "ins and outs" of every problem involved, yet we have to pass judgment on all these Orders. Perhaps a committee might be set up, to hear appeals. I firmly believe that if this Order is passed there will be a greater disparity.
I presume that the Home Secretary agrees with me that interference by the Government, or any outside body, with individuals or the communal life of a city is in itself a bad thing, unless it is necessary. I ask, is this legislation really necessary? I have spoken with all the moderation I can command, but I feel very strongly about this matter. I can only hope that my remarks will influence the Home Secretary to give way and to reject an Order which is unable to achieve numerical equality in the next few years, is unacceptable to local opinion, is unconscious of historical features and traditions, and seems altogether unnecessary in itself.
As I had a great deal to do with the discussion on Plymouth which took place some years ago, and endeavoured to save the three Plymouth seats, and as also I have had the honour of representing a West Country constituency for longer than most people in this House, perhaps I might say a word on this Order.
When first we heard that the name "Devonport" was to be taken out by the Commission, I and the whole of the West Country were completely and utterly horrified. It had been laid down, almost throughout the whole time in which we have been discussing these Orders—not only now, but right into the past—that historic names should be kept. That cannot be disputed. When the Commission did that, many of us who live and have our being in the West Country were upset about it.
The Commission re-discussed the question and left Devonport in, but it did not stop there. It went on and, as the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) have said—putting the case so clearly—the Commission cut the heart out of Plymouth—the Hoe—and put it in Devonport. That, again, is an historic feature which should never have been interfered with unless it was absolutely essential.
I quite realise that the case of Plymouth presents immense difficulties, because within a comparatively short time it will be absolutely essential to reorganise the boundaries of the constituencies owing to the enormous number of people who are going to be housed outside the city, in what is now the Tavistock division. I realise that the Boundary Commission could not have done very much else, but when once it realised the feelings of the people of Devonport upon this matter the very least it could have done was to create the least possible disturbance, and that it did not do.
I cannot see how we can put the matter right at this stage. If I could, I should use what little ingenuity I have to put it right. In passing these Orders, we are accepting the situation that is being created, but it is not a bad thing for a Member of Parliament such as myself to say that although we agree with, and support, the Orders in the main, we wish the Commission had been rather less busy and had done rather less. In this case it could have made the change by disturbing a comparatively small number of voters if it had been less busy and had kept to what was quite easy and comparatively simple.
In his dealings with the Boundary Commission I hope that the Home Secretary, in some way or other, will be able to make the point that he would appreciate it if the Commission had not acted as it has in this case but had been very much more concerned with local feelings and rather less with figures. If the Commission had to take note of figures, the consideration which it should have had regard to all the time is that it should never have upset more people than it could help doing.
I am grateful to the Members who have spoken upon this order. They put their case with great moderation and thought. I assure the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) that no discourtesy of any sort was intended to the deputation from Plymouth, and I hope he will take it from me that I should be the last person to be discourteous. The sole reason was that at that time the Report had not been published, and I could not have foreseen the number of deputations I should be asked to meet. I did in fact ask if deputations would be good enough to submit memoranda, and many people did so. That was a very great help.
I have been asked to deal with this case on its merits, and that I propose to do. Despite what has been said yesterday and today, namely, that the Commission has constantly broken the Rules, I adhere to what I said last evening, that no case has yet been made about a single instance of the Rules having been broken.
I know the Rules as well as most people. Incidentally, they are the result of a Statute passed before this Government came into office. In this instance, Rule 5 is of enormous importance. It is not purely a question of being fussy about getting a nice, tidy constituency. The matter goes much deeper than that. It deals with the question of the number of Members which can represent various parts of the country. We have to remember that hon. Members are dealing with their separate constituencies but the Commission has to deal with the country as a whole, which is a much more difficult task.
In the case of Plymouth there was a disparity of about 9,000 voters between the Devonport and Sutton divisions, and in accordance with Rule 5 the Commission decided to recommend that the two constituencies should become equal by a transfer of voters. That was a provisional recommendation, which had the effect of altering the boundaries. It is true that this recommendation was unanimously opposed by the City of Plymouth, and I believe that it is also true that both political parties were opposed to it.
As a result of that opposition, changes have been made, with which I shall deal in a moment. I am not disputing what the hon. Member for Devonport said about the possibilities of the next five years. He referred to the question of imminent changes, with which we dealt in a previous discussion, in which the new town of Bracknell was mentioned. The only point made was that the Commission said that it had to have regard to imminent changes.
We must assume that it had regard to imminent changes in this case. No one could be more concerned than I am about the destruction of historic names, but public opinion in Plymouth has become quite different from what it was. It is not now true to say that there is unanimous opposition in Plymouth to the change which is now contemplated.
A week ago, immediately the proposals came out, I received a message from the town clerk, following a meeting of the special purposes committee of the council, opposing these new proposals. Just over a week ago that opposition was unanimously supported by the Plymouth City Council. Since then there have been no other meetings, and no other resolutions have been published upon the subject.
Therefore, it is the unanimous opinion of the members of the city council, representing both constituencies, that this recommendation should be opposed on precisely the same grounds as was the earlier proposal. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will refer to the documents sent to him by the city council he will see that its opposition is based on precisely identical grounds, namely, that the proposal involves the transference of such a large number of electors.
The transfer of voters is being made in order to reduce the electorate of the Devonport division from roughly 74,000 to 70,000 and to increase the electorate of the Sutton division from roughly 65,000 to 70,000.
I am not clear whether the later proposals are still unanimously opposed, because I have received two letters from Plymouth, one of which arrived only today, which said:
We are now instructed … to inform you that the Association"—
this is a Conservative Association—
favourably regards the recommendations affecting the City of Plymouth as contained in the Report of the Boundary Commissioners. It does, in fact, coincide with the second of two alternatives submitted to the Commission.
That letter comes from the Devonport division.
A letter from the Sutton division says:
From reports appearing in the Plymouth Press it is apparent to us that attempts are being made to convey to you an impression that the final proposals of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for Plymouth are generally unacceptable to the citizens of Plymouth and to all political organisations in the City. This is not the case.
Certainly, when the Commission's provisional proposals were published, these were rejected locally with complete unanimity, and all sections of opinion agreed that the status quo was much to be preferred to what the Commission then suggested. With the publication of the Commission's final proposals, however, that situation has been changed. No longer are cherished local names with long traditional and historical associations to be dropped; it is not now proposed to include within a Plymouth West division the most easterly ward on the city's waterfront; nor are long-standing neighbourhood unities to be torn apart, as would have happened had the earlier proposals been accepted.
In view of these new circumstances, … we are instructed to convey to you, on behalf of our members, their view that these proposals comprise a just, balanced and acceptable solution of the admitted problem of the unequal electorates within the city at the present time.
They also said that, if necessary, I should bring the views expressed in the letter before the House. That letter is from the Chairman and Secretary of the Labour Party in the Sutton Division of Plymouth.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend suggesting that the majority—and, after all, we have to go by majorities; it may not be a very good way, but this House itself works by majorities—of Socialists and of Conservatives on the city council are not opposed to this scheme, because my information is that at the last meeting the majority of both parties in both constituencies were opposed to it?
I have received no such communication from the Sutton Divisional Labour Party, nor, strangely enough, from the Devonport Conservative Association. Perhaps these two cancel each other out, but I do want to put this to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The decision of the Plymouth City Council was taken unanimously, and the Labour members from Sutton, equally with the Conservative members from the Devonport constituency, unanimously supported the council's opposition. Indeed, it is contrary to everything that has been said by the Plymouth City Council, with its peculiar knowledge of the City of Plymouth, to say that this proposal does not ravage long historical associations.
That only goes to show how difficult the task of the Commission must have been, I have only quoted the letter because I was asked to put it before the House. I feel greatly honoured to have received letters from both sides in Plymouth, which I feel is a great compliment to myself, but the letter definitely states that it is not the case that this proposal is generally unacceptable.
What I feel about the position is that this is a case which falls, I suppose more readily than any other, under Rule 5; that is to say a case in which, where possible, equality of numbers should be achieved. That is a very important consideration of the redistribution, for obvious reasons, because of the number of seats which there are likely to be in this House. It is quite obvious at the moment, at any rate to me, that the revised proposals of the Commission are not unacceptable. On the contrary, I have read two letters from the two political parties in Plymouth saying that they are satisfied with the changes, and, in the circumstances, I do not think that the House could do better than accept the Motion.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman answer the specific question I put to him? If the basis of making this scheme is that we have to secure numerical equality between the two constituencies—and that seems to me to be the only argument on the merits of the case which he presented—can he tell us why that should not have been accomplished by the transference of one ward from one constituency to the other, disturbing only 10,000 electors, instead of by this proposal, which will disturb 30,000?
I am sure that the House will forgive me, but that is what I am not in a position to do. There are many constituencies, and I have done my best to acquaint myself with some of them, but I do not know them all. I know that the hon. Gentleman knows everything, but I just happen to know what I can.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has given quite enough advice to all quarters of the House in the course of the day.
I am not in a position to tell the hon. Member for Devonport what he asks. I am sure that he will appreciate that it is not possible for me to know all the details of all these cases. I am simply saying that the Commission, in its judgment, followed out the instructions given to it, by the Rule and in accordance with the Statute, and I do not see how the House can do otherwise than support it.
I can quite understand the Minister when he says that it is difficult for him to know all the details, but this is our only court of appeal and the only place where we may put our case. We were never able to put this to the Commission, and, therefore, if it is proved, as it has been proved—and nobody dissents from this—that we could carry out exactly the same numerical change by altering one ward instead of five, if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is genuinely listening to these issues on their merits, and if he is prepared to listen to the case and change his mind if need be, will he not agree to withdraw this Order and come back with a proposal which will achieve the same numerical result without disturbing 30,000 people in Plymouth? Will he agree to take it back and make a fresh attempt?
I am not sure that I can say that. All I can say is that I had a letter from the Labour Party in the Sutton division, and I therefore assume that it represented the views of the Labour Party. The other letter was from the Conservative Party, but I should not have mentioned it unless I had been asked to do so.
I do not now represent a West Country seat, but I am very much a West Country man, coming from a West Country family, and I think I am the only Devonian on this side of the House at the moment. I should, therefore, like to say a word or two before the House makes up its mind on this matter.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) was speaking and was being supported by two hon. Gentlement opposite, it really seemed to me that this must be a case in which the Home Secretary would get up and disprove all the things which he alleged were being said about him and the party machine behind him being a rubber stamp, riding roughshod over all argument and local opinion. I thought he would say to the House that, after hearing the argument, he would take the Order back and ask the Commission to take another look at it in the light of the facts put forward by the three hon. Members with particular local knowledge. Instead of that, he has disappointed me and has sunk to the lowest level which the occasion offered to him. He has adopted the role of the rubber stamp, or that of the driver of the big steamroller.
Three arguments were put to him, and each one seemed to me to be overwhelming. The first was why must he disturb 30,000 people, almost all of whom were involved in a major disturbance only a few years ago, to achieve a result which could be achieved by disturbing only 5,000? The only answer he gave to that was that Rule 5 required it; but Rule 5 does not require it. It only requires that the Commission should, if possible, achieve equal numbers, and the whole essence of the points made by the representatives of Plymouth and Torquay was that they could get the result of numerical equality by disturbing only 5,000 people, instead of 30,000.
Then the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was asked why we should accept proposals which, whatever they may achieve this year and next, will, five years' hence, achieve an even greater degree of disparity than that which exists today. I listened very carefully, and the only two occasions on which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman even touched upon that argument were when he said, first, that that may well be so, and secondly, when he said that he must assume that the Commission had regard to the future. To that argument, therefore, he did not address his mind in any serious way.
The last argument was that the proposals cut across arteries, historical associations and historical connections. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's only answer to that argument was to read two letters from bodies each of which, I am sure, could be described as much less influential than the Plymouth City Council, which is unanimous on the matter. In any case, it seems to me that, putting the two letters together, the changes proposed by the Commission would only effect either the transfer of some Conservative voters from Sutton to Devonport or the transfer of some Socialist voters from Devonport to Sutton, or both.
That is the conclusion to which I should reluctantly be led from the sources of the two letters which have been quoted in support of proposals for which no other conceivable argument can be found, and in support of which no answer has been given to the overwhelming arguments which have been brought against them. I still hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will say that this Order can be withdrawn. If not, I would appeal to hon. Members opposite to join with us on this side of the House in voting against it.
There are well over 20 hon. Members opposite who have heard the arguments which have been put forward. They were not party arguments, but were put forward by one Member of the Labour Party and by two Members of the Conservative Party. It would do enormous honour and enormous credit to this House if those 20 Members, having heard the arguments—I am not referring to anything that I myself have said, but simply to the three speeches made by the two hon. Members who represent Plymouth divisions and by the right hon. Member opposite who represents the not-far-distant constituency of Torquay—were either to vote against the Order or to abstain.
After all, we on this side of the House have among us those who vote against the instructions of party Whips. Of course, they do it on important and fundamental issues. For hon. Members to do this would really clearly add to the prestige of the Members concerned and would add vastly to the esteem of the House of Commons. It would show that there was a little individuality left in us, and that the steamroller could not always have all its own way.
There is really nothing that I can add to the very forceful speeches which have been made on this Order from both sides of the House. There have been two from the Conservative benches, and, including mine, two from this side. Listening to those speeches, I thought that the arguments adduced were extremely cogent.
Two facts emerge from the discussion. The first is that no answer has been given by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as to why it is proposed that five wards should be messed about when all that was necessary was for the Commissioners to transfer one ward from Sutton to Devonport, or from Devonport to Sutton, as the case may be.
Earlier in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), the Home Secretary said that he had not received a deputation when one had requested to see him because he was afraid that, if he opened the door to deputations, too many would want to come. Had the right hon. and gallant Gentleman received the deputation from Devonport, he would undoubtedly have known this afternoon the answer to the question why five wards had been altered when it was only necessary to alter one.
We on this side of the House intend to invite hon. Members to go through the Division Lobbies in order to register their views on the desirability or otherwise of this Order. We should do that in any case, if only to give the right hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) a chance to register their views. I am sure that neither of them would be happy unless they had a chance to join with us, and to show by their votes, as well as by their voices, what they feel about this Order.
I know nothing at all about this matter other than what I have heard in the course of this debate. My only reason for rising is because of something which was said by my right hon. Friend just now.
I should like to hear from the Home Secretary what his attitude and that of the Government would be if the House, having heard the debate and having brought its mind to bear on the matter and on the arguments, and exercising its own judgment, as the Government undertook that it should do, were to vote against the Order. I should like to know, and I am sure that there must be many hon. Members opposite who would like to know, whether the Government or the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would regard that as a matter involving the fate of the Government.
Is it the sort of matter about which the Government would say, "Well, this is Government policy, and if you want
to support the Government, whatever you think about it, you must vote as we want you to vote. That is your obligation to us, because we are the Government and you are supporters of ours"? Or, on the other hand, is it the sort of matter which the Government genuinely regard as not being a matter of Government policy at all? In other words, is it a matter merely of putting before the House of Commons the recommendation of the Boundary Commission, hearing the arguments and leaving the House of Commons free to cast its vote as it thinks the arguments warrant?
I do not know what the Government think about that. A great many other people do not know either. If it is true that there has been a three-line Whip on the subject, then that would be a little inconsistent with being judicial. I do not know how a man can be judicial under a three-line Whip. I have never regarded a Whip as a judicial instrument. It may be that there is some other view, and that what the Government really meant was, "If you cannot make up your mind, vote for us, but if you can make up your mind, whichever way you make it up, you are free to exercise your judicial conscience and to decide according to the merits of the arguments and of the facts." Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman regard this question as involving the fate of the Government or not?
|Division No. 15.]||AYES||[7.20 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bullard, D. G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Burden, F. F. A.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Carr, Robert||Fell, A.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Channon, H.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Banks, Col, C.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Barber, Anthony||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cole, Norman||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Colegate, W. A.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fort, R.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. B.||Glover, D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crouch, R. F.||Godber, J. B.|
|Black, C. W.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Davidson, Viscountess||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Braine, B. R.||Deedes, W. F.||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Donner, Sir P. W.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Shepherd, William|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Hay, John||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Smithers, peter (Winchester)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marples, A. E.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Heath, Edward||Maude, Angus||Speir, R. M.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir p. (Kensington, S.)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Mellor, Sir John||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Molson, A. H. E.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Neave, Airey||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Holt, A. F.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E)||Summers, G. S.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Odey, G. W.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Page, R. G.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Kurd, A. R.||Partridge, E.||Tilney, John|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Kaberry, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Profumo, J. D.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Ramsden, J. E.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Paul (Sutherland, S.)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robson-Brown, W.||Wills, G.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Roper, Sir Harold||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Russell, R. S.|
|McAdden, S. J.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Mr. Redmayne and Mr. Legh.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Shofield, Lt.-Col. W|
|Albu, A. H.||Collins, V. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crowe)||Cove, W. G.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hannan, W.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Daines, P.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hargeaves, A.|
|Benson, G.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hastings, S.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Deer, G.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Boardman, H.||Donnelly, D. L.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Holman, P.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Holmes, Horace|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Brockway, A. F.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fienburgh, W.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Brawn, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Foot, M. M.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Forman, J. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Carmichael, J.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Champion, A. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Greenwood, Anthony||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Clunie, J.||Grey, C. F.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Collick, P. H.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Padley, W. E.||Steele, T.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Keenan, W.||Pannell, Charles||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Kenyon, C.||Pargiter, G. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Parker, J.||Swingier, S. T.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Parkin, B. T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Lawson, G. M.||Paton, J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Peart, T. F.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Lover, Harold (Cheetham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thornton, E.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Popplewell, E.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Probert, A. R.||Warbey, W. N.|
|McInnes, J.||Proctor, W. T.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Pryde, D. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|McLeavy, F.||Reeves, J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reid, William (Camlachie)||West, D. G.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Rhodes, H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wigg, George|
|Mellish, R. J.||Ross, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Royle, C.||Willey, F. T.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Moody, A. S.||Short, E. W.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Morley, R.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Moyle, A.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Yates, V. F.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Nally, W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Snow, J. W.||Sir Richard Acland and|
|Oswald, T.||Sorensen, R. W.||Mr. Turner-Samuels.|
|Owen, W. J.||Sparks, J. A.|
Question put and agreed to.
It should not be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a minute while I put forward the objections to this draft Order as it stands. The effect of it, if adopted, would be to create a constituency consisting of the urban districts of Billericay and Brentwood, and the name of the constituency would be "Billericay." Brentwood is at present part of the Parliamentary constituency of Romford, for which I am the Member. If this draft Order is adopted Brentwood will lose not only its partner but its name. The people of Brentwood feel very strongly about this, and say that, although they halve no objection to Billericay, as such, the name of the constituency should be Brentwood.
Far be it from me to try to say anything detrimental about Billericay, particularly as, sitting close to me, is the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine). Some hon. Members may know Billericay in the same way as they know Brentwood; they may have been involved in traffic congestion. Billericay has great historical associations, and is altogether a very desirable place. What the people of Brentwood are saying, and I suggest that they have every justification for saying it, is that Billericay, though well known, is not half so well known as Brentwood, and that, where there is a choice of two well-known names, the constituency should have that which is better known. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I give, very shortly, some reasons to support my argument.
The Brentwood County Police division comprises both Billericay and Brentwood. Its headquarters are at Brentwood. The Brentwood County Court comprises both districts, and the court itself is situated in Brentwood. The Catholic diocese of Brentwood comprises both districts, and the cathedral is in Brentwood. In Brentwood there is a well-known grammar school for boys, and there is also a high school for girls. Both those establishments cater for the children of Brentwood and district.
All the offices of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, and of the National Assistance Board, are in Brentwood. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about prisons?"] I do not think that the people in Brentwood require a prison. There is one many miles away, but I do not think that any of my constituents go there. The headquarters of the county fire brigade and of the Territorial brigade are at Brentwood. I do not want to sing the praises of Brentwood too much, though I could go on for a long time. I might mention also that the electors there made me their Member.
It is perfectly true that the area of Billericay is bigger than that of Brentwood. If I did not admit that, I am sure that the hon. Member for Billericay would point it out. It is also true, however, that it is estimated that the town map population of Brentwood will be 38,000 in 1971, while the estimated town map population of Billericay will then be 15,000. I am afraid that I shall not be very much concerned with what happens in Brentwood or anywhere else in 1971.
I should also say that an inquiry was held. I was not there, but I understand that the argument which I have been trying to advance was put forward, and that it created a very good impression. My hope is that I shall make a better impression upon the Home Secretary than some others have been able to do today. I have sat here for I do not know how many hours, and I keep hearing it suggested that the Home Secretary is perfectly prepared to listen to reason; that he has a perfectly open mind and that, if a case is put forward, he will listen to the arguments and adopt them.
I venture to suggest that the arguments that have been put forward in this particular case are cogent, and that, if I can get the Home Secretary to consider them at their true worth, he will have no hesitation whatsoever in changing the name to Brentwood. Subject to that change, I do not think that either Brentwood or Billericay have any objection to the Order, nor, if I may say so in all modesty, have I. I was asked to put forward this suggestion. I hope that it has had an effect on the Home Secretary, and that I shall hear him say "In this particular case the merits are such that I have no option but to grant the request."
I intervene for only a moment because, like the hon. and gallant Member for Romford (Lieut.-Colonel Lockwood) I have a constituency within the area of the matter under dispute. This merely shows the unfortunate way in which the Home Secretary approached this matter in the first place. Had he done as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) did, and embodied all his changes in a Bill, it would have been possible to deal with these matters as we dealt with Mid-Ulster. For some reason it was desired to call that constituency by a very long name, but the name Mid-Ulster was substituted by a vote of the House.
The present method means that we either accept the Home Secretary's view or throw out the whole Order. That perhaps might be a good thing, and if the hon. and gallant Member for Rom-ford is prepared to support his objection in the Division Lobby I shall vote with him. I do not feel that it is a matter upon which we should divide the House, but, if he feels strongly about it, he has his remedy.
I hope that the Home Secretary will deal not only with the question of the name but with the principle upon which the Boundary Commission have proceeded here, because what it has done in regard to this Order is in exact opposition to the argument which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman put forward with regard to South-East Derbyshire. The real reason these changes started was that, apparently, it was said by the Boundary Commission that it was improper to have a county district in a borough area. All the changes in Essex start from the removal of the rural district of Rochford from the Borough of Southend. Having started there, the Commission then proceeded to erect a number of new constituencies, including South-East Essex, which has only 45,000 electors.
We have just been told that this is a quite impossible figure to have, and that we must have a larger figure. This once again is an example of the Commission supporting rural constituencies and county constituencies as against the urban areas. As far as taking into account future building is concerned, one can see that the method of approach by the Commission was not very satisfactory last time, because it was the Commission who recommended last time that Brentwood should be joined to Romford, and Rom-ford now has an electorate of 89,000. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Romford has the largest, or one of the largest, constituencies in the country, and no account is taken of building.
I should like to be told why Horn-church, which will be the largest constituency in the country if all these changes go through, with an electorate next year of 78,000, and Dagenham, with 77,000 were not put together to make three seats. Those are important problems. It is no use the Joint Under-Secretary saying that the present scheme is what the Commission has done. He is responsible for what it did. It is not the Commission which is introducing this Order, but he. I hope that we shall have some explanation on the merits of why a small constituency is to be constructed, and why the large urban constituencies are not to be divided.
I do not propose to follow the argument which the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) has adduced, because, as far as I can discover, there is general satisfaction in my constituency and the adjoining constituencies with the proposals of the Boundary Commission. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that when the inquiry was held the local Labour Party did not raise any particular objection to the Commission's proposals precisely because they were logical and sensible. There was no feeling one way or the other.
It is precisely because of that that I must join issue with my hon. and gallant Friend, my good neighbour, the Member for Romford (Lieut.-Colonel Lockwood). He thought that this new alteration of constituency boundaries was quite a good arrangement, and that is the only point upon which I agree with him. Whilst I understand, and I am sure the House will understand, the motives for his local patriotism, I would ask the Home Secretary to reject his suggestion concerning the name of the new constituency.
I ask this without going into any great detail, for the perfectly good reason that the Boundary Commission thought it proper to preserve in the next Parliament the name—I hope the honoured and respected name—of a constituency which has existed since the General Election of 1950. I think that the House generally likes to preserve continuity where it is possible, and it is right to do so. In that connection, I must say that the decision of the Boundary Commission to restore the ancient and historic name of South-East Essex to the other new division carved out of my constituency is one which is generally welcomed in my part of the world and, indeed, in the county as a whole.
I do not agree for a moment with what my hon. and gallant Friend has said about the relative merits of Brentwood and Billericay. Billericay is much older than Brentwood, to start with. It is known not only in this country as a place of great charm and distinction, but is known well in the United States, since it was from Billericay that five of the Pilgrim Fathers came. The "Mayflower" was actually victualled by Christopher Martin, a Billericay man. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did they emigrate?"] Let me say at once that those who emigrated in the past were usually people of energy and vigour, and one expects a place like Billericay to produce people of that kind.
I did not want to engage in any argument about the relative merits of Brentwood and Billericay, but if my hon. and gallant Friend suggests that the name of the new constituency should be Brentwood because of its historic importance, I am at least entitled to point out that Billericay is equally, if not more, important, and I see no reason why the name should be changed.
But there is another reason. After all, the Billericay urban district is larger than the Brentwood urban district. That is a consideration which has guided Boundary Commissions previously when deciding upon the name of a constituency. Where there is some element of choice, the name of the largest district is chosen. Moreover, the electorate in the Billericay urban district is much larger than that in the Brentwood urban district.
In this connection my hon. and gallant Friend's researches cannot have taken him very far, when he projects himself into the future and considers what the optimum population of the two districts will be in 1970. If he had gone into the matter in any detail, he would have discovered that there is a new town under construction in the urban district of Billericay named Basildon, the optimum population of which is to be 80,000. Indeed, I understand that the Chairman of the Development Corporation has been talking in terms of an optimum population of nearer 100,000. At some stage that may mean a new constituency with the fine old historic name of Basildon. For the time being, therefore, I suggest that there is no justificaiton whatsoever for a change of name, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion will be rejected.
The main matter that appears to have aroused interest at the inquiry was that of the names of the various constituencies, and I am told by one who was there that the eloquence of the clerks of the various urban district councils concerned in claiming for each of the constituencies a name other than the one which had been assigned to it was really wonderful. It is a great pity that the hon. and gallant Member for Romford (Lieut.-Colonel Lockwood) was not there to have added to the wealth of information then available the speech which has has made to us tonight, because that might have had some influence on this matter.
We must congratulate the lion. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) on the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers emigrated. If they had remained behind, he might not have been here to represent a constituency in which their influence was very strong.
As to which place is bigger, and the prophecies that have been made in this connection, I do not think that is a matter in which we need go beyond what the Boundary Commission decided after the inquiry, but I do object to the doctrine, satirised by James Russell Lowell and put forward by both hon. Members, "Our nation's bigger than your'n; therefore, our rights are bigger."
The hon. Member for Billericay in the few years that he has been with us has, at any rate, established the fact that when we talk about the hon. Member for Billericay everyone knows whom we mean. I think he has established for that name just about sufficient prestige to make us feel that no change could be for the better.
I do not want to talk about Billericay. I certainly do not want to go into the historical references that have been made.
I should like to say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that there is one principle that I infringed last night, and that is that I aimed my shots at a sitting bird. I am sorry that I made a remark which reflected on the Chair, for the occupant of the Chair is at no time in a position to answer back. Therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to you personally, because you are held in high regard, and because of the position you occupy, I tender my sincere apologies for what I said last night, and I very much wish that I had not said it.
I am sorry to disappoint my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Romford (Lieut.-Colonel Lockwood), but I am afraid that the inhabitants of Brentwood must be like the inhabitants of the high school for girls they must take the name of the institution to which for the time being they are wedded. They have not had a separate Parliamentary name while they have been connected with his constituency, and it is not suggested that they should have a separate one now. In those circumstances, I think that we should accept the Report of the Commission.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) asked me if I would state the basis of the Order. It is that the electorate of the geographical county of Essex increased by over 72,000 between 1946 and 1953. It was necessary to cover that by giving two additional seats in the county as a whole, and this proposal provides one of those seats. It creates the new constituency of South-East Essex and it does so from parts of Billericay and Southend, East.
It is to consist of the urban districts of Benfleet, Canvey Island and Rayleigh now in Billericay, and the rural district of Rochford, now in Southend, East. Consequently, the Brentwood Urban district is transferred from Romford to Billericay. Further, the removal of the Rochford rural district would reduce the electorate of Southend, East to just over 40,000 and, accordingly, Southend is re-divided.
That is the principle of the Order. It produces five constituencies instead of the previous four, approximating much more nearly to the electoral quota.
Perhaps I did not put the point clearly. As I understand it, the position was that Essex was entitled to two more Members, if we took a quota based on the total number of people in the county. Why, instead of re-dividing the big industrial areas, which are Tuning at 77,000 to 78,000, did the Commission construct two small rural constituencies, two small county constituencies, both of 45,000, Chigwell and South-East Essex? That is the question which I wanted the hon. Member to answer.
I had not intended to speak on this Order, but I was not given an answer by the hon. Gentleman on the previous Order and, as this Order involves the same point, perhaps I may be given one now. May I make clear to him what happened in Essex as a whole? Essex has a large and growing industrial population and, as a result, there were too few Members for the county as a whole. Essex was, therefore, entitled to more Members.
Why make a new constituency of 45,000 for Chigwell, instead of putting together Hornchurch and Dagenham? Hornchurch will have 78,000 electors when the next register is published and Dagenham already has 77,000 electors. Why not put those two together for purposes of redistribution? On what principle are those small rural constituencies constructed? Why do we need more county constituencies when the excess of population is produced by an increase of voters in the urban areas? That is the question to which I hope the hon. Member will now address himself.
In Essex, the expansion is not merely industrial. We have five L.C.C. housing estates and two new towns, and in the Chingford area there are two L.C.C. estates which are still expanding rapidly. I do not want to go into the details of the Boundary Commission's recommendations in this respect, but it is not true to say that all the expansion has been in the industrial areas to the south, near the Thames. It has been throughout the county within a radius of about 30 miles of London.
May I express great regret at having Ongar taken away from me and that so many friendships should be severed in this way? Perhaps, having said that, I may be allowed to express the hope that the western area of the Chelmsford constituency, which is now to be joined together with—to borrow a phrase—the under-belly of the Woodford constituency, will ultimately become a happy, harmonious and right-minded constituency.
The point made by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) arises more on this Order than on the previous Order. I intended no discourtesy to him in not replying earlier. These two Orders tackle the two largest constituencies. The previous Order dealt with Romford, which has about 87,000 electors, and this Order deals with Woodford, which has over 81,000 electors. The hon. and learned Member asked why we had not chosen his constituency. But his constituency is not of that size.
One cannot speculate on all the intricate details of a reorganisation of this kind in a county which now has 24 constituencies. The average electorate at present of those 24 constituencies is as high as 61,000. After these changes, it will be about 56,000. It is, of course, true that we cannot get absolute equality, but no doubt this scheme is as near to it as can properly be worked out within the Rules. It has the great advantage of apparently being acceptable to all those who live in the areas. I do not think that is a conclusive point, but it is a point to bear in mind.
We have seen a very big growth in the population of Essex in recent years and, according to all accounts given to us, that increase is likely to continue. If the present Rules continue in operation, therefore, another redistribution of seats in Essex will probably be necessary in a very few years.
During our debates, many people have expressed the view that we do not want boundaries altered too often. I sympathise very much with that point of view and would strongly oppose frequent small changes in boundaries taking place, but, having had the honour of representing the old Romford division in the House, which, in the course of a few years, had, by 1945, reached a total of 207,000 electors, I must say that there is a great danger that we may perhaps alter the Rules and then make it too difficult to make boundary alterations.
It is highly desirable that whatever alterations are made in the Rules, we should retain the right to review areas, such as those in Essex, which are likely to continue to grow, because it would be very unfair if constituencies row being created were to grow rapidly and then to remain over-large constituencies for many years.
My constituency already has an electorate of 77,000 and that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) is about the same in size. We may find that these constituencies will continue to grow, and perhaps other hon. Members in Essex whose constituencies now have smaller electorates may find that they will grow. I wish to press the point that if we make any alteration in the Rules, we must retain the right to review the position regarding large constituencies when necessary.
I think that the matter should be taken further than that. It is not likely to be the case that when an increase takes place it will be all in one constituency. It may well be that growth will take place all over one of the Home Counties, such as Essex or Hertfordshire. To obtain adequate representation we should have to review the county as a whole—
With respect, I would urge that this is a danger which now faces us in regard to Essex, but may also face us again in the future in other parts of the country; and that we should not only bear this in mind in dealing with this issue, but in any general future arrangements we may make for reviewing boundaries.
Mr. Wedgwood Bean:
I propose to detain the House only for a few moments. I am not speaking on my own behalf, but on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland), who is unable to be present as he is temporarily out of the country.
Briefly, the position in this constituency is that the County Borough of Bristol, which returns six Members, has as its Member for the extreme easterly side myself, and beyond the city boundaries is the urban district of Kingswood, a famous local government authority which recently celebrated its centenary. In their wisdom, if that be the word, the Boundary Commissioners, when reorganising the constituencies of Bristol, cut off the urban district of Kingswood and incorporated it in my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick).
As the possible future Member of Parliament for this urban district, it is not my purpose to speak unfavourably of the people who live there, but rather the reverse; to stress their pride in their own individuality and in their independence from the city and county borough of Bristol. They believe that a great wrong is being done to them in incorporating them as, necessarily, a very minor element in what they fear may in the end become the administrative area of Bristol.
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would comment on the protests which have been made by the Urban District Council of Kingswood against this amalgamation with the City and County Borough of Bristol. As I say, I speak for my hon. Friend who represents this urban district. But I imagine that these changes will go through, and I should like to take the opportunity of saying that I shall be very proud to represent these people, though I think it wrong that they should be incorporated in the bigger unit.
As one partially responsible for the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland) is not with us today, I should like to say a word on his behalf about this proposal.
May I first say that I am just a little alarmed at the apparent equanimity with which the Home Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary are accepting the recommendations of the Boundary Commission? It seems to me as though the attitude they adopt is that the Boundary Commission can do no wrong.
The Parliamentary Secretary, in particular, seems to be treating the various points raised by hon. Members in a rather off-hand way. I noted that earlier the hon. Gentleman said, "Of course, we understand that hon. Members wish to put their points and state their case in the House." He dismissed it in a manner which made me feel that already the minds of the members of the Government had been completely made up.
I have very little to grumble about. In fact, my position politically has probably been strengthened. But I wish to support what was said by the right hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams). I think the Boundary Commission could have given much greater consideration to historic and traditional relationships.
I feel that I am part of a juggling act in this matter. I am losing a ward which is being tossed away to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) and another ward is being tossed to me from the constituency of Bristol, South-East. That is just one of the things that is happening in Bristol. But in the juggling of the constituencies which has taken place, I do not believe that there is a greater change than 1,000 in the electorate anywhere. I have not checked it, but I believe that that is how it works out.
The ward which I am to lose has been in the constituency of Bristol, South for longer than I can remember. That means that it must have been part of that constituency for more than 50 years, and probably much longer than that. The feeling that is created in these wards, and the resentment which is occasioned when people find themselves disintegrated from those with whom they have been associated, and the constituencies with which they have bean associated, throughout the years must be experienced to be believed. I think that the Boundary Commission should have given consideration to that.
Returning again to the question of the constituency of Gloucestershire South, I made a note earlier that the Parliamentary Secretary tried to ride off by saying that in every case some inconvenience, some disturbance, must be expected. I wish to suggest to the Home Secretary that in this case it is more than a disturbance; it is a real upheaval. If we study the Report, we shall find that hitherto this constituency comprised two rural districts and two urban districts. Under the proposals of the Boundary Commission both the urban districts have been taken away. One has gone to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the other to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick).
This is a serious matter for my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South. In effect his political body has been dismembered. The only two parts of the constituency where he could expect to find satisfactory headquarters from which to operate a political party, and from which to draw strength for the party machine, are being taken away. He is left with an almost entirely rural area in which it would be most difficult to assemble a political machine.
I want to take this matter out of the sphere of politics. One Sunday evening, about three weeks ago, I engaged, after going to church, in a debate with the prospective Conservative candidate for my hon. Friend's constituency of Bristol, South-East. About 100 young men and women attended at the youth club, and I dealt with this very point. We are all beginning to become a little alarmed with what we term the apathy of the people. It is vital to our democracy that both of our political parties—perhaps I should say all three of them—must be in a position to function at the time of an election, and to do that we must have a political machine—we all recognise that. If we are to decapitate different constituencies and make it almost impossible for them to function, in the end there are bound to be repercussions upon our democracy.
I urge the Home Secretary to look again at this proposal and consider whether he cannot say that this is the first time that he might make a review. There is no harm in looking at something. In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South, and in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, I invite the Home Secretary to give further consideration to the proposals of the Boundary Commission for this constituency.
This Order transfers two urban districts—Mangotsfield and Kingswood—from South Gloucestershire to Bristol, North-East and Bristol, South-East, respectively. Consequent upon that, the Order transfers the rural district of Thornbury from Stroud and Thornbury—the name of which constituency will be changed to Stroud—to South Gloucestershire, and also the Tetbury rural district from Cirencester and Tewkesbury to Stroud. In addition there is a complete rearrangement affecting every constituency in Bristol. The Order also makes a minor alteration of the boundary between Stroud and Gloucester to bring it into line with the recently altered parish boundaries.
The main effect of the order is to reduce the rather high average electorate of the county constituencies and to increase the average electorate of the constituencies in Bristol. Bristol was one of the towns which in 1948 was given one more seat than the Boundary Commission had recommended. Its electorate has not altered materially since then, but its average electorate per constituency is rather low—it is now only 52,878—and the proposed changes will increase it to 57,332. There will, of course, be a corresponding change in the county divisions. The changes, therefore, have a general effect, and, at the same time, they appear from the map to be geographically advantageous as they will produce county constituencies of a better and more compact shape.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) asked the reason for the transfer of Kingswood. All I can tell him in that connection is that the transfer is, obviously, necessary to give effect to this design of reorganisation. It is impossible to say why any particular piece of the puzzle is cut in a particular way.
The hon. Gentleman said a moment ago that the figure for the Bristol population was much the same as in 1948, but that the Boundary Commission had now come to the conclusion that it was too small. Is the hon. Gentleman not really admitting that the Boundary Commission has changed its views since 1948 and not that there has been any substantial change in population?
The hon. Member has missed the point. In 1948, one seat was added to Bristol over and above what the Boundary Commissioners had recommended. The position, therefore, was that after 1948 the average of the constituencies in Bristol of only 52,000 was substantially below the national average or electoral quota. Therefore, on this review, it was in some way necessary to make a readjustment.
Is the Under-Secretary now saying that because Parliament, in 1948, decided that the average size of a constituency in Bristol should be less than the Boundary Commissioners had recommended, the Commissioners are now having their own back by taking that one away or adding two urban districts to it?
I am saying nothing of the kind.
As hon. Members know, certain proposals were made, and then an additional constituency was put into Bristol. The effect of that was to alter the proportion in a way contrary to the rules laid down for the Commissioners to work upon. It is the readjustment of that position which has caused this large number of alterations in a number of constituencies. The alterations are certainly in accordance with the rules. They produce results which make a better system of constituencies, and for these reasons I recommend them to the House.
Once again, we have the illustration by the Government of the general argument that this is what the Boundary Commissioners have done and that that settles it. It seems to me that the Boundary Commissioners have not made a very good job of these constituencies, because Bristol, North-East will have an electorate of 63,272 and
That would have been taken into account at the places from which the people moved into the Bristol, South constituency. I do not think that that helps very much.
This is another case where an expanding city—on the statement of my hon. Friend—brings in two urban districts. One knows exactly what will happen. In a few years' time, there will be an application for an extension of the City of Bristol, and, in spite of what the Commissioners say, there can be no doubt that among the grounds that will be urged for including these two urban districts will be that they are already part of the Parliamentary City of Bristol.
This is again one of those eases where, quite needlessly, the Boundary Commissioners have upset a large area and in the end they have not produced a mathematical result that can be regarded as at all satisfactory. I shall advise my hon. Friends to vote against the Order.
|Division No. 16.]||AYES||[8.20 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bossom, Sir A. C.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Crouch, R. F.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Braine, B. R.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bullard, D. G.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Burden, F. F. A.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Barber, Anthony||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Carr, Robert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Cary, Sir Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Channon, H.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fell A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cole, Norman||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Colegate, W. A.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Black, C. W.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Longden, Gilbert||Russell, R. S.|
|Glover, D.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Godber, J. B.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Grimston Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Shepherd, William|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesborough, W.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marples, A. E.||Speir, R. M.|
|Hay, John||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maude, Angus||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Heath Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Henderson, John (Catheart)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Mellor, Sir John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Molson, A. H. E.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Summers, G. S.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nicolsen, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Holt, A. F.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Page, R. G.||Tilney, John|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Partridge, E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Perkins, Sir Robert||Turton, R. H.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pilkington, Capt R. A.||Vosper D. F.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Profumo, J. D.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Ramsden, J. E.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Redmayne, M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wills, G.|
|Leigh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Robson-Brown, W.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Roper, Sir Harold||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Kaberry and Colonel Harrison.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Cove, W. G.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hannan, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Benson, G.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hastings, S.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Deer, G.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Dodds, N. N.||Holman, P.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Donnelly, D. L.||Holmes, Horace|
|Boardman, H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fienburgh, W.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Foot, M. M.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Forman, J. C.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Carmichael, J.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Champion, A. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Grey, C. F.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech|
|Clunie, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Collick, P. H.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Collins, V. J.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Keenan, W.|
|Kenyon, C.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pannell, Charles||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Pargiter, G. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Parker, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Paton, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Peart, T. F.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Popplewell, E.||Thornton, E.|
|McInnes, J.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|McLeavy, F.||Probert, A. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Proctor, W. T.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Pryde, D. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Rhodes, H.||Weitzman, D.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||West, D. G.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Ross, William||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Royle, C.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Morley, R.||Short, E. W.||Wigg, George|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Skeffington, A. M.||Willey, F. T.|
|Moyle, A.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Mulley, F. W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Nally, W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Snow, J. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Oswald, T.||Sorensen, R. W.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Owen, W. J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Padley, W. E.||Steele, T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Benn.|
In dealing with these recommendations, I want to sneak exclusively upon the recommendations which concern the two divisions in Southampton. We have had a good many criticisms today of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. But the recommendations for Southampton are perhaps among the most unfortunate, the most ill-considered, of all the recommendations that the Boundary Commission has made.
They totally ignore natural boundaries. They ignore community interests. They ignore history and tradition. There runs down the middle of Southampton from north to south, dividing it into practically equal parts, a very broad road. That road is called by different names. One part is called The Avenue, and it is one of the finest avenues in England and Wales, as the Home Secretary well knows. Another part is called Above Bar and another High Street.
That road divides the town into two equal parts, not only from the point of view of size, but also historically. On the eastern side of the road is the older and more historic part of the town, which contains the oldest houses and the greater aggregation of working-class houses. On the western side of that broad road is the more modern part of the town, which contains the greater amount of new buildings and of residential suburbs.
When Southampton, in 1950, from being a two-Member constituency, as it had been for very many years, was divided into two separate constituencies, this broad road was made the dividing line. The constituency to the east was called the Itchen constituency and the one to the west was called the Test constituency, the names being given after the two rivers which flow through Southampton and debouch into Southampton Water.
Everybody was satisfied with that method of dividing the town into two constituencies. They thought that it was fair and equal, and that it maintained ancient traditions. The Commission proposes to take one ward, Portswood, from the Itchen constituency, and place it in the Test constituency. Portswood ward has no geographical or social relationship with the Test constituency. To go from Portswood to the Test constituency one has to pass through 1½ or almost 2 miles of common land. There is a big common in Southampton which separates Portswood from the Test constituency.
The nearest shopping centre in the Test constituency to Portswood ward is in Shirley High Street, and that is a good two miles away. The natural shopping centre for people in the Portswood ward is in the Itchen division. There is no community interest whatever between Portswood and Test.
The children in Portswood go to schools in the Itchen division, as they have done for many years. The parishioners go to churches in the Itchen division. There is one church in the Portswood ward, Highfield Church, which has a very long tradition. It has had a succession of eloquent and popular incumbents. It has exercised a good deal of influence over the people in the Ports-wood ward, and that church is a long distance away from any church in the Test division. From the geographical point of view, from the community point of view, there is no excuse whatever for putting the Portswood ward into the Test division.
The other suggestion made by the Boundary Commission is that a small ward, Swaythling ward, should be taken from the Test division and put into the Itchen division. The Swaythling ward is next to the Bassett ward. Only the width of a street separates the two wards. Up to a year ago they were the same ward for the purposes of municipal elections—St. Nicholas' ward.
The connection between Swaythling ward and Bassett ward is very close indeed. The children of the two wards go to the same school, the parishioners in the two wards attend the same churches. The old-age pensioners' federation which serves the two wards is called St. Nicholas' Old-Age Pensioners' Federation, after the former single ward existing a year ago. It is now proposed to separate Swaythling ward from its natural neighbour and transfer it from the Test division to the Itchen division.
What can be the reason for this quite unjustifiable interference with community interests, ancient traditions and political organisations? The reason given was that without this alteration, the Itchen division had a larger electorate than the Test division. Without the change, the Itchen division would have an electorate of 68,892 and the Test division an electorate of 64,562, the difference being 4,330. I submit that a difference of 4,330 in two constituencies, each over 60,000, is not sufficient to justify these radical and unpopular changes. In the debate yesterday we were informed that there are contiguous constituencies in London in one of which are 30,000 more electors than in the other, but the Boundary Commission did not propose to alter them.
If the proposed change is carried out the Itchen constituency will have 68,469 voters and the Test division 65,652 voters, a difference of 2,817. Instead of the difference of 4,420 there will be a difference of 2,817. The difference of the difference is only 1,603. Is it worth while disturbing all tradition and all past relations for the sake of making a difference in the voting strength of 1,603?
The extension of buildings in the Itchen area has almost come to an end, but the extension of building in the Test area is rapidly expanding. There are three very large council housing projects under way in the Test area. Many thousands of houses will be built in those estates, and many of the people who will occupy those houses when they are built will come from the more crowded streets of the Itchen area.
In three years' time, if no change had been made in the two constituencies, the electorate in the Test division would have been just as big as that in the Itchen division. If this change is carried out, with the completion of these big building projects in the Test area, in three or four years' time, the electorate there will be bigger than that in the Itchen area. What will happen then? Will the Portswood ward be put back into the Itchen division and the Swaythling ward transferred once more to the Test division?
I suggest that there is really no valid reason for making this change. The Southampton Borough Council passed a resolution objecting to it, and a very closely reasoned thesis was sent to the Commissioners by the Secretary and Agent of the Labour Party, asking for an inquiry into the change. So far as I know, the resolution of the borough council and the thesis of the Southampton Labour Party were never even acknowledged by the Commissioners. Certainly no inquiry was held.
No public inquiry was held. I am not even sure that the recommendations of the borough council were considered by the Commission. At all events, no inquiry was held at which evidence could be given by either side.
I suggest that this is a case which the Minister could take into consideration, and in respect of which he could make a concession. If he referred the matter back to the Commission there would be very little delay. All that the Commission would have to do would be to put the Portswood ward back into the lichen division and the Swaythling ward back into the Test division, and everybody would be perfectly happy and contented. The whole thing could be done by the Commission in a matter of 10 minutes. The Home Secretary has not, so far, made any concession. I seriously hope that this will be the first.
If I may be personal, I should first like to express my sorrow for the physical and mental burden which we are placing upon the Home Secretary, to whose distinguished father my father gave some 50 years of political loyalty. I hope it is a burden that we are placing upon him; that he meant what he said yesterday, and that he is prepared seriously to consider arguments which are put forward.
If we are just going through the motions of democracy; if the Government have decided that every recommendation of the Commission shall be accepted, and have instructed their supporters to vote against the rejection of any Order, it would be much more honourable if they had said so yesterday, so that we should not do what we are doing today, which, in the circumstances, can only hurt democracy and Parliament—and Parliament is much more important than any of us.
I ask the Home Secretary to assure us that the Government have not already decided to reject all the arguments that come before them today. If that is to happen, possibly the only glorious thing that will go down to history from this two-day debate will be the behaviour of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor), who voted on the issue on which he was convinced and, in so doing, defied the Party Whips.
One other preliminary observation. The Report of the Boundary Commission says:
The terms of Rule 6 gave us discretion to depart from the strict application of Rules 4 and 5 if in our view departure was desirable to meet special geographical considerations. We have used this discretion as widely as circumstances appeared to us to justify it.
So it would be wrong to say that the Boundary Commissioners, in the Report presented to us, are the slaves of the Rules. If the case for accepting everything now before us was that they were tied hand and foot by the Rules which Parliament had laid down, there might indeed be a reason why they should go through unchallenged, but the whole of their work involved not only the application of the Rules but an application of discretion in the modification of these Rules in carrying out their instructions.
So far, what has worried me has been that whenever the Rules have been prayed against the Boundary Commissioners the Home Secretary has argued that that was where they were using their discretion, and if ever their lack of discretion has been argued against, then the Home Secretary has said that that was where they had been using the Rules. In any case, it ought to be declared today and made abundantly clear that Parliament is the supreme body in this matter, and that Parliament can override the Boundary Commission, even if it were a matter of interpreting the Rules and certainly in a matter of discretion.
It is very difficult for me to speak on a matter in which I have so obviously a personal interest. Frankly, I would not wish to be in this position, and I should have refrained from speaking if I did not believe that what is proposed is wrong and that I am one of the hon. Members of this House with enough local knowledge to show that it is wrong. If it were a purely personal matter, I think I have enough sense of humour to appreciate the irony of speaking at one's own obituary ceremony, or making a last appeal for clemency at a Trotsky trial, or composing a swan song. If it were a personal matter I should not have spoken in this debate at all.
To me the issues here are profound and serious. We have given the Boundary Commission tremendous power; I believe too much power. The "Economist" pointed out months ago that the Boundary Commission can make a General Election, can fix the date of a General Election and can decide the structure of the next Parliament and the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) said that much more eloquently yesterday than I can do today.
Unlike any law court the appeals against it so far have been heard not by another body but by itself. Unlike any law court no reasons have so far been given not even in this debate for its refusal to accept the appeals which various bodies have made against it. All this being so and its members being British human beings and political animals it is of vital importance that any proposals which the Commission makes should be clearly, reasonably and openly justified.
If this House makes a purely party decision on each contested proposal, I shall be even more alarmed. In the corrupt days of this Parliament, all election issues were settled by the House, and that reached its worst stage in the 18th century, when even a man who had tried not to stand for Parliament was elected by a corrupt majority in one Parliament, and, when the other party took power, was unseated and accused of corrupt practices.
It would be a bad thing if this Order, like each of the others so far, should go through the House merely with the Government in one Lobby and the Opposition in the other. This being so, the responsibility of the Home Secretary, who alone can decide what is to happen to the appeal which I am making and whether it shall be left to the arbitrament of party politics, becomes, in some ways, almost as grave as the prerogative which he exercises in another capacity as Home Secretary.
Whereas most of the boundary changes in Hampshire have a case—and I am not competent to express exact judgment on the merits of each proposed change in Hampshire—a case which may not universally be accepted, and one sometimes now modified in detail in answer to the representations of Hampshire local government bodies, but a case usually of merit and validity which can be appreciated even by those who do not accept it, I venture to say that not a soul in Southampton can justify on any grounds that ought to weigh with neutral, impartial Commissioners the proposed changes in Southampton boundaries.
Our local newspaper, the "Southampton Echo," is one of the finest in the country. Hon. Members may not believe me when I say that I have such a regard for the political integrity of this local newspaper that, had it commented favourably upon or even endorsed the Commissioners' proposals, I should not have spoken against them. As it is, that newspaper could only make the comment on the proposed boundary changes which was that they made one division more homogeneous. It then went on to say that the changes would obviously promote and provoke a party fight.
The word "homogeneous" means "of the same kind." It is true that the proposals place three middle-class wards of Southampton all in the same division. Therefore, they concentrate the strength of one political party in one division so as to give it its greatest political weight. But Southampton is by no means divided into homogeneous units, a middle-class half town and a working-class half town. In both divisions there is a preponderance of working-class people. In any case, that kind of homogeneity is, I am quite certain, something which ought to be and has been excluded from the minds of the Boundary Commissioners. The search for social homogeneity must be left to countries which practise it, and which call it gerrymandering.
The Southampton Borough Council protested against the proposal, as my hon. Friend has said, but I will be quite frank and say that the borough council was divided on whether or not it should so protest against them. It may be that that consideration has weighed in the minds of the Boundary Commissioners.
But Southampton Borough Council is and has been for the whole of this century, and for most of the last century, intensely political conscious, and that political interference with local government was not invented by the Labour Party. Indeed, at the turn of the last century an ancient and sick alderman of Southampton was taken in a coach to the civic centre to register a party vote, for which bit of party loyalty he gave his life 24 hours later; and Southampton has not changed since then.
When the borough's attitude towards the proposals had to be debated, and in spite of the reasoned case put up against the proposals in the borough council, the Conservative majority voted against any representations being made. They would not have been human and Southamptonian if they had not. They knew, for example, that one of their prospective Parliamentary candidates said, immediately the proposals became known, that one of the constituencies would become Tory. That was an indiscretion and a piece of wishful thinking to which I do not subscribe and which has not been repeated.
Nevertheless, the borough council made a reasoned non-party case to the Commissioners against the proposals, and if this case has been rejected it can only be because the Commissioners have noted that the council was not unanimous about it, and were unaware of Southampton's long political maturity and the history of the civic divisions. In the same way, the Commissioners seem to be unaware of the physical details of the town which they propose to carve up.
First, let us clear away the matter over which there is no controversy. That is the inclusion of new bits of Southampton into the two Parliamentary divisions. Even here, if one accepted the Commission's obsession with numbers, one might easily argue—I would not—that the Commission ought to have added some of these bits to the Eastleigh division, a small one of 48,000. There is no argument about including the bits of the new Southampton borough into the two divisions. Having added those bits to Southampton, the Commissioners were faced with the fact that one of the Southampton divisions was 4,400 bigger than the other.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that to worry to this extent about mathematical accuracy is going too far. Both constituencies, anyway, are over 65,000. They are both huge, and very big constituencies for the Commissioners to swallow, considering that the Commissioners have made three new small ones, Eastleigh with 47,000, Winchester with 47,500 and Petersfield with 50,000. To accept constituencies, each of which is over 10,000 more than Eastleigh, Winchester, Basingstoke, New Forest and Petersfield, and then to alter one of these two big ones merely to reduce it by 1,500, is straining at a gnat and swallowing about half a dozen Hampshire hogs. Remember that the general proposals leave Walthamstow, West with 41,000, Leyton with 76,000 and Edmonton with 72,000.
As a matter of fact, Test, the smaller constituency, is growing year by year. This is not to be taken as coming from one of the two Members for the constituency, but from the Commissioners' own Reports. They give the figures for 1953 as: Itchen, 68,469; Test, 65,652; and, for 1954: Itchen, 67,341; Test, 66,129. In one year, one has grown by 1,000 and the other has shrunk by 1,000. There is a 2,000 difference year by year so that, by 1956 or 1957, they will be level and the smaller one will be growing bigger year by year.
Most of the new houses in Southampton have been built in Test. The Itchen housing development is practically complete, and the houses in Test have been filled from the overcrowded dwellings in Itchen and Test. There is a steady population shift over to Test. If left alone, the present difference of 4,500 between the two constituencies will shrink to nothing within two or three years; so that even the mathematical case for this change falls to the ground.
To achieve a temporary balancing of the numbers, what have the Commissioners proposed? In brief, they propose to switch 15,429 electors; about 8,500 Itchen electors to the Test division, and about 7,000 Test electors to lichen. They propose to make the bigger division smaller by 1,500 and the smaller one larger by 1,500 for a couple of years—indeed, for only one year. Soon, the proposed switch will itself prove to have made the disparity between the two constituencies even larger because the one which they are at the moment making bigger is the one which, eventually, will, automatically, be larger.
We should remember, as a background to what I have said, that the Government, and the Boundary Commissioners themselves, are arguing, "We do not want to touch this problem again for 10 or 15 years." This hyper-sensitiveness to mathematical equality might be defended as mere shortsighted levelling up if the moving of 15,000 electors had any geographical or community justification. If the fiddling about with the dividing line between the two parts of Southampton is something that should have been done before, some weight might be given to it: but what are the facts?
The present division of Southampton into two constituencies was made in 1948. It was a division which was politically disadvantageous to the party to which I belong, but we made no protest or objection, because it seemed to be the fairest way of dividing Southampton. No political party opposed it, nor did any civic group oppose the division as then drawn. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) has many virtues, but he cannot have foreseen this problem in 1948. His words, therefore, should be above all suspicion. In the debate here in 1948 he said:
The present division is a natural one. A long street runs through the middle of Southampton"—
Southamptonians will not readily forgive him calling the glorious Avenue a street. He went on:
it is two or three miles long, and the area falls roughly into two constituencies, one on the Test side of the street and the other on the Itchen side. It would be most complicated to divide the area in any other way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1948; Vol. 450, c. 109.]
The new proposals tear up this natural boundary. To include in the Test division its new ward, the boundary leaps over the vast Southampton common and, instead, follows narrow streets and cuts through housing districts. To include in the Itchen division its new ward the proposed boundary slices through the middle of a housing estate, with half the streets in one division and half in the other, and next-door neighbours are
divided even more than most neighbours are divided.
Under the present boundary arrangement the only unsatisfactory point at which the two divisions meet is one where there are streets coming close to each other. That part of the present boundary is the only thing that remains in the new proposed boundaries. In the graphic words of one objector to the boundary:
The proposed boundary does not follow any natural or geographical landmarks, but runs south, west, north, east, south, west, north, east, and, finally south.
So much for geography. But community interest follows geography. Portswood ward is the shopping centre for a large number of those in the Itchen constituency. It is proposed to leave that out of the Itchen division and to take it away from the people who shop there. Portswood citizens are cut off from the rest of their new constituency by a vast stretch of common, plus the Avenue. The shopping, the church, school, entertainment, and social interests of the ward are closely bound up with those of neighbouring wards from whom it is proposed that it should be severed.
If that is true of the bit that is to be lopped off the Itchen, the other proposal to lop a bit off the Test is even more fantastic. The wards of Swaythling and Bassett consist largely of a great council house estate, one of the earliest in Southampton. It is a 30-year old community with a multiplicity of community interests. It is only in the last few months that, for borough council election purposes, it has been divided because it had become so vast. Even for local government purposes this division is arbitrary and clumsy.
But, for Parliamentary purposes, to cut across this great community is quite untenable. The proposal does, indeed, cut into two the housing estate, with fantastic next-door divisions, into different constituencies—and this is a community with the same outlook, the same great churches, the same great chapel and the same mighty school system.
Even if it had been geographically defensible, the cut would have been socially wrong. And even if it was necessary to alter the mathematical structure of the two constituencies, there were other ways of altering the proposed boundary, at either end of the dividing line. None of them would have been so satisfactory as leaving it alone, but any other arrangement of wards on the boundary line would have been more geographically defensible than the present proposal.
I would hope that the Minister has studied the map which accompanies the Boundary Commission's proposals. The arbitrary nature of the boundary must strike anybody who looks at the map for the first time, even if he is a stranger to the town. I know that any Southampton citizen who studies the proposed changes and who compares them, on the one hand, with any other switching of wards and, on the other hand, with leaving the present boundary alone, would agree that the moving of about 17,000 electors in this way to reduce the one division by 1,500 is indefensible.
After all, we are not just moving pawns on a chess board. Constituencies mean something to Britain. They are not just mathematical carve-ups. We were changed in Southampton, in 1948, to a two-Member constituency. We were happy as we were. The old system had its virtues. But when we were divided, we imagined that we were divided for some purpose and that when we became two constituencies those constituencies had a meaning. They have a meaning now. They have taken shape. Each has its own personal contacts with its Member, with its prospective candidate and its political organisations. We did not ask for any change. Now that the change is made, Southampton has built some of its political life around it. Test is Test, and Itchen is Itchen, and both have a meaning.
If we are merely going to divide group of years by group of years for mathematical reasons, we might as well divide Southampton into Southampton A and B and make a mathematical adjustment each time we have a new electoral register. I believe that change for mere mathematical sake is bad, and it runs counter to everything that the Commissioners have done in the rest of Hampshire. No Southampton citizen will be aggrieved if his portion of the Member of Parliament is one-1/65,000th rather than 1/66,000th. But he will be aggrieved and angry if he is to be chopped and changed about by an ephemeral mathematical arrangement whose validity begins to disappear the moment it is created.
Democracy is on trial in this country, and the workers of Southampton have faith in democracy. They are uneasy at the moment. If anyone ought to be, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion—and remember, so far as we know, Caesar's wife was not guilty—it is the Boundary Commission, entrusted with the far-reaching powers that we have given it.
I demand tonight that we have from the Minister the Boundary Commissioners' reasons, which are not yet apparent to any citizen in Southampton, for the proposed change—the reasons why, making such a ticklish adjustment of the boundaries inside Southampton, they did not hold a public inquiry, and the reasons why they turned down the case which was laid before them logically and with a wealth of detail by the clerk of the town council.
If I may end by again being personal, I would say that I must be frank: few Members of my age have gone about as much as I have preaching the glories of the British democratic system and the single-mindedness of all that makes up the democratic machine of this country, whatever the faults of the party politicians who use it. I think that this system faces a crucial test when we are altering the democratic system. It should be felt that whatever is done is right, whatever the party consequences.
It is because I cannot see any justification for the way in which the Commissioners have made the changes in Southampton that I say with regret that my faith in the capacity of the Commissioners to match up to their high responsibilities in their proposals for Southampton has been shaken. I hope that it will be possible to remove that lack of faith by the explanation of this Order which we are to hear from the Home Secretary.
I live just outside Southampton, but I cannot speak with either the force or the authority of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) or the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King). They have made a certain play with the natural division of Southampton from north to south, but if anyone looks at the map which has been published in accordance with the Boundary Commission's Report he will see that the new boundaries accord far more with that north-south principle than do the present boundaries. In fact, under the redistribution, the constituency comes more into line with what both hon. Members said would be the proper division.
I should not have risen except for one or two other remarks made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test. He went right back into history until you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, asked him what that had to do with Southampton. He referred to rotten boroughs and various other aspects of local history. I should likes to ask him this: when he speaks about the Parliamentary candidate for his division, which he thinks is going to be Tory, is he certain that he is being impartial him self? It may be that he is, and I hope he is. I hope that when he made his speech he had not in his mind the thought that he might fight the next General Election and find himself a loser. If so, it is perfectly fair for him to throw these taunts at a Conservative Parliamentary candidate, but if not—
The hon. and gallant Member accuses me of throwing taunts at a political candidate. I simply pointed out that the reactions of the local government representatives in Southampton were naturally conditioned by the political advantage involved, and that there was such a political advantage was declared not by myself but by the Tory candidate.
That is very interesting. In the first place, then, the speech which the hon. Member has made was attacking the Conservative candidate and, secondly, it was his apologia pro vita sua in this House.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I was making the point that when the hon. Member for Southampton, Test talked about the long political maturity of Southampton he was making a case which was based only on what he himself felt to be correct. The only point I wished to make was that, as was said in 1948, the Boundary Commission had said that the north-south line should be established in Southampton. That will be established even more under this present redistribution, and I hope that we shall accept it.
As I understand it, and particularly from what has been said by both hon. Members opposite, the whole question was based on the Avenue, which as they know, runs from the docks roughly as far as the Common. That has been accepted by 'both political parties as the north-south line. I think I am right in saying that that principle is even more reinforced by the present decision.
If I am wrong, I can only apologise, but I have the map here and it would appear to be as I have said. I went to the Library this evening and checked both lines, the one in 1948 and the one which is now proposed. Basing Southampton on the north-south principle, this present redistribution is far more effective than the previous one. That is my opinion after looking at the map, and I can only give my opinion.
I can only give my own opinion. From looking at the maps in the Library—which any hon. Member can do—and judging both lines, I should say that the north-south principle in Southampton is far more confirmed by the present distribution than was the case in 1948.
I may be wrong, but I can only go on what I have seen on the maps, and any hon. Member is entitled to judge for himself.
I wish to ask the Home Secretary a question. He had placed before him a new constituency for Hampshire. In this draft Order he has accepted what I would call a horseshoe ring round Southampton itself. If we take the full arc, the constituency must stretch for about 30 miles, but I think hon. Members opposite would agree that, at the most, it is only four or five miles wide, certainly not more. That is a most curious decision. I know it to be one put by the county council to the Boundary Commission.
Mr. Speaker will remember that in the original proposals we were to have a block constituency based on Romsey and Eastleigh. That was to be a semi-urban and semi-agricultural community, but it was contiguous. It was a complete form. The division now proposed has, I think, a very loose entity, stretching from Hamble on the east, down almost to Marchwood on the west.
I cannot see the purpose of that division. It is neither industrial nor agricultural. It has no centre. I do not know what the hon. Member for the Test division would think of it, but it seems to me to be an excrescence on Hampshire political life. There may be a good reason for it, but I have no idea what it is. I know that the Boundary Commission put up first the idea of Eastleigh and Romsey, but it has been changed, at the request of the county council, to this horseshoe. I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend can tell the House for what reason he accepted this change from the original suggestion.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) said that a good many people in Southampton were worried about the findings of the Boundary Commission, and that it was important for the standing of that Commission to be above suspicion. With that, I heartily agree. I think that if people in Southampton look at the Order as a whole, any misgivings which they may have will be removed. I am sure that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test would rejoice if that were so.
I do not propose to enter into the merits and demerits of the two Southampton divisions. Whatever may be the political result of the new arrangement, I am not concerned in it. But if somebody considers that there is ground for dissatisfaction politically with regard to that part of the Order, I beg of them to look at the half of the Order which refers to the county.
What was the history of the county proposals? First, the Commission came forward with a scheme which, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has said, created in Hampshire the new seat which we very badly need, and which ought to have been created in the last redistribution. That seat consisted partly of Romsey and the country area around it, and partly of Eastleigh. The county council, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, then came forward with alternative proposals.
It is well known in Hampshire, I think, that those alternative proposals were strongly supported by the small number of Socialists on the county council. They were vigorously endorsed by the Eastleigh Borough Council, which is, of course, a Socialist body, and they were thoroughly acceptable to Socialists in the area. I do not complain of that; I am not accusing anybody of doing anything improper. In fact, they evidently did the right thing, because the county council, although a Conservative body, accepted these proposals and the Boundary Commission accepted them too, so that their judgment in this matter was fully justified.
That ought to remove any doubt or suspicion with regard to the Southampton proposal that there is the least question of prejudice or colour of politics about the Boundary Commission's doings.
I know the hon. Member so well that I know he would not want to commit any inaccurate statement. He has mentioned that the small group of Socialists on the Hampshire County Council supported enthusiastically the county council's proposal. The proposals of the county council were made by a finance committee on which sits no Socialist member. I assure the hon. Gentleman that not a single Socialist on the Hampshire County Council had anything whatever to do with the county council's objections to the Boundary Commission's original proposals.
That strengthens my argument; I am not complaining. Had Socialist members been on the finance committee, I should have been delighted if they had supported the proposals. AH that I am trying to do is to point out that, taken as a whole, the Older betrays no evidence whatever of political partiality.
As a candidate, and then as; a Member of Parliament, I have for eight years represented, or purposed to represent, 20,000 electors in the Borough of Eastleigh and a lot of people in some of the villages nearby, and I am now to lose them. I should like to take this opportunity of putting on record that although I anticipated that not all of those people in Eastleigh would regularly vote for me, nevertheless during the time I represented them I had nothing but kindness and courtesy and the greatest help from the local authority, though not all its members were by any means; Conservatives. I only recall one occasion when I had a thoroughly offensive thing said to me in the course of my political work, and that was by a newcomer to the borough.
I want, first, to raise with the Home Secretary a technical point with regard to the Order. There were three sets of proposals for the County of Southampton—that is the official name for Hampshire. The first dealt with a proposal that there should be new constituencies called Basingstoke. New Forest, Eastleigh, Petersfield, Romsey, and Winchester. That was a self-contained proposal.
There was another proposal, dealing with three divisions of Portsmouth, which again was self-contained. There was a third set of proposals relating to the two seats in Southampton. Each of those three groups is quite self-contained. One can be in favour of two, although against one, or the other way round. Generally speaking, I do not think that there is any other instance in this group of Orders where the proposals are grouped so that one has self-contained proposals that are linked with other self-contained proposals.
If we take the county divisions, once a change is suggested all the groups are included. If we touch one of the Portsmouth divisions, the other two are involved. If we touch one of the Southampton divisions, something has to happen to the other. In these three separate decisions there is no influence of one on the other. It is desirable, if we are to go in for series of Orders, that each should represent a self-contained proposal so that people can vote on a clear issue.
I am grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the fact that in every other case he has followed the course that I have suggested. Here one can be in favour of both the first sets, the county set and the Portsmouth set, and against the Southampton set. But to express one's opposition to the Southampton set, one has to vote against the whole Order, which would include two sets of proposals of which one might be in favour. I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to note the point that I have made so that on a future occasion it may be noted in the Home Office that it is desirable that these sets of proposals should be kept self-contained and not mixed, as in this case.
From my hon. Friends who represent the two divisions of Southampton we had a most penetrating analysis of the division that has been made. Apparently this Order is partly caused by a revision of the boundaries of the County Borough of Southampton, because the wards are described as those defined by an Order dated 20th January, 1954.
If one adds up the numbers on the 1953 Parliamentary Register, as set out by the Registrar-General, one finds there were 130,016, but of course the two divisions that are now proposed to be made have an electorate of about 134,000. So obviously about 3,000 electors have been recently introduced into the borough.
Anyone who knows Southampton—and I imagine most of us have been through it at one time or another, and I have spent some time in it at various periods in the past—knows that there is this clear division. On the main road in, the Common and the Avenue are well marked features of the approach to Southampton. In fact they make it one of the most delightful approaches from the landward side to a seaport that we have anywhere in the country. Clearly, if that was about the centre of the population of the borough, it would make a well defined and recognisable boundary between the two constituencies.
What I understand has happened is that a ward which is on one side of the Common had been linked with a constituency from the remainder of which it is separated by the whole of the Common. That, I think, is the way that this would strike an observer seeing the position for the first time.
This destroys the social unities in the borough. The churches, schools, and the various public services, around which community life centres, will in some cases have been divorced from a substantial part of the population which they serve. The voluntary social organisations which do so much to make a community life, especially inside a large borough, which enable one to find where the villages are inside a great conglomeration of people, are being split between these two divisions.
I cannot think that this is a wise course for the Commission to have followed. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to ask the Commissioners to submit a further scheme for Southampton in which the social organisations of this important seaport will be recognised so that the two communities which, by this natural division which exist in the borough, ought to be recognised will continue to be recognised in the Parliamentary representation of the borough.
Portsmouth is placed in Appendix D of the Report. That merely deals with some slight boundary adjustments between wards. With regard to the county, although I do not accept altogether what the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers) has said, I think that that also is a proposal to which we need offer no objection.
It may interest the hon. Gentleman to know that when the Nine Elms Works brought this great population into the neighbourhood of Winchester—into Eastleigh—it took a fair number of men whom I had taught when I was a pupil teacher at Lavender Hill. I once went to a meeting in the constituency, where I observed "They tell me that this place is called Battersea-on-Solent", and it turned out that both the chairman of the meeting and the secretary who invited me had gone to the school in which I had been apprenticed.
Will the right hon. Member allow me to add that I feel it is very fortunate that the community which is so young, and which he remembers so kindly, which has now come of age, and which will give its name to the constituency, has developed well and deserves what it is getting from the Boundary Commission?
The debate on this Order has, not unnaturally, centred round Southampton to a very large extent. Like the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I know Southampton and like it. I agree with him entirely that the approach to the harbour is one of the finest we have, though I am not at all sure that I always appreciated it, because it led to somewhere else.
While the discussion, not unnaturally, has ranged around Southampton, this draft Order deals with the creation of a new constituency in Hampshire. That, I think, will have to be the answer to the right hon. Member, who hoped that next time we could put the proposals into three separate blocks so that hon. Members could express their views separately. I am informed that the difficulty is that practically all the changes are connected. That is why they come in together. I appreciate that the point made by the right hon. Member is one of substance.
The principle I enunciated is the one which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has followed generally, that self-contained proposals should be the subject of a separate Order.
Oh, yes, but in this case, as it happens, they are all affected. The Order creates a new constituency in Hampshire. The electorate of the County of Hampshire has increased by over 20,000 between 1946 and 1953. On that basis, it is entitled to one more seat. Taking the 1953 electorate, which was 812,000, the existing 13 seats had an average of 62,400 voters. The additional seat would make 14 and bring down the average electorate to 58,000.
The constituencies from which this new constituency would be formed have areas with rather high electorates. The new constituency is that of Eastleigh, which is to be created from parts of the existing Winchester, New Forest and Petersfield constituencies. It will consist of the Borough of Eastleigh, part of the Romsey and Stockbridge rural district, which is now in the Winchester constituency, two parishes from the New Forest rural district and part of the rural district of Winchester, which is now in the Peters-field constituency. Consequently, the part of the rural district of Romsey and Stock-bridge which is now in the Basingstoke constituency will be transferred to Winchester. The Order makes minor adjustments—that is why I say it overlaps—between the three Portsmouth constituencies and Petersfield to bring them into line with recently altered ward and local government boundaries.
Whatever may be said about the recommendations of the Commission for South-
ampton, it is quite obvious that it was right when it said that there was no unanimity. One had only to listen to the short debate we have had to appreciate that. Obviously, there was no unanimity. Therefore, the Commission—as is its duty—must come to the best conclusion it can. That is why it has put this proposal forward.
It is not purely a matter of figures, as was suggested by the hon. Members for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) and Itchen (Mr. Morley). As both hon. Members said, there has been an addition to the boundaries of the boroughs, and this addition had to be brought within the Parliamentary boundaries. I am informed that there would have been an even greater disparity without this alteration. In addition, the boundaries were altered to conform with the recently altered ward boundaries. In a case like this, if a unanimous opinion exists in certain areas which are affected it will obviously carry weight with the Commission, but where there is no unanimity the Commission has to be left to do the best it can in view of the existing circumstances.
|Division No. 17.]||AYES||[9.42 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Brooman-White, R. C.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bullard, D. G.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Burden, F. F. A.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Barber, Anthony||Carr, Robert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cary, Sir Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Channon, H.||Elliott, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Clarka, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cole, Norman||Fell, A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Colegate, W. A.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R F|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Black, C. W.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fort, R.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Crouch, R. F.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D (Pollok)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Braine, B. R.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Glover, D.|
|Godber, J B.||Longden, Gilbert||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R|
|Graham, Sir Arnold||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Shepherd, William|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maitland, Cmdr J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Speir, R. M.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S)|
|Hay, John||Marples, A. E.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maude, Angus||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Heath, Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Medlicott, Brig. F||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Mellor, Sir John||Summers, G. S.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Molson, A. H. E.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Neave, Airey||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|Holt, A. F.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Tilney, John|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Partridge, E.||Turton, R. H.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, H.)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Hughes Haiku, Vice-Admiral J.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Powell, J. Enoch||Walker-Smith, D. C|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Profumo, J. D.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Kaberry, D.||Redmayne, M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wills, G.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Robson-Brown, W.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Roller, Sir Harold|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lockwood. Lt.-Col. J. C.||Russell, R. S||Mr. Legh and Mr. Robert Allan.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Albu, A. H.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Holman, P.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Holmes, Horace|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Deer, G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Dodds, N. N.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Fienburgh, W.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Foot, M. M.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Gibson, C. W||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Grey, C. F.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Carmichael, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Keenan, W.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Kenyon, C.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hamilton, W. W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Clunie, J.||Hannan, W.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Collins, V. J.||Hargreaves, A.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hastings, S.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hayman, F. H.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|McLeavy, F||Popplewell, E.||Swingler, S. T.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Probert, A. R.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Proctor, W. T.||Thornton, E.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Pryde, D. J.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon H A||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Rhodes, H.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Weitzman, D.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Moody, A. S.||Ross William||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W)||Royle, C.||West, D. G.|
|Moyle, A.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Nally, W.||Short, E. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wigg, George|
|O'Brien, T.||Skeffington, A. M.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Oldfield, W. H||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Willey, F. T|
|Oswald, T.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Owen, W. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Padley, W. E.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Snow, J. W.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Pannell, Charles||Sorensen, R. W||Yates, V. F.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Sparks, J. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Parker, J.||Steele, T.|
|Paton, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Peart, T. F.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Mr. Morley and Dr. King.|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
Question put and agreed to.
I do not intend to detain the House for very long as this Motion, at any rate in this House, is a non-controversial one. The absence of controversy, however, does not necessarily connote an absence of regret. The broad effect of this Order is to create a new Parliamentary constituency in the County of Hertfordshire which is, of course, a natural result of the increased population which has come into the county and of the establishment there of new towns.
The creation of these new divisions makes substantial changes in the eastern part of the county, about which I am most qualified to speak. The increase of population, as it affects my own constituency, can be seen from the figures. In 1935, there were only 52,000 electors, in 1945 there were 65,000, and now there are about 70,000.
The changes take two principal forms. In the first place, certain villages in the Hertford rural district are lost to the constituency, but as a compensation for that certain other villages from another rural district, the Braughing rural district, are added to the constituency. There is a special compensation in that in the sense that it means that the Member for this constituency will, after the redistribution, have the advantage of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary as a constituent, and so, albeit he has not redistributed his own constituency in conformity with the Rules, he has shown his good faith by redistributing himself.
The other more serious change is the loss of the ancient and historic Borough of Hertford from the constituency in which it is at present. The detachment of the county town from the other towns in East Hertfordshire, with which it has been associated for three quarters of a century, is necessarily a sad as well as a significant moment.
Before the Reform Act, the Borough of Hertford had two Members of its own, and continued to have borough representation in Parliament right up to the 1880s. Indeed, Mr. Balfour first came into this House as a Member for the borough of Hertford, in 1874. His biographer said that he had drifted into the arena unopposed, with merely an election address, one speech and a few personal calls. It is recorded that the one speech gave him a great deal of difficulty.
Since the 1880s, the Borough of Hertford has been part of the East Hertfordshire constituency, from which it is now to be severed by this new major change. Such a change necessarily involves the sundering of many links among those accustomed to work together. It will be keenly felt, not only in the borough but in those towns and villages with which it has been politically associated for so long. The logic of arithmetic and of numbers prevents me from opposing the Motion, but it does not prevent me from recording the regret which I naturally and sincerely feel.
The epitaphs distributed by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee over the various Tory organisations at present existing in Hertfordshire will, I have no doubt, become as historic as the speech which gave Mr. Balfour so much difficulty. If the hon. Member will persevere, and will not annoy the Chief Whip, as he has done by making a speech and so delaying the proceedings, he might even some day be invited to cross the Gangway.
I hope that the House will bear with me on this Order. I have no criticism to make of the greater part of its effect, but I have a very strong protest to make in so far as the Order affects the urban district of Swanscombe, which consists of the little township of Swanscombe and the neighbouring township of Greenhithe.
These towns deserve the sympathy of the House, for two reasons. The first is that the citizens of Swanscombe live in a devastated area which is undermined from below and smothered from above in the interests of giving this country the cement that it needs. The other reason why the citizens of Swanscombe deserve sympathy in connection with this Order is that no urban district has been so messed about by redistribution as has Swanscombe—although the words "messed about "are much more Parliamentary than those which are colloquially used in Swanscombe to describe the process.
In 1944, Swanscombe was part of the grossly over-large Dartford constituency, so large that it had to be dealt with by Act of Parliament in 1945, when Swanscombe was pushed into Chislehurst. In 1948, Swanscombe was moved again, and came to Gravesend. That is a matter of six years ago, and it might have been all very well if that had been the end to the story. But now Swanscombe is to be put back into the much smaller proposed Dartford division, the fourth in ten years. That change I am protesting against and am opposing.
Swanscombe belongs with, and looks towards, Gravesend and Northfleet for every imaginable social purpose. It is true that past the northern tip of Swanscombe buses ply to and fro between Gravesend and Dartford. Therefore, from Swanscombe it is physically possible to get to either place—it is 4d. to Gravesend and 8d. to Dartford. But the only buses which run through the streets of Swanscombe go to Gravesend; hence all the shopping done from Swanscombe and Greenhithe is down towards Gravesend and Northfleet. The telephone exchange is at Gravesend; the trades council is at Gravesend; trade unions are organised towards Gravesend, the Co-op is at Gravesend, the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is in Gravesend—in fact I think the only body which was in Dartford was the Rent Tribunal, and that has now been shifted to Maidstone.
One rather peculiar aspect in this part of Kent is in connection with wage agreements. Hon. Members on the outskirts of London will know that there are often very tricky problems as to whether, for certain purposes, a particular town or borough is inside London and the London rates are paid, or outside, with the outer London rates. This can have rather strange results.
In Gravesend, electricians serving in the nationalised electricity industry are counted as being inside London, and they get the London rates, while those electricians employed in the private electrical industry are counted as outside London, with a consequent difference of 4d. in their rates. I may say, in passing, that in spite of this the nationalised industry manages to pick up a lot of wiring contracts at the expense of the private side.
But the point I am making is that however complicated the different arrangements may be for different trades, Swanscombe and Greenhithe are always counted as going with Gravesend. They never go with Dartford. One sometimes gets a boundary coming between Dartford and Swanscombe, and sometimes one on the other side of Dartford, or sometimes on the other side of Gravesend; but never has anyone, trade union or employer, thought fit to sever Swanscombe and Greenhithe from Northfleet and Gravesend.
The only argument which can be advanced against what I am saying is the argument of mathematics. It does look so nice and tidy, on page 51 of this Report, to see that the new Dartford constituency will have about 58,700 electors, and the new Gravesend constituency will have about 59,000. If we refrained from making the change proposed by the Boundary Commission the result would be that in the new Dartford division there would be 53,000 electors, and in the unaltered Gravesend, 65,000.
It may be said that that is a large disparity but, after all, what is wrong with electorates of 53,000 or 65,000? They are both within the 45,000 to 65,000 bracket which the Commission is so proud of having established for 400 of our constituencies. One has only to look a very short distance to find Orpington with 45,000, which is 8,000 fewer than Dartford would have if the point that I am making succeeded. Across the river there are Dagenham and Hornchurch, with 77,000 and 76,000 electors—constituencies both larger than Gravesend would be were my point conceded.
A publicly-signed petition has been presented in this case. Although that idea is not very original, I think that I am right in saying that in no case argued up to now has there been any presentation of a petition at all. This petition was signed by just over one-half of the electors in the urban district. It might be implied from that, that the other half were against the petition, but anyone concerned with organising petitions knows that that is not true. Even in by-elections one may only get some 60 per cent. of people to vote at all. It is a question of finding the people at home, particularly in a town which works mostly on a shift basis. In such a town a petition signed by 50 per cent. is of considerable significance. The urban district council wrote a letter to the Commission. It got an acknowledgment by card. It never had a proper reply, and was never asked to state its case.
I should like to hang on this local point a general point, that it seems to me in relation to this case which has come so closely to my notice, as it does also in the cases of other areas with which I am less directly concerned, to be a most shocking thing that the local people have not been heard, and that nobody has attended to what they had to say. I suggest that if it is too great a burden for the Commissioners themselves to hear what local people have to say, next time there should be appointed a sufficient number of assessors to work with the Commissioners and to advise them so that they may go around and hear the views of the local people.
I am firmly convinced that if anybody of open mind had visited Swanscombe and had talked to representative people there, had been able to assess the strength of local feeling, and had weighed that local feeling against the mathematics of having one constituency of 53,000 and another of 65,000, he would have come to the conclusion that the urban district of Swanscombe should stay where its citizens wanted it to stay—along with Gravesend and Northfleet, to which it is connected for all social purposes.
I am in a great quandary about this Order, because we are going through with the procedure, contrary to what happened when this party was in office, in which no amendments are possible. In this case there are 270,000 people who are not in any serious way opposed to the Order, and there are 5,800 people who are violently opposed to it. It makes it difficult to know just what one should try to do if the Government are going to refuse to listen to the voice of reason or to the desires of the local people concerned.
When I remember, too, that in the case of all the six preceding Orders, when protests have been made on behalf of much larger numbers of electors, when the arguments have been overwhelming and have come from both sides of the House, when the Question has been put nothing has happened except that the Whips have called out their automatons, and the sheer weight of brute numbers have voted down arguments which would inevitably have prevailed before any impartial and open-minded tribunal, then I have to decide—and I tell the Under-Secretary of State this in advance—that I shall not submit this case to the indignity of going through such a farce.
I have made my protest on their behalf, and I still ask the Minister if he will take this Order back and ask the Commissioners to look at the matter again so that these people may belong Parliamentarily where they belong socially.
In protesting vigorously on behalf of Blackburn against this Order, I do so on the same grounds as those on which I voted against the Commission's Report yesterday. I think that the complaint against the Order is the same complaint as that which was made against the Commission's whole approach to the solution of this problem—the complaint that this decision in relation to Blackburn has been reached because the Commission has not applied the rules in the way that Parliament intended that they should be applied.
As the House may be aware, under this Order the Blackburn County Borough, which has enjoyed a representation in the House of two Members ever since the Reform Bill of 1832, is to lose a Member, and in future the House will be impoverished by the fact that Blackburn will have only one representative sitting in this Chamber.
It is a bitter blow to Blackburn's pride that this long historic tradition of two-Member representation should be disturbed in this way; but I would agree that this blow to our pride would not necessarily be a conclusive argument if there were other factors sufficiently strong to necessitate the reduction of our membership. What is far more important, in my view, is that this break with tradition and with the status of Blackburn in a Parliamentary sense has been done not in conformity to the Rules which Parliament intended should be applied, but in violation of those Rules. In other words, it has been done without any overriding mathematical or other reasons.
We protest very strongly that this ancient county borough is to be impoverished in this way because the Commission has ignored Rule 4 (1), in which it was specifically instructed that county boroughs should not be split up unless that was unavoidable and that pieces of county boroughs should not be attached to county constituencies.
I think it is an insult that our borough, which is protesting in its official capacity, with the support of all members of the council and all members in the constituency, should have had this reduction in its status without any reasoning at all being advanced in the Report. The reference in the document before us is scanty. All we are told is that
the continuance of two constituencies in Blackburn,
which was confirmed by the House as recently as 1948,
is no longer justified.
Just that. One would have thought that it was due to ancient county boroughs that they should be given a little more reasoning than that for this mutilation of their Parliamentary constituencies. But no; we are left to deduce that the reason is that the electorate of Blackburn is now only 80,305.
Clearly, this is not a sufficient reason, because if we look elsewhere in the Report we find that this same Commission, which says that this is sufficient reason for robbing the House of its two outstanding Members, proposes to create a constituency, Nantwich, of only 42,000. Also, in this great reorganisation which has been conducted, apparently with such strict regard to the mathematical figures, the Commission has left in being other constituencies with nearly 40,000 electors, such as Norfolk, South-East and Ripon, as well as a constituency of less than 40,000—
I am not talking about age, I am talking about mathematics. On both arguments, obviously, we have something in common. I am not saying that this is a crime committed by the Commission, but what is sauce for Nantwich should be sauce for Blackburn. We also have the Commission leaving in being the constituency of Battersea, South with an electorate of fewer than 40,000. I suggest that if the claims of tradition are reinforced by such modern examples, it is fitting that the claims of tradition should be heard and be given due consideration here.
More important than the argument of history is the argument of current administrative need, and of current political desirability. If the House will study the proposals in relation to Blackburn, it will appreciate the administrative and political clamour which will be created by an Order which takes three wards out of the County Borough of Blackburn, the wards of St. Andrew, St. Francis and St. Mark—hacks them out of the parliamentary and municipal body of Blackburn—and grafts them on to a completely foreign body, the adjoining county constituency of Darwen.
The borough council, all the political organisations and many other public bodies in Blackburn have been unanimous in their protests against this proposal. The town clerk, as many other town clerks have done, and equally vainly, wrote to the Commission on behalf of the borough council to protest, and to point out that the electors of these three wards who are citizens of Blackburn for all municipal purposes, will now find that they have to lead a double life—[Laughter.]—but it is very serious. The electors of Saint Andrew, Saint Francis and Saint Mark now have this dual personality. For municipal purposes they are part of Blackburn. They think as Blackburn citizens. They are part of a unit which has been welded together through a long history of struggles in the cotton industry and in the years of depression. They have a municipal entity and for municipal purposes these electors will remain part of Blackburn. But for Parliamentary purposes they find themselves citizens of Darwen, and they will have to look two ways at the different questions which come before them.
There is deep resentment about it, because they no longer have a sense of integrated political personality. In his letter to the Commission, the town clerk pointed out that on all issues in which there is a diversity of interest between the borough and the county council, these electors will be virtually disfranchised; because they will be in the minority in a county constituency in matters in which the county council is in conflict with the borough council.
That is the very situation which Parliament desired that the Commission should avoid. The Commission was instructed that it should go to all reasonable lengths to avoid this carving up of a political entity. I declare that the Commission has failed in its duty by separating the electors of these three wards and putting them in constituencies with which they have no community interest at all.
Blackburn is an integrated industrial unit. Darwen is largely a rural area, and here are three wards in this integrated industrial unit being carved off and artificially grafted on to a rural area. I suggest that that is not what this House intended to be a proper division of electors.
I ask the House to realise that when a petition was produced by the council for signature by the electors, there was not the usual lethargy to which we have become so accustomed even on issues which are rather nearer home, more economic, and of more direct day-to-day interest. On the contrary, 11,000 out of 17,000 electors signed the petition. If that does not show the deep sense of grievance that was felt, I should like to know what does.
Every hon. Member knows how difficult it is to get a busy man or woman, concerned with day-to-day economic matters, to take an interest in these constitutional questions ahead of the time when they arise and to deal with a hypothetical situation, but 11,000 signatures from 17,000 potential signatories is proof that a deep emotional injury has been done to the people of Lancashire and that they responded.
Even though I have already described points in it to the House, I should like
to read one paragraph of the petition to show the tone of feeling on this matter:
In our considered opinion, the recommendations are fantastic and indefensible, they militate against good Parliamentary and local government, involve an unwarrantable disregard of the statutory rules laid down for the guidance of the Commission, and sacrifice the communal loyalties of many thousands of Blackburn burgesses on the altar of a mere mathematical formula.
The petition was not only signed by the Blackburn citizens in their thousands; it was sent to the Commission. I should have thought that any objective person, realising the injury that was being done to the traditions and unity of Blackburn and the feeling that had been created, would have realised that support of this kind for the protest warranted the holding of an inquiry. Surely, if there was ever a case for an inquiry, it obtained in this instance with this support for the protest.
Last July, on the unanimous instructions of the borough council, the town clerk wrote to the Commission asking for an inquiry. He had the same fate as so many other people who made representations to the Commission: he got an informal acknowledgement only.
There was no reply, only a formal acknowledgement, although the petition, with the number of signatories, was sent to the Commission. No inquiry was held and no argument was put forward in favour of the change, and there is no argument now in the Report, except that we have only 80,305 electors. Yet the Commission is creating or preserving constituencies just as small and with less administrative justification.
The council therefore unanimously decided to ask the Home Secretary to receive a deputation, failing to believe or to realise that this kind of mutilation would be carried through without anybody listening to the case. Of course, the borough council received no greater success in its request than did any other constituency which asked for a deputation to be received.
So we come to this Order. I made my real protest against the Order last night when I voted against all the Reports of the Commissioners and their treatment of various constituencies. I know that the fate of this Order will be the fate of all the other Orders on which we make protests tonight. The Government will not shift; they have made up their minds. We can have our say, but our efforts will be as useless as the others we have made over these months. Despite that, however, I register my protest tonight on behalf of the constituents concerned and of the Borough of Blackburn as a whole. They say that this Commission ought not to have interfered with, or in any way altered, the present situation in Blackburn so recently reaffirmed by this House.
In the last year or so Blackburn has definitely suffered a reduction in its population. It is now feeling the effect of the depression years of 20 years ago when in that depression citizens left, or children were not born who might otherwise have been born. We believe that this small slump in the population, which has taken place since 1948, is a transitional one reflecting that period of depression. We believe in the future of Blackburn and in its future expansion. Certainly, if we did not have a Conservative Government which refuses to give industrial help by means of a development order, we would have greater faith in its future. Nevertheless, we believe that this small slump in population is transitional, and that in obedience to a transitional mathematical change the Commission is doing profound injury to the life of the borough which we represent.
It is particularly saddening to realise that if the Commission had used the electoral quota which Parliament intended, the one laid down in the Act which would have given us 519 seats for England instead of 506 seats, the Commission need not have asked the House to agree to the abolition of six seats. This extra Blackburn seat need never have been abolished, if the Commission had not arbitrarily altered the electoral quota on which it works. Blackburn is being sacrificed to the fact that that Commission has taken upon itself to interpret the will of Parliament in way s Parliament never intended.
I want to conclude by reading an extract from a telegram from the Mayor of Blackburn—a Conservative Mayor—which I got yesterday at the beginning of this debate on the Boundary Commission's work. It is a copy of a telegram he sent
to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary with touching faith to the last that something might be done to prevent this indignity being inflicted on Blackburn. He writes as follows:
Blackburn electors incensed by the recommendations of the Boundary Commission to deprive this important county borough of the historical and traditional right to return two Members in the House of Commons which has been enjoyed since 1832. The proposal to incorporate 17,000 Blackburn electors in the neighbouring Darwen constituency with which they have not the slightest community interest is most strongly resented. On behalf of the electorate I urge that the Draft Order confirming the Commission's recommendations be not approved by Parliament.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister ever saw that telegram and whether even the Home Secretary did. I do not want to be cynical. It may not be in his files at the moment.
I still make a last plea in reinforcement of this all-party protest from the borough, part of which I have the honour to represent in this House. We do not want any jiggering about with Blackburn, or attempts to tack on bits here, or take off bits there. We want this House to leave well alone, and I hope that even at this last moment this protest and this plea may be heeded.
I rise to join with the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) in opposition to this Order. I have listened to a large number of Orders being discussed this afternoon, many of which seem to have been full of possibilities for criticism, but I certainly have not listened to any criticism which is as substantial as that which may be levied, and which should be levied, against this Order.
This is much the worst of this bunch of Orders. Its immediate effect is to take 17,000 electors out of the Borough of Blackburn. The whole of the constituency which I have the honour to represent is being eliminated, some of the electors in my constituency are being added to the hon. Lady's and the remainder added to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke).
I rise with the object of trying to persuade the Home Secretary to withdraw the Order. I hope very much that he will do so. I do not very much like the procedure under which we are working, but it is the result of an Act of Parliament passed during the time of the Labour Government. We all agree now that this constant alteration of boundaries really is folly. We must allow a greater length of time between alterations of boundaries. I think, also, that there has been a consensus of opinion that the English Commission has given far too much weight to mathematical precision.
Even taking that into account it is surprising what the Commission has done. Here is the case of an ancient county borough which has had two Members since the Reform Bill, which still has more than 80,000 electors but which is to be deprived of one of its Members; whereas there is a constituency left in London with fewer than 40,000 electors, and there is a constituency in Glasgow—not one of these Scottish county constituencies, some of which have only 20,000 or 30,000 electors—with only 38,442 electors. In what way is Blackburn inferior to Glasgow?
I do not want to challenge the bona fides of the English Commission, but I do want to criticise its work. It seems to have made some extraordinary recommendations, and this is the most extraordinary of them all.
This is the most extraordinary of those which I have been able to study, and I shall listen to other recommendations being discussed later.
Here we have three wards being completely removed from Blackburn and, if you please, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, a constituency to be created and called "Blackburn." That will be a complete misnomer. It will not be Blackburn at all. It will be part of Blackburn. Every time the Member for Blackburn, whoever he or she is, speaks, that Member will not be representing Blackburn but merely a number of the constituents of Blackburn.
One can imagine how deeply this is resented in Blackburn. The council has a Labour majority, but every single member, Labour, Conservative and Liberal, unanimously determined that the arrangement was wrong. The council unanimously asked the Commission to hold an inquiry. I cannot imagine why such an inquiry was not held. I cannot imagine why the Commissioners were so foolish as not to hold an inquiry. No doubt they think they have done justice, but surely they have the common sense to see that it is wise that justice should appear to have been done. Without holding an inquiry they could not have ensured that. I am satisfied that if they had held an inquiry they would have come to a quite different conclusion. They would have listened to what was said.
I take the liberty tonight of attacking the Commission, a thing which, normally, I would not do because it cannot answer back, but I was not allowed to go to the Commission. It did not allow me to answer back; therefore, the Commission is one which I shall proceed to attack. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that Mr. Speaker is the nominal Chairman of this Commission. I find that a rather embarrassing thing. If, in future, legislation is introduced to deal with this problem of the work of the Boundary Commission, I suggest for consideration that it might be less awkward if the nominal Chairman is someone other than Mr. Speaker, because we all know his heavy duties make it impossible for him to give detailed consideration to these questions.
I find it difficult to see why an inquiry was not held. Had it been held all sorts of views might have been put forward. It would have been possible quite easily to have added a certain number of voters who live on the outskirts, in the suburbs, of Blackburn, whose whole lives are led in Blackburn, to the present 80,000. Various things might have been done; various suggestions might have been made. The people of Blackburn are not very satisfied when they hear that in other cases inquiries have been held. Why were inquiries held in other places? Has any other constituency quite as strong a case as this?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I doubt it.
I suggest that the work of the Boundary Commission in England stands condemned. I am glad to learn that the Boundary Commission in Scotland has, apparently, done a better job. I looked at the names of the Boundary Commissioners in "Who's Who" and I noticed that all these gentlemen—who, no doubt, are very eminent and have great careers behind them—reside in or near London. I should have thought they would have been specially glad to inquire into the objections raised by a very important corporation in the North of England, in an area with which perhaps they are not familiar. It should not have been difficult for them to have sent someone along to conduct an inquiry, but they did not do so.
In view of all this, I do hope that the Home Secretary will pay some attention to the representations made by the hon. Lady and myself. [An HON. MEMBER: "What a hope."] The hon. Lady read a telegram from the Mayor of Blackburn in which he expressed the great concern of the borough. I say here and now that I concur with the criticism he made and I beg the Home Secretary to reconsider the Order.
We have heard a protest against this iniquitous division of Blackburn from the right hon. Member the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle). I have a regular periodic interest in Blackburn and its citizens. I hope that tonight I may be able to do almost the impossible—to speak in a non-political capacity—because I occupy a public position in the ancient Borough of Blackburn of which I am very proud.
During the course of my visits to Blackburn since this decision was first announced I have met protests on all sides. Blackburn citizens are justly enraged. I do hope that the Home Secretary will pay attention to the speeches made on this Order. It seems to me that the Commission ought to have held an inquiry in the case of Blackburn. It seems to me that the Commissioners have not paid attention to Rule 4, and that they have almost torn out a part of the heart of Blackburn from the ancient Borough of Blackburn and added it to the neighbouring county constituency of Darwen, with which it has no affinity whatever.
I believe that in the future the hon. Member for Blackburn will labour under a difficulty, in that the electorates of the three wards which have been torn out of Blackburn will consider him as their Member, and that, accordingly, he will have their correspondence and their problems added to those of his own constituents. About that I have no shadow of doubt.
For that reason, I feel that there is a very good argument in this case for the Home Secretary reconsidering the matter. To tear out a part of the Borough of Blackburn in this way, a borough which has had two Members since 1832, is going too far even for this Government.
If there were really no justification for Blackburn having two seats with electorates of just over 40,000 each, then it might have to put up with what is coming to it, but when, for instance, the constituency of Battersea, South with 39,900 electors, and a constituency in the City of Glasgow with an even smaller number, continue to exist, then I see no reason why the ancient Borough of Blackburn should have its community life disrupted in the manner suggested by the Commissioners.
Standing, as it were, between the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West and the hon. Member for Blackburn, East, I appeal to the Home Secretary to reconsider the case of Blackburn, to do justice to its citizens, and to send a telegram to its mayor saying that his request has been acceded to, even though it be the only one in the course of this debate.
The House will notice from this Order that the constituency of Chorley is sandwiched between Darwen and Blackburn. I wish to say a few words on behalf of that constituency without in any way detracting from the arguments advanced on behalf of the constituencies of Blackburn and Darwen.
In 1948, I had the experience of having the Urban District Council of Withnell removed from the constituency of Chorley and placed in the constituency of Darwen. At that time, I was requested by the Chorley Borough Council, the Chorley District Council and the Withnell Urban District Council to oppose that action.
Unlike the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton), I succeeded in persuading the Boundary Commission to hold an inquiry at which all the arguments against the transfer of the Withnell Urban District Council from Chorley to Darwen were heard and fully considered. Nevertheless, the action took place and the Urban District Council of Withnell was transferred to Darwen. It was made perfectly clear that the purpose of that transfer was to keep the Darwen constituency alive, because it was falling in numbers and could not claim the right to have a Member unless something was done to assist. So this section was taken away.
Now the Commission is returning to the Chorley constituency the Urban District Council of Withnell, and every argument that was used to remove it is valid today if it was valid then. On behalf of all those who opposed the transfer in 1948, we welcome its return. We are glad that even after five years the arguments put forward have finally sunk in, and that the Commission can say that the action it took on that occasion was wrong from every point of view, geographically, socially and numerically. Now it has righted that wrong, and I want to welcome Withnell back to Chorley.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) was approving something that we are doing, and that he was criticising his right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).
The House will sympathise with the feelings of the people of Blackburn at the prospect of having to lose the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) as one of their Members.
Hon. Gentlemen will have sympathy with the two hon. Members who have spoken for Blackburn in that the town has had two Members since the Reform Bill, although I think that the Reform Bill is an odd milestone to choose, because, if the principle they are advocating is that long continued ownership or possession of two Members should justify its continuance, the Reform Bill would never have been passed.
The electorate of the geographical county of Lancashire declined by 70,000 between 1946 and 1953. In 1948, Lancashire was given three more seats than the Boundary Commission had recommended, and the second Blackburn seat was one of them. Even on the basis of the increased total of constituencies now it has two more seats than it is entitled to have according to the rules laid down in the Act. Blackburn was one of the boroughs with an electorate of a little more than 80,000 which the Boundary Commission, in 1947, recommended should have only one seat, but which was Given two seats in 1948. Between 1946 and 1953 its electorate declined from 84,641 to 81,218. The 1954 figure shows that the electorate of one of these constituencies is now below 40,000. If we grant that two Lancashire seats must now be abolished—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—to comply with the Rules laid down in the Act—
The minimum representation for Scotland is laid down in the Act, and also the total representation for Great Britain—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—within narrow limits.
We have already discussed that on a number of occasions. In every case there is one more addition. Every number is composed of a quantity of ones. If we started increasing the number this year we should completely defeat the provisions of the Act. It is on that basis that Lancashire must lose two constituencies. Accepting that, then one of those constituencies must be Blackburn. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, now that they have crossed to the other side of the House, are entitled, if they wish, to repudiate the Act which was passed by their own party, but the people of the country will look with disapproval upon someone who takes that line.
The position in Blackburn is that there are three contiguous constituencies, Blackburn, East, with 40,377—I will give the latest electorates for which I have precise figures—Blackburn, West, with 40,841, and Darwen with 40,890, all verging on the minimum possible figure. If any reduction is to be made, it must be in Blackburn. It would be quite wrong to make a reduction elsewhere when there are three contiguous constituencies lower than any other part of the county.
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that Withnell has been taken away from Darwen? The argument of the hon. Gentleman that the figures should be divided by two instead of three is lost by virtue of that fact.
I am not saying that no other constituency is affected, but that there is one constituency too many. It has to be taken from somewhere. It is obvious, in the case of Blackburn, where two constituencies verge on the minimum number and one is actually below the 40,000 mark, that the reduction should be made there.
Would the hon. Gentleman address his mind to the alternative way of dealing with this matter? He says that one of these contiguous areas must go, two of them being Blackburn and one Darwen. It would be equally logical for Darwen to go, as the junior partner of the three.
I think that what the hon. Member is really suggesting is that we should make this division and call both parts "Blackburn" in order to soften the blow to some hon. Members.
The fact is that there were two alternatives before the Commission; and the position was really just the same as in the case of Reading, which we have already discussed. The Commission could, first, have proposed that Blackburn should be a single constituency of some 80,000 electors or, secondly, it could have proposed something of the kind we have now. Nobody is really criticising the proposals on the broad principle. The only criticism is that Blackburn would have only one Parliamentary constituency; but, apart from that, the proposals are acceptable. I think that the proposals are right and I ask the House to approve them.
I suppose that that is the best which can be said for the suggestion that Blackburn should be deprived of one hon. Member in this House. But what I want to put to the Under-Secretary is that this position arises from the fact that the Boundary Commissioners did not use the quota laid down in the Act of Parliament. I regret having to repeat this—although I do not think that it has been said today—but may I say what is the definition of "electoral quota"? That expression means, 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…
That was not the quota which was used. The quota used in the case now before the House was obtained by dividing the English electorate by the number of English seats.
Let us just see exactly how this case fits. Whether I did right or wrong—and I have no recollection that anybody pointed out in this particular matter that I was doing wrong—there are, in the County of Lancashire, 3,568,247 electors; and if one uses the quota from the Act to which I have just drawn attention, there would be 64, and not 62 seats available. That is the number that there are now, and there would be no need for any reduction.
It is the duty of the Government to modify the Commissioners' Orders if they have made a mistake. If they have not followed the Act, it is the Home Secretary's duty to submit an Order which does comply with the Act. No more need be said about this. If the quota in the Act had been followed there would have been no need to reduce the representation of Blackburn by one seat and no need to abolish the Droylsden constituency in the same county. If the two hon. Members from Blackburn will both tell against this Order, I will advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote with them.
|Division No. 18.]||AYES||[11.2 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cole, Norman||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Colegate, W. A.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Armstrong, C. W||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Heath, Edward|
|Banks, Col. C.||Crouch, R. F.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Barber, Anthony||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Davidson, Viscountess||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Deedes, W. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Digby, S. Wingfield||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Holt, A. F|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Donner, Sir P. W.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Drayson, G. B.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Black, C. W.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Errington, Sir Eric||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Erroll, F. J.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fell, A.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Finlay, Graeme||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Fisher, Nigel||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Kaberry, D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Kenyon, C|
|Bullard, D. G.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kerby, Capt. H B|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Glover, D.||Langford-Holt. J. A.|
|Carr, Robert||Godber, J. B.||Leather. E. H. C|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gough, C. F. H.||Legh, Hon Peter (Petersfield)|
|Channon, H.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Linstead, Sir H. N|
|Llewellyn, D. T||Pitt, Miss E. M||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Powell, J. Enoch||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lockwood, Lt -Col. J. C.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Profumo, J D.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Raikes, Sir Victor||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Rayner, Brig R.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Redmayne, M.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C N|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rees-Davies, W. R||Tilney, John|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Remnant, Hon. P.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Ridsdale, J. E.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Turton, R. H.|
|Marples, A. E.||Robson-Brown, W.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maude, Angus||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Vaughan-Morgan. J. K|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Roper, Sir Harold||Vosper, D. F.|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wade, D. W.|
|Mellor, Sir John||Russell, R. S.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Nabarro, G. D. N||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Neave, Airey||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Sharples, Maj. R. C.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wellwood, W.|
|Odey, G. W.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co Antrim, N.)||Stevens, Geoffrey||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Page, R. G.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Partridge, E.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Summers, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Wills and Mr. Edward Wakefield|
|Albu, A. H.||Holmes, Horace||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Houghton, Douglas||Popplewell, E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hubbard, T. F.||Price, J, T. (Westhoughton)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Probert, A R.|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Proctor, W. T|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pryde, D. J|
|Bowden, H. W.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robens, Rt. Hon A.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, Rt Hon. A Creech||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Ross, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Champion., A. J.||Keenan, W||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Key, Rt. Hon C. W.||Short, E. W.|
|Clunie, J.||King, Dr. H. M||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Collins, V. J.||Lawson, G. M||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lewis Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||MacColl, J. E.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McLeavy, F.||Snow, J. W.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sorensen, R. W|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Deer, G.||Mallalieu, J P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mann, Mrs Jean||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mellish, R. J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||Thornton, E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Moody, A. S||Warbey, W. N.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morley, R.||Weitzmann, D.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moyle, A.||West, D. G.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mulley, F. W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Grey, C. F.||Nally, W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J||Willey, F. T.|
|Hamilton, W W.||O'Brien, T.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Hannan, W.||Oldfield, W. H.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hargreaves, A||Oswald, T.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Owen, W. J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S E.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hobson, C. R.||Paton, J.||Mr. Assheton and Mrs. Castle.|
|Holman, P||Peart, T. F.|
suppose that most of us who have been present yesterday and today must be feeling very much as if we have been through a casualty clearing station. We have seen representatives of constituencies going away cross-eyed, cross-legged, knocked-kneed and bow-legged and we have felt very sorry for them. But I feel sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have more sympathy for me,