Before I call the Home Secretary to move the first Motion, it might help if I informed the House that it had occurred to me that there are two courses that the House can take. We can either have four debates on the four Orders standing on the Order Paper, or we can have one general debate in which everything that would arise on any of the four could be discussed, with votes if necessary on each of the Orders. What is the view of the House on this matter?
So be it.
I have not selected the four Amendments which stand on the Order Paper and which are, in any event, out of order as they are direct negatives to the Motion. However, hon. Members who hold the views expressed in those Amendments will be free, if they wish, to vote against the orders.
I beg to move,
That the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, be not approved.
I am glad to accept your suggestion and have one general debate, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition agrees with this course, so that we may have a general debate on this Order along with the other three relating to Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary intervenes a little later on the Order relating to Scotland, in view of the indisposition of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. My hon. Friend will be ready to deal with the draft Order relating to Scotland.
The terms of the Motion make clear the Government's view that we cannot advise the House to approve the draft Orders. Some people may ask why we introduced a Bill in the first place, instead of following the procedure that I am now proposing to the House; that is, of simply putting the Motions and inviting the House to reject them.
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman does. I will have something to say about his constituency a little later.
I remind the House that on 19th June last, by a large majority, hon. Members rejected a Motion moved by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylehone (Mr. Hogg) calling on me to implement the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. [Interruption.] That Motion was rejected by a very substantial majority of the House of Commons, and I then introduced a Bill which, I must say, I would have preferred to have seen go through—[Interruption.]the other place because it would have carried into force the Government's principle—
If hon. Gentlemen opposite will stop shouting and listen to me for a moment, they will see what it means.
It would have carried into force the Government's principle that where local government boundaries—[Interruption.] I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to me for half a second without interrupting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on."] I am prepared to have a rough house if hon. Gentlemen opposite want one, but I prefer them to listen to my argument.
It would have carried into force the Government's principle that where local government boundaries have been recently settled—as in the case of London —Parliamentary redistribution should follow that process, irrespective of the political consequences, whether for good or for ill from the point of view of any party. I regret that the Opposition in the House of Lords has prevented some measure of parliamentary redistribution from taking place.
About 100 seats in this country, mainly in Greater London, could have been, and would have been, redistributed by now, and that would have occurred if the Bill had been passed in another place in accordance with the Boundary Commissioners' proposals in the Greater London area. [Interruption.] If it had not been for the rejection of the Bill by another place, that redistribution would have taken place following the Boundary Commissioners' reports exactly, and following, also, the settlement of local government boundaries. [Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite have now got that point in their heads.
The Bill could now be put through again if we were to re-present it—that is, under the Parliament Act procedure—and could take effect from 2nd August next. But in some ways that would have been too late, because it would not have been able to operate in time for the Greater London Council elections. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh.") This was something that the G.L.C. Tory majority wanted. Indeed, they wished to send a deputation to me asking me that the redistribution should go through so that they might fight it on the Boundary Commission proposals. I was ready to accede to that, irrespective of the political consequences, but most of the Opposition in this House did not want that.
As regards the General Election, a number of procedural matters would have been required after the Bill had come into force on 2nd August next and, putting it at its lowest, it is possible that even the next General Election would not have been fought on the new boundaries. Therefore, the Government decided that there was no particular merit now in representing the Bill in order to put it through on the Parliament Act basis, because we could not have achieved the result that all the parties wanted in relation to the G.L.C., and possibly not in relation to the General Election either.
That was the decision of another place and it has compelled us in that sense to drop the Bill because it would not have been of any great value to the parties. But I hope no one is in doubt that the Government were ready and anxious to see that the Greater London seats were redistributed in accordance with the Boundary Commission proposals. The other place have used its power to prevent this happening.
Even as late as October, when we were debating the issue, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) betrayed at least a half interest in putting through the redistribution in London. He at least dangled a fly in front of me. If I had thought that there was any disposition to follow it up, I would have been only too happy to swallow that fly because I had no difficulty in putting forward these proposals for redistribution. The local government boundaries had already been fixed.
The right hon. Gentleman is a very far-sighted man with a great capacity for combining an eloquent statement of principles with an earthy regard for electoral advantage in London, and I think that he might have detected what was denied to some of his colleagues, that perhaps the redistribution would not have been wholly unfavourable to the Conservative Party in London, or so I am told.
But that was not to be. They stood on principle. They said, "The whole Bill and nothing but the Bill; the whole order and nothing but the order." So far as I can make out, the Leader of the Opposition, whom we shall no doubt hear later, was not apparently so taken with the idea as the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. The right hon. Gentleman has been abusing the Government on this question since 1948, when he has been in opposition. I do not know whether he has reminded himself of the adjectives he used then, but his eloquence in denunciation of the Government was just as vehement as it is today, and just as unjustified. I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition was not so taken with the idea. Perhaps he will tell us.
Yes, when I have finished what I want to say. The right hon. Gentleman must not be impatient. There is plenty of time.
Whether the right hon. Gentleman has been influenced by the effects in Bexley I do not know. After all, he represents a London borough. He knows what impact it would have and he knows what the effect would have been in his own constituency. [Interruption.]
Far be it from me to complain. I was not exactly putting the situation in an unprovocative way.
The right hon. Gentleman would have been faced with the redistribution in his own constituency. He could, of course, have moved over and no doubt he would have tried to do so, although I did read somewhere about a determined lass who was certain to prevent him from doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I would not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of considering anything but the highest principles in this matter. Why should I? The party opposite could have had all the London seats—every one of them—if it had wanted them, without difficulty.
I am coming to the question about the whole loaf. The right hon. Gentleman could have had half a loaf if he had wanted it.
Does it not follow from the substance of what the right hon. Gentleman said, clothed in a good deal of provocative dressing, that the real reason why there is not to be a redistribution in London is not as he suggested, the action of another place, but the decision of the Government not to use their powers to lay an Order affecting this issue and to use the majority which they intend to use to vote down their own Order?
That remark seems to be more material to a speech than to an interruption. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] If hon. Members will wait they will hear the answer in due course.
The right hon. Gentleman is, in any case, quite wrong. The Bill, or indeed any separate Bill, would have enabled the London proposals to come into effect. When the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames showed his half interest in the matter I gave him what I hoped was a "come on" reply, but there has never been any attempt to try to translate those London proposals.
Having made clear that the Government were ready to see them implemented, despite the political consequences, it is important at this stage that I should make absolutely clear—because I find a small doubt about this in some constituencies in London that if the House decides to vote down these orders, the G.L.C. elections and the next General Election will be fought on the basis of the 1966 boundaries. This should be made absolutely clear so that there is no doubt about it. There can be no further attempt to try to alter those boundaries.
(Devon, North): Knowing the right hon. Gentleman's wish that the G.L.C. reforms shall go through, are we to take it that he is advising his colleagues to vote in favour of the reform of the G.L.C. boundaries? Secondly—I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing this intervention—do we take it that he is now for the first time laying all the Orders because he now realises that he would be in breach of the law if he did not?
No. The answer to the first part of the question is that my hon Friends have already demonstrated their support for reforming London by voting in favour of the Bill and that would have enabled the redistribution to take place at a time when the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Tories, was voting against it.
As regards the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will undoubtedly be dealing with this matter. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman should try to follow the technicalities. It is not possible to separate out London by means of the Orders. It can only be done through the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman voted against.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would stop shaking his head and would listen. There are a number of constituencies which straddle the board—[Interruption.] Honestly, hon. Members opposite must be stupid. It cannot be done by way of Orders because there are a number of constituencies which straddle the border. Therefore, the procedure has to take the form of a separate Bill.
As regards being in breach of the law, that was certainly never the case. Indeed, when counsel, Mr. McWhirter, suggested that I was "bending" the law of the courts he withdrew the remark after a rebuke. Therefore, there is no suggestion of that. I remind the right hon. Gentle? man again that the House itself—[Interruption.]— I do not propose to be diverted too much—voted down the recommendation put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone that I should introduce the Order as long ago as 19th June.
I come to the draft Orders—
I would have no more confidence in the right hon. Gentleman's figures on this occasion than I did last time.
If the draft Order for England were to be approved, it would implement without modification the recommendations contained in the 1969 Report of the Boundary Commission for England. Article 2 of the draft Order substitutes the new constituencies recommended by the Boundary Commission for the old ones. Parts I and II of the schedule to the Order set out the contents of the existing and new constituencies respectively and state whether they are county or borough constituencies.
I ask the House to note this figure. Three hundred and sixty-seven existing constituencies would be abolished by Part I and 372 new constituencies would be created by Part II. Thus, the total number of constituencies in England would be increased from 511 to 516. In case hon. Members see a discrepancy between the figure of 367 existing constituencies to be abolished and the 346 mentioned in the Boundary Commission's report, I should explain that the draft Order also deals with the 21 constituencies for which the Commission recommended no change in boundaries but recommended either new names or that they should be designated as borough constituencies.
The draft Order for Wales is in similar terms—
I have given way rather a lot. I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Member would care to hear me and if, by the end of my speech, I have not dealt with the point, perhaps he will ask again. I have a lot of material to put before the House.
The draft Order for Wales is in similar terms to the draft order for England. Part I of the Schedule would abolish 12 existing constituencies, which would be replaced by the 12 new constituencies in Part II of the Schedule. The boundaries of 11 constituences in Wales would be changed. The spelling of the name of one constituency would be altered. Llanelly, with a "y", would become Llanelli, with an "i".
In Northern Ireland, the boundaries of seven of the existing 12 constituencies would be altered.
To complete the figures, perhaps I should say that the draft Order for Scotland would provide for the boundaries of 46 of the existing 71 constituencies to be altered, although there would be no alteration in the total number of constituencies.
In all, including constituencies for which new names have been proposed and minor matters of that sort, the four draft Orders provide for 432 existing constituencies to be replaced by 437 new constituencies. Even with the qualifications which I have made and subtracting the tiny alterations which I have mentioned, this is a major upheaval of the parliamentary map, the like of which we have not experienced in our parliamentary history.
Now, let me explain the basis of the draft Order—
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to get on. I promise that I will give way before I finish if he feels that I have not dealt with his question.
Let me explain the basis of the draft Order for the English constituencies. There seems to have been a thread of misunderstanding running through these debates about the basis on which the Boundary Commissioners' work. Many commentators in the Press, and some hon. Members, discuss the issues of redistribution as though the Commissioners begin by taking each constituency as a separate unit, review its size and then decide whether wards or groups of electors should be added to it or subtracted from it to conform as near as possible to a common size throughout the country. That is not the way in which the Boundary Commissioners have approached their work. They do not begin their work by starting with the constituency as the unit and building up to the total number throughout the country.
Paragraph 45 of their report for England explains clearly the way in which they approach their task. They start from the basis of the geographical county. What they did was to take the 1965 electorate of each county—I emphasise the word because of its significance in relation to Redcliffe-Maud —and they divided the electorate by the 1965 electoral quota for the country as a whole, 58,759. This simple division gave them a number of seats to which the geographical county is entitled in theory. Only at that stage, having decided what is the quotient of seats for each county, do the Commissioners set about the task of reviewing individual constituencies within the geographical county boundary so as to finish up with the right number of seats in each county.
In other words, the unit is not the constituency, but the county. Perhaps I should emphasise at this point, to avoid misunderstanding, that when I refer to counties the Boundary Commissioners obviously include in the county not only the electorate in what we would call county constituencies, but also the electorate of the county borough constituencies.
Having done that, the Boundary Commissioners found in the case of a number of counties that there were anomalies. In some cases they pinpointed them. I wish to pick out four, because they are among
the more major anomalies: Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the case of the West Riding of Yorkshire—it is in the report; 1 am sure that hon. Members who do not have it will accept what I am saying—they said that they proposed to leave the county, which included the boroughs in the West Riding, with one more constituency than its theoretical entitlement under the quotient which I have illustrated rather than propose
a radical redrawing of constituency boundaries in advance of any changes resulting from the Royal Commission's review of local government in England ".
On page 42, the Commissioners refer to Lancashire. According to their theoretical quotient for each county, Lancashire has three more seats than the quota. They said, here again, that they felt it would be undesirable to embark upon a far-reaching redistribution in advance of any changes in local government boundaries resulting from the Royal Commission's review of local government in England.
The Commissioners said, at page 37 of their report, that the Durham county had two more seats than its theoretical quotient. Nevertheless, they proposed as little disturbance as possible whilst awaiting the result of the Royal Commission's review of local government in England. "[hey said much the same about Northumberland, which has one seat over quota according to the manner in which the Boundary Commissioners decide to do their work. This is not a new way of doing it. They have been doing it in this way for many years. There are, of course, other counties which 1 could quote in this connection and I will do so later.
Those four counties alone account between them for 134 constituencies. In each of those cases, the Boundary Commissioners have said that they do not propose to proceed on the basis of their theoretical quotient for the county as a whole because they prefer to wait for the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. In these counties the Commissioners declined to undertake the redistribution.
I emphasise once again, and this is the kernel of the Government's case—let there be no doubt about it—that parliamentary constituency boundaries which would be altered drastically-430-odd would be altered in some way or other if the orders were to go through—would have to have another major redistribution as soon as the orders went through. No one on the Opposition side has ever attempted to destroy that argument.
The Boundary Commissioners would have to do their work over again. Once the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations, or something like them, came into force, the Commissioners would have to fix their new theoretical quotient for each of the new so-called unitary areas, decide how many constituencies each unitary area, county or whatever its name would have, and then divide it into constituencies. No one in the House can pretend that that would not involve the redistribution of hundreds of seats. Let there be no doubt about that.
In discussing this matter, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, while not accepting that there was some foundation for the Government's argument, said, in effect, "If we assume that there is some point in the Government's argument, why do not the Government at least deal with areas where Maud and the existing county boundaries coincide?" He quoted with approval an article from New Society, which stated that even if I relied upon the Maud Commission as a reason for not implementing the Boundary Commissioners' Report, nevertheless it would be fairly easy—New Society said that, not the right hon. and learned Gentleman—to isolate these cases and to implement some four-fifths of the recommendations which would probably not involve further upheavals.
If it were true, that would be a serious allegation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that it was true. He said that the conclusion that four-fifths of the recommendations would not involve further upheavals coincided with the Opposition's assessment. That assessment was inaccurate, and I propose to tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the House in what way it was inaccurate. There is only one county used by the Boundary Commissioners for working out their entitlement to seats which will become a unit under the Maud Report without alteration, and that is Shropshire.
I have promised that I will deal with the question, and I will do so. Shropshire contains four constituencies. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has been a Member for 24 years. He may well argue, "At least let the redistribution go ahead there". This is a serious argument to which the House has not listened, and I ask the House to listen to it today. Let me describe the consequences of an attempt to implement the Boundary Commissioners' recommendation for Shropshire, which becomes a complete unit under Redcliffe-Maud.
The boundaries of the county have been altered by the West Midland Counties Order of 1965, by which some areas of Shropshire were transferred to Staffordshire and others were transferred to Cheshire. Some parts of Staffordshire were transferred to Shropshire and parts of Worcestershire were transferred to Shropshire, too. If an order were made implementing solely the recommendations of the Commission for Shropshire, the parts of Shropshire which were transferred to Staffordshire and Cheshire in 1965 would not be included in any constituency at all, while the parts of Staffordshire and Worcestershire which have been transferred to Shropshire would be included in two constituencies.
We should be back to the plural voting system. I understand hon. Members opposite supporting that, but there is no reason why the rest of us should do so. To deal with Shropshire as recommended by the Commission it would also be necessary to look at the recommendations for Cheshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. And if one looks at those counties, it will be seen that other changes affecting their boundaries were made by the West Midland Counties Order of 1965 and that Gloucestershire. Leicestershire and Warwickshire would also be affected—seven counties in all.
That is not the end of the story. The West Midland Counties Order of 1965 also altered the boundary between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, so that it would also be necessary to look at the Herefordshire constituency. Under the Maud proposals, Herefordshire would be contained entirely within a unitary area —it may be argued that we could deal with that—together with part of Worcestershire. The Boundary Commission envisaged two constituencies for Here fordshire: Hereford itself would have 52,000 electors and the Leominster constituency would have about 39,000 electors.
But it is reasonable to suppose that if the Maud proposals were to be implemented, the Boundary Commission would want to examine the question of achieving more balanced electorates, possibly by including some areas now in Worcestershire which under the Maud proposals would be in Herefordshire. In any case, the recommendations of the Boundary Commission for Herefordshire could not be implemented on their own because the county boundaries with Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were altered by the West Midland Counties Order of 1965. Therefore, to deal with Herefordshire we should also have to deal with Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
I could go on. It would not be possible to implement these parts of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission's Report on their own. This is a jigsaw puzzle which fits together and cannot be dealt with piecemeal—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Do it all."J—It is an obvious conclusion that it cannot be done piecemeal and the question is: why not do all of it? It follows from what I have said that in the absence of a Bill—and the Bill has been defeated—either we put the whole redistribution through or we do none at all. As far as I can see, it is not possible to select areas the boundaries of which do not have repercussions elsewhere. The orders do not lend themselves to partial implementation.
The second important conclusion which I wish to emphasise—I have emphasised it before, but it is necessary to press it home—arises from my descriptions of these counties which it could be argued are among those interfered with least by the Boundary Commission. Indeed, in one case there is no interference at all. But even from those counties, which are the most favourable I could take from the point of view of getting on with the redistribution, it is clear that the comprehensive reform of local government will inevitably require the parliamentary map to be completely redrawn again.
Discussions on local government reform are going ahead in accordance with the Government's intentions. We have all observed the handicaps in the way of effective and efficient local government. All of us—including those most actively engaged in making the local government system work—know how urgent is the need to proceed with local government reform. This is not an academic matter which can be put on one side or thrust into a pigeon-hole and left for 10 years. If local government is to survive, no matter what form it takes then local government reform must proceed.
The Prime Minister said in the debate on the Address that a White Paper will be laid before the House giving the Government's conclusions about the main principles and the main structural changes which will form the basis of legislation. The four local authority associations in England are already hard at work on this. They have made their comments known on the Redcliffe-Maud Report. In addition, comments have been received from over 1,100 individual local authorities. Their conclusions, together with the comments of the main local authority associations, are in the process of being digested by officials and considered by Ministers.
After the White Paper has been published, which, as the Prime Minister said, will be in the New Year, there will follow during 1970 the consultations on local authority boundaries which become consequent upon the redistribution. All this will lead up to the process which I described on 14th October last of working towards legislation in the 1971-72 Session, which should normally begin in October, 1971. It is the Government's view that by 1972 the Boundary Commissioners will have sufficient information to begin work on the redistribution of parliamentary boundaries which will be necessary following this Bill.
There will be a fundamental redistribution. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me whether he disagrees with that? I do not see how he can disagree with it, but at least he should declare himself. Does he or does he not think that we can have a fundamental redistribution of local government structures and boundaries in this country without a fundamental parliamentary restructuring following, too? If he says that he does not agree, then his case is the stronger, but I know of no one who takes the view that a fundamental parliamentary restructuring need not follow.
The Opposition are asking Parliament to implement changes now which will affect 346 constituencies, most of them in a major way, and are asking that Parliament should do this knowing full well that the task will have to be embarked on again, from the beginning, in three years' time. One cannot adapt one to the other. They will have to start from scratch once more. In the light of this fundamental reorganisation, it would be irresponsible for the Government to invite Parliament to agree to the orders which are before the House today which in themselves are the biggest parliamentary redistribution that has been seen since the Reform Act of 1832.
The Home Secretary explained at great length that it was not possible to deal with the problem piecemeal. On the whole, without examining the various areas, I accept what he said. Why, therefore, was it possible to attempt to deal in a Bill with certain areas of Greater London and some other constituencies? If it was possible to do that in a Bill, why is it not possible today to table separate Orders for those areas?
The answer, if I understand the question aright, is that the local government boundaries have been settled for London, and there is no major change of which I know for London.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it would involve some other constituencies.
I will deal, first, with London, because it was hoped that it would have been possible, if there had been agreement, to get London through on the new basis. We would then have known whether the Boundary Commissioners in two or three years' time would need to embark on another fundamental reorganisation. As regards other areas, I have been into this matter with some care and I have given two illustrations this afternoon. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take it from me that it is such a jigsaw that we could not have extracted any particular areas without there being repercussions on other areas.
It was done for a limited group of constituencies in the Bill. Other constituencies were not affected. All we were doing in the Bill in the case of, for example, the constituency of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) was to divide it in two. We were not affecting any constituency boundary outside his own. We were asking the Boundary Commission to draw another boundary inside the hon. Member's own constituency. That is the reason that it was possible to include some of those constituencies in the Bill if they did not affect contiguous constituencies.
Surely it would have been possible to have accepted the original proposals of the Boundary Commission that the whole of West Sussex should comprise four constituencies—Chichester, Worthing, Arundel and Shoreham, and my own? Two of those constituencies were not affected at all by the Maud proposals, but the two constituencies which the Home Secretary suggested should be divided were my own and that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Captain Kirby), both of which are vitally affected by Maud. Does that not destroy the right hon. Gentleman's case?
The hon. Gentleman has answered his own point. He knows as well as I that Redcliffe-Maud proposed a fundamentally different organisation for Sussex. I do not remember the exact details, but it is substantially different as between East and West Sussex. The hon. Member's constituency is clearly one of the areas where the Boundary Commissioners would start again. One of the areas looked at by Maud was Brighton and part of East Sussex—I believe they called it Mid-Sussex. They would have to fix the quotient—[Interruption.] I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to understand this. I see little signs of it so far on the Opposition Front Bench. They would have to start to fix the new theoretical quotient for the new unitary area and start again. The hon. Member has no more idea than I have about what sort of constituency would emerge from that particular reconsideration. That is the answer to his question.
I ask the hon. Member to excuse me. I have given way a good deal and I still have much material left. I will not argue with the hon. Gentleman, since that is not the purpose of intervention.
I wish to say a word about Wales. Here, the Government's view was fully explained in our debate last Session. On the basis of the proposals contained in the White Paper "Local Government in Wales", 19 out of the 36 proposed constituencies would contain a part of more than one proposed new county district. The Boundary Commission for Wales, in paragraph 20 of its report, says that at the outset of its review it calculated theoretical entitlements for each Welsh county and Monmouthshire. The result of its calculations appears in the table on page 6 of its report, and in paragraph 21 it indicates that these theoretical entitlements served as one of their main guides.
However, the proposals for local government reorganisation in Wales on which there have been consultations with the local authorities and their associations would provide for six new counties, but only one of these new counties, Powys, would contain complete existing counties. The other five would each contain part of an existing county.
But even if a new county of Powys was to be constituted from the existing counties of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Breconshire, I venture to suggest that the Boundary Commission would wish to examine whether it would not be possible to divide the whole area into two constituencies with more even electorates than those proposed in its report. It leaves the Brecon and Radnor constituency and the Montgomery constituency unchanged at present, with electorates of nearly 50,000 and 30,000 respectively. As regards the Commission's recommendations in respect of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is proposing a further review of the geographical counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth to see whether a satisfactory pattern can be worked out which would avoid the continued division between these county boroughs and administrative counties. That is a further reason for not altering constituency boundaries now, though for personal reasons I might wish they were.
The Government's conclusion in respect of Wales is that an alteration of constituency boundaries now based on existing local government boundaries would as in the case of England have to be followed by yet a further major alteration as soon as new local government boundaries have been settled. In those circumstances, I cannot advise the House to approve the draft Order for Wales.
As regards Northern Ireland, the main effect of the recommendations would be that three of the four Belfast constituencies would be extended so as to include areas outside Belfast. The purpose of this recommendation is to reduce the high electorates in the South Antrim and North Down constituencies. For the same purpose some areas would also be transferred from the South Antrim to the North Antrim constituency.
I examined these recommendations most carefully in the light of the proposals of the Northern Ireland Government for reshaping local government which were contained in their White Paper published in July. I came to the conclusion that the recommendations of the Boundary Commission could not be reconciled with the local government proposals for 17 unitary authorities in Northern Ireland. Twelve of the new areas would be divided between the recommended constituencies; the boundaries of the recommended Belfast, North constituency would be the only ones which would not depart from the principle of observing local government boundaries.
The communiqué published on 13th October following my recent visit indicated that the Northern Ireland Government were setting up a review body to reassess the proposals for local government administration in consequence of decisions taken by them in relation to responsibility for housing. My advice to the House is that, as there is to be a further review, we should not approve the draft Order for Northern Ireland. But when the new local government boundaries in Northern Ireland have been settled—and I hope that this will be considered as a matter of some urgency since I regard it as important—the Boundary Commission should look again at constituency boundaries and make recommendations based on the new local government structure. In the meantime, it is my view that the major alterations proposed in the Boundary Commission's report should not be implemented.
I have explained at some length why the three draft Orders which fall within my responsibility should not, in the Government's view, be approved. If the House accepts that advice, then the next election will be fought on the basis of existing constituency boundaries. That is the practical aspect of the matter, and I have no doubt that the course proposed by the Government is sensible in the circumstances in which we find ourselves in connection with local government reorganisation. But the Opposition have tried to erect another argument by saying that there is a constitutional or moral obligation to see that any recommendations put forward by the Boundary Commissioners are implemented, irrespective of any other considerations, apparently. Once they have said it, we have to translate it into orders with the force of law, regardless of whether the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners have been outdistanced by time, may have been made irrelevant by other events or may be seen to have become obsolete because of other events which will take place.
Nevertheless, the Opposition say that the Government should not mind whether they are irrelevant or obsolete and that we as the House of Commons have still to implement them—[Interruption.] Yes, that is the argument. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. lain Macleod), who is an excellent parliamentarian, sees what is coming. It may be that he would never have used the argument, but some of his colleagues, who are perhaps less far seeing than he, have used it.
I have given way a number of times to hon. Members opposite, so perhaps it is only fair that I should give way to one of my hon. Friends.
Mr. J. T. Price:
If the idea prevails in any part of the House—and evidently it prevails among hon. Members opposite —that, however illogical or wrong-headed may be the proposals emerging from an outside body, albeit an eminent body like the Boundary Commission, this House should automatically rubber-stamp and approve them, surely that is a transference of sovereignty from this place, to which I for one have the strongest objection. Is not the very existence of a permanent Boundary Commission in itself a threat to the continued sovereignty of this House? If we have reached the stage when this kind of massive intervention in the political map of the country is to be settled outside this House, ought we not to reconsider the system with a view to setting up an ad hoc committee to deal with the grosser disparities in boundaries when necessary?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's help on this matter, and I am grateful to him. He is demonstrating that it is arrant nonsense to assume that the Boundary Commissioners' reports must be accepted, irrespective of the time, nature and obsolescence of their recommendations.
Let us look at the terms of the Act of 1949. By Section 3(4) the draft orders are subject to approval by a Resolution of each House. What, then, is the purpose of such a provision if the draft orders must, in the view of the Opposition, be approved at all costs and in any circumstances? If that is their view, why bring the matter before Parliament at all?
The proper view is that Parliament is supreme in this matter. It was always intended to be supreme under the 1944 Act, and it should be supreme now in the conduct of its affairs. It must be free to deal with this issue in the manner that it thinks best according to the circumstances in which the Boundary Commissioners' reports have been presented. There is no provision which binds Parliament to the approval of these draft orders, nor has it been the intention of previous Governments that it should do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has quoted a letter or statement on this matter from a former Home Secretary, Gwilym Lloyd George. It was never the intention. The Opposition cannot take this view, although it has been argued by hon. Gentlemen opposite on many occasions. The House is free to do what it thinks fit on this matter, and that is what I hope that it will do when it comes to the Vote tonight.
As to their Lordships, do they think for one moment that, because they have rejected the legislation passed by this House last Session, we are obliged in the light of the views expressed by them to come to an entirely different conclusion now that draft Orders are before us? Some of my hon. Friends have expressed surprise and indignation at the action of another place in wrecking the Bill. I can understand and share their indignation, but there is no occasion for surprise.
The right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) has made much of the point that he did not instruct their Lordships what to do about the Bill and did not tell them what their duty was. He had no need to. When the interests of the Tory Party are at stake, we all know that their Lordships will always rally to his support. It is a very convenient matter for him when the high principles of his party and his own interests coincide—
I hear that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) is in good voice again. Why does not he stand and say what he wishes to say?
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying bears no relation to what happened. What views has he about the Bishop of Southwark, the Liberal peers and the independent peers, all of whom rightly condemned the Government?
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for not throwing anything at me on this occasion. The fact is that the great majority of hereditary peers always stand by the Tory Party. They have always intervened. The Liberal Party has suffered from it. One cannot find an illustration where the Tory peers have not intervened on behalf of the Tory Party in this House—Vnterruption.]
I will not go back too far into history, but I am sure that the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) will remember the occasion when the Liberal Party introduced a Measure which would practically have given manhood suffrage. The result was that their Lordships threw it out, and the poor Liberal Government of the day had to reintroduce it with the promise that they would redistribute the boundaries to offset the effects of manhood suffrage.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants to be fair to the Conservative peers and that he would like to pay tribute to them for having had more Conservative peers go into the Lobby to vote in favour of his "Kenya Asian" Bill than he was able to persuade his own Labour colleagues.
That is a singularly ungracious remark, in view of the fact that I was trying to help the right hon. Gentleman. He was not here yesterday when we debated that matter. If he had been, he would have heard what I had to say about it. However, it would not be relevant to go over it again now.
To continue to come to his assistance, I do not know whether he remembers, but there were three occasions when a Liberal Government introduced Bills to abolish plural voting, which was a very profitable Conservative custom. A man voted as a resident and had separate votes for each business premises that he occupied. The Government fought for this in the sacred name of one man, one vote, one value, and the Conservatives threw out the Government's Bill on three separate occasions.
In 1928, they extended it, when they introduced an even more pleasurable custom. In giving votes to women, the Tory Party of the day, with every help and support from their Lordships, decided not only that women should have the vote but that women whose husbands had business premises should be able to get an extra vote because of those business premises. If a man had six business premises—and there was one case where there were 18—not only did he have a series of votes, but so did his wife.
I come now to a period when some hon. Members present were in the House. When we tried to abolish this custom, the Tories voted against it. There are hon. Members in this House today who voted against the removal of that provision. It is not surprising that I am not willing to take lessons in this subject from hon. Members opposite.
I come up to date. I well remember the deep sense of injustice and injury expressed by right hon. and hon. Members opposite when we brought forward a Motion to abolish the City of London as a separate constituency. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends will remember the habit that some of the more junior Members will not know. We used to sit there on Queen's Speech day and watch dignified hon. Gentlemen attired in top hats, frock coats and expensive watch-chains from the City of London take their two seats on the Government Front Bench to show how important the City of London was in running the democracy of the country.
What did the Tory Party do when we wanted to remove this anomaly? How many electors did they have? There are 18,000 electors in Birmingham, Ladywood now. But they were 10,000 electors not for one Member, but for two Members-5,000 electors. But right hon. and hon. Gentlemen voted against its removal. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames voted against its removal. So did the hon. and gallant baronet the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), who, I am sorry to see, is to leave the service of the House.
I apologise. Quite clearly, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not had his deserts. If I can do anything for him during the months that lie ahead I will. I only want to say how truly sorry I am to see an old colleague from 1945 announcing his retirement from this House. We have enjoyed having him here. We know that behind that facade there is a shrewd brain—even though he does not always show it to us.
I could go over the history of the university seats—[Interruption.] Why should we turn the knife in their wounds too much? But some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have been preaching to us about the Ladywoods of this world, have for years been voting to keep the business vote, the spouse's business vote, the plural vote, and to ensure that non-residents in the City of London should have two Members in this House.
Gerrymandering! They would not even dare mention the word.
Now the up-to-date position. In quite recent times the Conservative Party has had the benefit of a large difference in size between the country constituencies, which have traditionally favoured it, and the urban seats. At one stage it was 6,000, but it reduced to 2,000. The result, according to independent experts who have examined this matter, has been that 2 per cent. fewer votes for the Conservative Party would win it the same number of seats as the Labour Party. The Conservatives have profited by it without demur for years.
I am told about gerrymandering. notice Mr. David Butler's conclusion, where he says:
But if Mr. Callaghan had implemented the full proposals of the Boundary Commissioners he would have been restoring to the electoral system something of the anti-Labour bias it once had. Either on the existing boundaries or on Mr. Callaghan's limited proposals, I would bet that if the popular votes in the next Election are divided equally between the two major Parties the Conservatives will have a majority in seats. If the Boundary Commission proposals were carried out in full it is quite clear that the Conservatives would be assured of a Parliamentary majority even if Labour had I per cent. more of the popular vote.
Is not that the reason for their objection?—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They are not interested in arguments about Redcliffe-Maud. They do not mind if the parliamentary constituencies have to be torn up twice in three or four years. All that is a matter of indifference. They hope to see a situation in which, by getting less votes, they can win the election. That is all that they are interested in and that is, frankly, what the whole basis of their opposition to this particular matter has been about.
I have had to listen to a great deal of claptrap and humbug from the Opposi- tion—[Interruption.] No one yet, unless the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition does so this afternoon, has attempted to answer the argument of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals and no one yet has attempted to answer the fact that there will have to be two parliamentary redistributions—[Interruption]
I do not blame the public schools for this. No one yet from the Opposition has taken up the Redcliffe-Maud case. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us this afternoon whether he really believes that the constituencies should be subjected to two radical changes of a more fundamental character than we have ever had in our parliamentary history within three to four years. The right hon. Gentleman should answer that question, and he should also tell us whether he believes that the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, not in exact detail but in broad outline, should form the structure of local government reorganisation.
In the light of the Tory Party's record in this matter, which stretches back over a century, and having been accused, as I have, of pretty well every sin in the calendar, may I say that if I wanted to take lessons in how to combine hypocrisy with high-flown sentiments I should turn to the Tory Party.
The Home Secretary has just made a speech which even his best friend—and I doubt whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) is that—would tell him was lamentable. Those who have been watching the faces of his hon. Friends behind him have seen that, and seldom have I seen the face of the Leader of the House so smug as he saw his discomfiture.
I do not wish to embarrass the Leader of the House. Perhaps he will send for his Deputy.
The speech, as a whole, was as shoddy as the proposal recommended by the Home Secretary. To think that at the beginning the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Government's principle. No wonder the Prime Minister left the Chamber as rapidly as he could when he heard that from the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary's speech has raised two major points, with both of which I propose to deal in detail. I could not help noticing that the Home Secretary's speech was preceded by—roughly an hour ago—and ended with matters concerning Northern Ireland. To my mind this has highlighted the extraordinary weakness and, indeed, the duplicity of the Home Secretary, that he should tell Northern Ireland, where we understand that so many of the problems arise from boundary troubles and discrimination of various kinds, that it should set up a boundary commission. To do what? So that the Government can vote down its recommendations? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do?
The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) is not the Member for Northern Ireland, whatever he may think.
At the end of his speech the Home Secretary revealed the real reason why he is behaving in this shabby fashion and why the Government are rejecting the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. The right hon. Gentleman believes that the recommendations have an in-built bias against his own party. This is the real reason, and that has emerged without any shadow of doubt.
Any question of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission is a cover story. What really lies behind this is the right hon. Gentleman's appreciation of the position. It was revealed in the correspondence in The Times by his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), and stated there quite plainly. Whereas his hon. Friend has no responsibility for matters concerning the implementation of the law of this House, or for reforming it, the Home Secretary has. If he believes this to be an unfair law, why has he taken no action about it for the past five years? If he is criticising the Boundary Commission for the way that it has carried out its obligations under the law, why has he not the honesty to come to the House and to the country and say that his criticisms are really of the Boundary Commission? If his criticism is of the law, his duty is to put proposals before the House to change it. If his criticisms are of the Commission, he should have the guts to stand up and say so.
The House is accustomed to a Government who sometimes come along and withdraw an unpopular Order. The House is accustomed, on rare occasions, to a Government being defeated and abandoning an order. Sometimes a Government has been defeated on an Order and has come back to the House and insisted that that Order be carried. We can all recollect examples of that. What is unique about today's debate is that this is the first occasion in our parliamentary history, as far as I, or the Government's representatives, or anybody else, can trace through the Journal Office, on which a Minister has come to the House, laid affirmative Resolutions before it, and immediately advised the House to reject those very Orders. That has never happened in our parliamentary history.
The three Motions are unique in substance in rejecting four years' work by independent Boundary Commissions and rejecting changes affecting, as the right hon. Gentleman said, more than 400 constituencies. They are unique in form in that the Home Secretary is rejecting Orders which he has laid. They are unique in the brazen effrontery with which the right hon. Gentleman overthrows the established means of demarcating boundaries in our parliamentary democracy. They are unique in modern times in the shameless demonstration, as the right hon. Gentleman has admitted at the end of his
speech, of Government manipulation for seats for their own advantage. The House has been brought today to the end of this shameful road.
The right hon. Gentleman has added nothing to the arguments which have gone on for the past few months, for the simple reason that there is nothing to add. If the explanations which the right hon. Gentleman gave of the position regarding particular constituencies had been made in the context of Orders which had been laid, with amendments proposed by himself, which is specifically allowed for under the law, that would have been a comprehensible contribution to the debate in the House. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has not laid Orders to be carried with amendments, nothing has been added to our knowledge. The right hon. Gentleman's real conclusion was that this matter cannot be dealt with piecemeal. With that we agree, and what that really did was to defeat the major part of his argument for the Bill that he put before the House.
The second point which emerged, and which is of the greatest importance, is that the right hon. Gentleman showed by the examples that he gave that he did not seem to appreciate that the Commission took into account in its recommendations the factors of the present situation. It did precisely that in the counties which the right hon. Gentleman described to us. This therefore makes our point, and is the main reason why all these recommendations ought to be implemented under these Orders.
There has seldom been a larger red herring dragged across the Floor of the House than there was when the right hon. Gentleman accused us of saying that no matter how irrelevant, how out of date, and how misconstructed these recommendations were, this House had to pass them without amendment or debate. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nobody has argued that. The Home Secretary has only to look at what Major Gwilym Lloyd George did in 1954. He laid the Orders before the House without amendment because he believed that that was the right thing to do and that it was the least controversial thing to do, but that did not stop the House debating them. As a Whip, I remember how at night, and through the night, we debated individual constituencies, and how every hon. Member had an opportunity of debating his own problems and his own constituency.—[HoN. MEMBERS: "What about the Whips?"J —I shall deal later with the question of the Whips, because those who wanted to vote in their own way were able to do so, but that is not going to happen with hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Nobody can argue that these recommendations are irrelevant, or out of date, or that the wrong processes have been used in reaching the conclusions. All the inquiries have been held. The Commission has adhered to the regulations, and the Home Secretary has not challenged that. These are relevant recommendations, and they are up to date. They have been brought about through the proper constitutional processes, and that therefore defeats the right hon. Gentleman's argument, and is the reason why we believe that they should be carried.
Even allowing for the bumbling nature of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, there was a remarkable passage in it. He blamed the House of Lords for what had gone on. Peers of all parties and none, some from his own party, wholeheartedly condemned the right hon. Gentleman and the Government for what they were doing. The Amendments to the Bill were carried by a majority which would have defeated the Government even if no hereditary peers of any party had voted. The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have realised that what happened in the House of Lords was the best demonstration of what would have happened in a reformed House if he had had the courage to carry through his own proposals. There would have been a vote of life peers, of cross-benchers, and of some bishops, and the Government would still have been defeated, because their general view was that the Government's Bill and the Government's action was unjustifiable.
What did the House of Lords do? It gave the Government a chance to carry out their constitutional obligation. The Government have had the opportunity of doing that, but what have they done? They have rejected it. It is the Government who have rejected the path of rectitude, not the House of Lords, and this the Home Secretary must realise.
If the Government are dissatisfied with what has gone on in the other House, they have their remedy. Their remedy is to use the Parliament Act. If they had done so, if they believed in their own Bill, instead of trying to find a way of dishing the Commission, this would have allowed a General Election to be held on their proposals from next September onwards. There is no doubt about that. There could have been a General Election from next September onwards on what the Government themselves say they believe to be right. But they have not even had the courage to carry through their own proposals in another place. Alternatively, they could have gone further and attempted to remove the powers of the other House if they thought that they were so unsatisfactory in their usage of them. But again the Government have not dared to do that.
The Home Secretary's duty has been clear from the beginning, namely, to lay the Commission's Report, accompanied by orders, before the House, with an explanation of any Amendments which he —or the Government themselves—wished to put forward. That is the constitutional position, and there is no doubt about it.
The Home Secretary says that we have to do all or nothing. With that I agree. The difference between us is that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do nothing, whereas we believe that the orders should be carried through with whatever Amendments he proposes. He should explain them, and the House should then debate them and take its decision upon them. It is clearly laid down in the Act, but it is the one procedure that the Home Secretary has not followed. He has turned and twisted in every way to avoid it. He produces a Bill and hopes to get an indemnity; the Clauses are quickly closured by the Patronage Secretary; the Guillotine is applied; he tries putting forward Amendments to Lords Amendments and they all fail. Finally, when he is taken to the courts by a citizen, he is forced to carry out his statutory duties. Today, having carried out his statutory duty of laying them, he repudiates these very Orders.
Whatever the Home Secretary may now say everybody in this House knows that when the Acts which have been consolidated were passed it was not the intention of Parliament that Orders should be laid only to be repudiated by the Home Secretary. That is neither the form nor the spirit of the Act, nor the wish of the Parliaments which have passed them. But even in the form in which the Home Secretary has now laid them right hon. and hon. Members are denied all possibility of individual decision. If the right hon. Gentleman will look up the speech made by the late Chuter Ede—when he was Home Secretary—in respect of the 1949 orders, he will see that Mr. Chuter Ede explained to the House that he had gone to great lengths to lay the Orders individually where possible and in groups where other constituencies were affected by individual constituencies, precisely so that hon. Members could take a decision on their own constituencies in the context of the other constituencies which were involved.
The Home Secretary, in laying these Orders and advising the House to reject them, has not even carried out that duty, which his predecessor said he believed to be essential to the operation of the Act. We can understand why. Any attempt by hon. Members opposite to express their views about their own constituencies, let alone follow such an expression of views by a vote, would get short shrift from the Patronage Secretary. He would lay on a three-line Whip as thick as he can lay it—and no one can ever accuse the Patronage Secretary of any subtlety. He uses the bludgeon. What would happen to the defaulters? There would be letters to the National Executive and the executives of the constituencies affected saying that the dog licences from the master were being withdrawn.
One brave spirit—the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) has expressed the view that what the Government are doing cannot be justified. If he speaks in that way tonight and follows his voice with his vote we shall respect him for it. I hope that he agrees that this is politically and morally wrong, and that it is against the traditions of the House and the interests of democracy. I hope that he will not confine himself solely to arguing that the consequences of doing these things would still further tarnish the shop-soiled image of the Labour Party.
In 1966 the Home Secretary asked us to wind up the Boundary Commission. As he has said, we disagreed, and we did so for reasons closely connected with the arguments put forward in the Redcliffe-Maud Report. They were constitutional reasons. The first was that the period set for the Boundary Commission was from 10 to 15 years and it was apparent that by the time it had completed its work and we had been able to take action on it 15 years would have passed. Secondly, there were practical reasons, because of what was happening in the constituencies and because we realised that if we were to base a hope of future action on the RedcliffeMaud Report it would take not 15 years but nearer 25 years under the 1954 arrangements. These are practical as well as constitutional points.
I do not want to go into details of constituencies; they are well known to the House. But ever since 1966 Her Majesty's Government have been determined to use the Redcliffe-Maud Commission as a justification for not implementing whatever reports were produced by the Boundary Commission. That is clear from the proposition that they put to us and from the way in which they have behaved since. At Question Time the Prime Minister has been constantly asked about this, and we have had the usual dissimulating replies. The Government therefore brought forward their own limited proposals, cooked up by themselves without discussion with anybody else. The only argument of consequence produced by the Home Secretary is that the implementation of the Redcliffe-Maud proposals would mean very quick changes. We all dislike changes of this kind. That was why, in the discussions in 1954, the point was made strongly that a period of from five to seven years was too short, and the Conservative Government accordingly changed the law to make the period from 10 to 15 years. I dislike such changes myself.
My constituency is affected, because it is divided into three, and the constituencies of my right hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) and Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) are affected—no doubt the Prime Minister noted that fact—but I accept that when the Boundary Commission makes a recommendation of this kind, based on
the best evidence and procedures, these facts, which affect hon. Members including myself, should be accepted in the general interests of the structure of our democracy.
I now come to the specific point raised by the Home Secretary. I do not believe that any realistic person looking at the structure of local government and the work required to be done by the Boundary Commission in four years would believe that the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations can go through the process of proper consultation and then discussion and decision by the Government, and then translation into draft legislation; that they could be brought before the House, which could then agree upon the boundaries, and that at the same Ome the Boundary Commission could do its work in order to have a new situation in the time which the Home Secretary described.
I do not know anybody who believes that that is a realistic view of the situation. I do not believe that that process could be gone through in four years of Boundary Commission work even if the work was started directly the proposals of the Government were known, without waiting for the House to validate them—in time to have a General Election in 1975 on the new boundaries. If there is an election in 1970, which is obviously a possibility, the following election could be in 1975 and if we are still on the 1954 register by 1975 it means that we will have been on that same register for more than 25 years, covering six General Elections. That is the basic situation which the Home Secretary will not face.
There is now an additional danger confronting us. I had better explain it now. The Home Secretary has given the impression today that he and his colleagues are attempting to bulldoze through both local authorities and Parliament proposals for local government reform sufficiently quickly to give an air of verisimilitude to the statements that he has made about the work of the next Boundary Commission. I suggest that any changes in local government of the magnitude suggested by Maud—without going into the rights and wrongs of them —are changes which require full and detailed consultation with local authorities. They are not matters which can be rushed through overnight. I saw in The Guardian today—a newspaper which is not entirely friendly to my party—a statement from the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend from High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), who said that he has had a much larger postbag about the Maud proposals for his own constituency than about any other matter. That is an indication, from his own side, of the interest which is taken in Maud and local government reform.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I was not concerned with it. I am deeply concerned with it, and it is because I am deeply concerned and want to see a proper reform of local government brought about that I believe there must be sufficient time for local government consultation. This is not a reason for delay, but if we try to take short cuts in these affairs they will take longer in the end. I should have thought that the Home Secretary, with his experience, would recognise that.
Very well then. This is the difference between us, that I do not believe that the job of local government reform can be done properly and the Boundary Commission can do its next job properly in time to have a register ready for a 1975 election, which we must accept is a reasonable probability. In this situation, I say quite bluntly that I believe that the Government's job was to say that these Boundary Commission recommendations should be implemented, with whatever amendments they wanted to make over particular points which occurred to them in discussions, and that we should then accept that it will take roughly 10 years before there is a General Election on a new register based on new local government boundaries. This seems to me to be the realistic appreciation of the processes of Government both inside and outside the House. The Home Secretary asked me for my views on that and I have given them to him very frankly.
Of course, one would have thought that we should hear one forthright, passionate and persuasive voice raised on the other side against this chicanery shown by the Government, and that is the voice of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. He is always in the forefront of a fight against undemocratic practices, wherever they raise their heads in any country whose Government he dislikes—[Laughter.] Perhaps that is the secret: "Government he dislikes". He must have been greatly torn in his position below the Gangway when he saw what was happening above the Gangway, but it is extraordinary how nearing a General Election somehow brings him to overcome this gap between him and his right hon. Friends.
Indeed, he goes further. In his correspondence to The Times he challenges the whole basis of the Boundary Commission. I have not noticed him, week by week, pressing for changes in the legislation governing the Boundary Commission. He has not presented Ten-Minute Rule Bills on the subject. The truth of his situation at the moment—no doubt he will seek to speak later on—is that he does not want to soil his hands with the Government's gerrymandering. I give him full credit for that and I understand it, but how can he get out of this position? The way is to go to the root of the whole thing. It is essential for him to prove that the constitutional basis on which the Government are working has been forced upon them against their will by previous legislation which is unjustifiable, because Mr. David Butler says so. That is really the basis of his argument.
So if there is no constitutional justification for what the Government do, he can be in the clear. Where there is no legitimacy, there can be no illegitimacy. Where there is no valid constitutional position, nothing can be unconstitutional. So, his intellectual processes having completed their vicious circle, his conscience is clear. That is the happy way in which the hon. Gentleman can get himself out of his particular intellectual dilemma and still support his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench in gerrymandering.
It was not the hon. Member, as we might have expected, who brought the Home Secretary to account; it was a citizen in the courts. How humiliating that the Home Secretary, the custodian of law and order in this country, had to be taken to the courts! He was forced to give an undertaking to carry out his responsibility which Parliament has placed on him—forced, indeed, to keep his own law.
What about the Law Officers, who must have advised him in these matters? I am not referring to the Solicitor-General, who is not present today, because he would not have been given a sight of anything so important as a boundary redistribution. I am referring to the Attorney-General. Is he the one who has been using his experience of constitution-making overseas, in which he has been prominent lately, to advise the Home Secretary on how to abuse his position?
In the courts, on the Home Secretary's behalf, the Attorney-General immediately offers an ex-gratin payment. Those of us who have sometimes dealt with the case of a constituent who, without being able to claim under the law, has at any rate been known to suffer an injustice or a grievance and have fought the Treasury, perhaps when the Home Secretary was Chancellor, to try to get some small ex-gratia payment, know the length of time that we have fought and the difficulties we have had and the correspondence which we have gone through. So often such a case fails. Not a bit of that for the Attorney-General. He says, "The Home Secretary is in difficulties—get him out—ex-gratia payments —let us hope the whole thing is wiped out."
What I want to know is, why should the tax-paying elector be forced to make an ex-gratia payment for getting the Home Secretary out of his difficulties because he will not carry out his obligations to the tax-paying public? Perhaps the Attorney-General will tell us tonight. Or perhaps he would like to take another approach. Suppose that he and the Home Secretary were to say that the Home Secretary was responsible for the failure to carry out his duties and that the Attorney-General advised him that that was what he should do. Perhaps the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General would like to make the ex-gratia payment out of their own pockets.
This is an appalling day for the Government. It is a shameful one for hon. Members opposite, though if there are some hon. Members over there tonight who are unhappy about this, we shall respect them if they show it. But it is also a bad day for the House of Commons and for Parliament. When a Min ister and a Government stoop to these depths, it is not only the Minister and the Government who demean themselves. The House of Commons and Parliament, and, indeed, democracy in this country are demeaned likewise.
In three months, the new register comes into operation and for the first time it will include young people aged from 18 to 21. We are told that there will be 51 million young people voting for the first time at the next election. The Labour Party has been very keen to send this message to them:
"When it comes down to it, aren't Labour's ideals yours as well?"
Perhaps "when it comes down to it" was to right phrase to use.
We have seen promises hastily given and lightly abandoned, solemn pledges just as easily discarded, London borough elections postponed for a year because they thought that it would suit their own purpose—but in fact they fared worse—constituencies left unrepresented for a longer time than ever before in British Parliamentary history, constituencies now in which dubious decisions are reached behind Labour Party closed doors—[Interruption.]—and now Parliament —[Interruption.]—I am not blaming the hon. Member for Ireland—and now Parliament turned into a mockery—
When the public school oafs on the other side of the House have finished making a noise I will get to my point of order. Is it right for any hon Members, especially on the Front Bench, to make continual reference in passing to an hon. Member and then refuse to give way when that hon. Member wishes to question him precisely on the point which he is making in his speech
I gave way to him.
Are these the ideals which the Labour Party is trying to put before the younger generation in this country? The Prime Minister's attitude—and one cannot leave a debate of constitutional importance without reference to the Prime Minister —has been absolutely typical: brazenly cynical and utterly indefensible. As usual, he has not taken the trouble to attend the debate. His attitude can be summed up quite simply. He says, "We have got dirty work to do; then let us get it over as quickly as possible". But he was defeated by the Upper House. They prevented it. The Prime Minister says, "A week is a short time in politics. When you have been rumbled, then gamble on the short memories of the people". We shall not let the people forget this shabby incident in the life of the Government. We shall not let the Government bury this incident. What the Government Front Bench are offering to young people today is not ideals; it is just the quick fiddle and the small-time cheat.
Sir Robert Walpole said of the notorious Duke of Newcastle, who was the most discreditable manipulator of his day —[HON. MEMBERS: "A Tory."]—he was a Whig. He said of Newcastle, "His name is perfidy". Let that be the political epitaph of the Home Secretary and his shabby Government.
I do not know why such a cry of disappointment went up when I was called. At least I have had 50 years' membership of my party, and I am as proud of that as I am of over 20 years' membership of the House. I am just as sensitive as, and I am sure some people would think more sensitive than, the Leader of the Opposition to the decencies of this place.
In common with some hon. Members opposite I am a vice-president of the Association of Municipal Corporations. The Leader of the Opposition is completely wrong if he does not believe that the local authority associations are up to their neck in discussions about the Maud Report. They will try to get these reforms through as quickly as possible. I do not think the local authority associations are likely to be willing tools of this or any other Government who wish to engage in what the right hon. Gentleman called a fiddle.
It came rather badly from the right hon. Gentleman to invoke 1954. We were both here at the time, and both sat here all through the night. The debate was remarkable for the fact that the Home Secretary of the time, Major Gwylim Lloyd-George, made the position perfectly clear. In the debate he said,
It is obviously open for the House to make what rules it likes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1784.]
He also said that Parliament could do what it liked about the recommendations and that it was for Parliament to decide. But it was the present Leader of the Opposition, as Whip, who had to see that there were no stragglers from the lines.
Anyone who was present through the day and night of those debates knows full well that some hon. Members opposite expressed the gravest reservation about what was being done. The then hon. Member for Devizes Mr. Hollis—pointed out during the debate that the boundaries up to that time gave an advantage of 750,000 voters to the Conservative Party in any election which might take place. That was a consequence of the political mechanism. Going back to 1950 and 1951, it was not the electorate which changed when the Labour Party in 1951 polled the highest vote of all—about 14 million—but was defeated by the redistribution. The party was not defeated by votes in the country. The question is whether democracy lies in votes in the country or in the political mechanism.
The Leader of the Opposition told us where he thinks the Government have gone wrong. In my view there is a far graver issue—the action of an unelected Chamber in rejecting the view of an elected Chamber. Whatever the Leader of the Opposition may say, any hon. Member who reads the Report of the debates in another place can be in no doubt of their Lordships' intentions. At the end of that debate the Marquess of Salisbury argued about the difference between complete rejection and an Amendment. He said,
So long as it is understood that it still remains our unalterable purpose to prevent this Bill from passing into law, I do not personally care very much what method is used for that purpose. Moreover, speaking quite frankly, it is clearly better to adopt a course which rallies as many opponents of the Bill as possible into one single camp… I shall certainly not myself oppose it, so long as it is clear that our opposition remains unaltered and that that position is not changed by any step we take now."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT. House of Lords, 17th July, 1969; Vol. 304. c. 500.]
That was an unelected House of Lords dealing with a sovereign House of Commons.
It has been suggested that this is the first time that a Minister has brought an affirmative order before the House and told the House to vote against it. But in the constitutional circumstances, my right hon. Friend had no other option.
We are faced with what the House of Lords has done. I cannot accept the criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition put in such a high moral tone. He used all the vitriol possible this afternoon. As the Home Secretary said, at the end of the day there would have been a proper redistribution in London, where something had been settled, and we must, therefore, consider the reality of the matter. In view of the promise that was made that action would be taken by 1972, I find it difficult to accept the views of the Opposition.
I shall vote in as good a heart for the Government tonight as the Leader of the Opposition will vote against the Government. I will not vote the way I propose for any shabby or sordid purpose but because I am convinced that the Government's arguments are right. It is no use the Leader of the Opposition trying to tell me that I have advantage to gain from the way I will vote. I will have even less of an advantage in that my constituency is comparatively undisturbed.
Despite the feline ferocity which the Leader of the Opposition pours out on this matter, he should accept that many people believe in what they are doing. The right hon. Gentleman always imputes the most sordid motives, but we recall that he succeeded, as a Whip, Buchan-Hepburn, who coined the phrase, "Your constituency or your conscience."
The right hon. Gentleman may talk about North Islington, but he should bear in mind the furore that occurred in Surbiton; and we also remember Bournemouth and Christchurch. I believe in the great political parties and I do not believe that any such party would allow itself to be advantaged in the way the right hon. Gentleman described. I appreciate that some of my hon. Friends have reservations about what the Government propose, but, in all the circumstances, I will have no regrets after casting my vote tonight.
I share the views of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in condemning the Government's proposals to gerrymander the voting system of the nation.
The Home Secretary seemed to base his remarks on an early acceptance of the Redcliffe-Maud Report by Parliament. He was wrong, because not only has Parliament not yet had an opportunity to consider those proposals—indeed, the Government have not submitted a White Paper on them—but when the White Paper is published and we have an opportunity to consider the matter, it is likely, from the information and repercussions I have gleaned from the grass roots in my constituency, that there will be a great deal of opposition to such a wholesale reconstruction of local government.
I have received many representations from local authorities. They condemn the hasty way in which they are being required to give a rapid reply to the Government's questionnaire. They have asked me to ask the Government for more time. Universally they condemned the Redcliffe-Maud reorganisation proposals and, while they welcome change, they do not want the wholesale destruction of the present system of local government which the Redcliffe-Maud proposals seem to envisage.
The Home Secretary was, therefore, wrong to try to mislead the House by saying that two or three years after the General Election in 1970 we are likely to have a further upheaval in parliamentary boundaries because of the RedcliffeMaud proposals. I believe that those proposals will get through this House—if they get through at all—only after many months, if not years, of discussion followed by a great deal of amendment. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, this may not take place before a further General Election in 1975.
I particularly wish to call attention to what I regard as the totally indifferent, haphazard and carefree approach on the part of the Government towards this whole matter. By inviting hon. Members not to approve the Orders, the Government are setting an example to the nation. They are saying, in effect, "We shall obey the letter of the law" —as the Government have done by laying the Orders—" but shall ignore the spirit of the law "—which is what the Government are doing by advising hon. Gentlemen opposite to vote against the Orders.
This attitude on the part of the Government is typical of the malaise which is affecting people throughout the country. Who can blame them when from the top they are being set this sort of example? They are really being told, "You need just obey the letter of the law. Never mind the spirit of it." There is every reason for an approach of this kind to percolate through society.
I am addressing the House today primarily to present the problem which will arise in my constituency in the near future. I have kept quiet until now because I recognised that the Bill which the Government introduced a few months ago was at least a step in the right direction in relation to London and certain other areas. While it was not much, it was in the right direction, although I would have preferred the original proposals in their entirety.
Now, however, the Government have abandoned even that modest move. Therefore, on behalf of 100,000 electors in Harborough, I feel that it is time that I said something to indicate what they really feel about the present state of affairs.
The winner at Harborough in the next General Election would, on an 80 per cent. poll in a straight fight, have to gain no fewer than 49,000 votes, assuming a General Election next year. That is a tremendous figure, especially when one recognises how big the differences were between the winning votes in the five by-elections which took place at the end of last month. In those contests Paddington, North was won by 7,969 votes; Islington, North by 7,288 votes; Glasgow Gorbals by 7,834 votes; Newcastle-under-Lyme by 21,786 votes; and Swindon by 16,843 votes.
Those figures meant that the winning candidates in those seats had to average a total vote of 12,344 votes. If a by-election were to occur in Harborough in the immediate future, which heaven forbid, then, assuming that there was the same average poll there as occurred at Newcastle a fortnight ago, the winner in a straight fight would have to gain 35,000 votes. My constituents feel that they are grossly under-represented now compared with the constituencies represented by many other hon. Members. But what I have described is absolutely nothing compared with what the position will be after the General Election, when the Harborough hon. Member will represent 120,000 electors. His vote in the House, however, will count for no more than that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, who will represent 20,000 electors.
It seems odd that one man, one vote, one value is the theme which this Parliament tries to put across abroad, yet at Harborough six men will have to vote to equal the vote of one man in Ladywood. Or, to put it another way, five Harborough votes will be needed to equal the value of one vote in the Gorbals. This will be bad enough in a General Election in 1970, but I can foresee a long procedure before the Redcliffe-Maud proposals are implemented, whether in their present form or modified.
I cannot foresee a speedy conclusion to these deliberations. As my right hon. Friend said, it may well be 1975 before these local government boundary proposals are implemented and the relevant parliamentary boundaries readjusted. We may have a further General Election before then. By 1974, we shall have in Harborough, at the present rate of increase, a population of 140,000. That is wrong.
That situation is not only unfair on a Member of Parliament—although that is immaterial—but it is desperately unfair on the electors that one man should be expected to put forward their views here and in the affairs of the land. It is desperately unfair on them that they should have to bring all their problems to one person while at the same time electors in a constituency perhaps one-sixth the size also have one man to represent them. In the larger constituency, the electors are unrepresented. For that reason alone I condemn the Government for their plans to fly deliberately in the face of democracy.
I must say to the hon. Member for Har borough (Mr. Farr) that no one who discusses these boundary matters can fail to have some sympathy with hon. Members representing constituencies of the size he has mentioned. One of the reasons for arranging for boundary changes is to overcome such difficulties. So it is very natural that even at this stage of our debates on boundary reform the hon. Gentleman should raise the matter, and I hope in my remarks to incorporate some of the points he has made in relation to his constituency in particular. However, I hope that he will excuse me if, first, I turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, to whom I am grateful for staying on in the Chamber to hear any comments I may wish to make on his remarks.
It would be churlish for anyone to deny that the Leader of the Opposition made an extremely energetic and aggressive speech. From his own point of view, it was very effective. It would have been a little more courteous if he had used different language in describing the Home Secretary's speech. In many respects this debate so far—and I hope I am not about to spoil it—has been superior to some of the other debates we have had on the subject over the past few months. It would have been more courteous. at any rate, and also more accurate, if the right hon. Gentleman had recognised that the Home Secretary presented a formidable case.
I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. Had he acknowledged that at the beginning, he would have had to answer that speech. and as he had prepared the bulk of his own speech beforehand it was, no doubt, advisable and strategically convenient and acceptable to say that he did not have a speech to answer at all. He attempted to answer one of my right hon. Frend's questions, but he did not answer the main argument. As I say, it would have been advisable to do so, but I do not wish in any sense to detract from the compliments I pay to certain parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
The speech had just that style of pungent, no-holds-barred oratory which the right hon. Gentleman usually reserves for American television. We are happy to see embodied this legend of which we have heard. We were told how in the United States our Government have been knocked all round the ring; that in the United States the Leader of the Opposition had almost strangled the Prime Minister before the astonished eyes of the American public. He also made all those customary attacks on the British balance of payments and economic position that we expect from him. Apparently he had done this in the United States far more effectively than he had ever done it here. Some of us almost rubbed our eyes when we read the reports, but today we were glad to see what the American television audiences had seen, and what the right hon. Gentleman can do when he has to arouse his followers behind him. As I say, it was a very aggressive and energetic speech.
He seemed a little worried about my conscience. I should have thought that he had bigger troubles on his mind than that, because I say, with the best will in the world, that I do not have any animosity against the right hon. Gentleman in particular, although I propose later on to say a few things which may seem to conflict with that statement. I do not have any animosity against him. I like to come down in his favour when I can. Indeed. one of the things about his speech which most impressed me, and to me made it so effective, was that he concealed the weakness of his case by his aggressive manner. He managed to hide the fact that he was not answering the direct questions that had been put to him.
The Leader of the Opposition said that I had taken a somewhat different line from the beginning in dealing with these boundary questions, and that is quite true —although I agree entirely with the argument, because it is part of my argument, that these boundary proposals should be postponed because of local government boundary changes in prospect. I agree entirely with that proposition. It was the right hon. Gentleman's answer to that proposition that we waited to hear. We did not hear any very clear answer.
I agree with that part of the Government's argument, but the right hon. Gentleman must not hold it against me that I have also other arguments to deploy, and if he has consulted some of the previous debates as diligently as he pretends, he will have discovered many of my arguments on this report. I have also advanced them against previous reports. So he cannot convict me of merely taking this attitude because we have in power a Government that I love so much. I took exactly the same attitude when his own Government were in power, and when he was a Lord Commissioner and Deputy Chief Whip of the day—still aspiring to those lofty heights he has since reached. I have always said that he has gone beyond the mark, and that the real doctrine is "once a Chief Whip, always a Chief Whip". It was the Chief Whip who today spoke to us again in the same old accents.
My attitude to Boundary Commissions and their reports have been consistent in the sense that I have always insisted on the right and duty of Parliament carefully to examine what the Boundary Commissions recommend to us. I have always said that I do not believe that Parliament should surrender to a Boundary Commission its absolute authority, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to suggest. That, of course, is a perfectly proper course. It is not merely a question, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested when trying to describe what would have been a proper course for the Government to adopt, of the Government laying Orders, with some possible minor Amendments—
I made it quite clear that the Home Secretary is obliged to lay the Orders and is entitled to propose any Amendment he wishes and then explain it to the House. I went further and said that in my view every hon. Member ought to be entitled to discuss individually—or in groups or constituencies affected—an Order affecting his own constituency and the constituencies around it. Then the House takes a decision. It is the sovereignty of Parliament.
If the right hon. Gentleman will listen for a moment, I will try to prove it. He now says that it is perfectly proper for the Home Secretary to lay the Orders and in quite a number of cases to say that he wants Amendments or alteration made. That is a rejection of certain proposals of the Boundary Commission.
Yes, amendments in particular cases, but what I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman is what percentage of Amendments he thinks are constitutionally proper. Will he give a figure? It is no good his shaking his head because this is the constitutional position. He has been using words such as "perfidy" and "gerrymandering" and other adjectives and nouns. I remind him of what the previous right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said about the need for weak men to be careful about using strong adjectives.
All these arguments rest on the contention that the Home Secretary is not entitled to do what he is doing in this case. Suppose it was a 100 per cent. rejection; does the right hon. Gentleman say that that is improper? He says that it was constitutionally considered and never envisaged that a Home Secretary would come forward and propose rejection 100 per cent. of a boundary report. Maybe the right hon. Gentleman is retreating now, but that is the proposition. These are the grounds for talking about gerrymandering and perfidy and other adjectives used about members of the Government, that it is utterly improper for a Government to propose a 100 per cent. change in the recommendations of the Boundary Commission.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) suggests that it should be done one by one. Now hon. Members opposite have admitted, although it was denied in earlier debate by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) and others, that this is what they meant. They said, "That is not what we meant by supremacy of Parliament." Now they have made an advance and say that it is perfectly proper for the Home Secretary to make a number of changes.
Can it be that after so many debates the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has not even read the Section of the Act which lays down the duty of
the Home Secretary, which is to lay with the Boundary Commission Report a draft of the Order
for giving it effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the report"?
Is it that the hon. Member does not understand those plain words or that he is deliberately concealing them?
It would be foolish to try to conceal the words in the Act. I may be very green, but I am not quite as green as that.
The Leader of the Opposition sees these matters in a somewhat different light. He has now acknowledged that it is perfectly proper for a certain number of these recommendations to be rejected or amended in propositions made to the House. I am arguing that there is nothing constitutionally improper in the Home Secretary proposing that 100 per cent. of the recommendations should be allowed. [Interruption.] The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) keeps repeating those words as though they were some lucky charm. I say that this was perfectly well envisaged when the Act went through this House in 1948-49.
Hon. Members opposite have put great store on the fact that they are supposed to be carrying out that Act much more faithfully than we are. The charge against the Government is that we are not carrying out the Act—which was a Labour Government Act—and that we have twisted things. That is not the case at all. When the matter was debated in the House of Commons and the Opposition voted for it, it was perfectly understood that it might be the case that a Government would reject the decision of the Boundary Commission, and not merely individual items but the whole lot.
It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to shake his head. He has been lecturing me about what I understand at this late hour. He should have understood this because it was all there. The Minister responsible for presenting the Bill to the House was Mr. Herbert Morrison. He said:
But these recommendations…
those of the Boundary Commission—
will not, of course, be binding upon Ministers. It will be competent for Ministers to accept or reject or amend…
That is the third, but it is the first and second to which I am referring now?—
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.]
That is the doctrine. On that basis the Government are absolutely within their constitutional rights and all these charges collapse. The right hon. Gentleman should have been a little more careful about using such language. He should be more careful, incidentally—
The hon. Member could not have been present at the earlier debate at which it became absolutely plain that what Mr. Herbert Morrison was referring to in the Bill of 1948 was not the relevant proposals here but the initial review, as to which the legislative proposals were quite different.
I think I have attended the whole of these debates. I have followed them very carefully. Of course I can see that it is very awkward for hon. Members opposite to see it stated in black and white that it is perfectly open to the House of Commons to reject. Indeed, I think any other situation would be entirely improper. The argument comes down to the question of whether in fact there are good reasons for doing what the Government have suggested. In my opinion, on that the Home Secretary made an overwhelming case this afternoon.
I also understand the concern of many hon. Members opposite and others—I do not know whether this is part of the "delicate conscience" to which the Leader of the Opposition referred—who are extremely concerned with the maintenance of proper democratic practices in this country. I entirely agree with the view that it would he extremely advantageous if the whole question of how boundary decisions were to be made could be removed from party politics and partisan politics—if there were some way of ensuring that these decisions would not be subject to the kind of partisan debate we have here.
Not that I normally object to any partisan debate at any time. I think it is a good thing. Indeed, if hon. Mem bers opposite had been the Government and had introduced proposals of this nature and I had been in the opposition, I would have been provoked at least to ask a few probing questions. I do not in the least object to having partisan arguments, but I entirely agree that so far as possible it is highly desirable that questions about boundaries between constituencies should be decided not by partisans but by some neutral authority.
The case advanced by many hon. Members opposite, indeed the main case I gather from reading the reports of debates in another place, although they base their argument on rejection of the Government's Bill, was that we had this procedure set up under the 1948-49 Act in response to the all-party decisions made in 1944 at Mr. Speaker's Conference.
It has been an argument which I have never accepted. It has been an argument which has been rejected by many others. The right hon. Gentleman knows this better than anybody, because he was here in 1954, as he reminded us. He was Deputy Chief Whip then. He had the title of Lord Commissioner. That was a very apt description of his role. He remembers those debates very well. He remembers, not merely that a few eccentrics and oddities like myself opposed those measures, but that the whole of those proposals were voted against by the official Labour Party in 1954.
In the face of that, it is difficult for anyone to argue that the system which was set up in 1948 and 1949 provided a system which removed this from party politics. On the second occasion when this provision for removing the matter from parliamentary discussion came forward, it broke down, not because of the malevolence of the Boundary Commissioners, not because of the malevolence at that time even of the Conservative Government, although that may sound a strange revelation, but for an altogether different and most remarkable reason. It happened because politicians could not foresee exactly what would develop under that legislation. They thought that they had set up a system which would be absolutely fair between both sides and which would be accepted by both sides.
It broke down for this reason, which is very relevant. It broke down because Parliament discovered that it was extremely inconvenient to the whole of our democratic system—or, to use a stronger word than "inconvenient", it was disruptive of our democratic system —that there should be two major boundary changes within a matter of five years. Between 1948 and 1950 we had one major lot of boundary changes. Then we had another lot in 1954. That is why the official Labour Party voted against the Boundary Commission's proposals in 1954.
Perhaps I anticipate the right hon. Gentleman when I say that there were some changes introduced subsequently. By the way, they were not introduced before the 1955 General Election—not likely. There were some alterations in the instructions given to the Boundary Commissions later. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman still wants to intervene, or have I anticipated his point?
Not entirely. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the changes made as a result of those debates, but 1 thought that the House as a whole was agreed upon those changes as being desirable and supported them. I want to intervene just to refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory. The real reason why the Labour Party voted against the 1954 proposals in toto was that the Boundary Commission, in doing a complete review, had very largely eliminated the 17 extra seats which had been injected by the Labour Government in 1948 under Mr. Chuter Ede.
The right hon. Gentleman had better go and examine the facts more carefully than that. He should pay a little more respect to some of those who engaged in those debates. Not only members of the Labour Party but many others protested. There were many who protested on exactly the grounds I have mentioned.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that Parliament was wrong to have set much store by the question of having two major redistributions in so short a time. In that case, why did the Conservatives try to alter the instructions to the Boundary Commissions a few years later? The right hon. Gentleman confounds his own argument. He says, first, that they did not take any notice of the Labour Party's representations, because it was merely a matter of protesting against the removal of 17 seats which had been injected—which is untrue. Then, secondly, the right hon. Gentleman tries to get it the other way round by saying, "We listened so carefully to the representations then made that we even gave fresh instructions to the Boundary Commissions".
The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with it like that. What I said was that we all agreed that five years and seven years was too short a period in view of the experience we had had and, therefore, I thought with the general agreement of the House, it was extended to 10-15 years. I am refreshing the hon. Gentleman's memory that it was not for that reason that the Labour Party tried to reject the Orders in toto. It was because of the changes made by the Boundary Commission making a complete review of the 17 seats which had been injected by the Labour Government.
Before the right hon. Gentleman interrupts me again, he must decide upon which horn of a dilemma he would prefer to be impaled. It makes a little difference to the subsequent argument. It is a flagrant attempt to mislead the House to suggest that what the Boundary Commission in 1954 recommended were merely alterations to deal with the injection of the 17 seats. It suggested another major redistribution. That is what the House protested against, although the whipped majority turned it down.
Yes, whipped by the right hon. Gentleman. He was getting in practice for Suez at the time. What happened then was that the House of Commons legitimately came to the conclusion that it was very injurious to our democratic system to have two major redistributions in so short a time.
That being the main deduction which the House could draw from those events, the Government cannot be attacked for having applied that deduction to the present position. It is, indeed, the Government's major case that, if we were to proceed with the Boundary Commissions' recommendations as the Opposition want, we would repeat the confusion which occurred over the earlier affair. I believe that the Government have learned very properly from those events. I believe that it is extremely injurious to Parliament to have the parliamentary boundaries constantly changed.
Of course, I acknowledge—nobody can deny it—that it is necessary also to have procedures from time to time whereby the changes in the numbers in constituencies can be brought into some order and conformity. However, that necessity must be balanced against the danger. I believe that the Government are making a perfectly reasonable conclusion in deciding that we shall not now repeat the changes over a period of five years which the Labour Party condemned in 1954 and which the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that the Conservative Government took such account of that they gave fresh instructions to the Boundary Commissions.
The right hon. Gentleman now says: that is not the real issue; the cat was let out of the bag in a letter to The Times because that did not deal with this question. It dealt with the question of who would get the advantage.
I raised that question, not because 1 believed that that was a primary reason or ground upon which any Government could act, but because the Government had been accused of being guilty of all the crimes that have been alleged against my right hon. Friend. It was therefore perfectly proper for me and others to draw attention to what would be the consequences.
Here we rely upon Mr. Butler. I agree that it is rather difficult to rely upon him. I am not sure whether I should place such reliance upon him, because I have read the article by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. lain Macleod) in which he reviewed Mr. Butler's latest book. In that article, which was published on 30th October, the right hon. Gentleman said this:
I will advance Macleod's chameleon theory. If in any constituency the flat earthers are in the majority and make a point of calling on every newcomer, if the young flat earthers are the best and the gayest of the youth movements, if the newcomers are invited to flat earth social and political parties, then the flat earthers will obtain a high proportion of new members from the new arrivals.
I see the Leader of the Opposition pricking up his ears again. I picture the right hen. Gentleman, on the morning
this article appeared, ringing up the right hon. Member for Enfield, West and saying, "If this flat earth business is as good as that, why have we not got it in the programme?" It would come in very neatly in that "up with the expenditure and down with the taxes" line.
Of course, all these figures must be treated with care. I do not claim to be a great mathematician or statistician, and that is why I accepted generally Mr. Butler's figures. What he said roughly—and, by the way, nobody can prove it; we shall only know for certain after the election---was that that would not be of benefit to the Labour Party in the sense that it would list the electoral system to the Labour Party's advantage: all it will do is probably, between the two major parties, to produce a situation in which there is no electoral list one way or the other.
The right hon. Gentleman equates that with fiddling. That is the arrogance of the Tory mind. The Tories say, "It is gerrymandering if we do not have an advantage. It is fiddling if we do not have a 2 per cent. advantage. If we start off an election in which we have not got half a million votes in the bag already, it is perfidy." I thought the right hon. Gentleman would take his bateau and clear out of the election altogether.
On the last occasion when we debated this matter the right hon. Gentleman accused my hon. Friends and made much worse charges against them than gerrymandering. He said that they were behaving like Tories in Northern Ireland. One cannot hit lower than that. He said that they were behaving like Smith. I remember that when I tried to answer I was shouted down by some of the Northern Ireland Members. I suppose they were the parliamentary equivalent of the B Specials.
However, these questions of Northern Ireland are serious and the right hon. Gentleman should not speak about Northern Ireland so carelessly. It is a very different situation, and he knows it very well. It is much more serious than questions such as Surbiton or Islington. Of course, one can get rid of the O'Neills and Fergusons more quickly than the Boyles and the Fishers. But that is what the right hon. Gentleman should be dealing with. He should not say that because we are carrying out a fair and reasonable proposition, therefore we are in any sense conducting ourselves in the same way in which he and his friends have been conducting themselves on the other side of the Irish Sea for 50 years. He should not make such comparisons, because it reveals a dangerous lack of proportion in his mind.
In Northern Ireland people were only saved from terrible pogroms by British troops being sent there. They were only saved from the consequences of 50 years of absolute Tory rule by British troops having to be sent there. This House has dealt very gently with the right hon. Gentleman and his party on these matters —partly, I agree, because of the statesmanship which has been shown by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone in these matters, but if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he will be able to conduct debates in this House by comparing what we are doing with what he and his friends have done in Northern Ireland, we on these benches are not prepared to accept any such comparison. Even less are we prepared to accept it when he talks about Rhodesia.
The right hon. Gentleman said that I was interested in protecting democratic rights in countries where I happened to approve of the Governments. No doubt, we all have deficiencies in this matter, but, on the whole. I think I have got as good a record as the right hon. Gentleman in trying to protect democratic rights in all countries, and they include the particular places for which we are directly responsible. Two of those places are Northern Ireland and Rhodesia. In Rhodesia, people have been stripped of their rights. People have been imprisoned without trial. So the right hon. Gentleman, particularly if he aspires to any higher office than the one he has reached so far, should try to put these matters in proportion.
We shall be prepared to listen to him on Northern Ireland when he has really stated to his Conservative followers what he thinks of the direction in which their leadership has led that people. We shall be prepared to listen to him a bit more on Rhodesia if he does not always try to trim his sails to satisfy some of those policies which have been a little more consistent than his own in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman called it a police State. Let him deal with this question and not come to this House hurling around these adjectives and words of abuse which bear no relation to the realities. What we shall have at the next election is a fair democratic election in this country, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well. I certainly hope that a Labour Government will be elected, though I concede that it is possible or imaginable that the Conservative Party might win. It would be most ill-advised for the right hon. Gentleman to squeal so much before he is even hurt.
We have listened with pleasure to, I suppose, our most brilliant if erratic fast bowler in the House at present. But in bowling very fast he certainly does not keep a length. The long hops that he has been delivering in the last quarter of an hour have been nowhere near the mark. The purpose of the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was to divert the attention of those of us who occasionally read the facts.
We have already heard a brilliant speech this afternoon from one of my own constituents, and, if I may say so, I am proud of him, for he has said a great deal that otherwise I might have had to say for myself. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said one thing which, speaking at any rate as a lawyer who has to read matters, I thought was a statement of fact which is incontrovertible. It is this. This is the first time in the history of Parliament that any Government has ever laid before this House, under a duty imposed on it, an Order and has then invited its own party to vote against that Order which has been so laid.
It is just as incontrovertible as the fact that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale undoubtedly has not read, or if he has he has deliberately distorted them—the facts in Section 2 of the principal Act of 1949. I invite the Attorney-General when he replies to put the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale politely, if firmly, in his place and not allow him to get away with barrack room lawyer tactics as he sought to do this afternoon.
These are the facts. Under Section 2(5), that Act provides that the Order in Council which shall be laid, and indeed must be laid—in this case by November 1969? " for giving effect "—
those are the words—
whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the report.
Therefore, it means that the Government of the day are enjoined to lay the Report of the Boundary Commission before Parliament, in this case by this month, so as to give effect to it, with or without modifications. Of course, we may have amendment, but it is utterly ridiculous to suggest—and I found it hard to take this in all seriousness that the modification of the report can mean its complete annulment. To modify is to modify; it is not to disregard the whole tenor of the entire report.
In any event, it has been strictly enjoined in a great many speeches that everybody shall have the opportunity to debate, as we have always done, the position which obtains under the terms of the report. The law is clear here; it admits of no doubt. The Government may be technically entitled to say to hon. Members on their side, "Vote against the Order". But as a Government they are undoubtedly enjoined to vote for it, and, whatever they may do about their back-benchers, the whole of the Cabinet and all the Ministers should carry out the duty imposed upon them.
I shall not give way. I wrote to Mr. Speaker to say that I would not speak for more than five minutes. I have already taken two to 21 minutes, and I still want to try to carry out that undertaking, as other Members want to speak.
May I come straight to the Isle of Thanet, as an immensely valuable illustration. In 1965 the Boundary Commission laid a report that this constituency, which now has about 84,000 constituents, should be split in two through the middle. Virtually the whole of the Isle of Thanet agreed, including the local authorities. The Labour Party, as it was entitled to do, did not agree. It put forward a suggestion, as a result of which an inquiry was held in October, 1965. After careful consideration, the views, expressed by the Labour Party were dis missed. An alternative proposal was put forward from elsewhere at the time. There was no opportunity for various people to be heard then, and so a second independent inquiry was called. It was conducted by an eminent Silk, who went into the matter in great detail, on 22nd May, 1967.
The outcome was threefold: first, that the Boundary Commission's original report was held to be completely valid; second, that Thanet now required two seats; third, that it should remain as a continuing entity, the Isle of Thanet, and should not be brought within any wider boundaries.
After a period of two years, a report and two inquiries, we have a solution which is entirely agreed, and a constituency which clearly needs two Members but is represented by one. I have represented it for nearly the past 15 years. It is true that it is not difficult for me to deal with it after years of experience there. But it must be quite plain to everyone in the House that we have a simple, straightforward solution. What ground have the Government, who have a duty to lay that report before the House, and to carry it into effect, subject to modifications which they or others in the House may think fit, not to lay the Order and give effect to it?
I give this illustration merely as one of a number of cases where it is impossible to contend any other course to be proper than the carrying into effect of the Commission's recommendations. If one is to have a Boundary Commission at all, to set it up to make an independent report, one must have a solid ground for refusing to carry its recommendations into effect when, after properly held independent judicial inquiries, the matters have been entirely cleared.
The law is clear. It is plain that it does not mean that one can so amend as to erode entirely the whole purpose of the Commission one has set up. It clearly means that the recommendations should be put into effect not only in the Isle of Thanet, but in the many other cases where the question of the Maud Report, the alteration of local government boundaries, has absolutely no relevance. In the case of the Isle of Thanet, it does not matter what Maud proposes; that part of the country is not affected. Therefore, my constituents feel that this is a clear case where the Government should carry the recommendation into effect.
However attractive, witty and amusing it may be to deal with Northern Ireland or Rhodesia with all the attraction, wit and conscience of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, my constituent, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, was fully justified this afternoon in putting this situation forward as the clearest piece of Callamandering in the business.
I apologise to the House for the absence owing to illness of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is a purely temporary indisposition. I am sure that his friends on both sides of the House will wish him a speedy return to ruddy health once again.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will want to answer the points put so well by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). I should like to deal with the provisions of the Draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) Order. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in opening the debate that I would try to explain some items in it for the benefit of the House in general and Scottish Members in particular.
The Scottish Order takes exactly the same form as those for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Article 2 would substitute for the existing 46 constituencies described in Part I of the Schedule the 46 new constituencies recommended by the Boundary Commission for Scotland and described in Part II. The Boundary Commission recommended no change in 25 constituencies in Scotland, so all of Scotland's 71 constituencies are thus accounted for.
Not all of the 46 constituencies dealt with in the draft Order would be substantially altered, but there would be far-reaching changes in certain areas. Some Scottish Members, if not all, know that Glasgow's representation in the House would be reduced by two seats, which would entail a major reorganisation of 12 of the remaining 13 constituencies in the city. In Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire substantial changes of existing constituencies would be needed to accom modate the additional seat which the Commission recommended for each of those counties, and there would also be considerable changes in Edinburgh, Fife and Renfrewshire. In addition there would be relatively small changes affecting four of the five constituencies into which Bute and Ayrshire are divided.
All this amounts to a redrawing of the political map of Scotland. The question to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland had to address to himself, as did other Ministers, was whether or not we were justified in setting about this major reorganisation of constituencies when the local government structure on which the Boundary Commission based its recommendations was to be radically changed within a few years.
The difference in timing of the reports by the Royal Commissions meant that my right hon. Friend was not in a position to make so many references to the subject in speeches as were my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. But hon. Members will recall that in his statement to the House on 14th October on the Wheatley Report my right hon. Friend said that the Government accepted that major rationalisation of local government in Scotland was necessary, that this must involve a radical reduction in the number of authorities with executive power, and that the division of town and country should be brought to an end.
The Government are therefore committed in principle to a major reorganisation of local government in Scotland, and we are satisfied, after very careful study of the Wheatley Report, that whatever pattern of local government organisation may emerge from further consideration of the Royal Commission's proposals, there will require to be a major redrawing of Parliamentary constituency boundaries. I understand from a speech by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) on behalf of his party in Scotland last Saturday that he, too, is in favour of a major reform—not necessarily on Wheatley lines, but a major reform of local government quite soon. Indeed, in earlier speeches in the life of this Parliament the hon. Member, again on behalf of his party, has always said that we made a mistake in not sticking to the Conservative Party's own efforts in Scotland to reform local government in 1962 and 1963.
I remember when I was Under-Secretary of State being shown in confidence, by one of my advisers part of the unpublished report of the working party showing the projected map of Scotland. The first question 1 asked was, "How will the 71 Members fit in?" I have still to hear a Scottish Member say that he wants to reduce the 71. We want to stick to our 71 hon. Members. It is the figure in the Statute, and I have heard nobody say that we should have less. Therefore, those 71 constituencies must be related to the local government structure.
The Royal Commission on Scottish local government, unlike the English Royal Commission, contained several distinguished hon. Members of this House drawn from the three parties. Therefore, the report was all the more important. In paragraph 1129 they say:
The boundaries of local government electoral divisions ought to be tied in with Parliamentary constituencies. Indeed it seems to us that the whole electoral system should form a unified pattern. The basic units should be the electoral divisions of the district authorities; regional electoral divisions should consist of combinations of the basic units; and Parliamentary constituencies should in turn be formed from combinations of local authority electoral divisions.
There could be no clearer indication than this that, in the Royal Commission's view, parliamentary constituency boundaries will have to be reviewed at the time that the new structure of local government is set up.
To give an example of the kind of problem which is likely to occur: if the Wheatley proposals were implemented, no fewer than 35 constituencies, including 10 which straddle proposed regional boundaries, would comprise parts of different local government districts. It would therefore be necessary as a start to deal with the 10 constituencies which would be in this position if we acted on the Wheatley recommendations. These 10 constituencies are Moray and Nairn, Banff, Argyll, North Angus and Mearns, East Fife, Kinross and West Perthshire, Roxburgh, Peebles and Selkirk, West Stirlingshire, West Lothian, and Dunfermline. They can hardly be said to have hon. Members of no significance.
It would not be sufficient, however, merely to deal with those constituencies and those immediately adjacent to them. In dividing each region into constituencies, the Boundary Commission will have to have some regard to district boundaries which in many cases depart substantially from existing county and city boundaries. It may not he possible to avoid altogether the splitting of districts between constituencies but it would be desirable to reduce the divergencies to a minimum. Yet no fewer than 35 of the constituencies recommended by the Boundary Commission would be composed of parts of different districts. In one case, West Stirlingshire, the constituency would be made up of parts of as many as five different districts. It would be quite a task for an hon. Member to seek to represent five distinct local authorities.
Despite the qualities of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. W. Baxter), it would be a very challenging role. There are two constituencies, Midlothian and North Lanarkshire, which are composed of parts of four different districts and nine constituencies which are composed of parts of three different districts. This is on the basis of the Wheatley recommendations, as they stand. What they would be like if we were to modify the Wheatley recommendations is a matter of speculation. But it is important to realise that any alternative to the Royal Commission's proposals would be likely to present at least as many problems from the Parliamentary constituency point of view. So many of the present local government boundaries are obviously out of date that as part of any restructuring of local government they must be redrawn on a rational basis. There is no escaping from the conclusion that, if the Boundary Commission's 1969 recommendations were to be implemented now, we should in a few years time be faced with a further upheaval in constituency boundaries.
I have listened carefully to the debate so far, and I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) clearly brought out this important point. Parliament does not like, and has never liked, upheavals in as short a space of time as five or seven years. That has been repeated over and again by the Leader of the Opposition in justification for what was done by the Conservatives in 1955 or thereabouts. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was 1954.1 Well, it was subsequent to that that they made the decision about the timing of reports by the Commissioners. But the fact is that we think that a decade or 15 years is the right time. It is unreal to imagine that this Government or our successors would not reform local government in reasonably quick time. Therefore, we would face the problems of upheaval if we were to approve the orders and at the same time adapt parliamentary constituencies to the reformed local government structure which we all know is so desperately needed in Scotland.
I do not agree. I feel that it is not a good thing for hon. Members to face such a situation. I can remember a complaint, which was justified, by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) who has to deal with 11 local authorities. He has a very scattered constituency with a small electorate and it is a burden for him to have to look after that constituency. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. George Younger) argues as if the status quo has something admirable about it. If we are to reform parliamentary constituencies in future, there should be a strong relationship to local government boundaries. I have no reason to complain since, being a burgh Member, I deal with only one authority. It is easy for me not to regard this as a serious problem for other Members because I do not suffer from it, but, as a Minister, I come across hon. Members whose burdens are substantially added to by having authorities in their constituencies with different policies but in which electorates still expect the same treatment.
I have a question about my own constituency. Since changes are not to take place until Wheatley is implemented, which seems very rational to me, might it not be the case that, by the time any changes are put into effect, the new constituency of East Kilbride might have grown to such a size that it would be better to leave the town of Blantyre in my constituency?
I congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) for offering support to the Government in this critical debate. I have no doubt that the fresh instructions to the Boundary Commission, if the orders are not approved, will take into account the other elements which should guide them in outlining the new parliamentary constituencies of the future. I am sure that developments in the early 1970s in Lanarkshire and other counties, including my own, are bound to be taken into account.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is Herculean in his labours. We know that he works very hard and does well for his constituents. However, that does not disprove the argument in paragraph 1129 of the Wheatley Report, repeated in the English Report and never denied in this House until tonight, that it is a good thing to relate parliamentary boundaries to local government boundaries as closely as possible.
I welcome the Minister of State to our debates on these matters of Parliamentary boundaries, and I want to associate myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends with what he said about the Secretary of State. We are sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is ill, and we hope that he will soon be restored to what I would call his usual rude health.
The hon. Gentleman has addressed himself to the wrong issues. He has spoken on a number of matters which are not a cause of difference between us, but he has not explained why the Government are following this extraordinary course.
I deal first with one point which I am glad that he mentioned, and it refers to the 71 hon. Members for Scotland. My hon. Friends will remember that it was I who challenged the Secretary of State on it. In a previous debate, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the smaller average number of persons in Scottish electorates compared with those in England. Immediately, I challenged him and asked if that meant that the Government intended to reduce the 71 constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question, and I am glad that the Minister of State has touched on it today.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention also because the Home Secretary restricted his remarks entirely to the Maud Commission. The Maud Commission dealt with England, not with Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman referred continually to it as the "Maud Redcliffe Commission" reflected all the other arguments which he got the wrong way round. It is the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, of course.
He said that no one has challenged his assertion that the Boundary Commissions' work would eventually be affected by major reorganisations resulting from the Maud Commission's Report. There, he was referring to England. But in a previous debate concerning Scotland, I challenged that assertion, and I did so on the question of timing.
I do not take issue with the statement that there will be a major re-organisation in Scotland, but I doubt whether it will happen next year or in 1971, and the Minister is on record as saying in the Scottish Grand Committee that it would take from five to eight years to put into effect what results from the Wheatley Commission, that being Scotland's equivalent to the Maud Commission.
I dealt with this matter of timing on 14th October. The Home Secretary spoke for one and a quarter hours today, and I did not interrupt him because I thought that I would have an opportunity to intervene in the debate.
When we discussed the matter before, I pointed out that the timing would fit in for Scotland. On the Minister's own calculation, if one takes four to five years for Parliament to agree to a new form of local government in Scotland, that is the moment when the Scottish Boundary Commission can start its work of review based on it which normally takes four years. That would bring us to the 10-year interval prescribed in the Act. It would fit in conveniently under the present system where reviews have to take place and recommendations result between 10 and 15 years from the previous review.
The hon. Gentleman referred to our 1963 White Paper and to the fact that, from time to time, we have criticised the Government for having allowed Scotland to get behind England and Wales on the reform of local government. In 1963, Scotland was two years ahead of England and Wales. They did not start making moves for the reform of local government until 1965. Now we are behind England and Wales, because the Wheatley Commission reported several months after Redcliffe-Maud. Had we been able in Scotland to get ahead more quickly and were we now putting into effect some new major reorganisation of local government—if we had been, say, five years ahead now—there might have been a case for what the Government are suggesting. However, that is not the position, and we criticise the Government because Scotland is well behind the programme for which we had hoped.
It is in this situation that the 1949 Act, as amended, would fit in very well. We would have another review based on the results of the Wheatley Commission's work before Parliament in 10 years' time and, in the meantime, we would have the benefits of the recommendations which are up to date and presented this year—otherwise we shall be based on parliamentary boundaries of 15 years ago and 25 years ago in the future.
The hon. Gentleman will remember what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said about possible legislation for Wheatley and the timing of it. We have been criticised for going too quickly on this. He has quoted me on the implementation, which is very important. I said that in relation to the financial year in which the transfer would take place. It does not follow that the Commissions would have to wait until the financial year began, so the timing is considerably earlier.
I made a careful note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks when he referred to five to eight years for implementation and I therefore suggested four to five years before legislation is passed by Parliament. The Boundary Commission will be beating the pistol if it starts its review before the reformed structure of local government in Scotland has been approved by Parliament. It will be taking a chance on where boundaries are to be drawn and whether Parliament agrees to 37, 50 or even 101 districts, which are some of the suggestions which are being put forward.
The hon. Gentleman quoted from newspaper reports of what I said last weekend. We on this side foresee the modernisation of local government in Scotland. However, we do not think that it can happen in a year or two. It will take time. It must be done following full consultation. Major changes are involved. Not the least important is the fact that nothing so far has been said by the Government on the vital question of finance for local government. In response to the short question that I was able to put to the Secretary of State when he made his statement on the Wheatley Commission, all that the right hon. Gentleman said was that this was being studied and that alternatives to the rating system were being considered, apparently behind closed doors in Government De partments. The Wheatley Commission recommended that there should be a special inquiry into it. So if it is thought that the Secretary of State can introduce legislation in a few months' time, before all these matters, including the financial question, have been looked into, I must disagree.
We on this side will not hold up the move towards the modernisation and reform of local government in Scotland. But we want to get the best possible solution, and we want it to happen without running into antagonisms in Scotland. It must have the agreement of the majority of the people concerned. If the Minister thinks that he can use what I call the Scottish Water Bill steamroller on this subject, when every single amalgamation put forward by a Corn-mission was pushed through this House without a dot or comma being changed, I must disillusion him.
I hope that I have made it clear that we shall co-operate, though I have no doubt that we shall be the Government who introduce the legislation. When Parliament has approved a new structure of local government in Scotland the Scottish Boundary Commission can get going on its next review, and that would bring us to the ten years ahead which the Act allows.
The Minister of State was arguing that because of the reform of local government ahead of us, which we recognise is to happen, what the Government are proposing is necessary—that the House should vote down the Secretary of State's Order. But I remind the hon. Gentleman that in that ill-fated Bill which the Government put before us earlier this year they allowed themselves an option for Scotland whereby they could put the Scottish Boundary Commission's proposals of this year into operation before April. So the Government had left this open, despite this major reorganisation of local government ahead. What the Government proposed in that Bill—they did not do it for England, but they did for Scotland—torpedoes everything that the Minister has just said. They left the option open, despite the Wheatley Commission's expected report about this great restructuring of local government which is to take place.
If the other Ministers at the Scottish Office object to the system, based on the 1949 Act, for keeping parliamentary boundaries in Scotland up to date, they should have put forward some proposal for altering the Act. They should not have restored to this humiliating procedure of laying Orders and advising their supporters to vote them down.
The Minister has spoken about the situation in Scotland. I am glad, because Scotland was completely ignored by the Home Secretary in his speech. However, the Minister has done nothing to explain the Government's indefensible conduct in Scotland, as elsewhere.
I hope that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) will not think me discourteous, if, as a fellow Scotsman, I invite the House to return to the Boundary Commission's proposals for England, because there are specific Scottish features about the recent mini-debate between my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn which do not apply to England.
In the course of his speech today the Leader of the Opposition specifically referred to me, and I want to begin by taking up one of the points that he mentioned.
I require no advice from the right hon. Gentleman about democratic practice. He and his party have remained silent for 50 years over the open gerrymandering of local government boundaries in Northern Ireland. They have upheld authoritarian dictatorships in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Today they also uphold white tyrannies in South Africa and Rhodesia. So I and my hon. Friends on this side of the House require no advice from the Leader of the Opposition or his party about democracy.
Nor do I join with those who accuse the Government of gerrymandering. That is not only a grossly offensive attack upon the integrity of the Cabinet, but it is also grossly inaccurate. Whatever differences I have had with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary over economic policy when he was at the Treasury, I have too much respect for him and his Cabinet colleagues to level any such accusation against them tonight.
My criticism of the Government is about their method of dealing with a major problem in public administration, namely, how politicians should try to ensure that a fair and equitable electoral system is devised for a mature parliamentary democracy, but is revised and amended from time to time.
I doubt whether this House should have any say in detail about the implementation of Boundary Commission proposals or reports. I begin by paying tribute to the work of the Boundary Commissioners. It would be exceptionally churlish of this House not to face the fact that the Boundary Commissioners have worked hard for four years in England devising not only an admirable report, but by far the best report that we have ever had from Boundary Commissioners. I have read the report with great care and interest. I have been impressed with the tremendous care that the Commissioners took to try to arrive at a fair balance between the many factors that they had to take into consideration before arriving at their final decisions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) mentioned earlier debates in this House in the 1950s about the 1954 Boundary Commission proposals. Whatever may be said about that report, it is surely self-evident to anyone who reads this report that many of the criticisms then made in this House have been acted upon by the Boundary Commissioners. For example, they have consulted the political parties about the inconvenience caused by the upheaval in changing constituency boundaries; they have tried to take into account population movements; and they have tried to get to grips with the difficult problem of arriving at a fair balance between country and urban constituencies.
In discussing the balance that the Boundary Commission tried to strike, we at once, if we delve into the past, enter the realm of folklore and mythology. One of the biggest problems that we are up against is that we try to impose upon the work of the Boundary Commission tasks which Commissioners, with our crude electoral system of representative democracy, simply cannot overcome.
Mr. David Butler, who is currently in fashion as someone to quote in this House, in a book entitled, "The Electoral System in Britain since 1918", discussing
the role of the Boundary Commissions, said:
It is not, of course, within the Boundary Commissioners' powers to eliminate all biases in the distribution of seats. They can ensure the approximate equality of electoral districts, but there is no way in which they can counter the geographical chance which may lead to the strength of one party being more favourably distributed for the winning of seats than that of its rivals.
One of the most important matters in this and in earlier debates about Boundary Commission Reports has been that no one on either side has argued that these are politically biased reports. Assuredly, that is not the view of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who, addressing the House on 15th July, said:
No balance sheet has been produced and nor will there be, because it is not possible. I have argued before that in a situation like that of the 1964 election where 25 seats were won by less than 500 votes and where any slight tilting of the balance, any shower of rain, any television programme might have altered that result, it is impossible to say. Indeed, it is not only impossible to forecast the result; it is impudent to do SO."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1969; Vol. 787, c. 315.]
This does not deter Mr. David Butler, in The Sunday Times of 20th July last, coming to the view that if the Government went ahead with
implementing neutrally agreed proposals that would give the Conservatives on the best estimates 10 to 12 seats in an evenly-balanced election".
What does Mr. Butler mean by "the best estimates"? I submit that he does not know what the results will be. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said that he does not know.
The reasons for this are plain. The principal reason is that at the next election we will have between 2 million and 21 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 21 at whose political opinions we can only hazard the vaguest of guesses. Not only that, but we are living in a time when we have the most volatile changes in political opinion over very short periods. One of the most eminent Members on this side of the House said to me privately recently that in his view there were more floating votes today than there had ever been in his lifetime.
I hope that no one will advance the argument, one way or the other—and I was careful to note that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale did not employ this argument—that this report is politically biased. I think that if one looks at the folklore of the past, certainly since 1945, one realises that we are up against a certain feeling, for which there is some evidence, that there has been a bias against the Labour Party, either in Government or in Opposition, as a consequence of various boundary commission proposals. What is this based upon? It is based upon the assertion that in 1948 the Boundary Commission's proposals lost this party 30 seats, but that, too, is based upon the assumption that in 1945 there was an even balance between the parties.
There was no such thing. It must frankly be said that the 1945 election result, however welcome to this side of the House, greatly over-represented this party in the House of Commons if one looks at it as a proportion of seats against votes. Thus, when dealing with the 1948 Boundary Commission's proposals, Mr. David Butler said:
A tribute to the fairness of the 1948 redistribution is perhaps to be found in the fact that in 1950 the average electorate in seats won by the Conservatives was only a fraction more than in seats won by the Labour Party, namely, 55,270 as against 55,161.
One cannot get much closer than that.
The assertion that this party gained more votes than the Conservatives in 1951, but had fewer seats in this House and that this was the result of the 1948 Boundary Commission, does not prove or disprove the validity of that statement. It simply emphasises the fact that geographically this party then failed by very narrow margins to win a number of key marginal seats, while we kept piling up considerable numbers of totally negative votes in second place. One has to be honest about this and recognise that the Boundary Commissioners are being asked by this House to work to produce proposals against the background of that sort of folklore, that sort of mythology, that we should stand up against.
I want to make two other comments about our proceedings this evening. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that the burden of his case was that no one would deny that there would be the most far-reaching changes in boundaries in the 'seventies if the Government went ahead with their proposed changes in English local government as outlined in the Redcliffe-Maud proposals and that this would affect many parliamentary boundaries, now and in future. 1 think that that is true. I think that it is unfortunate, but it is quite unavoidable.
I think that we should proceed now—this has always been my view—to implement this Boundary Commission Report, recognising that over the next three or four years, or whatever the period may be, we shall have to implement the Redcliffe-Maud proposals for local government, and that we shall then again, in the mid-'seventies, have to come back with fresh boundary commission proposals.
I can see nothing particularly wrong with that. It is the fact that many Parliamentary constituencies today, in 1969, are grossly over- or under-represented. We have the two extremes of Birmingham, Ladywood, with fewer than 20,000 electors, and certain constituencies in South-West Essex with 90,000 or more electors. One cannot carry that into the 'seventies with the extremely debatable argument that we can implement Redcliffe-Maud in the Parliamentary Session of 1971-72. It may be that I am mistaken in this matter, and that the Government can proceed with the haste that they envisage, but I doubt it. I doubt very much whether it is either necessary or desirable to proceed at anything like this speed.
There are perfectly reasonable arguments which can be put to the Government to ask them to consider carefully not only the far-reaching implications of Redcliffe-Maud-61 new local authority areas for England, and eight provincial councils—but the far-reaching political repercussions of this sort of local government in an age when we are asking people to participate more directly in their public affairs. When people want to do this, as they do now, it seems a singular irony that we are at the same time proceeding to discuss with local authorities a report which, whatever else it does, will cut down the number of people serving on local authorities all over the country.
One has to face, too, the fact that the existing pattern of local government must conduct the most complex and detailed negotiations over financial transfers between local authorities as they exist and as they are proposed. It is highly questionable to say that we should await new local government boundaries in 1971 or 1972, and that we can then proceed in a neat, even way to reorganise parliamentary boundaries thereafter on that basis.
I make the point in passing that there are at present in this House, and there have been in the recent past, a great number of parliamentary constituencies which straddle local authorities boundaries. There are some in Scotland, which we have been discussing recently. I can think of East Stirling-shire and Clackmannan, West Perth and Kinross, North Angus and Mearns, and North Ayrshire and Bute. In London, before the reorganisation of London local government, the constituency of Chelsea took in the Brompton ward of Kensington. My constituency of West Lewisham before 1964 took in part of the Pepys ward of Deptford Metropolitan Borough Council. I do not believe that it affected in any adverse way the parliamentary representation in this House. It is true that it is always preferable to have local authority and parliamentary boundaries broadly similar one to the other so far as one can make them, but this is not in every case necessarily such an important factor as the Home Secretary made out this afternoon.
I turn, now, to say a word about the functions of this House in this matter, because here I think there is some confusion. There is some real confusion among those of us who want to uphold the sovereignty of Parliament, and I have been trying to do that since 1966, against all sorts of outside influences ranging from the I.M.F. on the one hand to the Bank for International Settlements on the other. One must clearly differentiate between interfering and debating and amending proposals prepared for us at our request by an independent body of Boundary Commissioners, and trying to establish by debate certain rules for their proceeding henceforth based on the experience of Boundary Commissioners' proposals in the recent past.
I think that, on the one hand, it is totally wrong for Members of this House to start to argue about the details of Boundary Commission Reports, but it is our responsibility, having had a report from the Boundary Commissioners, to say, "This Report did not deal with certain factors at which they might have looked, and we are going to recommend amendments to the rules henceforth to enable them to carry out their function in a more sophisticated way". In short, we proceed by experience by trial and by error.
It has been argued that this side of the House has been placed in a position in which we are asked to vote against orders that my right hon. Friend has tabled because of the activities of the House of Lords. I do not accept that. I think that the Government should have pressed ahead with their earlier Bill so that they could even now press ahead with the full implementation of the boundary proposals and deal with the delaying powers of the House of Lords at the same time. This is the course of action that should have been followed. I stand for the total abolition of the upper Chamber in the British parliamentary system. I am not prepared to see my membership of this House degraded in the way in which it will be this evening to appease their Lordships, and consequently I shall have none of it.
I had the opportunity of speaking on this subject in the debate on 2nd July, and on an earlier occasion I spoke on it for eleven minutes under the Ten Minute Rule, so I shall do my best to be brief. I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) said. I agree with him in respect of many matters on which we have worked jointly in this House. He will therefore understand that I prefer to concentrate my remarks on the speeches with which I disagree rather than on his, with so much of which I am in complete accord.
Also I do not want to make specific references to the speeches that we have heard on the Scottish aspects of the problem, from hon. Members on both sides, but I must voice the comment that it is to be noted that all four Motions are being debated together and that there are those who will say that all four exhibit the same lack of principle. Whether this be true or not, they certainly exhibit the same kind of distorted logic about local government reorganisation and its so-called inevitable consequences. The Minister of State told us that it was essen tial that there should be no overlapping of local authorities, and that constituencies should be made to coincide with local government boundaries. The Home Secretary used the same argument when he referred to the inadvisability of having a Parliamentary constituency in two county areas. He must know that this happens now. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Richard Wainwright) represents a constituency part of which is in the West Riding of Yorkshire and part in Lancashire. It is not possible to have things much more separated than that.
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that these are not matters which have been thought up on the spur of the moment by my hon. Friend the Minister of State or my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? They are specific guide lines given to the Boundary Commission by the Act of 1949—I believe in the Second Schedule.
I am not talking about anything being thought up on the spur of the moment; I am talking about a situation which has existed for many years. Anomalies exist which are a clear demonstration of the fact that some of the difficulties which are being put forward are not real, because they do not cause difficulties in practice to hon. Members who are in this kind of situation. The arguments about the Maud Report are crucial to this business. I agree that it would be a nuisance to finalise new parliamentary constituency boundaries cutting across new local authority boundaries, but if there has to be a further division we must accept it. I agree that it is a nuisance, which ought to be avoided if possible.
I do not want to be misunderstood, but I wonder what kind of speeches we would have heard if the political situation had been different. I was very interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), whom I am glad to see back in his place. It was entertaining to witness the private fight between him and the Leader of the Opposition. I was tempted to join in. I probably would not have been greatly hurt if I had. It was very entertaining to see the discomfiture of the Leader of the Opposition. We can all recall those merry quips. But before we start rolling on the floor in merriment again, let us ask ourselves what is so funny. We are here in order to perpetuate a situation in which many millions of our citizens are under-represented in the House. We are here, for one reason or another, to perpetuate serious anomalies in our present electoral situation—anomalies which could be put right.
It was amusing to hear the exchanges. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, that the speeches seem to get better and better. That is because people have made the same speeches on the same subject over and over again. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale felt that this had been an unusual performance by the Leader of the Opposition, in that he made a better speech than usual. Has it occurred to him that one reason why the right hon. Gentleman made a better speech than usual was that he happened to be right? When the right hon. Gentleman has a good case for once, he makes a convincing speech.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale talked about the right of the House to amend. reject or modify the recommendations. He went into detail about the provision in the Act and then submitted that this surely meant that if the House wished to do so it could reject the orders 100 per cent. We are talking about the reality of the situation. If we say that it is right to reject these recommendations and orders 100 per cent. we are saying that no changes in our parliamentary boundaries are now necessary. We must he saying that. [Interruption.] If we are not, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale should say what he means. He said that the Government have a right to reject the recommendations in total—in other words, not to have any of them. If the Government say, "We will not have any of them", and at the same time do not put forward any alternative proposals—and I have heard of none—or suggestions for joint consultations between the parties in order to try to arrive at a con-census; if there are these difficulties—and I have heard of no efforts to try to overcome them and the recommendations are rejected 100 per cent., surely the hon. Gentleman must agree that that is tantamount to saying that our parlia mentary constituency boundaries do not need to be changed.
I am not privy to the various communications that pass between the Whips and through the usual channels. I am referring to the manner in which the whole business has been brought before the House, with a blunderbuss Motion which gives the House no opportunity to debate the proposals in detail and therefore no opportunity to arrive at any compromises or acceptable proposals. In my submission this is removing from the House any possibility of making any changes.
This all came out long before, in the Third Reading debate, in which the charge was made by the Official Opposition that the Government never made any approach to them on this matter. The Government revealed that they had made these proposals and that the Opposition had rejected them. Today, for the first time, the Leader of the Opposition gave us some explanation of rejecting them. If the hon. Member had been listening to that explanation he would have appreciated that there was no possibility of arriving at inter-party agreement.
I accept that no party is blameless in that regard, but the Government are in charge, and have a responsibility to lay the orders so that the House can give effect to the recommendations as soon as may be.
Later on we may have the Attorney-General telling us what is meant by the majestic phrase "as soon as may be". He will no doubt be trundled on like some piece of antiquated medieval artillery to try to quieten us with a legal salvo. But "to give effect to" must mean to give effect to some kind of changes. Here the Government say that they are giving effect to no changes. Unless, at the same time, they announce an alternative, they must be assumed to he saying that no further changes are necessary.
The Home Secretary told us that the Maud Report was a matter of great urgency. I do not dispute that it is urgent that our local government system should be reformed. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the four bodies representing different kinds of local authorities were proceeding urgently, and had let him have their opinions. But he did not tell us that they had all protested very vigorously at having been hurried and chivvied and forced to give those opinions before they were ready. Therefore, they see not quite the same reason for the same degree of indecent haste.
Let us agree that we want reform of local government and that achieving this reform, to be realistic, will take a long time. I accept broadly the conclusions of the Leader of the Opposition about the time scale involved. So it will be a long time, unless alternative proposals are produced, before any changes are made in the constituencies. It is as simple as that—never mind talk of gerrymandering or about what the words in the Bill mean. The fact remains that the Government, by their present action, intend to deny the people of this country an opportunity for a reorganisation of constituencies for many years.
Why is it necessary that Parliamentary constituencies should be as equal as possible? I accept that we cannot have arithmetical equality. From time to time, someone will leap from the Government side of the House and point out that the Boundary Commission recommendations would provide for as big a difference between one constituency and another of 40.000 electors in one and 75,000 in the other. But that as a "parallel" is just about perpendicular to the present situation, in which there are constituencies of 18,000 and others of 110,000. At the end of this period which will now elapse, this difference will be far greater.
Why is it necessary to reach as much arithmetical equality as possible? There are three reasons. The first is to divide the burden between hon. Members. The second, much more important, is to give equal citizens equal chances, and not just in votes. The opportunity which an hon. Member has to act in administrative matters for his constituents is very valuable. I do not delude myself that my powers of influencing major aspects of Government policy are very great. Nor are those of any backbencher. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the extent to which I can sort out administrative muddles on behalf of my constituents. But I have over 100,000. I can manage this, but with the best will in the world it is difficult for me to give as much time to an individual constituent as certain other hon. Members can in all parties.
So we must relieve this situation and we must also attend to the matter of one man—one vote, one vote—one value. This has been said so often that we are all beginning to believe it, but it cannot be satisfactory that my vote, which is no more important than anyone else's, cast on behalf of over 100,000 voters in Cheadle, can be cancelled out by the vote of the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths), cast on behalf of fewer than 20,000 constituents living just up the road. This is no criticism of the hon. Member, who is a very good Member. It is not his fault that the boundaries have not been readjusted but we must try to reach as much equality as we possibly can.
How do we do it? I have always said that it is very important to keep three things as separate as possible from Parliament—the Press, broadcasting and elections. We try not to interfere in the Press; for broadcasting we have established the Governors of the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority, so that Parliament does not have a role. For elections and their organisation in constituencies, we had to try to find other machinery. What we found was the Boundary Commission. It may not be the right machinery. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) said in an intervention, perhaps we need a new kind of Commissioner—perhaps ad hoc Commisioners for special purposes periodically: I do not know—but once one has an umpire, one should to a great extent accept his decision or at least its broad lines.
Of course I would prefer to go further and have a different system. If the House were prepared to accept a reformed electoral system, whereby one would have multi-member constituencies, so that a certain area which now has four members could have three if its population declined or five if its population increased. That would be some automatic protection against that disparity. But if we do not have that method—it seems unlikely that hon. Members will accept it—if we do not have electoral reform to make these changes occur automatically, we must have some other system, and the one which has been devised is the Boundary Commission.
I accept that this House is not obliged to swallow the whole thing, hook, line and sinker, but in that part of the Act which has been read to the House, the intention was clear—that these things should be looked at and that, "as soon as may be" effect should be given to the recommendations. I cannot accept that effect is being given to any recommendations when all that we have is a Motion to obliterate the whole lot.
I cannot believe that this has been a very happy or helpful occasion for this House. It will not help any of us and may damage us all. I hope that, somehow, we may soon resolve it sensibly. It is not yet too late to do something by joint agreement, by some kind of consensus, to preserve the democratic basis on which this House exists. I hope that an opportunity will be found before it is too late.
I have a great deal of sympathy with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) so perhaps he will forgive me if I do not follow directly what he said. The issue which we are discussing concerns me personally. 1 am asked to follow my right hon. Friend into the Division Lobby and vote so that I should retain one of the most marginal seats, whereas the Boundary Commission, in its infinite wisdom, would give me what is commonly agreed by all the parties in my constituency to be a safe Labour seat. So I have a more than general interest in this matter.
The Leader of the Opposition treated us to a most rumbustious speech. The scriptwriters had obviously been working overtime and he enjoyed himself immensely. He made some remarks about some of us on this side who may not have always liked the way in which this affair has been handled. He referred particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) and my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). I want to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West said. We have no need of the right hon. Gentleman's assistance in guiding us on how we should behave or in guiding our consciences.
I take it as a personal insult, indeed, from a man who sat on the Treasury Bench at the time of Suez—he talks about perfidy—and watched his right hon. Friends standing up in this House and telling lies about the activities and commitments of Government. I take as a personal insult a suggestion that I and my hon. Friends are involved in any perfidy. It was unnecessary and very foolish of him to make that silly remark about certain events in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. O'Halloran). One or two of us might have been tempted to look further afield at other parts of Britain.
I remember very well, because I was living there at the time, the way in which the party of which the right hon. Gentleman was Chief Whip in Government got rid of a very honourable Member of this House from Bournemouth, East, because he happened to disagree with the Tory line on Suez at the time. I remember the dirty campaign—"dirty" is hardly a sufficient word to use—which they used to get rid of Nigel Nicolson.
The hon. Member is very wrong. Mr. Nigel Nicolson was, to my knowledge, supported by the leader of his party. Ultimately, at his own request, the matter was referred to a referendum of his constituents, and it resulted in his defeat by a narrow margin of 70 votes. The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense, and if he does not know that he is talking nonsense, he should look up his facts before he talks at all.
I know this constituency very well and I well remember listening to a speech made by that very honourable Member after those events. I was living in the town when all this took place, and 1 do not recall any massive support for him from the Central Office of the Conservative Party or the Conservative Cabinet. But if the right hon. Gentleman did at some time speak on his behalf, I will apologise and accept that.
I was chairman of the party at the time, and it was my duty to hold the ring. I said that he had very strong support from the leader of his party and other very powerful members of my party, who brought the strongest pressure on me.
Perhaps this shows how unwise it is to introduce into a debate of this kind the sort of references the Leader of the Opposition made in his speech. Few of us can look at politics in Britain and be unable to find in some places things we do not like. There is no need, therefore, for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to cast aspersions at my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
A number of speakers have mentioned Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman was very discourteous to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), who tried to make the perfectly valid point that if we are talking about perfidy and gerrymandering we should look at what has happened in Northern Ireland over 40 years.
But let us not look so far afield. The history of the Conservative Party has been referred to. When it comes to spreading the franchise in Britain we need not go back 50 years or so to remember the vote after vote only last year in which Members opposite marched through the Division Lobby to maintain the business vote and the business qualification in local government. So we need no advice from them on democracy.
We have heard a great deal of noise throughout the debate and since July in the country generally and in the newspapers. This afternoon we have heard legal arguments, arguments from first principle and arguments about democracy. But no one has adduced the real argument, which is about politics.
The real issue we are discussing, and which we discussed in the last Session when we debated the Bill, is that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that the Boundary Commissioners have given them a political advantage. That is what we are debating, and that is why there is such a great synthetic uproar. There is no other reason. This is rather difficult to understand. Not long ago I heard the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) forecast on television Conservative majorities of 150 to 250 if the recent by-election results were translated into similar swings in a General Election. So that is why we see this great passionate concern.
The hon. Gentleman says, "Principle", but the charge levelled amongst my right hon. Friends is one of gerrymandering. So the first thing we have to establish is that there is an advantage to be gained from this gerrymandering. I have read all sorts of reports in the Press about the likely result of the Boundary Commission's recommendations. At one time it was said that Labour stood to lose 30 to 50 seats. Then some hardened professionals at Labour central office said that it might be about eight, and people started changing their minds. It has been rightly pointed out that it is very difficult to make judgments based on the electorates of 1964 and 1966, partly because we rely on a simple majority.
Whenever this House interferes with parliamentary constituencies or election arrangements in any way there are accusations of gerrymandering, perhaps sometimes justified and sometimes not. The only way to avoid such accusations is not to interfere in a matter which could be left to an outside body.
I want to refer to that towards the end of what I have to say.
The charge is one of gerrymandering, and the proof required is one of advantage. I can only look again, as I tried to look last July, at the outcome of the Boundary Commission's recommendations in my county of Nottinghamshire. There are in the city of Nottingham and its immediate environs six constituencies, five held by the Labour Party and one by the Conservatives. Only one, by any stretch of the imagination, is a safe Labour seat. Four are marginal Labour ones, and the other is a marginal Conservative seat. That was roughly the position in 1966. The Commissioners recommend the abolition of the constituency of Nottingham, South and the creation of a new rural constituency which is likely to be largely Conservative.
But the effect of their total recommendations is to create three safe Labour seats. two marginally Labour seats, to throw out of the House my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Mr. George H. Perry) and perhaps at the same time to cause the disappearance of my honourable opponent, but good friend, the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland). This compares with a situation in 1959 when there was only one seat in the whole of the city and its environs held by the Labour Party. On the basis of this kind of analysis, no one can suggest that there is gerrymandering in not implementing the proposals for Nottinghamshire. In fact a number of constituency Conservative associations share the Government's view that the recommendations for Nottinghamshire should not be implemented.
That is the political argument. I now come to the real issue. It is not good enough to dismiss the arguments about Redcliffe-Maud as they have been dismissed by some Members opposite. I do not take the view that parliamentary constituencies necessarily have to follow local authority boundaries. I represent a constituency with two authorities in it, and I think that I can work with them very well. Although I would not like the additional burden of working with part of another authority, I assume that I could still do my job as a Member of Parliament effectively.
The basis of the argument is the Act which requires the Boundary Commissioners to pay attention to local government boundaries, and in their recommendations for Nottinghamshire they make just this point. They have divided, as far as practicably possible, the city of Nottingham from the county. This is the expressed purpose stated in their Report. However, the effect of the implementation of the Maud Report would be to put the county and the city together again. Are we to assume that local government boundaries and the broad pattern of local government structure will not be known for a very long time? I am rather fearful of this prospect. If local government officers, councillors and electors are to go on for very long with Redcliffe-Maud hanging over their heads, I dread to think what will happen to English local government. I believe that it will be possible, not to implement all the detailed recommendations and to set up in detail all the authorities, but at least to be able to define broadly the local authority areas in not five or six years but two or three.
It is true that if the delay goes on much longer it will mean that parliamentary boundaries have not been changed for almost 25 years. This could happen, and I do not view the prospect with joy. However, it does not behove hon. Gentlemen opposite to adduce this as an argument for their case. After all, they had 13 years in which to do something about local government, so perhaps the long period while we have been waiting for boundary changes is partly their responsibility.
If it is the general view—it is certainly the view of the House as expressed in previous Measures—that parliamentary constituencies should, as far as possible, follow local government boundaries, then it would be crazy to undertake a major upheaval now and another a little later.
I said at the outset that 1 did not particularly like the way in which all this had been handled. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend could not get the agreement of the Opposition. The action which the Government should have taken was to have announced, when the Redcliffe-Maud Commission was set up, that amending legislation would be introduced to enable the Government to suspend, for the time being, the activities of the Boundary Commissions. If that had been done at that time, there would, of course, have been arguments and perhaps even some of my hon. Friends would have objected, but there would not have been charges of changes being made for political reasons.
I do not like what has happened. However, I will join my right hon. Friend in voting against the Orders, not because I am particularly happy about today's debate or the discussions that took place in Parliament last Session, but because, on balance, I believe that this judgment of the Home Secretary is right.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). If one thing has come out of the deplorable proceedings which we have been through today and during last Session it is that we must find a different method of tackling the problem of boundary revisions. The last people to set about finding a fair set of boundaries for constituencies are hon. Members acting in their political capacity.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) displayed considerable ignorance when he said that for 13 years nothing had been done about local government reorganisation by the Conservatives. That statement will not cut much ice, especially with an hon. Member who represents a Shropshire constituency.
The whole debate has, by intention, been obscured as a result of the smokescreen of the Maud Report. Dribbling through the smokescreen have been many crocodile tears about too many boundary changes and the rest of it. In Shropshire there have been three sets of boundary changes in the last five years. There have been changes in the county boundaries, small ones admittedly; there have been boundary changes of a drastic character in the boundaries of our district authorities; and we have had the recommendations of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission. Then in addition, the Government announced the Maud Report. Crocodile tears do not cut much ice in Shropshire.
The result of all this has been that Shropshire is unique in two respects. First, we alone of the English counties have already undergone the Maud process; and a painful one it was, though it is now complete. Secondly, of all the counties in England we were the only one left entirely untouched by the Maud recommendations.
Hon. Members may have been surprised that in a speech which was obviously directed to salving his conscience on the broad issues, the Home Secretary suddenly focussed on the problem of Shropshire. Why Shropshire? The answer is that Shropshire is the right hon. Gentleman's Achilles heel on the whole of this matter.
He directed friendly remarks to the hon. Baronet the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt), perhaps aware of the fact that the considerations before us do not affect the Shrewsbury constituency. But the right hon. Gentleman reckoned without the hon. Member for Ludlow, and I will have quite a lot to say about him.
When the Government originally brought these proposals forward, in addition to their London proposals they selected nine large constituencies for division into two. If it had been proved possible to do that, why was it not possible to do it in a group of four constituencies as we have in Shropshire, inside a ring fence that everybody knows? Why could not they have been divided as recommended by the Boundary Commission?
When dealing with Shropshire the Home Secretary—how unwise the right hon. Gentleman was to raise this matter at all—produced, another, though smaller, smokescreen when he tried to terrify us with stories of how the county boundary had been changed. Bits of it had been put into Herefordshire and other bits into Worcestershire. Unfortunately for him, the right hon. Gentleman could not say that about the Welsh side because no changes have taken place there.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if these were major changes. I went through all this business with the county council and I discovered that they were the most trivial changes in terms of area and population that it is possible to make. The right hon. Gentleman then said, in effect, "We could not risk having people with two votes or people without a vote at all". Later I will suggest a simple way by which this could have been dealt with.
First, however, I wish to state briefly the results of the Government's present proposals. In the order before us we have in Part I the constituencies as they are now, and in Part II as recommended that they should be. On pages 26 and 27 in Part I and on page 65 in Part II we read two names which are relevant to what has happened. We read of the Borough of Wenlock and the Urban District of Dawley.
This all started a long time ago, when we had our great Abbey of Wenlock with its prior. As happened in those days, the prior sometimes wanted to get away from his colleagues, rather like what happens when the Prime Minister goes to Chequers to get away from his colleagues. The prior therefore had a country house on the other side of the River Severn, and, as things developed, the Abbey had a great area on both sides of the River Severn. This situation prevailed until a few years ago under the historic name of the Borough of Wenlock, in area one of the largest boroughs in England, about the size of Manchester, with a population of 15,000 people—and, I may add, 15,000 of the best people in the world, all my constituents.
So it remained until, in their wisdom, the Conservative Government of the day decided that this area was a suitable site for one of our new towns. My right hon. Friend who was then the Minister of Housing and Local Government designated the Dawley New Town area and this took in, out of the Borough of Wenlock, historic names like Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge, Madeley, Coalport and Jackfield, where so much of the real history of this country was made. The boundary was carefully drawn and took in a large part of the ancient Borough of Wenlock.
Faced with this situation, the county council, acting under the Act put through by the then Conservative Government for the reorganisation of local government—unknown though this may be to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe—carried out the necessary internal review. The county council decided that the sensible course was to make the local government area correspond with the designated new town area. For that reason all the designated new town area was added to the Dawley Urban District Council. Having done that, they followed it up sensibly by dividing up the urban district council into suitable wards. That was the position facing them in Shropshire when the Boundary Commission arrived.
The Commission had to take a big decision, and it decided to put the wholr, of the Dawley urban district, with this designated area, into the Wrekin Division, which adjoins my own, and take it away from me. That was a very unwelcome decision, as it deprived me of many friends and supporters and of one of the most splendid and historic areas in England. It also deprived me of the prospect of this wonderful new town venture. But that was that, and we in Shropshire believed that it was all settled and that the parliamentary boundary would correspond with that decision.
What happened then was that the new town began to be built. They built all over this area. The first area of the new town, called Sutton Hill, was planned not by reference to ancient boundaries but, sensibly, in squares, rectangles and areas like that. They laid it out in streets and passages, and very beautifully it was done. But in the process what was forgotten was the ancient boundary.
What has been the result? When the Government announced that they did not propose to implement the reports, I got in touch with the Development Corporation and asked what it meant. A very large-scale map had to be produced to show what it really did mean. It meant that we have to go between, and underneath and through all these houses to see where the parliamentary boundary was. A very remarkable result it is. The boundary crosses through three of the new estates in the new town. In the street called Stebbings, No. 102 is inhabited by Mr. and Mrs. Punter. From the map it looks as though I have the bathroom and the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) has the bedrooms. That also applies to Nos. 97 and 94.
In Spring Meadow, the boundary goes through the house of Mr. and Mrs. Haycock, and I have the Bathroom and the hon. Member for The Wrekin has the bedrooms, With the house next door, it seems that I have the front door and a bit of the hall, and he has the rest. In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Garbutt, at No. 87, it looks as though I have the back door and the hon. Member has the rest of the house—I suppose that it is useful to have the doors, at any rate. At Nos. 59 and 60 I have the front room and the hon. Member has the back room. As Nos. 55, 56 and 58 I have to be content with the bathrooms and, again, he has the bedrooms. We face the same position in Stonedale. I have about 60 per cent. of No. 63—the home of Mr. and Mrs. Slack—and he has the other 40 per cent. The hon. Gentleman comes off badly at No. 58 —Mr. and Mrs. Southall: he has a corner of the front lounge and I have the rest of the house. That gives the general picture.
I asked the general manager of the development corporation whether he could explain this result, and he thought that he could. He said that the boundary followed an ancient watercourse called the Mad Brook.
In such a situation, one must ask whether the Home Secretary or any of his officials consulted the people who carry the can with this kind of nonsense —the officials of the urban district council and of the Salop County Council. Although we may think it funny, I do not think that they did.
I wonder that the Home Secretary did not consult the hon. Member for The Wrekin, because he has been literally led down the garden path—down many garden paths. We had him taking his local Labour Party officials canvassing round the area saying, "Vote for Fowler". When asked, "Who is Fowler?" the hon. Member replied, "I am. I am the hon. Member for The Wrekin, and you are to be my constituents." It is all rather disappointing for his party supporters, because nothing has come of it. Most of the Labour Party officials who went round have been sacked—as often happens in the Labour Party organisation.
But what a waste of time for the hon. Member for The Wrekin: he really has been led down any number of garden paths by his own Government. It is all the worse nonsense because these people would in any case not vote for him. Inhabitants of new towns never vote for Labour candidates—they always vote Conservative. But the hon. Gentleman was afraid that his existing constituents in The Wrekin might vote against him, and that I think only too likely to be true. I visited all these houses, including those in which I have an interest only in little bits. These new residents, who sometimes come from very bad housing conditions in the Black Country and in the Birmingham area, are delighted with their new setting and new prospect—and, I think, quite honestly, with their existing Member of Parliament.
I come back to all this farrago of nonsense by the Minister about the county boundary of Shropshire with little bits taken off, and other little bits put into Herefordshire, Worcestershire or Staffordshire. That whole farrago was completely exploded when my right hon. Friend quoted "with or without modifications" and "amend recommendations". If the Home Secretary had wanted to come clean on this issue and really justify his conscience, nothing could have been easier than for him to have implemented the commission's recommendations for the county of Shropshire. If there were an individual with two votes, or with no vote, it would not be beyond the capacity of parliamentary draftsmen to put a suitable appendix to the Order making sure that alterations would not be made in such cases until the next election. In that way Caesar might just have got himself above suspicion. I do not believe it was not possible to do this. I am certain it ought to have been done.
I think it a fair summary of all this to say that Shropshire has torpedoed the Home Secretary. He is caught in a web of moral turpitude and Shropshire has sprung the trap.
After the histrionics of the earlier part of today's debate, it was rather refreshing to hear the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) making a leisured and well-balanced traverse along the Wenlock Edge. Delightful as that part of the country is, I have nothing to envy it in my constituency on the banks of the Mersey.
I think the speech of the Leader of the Opposition has damaged the character of this debate as a House of Commons occasion. Many of us on this side of the House have reservations, and I shall come to mine, about the way in which this whole matter has been handled, but it makes it very difficult if we are to be asked tonight to vote for or against the perfidy of the Government and of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in particular. I should much prefer to examine the arguments on their merits and to see to what extent the Government have acted soundly and wisely and to what extent they have not.
I have always been unhappy about the methods involved in the alteration of our constituency boundaries. Nevertheless, they are the only methods we have now. They therefore are the best methods we have now. My right hon. Friend referred this afternoon to the need for this House to reserve to itself the ultimate right to effect the implementation of any particular proposals. If there were hon. Members opposite who during these debates implied that this House had no such powers, clearly they were wrong, and even foolish. None of us would deny that this House must have the ultimate power. Equally I think it is a power which we should use sparingly.
It is important that when we have an institution set up to examine impartially the need to change this most sensitive of all our political organisations in Britain, the constituencies themselves, unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary this House should accept the Boundary Commission's proposals. To modify this standpoint is to start upon a very slippery slope. I like my hon. Friends who have spoken earlier, do not wish to take lessons from the Opposition in political morality. I> learned about the perfidy of Tories and Whigs with the Cow & Gate milk I took in at my mother's knee. I really do not need to be reminded about the perfidy of the 17th and 18th centuries, nor no doubt, of the Anglo-Saxons, but I did not come to this Parliament, nor did I join my party to be a mirror image of a Tory or a Whig.
The chicanery of the Tories and the Whigs made some of us feel that there was a need for a different sort of party. It is therefore incumbent upon this side of the House to have the highest possible standards in this sort of thing, and we should be seen to be exercising those standards now. It may well be that in this debate it is possible to argue that Governments of the Tories have been guilty of all sorts of chicanery. That would not be difficult, but I do not think much profit is served at this moment in our democracy by having a sort of yabooh debate, saying, "You too did all this" and thinking that therefore we may take solace from the fact that whatever accusations are made against us, and however unjustly, we can make the same accusations in return.
This is part of the slow demoralisation which is taking place in the political morale of the country. Therefore, the Government arguments in favour of the proposals they have put forward should be subjected to the most critical scrutiny. The argument, as I understand it, is that because at some time in the early 1970s there will be major changes in local government boundaries, and possibly in local government functions and distribution of powers, therefore it would be premature to embark on some wholesale recasting of constituency boundaries and shapes and sizes and so on.
There is an argument here. Hon. Members opposite, notably the Leader of the Opposition, did not do Parliament a service this afternoon in the way they dismissed—indeed completely ignored—the very fair question which was put by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He asked, Would they be prepared to contemplate, within a very short space of time following the implementation of these Boundary Commission proposals, another wholesale recasting of parliamentary boundaries? Is it a good thing that perhaps in 1971 or in 1970, whenever the next General Election is held, we should have boundaries determined afresh, and yet still further new boundaries made even by the time of the following General Election? This is the argument which has to be faced.
I do not accuse the Home Secretary of perfidy in putting forward a perfectly sensible and rational point of view. I think it would have been far better, to put it no higher, if when the Maud Commission was set up with terms of reference which demanded that it should report within two years or so—there was great urgency about it—it should have been made clear that because of the major changes which almost certainly would arise out of its report any proposals to alter the boundaries of constituencies would have to be put into cold storage until such time as the local government changes had been made.
I think that my hon. Friend is wrong, because in 1958 the Local Government Commission was set up with fairly closely circumscribed terms of reference. For example, a number of special review areas were set up, including my own Merseyside, as to which it was possible that novel forms of local government would be introduced. But, by and large, the 1958 Commission, which took evidence over many years, right up till after the 1964 General Election, was tinkering with the problem.
Its terms of reference were not cast sufficiently wide to involve any fundamental change of local government structure and powers. There is no doubt that the implication of winding up that Commission and setting up the new high-powered Royal Commission was to produce something much more fundamental and revolutionary than had been hitherto possible and something which was recognised to be needed.
Next, if my hon. Friend is saying that in 1966 it was impossible to foresee what recommendations the Redcliffe-Maud Commission would come up with, it is no less impossible for us now in 1969 to foresee what the House will do in 1971 or 1972 in implementing that report.
It is not precisely the same point, but it is a fair point to make that, if we are being asked now to defer any changes in the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies because there will inevitably be a major recasting of parliamentary boundaries four or five years from now, and the reason there will be this fundamental recasting is that there will have been fundamental changes in our local government structure, we are really saying that we are deferring action on parliamentary boundaries because we know as of now that there will be these very fundamental changes arising out of the Redcliffe-Maud report.
I am not saying that this will not happen. I am simply saying that we cannot know any more precisely that this will take place than in 1965 or 1966 it was possible to foresee the major changes which were then implicit in the setting up of the Maud Commission.
I do not accept that when we set up the Maud Commission we expected some sort of penny farthing machine to come out at the end. It was obvious to those of us who knew the calibre of the men appointed to the Commission that there would be a very fundamental report. It was obvious that men of the calibre of Mr. Senior would not produce a mere patching up operation. It was obvious that our system of local government, which had not been altered since the 1880s, was in need of fundamental changes.
We may disagree about the way in which these changes should be effected, but to say that in 1965, after 20-40 years of dithering about, it was not obvious that something urgent needed to be done is to fly in the face of all the evidence.
Therefore, I think that the Government could easily have foreseen, long before the cafuifie of the last few months had occurred, that there would be, when the Report of the Maud Commission appeared, proposals for such fundamental changes that it was inevitable that the proposals of the Boundary Commission would have to be put into cold storage.
Am I not right in recalling that there was an exchange across the Floor at an earlier stage in our debates which made it clear that the Government had offered negotiations but were unable to reach agreement?
My hon. Friend no doubt will have an opportunity to develop his point. I think it is a little difficult at this stage for those of us who were not privy to those negotiations to comment upon what actually was offered. What I am saying is that I do not care what was offered to the Opposition, but I do care about the way in which the Government's actions appear in the country at large. I am trying to represent the situation as fairly as possible—
I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) would accept the fact that those of us who try to make speeches do not do so in order to denigrate other Members. I am not doing that, and I wish my hon. Friend would not assume that his experience in his constituency is the same in other constituencies, because that is not so. He must accept that fact, whether he likes it or not. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend carries on a running commentary. If he wishes others to give way to him when he wishes to intervene, he should not keep up these commentaries.
It is perfectly obvious that on this matter there is room for disagreement in the sense that if the Maud Commission Report is to be implemented in the form in which the majority report indicates, there are bound to be massive changes in local government in the early 1970s. But many of these changes will involve—indeed, this is their purpose—a great simplification in local government boundaries. There will be a considerable reduction in the number of executive local government units. We shall have unitary authorities embracing a much larger area than the area of such executive units as county boroughs characteristically include today.
Also the majority report, unlike the minority report, of the Maud Commission has in general tried to fit its recommendations into the existing pattern of boundaries as far as possible. Therefore, there will not be a wholesale removal of well-known landmarks. True, there will be large areas, but within these there will be no difficulty in accommodating many of the new constituencies proposed by the Boundary Commission. This would apply to South Merseyside Metropolitan District, of which I can speak with some experience. There will be no difficulty whatsoever about this. Even if there were some difficulties, the time to meet them is when we know precisely their shape.
Perhaps, because of the massive pressures which will certainly be developed by local government associations in the early 1970s, this House will not implement Maud at all. It may implement reform in a different way from the Maud proposals. I cannot see into the future, neither can anyone else. But we have to accept the knowledge that if we do not implement the Boundary Commission Report here and now, we shall possibly see not only the next election but the one after that fought on the old hopelessly outdated boundaries, and balance that knowledge against only the possibility that there will have to be massive changes in the boundaries which would have been implemented had the Commission's Report been endorsed.
This is a matter on which hon. Members have to make up their own minds whether it is better to go for the one solution rather than the other. What cannot be denied is the point that in a situation like this, where the public is already sensitive enough about the way in which these sorts of apparent interference take place, it is better on balance to go for the solution which will lead to no such political doubts in the minds of the public at large.
In any case, there is the point which has been made time and again that hon. Members now are faced with the impossibility of representing constituencies of upwards of 100,000 constituents while others have to go round trying to find any. This makes a mockery of the principle "one man, one vote". If hon. Members on this side of the House cannot see that, I do not see how we can get it over to people in other parts of the world such as Rhodesia.
My hon. Friend has a peculiar concept of democratic exchange. Of course, there is room here for argument. I am suggesting that when we have a situation in which one Member of this House represents five or, perhaps, six times as many constituents as another hon. Member, that is no great credit to the democracy which we are trying to represent as something worthy of attainment across the world at large. We are supposed to be the Mother of Parliaments. Are we to set ourselves standards or are we simply saying that it does not matter? I think that it does matter. That is why I have risen tonight.
I am not one of those who makes a profession out of abstaining or voting against the Government on an issue like this, particularly when the Opposition have made it into such an extraordinary and unjustified attack on people's integrity. Certainly, this debate is to me a most unhappy occasion, but I am bound to say, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens, who made some detailed and searching criticisms, many of which I share, that tonight I shall not be able to go into the Lobby.
Outside this House, those who know what the House of Commons is today being asked to do are feeling angry and frustrated. Those who do not know what is happening are interested to find out. The Opposition have a duty to explain quite simply what is going on and to expose it to public view. I propose to do just that in three simple stages: first, the problem; secondly, the constitutional convention; and, thirdly, the Government's plans on this occasion.
The problem is simple and straightforward. I immediately say that the Government are in no way responsible for it. People move from one part of the country to another. There are many different patterns in this, but the particular pattern which I want to pick out is that whereby, with rebuilding and rehousing activities, people are increasingly moving from our city centres out into the country areas.
One has now reached a situation in which, especially in the city centres, one frequently finds that there are two Members of Parliament representing 50,000 electors, whereas in the country areas there may be only one Member of Parliament for 90,000, 95,000, 100,000 or even 110,000 electors.
A point which has been overlooked during the debate is that the disparity between those constituencies will be sharply exacerbated when the 18-year-old voters come on to the electoral roll next year, because there will be more of them proportionately in the larger electorate constituencies and fewer of them in the smaller constituencies. There will thus be a situation in which the large constituencies will become even larger in proportion to the smaller ones as a result of the introduction of the 18-year-old voter.
That means quite simply that in a democracy in which one hopes that the result of a General Election will reflect the will of the people, we have a situation in which the votes of those in the city centres will count for double the votes of many of those who live in the country. There is a practical, sensible and traditional way by which this is settled.
There is a very clear danger of giving either to Parliament or to a Government temporarily in office the right to decide parliamentary constituencies. The temptation to rig or to gerrymander is enormously great. I shall not suggest that Governments or Parliaments will always give in to that temptation, but our political forefathers had the foresight to take it out of the political arena and so arrange things that Members of Parliament. party politicians and Governments could not interfere. They established an independent Boundary Commission, an umpire who would take the decisions.
It is no fault of the Government that it happens that many of their Members represent city centre seats and that on the best assessment one can make, the findings of the Boundary Commission Report would lose them between eight and 25 seats. I sympathise with them about this. One always sympathises with one's friends or colleagues when one finds that they have lost on an umpire's decision, but what one does not expect them then to do is to stand up and quarrel with the umpire.
In the manoeuvre which is before the House today, the Labour Party are planning to cheat at the next General Election.
The hon. Gentleman naturally says "Rubbish", but let us look at the facts. The Home Secretary came to the House today to try to produce a face-saver for the Government. For the first half of his speech he talked about principle. In the second half he admitted openly and barefacedly that it was on party political grounds that he was doing what he was doing today. If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) was not present at the time, I suggest that he reads HANSARD. when he will see that that was so.
What are the face-savers which have been produced? First, there is the suggestion that Parliament is supreme; it is legally entitled to make new laws and to defy convention. In a technical sense, I suppose, that is true, but where does it stop? Hon. Members opposite must realise that the Queen's Speech, which was introduced at the beginning of the present Session, is extremely long. I do not think that there is much prospect of that legislation very important legis? lation in the eyes of the Government—being completed before the end of the lifetime of this Parliament.
It is said that Parliament is supreme. Why should it not declare for a seven-year instead of a five-year term and extend the life of this Parliament for another two years? Why not indeed if Parliament is supreme? If Parliament is supreme in this field, the Government have embarked on a dangerous and slippery slope and one can see no end to the difficulties which they may cause.
Then the second face-saver comes in the form of Redcliffe-Maud. One point was overlooked by the Home Secretary. He said in his speech that the Parliament of 1972 will decide on the pattern of local government following on the Maud proposals. What Parliament is he referring to? Does he mean a Parliament representative of the people of this country, or the Home Secretary's poodle, elected according to the gerrymandered constituencies with which we will be faced following his performance in Parliament today. The whole point is that the Parliament which will be asked to decide on the Redcliffe-Maud proposals will not be a representative Parliament. This strikes at the root of democracy, and I hope that the Attorney-General will not overlook this point when he winds up the debate.
It was then suggested that Members of Parliament are so incompetent that they cannot deal with more than one local authority at a time. The fact that many hon. Members do just that appears to have escaped the Government's notice. Is the convenience of Members of Parliament more important than the roots on which parliamentary democracy is based? It is almost as bad that the RedcliffeMaud proposals are being rushed through without adequate discussion to justify the Home Secretary in this gerrymander.
We then had the spech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who was seeking to find a let-out not only for the Government but for his conscience. His words were full of rhetorical brilliance. But when I took a note of his specific points, what did they amount to? First of all, he praised the style of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I agree with him that it was an excellent speech. He said that Parliament was supreme and the Home Secre
tary could propose some small changes in the proposals of the Boundary Commission. Then he went on to describe how big the "small changes" could be. The burden of his speech was that if one could make a change of 10 per cent., one could equally make a change of 60 per cent. or 80 per cent. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) drew attention to the fact that the wording of the Bill specifically allows the Home Secretary only to bring in modifications. I looked up the meaning of modification, and it could not conceivably cover what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale tried to say. In the Oxford English Dictionary "modification" is described as:
The action of modifying, limiting. restricting or qualifying. The action of making changes in an object without altering its essential nature.
Clearly, what is happening in the House today is a deliberate defiance of the Act, and that is something which Parliament cannot pass over so easily.
The hon. Gentleman made a most extraordinary assertion, which I hope he will have another look at. He quoted from the speech of Mr. Herbert Morrison in an earlier debate, when this legislation came on to the Statute Book, seeking to prove that Herbert Morrison had produced a certain argument that influenced the law. It is a new doctrine that Ministerial speeches override the terms of an Act of Parliament. That cannot be sustained for very long.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman pointed out that the result of earlier amendments to the legislation had been to ensure that we did not have changes in five or seven years but that the position was extended for a longer period. But we are now in 1969. If the next Parliament legislates in 1974 on the Redcliffe-Maud proposals it will be 1979 before we shall have had a four-year sitting of the Boundary Commission on the details of constituency boundaries, so on the hon. Gentleman's own criteria we are well beyond the limitation of five or seven years; we are up to somewhere in the region of 10 years.
The Home Secretary, in a disastrous speech this afternoon, spoke about 432 changes, and how very upsetting they were. Very upsetting to whom? Apparently, to the Labour Party. But the very fact that there are 432 changes in 1969 indicates how serious is the need to implement the changes recommended by the Boundary Commission. If in 1969 there are 432 changes which in fairness should be applied, what will there be by 1975 or 1977, which will be the first time we shall be able to have changes put into practice? That will mean a period of about 23 years since the last Boundary Commission's proposals became effective.
Has anybody spared a thought for the voters in the 25 seats who will be denied an M.P. that they might have expected, or the possible fact that the result of the next General Election could well be decided by so small a margin as 20 or 25? That could mean that the result of the next General Election would be decided by the gerrymandering of the Home Secretary this afternoon, a situation in which the Government of this country are not representative of the people, not because of the quirks of the electoral system but because of the deliberate failure of the Home Secretary to carry out his obligations under the Act.
We, as Members of Parliament, are very much aware of the cynicism which is sweeping through the country about politics and politicians. It brushes off at parliamentary level, on candidates, county councillors and local councillors, and all who are involved in government in one form or another at local or national level. That cynicism and distrust is substantially increased when one sees a party using the power of the Whips' Office to herd Members through the Division Lobby to create a situation in which party has been put before the basic democracy of this country. I salute the small number of hon. Members opposite who are not being herded through the Lobby, and respect their courage in standing up for what they believe to be right.
This is the most squalid party political manoeuvre. I believe that those who have been responsible for it should be drummed out of public life.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should not complain if we speak strongly about this matter. We feel strongly. However, in what I suppose is the last of a series of speeches that I have made about it, I shall try not to speak strongly myself.
Earlier today, we listened to a speech from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) with admiration from some points of view but not from others. I will not speak about Northern Ireland, but I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman that the situation in Rhodesia is vastly different from what is being done here today. Certainly it is vastly different in degree. However, I venture to remind the House of an observation which I made at the beginning of this series of debates on 19th June. Very largely, we invented representative government. We are the pattern for it, and people look to us to be the pattern. It is under attack in almost every country. In many, it has fallen altogether. It behoves us to see that our own standards are of the highest and that the pattern should be of an irreproachable quality in the eyes of other people who may be deviating from what we think to be the norm in a far greater degree than we sometimes reproach one another amongst ourselves for deviating.
At this stage, I do not want to be offensive to the Labour Party, though no doubt I shall be when I work up to what the learned Attorney-General would call my hwyll, which is one of the two Welsh words that he has taught me. But, as the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) said in a remarkably courageous speech, if a party sets itself up as the party of soul, it should be doubly careful that what it does is beyond reproach. Incidentally, that is the standard which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have chosen to set themselves. It is not the one which I would have selected for them.
I am glad that the Attorney-General is to reply. It enables me to divide my speech into two parts—what I want to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and what I want to say to the Home Secretary, who has been courteous enough to attend the debate.
I want to enlist the Attorney-General's help in teaching the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale the facts of life, by which I mean the constitutional facts, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will tell me whether I am stating them correctly so that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale may know them as coming from the adviser of the House in matters of law.
The first proposition that I put to the Attorney-General is that Ministers should obey the law. That is fundamental. Ministers should set an example. Not only are they under an obligation morally to obey the law; they are under a legal obligation to obey it.
That is not true of Parliament in the same sense. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and other hon. Members have spoken of the supremacy of Parliament. Parliament makes the law. It can make it in the ordinary course by a Bill. In the present case, we are discussing an example where it can make the law by a Resolution of each House. To say that it is supreme is a statement of legal fact. But it is not a statement about constitutional propriety. I listened with care to the hon. Member for Bebington, and I am sure that he is with me when I say that it does not mean that in exercising its undoubtedly legal rights Parliament is divested of its duty to follow the principles of justice, fair play, logic and good faith. We are discussing whether the proposal made by the Home Secretary is just such a breach of these principles.
That is the first proposition I put to the Attorney-General. But, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, because he, like me, has been present during many of these debates, my contention has always been that, contrary to the first proposition, these Ministers—the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland —have not obeyed the law either in the moral or in the literal legal sense of the word. They have not obeyed the law because they have not discharged the legal duty laid down by Section 2(5) of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, that duty being, "as soon as may be", to lay the relevant report of the Boundary Commission "before Parliament together with, except where the report states that no alteration is required, a draft of an Order for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the report".
When I first challenged the Home Secretary upon what I claim to be a deliberate breach of the law, he defended himself on the very peculiar ground that he had not laid the report and, therefore, was not bound to lay a draft Order. He said on 2nd July that he did not wish to rely upon a legal technicality. He said that the report had been presented but not laid, although it had been presented in the same form as previous reports upon which draft Orders had been laid.
That has been blown sky high, because he has now recited—and let him not say that he is asking the House to vote against this—that the Secretary of State has laid the said report before Parliament. So he has now abandoned the first defence.
He had abandoned it early in the argument, because, when he summoned the Attorney-General to his aid, the right hon. and learned Gentleman abandoned it at once. The Attorney-General's defence inconsistent with that of the Secretary of State, was that although the report, contrary to what the Secretary of State had told the House, had been laid, it had not been laid pursuant to Section 2(5). That was the Attorney-General's argument, which is also to be found in HANSARD of 2nd July, and I am willing to give the references if need be.
That was an astonishing legal argument. I gasped and stretched my eyes, to quote the story of Matilda. when the Attorney-General got his tongue round that as a legal argument. I ventured to make a small wager with the members of my Bench, when I heard that Mr. McWhirter was going to produce his mandamus before the Divisional Court, that the Attorney-General would not put this ridiculous argument before the Lord Chief Justice, and he did not.
He withdrew his proceedings on the assurance of the Attorney-General that the Order would be laid. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be the first to recognise that, as the Section provides that the Order has to be laid together with the report, that disposes of his original contention, because if the report had not been laid pursuant to Section 2(5) the Order could not have been laid in compliance with his undertaking to the court. Those who have been long in the law realise that Attorneys-General do not pay the costs of the other side if they really think that they have a case.
The situation is that the Ministers have not obeyed the law, even according to the letter of it, and the Attorney-General has been put into a humiliating position vis-a-vis the Lord Chief Justice. Even so the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot rescue his right hon. Friend from the quagmire into which he has fallen, because although he has laid the Report —contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman claimed to have done—in June and laid the Order in November—or was it at the end of October?—he has not, as the Act requires, laid it "together with" the report, because there has been an interval of several months between the two events.
The position is that the Attorney-General is asked, "Do Ministers have to obey the law according to the theory of constitutional law in this country, or do they not?". In this case the two Ministers responsible for law and order have, as I ventured to show at the outset of this series of debates, been guilty of a deliberate breach of their statutory obligations, for which they have actually committed public funds to meet the costs of a private citizen who brought a suit against the Home Secretary.
I leave the Attorney-General with the remains of his legal contentions, and I turn to the political arguments which have been presented from time to time by the Home Secretary. I venture to say, again without any particular desire to be offensive, that the contention on this side of the House has always been not that the right hon. Gentleman has changed the rules but that he has broken them.
The rules are that he should lay the Report and lay the Order, and he has not done so. He has done something else, and having at last laid the Order he is trying to persuade Parliament to vote against it. For this purpose it is wholly irrelevant to contend, or to quote Mr. David Butler, who is the last refuge of the Labour Party in times of trouble, to the effect that the rules as they exist contain a bias against the Labour Party. The rules were agreed both when the substantive rules were introduced in 1948 and when they were amended in 1958. They are not being altered now, and the Home Secretary's speech was very largely an attempt to look forward to the time when they would be put into operation again unaltered. That argument can be completely disregarded for this purpose, even though the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale still tried to clothe his nakedness with a sort of fig leaf derived from this portion of the Home Secretary's contention.
These are the rules. How have they been observed? We are now operating, not under the 1966 boundaries, as the right hon. Gentleman said we were by a kind of Freudian slip—naturally he wants to look back to 1966—but the 1953 boundaries. That is the date as at which the last Boundary Commission fixed them as they are. They are already that much time out of date, and at this late hour I am not going to give examples of that.
The Boundary Commissions took four years over their labours and reported in April 1969. The Home Secretary allowed those Boundary Commissions—because there are four of them—to carry out their labours for four years under High Court judges, or their equivalent, and equally distinguished lay members, in the knowledge that he was going to set their findings aside.
I did not know that when I began the series of debates. I owe the Under-Secretary of State thanks for having given me that additional point, because I had forgotten—if I ever knew—that the Home Secretary had, as early as 1966 at least, told the Opposition that he wanted to set aside the Commission's Report, and he got "No" for an answer. Why the Under-Secretary thought that this was a point in favour of the right hon. Gentleman I have never understood, because it is one of the most damning counts in the indictment against the Government. I can only apologise to my right hon. and hon. Friends for having missed the point when I made my first speech. For four years the Government allowed these distinguished gentlemen to waste their time, knowing all along that their findings would be set aside, because they had said so from the start.
That is the beginning of it. When they did report the right hon. Gentleman did not consult the Opposition. He was not bound to. He sat on the Report—despite his obligation to lay it "as soon as may be"—from April until June. Then, on the same date that he was pre-empted by a Motion in the names of my right hon. Friends and myself, he made a statement to the effect that he would disregard the Report and bring in a Bill. The Bill would relieve him of his obligation to keep to the law, and would arrange the constituencies in a way which the Government unilaterally thought most convenient to them.
That Bill was steamrollered through the House on a Three-Line Whip without Amendments of any kind, under a Guillotine procedure which wasted half a day's Parliamentary time, in order to avoid any form of Report stage. So severe was the Whipping that even when drafting mistakes had manifestly been made Amendments were not allowed in order to avoid a Report stage. We sat up all night, and great heat was engendered during the course of the operation.
When the matter went to another place —I am still trying to be factual—[Interruption.] No doubt the Attorney-General, with his forensic skill, will be able to correct me if I am wrong. When the Bill went to another place, that place so far from throwing it out passed Amendments which gave the right hon. Gentlemen time for repentance and amendment of life, which we all hoped. in good faith, they would make good use of. They did take advantage of it to the extent of amendment, but not of amendment of life, because at the next stage they wasted the time of the parliamentary draftsmen by introducing into the House and again passing a totally new Bill—different in character from the first—under the guise of Amendments. Those, in due course, were rejected by another place.
In the course of his somewhat lengthy remarks this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman was at pains to make criticisms of the party complexion of another place. It seems to me, however, that my right hon. Friend was correct in saying—as I believe the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) pointed out on behalf of the Liberal Party—that against the Government on that occasion there was arrayed almost every segment of opinion in the country other than the committed members of the Labour Party. I ventured to point out before that there were about seven permanent heads of the Civil Service, the head of the Government's own Constitutional Commission, Lord Crowther and almost every kind of peer except those who took—and obeyed —the Labour Party Whip, and they were not by any means all the Labour peers. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in antagonising every responsible segment of opinion except those who were too blind with prejudice to see the weakness of his case.
That is where we came in today. Since I have already dealt with it, I will not rub salt into the legal wounds of the Attorney-General, but the interval was occupied by the mandamus proceedings brought by the excellent Mr. McWhirter. I still wish to know how much he got by way of costs out of the Government. I asked the Home Secretary that in the debate on the Address, but he did not tell us. Perhaps he is paying the costs himself, as indeed he should. But this at any rate is where we came in today and now we are being encouraged to undertake the sorry farce of laying the orders so as to satisfy the technical requirements of the law and thereby defeat the mandamus proceedings in the courts, but defeat it in spirit, because the purpose of the law was to "give effect, with or without the modifications", to the findings of the Boundary Commission.
Although I said that I would not try to inflame feeling on this matter, if I call it a sorry farce, I am understating the case. It is rather a squalid tragedy that Parliament should be treated in this contemptuous way by the Government. I note the Patronage Secretary's absence from his customary place. That can only denote that he is ashamed both of what he is doing and of what he has said.
This is all done on an excuse which can hold no water at all. The excuse is the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. The right hon. Gentleman complained that no one had answered his point about this Commission. We have tried patiently to answer it in every debate that has been held. If he had done what the law said, which it was his duty to do, he would have laid the reports and the orders certainly not later than May. By now, they would be law and they would have been able to effect a General Election under them, in an emergency, this winter, but easily by next spring. But that has not been done, because the Government have been determined in no circumstances to do it. But that is none the less the timetable from which we start.
The Redcliffe-Maud proposals, if any of them and when any of them are implemented, or any alternatives are implemented, on the most favourable view taken by the Home Secretary, will not become legislated before 1972, probably October, 1972. I do not think that that is a fair estimate. I think that it will take longer. But I will give the Home Secretary that date, in spite of the fact that I think it is wildly over-optimistic. It must take longer than that after they have legislated to put them into effect on the ground. After they have been put into effect on the ground, there has to be a year of concurrent running between the old authorities and the new, that is to say, if, which has never been denied, the London government proposals are treated as a precedent.
That means that the earliest moment at which the confusion will arise is 1974, and if there does not happen to be a General Election in 1974 it will be held on a date unascertainable thereafter. Even then, it may very well be that five or six years or seven years, whichever is the true figure, is not the optimum period between reviews. But it is not an intolerable period between reviews. What is intolerable is that, in addition to the 16 years which we have already undergone between reviews, we should then have to undergo 6 or 7 to make another 23.
We know, as a matter of fact, that the Government are favoured by the status quo. Let us leave aside questions of motive. This is something the pretence about which has now worn too thin to be maintained. The calculations about advantage to the Government are not based upon any doubtful prognostication of the future. They are a clear statement of fact about the past. They are the calculation of what would have been the result in 1966, had the boundaries been then changed in accordance with the Boundary Commission's Report. They are the calculations, that is, on the basis of no swing either way. Although, like all other calculations, they are subject to human error, there is no doubt that the possibilities, the limitations, of human error are very narrow.
I shall not give way now, because I am coming back to say something about the Home Secretary. He and I have been playing opposite each other for two or three years now—since 1966, I think. I belong to a profession which on the whole prefers to keep on good terms with its opponents. I think that great advantage to the public comes from this course of action in public life, and that great advantage to the client and justice comes from it in litigation.
But I must say this to the right hon. Gentleman. Over that period of years we have dealt with a number of issues together. We have discussed Northern Ireland. Last night we discussed the great issue of immigration. We have been through what is known as the Kenya Asian Immigrants Act together, and we have been through the Race Relations Act together. I think that on the whole the right hon. Gentleman will accept that I have tried to keep the temperature down, that I have been selective about the kind of issue which I thought it right to turn into party matters, that I have tried in what language I can command—and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made a gracious reference to me earlier—to pursue the public interest, and not simply party interest. But by no stretch of my conscience could I overlook what the right hon. Gentleman has done today.
I certainly paid a compliment to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Why does he try to suggest to the House at this stage of our proceedings that my right hon. Friend is a different man today from the man he was yesterday?
It is sheer effrontery on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's part to assume that anybody speaking from this Dispatch Box is any less sincere on the issue than he is. Today he is purely playing party politics, as he did in 1948—[Interruption.]—when he said exactly the same things and used the same violent language on the same sort of case. I have no time for this sort of talk.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After that outburst I will not take offence. All I will say to the Home Secretary is that the reason why I am opposing him tonight is that I am wholly disappointed with, and unconvinced by, his arguments.
As I go around the country, people say to me about the right hon. Gentleman, "He is really not doing such a bad job of work." Sometimes they say it by way of criticism of me, in that I should have attacked him more severely.
He has managed to build up in other fields a reputation for integrity. But what has he done to his reputation tonight by his handling of this matter?
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he!
The eloquence with which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) denied that he was taking a party political interest in this matter was one of the most outstanding cases of Satan denying sin that this House has heard for a very long time and I greatly regret that the excellent tone with which he began his speech was not maintained until its very end. No doubt the intention to instil a little hwyll into the matter got the better of him.
The debate began with an ugly storm of invective and abuse from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition directed largely against my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It had been carefully written and polished before the right hon. Gentleman had heard my right hon. Friend say a word—the kind of contribution to parliamentary debate which should not be emulated.
Whatever, for my guidance, I am reading about the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was written on this bench only after he had made his disgraceful attack on my right hon. Friend.
Happily, however, those who were in the House to hear it heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) do the most total demolition job on a right hon. Gentleman and a speech that I and many hon. Members have heard. I hope that it will be widely circulated throughout the country so that the humbug that has influenced the Opposition in this debate may be appreciated.
It was not my intention to follow a course of personal invective, which has characterised much of today's debate. I say that because it seems to me that the issue that the House must decide tonight is one of practical judgment. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite who had not attended the debate for about three hours care to go back to where they have come from while those who have a serious interest in the issues of the debate remain, I will be most content.
I was saying when I was interrupted—I will not apply an adjective to the quality of the interruption—that the issue that the House must decide is one of practical judgment; whether or not it is in the interest of the country—in the interest of parliamentary and local government efficiency—to implement now the most widespread distribution of parliamentary seats since the Reform Bill, shortly before we are likely to face the biggest upheaval in the structure and organisation of local government for nearly a century in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland.
A further question is whether or not it is good practical sense to deal with both of these upheavals at the same time and, by this means, prevent two damaging developments from taking place; first, over-frequent changes in the identity and structure of constituencies, and, secondly, lack of coincidence between local and parliamentary boundaries. Those are the issues which the debate should be about and really is about for those who apply themselves seriously to the problem. As to the first consideration, it ought, I should have thought, to be common ground that the less disturbance of parliamentary boundaries one can have, compatible with good democratic prim ciples, the better, quite apart from the position of a Member of Parliament himself, or his local party, and the knowledge they have of the problems of their areas, and the sense of identity and pride in the constituency that good constituencies certainly have.
As to the second consideration—
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make one thing quite clear? Is he saying that the present structure of parliamentary constituencies is compatible with what he calls good democratic principles?
I think that it needs improvement—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and that the improvement should be introduced alongside with and at the same time as the improvement in the local government structure. We know that that will happen in four or five years' time.
The second consideration that is obviously desirable is the parliamentary and local government boundaries should, as far as is practicable, coincide. That is one of the principles enshrined in the Schedule to the 1949 Act. As the House knows, the Boundary Commissions are required to use local government boundaries in formulating their recommendations for the alteration of constituency boundaries, and they are encouraged not to recommend that parts of different administrative units should be joined together in one constituency.
That is obviously desirable for administrative reasons and for political reasons generally. The same boundares can be used for both parliamentary and local government elections. Polling arrangements for both types of election can be the same. The register of electors can be used for both without rearrangement. On the other hand, if the local government area is divided between two or more constituencies it is necessary for parts of the registers of those constituencies to be combined to form the register used at a particular local government election. There is also the question of convenience to local party organisations. For these reasons, it is obvious that this coincidence should be maintained.
What is happening at this time is that the recommendations of the Commissions have, as has been said, involved a major unheaval in the political map—
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Maud recommends unitary local authorities and that the whole of Cornwall should be a single unit? Is he suggesting that there should be only one M.P. for Cornwall?
The effect of the Maud recommendations will be to cut across a large number of constituencies that are planned by the Boundary Commission recommendations. It is clear that once the recommendations of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission are implemented—and the Prime Minister has said that a White Paper dealing with the matter will be published before long—the consequence will be that, for instance, 94 of the constituencies recommended will be divided between two or more of the recommended main local authority units, and those 94 constituencies will be cut in two or even more parts by boundaries recommended in the new main local government issues.
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes on boring the House with the speech he has written, although we on this side are very fond of him, may I ask him two simple questions? Will the Government gain or not gain under the terms of what they are trying to vote tonight? If they are to gain, by how many are they to gain? Will he answer those two questions? [Interruption.]
I was not sure for the moment whether I was giving way to the hon. and gallant Member or he was giving way to me. The answer to the question, of course, is, we do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] On the other side of the House there is, I believe, a mountain of wishful thinking about these Boundary Commission proposals, and all the allegations of gerrymandering are made on the basis of an unproved hypothesis. We do not know; the estimates of distinguished experts in this field like Mr. David Butler certainly do not confirm the optimism of the other side of the House nor necessarily the pessimism that has existed on this side of the House.
The country has to face this real problem, whether to have two major dislocations in constituencies. [Interruption.] We regretted earlier the forthcoming departure of the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) from the House at the end of this Parliament. I hope that his present departure from the Chamber will not have such a disturbing quality. I hope that he survives that departure without having apoplexy.
It was suggested in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, I understand, that it may well have been that the Boundary Commissioners did pay attention to the Maud proposals and considerations. I did not quite follow that suggestion. They could not possibly have known what the Maud recommendations were, unless there were some private meetings between the members of the Commissions of which the right hon. Gentleman knows and which certainly we on this side of the House do not know.
I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to make a false point. What my right hon. Friend did was to point out that the Home Secretary had said that the Maud Commission had taken account of the possibility of local government changes, and he drew this as an example of the reasons why it did not afford an excuse for what the Government were doing. That was quite a different point from the one the Attorney-General was making.
Of course they paid regard to some minor local government changes that were made, but the Boundary Commission reported on 21st April, 1969, before the Maud Commission reported on the 28th May, 1969. So the Boundary Commission was denied knowledge of what the Maud proposals would involve.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) criticised the Gov ernment for not having taken some action earlier on the whole problem after the Maud Commission was set up. He should know that the Government approached the Opposition through the usual channels proposing suspension of the work of the Boundary Commissions when the Royal Commission on local government was set up in 1966. We know that the reaction from the Opposition was negative. Therefore, the problem was considered at that time, but the Opposition did not support the recommendations.
The solution that the Government proposed, in view of the practical situation that has to be met, was perfectly sensible. They introduced the Bill which would have provided for the implementation of the Boundary Commission's recommendations in respect of London, where boundaries will not be affected by the local government reorganisation. The Bill also dealt with nine constituencies with abnormally large electorates.
In its final form, the Bill would have provided for the Boundary Commission to reconsider boundaries generally in the light of local government reorganisation; but, as a guarantee that this would not lead to the whole matter being shelved, the Bill provided for the implementation of the 1969 Reports if by March, 1972 it appeared that the Reports would be delayed.
When an Opposition Amendment was moved calling for the acceptance of such an undertaking for a period up to May, 1972, it was said by Opposition spokesmen that acceptance of that Amendment would be a test of the Government's good faith. In the Bill in its ultimate form the Government improved on that and offered the date March, 1972.
Unhappily, the sensible solution in the Bill, which was approved by this House, was rejected by the Lords. I am interested to note that the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the Government should now persist with the machinery of the Parliament Act, no doubt he being confident that his cohorts in the Lords will create the maximum difficulty once again for the Government.
The use of the provisions of the Parliament Act would not meet the difficulties, because the Royal Assent, on the timing that I have calculated, could not be given until 2nd August, 1970, and the Bill could not come into being, therefore, until the beginning of September. If there is to be an autumn election, as some newspapers seem to think, the pressure of time and the problems or re-organisation would be impossible. In addition, the division of the large constituencies would involve fresh inquiry by the Boundary Commissions; and that could not have been done before a General Election.
It has been suggested that the Government have acted unconstitutionally. Sir Austen Chamberlain said this in the House in 1932:
Unconstitutional ' is a term applied in politics to the other fellow who does something that you do not like.
That is a description of the Opposition's attitude now. The Government's proposal embodied in the Bill was a constitutional proposal, and it is only because the Bill was rejected in another place that we have to consider these orders tonight. It has been suggested that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has acted with illegality in this matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and accordingly, if the murmur of disinterest will subside for a moment, I will deal with the legal problems that have been put to me in the course of the debate. The 1949 Act, as the House knows—[Interruption.].
The 1949 Act, as the House has heard on many occasions, is, in the relevant Section, in these terms:
As soon as may be after a Boundary Commission have submitted a report to the Secretary of State under this Act, he shall lay the report before Parliament together—
I now quote the relevant words—
… with the draft of an Order in Council for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the report.
It is important to note that the words
for giving effect … to the recommendations contained in the report
are descriptive of the draft Order. The Act does not place upon the Home Secretary a duty to give effect to the recommendations. Indeed, how could it? The Act expressly authorises him to make modifications to the recommendations in the draft Order.
Furthermore, a draft order cannot take effect until it has been approved by a Resolution of each House of Parliament. It is inconceivable that an Act of Parliament would place a duty upon a Minister to seek to ensure that the House should pass a particular Resolution. Such an idea would be derogatory to the House itself. Parliament has clearly not intended to fetter its own independence in considering draft Orders. Indeed, the 1949 Act expressly provides what is to happen if either House does reject a draft Order. If Parliament had intended that every recommendation of the Boundary Commission should be implemented and that Parliament should have no discretion in the matter, it would have been perfectly possible, by legislation, to have provided that those recommendations should be given effect to by Order in Council. There would then have been no provision for the Home Secretary to suggest modifications and no provision for the House to consider the recommendations in debate on a resolution of a draft Order.
The pathetic suggestion has been made that the Home Secretary's decision to go forward with these draft Orders has been forced upon him by action taken in the courts. That, of course, is not so. The history of the matter is quite simply that the Government considered that the proper way of proceeding was to introduce legislation, and this they did by introducing the Bill. So long as that Bill was before the House there was no question of laying a draft Order. It is true that the Boundary Commission Reports were published by my right hon. Friend so that the House would be informed of the Reports in considering the Bill that the Government introduced.
When it became clear that the Bill would probably be, or at least might be, rejected in another place the Home Secretary had to consider his position, as the 1949 Act places upon him a duty to lay a draft Order—to lay it, I may say, "as soon as may be"—and those words covered the interval during which the Bill was before Parliament. The Home Secretary announced that as he could not recommend the House to implement the recommendations of the Boundary Commission, he would lay a draft Order and advise the House to reject it.
I will give way in one moment, after I have finished these observations.
The proceedings in the courts did not affect this decision at all. I appeared for the Home Secretary in those proceedings, and when the applicant announced that he was withdrawing his motion I made it clear that I would have submitted, had the case gone on, that the Home Secretary's actions had been entirely lawful and free of any taint of illegality[Interruption]—and I would have had formidable arguments to support that contention.
I have been asked why, in those circumstances, bearing in mind the confidence I had in the quality of my case, the Home Secretary agreed to make a contribution towards the costs. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much?"] The answer to the question "How much?" is that no submission for the ex-gratia payment has yet been received from the applicant.
If there were time I would give way, but I must deal with this matter.
When the applicant in the proceedings asked for the costs, having withdrawn his motion, I explained to the court that it was my contention that his application was doomed to fail and I would resist his application for costs. I had. however, to inform the court that my argument on the law would last about a day and a half, if not more. The court commented that it would be unfortunate if the whole case had to be argued on the question of costs and the Lord Chief Justice suggested an adjournment so that the parties could try to reach an agreement about costs.
With that indication of the court's view, bearing in mind that the applicant's counsel had withdrawn an imputation against the integrity of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, an attitude which would have been more worthy from the other side of the House, bearing in mind the need to save the court's time and that of those who would have been involved in the presentation of the Home Secretary's case and bearing in mind that the cost to the taxpayer if the proceedings had lasted for several days would have exceeded that which may ultimately have to be paid, I thought it right to accede to the suggestion of the court and take the responsibility to suggest to the Home Secretary that an ex-gratia payment should be made towards the applicant's Costs.
In announcing that to the court, I made it quite clear that it was an ex-gratia payment and I did not resile from my position that the Home Secretary's actions had been entirely lawful throughout. It was a sensible and wise course and only the ignorant, the malicious and the misinformed would be capable of taking any other view of the matter. Unfortunately, there has been a wide combination of all those factors in the Tory arrogance that we have had throughout this debate and I think it is deplorable that that has been the mood in which the debate has been conducted.
|Division No. 3.]||AYES||10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Edelman, Maurice||Lawson, George|
|Albu, Austen||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Ellis, John||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Allen, Scholefield||English, Michael||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Anderson, Donald||Ennals, David||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ensor, David||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)|
|Ashley, Jack||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Faulds, Andrew||Lipton, Marcus|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Fernyhough, E.||Loughlin, Charles|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Finch, Harold||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Barnett, Joel||Fletcher,RtHn.SirEric(Islington,E.)||McBride, Neil|
|Baxter, William||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McCann, John|
|Beaney, Alan||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||MacColl, James|
|Bence, Cyril||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Ford, Ben||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Forrester, John||McElhone, F.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fowler, Gerry||McGuire, Michael|
|Binns, John||Fraser, John (Norwood)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Bishop, E. S.||Freeson, Reginald||Mackenzie, Gregos (Rutherglen)|
|Blackburn, F.||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackie, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Gardner, Tony||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Garrett, W. E.||Maclennan, Robert|
|Booth, Albert||Ginsburg, David||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Boston, Terence||Golding, J.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Boyden, James||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Bradley, Tom||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Gregory, Arnold||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Manuel, Archie|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon.Tyne,W.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mapp, Charles|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Marks, Kenneth|
|Buchan, Norman||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marquand, David|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hannan, William||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Harper, Joseph||Maxwell, Robert|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Cant, R. B.||Haseldine, Norman||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hattersley, Roy||Mendelson, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hazell, Bert||Millan, Bruce|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Heifer, Eric S.||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Coe, Denis||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hilton, W. S.||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hooley, Frank||Molloy, William|
|Conlan, Bernard||Horner, John||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Cronin, John||Howie, W.||Moyle, Roland|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Huckfield, Leslie||Murray, Albert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Newens, Stan|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hunter, Adam||Norwood, Christopher|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hynd, John||Oakes, Gordon|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Ogden, Eric|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Janner, Sir Barnett||O'Halloran, M. J.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n & St.P'cras,S.)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dell, Edmund||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Devlin, Miss Bernadette||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Padley, Walter|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Dobson, Ray||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Driberg, Tom||Judd, Frank||Park, Trevor|
|Dunn, James A.||Kelley, Richard||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'h'e)||Latham, A.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Pentland, Norman||Short,RtHn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Short, Mrs. Rente(W'hampton,N.E.)||Weitzman, David|
|Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Silverman, Julius||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Skeffington, Arthur||Whitaker, Ben|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Slater, Joseph||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Probert, Arthur||Small, William||Whitlock, William|
|Randall, Harry||Snow, Julian||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rankin, John||Spriggs, Leslie||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Rees, Merlyn||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Richard, Ivor||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Williams, Clifford (AbertillerY)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Taverns, Dick||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Thornton, Ernest||Winnick, David|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Tinn, James||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Rose, Paul||Tomney, Frank||Woof, Robert|
|Rowlands, E.||Urwin, T. W.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Ryan, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Sheldon, Robert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. William Hamling and|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Wallace, George||Mr. loan L. Evans.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire,W.)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Holland, Philip|
|Astor, John||Dean, Paul||Hooson, Emlyn|
|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)||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hunt, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Batsford, Brian||Eden, Sir John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Emery, Peter||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bell, Ronald||Errington, Sir Eric||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Eyre, Reginald||Jopling, Michael|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Blaker, Peter||Fortescue, Tim||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Foster, Sir John||Kimball, Marcus|
|Body, Richard||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.O)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Gibson-Watt, David||Kitson, Timothy|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Boyle, Rt. Hit, Sir Edward||Glyn, Sir Richard||Lambton, Viscount|
|Braine, Bernard||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Brewis, John||Goodhart, Philip||Lane, David|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Goodhew, Victor||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bromley-Davenport,L t.-Col.SirWalter||Gower, Raymond||Lawler, Wallace|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Grant, Anthony||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Bryan, Paul||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus,N & M)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Grieve, Percy||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Griffiths,Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Burden, F. A.||Gurden, Harold||Longden, Gilbert|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mackenzie,Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Chataway, Christopher||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harrison, Brian (Maydon)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Clark, Henry||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Macmillan, Maurice, (Farnham)|
|Clegg, Walter||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Cooke, Robert||Harvie Anderson, Miss||McNair,Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hastings, Stephen||Maddan, Martin|
|Cordle, John||Hawkins, Paul||Maginnis, John E.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hay, John||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Costain, A. P.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Marten, Neil|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maude, Angus|
|Crouch, David||Heseltine, Michael||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Crowder, F P.||Higgins, Terence L.||Mawby, Ray|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Riley, Joseph||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hilt, J. E. B.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Pym, Francis||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Temple, John M.|
|Monro, Hector||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Morgan Ciles, Rear-Adm.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Tilney, John|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Turton, Rt. Hn, R. H.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||van Strauhenzee, W. R.|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridsdale, Julian||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Murton, Oscar||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Waddington, David|
|Naharro, Sir Gerald||Robson Brown, Sir William||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Neave, Airey||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Walters, Dennis|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Ward, C. (Swindon)|
|Nott, John||Royle, Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Russell, Sir Ronald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott, Nicholas||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Scott-Hopkins, James||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn, William|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sharpies, Richard||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'h'gh & Whitby)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Silvester, Frederick||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pardoe, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Peel, John||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Percival, Ian||Stainton, Keith||Worsley, Marcus|
|Peyton, John||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stodart, Anthony||Younger, Hn. George|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Pounder, Rafton||Summers, Sir Spencer||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Jasper More.|