There is no need for a cheer from my hon. Friends. Good wine never needs a bush.
On 19th June the House rejected the Motion moved by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) which called upon me and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to implement in full and without delay the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions. The House considered that Motion and decided, by a substantial majority, that it did not wish those recommendations to be implemented in full or immediately. Therefore, the Bill follows naturally and automatically from that decision, and it is right that the Government should bring the Bill before the House.
Before the House voted I had given a broad indication of the legislation which would follow if the Motion moved by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone was rejected. Therefore, the vote was taken in the light of the proposals that the House knew that I would bring forward, and it will find that the provisions of the Bill are fully in accord with what I said on that occasion.
The House has rejected the view advanced by the Opposition that Parlia- ment should do no more than rubber stamp the Commission's recommendations. It was right to do so. It would not have been commonsensical to have implemented them. Indeed, it would have put Parliament in a position that it was not intended to be in at the time that the original Bills were discussed—[Interruption.] If there is any doubt about that, perhaps I should quote again the words of Mr. Herbert Morrison, when winding up the debate on that occasion.
He may have been gerrymandering on that occasion. But, if so, he was in good company, because the Prime Minister was Mr. Winston Churchill, the Foreign Secretary was Mr. Anthony Eden, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Sir John Anderson. I cannot remember which other ornaments of the Tory Party at that time assisted in the preparation of that speech on that Bill.
However, as doubt is cast on it, let me repeat it now. During the debate on the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill, 1944, Mr. Herbert Morrison, speaking with the full authority of the Coalition Government of the day, said:
But these recommendations will not be course, be binding upon Ministers. It will be competent for Ministers to accept, or reject or amend the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners, subject always to two points, first, that they will have to explain the reasons for their decision, and, secondly, that Parliament must at all times be supreme in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1613.]
Both of those requirements are now being carried out.
When I last quoted these words the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone interjected—somewhat impetuously, as it turns out—to say, in effect, that Mr. Herbert Morrison was dealing with different provisions from those which now appear in the Act of 1949 and that, under the Act of 1944, the Home Secretary was not bound to present a draft Order with his report.
I did not take up this point then, because I was not sure that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said was correct. I assumed that it was, because he is usually careful in validating his references. In any case, it was not relevant to the point that I was making. But I have checked it since, and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has since looked at the debates of 1944 he will have seen that Mr. Herbert Morrison was dealing precisely with the same provision as now appears in Section 2(5) of the Act of 1949. In fact, that Section is word for word the same as Section 4(5) of the Act of 1944. I have checked it.
This shows perhaps the dangers—to which I am not immune—of interjecting without having checked on these matters. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that he was wrong on the limited and rather irrelevant point he sought to make in the heat of the debate. There can be no doubt that in this sphere Parliament is supreme. It is free to act on the reports of the Boundary Commissioners in such manner as it thinks fit.
I am submitting to the House today—and that is the purpose of the Bill—that Parliament has a duty to consider the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners in the light of the far-reaching changes which have been recommended for local government by the Redcliffe-Maud Report, changes which are unprecedented in this century, or for some time before. In considering the matter I have taken the view that I ought to be very reluctant to depart from the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions on the question of boundaries themselves, as to where the line should be drawn. But I believe—and the House has accepted this, I think—that Parliament should retain an unfettered control over the questions whether and when, the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners are to be put into effect.
It is for that reason that I am not putting to Parliament any changes in the boundaries recommended by the Commissioners consequential upon recommendations made to me by hon. Members on both sides of the House, a number of whom believe that their views—and there are cogent arguments in support of what they say—are to be preferred to those of the Boundary Commissioners. Some of those Members are here this afternoon.
I have not taken up their recommendations because I do not believe that it would be proper for me to depart from the literal boundaries laid down by the Commissioners, except where they inevitably arise from the straddle effect of the constituencies inside or outside Greater London.
The Boundary Commissions were not able to consider the proposed local government changes, and so they had to make their recommendations on the basis of the existing local government boundaries. The statutory deadline for submitting ther reports made it impossible for them to do otherwise. Thus, the question for the House, which it has already decided once on the Motion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, is whether we should blithely disregard the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission and plunge ahead, even though we know that this will mean a substantial tearing up of the local government map.
The Government and Parliament now have an opportunity, which the Boundary Commissioners did not have, to consider the implications of Redcliffe-Maud and the proposals for local government reorganisation in Wales. Because of the Commissioners' timetable, they were denied that opportunity.
The Government's conclusions are embodied in the Bill, and what the Opposition are saying, as I understand their arguments against us doing this is that although we all know that radical changes of local government are in prospect, Parliament should plunge ahead blindly, and we should merely rubber-stamp the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners which were made in ignorance of the new map proposed by Redcliffe-Maud.
This simply will not do. It would make a foolishness of Parliament to say that we should ignore what we know to be the proposals contained in the Redcliffe-Maud Report and plunge ahead, and probably involve the House and the country in a second round of major upheavals in the political map.
I should explain at this point that Clause 1 of the Bill relieves the Secretary of State of the duty of laying these reports in pursuance of the statutory provisions. As a consequence, I have not laid what is in the hands of so many hon. Gentlemen today—the Boundary Commissioners' Report. This is a technical term—it is not laid. What I have done is to present it to Parliament, but technically it is not laid, and this, therefore, goes with the relief that I am now seeking from the House of the obligation also to present the Orders in Council. Any suggestion that I am so far in breach of my statutory obligations will not, I think, run very far.
I am aware of that. The last thing that I would want to do would be to shield behind a technicality, and that is why I have not laid these reports today. I am presenting them to Parliament.
It is, and I am delighted that the right hon and learned Gentleman is so well acquainted with that Act. I am also relieved of the obligation of laying the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect, with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in those reports.
The Clause also provides that the Boundary Commissioners are not to submit any further reports before their next general review reports. The purpose of this is to relieve them of the burden of making interim reports relating to the area of a particular constituency or constituencies under Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act. This is part of the whole concept of the Bill, which is to avoid changes in constituency boundaries while local government changes are in prospect.
On their own, the effect of the provisions of this Clause would be that the earliest date on which the Commission would submit their next general review reports would be 1979—that is, in 10 years' time. If these provisions were taken on their own, without any fur-there addition, they could leave it until 1984. [HON. MEMBERS: "A significant year."] I do not know whether it is significant, but I am sure that there will still be a Labour Government in power.
The concept is that while changes of constituency boundaries should not be made when changes of local government boundaries are in preparation, nevertheless, alterations to constituency boundaries should follow as quickly as possible after the local government changes have been made.
Accordingly, subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 require the Secretary of State—and this answers the question asked by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle)—to bring before Parliament for approval a draft Order in Council for the purpose of reactivating a Commission for any part of the United Kingdom as soon as it appears to the Secretary of State that the reorganisation of local government would not make it premature to do so. In other words, when that has been completed, then, area by area, it will be possible—indeed, it is enjoined upon him to do so—for the Secretary of State to lay an Order.
I understand what the right hon. Gentleman says, that it is his duty to lay an Order when that local government reorganisation has been completed, but what is the earliest date at which he envisages that being done?
I do not propose to go any further than the Prime Minister did when he answered the Leader of the Opposition two or three weeks ago on this point, when he said that the right hon. Gentleman—and here I am interpreting what my right hon. Friend said—was being pessimistic if he thought that the operation would not be complete by 1974. If it is to be completed by 1974, I should expect, under subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1, the Secretary of State to be required to bring drafts before Parliament between now and that time for various parts of the United Kingdom.
When the local government legislation has been enacted and it is clear that there will be new local authorities in existence for the Commissions to consult—and this is a very important part of their task—the Secretary of State will seek the approval of Parliament to the Boundary Commissions starting another general review of constituencies forthwith, and before the time when they would normally be allowed to submit their next general review reports that is to say, before 10 years. The Boundary Commissions would be required to report within four years, and their reports would become their next general review reports, and the cycle of reports would carry on from there.
The period of four years has been chosen in the light of the fact that the Commissions took four years to complete their 1969 reports, but there will be nothing to prevent their reporting earlier if they wish to do so.
No. A statement was clearly made by the Prime Minister on the day, and there is nothing that I can add to or subtract from it. If I were to attempt to put an interpretation on it this afternoon the hon. Member would no doubt compare it textually with what the Prime Minister said. I rely on his words. [Laughter.] I can assure the Opposition that their childish denigration, which is becoming so constant, is becoming played out and that they will soon have to change the record.
The other part of Clause 1 is the provision in subsection (4) for decisions about the implementation of the 1969 Reports of the Commissions for Scotland and Northern Ireland to be deferred. A decision to implement could be taken any time up to the end of next March. This arrangement has been proposed in the Bill so as to enable the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to have time to consider the recommendations yet to be made, but expected soon, for local government reorganisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland. A decision about the implementation of the recommendations for constituencies can then be taken. If the reports are implemented the provisions of the Bill will cease to have effect. If they are not the Clause will apply in the way that I have just described.
Hon. Members may or may not be aware that today the Northern Ireland Government are publishing—I believe that they have already published—a White Paper dealing with far-reaching proposals for new local authorities in Northern Ireland. As far as I can see from a first glance, it will drastically reorganise the map thereof. This will need to be taken into account in our consideration. So in England, Wales and Northern Ireland we already have far-reaching and drastic proposals that will affect the political map. Whether they will be on the exact basis of the present proposals I do not know, but that they will exist and take place is undoubted. This Clause will enable us to take them into account.
Seventeen local government areas are proposed for Northern Ireland under the White Paper. Does this mean that the Home Secretary will now consider this question urgently, and that before the year is out he will be able to make a decision whether the 12 Imperial seats will stand in the present recommended constituencies?
Yes, Sir; I think that that is broadly what it means. I have not yet looked at the White Paper in detail; I have merely glanced at it. I saw it for the first time only today. I would need to see whether what appear on the surface to be far-reaching changes are as serious in terms of their impact on constituencies as they might be.
I understand that the number of local authorities is to be drastically reduced, as the hon. and learned Gentleman no doubt knows. In the near future, I would hope to be able to tell the House whether the changes are so far-reaching that the implementation of the Boundary Commission's Report for Northern Ireland should be delayed until the new pattern has been worked out. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman and I understand the situation similarly in relation to that aspect.
I ought to add one other word. Some pundits who have written about this matter are saying that as far as they can see only seven constituencies would cross the Redcliffe-Maud boundaries. I simply do not understand this. I have looked at the question and have had my experts looking at it. I stick by my figure. In our view, 94 constituencies will cross the boundaries, assuming they were drawn on Redcliffe-Maud lines. That would mean that we would have a ripple effect; the boundaries would be cut into two outside each half of the boundary on either side of the dividing line and this would affect at least double if not treble the number.
I cannot see that we could escape without another complete review of the whole boundaries of the constituencies. Even if we were to go ahead now with the existing recommendations of the Boundary Commissions it would be physically impossible to adhere to the boundaries that the Opposition would like us to put into force. We should have to have another major review and another tearing up of the political map within a relatively short time. I would certainly think that it would be within 10 years.
That is the difference between us. Are we entitled to say that we should have two major—not minor—revisions of the political map within a period of 10 years? I am proposing one major revision of the political map and I hope that it will take place within a relatively short time—as soon as the new local government map has settled down. Although some purists would like us to do so we cannot altogether neglect the convenience of the political organisations and the political parties' constituency associations. I can assure hon. Members opposite that many Conservative constituency associations are very relieved that they will not have to face a double upheaval of this sort in a short time.
It makes sense to say, "We know that local government is to be reorganised, and that it will take place pretty soon. Let us therefore see the shape of the new local authority boundaries, and then let us have a substantial and major review." Certainly, several hundred constituencies will be involved at the end of the day. No fewer than 400 have been involved in this review, and it would mean tearing it up and starting again before the new constituencies had started a composite life of their own and before the new Members had taken the new parishes, wards and rural districts into their own organisations.
Leaving politics on one side—[Laughter.]—for the moment—I am ready to return to it at any time, if necessary—there is an excellent administrative and organisational case for saying that we should not tear up the map twice in a period of 10 years.
Clause 2 of the Bill would implement in full—I emphasise the words "in full"—the recommendations of the Boundary Commission in Greater London. I have included it in the Bill in this manner and have made no alteration in relation to Greater London. I have included it because it is necessary as well to deal with the parts of the seven existing constituencies which straddle the Greater London boundary. These must be dealt with at the same time as the new constituencies are constituted inside the Greater London boundary, otherwise we would have mutilated parts left lying around.
Here again, the Government had in mind the desire to have the 1970 G.L.C. elections conducted on the basis of single-member electoral areas. To meet this deadline the only answer is for the parts of these seven constituencies which lie outside Greater London to be dealt with in the Bill. The Government's proposals are set out in Parts II and III of Schedule 1. They deal with these seven areas in the simplest possible way, without disturbing more constituencies outside London than is necessary.
As for the 92 new constituencies entirely within Greater London, I draw attention to the fact that of the 70 local inquiries held by the Commission for England 26 were held in the Greater London area. The Commission therefore went to great pains to assess the views of all interested organisations before it came to its conclusions. I suppose that there is general agreement with the recommendation of the Commission that constituencies should be entirely comprised within each London borough. At least, I have heard no dissent from that view so far. I point out, in anticipation of the debate that is to come, however, that this does not lead to parity in electorates. But in my view—and I hope that I speak for the majority of the House—the principle embodied in the redistribution rules of following settled local government boundaries is sound. We should follow that. In my view, it is a most important rule.
I believe that the Commission has been right to give weight in its recommendations to local government boundaries, but let us face the consequence, that this does not mean one vote, one value That is a principle recently espoused by the Opposition, but the adoption of this part of the report does not mean and indeed, never could mean, that. To take the two extreme examples, the highest and the lowest, in Sidcup, there will be 43,000 electors and in Brentford 75,000 after the redistribution. I could name another half dozen or dozen, if put to it, where they are within reach of each other.
So if hon. Gentlemen wish to argue that the adoption of the Boundary Commission's Report would ensure one vote, one value, they will have to look a little further than some of the illustrations which they have so far. It does nothing of the sort. They have tried to compress it a little, but all the time it is growing away, and the fact that, after these recommendations, two constituencies can have electorates as disparate as 43,000 and 75,000, shows that this is not a very strong point.
The Bill's proposals implement in full the Commission's recommendations for Greater London and I cannot hold out any hope that the Government will be ready to accept Amendments in Committee on these G.L.C. constituencies. There are, however, two particular points to which I should refer. The report recommends a reduction in the representation of Kensington and Chelsea from three to two. Before it made this recommendation, the Commission considered not only the 1965 electorate, but the 1968 electorate. Whether it was right to do so, or whether it should have had regard only to the 1965 figures, is not a matter on which it would be proper for me to comment now, since it is the subject of proceedings elsewhere.
But the fact that we are dealing with the Greater London recommendations by legislation means that Parliament is entitled to come to its own conclusions on what the representation of Kensington and Chelsea should be, by taking into consideration whatever facts seem appropriate. Much as I sympathise with the special problem of Kensington and Chelsea, there are other areas with special problems, too. I am sorry to say that the 1969 electorate of Kensington and Chelsea, at 139,653, shows a further decline. Therefore, it would be right, here as elsewhere, to stand by the recommendations of the Commission in the Greater London area.
Once constituency boundaries in Greater London have been settled by the Bill, it will fall to me to make an Order under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the Local Government Act, 1963, providing that each new constituency will be a single-member electoral area for G.L.C. elections, in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 7(1)(b) of that Schedule. As I said, the Government's intention is that this should be done in good time for the G.L.C. elections next April, and Clause 2(5) paves the way for this.
As I said on an earlier occasion, the Conservative-controlled G.L.C. has been pressing strongly for the implementation of the recommendations for Greater London, so that the boundaries can be used for G.L.C. election purposes. In a letter to my Department on 13th May, the Clerk to the G.L.C. asked that a resolution of the council should be brought to my notice. It ran as follows:
… that the Home Secretary be asked to receive members of the Council in deputation on the Council's request for the early introduction of single-member constituencies for Greater London elections.
On 20th June, the day after our last debate, my Department wrote to the G.L.C. and pointed out that the Bill, which had been published that day, carried out their wishes. Yet, that very morning, Mr. Horace Cutler, the Conservative Leader of the G.L.C., was reported in the newspapers as saying:
This is a deliberate attack on the Tory G.L.C. because we have irritated and embarrassed the Government.
I do not know who he thinks he is fooling. What I have done is to carry out the exact recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners, and the request which was put to me in relation to London. I can only assume that Mr. Cutler was so concerned to play the party game of the Opposition that, even though I am doing something which he wants me to do, he feels bound to attack it.
I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not going to take the sins of Mr. Horace Cutler on his shoulders. He will have a very heavy burden.
That is not what they asked me. I agree that Mr. Cutler is not the Leader, but Deputy Leader. I apologise most sincerely to the Leader and the Deputy Leader.
I should refer briefly to Clause 2(4). The purpose of the first part is to ensure that there is power in future to alter the Greater London constituencies. The last part preserves the power of the Boundary Commission to submit interim reports in respect of particular constituencies. For example, if the wards of a London borough are altered, consequential adjustment to constituency boundaries could follow. It will be the fault of the Opposition if the views of the Conservatives on the Greater London Council are not carried out in good time.
The other main provision of the Bill is Clause 3, which provides for the Boundary Commission for England to submit, as soon as may be, a report containing recommendations for dividing each of the four pairs of adjacent constituencies with over 90,000 electors into three, and for dividing the remaining constituency, Cheadle, with over 100.000 electors, into two. The constituencies are named in Schedule 2 and the intention is that the recommendations of the Commission can be dealt with in time for the next General Election.
We have approached this with the aim of removing under-representation in the very largest constituencies. The changes proposed outside London are kept to a minimum while local government changes are in prospect. This was done before, in 1944—not this precise arrangement, but the idea of breaking up very large constituencies—and there is a good case for doing it again, although hon. Members might argue that the Bill does not go far enough down the scale. But the line must be drawn somewhere, and there will always be constituencies just below the line wherever it is drawn.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that there is at least one pair of constituencies in which the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations are not effective at all in the county areas, so there can be no possible reason for carrying out the Boundary Commission's recommendations in respect of two constituencies instead of their recommendations for five or six?
Second, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Clause enjoins upon the Boundary Commission that it should make the constituencies of approximately equal electorates? Does this not mean that the Boundary Commission thereby is enjoined not to take into consideration the normal considerations, such as the local ties and future expansion of population?
I would reserve any comment on the first point, because it is a Committee point which I should like to consider. I wanted to say something about the second point and I will, perhaps, do so later. I agree that this is something on which we should give some guidance to the Commission. It has had no difficulty in carrying out its instructions and I do not think that it will have any on this—
The number of seats fixed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is reached by special considerations. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will refresh his mind he will see that the number of Northern Ireland constituencies was fixed at 12. There are special considerations there and I do not hold out any prospect of the number being increased at the present time.
In carrying out the exercise of dividing the very large constituencies, there is a precedent, as I have said. The normal methods of the Boundary Commissions will apply. That is to say, they will publish provisional recommendations Then they will consider representations by political organisations and others—any body of citizens, indeed—which may wish to make them. They will then test local opinion and, if necessary, publish revised recommendations before submitting their final recommendations. Thus, the machinery is there to be followed, as it has been before.
The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) said that there was the difficulty about the Commission being required to produce constituencies in each area with approximately equal electorates. This must be taken into account with the local government boundary criterion, which is of just as great importance—indeed, the Commissions have attached very great importance to it in the existing recommendations. Certainly, it would not be the intention to fetter the Commission any more tightly than they are now. If they felt that, in trying to give fairly equal representation, they would fulfil their duty by fixing one constituency, as I have said, at 43,000 and another at 75,000, and took the view that this was not going beyond their discretion, I would not feel that the same limit of tolerance would be beyond their discretion in trying to achieve the ideal of the approximately equal. That would be my understanding of the situation.
Yes, Sir. We are trying to relieve the burden, about which representations have been made to us by others—not the hon. Gentleman—concerning the great difficulty of carrying a very large constituency. We are aware of the burden of personal representations to which this situation gives rise. I have had representations about a number of hon. Members with very large electorates who are having to carry a very substantial burden.
If I am asked why I did not get rid of Birmingham, Ladywood, I have an easier answer now than I would have done last week. It is no longer ours. It is worse to have under-representation, because of the burden of getting proper representation, than it is to have overrepresentation if it is intended that overrepresentation should go in due course anyway. But if one takes Ladywood as an example, I think that the Opposition really are applying an arithmetical mechanism to it which is not justified in a party which believes in historical associations and continuity.
The constituency of Ladywood has existed for many years. The number of constituents is down substantially because of a slum clearance programme, but it has probably now reached the minimum. As soon as Birmingham City Council gives the word, the number of constituents will start to move up again because, I understand from the plans in existence, there will be substantial redevelopment of Ladywood over a period.
In this situation, the House is entitled to ask whether we should destroy a constituency for a matter of a few years and break the historical associations and continuity when it is to be rebuilt with a very high density of population over the next few years. If we are to have an operation at this moment, it is better to relieve hon. Members who are carrying loads through having large electorates than it is to try to get closer arithmetical approximations, especially as the Boundary Commissions themselves have failed to secure that approximation, for which I do not criticise them.
Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman canno
I looked at this matter, but it seemed to me that we should deal with the position as it now exists. That is the basis of breaking up these large constituencies at the moment. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to raise another point on a letter I received this morning. I hope to let him have figures during the course of the debate.
My hon. Friends are getting impatient with me because they all have splendid speeches which they are aching to make.
The boundaries which would be fixed under these proposals are likely to be of limited duration until the Boundary Commissions carry out the next general review, when the new local government boundaries have been settled. It is for that reason that the proposals in the Bill for the division of abnormally large constituencies are kept to a minimum.
That is the outline of the Bill that the Government bring before the House to deal with problems as they exist. It is based on the principle, hitherto accepted by both sides and certainly in the country, that frequent changes of constituency boundaries should be avoided. Instead of two major upheavals in the political map, the Government prefer to solve the matter in a more practical manner by having one upheaval when the local government boundaries are fixed.
I say only one word or so on the politics of this matter, because I have been interested to read the published calculations. Some of the writers and the professors who instruct and enlighten us on these matters have been able to calculate to a certainty that, as a result of this Measure, the Government will gain one seat and the Opposition will lose three, as against, so I am told by the same pundits, an expected gain to the Opposition of eight or 10 seats, which, multiplied by two, would mean 20 in terms of a majority.
When I look at the results of the 1964 and 1966 General Elections, in terms of the narrowness of the voting in certain constituencies, I can only marvel at the omniscience and certitude of these gentlemen. In 1964, a total of 40 seats were decided by majorities of less than 1,000. One seat in 1966 was decided on a majority of three. No doubt it has been written down as a very highly marginal Conservative seat. Also in 1966, there were 75 seats decided by majorities of less than 2,000. In 1964, as I have said, 40 seats were decided by majorities of less than 1,000 and 90 were decided by majorities of less than 2,000.
As the pundits seem to be basing themselves on the 1964 electorates, they are showing a degree of omniscience and certitude which I envy, but disbelieve. I do not believe these calculations about the political consequences. What is happening here is that we are doing a sensible and practical job in trying to ensure that the political map will represent the new local government boundaries in due course, and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which condones and sanctions the deliberate and flagrant breach by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland of their statutory duties under section 2(5) of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, violates constitutional arrangements agreed by all parties, and continues a substantial number of constituencies with abnormally large and abnormally small electorates without regard to the statutory requirements relating to the approximation of individual constituencies to an electoral quota".
On my last day as a pupil at the Bar my Master seized me firmly by the arm and gave me this valuable piece of advice, "Above all, my dear boy, be dull". I have diligently been pursuing that advice ever since. On this occasion I have been outshone by the Secretary of State who, during the course of a 45-minute speech, failed to give the House a single reasonable argument in favour of the Bill.
I myself will be as dull as I can be in the circumstances, but I do not want the House to be under any misapprehension. We regard the Bill as a constitutional enormity. We think that the Government have been gerrymandering the constituencies. But if I were asked to give a single reason why we are convinced of it it is precisely the reason which the Secretary of State gave at the conclusion of his speech.
It is precisely the narrowness of majorities which convinces us that the right hon. Gentleman has been caught with his hand in the Parliamentary till. I would remind him that the calculations of the so-called pundits are based upon a known result in the absence of swing. Therefore, the pundits are not predicting the future. They are giving a notional result on the basis of known figures at the last election.
The first reason the Secretary of State gave for supporting the Bill was that the House rejected our Motion a fortnight ago. As our precise argument against the Bill is that the Government have been making an improper use of their parliamentary majority for gerrymandering purposes, that is only to add insult to injury. It has just as much, and just as little, reason and justice behind it as the argument of a rather bigger boy seeking to justify to a selected group of cronies punching a rather smaller boy on the nose. That is what the right hon. Gentleman's first argument amount to.
The second point which the right hon. Gentleman raised was the question of his own legality. It is to that question that I wish now to devote my attention. The 1949 Act lays on the right hon. Gentleman—and, for the Scottish Boundary Commission, on his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland—a double duty. It is to lay before the House as soon as may be the reports of the Commissions and to lay with them the draft Orders in Council giving effect to those recommendations with or without modifications.
The right hon. Gentleman's extraordinary defence, which he described as not taking advantage of a technicality, was that these reports have been presented and not laid at all. In other words, to get out the part of his obligation which is to lay a draft Order in Council he claims to have broken the first part of the obligation by not laying the report at all.
If the right hon. Gentleman claims to have acted legally, let me issue this challenge to him. We heard from the Chancellor yesterday, when he was answering the Prime Minister's Questions, that the Attorney-General has been consulted in the matter. Let the Attorney- General publish his opinion to the House. After all, he is supposed to be the legal adviser to the House as well as the legal adviser to the Government. I would like to know whether the Attorney-General endorses the Secretary of State's view of the law. I do not wish to embarrass the right hon. and learned Gentleman now. No doubt he will give us the benefit of his advice when he has had time to consider the question.
If evidence is wanted that this is a breach of the law, all we need to know is that the Government are introducing a Bill, because if they could have done legally what they are seeking to do they would be laying an Order in Council and not a Bill. If the Secretary of State bought that there was the smallest degree of constitutional propriety about what he was doing, if he had had the smallest respect for Parliament which laid this obligation upon him, and if he felt that the case which he was presenting was a genuine one, he would have come to Parliament, which imposed the obligation, and asked to be absolved from his duty, before he had broken it.
In our view, at any rate, it is a constitutional enormity for the two Secretaries of State who are the principal Officers of State responsible for the maintenance of law and order to come here after breaking the law and then ask for a Bill not to counteract their breach of the law, but to sanctify it.
The Secretary of State's third point was founded upon a quotation from Mr. Herbert Morrison in the 1944 debates. I am sorry to say that the right hon. Gentleman has been served very badly by those who have been preparing his brief, because if Mr. Herbert Morrison had been using the words in the context in which the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to use them he would have been deliberately misleading the House of Commons. But he was not. This is where the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake.
The 1944 Act contains three different types of report—in Section 2, in Section 3, and in Section 4. The first was the sub-division of the swollen constituencies. For that, the Ministers had no option but to lay the report and draft Orders in Council embodying, with or without modifications, the report. The third was the continuing review by the Boundary Commissions then to be set up. There again, Ministers were not supreme; because, as the Secretary of State rightly said, the same obligation was laid upon them then as now.
The second—this is what Mr. Herbert Morrison was referring to—were the results of the initial review. There, the obligation of Ministers contained in Section 3 was not to embody the recommendations in a draft Order in Council, but simply to lay the report before Parliament and make their own recommendations by Bill. Mr. Herbert Morrison was far too good a Parliamentarian to mislead the House. The right hon. Gentleman, in seeking to lead the House to believe that Mr. Herbert Morrison is a witness in his support, was, in fact, unwittingly misleading the House most seriously in a vital particular.
As the Secretary of State continues to cling as to a lifebuoy to the—as I shall seek to show—wholly wrong argument about the sovereignty of Parliament flung out to him by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) in the last debate, he ought to embody in his speeches the elementary principles of constitutional law. The sovereignty of Parliament is a statement about law, not a statement about constitutional propriety. It means, and it means only, that in Britain, unlike I think in any other civilised country on either side of the Iron Curtain, the judges cannot pronounce upon the constitutionality or legality of an Act of Parliament.
Under the doctrine to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, people were unjustly deprived of their lives by the horrible series of judicial murders in the 17th century done by Parliament in virtue of its sovereignty. Parliament has prolonged its life—unconstitutionally in the Septennial Act, constitutionally during the war. Even if the right hon. Gentleman were referring to what is a statement about British law as a guide to constitutional propriety, which it is not, I could wish that he could have remembered a little more about the authority of Parliament when he was truckling to the T.U.C. the other day. Or even when he and his colleagues—[Interruption.] I promised to be dull, Mr. Deputy Speaker—were putting the country in hock to the international bankers.
But now, instead of performing his statutory duty, he comes to the House with a Bill. What does the Bill propose? It proposes a certain treatment for the four Boundary Commissions. The Boundary Commissions, and each of them, were under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker, and under the deputy chairmanship, each of them, of a distinguished High Court judge or the equivalent—Mr. Justice Thesiger, Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones, Lord Kilbrandon, and a Northern Irish judge whose name for the moment escapes me.
The Commissions, under the deputy chairmanship of these distinguished judicial figures, have been allowed to hold seventy public inquiries, to spend four years of their time and other people's time, and £100,000 or thereabouts of public money in preparing recommenda- tions which the right hon. Gentleman, if his case was genuine, must have known for at least three of those four years were utterly a waste of time. They are now jettisoned completely subject to Clause 1(2) and (4) provisionally in the case of the other three Boundary Commissions and definitely in relation to the English Commission save so far as its report relates to London.
Since the right hon. Gentleman has been reading the pundits, it is a sorry business in this connection that he did not cite a rather important article in New Society which deals with this point. It states that the right hon. Gentleman's
… main ground was the imminence of local government upheavals following the Maud Report. Callaghan described the Maud Report as 'a new and important factor.' New it certainly is not: it has been known that the Maud commission was at work since shortly after the parliamentary boundary commissioners began their current review and nothing would have been simpler than to pass a short act postponing the review for a few years. at the time that the Royal Commission on Local Government was set up"—
and, as the author adds poignantly—
before it was known that Labour was going to suffer from the parliamentary boundary changes.
If there had been the smallest honour in the Home Secretary's proposals, that is what he must inevitably have done. If he chooses to dispute that in acting as he now proposes, he is guilty of a grotesque insult to the chairman and deputy chairmen of those Boundary Commissions. I invite the right hon. Gentleman once more to secure for publication the opinion of Lord Kilbrandon and Mr. Justice Thesiger about the way in which their Commissions have been treated. Even if he does not do so, he knows very well what they would say—
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) really must learn to contain himself: he has a good deal to contain.
I now propose to deal with the third of the main issues before us in considering the Bill, and that is the constitutional arrangements which were made in 1942 by an all-party agreement. Not the least disturbing of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments a fortnight ago was his reference, without apparent disapproval, to the pre-1942 status quo under which redistributions took place sometimes at intervals of 30 years. Perhaps that was not surprising, since under the present Bill—and significantly, as the right hon. Gentleman says, in 1984—the maximum period for which the Boundary Corn-missions may be prohibited from delivering another report is precisely 30 years from the last effective review.
Let me remind the House of what happened. It was precisely that situation which was cured by the legislation of 1944. The Coalition Government, to which the right hon. Gentleman chose to pay his own tribute, took advantage of the party truce to set up in 1942 a committee on electoral machinery. That committee reported, and in his Second Reading speech Mr. Herbert Morrison quoted what it said in a passage to which the right hon. Gentleman did not find it convenient to refer, on the necessity for creating, as part of the regular and normal machinery of democratic government, a regular review procedure by a Boundary Commission which was not merely impartial, but was seen to be impartial.
It is that arrangement which the Home Secretary now, for the first time, seeks to overthrow, because although much that took place under that Coalition Government with regard to the electoral machinery, both as to the initial review and as to Mr. Speaker's Conference to which it was related, has been the subject of bitter dispute in this House, the one thing which has hitherto never been disputed is that the review of the Boundary Commissioners should take place regularly as part of the normal and permanent machinery, and should be respected by both parties, neither of which is in a position to be trusted as judge in its own cause.
I read the 1944 debate this morning, and it struck me how the Act had failed to carry out the intentions that were no doubt thought to be proper by both sides. It was supposed, as is stated in c. 1613, that it would lead to comparatively small changes at the regular reviews which were to take place at the intervals laid down and to keep constituency changes in step with changes in population. When the latest Boundary Commission report has to come up with over 400 changes, 322 of which are major changes, we can see how far that Act has failed in its purpose.
The Home Secretary only underlines my point, and I must tell him why. It is perfectly true that in 1949, and previously in 1944, the period was then to be between three years and seven years. It is true, also, that in 1958, again with agreement between the two parties, the period was enlarged to 10 to 15 years, but the immensity of the changes now proposed after four years of work by the Boundary Commissions shows how very unwise it is to let the thing to go even for as long as 15 years, now that population changes are more rapid in the light of Government policies and the changing pattern of industry.
What Clause 1 proposes is that unless there is a direction of the Commission by the Secretary of State, whom we trust no longer in this matter, we should go from between 25 years and 30 years from the last effective review. Thus the point he has just made, like the other point he also made so impetuously, seems to me to cut right across his argument.
If there had been the smallest piece of sincerity about this legislation, if the right hon. Gentleman, when he appointed the Commission on local government boundaries in 1966 had honestly believed that these other reports should not be implemented until the report of the local government Commission, which he must have known was to be fundamental, how easy it would have been to reactivate the party consultations before it was known to him, as the author of the New Society article kindly puts it, that the Labour Party would be likely to lose as a result of the review.
Now I come to the validity or otherwise of the excuse about the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. This seems to embody all the characteristics of recent Government statements. In the first place, it is not true; in the second place, it is not relevant; and in the third place, the conclusions do not follow from the premises. It is not true because, as the right hon. Gentleman himself was aware although he tried to discount it, the assessment of the author, the impartial author, of the article to which I referred, is quite different from his own. It is that only seven of the proposed changes would, in fact, cut across the Redcliffe-Maud boundaries, even if they were implemented in toto.
The Parliamentary Boundary Commission, he says:
is proposing in only seven cases throughout the country to create constituencies crossing the Maud boundaries where existing constituencies do not do so (and Callaghan would implement one of these). In at least two of the new Maud areas (Northants and Norfolk) the internal parliamentary boundaries would probably be different if the boundary commissioners had been free from the restraint of observing existing county borough boundaries. But it would be fairly easy to isolate these cases and to implement some four-fifths of the recommendations that would probably not involve further upheavals.
That coincides with our assessment. Even if it had been true that the boundaries would be transgressed on the assumption that at some future date the Maud recommendations will be implemented in ninety-four cases as the right hon. Gentleman claims, how much more honourable it would have been for the right hon. Gentleman to have done what was necessary in an Order in Council complying with the requirements of the Act and modifying the recommendations of the Commissioners accordingly.
As a matter of fact, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it, both the English Commission and the Scottish Commission and, I think, the Welsh Commission, expressly referred to local government reorganisation which was taking place. They drew attention to their powers under Section 2(3) of the Act to make individual recommendations from time to time, but it is precisely that power among others which they are now to be prohibited from exercising in order to satisfy the passion for gerrymandering of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
Secondly, of course, the excuse is irrelevant. That it is irrelevant to Scotland is manifest. That it is irrelevant to Northern Ireland and Wales is also manifest, for the Redcliffe-Maud proposals do not refer to either. It is only relevant to England in this rather modest way. If the right hon. Gentleman disputes what I am saying, let him get Lord Redcliffe-Maud to state his opinion about it. I challenge him to do that. Let him get Lord Redcliffe-Maud's opinion, because by no stretch of the imagination are the Redcliffe-Maud proposals relevant in the light of the kind of time-scale which we are about to produce.
Here again, although I know hon. Members opposite do not like it, I put the impartial view of the author of the article in New Society. [Interruption.] The hon. Member should do his homework to use a phrase which hon. Members opposite are all too eager to use in reference to us. The author says:
It is true that the confusion between pre-1964 constituency boundaries and post-1964 local government boundaries presents a particular problem here but it is much less bad in Greater London (where the necessary changes slightly help Labour) than in the West Midlands county boroughs (where the necessary changes would slightly help the Tories). In fact, about half of the changes the Commissioners propose to Parliamentary boundaries are merely to bring them into line with local government boundary changes already made in the last eight years.
For this we are to postpone the regular and normal machinery of continuous review agreed in 1942 between the parties for another 10 or 15 years if the provisions of Clause 1 are carried out and this can be abridged only by the dictate of the Home Secretary and his machine-made majority which we are today indicting him for misusing.
I now bring to the attention of the House some of the defects of the proposals. The first is the time-scale. I have already pointed out that Clause 1 postpones the reviews for 10 or 15 further years unless the Home Secretary intervenes. Let us consider the situation about Redcliffe-Maud. I am not concerned about whether the Prime Minister was right or my right hon. Friend was right about 1974, but let us look at the calculation in detail. Neither party has made up its mind about even the fundamental proposals, or lines of proposal, in Redcliffe-Maud. No one, I believe, suggests for a moment that the proposals will be legislated before the next General Election. We do not know when that will be, but it need not be before May, 1971.
No one for an instant supposes that these changes once legislated can give rise to new local authorities working on the ground and exercising their functions for a year or two after legislation. It is only after that, according to the right hon. Gentleman, that the Commissioners' review will begin again. All we know is that the current review took four years and it would presumably take at least two years after that before the Commissioners' review was implemented and brought into being on the ground in the shape of new constituency associations.
It is obvious, whichever way we look at it, that we are being asked to perpetuate boundaries which are already archaic and have already reached the maximum length allowed by law of 15 years from the last review for about another three General Elections. It is the immense inconvenience of having a review which is inhibiting the right hon. Gentleman from allowing the Boundary Commissions to use their functions before another three General Elections or so have passed. Is it to be wondered that we for our part agree with The Times leader that the best course is to
implement the reports fully, even at the cost of later inconvenience?
One next looks at the anomalies to which the Government have given rise. There are first, as I pointed out last time, a very large number of over-sized constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to divide some, a select few outside Greater London. Well and good. He will create a new constituency of South-East Hertfordshire of 34,000 electors, with the electoral quota at 58,000 for England, but let Wokingham stay as it is, although it is a constituency of 99,377, and growing, and is next door to Windsor, with an electorate of over 70,000. Why is not the right hon. Gentleman doing something about that? The answer is that it would create a number of extra Conservative seats.
It is not insignificant that at
A very large number of constituencies with electorates of over 80,000 are left unaltered as a result of this gerrymandering Bill. But smaller constituencies are also left unaltered. I can understand why the Secretary of State was a little coy about mentioning Ladywood What is Ladywood, whose historical connections the right hon. Gentleman mentioned with such moving compassion? Not only is it the smallest constituency in the country. It consists of four-fifths of one ward, half of a second, nine-tenths of a third, one-twentieth of a fourth, a couple of dozen electors from a fifth and two streets of demolished houses from a sixth, while the majority of people living in the Ladywood ward are not in the constituency. It is this historical body of local community feeling which the right hon. Gentleman, despite the disagreeable experience of a by-election, out of sheer love of tradition seeks to perpetuate.
I do not wish to say a great deal about London.
The right hon. Gentleman has not read the words of the Statute. He has conceded in his speech that he has not complied with his statutory duty because he claims to have presented but not laid the reports, as the Statute required. He has not complied even with the spirit of the Act, because he has not laid draft Orders in Council and he has funked the opinion of the Attorney-General, to whom the House will pay immense attention if he tries to catch Mr. Speaker's eye later in the debate.
Let us take the constituencies which are divided by the Report. Take, for instance, Portsmouth, Langstone. This was a Government proposal which was carefully considered by the Boundary Commission, and it reported on it. It was perhaps a litle disingenuous of the Secretary of State not to tell us what the Boundary Commission found about Langstone and Huyton, which at that time had an electorate of only 87,000 instead of 95,000. The Boundary Commission said this about Langstone:
We considered that the existing Portsmouth, Langstone B.C. (94,859 electors) and the growing Gosport and Fareham B.C. (84,193 electors) could not be left unchanged. Havant and Waterloo U.D., if removed from the Portsmouth, Langstone B.C. made a seat of reasonable size … and we decided to recommend this. Portsmouth … made two rather large constituencies but the available information suggested that the decline in the borough's electorate might continue. A division into three constituencies would therefore only be possible if Gosport could be associated with part of Portsmouth in a new constituency. But the natural barrier of Portsmouth Harbour seemed to preclude this.
Yet that is precisely what the Secretary of State has done in his selection, despite the fact that he tried to tell the House, without referring to this, that he departed from the Boundary Commission only with very great reluctance when it had made positive and revelant proposals.
We know that this is a "fiddle". It is worse than the fiddle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in postponing the London borough elections. It is worse than the re-warding of Northampton. It is worse even than the rather conspicous fiddle in the 1948 Act when the Labour Party was the Government. But we know where we are. We are observing the death agony of the Labour Party. It has already abandoned its principles. It abandoned them sufficiently long ago as November, 1964, when it left the "go" out of "stop-go". It abandoned the makeshift policy, the only part which ever made sense, when it ran away from Mr. Victor Feather two weeks ago. It is now abandoning its honour. What shall it profit a party if it gains the whole world and loses its soul?
I am very glad to have the opportunity of following the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), and I will try to cover most of the points which he has dealt with. Right at the start, however, it would be churlish for any of us not to say how grateful we are to him for informing us at the beginning that he was today to be in one of his more cool and restrained moods. If he had not informed us we might not have been able to notice it.
Some of us have the greatest admiration for the right hon. and learned Gentleman on some occasions. We remember his speeches on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill: we remember one of the finest speeches which I have ever heard in this House. When I listened to him today I could all the more appreciate the advice that he was given at the beginning of his legal career. I think that he would have been wise to have followed it. As some of us know, however, the right hon. and learned Gentleman suffers from a kind of political schizophrenia. Indeed, compared with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I would say that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could be described as a beautifully integrated personality.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, was in his more boisterous mood. I approach the matter in a more objective spirit. I can declare my lack of interest in the subject in the sense that not a single inch of the holy ground of the Ebbw Vale constituency is to be touched either by the Boundary Commission or by the Government in their proposals. Therefore, I approach the matter perhaps in a cooler mood than the right hon. and learned Gentleman was able to muster.
I listened to the debate the other day with great care. I listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to some of his right hon. Friends, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). Today, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone calls these proposals a constitutional enormity. He says, in effect, as he said the other day, that the Government and, by implication, the House of Commons have only one duty: the duty to accept the proposals of the Boundary Commission.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was even more specific in
that respect. He said in the debate on 19th June:
Many years ago Parliament in its wisdom put this sensitive matter of the redistribution of parliamentary seats into the hands of an independent commission.
The deduction or the implication from that is that both the Minister and Parliament are required to accept the decisions of the independent Commission. I quote these matters to make sure that I deal with the substantial argument that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone made. It is an important argument.
On 19th June, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East went even further than his other legal friends and said that the issue was:
the sanctity of the rule of law.… There is no Ministerial discretion here. It is a clear mandatory duty, and, subject only to modifications, imposes on the Home Secretary an instant duty to give effect to the totality of the Boundary Commission's recommendations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1969; Vol. 785, c. 751 and 760.]
That is the case of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am glad to see from their nodding their heads that I have not misquoted them in any sense. That is the basis of their case. That is the main charge which affects the question of honour and all the words that appeared in the peroration today of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. They are all concerned with whether the Minister, in the first place, and the House of Commons, in the second place, must accept the decisions of the Boundary Commission.
If that case were to fall, the whole of the rest of the case of right hon. and hon. Members opposite would fall. That, therefore, is what we should examine. It is a very important question, because I quite agree that there is a good case, if we could possibly devise a system, for trying to remove questions of arguments about parliamentary boundaries and the condition of elections from the partisan fight. I acknowledge that if that could be achieved it would be a very desirable end. Therefore, it is an important argument.
I do not believe that anybody can say that I have misrepresented or tried to wrench a quotation from its context. I have taken the substance of the case of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) may be able to bring forward legal arguments which have not occurred to his right hon. and learned Friends in all the debates that we have had, and we will listen to him with fascination. I am taking the main argument which has been presented by the whole weight of legal authority on the other side of the House.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone had some controversy about the late Mr. Herbert Morrison, to whom great tributes were paid. Herbert Morrison was never one of my particular favourites, but as far as I can recall he was never one of hon. Members' opposite either. If he were to come back from the grave today and listen to the measure that is placed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite upon every comma and syllable he might pronounce, he would be deeply surprised on the matter of boundaries in London. At least, I am glad to have that posthumous tribute to the political integrity of my old friend Herbert Morrison.
Let me come to some other legal authorities. I hope that the House remembers exactly the case that is being made: that the Minister and the House of Commons must accept the decisions of the Boundary Commission. Let me turn to some of the debates in 1954, when we had a bit more experience of the matter, perhaps, than did those who discussed it in 1944. Indeed, it is not part of my business to defend what was done in 1944. I think that a lot of the legislation was extremely slipshod. It had to be tidied up by subsequent legislation and partly by debate in this House in which some of us participated.
Take, for example, the debates in 1954 following the last major redistribution of seats proposed by the Boundary Commission. What was the view of the legal authorities on that occasion? There was a constitutional authority in this House. He would be accepted by hon. Members opposite. We were a bit dubious about him at the time, but for this purpose I am quite content to acknowledge him. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) should not laugh too soon. He will be laughing at one of his most honoured friends, Sir Kenneth Pickthorn. If hon. Members opposite took the whole range of Conservative constitutional authority from the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone back to Judge Jeffreys, if they like, they would hardly find a more eminent authority than he.
What did Sir Kenneth Pickthorn say? "Who was he", some of the youngsters among us may ask. It is a most insulting thing for them to say. He said on 15th December, 1954:
… but I am sure that this House ought not to deprive itself of the right to decide that in Case A, Case B or Case C the Commission has made mistakes.
He went on to say that if it were said that Parliament could not pick and choose, that would be the thin end of the wedge.
I cannot quite muster the sombre, legal eloquence that he brought to bear on these matters, but I will do my best. He added:
It seems to me that if, in order to try to avoid the thin end of the wedge, it is being said that we must swallow the whole lot en bloc without any discrimination at all, then, in fact, this House is depriving itself not only of its own power but of its own duty in the matter.
He went on to say:
Not only have we that general duty, which is necessarily involved, but we also have the specific duty of having these things put before us and of deciding which we shall and which we shall not have."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1809–10.]
Whether or not the Home Secretary has made the decision to pass his own judgment on these matters, certainly we in the House of Commons could have insisted on our right to do so, just as the Conservative Party quite rightly insisted on doing so in 1954.
If Sir Kenneth Pickthorn's authority is not accepted, if it may be thought that he was a man who lived in too elevated a legal sphere, what about—[Interruption.] He was a constitutional authority, with his Cambridge University connection. It does not add much to the tribute, but that was what he was. Take Mr. Ralph Assheton. He did not have much legal knowledge, either, but he was at the Conservative Central Office quite a long time, and so he knew about these matters. He condemned the findings of the Commission in 1954 root and branch. He said:
I take the liberty tonight of attacking the Commission, a thing which, normally, I would not do, because it cannot answer back.… I suggest that the work of the Boundary Commission in England stands condemned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 2119.]
He tore the Commission into shreds.
It may be said that that is not sufficient authority—not Sir Kenneth Pickthorn, nor Mr. Ralph Assheton, or many others I could quote. I could keep the House all evening quoting those who opposed the views of the Commission on that occasion and asserted the right of the House of Commons to do so.
With all respect to him, the hon. Member is missing the whole point. Those examples he gave were of hon. Members objecting to Orders laid before the House. If the hon. Gentleman would care to read the 1949 Act he would find that Section 3(5) specifically provides for Parliament to object to Orders. The point is that the Home Secretary has a duty to lay Orders before the House.
Before the hon. Gentleman says I have missed the point he had better hear it. He had better study the matter a bit more carefully before he tries to lay down the law so quickly. I have quoted two authorities—
The hon. Member should listen a bit. Hon. Members opposite may dismiss the claims which were made by those eminent Members of their party, but they did not do so at that time. They may do so now 15 years later. They did not do so at that time.
However, I had already guarded against the point which they are trying to make they say there is some distinction between the obligations of the Home Secretary in the matter and the obligations or the rights of Members of the House of Commons, and I thought it was possible that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen might jump on that distinction and assert such a point, and, naturally, in considering the matter, I took into account, as it was only natural that I should, the views expressed by the Home Secretary of the time. That is quite fair, is it not?
Now hon. Gentlemen opposite are objecting to that and saying "No" to that and what he had to say. The Home Secretary at the time, Mr. Lloyd George, did not say it was the business of the House of Commons—of himself or the House of Commons—to accept the views of the Commission. Not at all. Indeed, he had correspondence with Members of the House before the Orders were placed and before the matter was brought to the House at all, and what he said in reply to the correspondents was that he would listen to representations which were made by Members about individual constituencies or about other matters generally. I would quote a sentence from him. He said in a letter which I quoted on 15th December, 1954:
I can promise that I will keep an open mind, and that I shall bear in mind what you and the hon. Member have said to me. I will pay careful attention to what you or he or anyone else says in the debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1862]
What was the point of his paying careful attention to what was said in debate and saying he would keep an open mind if, according to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and according to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East, there is no discretion in the matter?
That is the case of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. They may be able to make a superior case now. They can say that this Commission was set up to remove this matter, which is a sensitive one, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames says, entirely from the arena of debate, but that was not the view of the Home Secretary in a Conservative Administration at that time. So I say that whatever may be other arguments about this Bill, it is utterly impertinent of anyone to suggest that the Home Secretary or the House of Commons is behaving improperly in saying, "We do not accept the position that we are subordinate to an independent commission". I say that in taking that view themselves and in holding to that view they are expressing exactly the same view which we had expressed in 1954.
Those who have changed, from what motives I would hesitate to guess, are those on that side of the House, and it is hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have the legal explaining to do. I dare say they will try to explain this away later, but what they said in the debate a week ago is plainly repudiated not only by back benchers but by the Home Secretary of that former time.
Now, we have to be very careful, I warn the House, of the legal arguments which are put by right hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, when they differ from one another. A week or so ago in the House some hon. and right hon. and learned Gentlemen on that side differed from one another and greatly added to the interest of this place, but when they are joined together, and when those delicate arguments and accents are joined together in one legal conglomeration in some forensic hotpot, some Central Office stew, as on this occasion, we have to be very careful not merely about their legal advice but about the legal validity of the advice which they tender. I would hesitate to accept that legal advice, particularly after the evidence we have that it is in conflict with the view expressed following the report of the Commission on that occasion.
The Attorney-General? I have no doubt he will be able to give his views as well as anyone. I am speaking for myself in this matter. I do not speak for the Attorney-General or the Home Secretary. He can look after himself. He seemed quite able to do it in the last few weeks. I am not speaking for him or the Attorney-General on these matters. I am putting my own view, which may be rather different from theirs, but I think it is based on evidence of the facts.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone, in order to embroider his charge—although, as I say, his main charge has now fallen—says this is changing the rules in the middle of the game. I wonder what particular time in the Parliamentary timetable he would think not the middle of the game. Suppose that the Government, at the beginning of this Parliament, or in 1964, had said—and I would have welcomed it, because I have been critical of the operations of these independent commissions—that because of the unsatisfactory nature of the Boundary Commission they proposed as one of their first measures to introduce a Bill to change it. Would hon. and right hon. Members opposite have given in 1964 or 1966, I wonder, an enthusiastic reception to such a proposal? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone would have been even more boisterous than he has been this afternoon, and he would have said, "Fancy the Government, as the first measure they introduce in the House of Commons, having a measure to change the Boundary Commission". There is no "suitable" time, when it suits the Opposition, necessarily, for what the Government have done to alter the constitution, to alter these rules.
What I am saying is that the House of Commons has a perfect right to alter these rules, and hon. and right hon Gentlemen opposite are degrading the House of Commons when they say we have not the right to make up our own minds on these matters and come to our own conclusions.
They are not merely degrading the House of Commons but they are taking an even more dangerous constitutional step, a constitutional enormity, in my opinion, when some of them say that if they do not succeed in this House they will try to raise the matter elsewhere. The Daily Telegraph incites hon. Gentlemen opposite to suggest that the House of Lords might be brought in to assist in this matter, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) talks in the country about this. I think he should come along here when he has such important constitutional suggestions to make. Certainly we think that he knows more about London boundaries than about the defence of the nation. Therefore, we would be very happy to have his advice, but we were not told whether his advice to the Shadow Cabinet has been approved by the right hon. and learned Member for Marylebone. Perhaps a member of the Shadow Cabinet may tell us what are the party's intentions about the House of Lords.
It would be an extremely serious matter if the Conservative Party proposed to use its majority in the House of Lords to try to fix or interfere with the fixing of the constituency boundaries of the House of Commons—[Interruption.]—the hon. Gentleman must wait. If he wishes to demolish the arguments which I have put, and which were put by Mr. Gwilym Lloyd George and others, he will surely have an opportunity later in the day.
The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that if he had any respect for the institution of which he is a Member, he should insist upon the right of this House of Commons to decide this matter, and if they had any respect for the principles of democracy, he and his hon. Friends would deny to the House of Lords any right whatsoever. But there are other resources. If it were suggested that there was to be any incitement for another place to act in this matter, it would be the duty of the Government to move immediately to the introduction of a short, sharp Bill stripping them of their powers, and if that were to be proposed it would raise a constitutional crisis of the first magnitude. It would be perfectly within the power of the Government, even within the period before the next General Election, to arrange a sufficient number of sessions to ensure that that was carried through. I therefore hope that we will hear no more of those proposals, because they could be of a very serious character.
When I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman being so passionate today on this subject, I was amazed that he was able to work up such a heat. But, of course, the Conservative Party has benefited over many years from the boundary situation. Indeed, the House of Commons in 1954, which accepted the last major boundary report which caused so much turmoil, was a House of Commons in which the Conservative Party held the largest number of seats, although it had fewer votes in the country than the Labour Party. To be equal with the Tories the Labour Party at that time had to make up half a million votes before it started. The Conservative Party used that majority in 1954 to push through boundary proposals which were officially opposed by the Labour Party. Let us not be told that these were united, agreed measures. They were opposed by the Labour Party, and by many hon. Members in their own right, on the grounds which I have stated. Therefore, it is a bit cool for the Conservative Party to tell us now that if we depart at all from what the Boundary Commission has laid down we are imposing—
Since my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is regaling us with historical reminiscence, he and the House might be interested to know that in 1954 I had the honour of leading into the Opposition Lobby five Conservative Members for Manchester who were in violent conflict with the Government of the day. This confirms the point made by my hon. Friend. The Government at that time were so pressed to produce a majority that they were using the 12 Ulster Members of Parliament as a balancing factor to force legislation through the House. If anyone wants an example of gerrymandering it can be found in the use of those Ulster Members.
I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend has said. Many bitter charges can be made against the Government, charges which I am sure hon. Gentlemen later in the debate will wish to withdraw, but no one on either side has made the charge against this Government or against a previous Administration that they have conducted themselves in the manner in which the Ulster Government conduct themselves in Ulster. Nobody has made that accusation, and I hone that such scandalous charges will not be bandied round the House.
The House is perfectly aware, if it studies the facts, that the facts are entirely against the right hon. and learned Gentlemen who have suggested to the House that we have no power to do what we are doing, or that we are acting wrongly or unconstitutionally. It is right in this House of Commons to decide how best we can co-ordinate the proper conduct of Parliamentary elections and the proper conduct of local boundaries. I do not personally want to see the implementation of the Redcliffe-Maud measures in the form in which they are presented, but the House has the right to decide about those matters just as it has the right to decide on Parliamentary boundaries. What the Conservative Opposition have done in this debate is to degrade the House of Commons and, if they are beaten in their arguments here, they want to transfer the argument to the place where they have a permanent majority. They might even win the argument there, but here. I can assure them, they have lost it.
I am sure that the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) for telling us in advance that he would be coolly objective; otherwise, if I may adopt his own phrase, we might not have noticed it. As I was at one time a great admirer of the hon. Gentleman's speeches, I could not help reflecting during his speech how much less effective he seemed to be when supporting the Government than when opposing them. No doubt the easy explanation is lack of practice. I feel that the hon. Gentleman did not appear to appreciate the arguments which he was trying to controvert. This is very unusual for him, even in the rather unusual circumstances in which he has seen fit to place himself.
The hon. Gentleman was good enough to refer to me and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), but no one so far as I know has denied that Parliament has the ultimate authority to decide these matters. The whole point of the speeches that some of us made the other day is that Parliament is singularly ill-advised to indulge in a large-scale exercise of this type when it has available the uncontroversially prepared and impartially put together recommendations of an independent Boundary Commission. Of course Parliament has the power. No one disputes that, although I stress that it is a power in Parliament and not in one House of it. It is a question of the wisdom of the use of that power which is in issue here.
For that reason all his quotations from speeches of my right hon. Friends and of former hon. Members of the House were completely irrelevant. None of the speeches which he quoted—and I know his ability in research—suggested that the Home Secretary should not discharge his statutory duty of laying with the report an Order either implementing the Boundary Commission's recommendations or implementing them with modifications. The quotations from the then Home Secretary in 1954, indicate a willingness to consider matters on their merits, followed after the Home Secretary had discharged his duty. When such matters are before the House, it lies with the House, after the Home Secretary has discharged his duty, to consider them. Nobody is so foolish as to dispute that if the House in its wisdom thinks fit it can reject them. This is the point the hon. Gentleman failed to grasp.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was right when he suggested that it lies with both Houses of Parliament, if in their wisdom they think fit, to alter the whole system and to introduce amending legislation to do so. But what the hon. Gentleman, who is a good Parliamentarian, will agree is so particularly outrageous is that this is now being done when the Home Secretary knows that he is already under a statutory duty to lay these Orders, and not at a time when he anticipates there is a need for amending legislation. And, secondly, that basic changes in the constituency situation are being made wholly unilaterally by the Government of the day without prior consultation with the other parties affected. This is the point that blows out of the window the Home Secretary's pretence that he is introducing this change because of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals and the administrative inconvenience that would follow from operating the law as it now is in the prospect of changes to be made under Redcliffe-Maud.
If that were a real and sincere reason, would not the Home Secretary before announcing his decision and before introducing legislation have entered into consultations both with my right hon. Friends and with the officers of the Liberal Party? It is the tradition of the House that electoral changes are made only after there has at least been an attempt to get some measure of party agreement. Will the Home Secretary say whether a single approach was made, either to my right hon. Friend's or to the Liberal Party? It is my impression that until my right hon. Friend's Motion dragged out of the Home Secretary an account of his intentions on 19th June not a word had been spoken to either of the parties concerned. If that is true—I am ready to accept a denial from the Home Secretary if he can give it—does it not knock the bottom out of the argument that his is a sensible administrative arrangement made in view of the changes that are to take place.
One knows that quite small electoral matters are dealt with, or one tries to deal with them, through the Speaker's Conference or otherwise by way of interparty discussion. Such matters as the exact wording on the ballot paper and the length of time polls are open are discussed informally between those affected. Yet here the Home Secretary comes along—and as I take it that he now admits without even an attempt at interparty consultation—with broad and basic changes in the whole layout of constituencies in the country. Can he be surprised if not only those of us on these benches, but practically every commentator in the Press outside believes that he is doing it for party political motives.
In the debate on 19th June the right hon. Gentleman said that I had accused him of rigging the matter, and he asked me to demonstrate how this was so. That was an easy trick, since the right hon. Gentleman knew that, like the rest of us, I had only just seen the Boundary Commission Reports. I now respond to his challenge and say that this is being done deliberately to rig constituency boundaries in the interests of his party.
I will demonstrate the matter in this way. First of all, we have not had the inter-party consultation which would have been an inevitable part of a genuine administrative reform, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. Secondly, it is known that outside London the recommendations of the Boundary Commission are in general unfavourable to the Labour Party and that inside London they are on balance favourable. On the latter point I rely on the very informed article which recently appeared in The Times. And we know that that by curious coincidence they are being applied fully in London and hardly at all outside.
Then we have the matter of selectivity among the large constituencies for breaking up. Why was not Huyton, with its 95,000-odd electors, subjected to this process? Was it because the Prime Minister's position would have been undermined? Was it an example of the dog-like loyalty to his leader which the Home Secretary has shown so conspicuously in recent weeks? Or is it perhaps an argument in the right hon. Gentleman's favour that the political survival of the Prime Minister may not, after all, be in the interests of the Labour Party?
When one has this combined picture—no consultation, application of the Report where in general it suits the Labour Party, non-application where it does not, and the deliberate selection of particular constituencies by arbitrary Ministerial decision—of course the Home Secretary is suspect. One knows that he has thrown overboard the whole prolonged processes of the Boundary Commission with all the judicial work involved, the hearing of evidence, and careful discussion—over four years work just thrown out without discussion or consultation. Is he therefore surprised that he is just a little suspect in this matter when it is abundantly clear in the minds of every commentator that, on balance, the position is better for the Labour Party under the Bill than it would be under the Commission's recommendations? Surely the case has been demonstrated.
The Home Secretary's manner today was quite extraordinary. He made the suggestion that he was avoiding being in breach of the law in not laying Orders by an additional breach of his statutory duty by not formally laying the Report. I pay the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General a compliment by saying that I am sure that point was not made on the advice of the Attorney-General. The Home Secretary came to the Box in breach of his statutory duty, and he knows it.
He came, nonetheless, with that curious air of injured innocence that he affects. In the debate on 19th June he referred to me as combining the manner of a bishop with the vocabulary of a Billingsgate porter. I make no complaint about that because were it true it would be an indication that I was well equipped to enjoy life both in this world and the next. But I thought the Home Secretary's manner of injured innocence when his hand is found in the till recalled the man caught cheating at cards who persisted all through in saying that the Almighty put the ace up his sleeve.
Of course the Bill is completely intended to be in the interests of the Labour Party. The explanatory memorandum at the beginning should read:
The main purpose of the Bill is to secure the political interests of the Labour Party by
continuing the representation of small constituencies which are likely to return Labour Members while providing for the under-representation of larger ones far more likely to return their opponents".
That is a fair re-writing of the Memorandum in the Bill.
The Home Secretary is a good enough Parliamentarian to know in his heart that by this Bill he is doing a very bad thing to Parliamentary democracy. Indeed, he is doing a bad thing for the Government. The Government have a bad record in this respect. Those of us in London remember well the fiddle over the London Borough elections. In the end it did the Government no more good than this move will do. But it enabled them in certain boroughs to hold on to power for a stolen year. This Government came to power by giving promises which they were intelligent enough to realise could not be carried out. They are now trying to retain that power by manipulation, in their own interests, of the processes of Parliamentary democracy, and for that reason they will be shown the peculiar degree of contempt which any civilised society reserves for the cheat.
This will now be the third occasion within the last two years that I have had the pleasure, I am not sure whether it is a privilege, of following the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in a debate on elections boundaries. The right hon. Member referred to the debate that took place on the postponement of the London local government elections. Then the same sort of speeches were made, predictable speeches in a predictable debate. We had it again on the Motion about 10 days ago and for a third time this afternoon. Let me now say something that I have said on those previous occasions, that there is no one quite so good at wrapping up an electoral motive in a constitutional principle as the right hon. Gentleman.
One of the foundations of his argument against my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Government was that in some way or another they are cheating. What does the right hon. Gentleman say? He says that if the Government thought that there was a genuine administrative argument they should have approached the Opposition some years ago. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) is not present, because I know that he recalls the argument which took place about three years ago, when he and other hon. Members opposite were saying precisely the same things as have been said today about the proposal to postpone the Boundary Commission's report until after the Redcliffe-Maud Commission had reported and that had been considered. That argument was rejected by the other side, before either of the documents had been published and before the House had been given the opportunity of considering them.
Moreover, I seem to remember that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames wrote a letter to The Times about 18 months ago in which he complained about the Governments action in postponing the date of the local government elections. He said that it raised grave doubts whether the Government were considering postponing the implementation of the Boundary Commission's report until after the Redcliffe-Maud Commission had reported, and that that postponement would not be acceptable to hon. Members on his side of the House. If it was not the right hon. Gentleman, I trust that he will rise and say so. I see that apparently the letter was penned by him.
In the debate on the postponement of the London borough elections, commenting on the speech by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) I said that what we had listened to was "vintage Hoggery", and having invented the concept I ought to explain it. It can be defined as constitutional thunderings of a very high order, usually delivered at full volume and invariably designed to conceal an electoral motive.
This debate is pure "Hoggery" on the part of the Opposition, from start to finish. They know, as well as any independent observer does, that there is no question of a breach of electoral law, that there is no breach of any constitutional principle or of constitutional propriety. May I pray in aid the article which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone relied on so extensively for his facts and figures? It was an article written by Michael Steed in the New Society, 26th June.
This psephological and constitutional authority, relied on so much by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in a paragraph which he very conveniently forgot to read, said:
Yet it is unsound to charge Callaghan with failing in his statutory duty, as did Quintin Hogg last week. The law governing parliamentary boundaries is so badly drafted that it is very far from clear that the Government is breaking any law. It is much more to the point, as John Boyd-Carpenter pointed out, that Callaghan is in breach of an inter-party agreement under which periodical boundary reviews are set up.
If that is the gravity of the charge being made against the Government, namely, that in some way the Government are in breach of an inter-party agreement entered into in 1944 between two different sets of parties and different sets of people, it is time that we dragged that concept out in the open and examined it.
What is this agreement supposed to be about? As I understand, it is supposed to lay upon the Government the duty of consulting with the Opposition in the event of there being great electoral changes. Does anyone really believe that if this proposal had been put to the Opposition two years ago it would have received their approval? I do not believe it. Indeed, such evidence as there is is that it would not.
The opposition in this debate has been about one thing only—votes. It is not about constitution, nor about a breach of electoral law, nor about constitutional impropriety. The Opposition's concern is over votes, because they consider that if the whole of the Commission's report were implemented they might gain some electoral advantage.
It is unfortunate that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone tends to operate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, on two levels. At one time he can be wise and statesmanlike, moderate, rational and sensible, extremely helpful to anyone trying to take an intelligent interest in an argument. On the other hand, there is his other level, when he behaves with all the prudence and restraint of an irascible yahoo. The moderation then goes out of the window, the judgment is forgotten, and, what is even more important, the realities of the argument get submerged.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and myself appeared on a radio programme the other day. In that programme I put a specific question to him and I would like to put it to the Opposition tonight, because it should be answered. Do they—yea or nay—believe that there is a good administrative argument for postponing the implementation of the Boundary Commission's report until after the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have been considered? [Hon. Members: "No."] Then they must be some of very few people in the country who hold that opinion.
The hon. Gentleman should consult some of the town clerks in the area he represents. I have consulted some in the London area and most of those I talked to told me that the possibility of three major reforms of boundaries—one Parliamentary, as a result of the Boundary Commission recommendations, then a major upheaval over Redcliffe-Maud and then yet another Boundary Commission, was not a prospect that they can view with equanimity.
Perhaps hon. Gentlemen do not believe that there would have to be two major reforms. May I pray in aid the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone? In the debate on 19th June I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman this question:
On the assumption … that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, or something like them, are likely to be put into effect … does it not mean another Boundary Commission sitting as soon as the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have been put into effect so as to readjust the new Parliamentary boundaries to the Redcliffe-Maud ones?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied:
Yes, it certainly does mean that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1969; Vol. 785. c. 736.]
Out of the mouth of the principal spokesman for the Opposition we have, therefore, the concession that if Redcliffe-Maud means a major upheaval, which it does, then following upon that upheaval there will have to be another major review of Parliamentary boun-
daries. That means that the whole exercise would have to be gone through again. Another Boundary Commission would have to sit and report back to the House of Commons and another report would have to be considered. Frankly, it would be administrative nonsense to go through that sort of exercise twice within a period of five to seven years.
I wish that the Opposition could for once raise their eyes a little above the level of votes—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—which, unfortunately, is where they have been solidly fixed. In his more sober and reflective moments even the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone might consider that the overwhelming balance of convenience is in favour of the measures which the Government are introducing by the Bill and are overwhelmingly against the propositions advocated this afternoon by the Opposition.
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) said that these debates take a predictable form, with predictable speeches. Whether that was meant as criticism I do not know. If it means consistency, that is not necessarily a Parliamentary vice. Certainly, the hon. Gentleman overdid his pursuit of consistency, because he appeared to be retailing to the House excerpts from speeches which he had previously made. However, they were no less enjoyable for that. I pay him this compliment. I do not think that he will be minded to think it an exaggeration that, in identifying a point at issue and in identifying a point of law, he is markedly superior to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), to whose points I shall come later.
I am not concerned with the detailed provisions of the highly selective boundary adjustments provided for in the Bill, but with the general question of its constitutional propriety, or impropriety. It is not that the contents of the Bill may not be some guide to constitutional propriety or otherwise. I have not made an elaborate study of party advantage following on the provisions of the Bill, but I know what the effect will be in the area of which I have detailed knowledge.
Hertfordshire, East has over 85,000 electors. To the east, the west and the north there are other large constituencies. But there is this difference. Hertfordshire, East and, to the west, Hertford, represented by the noble Lord, are Conservative constituencies. Those to the east and to the north are Labour constituencies at present. By some no doubt politically convenient statutory coincidence, the Home Secretary is bringing relief to the under-representation of the constituencies to the east and to the north, with their Labour representation, and denying it to the constituencies with Conservative representation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) and I are not asking for any change. We are not among those making representations to the Home Secretary. We like our constituents and we think that they like us. But, by a deliberate act of policy, and clearly contrary to the statutory rules laid down, the Bill will create electoral disparities of about 20,000 in that area in a way which clearly points to party advantage as a powerful motivation for adjustment.
This is the Bill, with its partisan provisions and suspect origins, by which the Home Secretary seeks to meet the charge levelled against him of breach of duty and breaking the law. Apart from the Bill, there is no defence to what is a clear breach of statutory duty.
On 19th June the right hon. Gentleman had had the Report of the Boundary Commission for two months, so he was already in breach of his duty to lay a draft Order in Council to give effect to its recommendations. He now bases his defence on Clause 1, on the omnipotence of Parliament to put a cloak, not of respectability, because that would not be possible, over his actions, but a cloak of immunity to his breach of the law.
The hon. Gentleman again shakes his head. Though he made a very enjoyable speech, it is not his opinion for which we ask.
We ask for the opinion of the Attorney-General. It is the Parliamentary equivalent, I suppose, of asking for bread and being given a stone. It would have been better had it been the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot). His legal opinion would have had some value. But we have got off on the wrong foot. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, to adapt an old phrase, is not a pillar of the law; he is only a column in the Evening Standard.
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman pinches a third joke from somebody, would he mind facing the question whether he still agrees with the view that it is the duty of the Home Secretary to accept the totality of the Boundary Commission's recommendations, even though all the authorities that I quoted before took the contrary legal view from that which he is putting forward?
It has been explained to the hon. Gentleman. I will make another acknowledged quotation. We can give the hon. Gentleman an explanation, but we cannot give him an understanding. We are dealing with two different matters. The Home Secretary is in breach of his statutory duty—that is clear—but that in no way fetters the sovereignty or the right of Parliament to legislate. That is the question to which I am about to come.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale laid a charge against me of impugning or derogating from the sovereignty of Parliament. I am at least as unlikely to do that as he. I am just as devoted to the House of Commons as the hon. Gentleman. I have been a Member of this House longer than the hon. Gentleman, without the necessity of having to seek the representation of another constituency. So I am also attached to the omnipotence of Parliament.
It is right that, in law, the sovereignty of Parliament is unfettered. In the old phrase, Parliament can do anything except make a man a woman or a woman a man—although it is fair to say that the marvels of modern surgery have made even that limit on the omnicompetence of Parliament less relevant than it formerly was.
We have first to understand what is meant by the sovereignty of Parliament. Is it Parliament as a whole, in the constitutional concept of the sovereignty of Parliament, or is it a single Chamber? Although the sovereignty of Parliament is legally unfettered, are not there constitutional limits which should exercise a restraining influence over it? On the first question, the sovereignty of Parliament means what it says, and not what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale thinks it means, namely, a single-Chamber Government. He is at least 130 years out of date.
Since he is showing this new-found and welcome enthusiasm for the law, let him study the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, the leading constitutional case on Parliamentary privilege, In that case the courts declined to recognise as legislation the Resolution of one House and, in the words of Professor Wade, this constituted
an acceptance that the law of Parliament requires that all legislation should go through the proper stages of enactment.
That principle is still unchanged.
It is true that by the combined effect of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 Bills can become law one year after their initial Second Reading in the House of Commons, if passed in two successive sessions and twice rejected in the other place. But until those processes are complete there is no legislation and no expression of the sovereignty of Parliament—and during that period the Home Secretary continues, at any rate technically and in theory, in breach of his statutory duty.
The hon. Member made various threats against the other place. I shall not make threats or give advice. How they view their duty is a matter for them. But they have principles to guide them. They have the principles formulated on the high authority of Dicey. First, he says that on legislation the House of Lords must ultimately give way. Nobody would dissent from that. But the more difficult question, as Dicey recognised, is at what stage they should give way. Dicey's answer is:
The Upper House must give way whenever it is clearly proved that the will of the House of Commons represents the deliberate
will of the Nation. The nature of the test differs under different circumstances.
What are the tests to apply in this case? There is the test of whether there is a mandate. There is nothing in the election Manifesto of the Labour Party promising a gerrymandering with election boundaries. The next relevant test is the stage which has been reached in the lifetime of a Parliament. Early in the lifetime of a Parliament the House of Commons must be interpreted as reflecting the will of the nation—but this Parliament is 60 per cent. spent. It has a dwindling hold on the electorate, as can be seen by the by-elections and the polls.
The final relevant test is the nature of the issue. If this were an economic or a financial issue it would be difficult for the other place to challenge the House of Commons. But this is a question of constitutional propriety—one on which the House of Lords would have very much more status to intervene.
The decision is one for the House of Lords. But let them not be intimidated by the bombinating threats of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. If, having applied the right principles—as formulated by Dicey and recognised by constitutional authorities—they should conclude that it is their duty to reject, I would say that their decision could be powerfully defended, both in constitutional principle and at the bar of public opinion.
Surely the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is that the Conservatives would whip up a campaign to ensure that the Bill was defeated in another place if it was passed here. That is rather different, and makes the right hon. and learned Member's argument rather dicey, to say the least.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) should leave his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to make his own jokes and his own puns. On the point that he makes, he will accept that there is nothing in my language which could be described as whipping up a campaign. I have formulated the principles and suggested that the other place should consider them. I have said that it is a matter for them.
The principle of sovereignty of Parliament does not mean, and should not be said to mean, carte blanche for a temporary majority in the House of Commons. It might be a theoretical possibility in law but it would be open to grave objection if it were not tempered by a sense of constitutional propriety. I quote Professor Wade again. He says:
It must not be forgotten that the inevitable consequence of the supremacy of Parliament in the legislative field is that there can be no check upon the unscrupulous use of power by a Government which finds itself in command of a majority in the House of Commons.
The exercise of parliamentary sovereignty is bounded by what Dicey calls the limitations and conventions of the consitution. It is these constitutional conventions of which the Government are clearly in breach. They may, by the Bill, hope to escape from legal liability, but they cannot escape from constitutional impropriety. They will have used or, rather, abused the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty to justify retrospectively a breach of duty and to subordinate the observance of the law to party advantage.
Let nobody underestimate the importance and gravity of constitutional impropriety such as this. It is only because British Parliaments over the generations have been trusted to observe the constitutional conventions that it has not been found necessary by this country, as it has by others, to entrench them in a written constitution. Of late we have heard powerful and persuasive voices arguing that the time has now arrived to entrench the constitutional safeguards in a written constitution.
Lord Shawcross, I believe, has had something to say on this matter. His opinion is entitled to great respect, not only for his great abilities and experience, but also because he had the dubious advantage, in former days, of sitting in at the council table of the conspirators—if I may so call them. He has an insight into the hearts and minds—assuming that the former organs exist—of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. In former times he has played Brutus to their Casca and Cassius.
History and the experience of other countries show that gerrymandering for electoral advantage is often accom- panied or followed by atempts at the prolongation or even the perpetuation of Parliament to make a single-Chamber assembly in which the Government have a majority. Happily, Bills, to extend the duration of Parliament are excluded from the limiting provisions of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949. Nevertheless, it would be a very confident and optimistic—not to say generous—person who made any ready assumption that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not at least considering the possibilities of taking some such action.
It may be the reason for their idiosyncratic interpretation of the sovereignty of Parliament. After all, this Bill, grave as it is, may be in the nature of a dummy run—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) may not have thought so, because he is a simple soul, if I may say so with all the affection due to an old friend and former constituent.
The hon. Member is in no danger of having to make any election on these matters. I accept, of course, that no such dark and sinister thoughts have clouded the purity of his political mind, but he cannot speak for all his right hon. and hon. Friends.
They may be tempted to play for higher stakes and consider, if they are allowed to get away with this constitutional impropriety, the graver impropriety of trying to prolong the life of this Parliament, to create a twentieth-century equivalent of the Rump Parliament, with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale cast, no doubt, in the rôle of "Praise God" Barebones.
In fact, constitutionally, even the Bill as it is constitutes a grave indictment of the Government. They have long been convicted of economic incompetence and now they are convicted also of constitutional impropriety. They have added to the incompetence of a Napoleon III the duplicity and double dealing characteristic of Bismarck. Instead of this bad and partisan Bill, we should have now an Order in Council giving effect to the fair and impartial recommendations of the Boundary Commission, in order to give a fair election, and resulting from it, a good and upright Government.
Like the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), I was brought up on Dicey. A great deal has been said about the sovereignty of Parliament and I should like to say something about it in a moment. When the Home Secretary was due to make his announcement in the recent debate, I thought that we should have to spend some time convincing him of the need to take both these sets of boundary changes together. I was, therefore, very pleased when he proposed to do precisely that.
Nearly three months ago, in a Question to the Prime Minister, I put this particular suggestion, that there is a strong argument for dealing with these two sets of changes, under the Boundary Commission and the Redcliffe-Maud Reports, together. I am heartened to find that the representations of a back bencher have produced such a swift response in so short a time.
I should declare a non-interest. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), I have no personal axe to grind for my constituency about the Boundary Commission's Report. The Report of the Commission for England affects my constituency not at all, so I stand neither to gain nor to lose from anything in it. Unlike that of my hon. Friend, however, my constituency is affected by the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. There is no doubt that my right hon. Friend has made out an overwhelming case for avoiding two sets of costly and time-consuming upheavals. There is an undoubted case, as I and others put forward a few months ago, for taking both together.
Inevitably, boundary changes mean upheaval for many people, not only electors but local authorities and their officers. There are few things which arouse more feeling than the inevitable upsets of boundary changes. As my right hon. Friend said, communities are frequently torn asunder. If these two sets of proposals were taken separately, no sooner would people have started to identify themselves with one community than they would have the same thing again within a very short time.
I am following the hon. Member's argument closely. In that case, would he agree that there should have been Parliamentary redistribution in 1965, when extensive changes were made to local authorities boundaries in the West Midlands, for example, which was within the 10-to-15-year time scale of the 1949 Act?
I do not remember hearing that argument put forward with great strength in 1965, and I do not think that it arises now.
Boundary changes are inevitably time-consuming. Local authority officials and others are involved in this work, and no one would claim that local authorities are under-worked. I certainly would not claim it for the local authorities in my constituency, which have plenty to do as it is, without having to cope with two upheavals.
Then there is the cost. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite constantly talk of the need to check public expenditure, and some of those arguments carry weight. Yet they now suggest this duplication and even greater public expenditure would unnecessarily be involved—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is all very well for hon. Members to say "Oh", but they are taking a surprisingly cavalier attitude now, compared with the statements about public expenditure which we are so used to hearing from them.
There is an overwhelming case for dealing with the bulk of parliamentary changes and the reform of local government following Redcliffe-Maud. My own County of Kent provides a good example for taking both changes together. Under the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, two of the 61 unitary authorities would be in Kent, which would be divided into East and West Kent. The boundary of these two authorities would go slap through the middle of my constituency of Faversham.
I do not intend to take up time about my views on that, although I have some fairly strong ones. But the position of the proposed boundary is of wider concern than purely local interest because, under the Boundary Commission's proposals, East Kent would have one additional constituency. The present Isle of Thanet constituency would disappear and two new ones would take its place—Thanet, East and Thanet, West.
Under the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, my constituency would straddle the boundary of the two suggested unitary authorities for Kent—East Kent and West Kent—so that this would clearly throw completely into the melting pot once again the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies in East and West Kent, and we would get precisely the ripple effect which my right hon. Friend was forecasting from an adjustment of this kind because it would undoubtedly affect other constituencies around the rest of the country—unless it were to be suggested that Parliamentary boundaries ought to straddle the boundaries of unitary authorities, and I do not think that anyone would suggest that. I do not think that it would be argued in the House that we should abandon the principle of Parliamentary constituencies following local authority boundaries as far as possible.
I mention this example for one other reason, to give an illustration based on the electorate in the Isle of Thanet constituency and in the two proposed constituencies of Thanet, East and Thanet, West. The 1968 electorate of the present constituency was 84,274. The proposed Thanet, East constituency, on 1968 figures, would have an electorate of 43,571 while Thanet, West would have 40,703. I do not think that, on the one hand, anyone could argue that 84,000 for a present day constituency has reached emergency proportions in the size of electorates, or, on the other, that one could argue that 43,000 and 40,000 are really of such a size that the change should be put into effect as a matter of urgency. This is just one example. As my right hon. Friend said, others could be given throughout the country, bearing in mind the fact that 94 constituencies would be affected in one way or another.
The question of the sovereignty of Parliament has been raised. There is no doubt that Parliament is supreme and has the undoubted right to pass whatever legislation it wishes. One of the points raised by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was that of the Septennial Act. 1716. The important thing about that Act was that it showed above all that the sovereignty of Parliament is unchallenged and unchallengeable. It is a supreme example showing that Parliament can decide and has the right to decide for itself what legislation it wishes passed.
It has not been the only occasion on which Parliament has passed legislation on the length of a Parliament because, before that, there was the Act which it amended—the Triennial Act, 1694. Later, there was the Parliament Act, 1911, bringing in the five-year Parliaments which we now have. One of the advantages of our unwritten constitution as against a written one is that of flexibility as opposed to the disadvantages of rigidity [Laughter.] I am surprised at the partial attitude of hon. Members opposite, because they choose the passages from Dicey which they prefer to have, yet there is nothing clearer from Dicey—on which I refreshed my mind before the debate by going through the lengthy part on the sovereignty of Parliament—than that Parliament is supreme in deciding what legislation it should pass; but I shall not weary the House by making my own extensive quotations from the famous ninth edition of Dicey. There is thus the advantage with an unwritten constitution of flexibility.
Parliament sometimes falls into disrepute when it is unable or unwilling to react quickly to new and changing circumstances. One reason why Parliament is criticised sometimes outside is that it fails to use its powers to deal with new and modern conditions, and there can hardly be a better illustration of the need for Parliament to show its ability to react quickly to new circumstances than the need to combine action on Parliamentary boundaries with the reform of local government.
This is not, after all, a situation which is likely to arise very often. We should be failing in our duty if we did not try to deal with this new situation in the way most likely to benefit the nation. My right hon. Friend has proposed measures for dealing with the special problem of the big constituency. I am sure that he is right to take the bulk of the Parliamentary boundary changes with the proposals arising from Redcliffe-Maud and I hope that the Bill will become law.
The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) has made an interesting and temperate speech, but I cannot join in his acquiescence in what I can only describe as the universal pastime of "Waiting for Maud". As far back as I can remember in my political life in this House, we have seen a terrible paralysis creeping over everything every time someone mentions Maud—" You cannot do this or that because of Maud". I believe that this we can do despite Maud.
It is only a matter of weeks since I had an opportunity of speaking on the subject and since on that occasion I took 11 minutes under the Ten-Minute Rule, I will try to be shorter this time. I then drew attention to the anomalies arising from the existence of very large and very small constituencies. I suggested a possible remedy if the Government were to delay in implementing the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions. They have delayed, or at least they propose to delay. I acknowledge that they have met my personal case in that they have at least brought forward proposals for dividing the very large constituency of Cheadle, so what I asked for has in a sense been met.
It may be that the proposals could be regarded as favourable to my party. I do not know. I do not particularly want to know. But it has been suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) may lose under these proposals a Tory village in Orpington to someone else, and I am glad. It is also suggested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) may, although I am sure he would face any electorate with equanimity, prefer to fight his seat as it is rather than as it would have been. Therefore, I acknowledge that the proposals which the Government are making may be electorally favourable to my party.
I hope that it will be accepted, given that fact, that we oppose the proposals because we believe they are wrong. I do not think that I have any right to sit here and say, "I'm all right, Jim". We must look at things rather differently. In the previous controversial discussions about the postponement of the London local government elections we supported the Government. We did so because we thought that they were right. The Government were then glad to accept our support. On this occasion, we shall oppose the Government because we think they are wrong, and I hope that they will equally accept that we are doing so in good faith. I believe that what the Government intend to do is wrong in principle, misguided from their own point of view, and, in the long-term, damaging to the House. I am sure that we on this bench would be wrong not to say so.
On 14th May I drew attention to three reasons why I thought it was desirable for the House to aim at broadly equal Parliamentary constituencies: first, to share the load amongst members of the House as equitably as possible; secondly, to provide, so far as possible, roughly equal access to a Member of Parliament by constituents; and, thirdly, the more important matter of the fundamental principle of, not only one man, one vote, but one vote, one value.
The Home Secretary appeared to underline one particular reason, namely, the question of the load carried by Members with very large constituencies. I say again that Members representing those large constituencies have made no complaint of it. They have not said that they are not capable of representing their constituencies. The Home Secretary kept talking about these under-represented constituencies. As he also said that he did not accept this argument of one vote, one value, it can only be assumed that he was suggesting that in some way, on a sort of personal basis, the individual Members, because of the largeness of their constituencies, were not able adequately to represent their constituencies.
They are so able. They would all claim to be. The hon. Members for Billericay (Mr. Moonman), Epping (Mr. Newens), Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd), and Meriden (Mr. Speed), and the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who joined me in my efforts to do something about the large constituencies, did so in the interests of their constituents, for those two second reasons and not the first—not because of the load on the Member, but because of the need to give individual constituents an equal opportunity of direct approach to the Member and on the general question of representation.
The question of equal opportunity for constituents to approach a Member is crucial. During the short time I have been in the House I have learned—indeed, I knew it before—that my opportunities as a back bench Member of influencing major aspects of Government policy are somewhat limited, to say the least. This is a view shared by all back bench Members. I have also found that my opportunities, as indeed, those of all hon. Members, to sort out administrative muddles on behalf of my constituents are much greater than I had even dared to hope. A successful result, in terms of getting some improvement in a constituent's circumstances, is obtained in about one-third of all cases taken up.
In view of the enormous satisfaction that that brings, and recognising that this is a valuable function performed by back benchers, surely we must ensure that constituents have a roughly equal chance of getting such a service. This was the second and most important reason. This was the reason behind the support I received from hon. Members on both sides about my efforts to do something about large constituencies.
Even under the proposals of the Boundary Commission—London is a case in point—there is a gap of 20,000 between the largest and the smallest which will be there in any event. There will not be the equality which the hon. Gentleman is aiming for.
I am grateful for that intervention.
The Under-Secretary seems to share the distorted logic adduced by the Home Secretary, who said that the Government could not accept the argument of one man, one vote, and, therefore, of one vote, one value, because it would mean, even under these proposals, a variation in constituencies from 45,000 to 75,000. No one has suggested that there can be complete arithmetical equality. However, there is a vast difference between the inequality which would arise with constituencies varying between 45,000 and 75,000 and the inequality which will arise with constituencies varying between 130,000, as one is likely to be, and 17,000 or 18,000. Even though it cannot be evened out in an exactly mathematical way, let us go some way towards it; let us remove the disparity so far as is reasonably possible.
If we accept that as far as reasonably possible Parliamentary constituencies should be roughly equal—I think that the whole House accepts this, even though the Home Secretary, for reasons which may be known to him, does not wholly accept it at this time—the argument today is about how we are to achieve this equality. One simple procedure which could be adopted is the card vote. Unfortunately, that must be discarded. To have a card vote as between Members would introduce degrees of inequality before which even the most ardent Marxist would have to submit.
For example, there would be great difficulties in terms of our Standing Orders. If we had to have six Members, as we do, to demand a debate on Third Reading, would it be six Members, or would it be only three—the hon. Members for Billericay and for Epping and myself? It might be that Members with more votes than others would never be allowed home on a Friday, but would be kept here to move the Closure. So this solution, though attractive—it has been seriously canvassed; card votes are respectable in some quarters—clearly must be rejected.
I would have preferred to have seen a reformed electoral system as a whole. I think that a periodic convulsive attack upon constituencies, which is necessary under the present system, has disadvantages, many of which have been highlighted today. Many of the difficulties could be avoided with a reformed electoral system. For example, there could be multi-Member constituencies for one city. Let us take one which has been mentioned so much today, Birmingham. If a number of Members were returned for a multi-Member constituency of that kind, the problem would be simpler. As the city grew, it would be given an additional Member. If it became smaller it would lose a Member. There is the problem of Manchester. The constituency of Manchester, Exchange has almost disappeared, but sooner or later it will reappear. As there is further building and development in the area, the constituency will come back again.
In this periodic onslaught, which we in the House accept, there are difficulties,
because changes take place to and fro. They are not constant or steady. I would have preferred to have seen a reformed kind of electoral system. The present Conservative emphasis on the need for electoral fair play gives me some encouragement, as indeed did a speech made some time ago by the then Government Chief Whip, now the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who said this is October, 1965:
The Government takes the view that the time has arrived when we must examine in depth methods of electing Members of Parliament other than the present straight majority method. The present system obviously does not give a fair deal to important minorities like the Liberal Party.
It may be that at that time there were reasons why the Government found it necessary to think about our difficulties. The fact that they do not think about our difficulties now does not mean that the difficulties have disappeared. The difficulties are still there. I welcome any support I can get from anywhere for a reformed electoral system, but it is clear that whatever hopes I may have had will not be fulfilled at the moment.
That being so, we must look for another method. We have the present system, and since we accept the need for some method, all we can do is to make the present system work. Arguments whether or not the Government have a legal statutory duty to bring about these changes are rather sterile. The real argument is whether or not change is advisable, and we must agree that it is advisable.
It is essential in the interests of democracy and of both Houses of Parliament that three things should be kept utterly separate from Government: the Press, broadcasting and the arrangements surrounding elections. As far as possible, we should keep the arrangements surrounding elections separate from Government, and if we have adopted a system of giving the making of decisions and recommendations to some kind of independent body we ought to accept that body's recommendations even if to do so is not always convenient.
I accept the legal argument that Parliament must be free to act, but the real point is: should it act? We think that Parliament should not act in this proposed manner. With this kind of system, which is perhaps not the right system, we always have these party accusations of gerrymandering. It has sometimes proved that either the accusations were ill-founded or the gerrymanderers were not very good at the job. There have always been these arguments, and I suggest that to avoid them we should always adhere to the recommendations, in which case accusations of gerrymandering will in the fullness of time disappear.
What do the Government give as special reasons? Their first reason is the Maud proposals. How does that stand up to argument. We have heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), and quotations from an article by Mr. Michael Steed in New Society. We have heard the various mathematical analyses of where the balance of advantage or disadvantage lies. But we all know that whatever Maud will do it will not do it very soon.
Whoever is in charge—and whether the present Government or the Tories are in charge it is well known that they are not speedy in making fundamental changes—it will take a long time for the Maud recommendations to be implemented. It cannot wait until then. The Meriden constituency. which is not mentioned in the Bill, will have an elecorate of 180,000 or 190,000 by the time the election after the next takes place. We have had all these prognostications by the Home Secretary about the Ladywood Division of Birmingham. He says that it is very small now, but that it will grow again. If it is right to look into the future in respect of the small constituencies it is equally right to look into the future for the large ones, and not speak merely of those which are large here and now.
The simply thing is to accept the recommendations as they are. In some ways it may be inconvenient to do so. There may have to be other changes in four, five, six or even seven years, but I am not as resistant to change as hon. Members opposite appear to be. If we are to have further changes, so be it, but do not let us be prevented from making necessary changes now by the prospect of having to make further necessary changes later.
We acknowledge that some of the things which the Government recommend are necessary and we would not wish, for obvious reasons, to place any impediment in the way of their being brought about. But we also feel that the Government have a duty to this House and to the voting public to carry out the recommendations as they are. In that way they will strengthen the authority of this place, and not weaken it, as the present proposals will.
I am delighted by the enthusiasm which my appearance at the Box seems to be creating, but I intervene only to deal with accusations that what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has done in relation to his duties under the 1949 Act has been in breach of those duties. In my view, that accusation is unfounded.
Section 2(5) of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949 provides that
As soon as may be"—
and I emphasise those words—
after a Boundary Commission have submitted a report under this Act, he shall lay the report before Parliament together … with the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the report.
For entirely extraneous reasons which have been fully explained by my right hon. Friend, namely, the prospect of local government reorganisation in the various parts of the United Kingdom, the Government have decided that Parliament should be asked to pass legislation to enable the alteration of parliamentary constituencies to be suspended. Accordingly, Clause 1 of the Bill provides that no action is to be taken under Section 2 of the 1949 Act in consequence of the reports submitted by the Boundary Commissions in the course of this year.
It is true that the reports of the Boundary Commissions have been laid before Parliament but, as my right hon. Friend has said, they have not been laid before Parliament in pursuance of Section 2(5) of the 1949 Act. They have been laid before Parliament as ordinary Command Papers so that the House will be in a position to judge whether the reasons for which the Bill proposes to suspend the large and radical changes proposed in the reports are or are not well founded. They have merely the quality of a White Paper.
In my view, the crucial question on the matter about which I have been asked to express an opinion is whether the Home Secretary can be said to have failed to comply with his duties under the Act as soon as may be. The reports of the Boundary Commissions, which were only comparatively recently submitted, are complicated and lengthy documents. In using the words
As soon as may be …
Section 2(5) of the 1949 Act contemplates that the Secretary of State will require an interval in which to consider whether the changes proposed in the reports should be given effect to with or without modifications. If the Secretary of State had been acting under the Section it is a matter of speculation as to the time in future at which this period would have elapsed.
The critical words are
As soon as may be …
The Act does not use the word "forthwith". The words are not "as soon as possible". In my submission, the words
As soon as may be …
convey something much less proximate in point of time than do the words "as soon as possible".
The responsibility placed upon the Home Secretary in the consideration of these reports is a heavy one. He has not only to consider whether the changes should be given effect to with or without modifications, but, of course, it would fall to him to have the responsibility for the drafting of the necessary Orders. If, accordingly, he had proceeded under the provisions of Section 2 of the 1949 Act, it is a matter of speculation whether he would have done so now or might not complete that operation for some time perhaps even before the end of the Recess.
I will give way in a moment.
What the Bill accordingly does is to propose how this undoubtedly difficult problem should be resolved. The Bill passes to the House the decision on this matter. It is a decision fundamentally affecting the composition of the House and it is right that that decision should be taken in this place.
The report has, in fact, been laid before Parliament. Therefore, it clearly was possible to lay it in the other form at the time when it was actually laid. According to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it is also the case that the Home Secretary has completed his consideration of the reports, however complicated they may he. I must ask the Attorney-General by what possible contortion of reasoning he can say that the Home Secretary is not in breach of the duty laid upon him by the Act in failing to lay the report in accordance with the Section.
The Section places on the Home Secretary the duty
as soon as may be
to lay the report together with the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect to the Orders. For the reasons I have explained to the House, the Government have decided not to lay the draft of the Order in Council, but to deal with the matter as they have done in this Bill, but they have thought it right to place before the House as a White Paper the Reports of the Boundary Commissions so that the House may judge the propriety and constitutional correctness of what the Government have done.
There is no breach of statutory duty. There has been here a proper exercise of constitutional power by the Home Secretary. What he has done is not in breach of duty.
Despite the intervention by the Attorney-General, I still regard the Bill as a thoroughly improper Measure. Under this Bill my constituency of Arundel and Shoreham in West Sussex, which was formed in the 1948 redistribution, becomes one half of one of those four pairs of adjoining constituencies quite arbitrarily singled out by the Secretary of State to be turned into three.
I wish to ask the Home Secretary a number of questions on behalf of my constituents, who are both bewildered and worried by his action. We want to know, first, why he has joined Arundel and Shoreham to the Horsham division to our north rather than to the Chichester division to our west, an area where a new Arundel constituency was to have been formed under the sensible proposals of the Boundary Commission. I am asked by my constituents why these carefully worked out Boundary Commission recommendations have been unilaterally rejected by the Home Secretary why Arundel and Horsham rather than Arundel and Chichester?
Secondly, is it possible, as persistent local rumour has it, that the Secretary of State has chosen to shot-gun marry me to my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) rather than to my equally hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway) in order to prepare the ground, pave the way, set the hoard, as it were, for carving out a new inland mid-Sussex constituency somewhere in or around the Crawley area in what is at present the Horsham constituency? It looks as if the Commission may be driven into this as the only possible solution. In this event, how could the three constituencies, my hon. Friend's, the new one which is to be carved out, and mine, possibly conform to the approximately equal electorates which the Home Secretary himself calls for in Clause 3(1)(b)? [Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The geography of our area alone makes this change virtually impossible. I ask the Home Secretary to look again at the question of electoral parity in our area with what I take from his opening speech he is doing in the Greater London area. In my constituency we have long awaited redistribution. We know that it is necessary. Ours is a very large area geographically, and my electorate is rising steadily from 67,000 in 1954 to close on 96,000 today, with a further 6,500 coming on to the new register next year.
The original independent Boundary Commission proposals for Arundel and Shoreham were to split it roughly into two and to create two new seats out of the present one, one in the west at Arundel taking in part of the present Chichester division with an electorate of 55,023, and the other at Shoreham in the east with an electorate of 55,660. This was an admirable solution which met with very general local approval and support. It took account of our very special geographical and local community interests in West Sussex, for our area is already naturally bisected by the barrier of the South Downs, a "hogs back" as it were running from east to west throughout its entire length. That was a reference to a natural barrier, not to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg).
In our local judgment the original Boundary Commission proposals for Arundel and Shoreham were excellent and should have been implemented in full. My constituents wish to know why this has not been done. We object to this unilateral attempt to conjure into being what must almost surely become a new mid-Sussex constituency in one form or another. Any such solution with a new Crawley seat in what at present is my hon. Friend's constituency would perforce leave my own already ultra over-populated coastal belt—some 15 miles long by two or three miles deep—penned in between the South Downs and the sea virtually intact and unrelieved. By joining us forcibly to Horsham, we cannot see how the Home Secretary can possibly expect the Commissioners fairly or even sensibly to resolve the problems of my constituency—I cannot speak for my hon. Friend—either electorally or geographically in what we regard as this new, unnecessary, expensive, time-consuming confrontation which he has forced upon my constituents.
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Captain Kerby). I understand that he has not spoken in the Chamber for some time. I cannot understand why he is so modest. Obviously he can take care of himself. His was one of the very few speeches from the benches opposite which I have been able to understand.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has completely pre-empted my next comment. I was about to say that part of the confusion arises from the number of lawyers who have taken part in the debate. Part of it arises from the manner in which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) opened the debate for the Opposition. His was a very curious speech, even for him. Most of us who have listened to him and have some respect for him always know when he is about to make a bad speech. He sits hunched on the Front Bench as if he is about to explode. When he explodes he is always incomprehensible. We had one of those speeches this afternoon, and understandably so because he had a bad case.
There is no doubt that when the Opposition argue in constitutional terms they always over-ice the cake. We have not had a debate about a political judgment as to whether it is better to wait for the Maud Commission to decide final Parliamentary boundaries. We have had a debate about whether the Government intend to abolish Parliament. That is the logic of what right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been saying. It is an extraordinary argument.
I return to the central issue of the debate, which is whether the Home Secretary is correct in arguing that it is wiser to wait for 1974 or 1975, whatever the date may be, for the final outcome of the Royal Commission on Local Government. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), who spoke for the Liberal Party and made an interesting speech, exaggerated when he referred to the constituency of Meriden. He argued that if we wait the electorate of the constituency of Meriden will rise to 180,000. This kind of exaggeration only confuses the House.
I shall listen with great interest, because I believe that the hon. Gentleman will have great difficulty in proving the case.
I shall not argue that there is not a very strong case for Parliamentary redistribution outside London where there are very large constituencies. I represent a very large constituency of 110,000. I recognise the difficulties involved in a constituency of this size. It is far better for the Home Secretary to have taken the decision which he has taken to go ahead with the redistribution of seats in London which are not affected, or are only marginally affected, by the Commission's proposals. I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on that. In my constituency, which is affected only in the sense that parts of it are subtracted and nothing is added, the other two areas will be grateful for the opportunity of having a much more manageable size for their electorate. This is strongly supported by all political parties locally. Certainly the Conservatives in my constituency warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's decision.
A political judgment has been made which I consider to be right. It does not strengthen the dignity of the House if hon. Members, led by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, exaggerate their case and bring the dignity of the House into disrepute.
Neither I nor my constituents can make any complaint about the fact that Essex, South-East is to be redistributed. We were due for this under the Boundary Commission's proposals which have now been set aside. I do not know whether we are unique in this respect, but my constituency has already been redistributed three times since 1945. This will make the fourth redistribution—an eloquent reflection of the dramatic way in which the population of Essex has increased and will continue to increase. But that does not make what is proposed in the Bill right.
I was completely unconvinced by the Attorney-General. His argument was legalistic and that was all it was. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not convinced himself. As the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), in a most interesting speech, said, "There is no question that Parliament has the right to act, that is, to set aside the recommendations of any outside body." But, as he said, is it right to act?
I do not propose to speak at length, or to say much about the Government's decision in this matter. As The Times put it very clearly on 20th June, it is "the shabby compromise that had been forecast." Suffice it for me to say that what the Government are doing here is to perpetuate for a further minimum period of five to seven years a situation which has obtained for a good many years past, where some hon. Members, almost all of whom are on the benches opposite, represent only a quarter or one-fifth of the number of electors, as a good many others, mainly but not wholly on this side of the House. This is not wholly true of the County of Essex, in which the two largest constituencies are represented by Labour Members. But the fact is that in England alone there are three constituencies in which the electorate has fallen below 30,000, while 47 others have electorates of over 80,000.
It is true that under the Bill the Home Secretary is dealing with the most glaring examples of swollen electorates, but it is only fortuitous that Essex, South-East, with its 95,000 electors, an increase of 47,000 since 1955, is affected because it happens to be next door to the constituency of Billericay, the largest in the country, with its 113,000 electors—had this not been the case, I have no doubt that we would have been left out—while the Cheadle constituency, with only 5,000 more electors than my constituency, will become two constituencies of 50,000 each. As it is, our next-door neighbours—Chelmsford, with its 82,000 electors, and Thurrock, with 77,000—are left unaffected.
My point is that the Bill takes no account of the huge, almost unprecedented increase in population which Essex as a whole has sustained and will, in the nature of things, continue to sustain in the years ahead, while at the same time shamefully keeping in being constituencies with small and dwindling electorates.
For example, the Exchange Division of Manchester has come down from 55,000 electors in 1955 to about 18,000 today. The next-door constituency of Cheetham comes down from 55,000 in 1955 to 30,000 today. The Boundary Commission proposed to join those two constituencies together. Had they been joined, even then the total electorate would have been only 48,000. How is it possible to justify the retention of small and dwindling constituencies of that kind, which have been dying on their feet for the last 10 or 15 years?
The sheer inequity of this becomes all the greater when one bears in mind that the enfranchisement of the 18-year old voters will add, I think I am right in saying, at the next General Election 8 per cent. more to the electorate. In absolute terms, therefore, the disparity between the abnormally large constituencies which will remain after the Bill becomes law and the small constituencies which will remain will become even greater.
I cannot see how hon. Members opposite, who declare themselves passionately attached to democratic practices, and, indeed, sincerely believe in democratic government, and who insist upon the sacred principle of one man, one vote in far distant lands, can bring themselves deliberately to perpetuate this unjust and unfair state of affairs. That they do so passes all understanding.
The party opposite may get their Bill. They may retain a few seats which they otherwise might have lost. In matters of this kind, however, memories are long. It is not surprising that a certain word has been mentioned several times in this debate and in the leader columns of the newspapers.
There was an ambitious Governor Gerry, of Massachusetts, who sought to redistribute the electoral districts of his State in a way which his opponents certainly thought would favour his party. The part which was affected, oddly enough, was called Essex County. It was observed that one of the more absurdly redesigned districts was shaped like a salamander, and a local wit promptly renamed it Gerrymander. The moral of the story, however, is that Governor Gerry was thrown out by the electorate and, although subsequently he became Vice-President of the United States, he never became its President.
I have made my protest about the Bill. But since my constituency is involved there is one further point which I should make. It was made, in a way, by the hon. Member for Cheadle and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham. Clause 3(1) requires that out of each of the four named pairs of constituencies three new constituencies shall be formed with approximately equal electorates. In my view, that is unnecessarily rigid, and from what the Home Secretary said this afternoon I sensed that he thinks so, too. I hope that I am right about this.
That provision gives the Boundary Commission no option whatever but to propose constituencies which must cut across existing local government boundaries. In the case of my constituency, in the last three redistributions the Boundary Commission managed to avoid cutting across local government boundaries. As a result—this is important for county constituencies—our local communities were kept intact within the changed Parliamentary boundaries.
In the absence of the Home Secretary, I ask the Under-Secretary of State to consider the unwisdom of the Clause as it is drafted. The Home Secretary has claimed that the reason for not implementing the Boundary Commission's proposals is that the structure of local government is being reviewed. That is the argument on which he rests his case. He cannot have it both ways. If he believes that local government boundaries in the future are relevant to Parliamentary representation, then existing local government boundaries should be respected in regard to the redistribution proposed under the Bill, especially since it seems likely, from all that has been said, that it will be a minimum of seven years, and it may be considerably longer, before there is any chance of a major redistribution.
I think that I speak for all my constituents when I say that they would not wish long-established local government areas to be broken up to satisfy a purely arithmetical equality between the three new constituencies, especially when such equality is being completely ignored elsewhere in the country.
I would not rely solely on what the Home Secretary said this afternoon about the disparity that may come about in the Greater London area. The Bill is quite explicit about this. The words are that
out of each pair of constituencies … three new constituencies with approximately equal electorates
must be formed. Those words are clear. They do not mean that the constituencies must be absolutely arithmetically equal, but the kind of disparity that the Home Secretary mentioned which perhaps might be allowed somehow does not seem to accord with those words.
In those circumstances, whatever happens to the Bill, I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies to the debate he will be able to give a clear assurance that the Bill will be amended to give greater flexibility to the Commission in its difficult task.
May I join the hon. Member on that point and ask whether he would agree that in the original Boundary Commission Report there is sufficient latitude between the constituencies, which is perhaps in conflict with, I agree, the rather explicit statement in the Bill. There is, therefore, a conflict here which needs to be resolved.
I am grateful for that intervention, coming as it does from the hon. Member who represents the next-door constituency, because his intervention shows that there is not likely to be much division of opinion as between the parties, the local authorities or the local councils in our two constituencies. But if the point is ignored then I think a great deal of trouble will be caused at the inquiries which, I understand, are to be arranged by the Commission to hear local objections. All this can be avoided if sufficient elasticity is given in the provisions of the Bill to the Commission.
The Commission has done this job before, and I myself have perfect faith and confidence in it, as an independent body, to do a sensible job again, but I feel that the Bill as it stands ties the Commission's hands in a way which will make very great difficulties indeed for our local communities and, indeed, for the Government themselves. I hope that the point is taken.
I intervene briefly in the debate for the reason that it seems to me that it is impossible for any Government to do right when it comes to redistributing Parliamentary seats—probably impossible for them to do right in the opinion of their own supporters, and certainly impossible to do right from the point of view of the Opposition.
Up to now in the debate we have had a swopping of legalistic arguments, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to what is presumably the right and reasonable thing to do. If one approaches it from this view one is forced to some conclusions which, from my point of view, are rather unhappy conclusions.
I have listened with care to the speeches made by hon. Members opposite in the hope of finding a convincing argument that the Government were wrong to introduce a part and not the whole of the Boundary Commission's proposals. I say that I listened in that hope because from a personal point of view the outcome of the recommendation that the London proposals shall be introduced is possibly politically disadvantageous but certainly personally disadvantageous, because I lose a part of my constituency and one conceivably may lose some element of political advantage, but one inevitably loses a number of personal friends.
I have this afternoon some friends in the House who have done me the honour to come along and have a cup of tea with me and among them are people who will be transferred to another constituency if the Commission's proposals are carried out. This would be a source of personal regret to me, even more than any political disadvantage.
On the question of political advantages and disadvantages, it has been alleged that in London the benefit, if any, is to the Labour Party. I do not know whether that is so or not. What I can say is that I have not found it to be so. I have not heard shouts of protest coming from the local Conservative Party. I have not heard any screams from the Conservatives in Putney that this is gerrymandering to their disadvantage. Nothing of the sort has been heard. I would like to know where this assurance has come from—that this is gerrymandering which is to the disadvantage of the Conservative Party in London.
There has been a lot in the Press about it, but what do the political organisers say? Where are the people who really know what will happen? Is there any hon. Member opposite who can get up and say, "I know from my personal knowledge that what is being done is to my disadvantage or to the disadvantage of Conservatives in my constituency?" I have not heard this from any London Member opposite, so I take this suggestion with a wee grain of salt.
I am from Leeds, North-West, where I have 75,000 electors; in Leeds, South-East there are 28,000 electors. The Boundary Commission has recommended that Leeds, having been re-warded, should be divided into six equal constituencies We are now being denied it.
Yes, I was talking about London, and the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) was talking about Leeds. I will talk later about areas outside London, and if the hon. Member wants to come back then by all means let him do so, but at the moment we are talking about London and the suggestion by hon. Members opposite that what is being done is disadvantageous to the Conservative Party.
This is the allegation which has been made time and time again. Where are the facts on this? I have heard no informed support for that allegation anywhere at all. In Putney, I think that it is advantageous to the Tories and I suspect that the Conservative Party in my constituency believes this to be the case.
What hon. Members opposite are really saying is that the Government should either do the whole thing or nothing at all. This is really the argument which has been put forward, and I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite have precluded themselves from making any other arguments by the nature of their Motion against the Government's proposals.
I would readily agree with my hon. Friend. Not only this Labour Government, but previous Labour Governments as well, have, as he has quite correctly pointed out, acted in this matter in what one might call a quixotically honourable fashion.
If it had been said by hon. Members opposite that the Government should just do nothing at all till after the local government boundaries have been settled I would have had some sympathy with that proposition. If it had been said that the whole thing should be put on one side till the Redcliffe-Maud proposals have been implemented, or that the whole operation should be done together, I would have found it hard to argue against that proposition. That proposition, however, has not been made. That would have been a reasonable proposition, but nobody on the opposite side of the House has made that proposition.
Hon. Members opposite have made the other proposition, that the Government should be precluded from any action other than total acceptance and that is a proposition which cannot be sustained. What they are saying is that the Government should immediately implement the whole of the Commission's Report and
I find that proposal entirely unconvincing. I find it unconvincing from the point of view of the Commission, which is much more relevant on this point than the lawyers, on the opposite side of the House. In considering the question of local government boundaries the Commission said, on page 3:
We found it convenient to review England in six groups, each group consisting of several geographical counties, with Greater London treated as a county. This made it possible for us to phase the review to take account of local government changes. We were able to make early progress in areas where local government boundaries were either already settled or unlikely to be settled before 1969, but areas liable to early change were held back.
The Commission itself, therefore, took into account, in making its recommendations and in ordering its business, the possibility of local government changes, and that is precisely what the Government are proposing to do.
I am sure that the hon. Member must have studied very carefully paragraphs 374 and 376 of the Commission's Report, which clearly said that for many years to come local council boundaries will be the existing boundaries, and this applies to county borough boundaries. Why should not the Government act in accordance with that Commission's recommendation, certainly in respect of county boroughs like Leeds, Bradford, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester? Why should they not do that?
While it is true, of course, that sweeping changes may he made elsewhere, the Government are entitled to act in the manner in which they have. What I am saying is that the proposition that the Government should do nothing at all would have been a more convincing proposition than that which the Opposition are putting forward.
It is useless for hon. Gentlemen opposite to pretend that local government and parliamentary boundaries are unconnected. They have preserved for a long time in the heart of the City of London the rottenest of all the rotten boroughs. The word "gerrymandering" should have been invented in the City of London and not in the United States. They have justified this by arguments about tradition.
The decision that the Government are taking, unwelcome though it may be to some of us, is a decision which they are entitled to take. I shall, therefore, be unable to support the Amendment, which has been argued in an entirely unconvincing manner. I believe that the House, some hon. Members with considerable personal regret, will be compelled to accept the logic of the Government proposals.
If the debate this afternoon has shown anything, it is that one can debate almost anything if one puts one's mind to it. We have spent a great deal of time on, and gone into tremendous detail about, the legal niceties and details of constituencies. These lengthy discussions obscure the basic and perfectly simple fact that the Bill is an electoral fiddle, nothing more and nothing less. The Government know it, hon. Gentlemen opposite know it, we know it and the country knows it. We are losing sight of the main issue by getting bogged down in detail.
Many hon. Members have suggested that the sovereignty of Parliament is called into question, but no one has suggested that Parliament is unable to make any change that it wishes in the law. Parliament has complete sovereignty in this matter. What I challenge is not whether Parliament is empowered to produce this Bill and pass it, but whether Parliament is well advised to do so, and whether, more particularly, Governments which have a large majority in Parliament are justified in using that majority to push through a Bill which fiddles the electoral machinery. That is what the Government are doing.
The Home Secretary has today taken the brunt of the argument. I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland sitting on the Front Bench. He has been a silent and, I think, possibly within himself a rather unhappy co-partner of the Home Secretary, because he also is in the dock. He is every bit as guilty as the Home Secretary. The Secretary of State for Scotland has also broken the law, and he should be ashamed of allowing himself to be put in that position.
The Attorney-General very gallantly stepped into the breach to try to defend from a legal point of view the position taken up by the Home Secretary. I pay tribute to the Attorney-General for his courage, but it would have been better for the Home Secretary and everybody else if he had not been so brave and if he had not said what he did say. His explanation was so transparently weak and so utterly unconvincing, even to a non-lawyer like myself, that had I been convinced before by the legal argument in favour of the Bill I would have been gravely shaken by the way in which the Attorney-General struggled to justify it.
I am grateful for my hon. and learned Friend's support, and I agree with what he says.
The Attorney-General touched on the real point when he said that it all depends upon the interpretation of "as soon as may be". He tried to make out that the words meant a little less proximate than as soon as possible. That is a legalistic argument carried to the point of absolute nonsense. Although it would have to be established legally what is the precise legal meaning of "as soon as may be", to most people, and legal opinion which I have consulted would agree, a fair interpretation of those words would be "as soon as practicable". I think that the courts would find similarly. If this is so, the Secretary of State and the Home Secretary are right now, in breach of the law for not having produced the reports at the right time with an Order implementing them.
The Scottish position, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, is slightly different. Even if we accept the argument that the Redcliffe-Maud Report having been published the Home Secretary is entitled to delay the English boundary changes—and I do not accept it—that argument cannot be adduced for Scotland, because the Wheatley Commission has not yet reported and nobody knows, not even the Secretary of State, officially at any rate, what the Wheatley Commission will report. It could recommend, although I do not suppose it will, no change whatever in the local government set-up in Scotland. I imagine that is why the rather curious provision in Clause 1(4) has been written into the Bill. It empowers the Secretary of State before March 1970 to decide after all to implement the Boundary Commission proposals in Scotland. Whatever else we may say about him from time to time, the Secretary of State for Scotland is a most transparently honest and honourable man—
I hope that the Secretary of State will take the opportunity which this subsection gives him of making himself an honest man in this matter. It is no exaggeration to say that the Government's action in changing the boundaries purely for their own ends is something which I would be very unhappy to be a party to were I a member of the Government. There are many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who are in every respect honourable and upright men who should be feeling a qualm about supporting the Measure. Changing the rules of electoral procedure should not be undertaken lightly. The Secretary of State still has an opportunity to clear himself entirely of any such charge which may be laid against him. When the Wheatley Report is published, if the Secretary of State chooses to use the powers given in subsection (4) and implement the boundary changes in Scotland, he will do himself immense good in my eyes and in the eyes of the people of Scotland, and I hope that he will take that opportunity.
Arguments have been produced in support of the general idea behind the Bill. The theory that has been seriously put forward, and it must have been a struggle to find it, is that the real reason is that it would be terribly awkward to have two changes in boundaries within seven or eight years. Let us examine the meaning of that tremendous awkwardness. The changing of constituency boundaries causes personal inconvenience to Members of Parliament and to their constituents, but are the administrative problems so vast? The electoral register is made up by streets and districts, and it cannot be said that it is such a vast administrative job that it should not be done, as a once-for-all effort, twice within seven or eight years. It simply does not bear examination.
Here is another case in which the argument is weaker when applied to Scotland than it is when applied to England and Wales. As the Secretary of State for Scotland will know, the actual running of elections in Scotland is not carried out in the same way as in England and Wales. It is the Sheriff's Department, a department not directly involved in local government, which is responsible for the running of elections and which will not he directly involved in implementing the Wheatley Commission proposals when they come along. The already fantastically weak argument produced by the Home Secretary for England and Wales is that much weaker still when applied to Scotland. I hope the Secretary of State will bear that in mind when he comes to his unenviable task of deciding what he will do about the situation once the Wheatley Commission has reported.
It was sad to see this afternoon one of the finest orators in the House, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), in a speech sparkling with his usual wit and as powerful as ever, employing an argument which was based on an entirely false point, which he did not appreciate even when interrupted. Indeed, his argument was backed up by a series of weak interventions from the other side.
What distresses me is the absolute cynicism with which the whole operation has been regarded by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. There has been no real attempt to make this out as a serious exercise in reducing administrative inconvenience. It is patent that this is a piece of gerrymandering, and everyone knows it. And nobody opposite cared enough about it to want to see their Chief Whip and say, "There are limits to what I can support." If a Government which I support produced a Bill such as this, whether it was favourable to the Conservative Party or against it, I would go to my Chief Whip and say, "I will not support it."
I hate the idea of seeking to change the electoral law for one's own advantage, or, for that matter, for one's own disadvantage. It is a thoroughly bad day for British democracy that a provision of this sort can be allowed to slip through without so much as a squeak of protest from those inside the majority party.
I hope that this will be seen for what it really is—a naked piece of political gerrymandering. The House will suffer very badly in its reputation if the Bill goes through. And the Labour Party, as on every other occasion it has gerrymandered the constitutional and electoral machinery, will rue the day it twisted the law to suit its own party advantage. It should be thoroughly ashamed of this legislation.
Having listened to the speech from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), I am quite content to let the House draw its own conclusion from such a display of amateur arrogance and condescension from such a recent addition to our ranks. My experience, for what it is worth, goes back some years. I claim no political privilege in this matter, but I have felt it advisable to come here with some degree of modesty, bowing to the knowledge that there are some people in this place who know more about things than the newcomers. But I did not rise to administer a rebuke. I merely happened to be unfortunate enough to hear the hon. Member's speech.
I have no constituency axe to grind in this debate. Even if I had I would hesitate to grind it. But as the Boundary Commission makes no proposals which affect my historic constituency in Lancashire, I do not rise to make any complaint on that score.
Having been present on similar occasions when matters of electoral advantage involving boundary changes have been considered in this ancient House, I have noticed that politicians of all parties—I do not exclude any of my own hon. Friends—being men of action and men of some discrimination, not completely naïve, always tend to dress up these matters of electoral advantage in tones of some high principle.
I thought that the particularly rumbustious speech by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was somewhat out of character. We all have some affection for the right hon. Gentleman when we get to know him, but he made Ignatius Loyala sound like a novice. He dressed up as matters of high principle things which are not matters of high principle. If anybody wishes to discuss ethics or morality, this obviously is the place to discuss them. But I sometimes feel a little uneasy when matters such as these are presented in such a way.
I wish to address my remarks to the question of convenience. It is not always necessarily a matter of abstract principle but is a matter of what is good and reasonable for the country. I should like to call to mind that famous night in 1954 when an all-night sitting took place in this Chamber to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) referred. Far-reaching proposals were then presented to the House by a Conservative Government, of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone was not then a Member. He was in another place, having succeeded his father there, until he was re-elected to this House by virtue of the provisions of a Bill passed for his convenience and that of other Peers who wished to take a seat in this House. We do not regret his return to this House. He often adds enlightenment to our debates and sometimes a great deal of frivolity and amusement.
On that occasion in 1954 we had the spectacle of a Conservative Government, whose Home Secretary at that time was the late Gwilym Lloyd-George, under the Premiership of Winston Churchill, which was determined to force through the House a series of recommendations by the Boundary Commission affecting a large number of important boroughs in this country and other rural and urban areas. For purely technical reasons, the Government of the day decided they must be forced through the House at any cost.
Therefore, it is somewhat ludicrous for hon. Gentlemen opposite to come to the House today and charge a Labour Home Secretary with gerrymandering the constitution, when the only occasions in the history of the House when boundary changes of any magnitude have been put forward have occurred in Conservative Administrations. When I look back over the history of this matter to the Reform Act of 1832, to the Rotten Boroughs and the stinking Tory compounds, when small numbers of insignificant people were sent as Members to this House generation after generation, century after century, on the basis of no real electoral support in the country, it annoys me to hear such distinguished lawyers as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone stand up and wave his arms about and get all emotional on this hot day and charge us with gerrymandering the constitution.
On that famous night, when we stayed here all night, there was a vigorous and acrimonious debate in which some Conservative Members were saying pretty nasty things about their own Government. They did not like the arrogant overbearing attitude of the Boundary Commission. It had refused personal interviews to every one of the affected boroughs, including the great County Borough of Manchester, which at that time was returning five Conservative Members and four Labour Members—incidentally all personal friends of mine.
When this was being forced through the House everyone who applied for an interview with the Boundary Commission on behalf of the large authorities was refused that interview with one exception. That exception was the previous Home Secretary Mr. Chuter Ede, who at that time represented South Shields. I am relying on my memory here. The Manchester Members were very indignant about the conduct of the Government, which they normally supported, so much so that the five went down into a room in another part of this House with me, and at that time I was an Opposition Whip, so that I was not an anonymous Member of the House.
I had a cup of tea with them and I can remember the names of three of them. One was that very venerable and highly respected Member of the Tory Establishment Dame Florence Horsbrugh, then the Member for Manchester, Moss Side, another was that honourable and respected Member of this House, who is still with us, the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), and another was the then Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, Mrs. Eveline Hill. The names of the other two escape me now. They have long retired from the service of this House.
They voted against the Government, which only succeeded in steamrolling a series of Boundary Commission recommendations through the House by issuing a special Whip to the Ulster Members of Parliament, 12 of them, who had no constituency interests. At that time the Government had an overall majority of only 16. The Labour Opposition had polled a bigger vote at the election but had returned slightly fewer members. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone is not here, he entertained us so well. Doubtless he will come in later and throw his weight about. If he gets in a few interventions he will be happy. He complained that we were doing something which is an offence against the constitution, yet this process in 1954 was only endorsed in this House by 12 Ulster Members being brought here to vote down the Opposition in their own party—and no one knows more in this world about gerrymandering than Ulster Members. I say that without any personal disrespect to any Member in sound of my voice.
For the Tory Party now to come here in a white gown of chastity and rebuke us for doing something that is morally offensive is something that we must repudiate. The House has cooled down a good deal over this subject. Why we need to have a debate on a subject like this which is capable of enough spontaneous combustion on one of the hottest days of the summer, God knows. It is cooling down a bit outside and I am trying to cool things down a little inside.
I hope that I am sufficiently liberal-minded to tolerate opinions which I do not share, to listen to them with respect. I am not so naive as to suppose that this Boundary Commission is necessarily a good thing. Rightly or wrongly it was established years ago, after the Coalition Government broke up, by Herbert Morrison and one or two others, including Mr. Chuter Ede. I do not believe that it was necessarily a wise move to establish the Boundary Commission. This has not been challenged before, and I wish now, after sketching in some historical background, for my own enjoyment, which I hope has not caused any displeasure in the House, to challenge the whole concept of a permanent Boundary Commission.
It is very nice for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is not yet in his place, to come here and make favourable noises about the honour and integrity of our old friend Herbert Morrison, a friend to all of us. It is strange, when the witness cannot be called to verify or contradict what is being quoted as his philosophy, that he is quoted with approbation, yet when the witness was here he did not get this kind of response fro mthe right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends. He was often execrated as a Tammany Hall party boss who fixed everything behind the Chair. I am not competent to pass judgment on that period of history, although I know something about it.
From my own experience, and I speak for no one else but myself, I think that the idea that we can set up a permanent high-powered commission such as the Boundary Commission, with a professional staff of statisticians, demographers, cartographers, geographers, lawyers, accountants and all the rest of the apparatus, is wrong.
My right hon. Friend says that they are all lawyers, but I do not know. This permanent organisation has been erected to sit in permanent session and to keep under permanent scrutiny the development of constituencies as they increase or decrease through the movement of population and other factors.
If we establish an institution of this kind vested with continuing powers to sit and fiddle about in camera with collections of maps, vital statistics and all sorts of secret reports being fed to it and never seeing the light of day, we may not get the result that this House would expect when it was first designed. Any good democrat must agree that where constituencies become too large or too small compared with the rest, whilst we cannot get mathematical equality between them all, constituencies should represent real communities, not merely collections of people scraped together regardless of community interests. This House is the sounding board of representative government where community feeling, sentiment or grievance can be ventilated on the Floor of the House if they have had the sense to return a competent and honest Member.
When this little thing has blown over and we have gone through all the motions of making ersatz and synthetic protests about the perfidy of the Government, which is the usual way for politicians to swap this kind of punch across the Floor of the House, we should seriously consider whether this Commission should be called into being at appropriate intervals to deal with major distortions where constituencies are very large or very small, but not allow it to create a situation where 400 out of 630 constituencies will be up ended and chopped to bits at one time.
I agree with what the Home Secretary has told the House. Those who wish to quibble about the legal borderline arguments which have been floating around the Table for some hours are entitled to enjoy themselves. I am not entering into that sort of baby house. But this House ought seriously to consider, as a matter of principle, whether it is good for this country every so often to get these large floods of recommendations which completely disorganise the relationships of this House to many parts of the country.
I do not believe that anything held in secret is good. I make no charges, no aspersions, no reflections.
The demon king returns. Perhaps he will be good enough to read what I have said about him—
—as I have had to listen to him. I am grateful that he has paid me the compliment of returning just as I am winding up. However, I might be tempted to start again.
I never will be convinced that a permanent Boundary Commission is good for this country.
I remember, with affection, Mr. Speaker Morrison, who presided over our deliberations in 1954. He was generally fair to all parties and was highly respected. The House was in turmoil for most of the night. I think that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone was sitting in the other place, having succeeded his father and donned the ermine robe, which he discarded as of no account at the first opportunity we gave him to come back here. Mr. Speaker Morrison was very upset by the unruly debate and the acrimonious words which were flung across the Chamber through- out the night. He called me to the Chair towards the end of the debate and said: "Price, cannot some of you get together after this? We must never have a scene like this again. Something ought to be done about it". That was 15 years ago, and nothing has been done about it.
The hon. Gentleman says that he spoke to the wrong man. He could not have spoken to a better man. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has only just come in and he does not know anything about it. He is the sort of Tory Party cheeky chappie who comes in and does not know anything about it.
I appeal to this honourable House—I know that I do not often appeal successfully, but not always in vain either—that when we have settled the Bill, which I shall support—[Interruption.] I am not a party hack, Quintin. You know that.
I will support the Bill because I believe that to have this general post just now would be a bad thing for the country. It may be a bad thing for the Labour Party or for the Tory Party, but let everyone form his own judgment about that. But I will support the Bill in the belief that, if the House goes on tolerating a situation in which a permanent Boundary Commission can flood the House with hundreds of changes whenever it is minded to do so, it can be a bad thing for the constituencies, for the reputation of the House and for Parliamentary government.
Perhaps I may be forgiven for making an intervention at this point. Reference has been made to the silence of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I took the decision not to wind up the debate for the simple reason that I expected that this would be mainly an English debate. That has proved to be so. There has been only one Scottish speaker.
Although there is a Motion on the Order Paper signed by seven right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of the party opposite, apart from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), only two have even shown their faces, which shows the lack of interest—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, I have all the names and I have been watching carefully. For the greater part of the debate, there have been no more than two Tory Scottish back benchers in the House, apart from the hon. Member.
I prefer the hon. Member for Ayr when he is offensive rather than when he is flattering, especially when he says that everyone knows that I am a transparently honest man. I recollect his speech in Scotland not so long ago telling me that I was criminally irresponsible and suggesting that I should be sent to Barlinnie for some reason or other. He should make up his mind and be consistent; but he is rather immature in these maters. He should appreciate that he is not entitled to speak for Scotland on this business, or for anyone else.
The simple fact is that we do not have the Report of the Wheatley Commission. He seemed to think that that was a reason for implementing the Report of the Boundary Commission forthwith. May I remind him of our debates on police amalgamation? What was I told then? "Do not do it. The Wheatley Commission is to report." On the Social Work (Scotland) Bill, the party opposite said, "Do not do it." On the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, just the other week, what did they tell me? "Do not do it." I do not know whether the hon. Member for Ayr heard the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) because he mentioned this.
I do not know what the Wheatley Commission will do.
I think that the hon. Gentleman intends to wind up on a wider point, and I do not want to be too long.
Hon. Members are right: I do not know what the Wheatley Commission will report. As Secretary of State, I do not think that I should intervene with a Royal Commission, and try to guide it or influence it or find out what it is doing. The only hon. Member whom I have heard speaking with a show of knowledge of the thoughts of the Wheatley Commission was the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie), who spoke about it at that Box in our recent debate on town and country planning, and I was shocked and surprised. However, he may not have chosen his words well.
We know from the Redcliffe-Maud Report that the electoral map in England and Wales will be torn up, that there will be tremendous changes and that it will have a profound effect upon boundaries. The hon. Member for Ayr has only fought one or two elections, first, as a candidate and then as a Member of Parliament. My experience, over a far greater period, is that there is considerable administrative difficulty in Scotland because of changes of boundaries, for electoral and local government officers, and even for parties—that is important, although I do not put it very high—and we do not want constant changes in this way.
I know that, in Scotland, it makes it easier for me to make up my mind. More than half the Scottish constituencies—for example, those of the hon. Member for Ayr and the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell)—are not affected. For them, it does not matter what I do.
Not in any major way, I can assure the hon. Gentleman. I live in his constituency and I know it reasonably well. My constituency is affected, but not to a major extent.
Some English Members might like to ponder upon the fact that eight Scottish constituencies have electorates of fewer than 30,000. If we accepted the Boundary Commission's Report five of these would remain. For decades we have had these small constituencies, and that fact makes nonsense of the protestations from hon. Members opposite "One vote, one value". I hope that nobody will argue that one vote in a certain part of the North of Scotland should automatically be worth the same amount in another part of Scotland.
I resent very much the allegation of a "fiddle". It is very easy to make these charges and to summon up the necessary steam and get oneself into the right mood. I am sure that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn would not entirely agree about the electoral outcome of not doing anything about the Boundary Commission's Report. Many people believe that if we do not do anything about it the party that will benefit in certain parts of Scotland will be the Tory Party.
I want to make the position in Scotland clear. The Bill gives us the right to defer any decision about the Boundary Commission's Report until March of next year. We expect to have the Wheatley Commission's report later this summer. When I receive it it will be up to me to determine its effect upon the Parliamentary boundaries in Scotland, and to make up my mind about it. I sincerely hope that no wild statements will be made about my intentions. It would be wrong for me to make up my mind now. I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of what they said about legislation. I remind them that the Boundary Commission itself said that it had taken into account existing boundaries as far as possible, although it was not bound to do so to the same extent in Scotland as in England and Wales. In those circumstances, it would be very unwise to race ahead implementing the report. I really must have freedom to wait.
As for breaking the law, hon. Members opposite should make up their minds. I prefer the legal wisdom of the advisers to the Government rather than that of the hon. Member for Ayr, especially when he gave the interpretation of the courts, although he declared himself not to be a lawyer. He agreed that we had a right to do what we were doing, which was quite a different argument from the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who called this a constitutional enormity. We have a right to do what we are doing, and we are wise to do it, in all the circumstances, especially in relation to the advice that we have received about waiting for the Wheatley report.
Without being presumptuous, I would think that we have had a good debate. Many good debating points have been made, together with some historical reminiscences, and there has been much fun and levity. This saddens me, because at the end of it all we are still left with the fact that the Home Secretary—the custodian of our law and order—has broken the law and has been compelled to table a Bill to indemnify himself.
I discount what the right hon. and learned Attorney-General said this afternoon. I do not accept his interpretation of the law. It shows to what extent the Government will go to justify some of their actions, and the Attorney-General has signed his own death warrant. Whether the Bill goes through or not, the hon. and learned Gentleman has signed his death warrant, but if it goes through, I understand that he loses his seat as well.
When Parliament debates religious matters, or questions of real conscience, we are supposed to be at our best. I have wondered today whether we have really grasped the full significance of the proposals in this unfortunate Bill. As I listened to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), I was satisfied that he had not grasped the full significance of what we are debating today. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the Boundary Commission's recommendations and whether we should have a Boundary Commission. I think that he showed thereby that he has missed the whole point of what we are debating today.
Of course Parliament must remain supreme, but in the matter of elections and boundaries, which, after all, are the rules of the game, there must be full consultation and not unilateral party action for obvious party advantage. In this respect, why do we not use Mr. Speaker's Conference again? Was there any party consultation at all about these proposals?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a point which has been made on a number of occasions and which I have not so far heard answered. In the middle of last year, before it was known what the Boundary Commission was going to propose, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was going into public print saying that he was going to the courts to enforce action by the Home Secretary.
—but I shall look the matter up again and draw it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attention. My recollection is, however, clear, that there was an announcement that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was going to the courts. In those circumstances, how on earth could we have had an agreement?
We learn from experience, and I regret that I gave way for that intervention.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department knows full well that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals are unlikely to be implemented. Even if there were a chance of their being implemented, how long would it take? The right hon. Gentleman based his arguments on the fact that the Commission's proposals are to be implemented. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman could have made an honest case by deciding, either to do all the recommendations of the Boundary Commission, or to do nothing until after the next General Election. At least that would have been consistent.
The right hon. Gentleman claimed the other day that he was not altering his own constituency, which would give him an advantage, under the Boundary Commission's recommendations. But he seeks to alter my constituency, and I do not want that done in a selective manner. My constituency, which I have represented for 20 years with varying majorities, from the present 4,000 to 11,000, is to be made one of the strongest Tory constituencies in the country. I do not want that at the expense of a colleague whose constituency is to be wiped out under these proposals, and it is there- fore natural that I should ask why my constituency of 49,000 electors should be increased to 68,500 electors at a time when Ladywood remains at 18,000 and when the Prime Minister's constituency remains at 90,000? No boundaries should be altered until the whole proposals of the Boundary Commissions are to be implemented.
Parliament is the poorer for such partisan tactics and democracy suffers. Such tactics cause further loss of faith in our present-day Parliamentarian and politician. The House is brought into disrepute. It was the present Home Secretary whose last action as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to devalue the £. It was done at a time when I had asked a Parliamentary Question seeking a categorical assurance that there would be no devaluation. But he was actually considering devaluation when he gave me the assurance I asked for. I have made no party political capital hitherto of this because I realised that he was in a difficult position and had an excuse. But today he has no excuse. He and the Government are tarnished by their actions today. He should bury this squalid Bill or he should honourably resign.
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus), who represents a seat in Greater London, did not talk in greater detail about the provisions in the Bill relating to London. Indeed, it is surprising that, throughout the debate, the Opposition have been curiously coy about the provisions relating to London. As my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) pointed out, contrary to the general view, which was expressed in The Times the other day, there is no obvious advantage for the Labour Party in the provisions of the Bill relating to London.
On the contrary, as has been proved on previous occasions, any redistribution in London which gets rid of smaller constituencies does not help the Labour Party. That was proved in 1950 and it will be proved again. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite talk about gerrymandering. If there was gerrymandering to be done, the obvious thing to do was not to bring in changes in London which will be of disadvantage to the Labour Party. In Tower Hamlets, Newham, Southwark, Lewisham, and all the inner parts of South-East London, there will be no advantage to the Labour Party. On the contrary, there is the obvious case of seat after seat disappearing which for many years in Parliamentary elections have been safe Labour seats. I repudiate entirely the Opposition charge that this is a gerrymandering Bill.
As a result of the Bill, we shall see under-representation of London in relation to some other places. I am amazed that hon. Members who make speeches about Scotland drift in and drift out careless of the fact that, in many safe Tory areas in Scotland, there are very small electorates. They do not ever complain about that.
In relation to the G.L.C. elections, everyone knows that it was Conservative policy to introduce single-member constituencies as soon as possible. We are doing it. We are carrying out Tory Party policy, so how can one describe that as gerrymandering? Everyone knows that, when the party with a very large majority is defending that majority, and is defending boroughs which have been won on a basis of "win one, win the lot", it is to its advantage if those boroughs revert to single-member constituency voting. But we are carrying out that change, so how can we be accused of gerrymandering?
The remarkable thing is that the Tory Party is always squealing about these matters. It was squealing way back in 1948. Bully bottom in this debate, the rumbustious right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), was wearing a different hat then; he was representing Oxford. He was squealing and crying then as he has squealed and cried today.
The Tories have a curious inferiority complex. They boast about how they will wipe the floor with the Labour Party at the next General Election, but tonight they are counting their little gains here and their little gains there, because they are not sure; they are getting the excuses for their defeat ready now. They are rather like the horizontal heavyweights of long ago, who said, "We was robbed. They changed the rules". That was the cry of the hori- zontal champions, which is what the Tories will be at the next election. And it will not be because of these changes. It will be in spite of them. Despite our losses in Central London, we shall beat them.
This debate has shown the usual Tory lack of confidence. The Tories have cold feet. The charge of gerrymandering was made in 1948. On that occasion the Tories complained bitterly. Winston Churchill called it a "dirty racket ". He described it as "one of the shabbiest political manoeuvres on record ". That was his description of the Bill we introduced in 1948. There was talk about creating additional Socialist seats. As Winston Churchill said, "They decided to cheat". On top of the redistribution, we abolished the university seats. Yet the 1950 result is now accepted historically as the consequence of the redistribution; and Herbert Morrison was blamed for Labour's near defeat in 1950 and for Labour's defeat in 1951.
Let the House not forget that when we lost the 1951 election we polled more votes than the Tories, but got 30 fewer seats. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was then talking about our gerrymandering. Goodness knows how one can gerrymander constituency redistribution and then lose an election. We polled more votes than the Tories, but got 30 fewer seats. Fine gerryman-dering! [An HON. MEMBER: "Incompetent."] That may be true. They do much better things in Tory Northern Ireland; they know how to gerrymander there.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the Tory Party's difficulties. The Tories had been over-represented in the House for 50 years. In 1918, they were over-represented by 112 seats on the votes then polled, in 1922 by 92 seats in 1923 by 17 seats, in 1924 by 122 seats, in 1929 by 22 seats, in 1931 by 120 seats. What a gerrymander that was! What a "fiddle" that was.
No, I will not.
In 1935 they were over-represented by 91 seats. In 1945 something went wrong; the poor chaps were under-represented to the tune of 28 seats. They restored the balance and Labour helped them in 1948, because in 1950 they were overrepresented by 10 seats, in 1951 by 21 seats, in 1955 by 31 seats, and in 1959 by 52 seats. Then something went wrong again in 1964 and they were over-represented to the tune of only 24 seats. In 1966 they were under-represented by 10 seats. This is the party which moans and groans. This is the party which complains about the rules being changed.
And I will tell the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) that it may well be that the Liberals have been consistently under-represented. That is what he wanted me to say. I have all the figures. I will lend them to him afterwards, and he can quote them.
The fact is that the Conservative Party is the biggest collection of moaners in the business. It has been so accustomed to ruling the country in its own tinpot fashion, and so accustomed to gerrymandering elections that it obviously suspects everyone else of being guilty of its own vices. That is its trouble.
If one looks at the matter sensibly one remembers what the Tories were saying in 1948 and knows the situation now. They were accusing us of gerrymandering then. They were wrong then, as they knew in their hearts—
They knew when the 1950 Election came along that they would get a bonus from the Act that we put through, but that did not stop them playing their party games then and it does not stop them playing party games now. It is very significant that from not one Conservative have we had any analysis of what the results will be in London—and that despite the stories they have put abroad in the newspapers. And we know where those stories come from. We know where the political correspondents get the idea about an advantage to Labour in London—
As I believe that I shall be the hon. Member most affected, I must say that I believe that the Measure changes the rules. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will tell the House when there has been a redistribution of seats Bill without consultation with the Opposition parties. Furthermore, we know that there has not been any consultation between the Government and the English Boundary Commission, because the Home Secretary admitted that to me in reply to a Parliamentary Question the other day. Again, why has consideration not been given to those constituencies which are expanding very quickly and which by October, 1970 will have electorates in excess of 100,000? It will be interesting to be told why such consideration has not been given to them.
A lot of play has been made of the Boundary Commission Report. In page 6, the Commissioners say that the upper and lower limits they have taken were electorates of 40,000 and 80,000. No one on either side of the House has argued that we must have a mathematical precision of equality, but the fact remains that the Government are creating a constituency of South-East Hertfordshire with an electorate of less than 35,000, and that constituency will be with us for some time.
I hate to bring in my constituency, because this is not a Cook's tour, but I believe that it shows the sort of situation at one end of the scale. It has a present electorate of 85,000. By October of this year the figure will be 100,000, and by October, 1970, it will be 120,000. If one accepts a seven or eight year time scale, and no one seriously denies that, the electorate will then be between 150,000 and 160,000. The Home Office has already received representations from some of my local authorities, and will know that these figures are true. The effect of votes at 18 is that most constituencies will have an average overall increase of 6 per cent. to 8 per cent. in their electorates. I believe that in large overspill constituencies such as Cheadle, Billericay, and my own constituency, there will be a higher proportion of young people aged between 18 and 22 years.
I went into this with some of the local authorities in my area. At the moment in some overspill areas, which form a large part of the constituency, the proposition is 9 per cent., and by the middle or late seventies it will be 12 per cent. The situation in my constituency and in others will be exacerbated. If the Home Secretary thinks that by increasing electorates like this while votes at 18 are coming in, in view of the crocodile tears he shed in his opening speech, perhaps in winding up he will say how this can be otherwise.
The interim review is now wiped out. Some local authorities in my district and I wrote to the Boundary Commission pointing out that on its existing proposals the electorate would be very large and asking what could be done about it. The Commission replied to Meriden Rural District Council saying:
Under Section 2(3) of the House of Commons (Distribution of Seats) Act, 1949 the Commission have power to submit from time to time recommendations for particular constituencies, and should the need arise they would consider exercising this power at some future date in respect of the Meriden constituency ".
The Government apparently have kicked the Commission in the teeth for that letter was dated less than two months ago and this provision is no longer to apply. There is now no way in which large constituencies such as mine, which are not affected by interim arrangements, can be helped.
Many hon. Members have made great play with the question of local authority boundaries. My constituency has within its boundaries five first-tier local authorities. There are three county boroughs and two counties. That is not a unique situation. I thank the Home Office for giving me information at short notice saying that there are 126 constituencies in England, excluding Greater London, with two first-tier local authorities, 21 with three first-tier authorities, 10 with four, and three with five.
This situation will continue probably for another eight or nine years. Can the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) imagine a situation in which a number of hon. Members will be dealing with three, four, or five first-tier local authorities, not to mention other local authorities? Constituencies with 40,000 electors have two or more first-tier local authorities within their boundaries at the moment. This makes absolute nonsense of the Maud excuse put up by the Government.
So far we have been looking at constituencies whose boundaries are 15 years old. Many have asked why there should be a redistribution. One hon. Member asked why there should be this periodic review. The reason is that the population, bless their hearts, like to move around. They do so largely as a direct result of Government policy. The reason why my constituency is exploding in population is that the Government in 1965 designated an overspill area to be built in four years, which will be larger than the City of Worcester. This has been repeated outside London, Manchester, Liverpool and other major cities. While we rightly ask that new towns should be formed this problem will remain. It is no good saying that it can be solved by sweeping it under the carpet for seven or eight years. By that time there will be a number of constituencies with electorates of 150,000.
This is unfair to those who are represented in this House because they will still have only one vote and because, with the best will in the world, however hard a Member works he cannot do the same standard of work on behalf of 150,000 electors as he could with a reasonably sized electorate. Finally, and, perhaps, least important, it is, particularly physically and financially, a strain upon the individual Member. I therefore regard the Bill as deplorable and hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will reconsider it in the light of these facts, every one of which I can substantiate.
Despite all the speeches from that side of the House—there have been no fewer than three from the Front Bench already—no tolerable defence has been proferred for a deliberate and flagrant breach of Ministers' statutory duties under Section 2(5) of the 1949 Act. This requires Ministers to lay the reports of the Boundary Commissions before Parliament, together with draft Orders for giving effect to their recommendations. The only qualification is that this can be done with modifications, and, if so, the Government have to explain the reasons for the modifications. The Government have transgressed, and have done so shamelessly.
We welcome the fact that the Attorney-General intervened, prompted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), but we received the minimum of enlightenment from him. The Home Secretary had said that he had presented the reports, but not laid them. The Attorney-General said that the Home Secretary had laid the reports, but not under the 1949 Act. Which of these is right? We hope that the Under-Secretary of State, who is to wind up, will tell us. Whichever version proves to be the official description of this mysterious happening, can pedantry and humbug go any further? What is the difference between the procedure for laying these Orders today and the procedure adopted with the previous Orders in 1954? They also appeared as Command Papers. I hope that this will be explained.
Some hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), asked where the supremacy of Parliament was safeguarded in the procedure under the Act. The answer, of course, is that Parliament has the power to reject a draft Order once it has been laid by the Minister. The procedure for rejection, amendment and relaying by the Government, should they wish to do so, is set out in Section 3(5) of the 1949 Act. But this is a question of the wisdom of the House of Commons in rejecting the recommendations of the Commissions. It does not alter the important point that independent Commissions have made their recommendations, and that it is the duty of the Government to place them before Parliament.
The intention was clear, that the Commissions' recommendations should be placed before Parliament without the Government delaying, rejecting or materially changing them in the meantime.
In 1954, the Minister presented them and then said that he would listen to what was said before deciding what to do. He listened to what was said by many hon. Members who had objections, on both sides of the House, but then decided to go ahead with the Order, and it went through with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission—
I shall answer the hon. Member if he listens. There would be no point in having these Commissions, so clearly independent of the Government, if the Government of the day were free to intervene by mutilating or nullifying their recommendations before Parliament had had an opportunity to comment upon them.
When I have finished what I am saying. I think that I shall answer the points as I go along.
The intention is that there should be no opportunity for skulduggery between the submission of the Commission's reports and their consideration by Parliament, but in the present case it is clear that the Government are openly engaged in skulduggery, which is exactly what the law was designed to preclude.
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. I understand him to say that the Government are under a duty to lay the reports before Parliament and that Parliament is entitled to say that they should be amended as it thinks fit. Is the hon Member seriously suggesting that it would have been better for the Government to have laid the whole of the Commission's Reports and recommendations before the House and then recommended the House to throw them all out, except for London?
With all respect to the hon. Member's legal experience, he has got it wrong and he has misquoted me. He should know that the House cannot amend an Order; it can only reject it. The Government then have to decide whether to bring it in again, to amend it or not to bring it back.
The supremacy of Parliament is safeguarded in Section 3 of the Act, but it is a matter of the wisdom of the House whether to reject the recommendations of these independent Commissions. The Government are, therefore, seeking to change the law retrospectively and to indemnify themselves at the same time.
There is a technical point here; it is what my hon. Friend was saying. There would not be one Order laid. A separate Order would be laid for every constituency in which changes are made. It would, therefore, have been necessary for me to have laid about 90 Orders, each of which would have been debatable and on each of which the Government would have said, "Very well. Now we ask you to turn it down." That was the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) was making. He was asking the hon. Member whether he believes that to be a good way of doing business in the House.
I am suggesting that the Government should do what is laid down in the Act. If they find it inconvenient to submit a large number of Orders, if the Home Secretary is required to do that, rather than one Order, that is a matter which the House decided when the Act was passed in 1949 and later amended.
The Bill seeks to postpone indefinitely the recommendations for England except for Greater London, but they seek to tinker with certain large constituencies and with seven which straddle the Greater London boundary. The feeble reason which is given is that the Redcliffe-Maud Commission's Report has arrived—a transparently feeble pretext. It seems probable that at least five years will pass before action is complete on that report. If the Government's reason were valid, they could have raised this matter three years ago when the Royal Commission was first appointed. It is clear, however that this is simply a last-minute excuse which has been produced to try to get away with this squalid manoeuvre.
In the meantime, the imbalance between constituencies will grow. If the Government's Bill goes through, future changes will not be made until at least 25 years after the previous changes took place following a general review. Some, no doubt, will have grown to 120,000 or more. Others, in contrast, particularly in the centres of large cities, are likely to diminish to derisory figures because of the movement of population.
When we consider Scotland the Government's actions are even more shifty and suspect, because the Wheatley Commission on Local Government. which is the equivalent in Scotland to the Redcliffe-Maud Commission in England, has not yet even reported. The Bill would suspend action on the Scottish Boundary Commission's Report and would allow the Secretary of State to act before the end of March, 1970, and it has been explained that this would give the Secretary of State time to see what the Wheatley Commission, when it has reported, recommends. There is similar provision in Northern Ireland where, we understand, proposals for reform of local government have been published today.
The pretext of the Maud Report for postponing the recommendations in England, except London, is bogus and irrelevant, but the Government are compounding this folly by their proposed action for Scotland and Northern Ireland. No similar report has yet been submitted for Scotland. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone said, a study for England has shown that if the proposals in the Maud Report were broadly accepted it would not greatly affect the Boundary Commission's recommendations. He referred to the study in question. The Home Secretary disputes this, and we shall be interested to hear in the Under-Secretary of State's reply, why he disputes it.
Then we come to the question of timing. It consideration of the Maud Report and, later, the Wheatley Report provides controversy and public discussion, and if there are substantial changes, as there may well be, then it is likely to take longer than five years before action is completed. The Government's case, therefore, falls completely to the ground, because for all of that time this country will be denied the benefit of up-to-date electoral boundary reform.
As regards Scotland, we have the Minister of State's estimate, in the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on 23rd January, of the time which it would probably take before the Wheatley recommendations could be acted upon, whatever the Wheatley Report will contain when it appears. We were then discussing the Scottish Town and Planning Bill and existing planning procedures. The Minister of State said of action on the Wheatley report:
it might take as much as 10 years or as little as four".
He then went on to say, and this is even more significant, that
it is a very long time to leave everything frozen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 23rd January, 1969; c. 101.]
That is what the Government said about planning procedures—I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland is listening—
—which they and we wanted to change. We did not dissent from the changes needed in planning procedures, but it is entirely different from what the Government have been saying on Parliamentary boundaries which, unlike planning procedures, need frequent reviews because of the continuous movements of population.
The Secretary of State, when he intervened, spoke about our waiting for Wheatley. He had misunderstood what some of my hon. Friends have been saying. We were complaining that the reform of local government in Scotland was being postponed. We have been two years ahead in Scotland—in 1963—when we started a study of the whole question of reorganisation of local government in Scotland.
Our complaint, when we were discussing the planning Bill and other Measures, was that we ought by then, if we had still kept our lead of two years, to have had proposals for local government reform which would have enabled us to tie them up with the planning procedures. But we were not trying to postpone them. We were merely complaining about the delays caused by the Government.
Then there is this curious discretion given in the Bill to the Secretary of State for Scotland to take a decision before the end of March. We understand from what the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland have said that when the Wheatley Report is published it is for the Secretary of State for Scotland to decide. Perhaps the Minister will tell us: on what considerations will the Secretary of State take this important decision?
The Wheatley Report is the essential starting point for a major public debate on local government which will ensue in Scotland. Any assumption that the Wheatley recommendations will automatically later be translated precisely, or even imprecisely, into a new system of local government without changes would be unwise, and would be taking a great deal for granted.
I ask the Minister to tell us whether hon. Members or other persons and bodies in Scotland who will be interested in the Wheatley recommendations will have a chance of giving their views before the Secretary of State takes his decision. because if he just looks at the recommendations before there has been an opportunity for proper discussion or suggestions for changes and then takes his decision it will be unsatisfactory, to say the least.
The Minister of State provided an interesting forecast on behalf of the Government when he said in the speech from which I have already quoted:
When we propose a Measure to reform local government, it will be a big one and a contentious one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee; 23rd January, 1969, c. 101.]
Such a Bill cannot possibly appear before the end of March, as I am sure Ministers will agree.
This provision concerning suspension up to March and the Secretary of State's decision is just the kind of monkeying about with the 1949 Act and the recommendations of the Boundary Commission that Sections 2 and 3 were designed to preclude.
I ask the Minister to tell us also whether the Government yet know what is to be in the Wheatley Commission's Report, or are they acting completely blindly in presenting the Bill? It is perfectly clear that neither the Maud Report nor the Wheatley Report can be acted on by May, 1971, which is the last date when there can be a General Election. The Government are, therefore, denying the country the benefit of up-to-date Parliamentary constituencies as provided for by Statute for the next election and, unless changes are made by us in this Measure, if it is passed, for at least one election after that.
The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) based his speech on the assumption that the Government were suggesting that the changes for Parliamentary boundaries and local government should all be done at the same time. Unless the Government have been even more misleading than I thought, that was not their suggestion. They were simply reversing the order—the changes in local government to be carried out first, then the necessary review by the Boundary Commissions, leading to the boundary changes.
This high-handed action by the Government is stultifying the system. The Boundary Commissions arranged their work in order to report, as was expected, this year. There can be no up-to-date constituencies making use of their latest information unless their recommendations are now put into effect.
This is not an exact science, as I think everyone in the House accepts, because, for example, facts of geography, such as islands or areas of sparse population, pose special problems. Mr. Speaker himself, as Chairman, knows the sincere and dedicated work which is done by members of the Boundary Commissions to produce the best recommendations in the light of the latest situations in their areas. These recommendations lose their value as time passes. The recommendations now before the House will lose their value in five years' time because they will be out of date. In eight years' time they will be of even less value.
It will mean wasting the efforts of the Commissions over the last four years. The recommendations should be brought in immediately to enable the country to avail itself of the labours and impartial judgment of these Commissions. We are told that the cost of the review was £95,000, but much of it will be wasted unless these up-to-date proposals can be used.
The Bill also stops the Boundary Commissions from carrying out the further interim reports which might enable them to do something to bring constituencies up to date. Time and money expended by many bodies and individuals in giving evidence and attending public inquiries also have been wasted. The Commissions have been treated outrageously and it would be understandable if the members felt fed up.
What can be the real reason for the Government's manoeuvre? Why are they reduced to breaking the current law and trying to change it afterwards? There is agreement amongst all commentators, partial or impartial, that there are disadvantages in the Commissions' recommendations to the Labour Party electorally, while the proposals in the Bill are likely to help the Labour Party. The Home Secretary has placed himself in a position where it must be deduced that he is actuated by party advantage. Every other reason that has been advanced is specious or irrelevant.
Look at the meddling in which he proposes to indulge: seven constituencies straddling the London boundary and nine constituencies selected quite arbitrarily. It is left to speculation as to why the constituency of Huyton, which is bigger than four of them, has been left out. In both these meddling proposals the Home Secretary is suggesting several changes in Essex. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the sinister significance of tinkering with Essex? It was Essex County that originally gave rise to the expression "gerrymander"—Essex County, Massachusetts. It happened when Governor Elbridge Gerry ignominiously consigned his name to posterity by delineating a boundary so that a constituency formed the shape of a salamander.
Does the Home Secretary realise that he runs the risk of creating a new word, "Callamander"? Does he want to go down in history as the man who reversed in this country the continuing trend of improving the working of Parliamentary democracy? After the progress of the last 100 years towards universal suffrage and improvements in its application, made through Representation of the People and Distribution of Seats legislation, here is the Home Secretary deliberately causing a setback in this course of events.
Is this the picture of a party of reform of the kind painted by the Secretary of State for Social Services? After this, does the Home Secretary think that the Government's reputation can remain untarnished—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—when they seek to advise new and developing countries about their constitutions, voting rolls and related matters? This is putting the clock back. One has to go back nearly 200 years to find political morality at this level. The Government, by their "Callamandering", are breaking the law for their own electoral advantage. No doubt the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity would describe it as a compromise.
My hon. Friends say copper-bottomed. The Government will go down in history as the only people which tried to save their skins by coppering their bottoms. They have been changing the rules during the match. If the Prime Minister were the President of the Football Association it would be like changing the rules at half-time so that his favoured team could have two extra men for the second half of the game.
The decision to go ahead with Greater London, to continue the football analogy, is like deliberate handling of the ball in one's goalmouth. The effect is the same, it attracts derision, it seldom saves a goal—from a penalty—and it is a sign of desperation. The proposals in the Bill will not save the Government from electoral defeat, but will, rightly, bring derision upon them.
Why are the Government stooping to such petty, discreditable and unavailing behaviour? As my right hon. and learned Friend said, we are witnessing the decline and eclipse of the Labour Party, its palpable failure to handle the economic situation, the accumulation of massive overseas debts, the abject surrender and reversal of announced policy on industrial relations to avoid party civil war; and now it is reduced to the stratagem of "Callamandering" the constituencies.
It is one thing to break promises and pledges on policy, as the Government have done, but it is another deliberately to deprive the people of this country of the advantages of a system for maintaining fair Parliamentary representation. The Government should withdraw the Bill.
I will come to Huyton in a moment. If the hon. Gentleman can get Huyton out of his mind for 20 minutes, I will come to it. I will try to deal with a number of points raised, and I will try to ignore that jolly, public school joke about "Callamandering"—very funny, but I will ignore it. I found it easier to listen to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), because his speech was written in last week's New Society. There was just a little bit of ebullience and a little bit of pinching from New Society.
I never thought that I would find the right hon. and learned Gentleman pinching from New Society. If it had been Old Society it would have been more suitable. The other touching thing was to find the right hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, formerly the hon. Member for Oxford, quoting Mr. Herbert Morrison. With tears in his eyes he was quoting Herbert Morrison—there would have been tears in Herbert Morrison's eyes if he could have heard him. I can only confirm what my right hon. Friend said, that the right hon. and learned Member misunderstood the point. In column 1613 of the debate on 10th October, 1944, what Mr. Herbert Morrison was referring to was the supremacy of Parliament over periodical reports, which is precisely the same thing as we are talking about now.
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) came to the point that my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General referred to, that what was being done was not illegal. He did not take the explanation of the Attorney-General, and I put the point to him again. In the first part of the Bill we relieve the Secretary of State of the obligations, in Section 2(5) of the 1949 Act that "as soon as may be"—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen got it wrong last time, perhaps if they listen they will get it right now. What we have done is to relieve my right hon. Friend of the responsibility of "as soon as may be" after a Boundary Commission Report having to lay the Report, and we have provided that no proceeding shall be taken under this Act in consequence of these reports. This is good law—[Interruption.] It is good law, even if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not like it. We have put it to the House of Commons, and it is for the House to decide.
The supremacy of Parliament—indeed, the supremacy of the House of Commons—is involved; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman also referred to the House of Lords.
That is a most interesting point, and I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has taken it to heart.
Concerning Scotland, the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn had the point absolutely clear. We will consider local government reorganisation schemes both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland at 31st March, 1970, and if there are to be boundary changes there will have to be an Order.
Coming to the point raised by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed), subsection (1) also provides that no further interim reports for a particular constituency under Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act shall be made before the next general review report.
The hon. Gentleman is concerned about the long-term future in constituencies like his. We have to deal with the situation as it is now and Parliament in its wisdom has had to—[Interruption.] We are tak- ing into account the size of constituencies now of 100,000. The situation is not as bad as the hon. Gentleman makes out. But Parliament in its wisdom has to take into account the implications of the Redcliffe-Maud Report which were not taken into account in 1958. If there were any catastrophic changes in the sizes of constituencies, Parliament in its wisdom would have to look at the situation again.
To those of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite representing constituencies in the London area, Clause 2(4) would allow interim reports in any area of the G.L.C. Clause 2(4) preserves the power of the Boundary Commission to make interim reports on the area of the G.L.C. Section 2(3) of the House of Commans (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, lays down the rules. The Boundary Commissions keep themselves informed, as a matter of routine, of factors that affect the continued conformity with the rules. They get information about local authority boundary changes and changes in the sizes of electorates. They also receive representations from local authorities and political parties. This will be the case again in the area of the G.L.C.
The hon. Gentleman should get one thing right. He has a fixation on the Prime Minister. Huyton is not in London—[Interruption.] I am dealing with London now. I will come to Huyton in a moment. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot wait for the point.
Under subsections (2) and (3), the next general review reports which, under the 1958 Act, are not due until 1979–84—the right hon. Gentleman will remember the point because he made play about 1984—may be accelerated as soon as the Secretary of State sees that it would not be premature by reason of the prospect of local government reorganisation in that part of the United Kingdom.
The Home Secretary has an obligation to look at local government changes. This is the main core of the Bill. Parliament does not have to accept the Boundary Commission Report. In 1958, Parliament in its wisdom gave a final date for the proposals. Now, Parliament in its wisdom must face up to the implications of Redcliffe-Maud. Only on 11th June, when the Commission's Report was published, it made a number of highly detailed and revolutionary proposals which are bound to affect the electoral map.
There are 58 unitary areas—[Interruption.] I will come to the Government point next. I cannot do it all in one mouthful. The Commission made certain recommendations—61 main authorities and eight provinces. Whatever the precise result—I accept what the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) just said—no one can doubt that a great change will take place, that Redcliffe-Maud will have great effects from now on.
The hon. Member said that there was only a small effect, but my researches—and much of the information of the hon. Member for Meriden was supplied by the Home Office—show that, as a result of the recommendations, as of now, 94 constituencies will be affected by the Redcliffe-Maud proposals. The Commission was unanimous in its conviction that only in this way could local government be more efficient and humane. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House that it does not mean acceptance in detail but acceptance in principle. This is the reason for the time, because Redcliffe-Maud is essential to the Government's argument in deciding what to do.
What, so far, the debate is concerned with is the fact that there will be profound changes in local government in the years to come. I would acquit entirely the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone of ever using words at the end of a debate which he did not mean. Yet, in the debate on the Children and Young Persons Bill, which the Home Office presented, he mentioned "local government changes which are shortly to be made". Was he wrong on that occasion? Does he want to switch and say that he would not have put that argument then?
I must say, it must be marvellous living with the right hon and learned Gentleman.
There are great changes to be made in local government—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Huyton?"] I have not forgotten Huyton. I wanted to come to it at the end of my speech: I wanted to mention Bexley at the same time, that is all.
There are great changes to be made outside the G.L.C. and other areas, and it is right to postpone the constituency changes until we know what forms this will take. The Government's view is that we should not go through all the upheaval and uncertainty which would be involved in implementing the Boundary Commission proposals and then the Redcliffe-Maud changes. Constant reference is made in the English Report to the avoidance of constant changes in constituencies. We think that this is right. To change before the Redcliffe-Maud Report was received would be unreasonable. The Boundary Commission did not and could not take that Report into account.
I am sorry; I had five minutes shorter than I was promised, and I want to get to Huyton. Subsection (1) and part of the Schedule deal with London. The only point about London is that originally the Commissioners felt that 93 constituencies would be desirable, but because of the continued decline in the size of the Greater London area they eventually suggested 92 constituencies. Subsection (2) makes the consequential alterations in certain areas contiguous with the Greater London Area to deal with the seven straddling constituencies.
At present there are 98 constituencies wholly in the Greater London Area, including seven that straddle. There are minor changes in Sevenoaks and Reigate. There is a reduction from 107 constituencies to 98 and from April, 1970, elections will be on a single-member basis.
Sadly, a number of by-elections pending in the London area will be based on the existing constituencies. [Interruption.] I use the word "sadly" for a good reason. I would not have thought that it was amusing at this time.
The question of abnormally high electorates has been mentioned. The Boundary Commissions will look at the four pairs of constituencies and also deal with Cheadle. Their report will need an Order in Council. What about the other large constituencies? If they went down to 80,000 many other such constituencies would be contiguous and it would be necessary to look at several groups of constituencies. [Interruption.] The hon. Member wanted to hear this, but the Opposition Chief Whip does not want him to listen. I understood that it was important to the hon. Member and to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman). I was asked the meaning of the words "approximately equal". Clause 3(1) requires the Boundary Commission to divide the relevant constituencies into new constituencies with approximately equal electorates. The intention of the Clause is that the Commission should produce new constituencies with electorates as equal as possible to the average figures without straining to produce arithmetical equality at the expense of neglecting local ties.
Many hon. Members raised the question of the reduction in the voting age. Figures are available showing that for the whole country those aged between 18 and 21 represent a proportion of about 6 per cent. of those aged 21 and over. For obvious reasons the figure for Wales is about 5·8 per cent., and in the East Midlands the average is 6·3 per cent. The figure does not vary much from the average of 6·1 per cent. A figure of 8 per cent. has been referred to. In certain areas the percentage will be higher, I agree.
As for small constituencies, the right hon. and learned Gentleman made the point that the small size of some constituencies did not concern the Government as much as the large size of some constituencies. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn represents a constituency with an electorate of 35,000. Is he asking for such constituencies as his to be made larger?
The reasoned Amendment of the Opposition does not mention gerrymandering, but that is the case that hon. Members opposite are trying to make. I am entitled to ask on what facts they rest their case. Nobody tonight has given one fact to prove any gerrymandering. Perhaps there is a Tory Central Office brief. Perhaps all the Tory constituencies have been written to and asked, "What will be the effect of the changes?". I think that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) put the position correctly in respect of local representations as a result of reports already made when he said that he was extremely sceptical about suggestions from a political point of view. Perhaps there is an analysis on which hon. Gentlemen can make this plain in 1964 terms, or 1966 terms, or 1969 terms, or was it July 1969 or May 1969? What are the figures on which they base this argument of gerrymandering? Nothing has been revealed tonight.
My right hon. Friend said that at the last election there were 40 seats with majorities of less than 1,000. Some psephologists who say what the results should be have never walked the streets, have never knocked on doors, and had never been at a count. They cannot possibly tell what the result will be in these fine constituencies. The figures to which hon. Gentlemen refer show an advantage to six to the Tory Party, or an advantage of 20 to the Tory Party. In the face of the imponderables involved in an election, none of these figures mean anything at all.
The hon. Gentleman based his case on an article in New Society. At the bottom of the page the article referred to
The Callaghan boundary changes in political terms",
and started by saying:
1964 actual results—Labour 53; Conservative 47; Liberal 1.
That adds up to 101, but in 1964 there were only 98 seats in the London area, so this great prophet which the hon. Gentleman quoted was three seats out before he started. I did not read any further, but it is wrong. The hon. Gentleman says that it is right. The only thing right about it is that it says that the Leader of the Opposition will lose his seat in Bexley.—[Interruption.]
A curious light came over the Chamber as the eyes of certain hon. Gentlemen lit up. Reference has been made to Huyton. Anyone who thinks that the secession of one little part will make a difference to the fundamental result in Huyton does not know the facts in that area.
|Division No. 304.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Allason, James (Hemed Hempstead)||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Astor, John||Dean, Paul||Holland, Philip|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Hordern, Peter|
|Awdry, Daniel||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hornby, Richard|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Doughty, Charles||Hunt, John|
|Batniel, Lord||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Drayson, G. B.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Batsford, Brian||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Eden, Sir John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bell, Ronald||Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Emery, Peter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Errington, Sir Eric||Jopling, Michael|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Eyre, Reginald||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fortescue, Tim||Kimball, Marcus|
|Blaker, Peter||Foster, Sir John||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Kirk, Peter|
|Body, Richard||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Kitson, Timothy|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lane, David|
|Braine, Bernard||Glyn, Sir Richard||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Brewis, John||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Brinton Sir Tatton||Goodhart, Philip||Legge-Bourke, Harry|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Goodhew, Victor||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Grant, Anthony||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Bryan, Paul||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Grieve, Percy||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Gurden, Harold||MacArthur, Ian|
|Burden, F. A.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Channan, H. P. G.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McNair-Wilston, Michael|
|Chataway, Christopher||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maddan, Martin|
|Clark, Henry||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Maginnis, John E.|
|Clegg, Walter||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Marpies, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Cooke, Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Marten, Neil|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hawkins, Paul||Maude, Angus|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hay, John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Costain, A. P.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lioned||Mawby, Ray|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Heath, Rt, Hn. Edward||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Heseltine, Michael||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Higgins, Terence L.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hiley, Joseph||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Monro, Hector||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tilney, John|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ridsdale, Julian||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Robson Brown, Sir William||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Neave, Airey||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walters, Dennis|
|Nott, John||Royle, Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Onslow, Cranley||Russell, Sir Ronald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Scott, Nicholas||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Sharples, Richard||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Silvester, Frederick||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Pardoe, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Percival, Ian||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Peyton, John||Speed, Keith||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stainton, Keith||Wright, Esmond|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stodart, Anthony||Younger, Hn. George|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Summers, Sir Spencer||Mr. R W. Elliott and|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Pym, Francis||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Abse, Leo||Crawshaw, Richard||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Albu, Austen||Cronin, John||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Anderson, Donald||Daly ell, Tam||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Archer, Peter||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Ashley, Jack||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hamling, William|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hannan, William|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Delargy, Hugh||Harper, Joseph|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dell, Edmund||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Barnett, Joel||Dempsey, James||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Baxter, William||Dewar, Donald||Haseldine, Norman|
|Beaney, Alan||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bence, Cyril||Dickens, James||Hazell, Bert|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dobson, Ray||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Doig, Peter||Hoffer, Eric S.|
|Binns, John||Driberg, Tom||Henig, Stanley|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dunn, James A.||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Blackburn, F.||Dunnett, Jack||Hilton, W. S.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hooley, Frank|
|Booth, Albert||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Boston, Terence||Eadie, Alex||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Edelman, Maurice||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Bradley, Tom||Ellis, John||Howie, W.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||English, Michael||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ennals, David||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Ensor, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hunter, Adam|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Faulds, Andrew||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Fernyhough, E.||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Buchan, Norman||Finch, Harold||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Foley, Maurice||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ford, Ben||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fowler, Gerry||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Chapman, Donald||Freeson, Reginald||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Coe, Denis||Galpern, Sir Myer||Judd, Frank|
|Coleman, Donald||Gardner, Tony||Kelley, Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Garrett, W. E.||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ginsburg, David||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Moyle, Roland||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Lawson, George||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Murray, Albert||Silkin, Hn. S, C. (Dulwich)|
|Ledger, Ron||Neal, Harold||Silverman, Julius|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Newens, Stan||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip||Slater, Joseph|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Norwood, Christopher||Small, William|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Oakes, Gordon||Snow, Julian|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Ogden, Eric||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||O'Malley, Brian||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Oram, Albert E.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Orbach, Maurice||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Loughlin, Charles||Orme, Stanley||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Oswald, Thomas||Swain, Thomas|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Taverne, Dick|
|McBride, Neil||Padley, Walter||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|McCann, John||Paget, R. T.||Thornton, Ernest|
|MacColl, James||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Tinn, James|
|MacDermot, Niall||Park, Trevor||Tomney, Frank|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Tuck, Raphael|
|McGuire, Michael||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Urwin, T. W.|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pavitt, Laurence||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Mackie, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Pentland, Norman||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Wallace, George|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Weitzman, David|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Price, William (Rugby)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Whitaker, Ben|
|Manuel, Archie||Rankin, John||White, Mrs. Einene|
|Mapp, Charles||Rees, Merlyn||Whitlock, William|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Marquand, David||Richard, Ivor||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P' c' as)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mendelson, John||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Millan, Bruce||Roebuck, Roy||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Winnick, David|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rowlands, E.||Woof, Robert|
|Molloy, William||Ryan, John||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Moonman, Eric||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Mr. J. D. Concannon and Mr. Alan Fitch.|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Division No. 305.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blackburn, F.||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Albu, Austen||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Booth, Albert||Chapman, Donald|
|Alldritt, Walter||Boston, Terence||Coe, Denis|
|Anderson, Donald||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Coleman, Donald|
|Archer, Peter||Boyden, James||Conlan, Bernard|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bradley, Tom||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Ashley, Jack||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Brooks, Edwin||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Cronin, John|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bagier, Cordon A. T.||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Darling, Rt. Hn. George|
|Barnett, Joel||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Baxter, William||Buchan, Norman||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)|
|Beaney, Alan||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)|
|Bence, Cyril||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Callaghan, Rt. Hn, James||Delargy, Hugh|
|Binns, John||Cant, R. B.||Dell, Edmund|
|Bishop, E. S.||Carmichael, Neil||Dempsey, James|
|Dewar, Donald||Kelley, Richard||Pentland, Norman|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Kenyon, Clifford||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dickens, James||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dobson, Ray||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Doig, Peter||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Dunn, James A.||Leadbitter, Ted||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Ledger, Hon||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rankin, John|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Eadie, Alex||Lee, John (Reading)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lestor, Miss Joan||Richard, Ivor|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Ellis, John||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|English, Michael||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Ennals, David||Lomas, Kenneth||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Ensor, David||Loughlin, Charles||Robinson, Rt.Hn. Kenneth (St. P' c' as)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McBride, Neil||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Finch, Harold||McCann, John||Rowlands, E.|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||MacColl, James||Ryan, John|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||MacDermot, Niall||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Macdonald, A. H.||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Foley, Maurice||McGuire, Michael||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Short, Rt.Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Ty ne)|
|Ford, Ben||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mackie, John||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackintosh, John P.||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Maclennan, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gardner, Tony||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Garrett, W. E.||McNamara, J. Kevin||Small, William|
|Ginsburg, David||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Snow, Julian|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Manuel, Archie||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mapp, Charles||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Marks, Kenneth||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marquand, David||Swain, Thomas|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Maxwell, Robert||Taverne, Dick|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mayhew, Christopher||Thomson, Rt, Hn. George|
|Hamling, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hannan, William||Mendelson, John||Tinn, James|
|Harper, Joseph||Millan, Bruce||Tomney, Frank|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hattersley, Roy||Molloy, William||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Hazeil, Bert||Moonman, Eric||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wallace, George|
|Henig, Stanley||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Moyle, Roland||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Weitzman, David|
|Hooley, Frank||Murray, Albert||Wellbeloved, James|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Neal, Harold||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Newens, Stan||Whitaker, Ben|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Norwood, Christopher||Whitlock, William|
|Howie, W.||Oakes, Gordon||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Ogden, Eric||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, Albert E.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Orme, Stanley||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Padley, Walter||Winnick, David|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Paget, R. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Woof, Robert|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Park, Trevor||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Mr. J. D. Concannon and|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. Alan Fitch.|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Judd, Frank||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Glyn, Sir Richard||Mitcheif, David (Basingstoke)|
|AIlason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Monro, Hector|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Goodhart, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Astor, John||Goodhew, Victor||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Grant, Anthony||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Grieve, Percy||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Balniel, Lord||Gurden, Harold||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Neave, Airey|
|Batsford, Brian||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Nott, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hastings, Stephen||Pardoe, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hay, John||Percival, Ian|
|Body, Richard||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peyton, John|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heseltine, Michael||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Higgins, Terence L.||Pounder, Rafton|
|Braine, Bernard||Hiley, Joseph||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hirst, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Pym, Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hordern, Peter||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornby, Richard||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hunt, John||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Burden, F. A.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Carlisle, Mark||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jopling, Michael||Royle, Anthony|
|Chataway, Christopher||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Clark, Henry||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Scott, Nicholas|
|Clegg, Walter||Kershaw, Anthony||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Cooke, Robert||Kimball, Marcus||Sharples, Richard|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kirk, Peter||Silvester, Frederick|
|Costain, A. P.||Kitson, Timothy||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lambton, Viscount||Smith, John (London & W'minste|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lane, David||Speed, Keith|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stainton, Keith|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Dance, James||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stodart, Anthony|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lloyd, Rt Hn. Geoffrey (Sut' rrC' dfield)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Dean, Paul||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Doughty, Charles||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Tliney, John|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Eden, Sir John||McMaster, Stanley||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Macmiilan, Maurice (Farnham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maddan, Martin||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Farr, John||Maginnis, John E.||Walters, Dennis|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marpies, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marten, Neil||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maude, Angus||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Foster, Sir John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mawby, Ray||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fite, E.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Miscampbell, Norman||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard||Wright, Esmond||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Woodnutt, Mark||Wylie, N. R.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. Jasper More.|
|Worsley, Marcus||Younger, Hn. George|