Parliamentary Constituencies (Orders)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th October 1970.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen 12:00 am, 28th October 1970

Before I call the Home Secretary to move the first Motion—and before, so I understand, I am addressed on a point of order—it may help the House if I explain that there are two courses which the House can take this afternoon. We can either have four separate debates on the four Orders, the subject of the Motions standing on the Order Paper, or we can have one general debate in which everything arising on any of the four can be canvassed and debated, with votes, if necessary, on each of the Orders at the end of that single debate.

This is a question for the House to decide. Do I take it that the House agrees that we have a single debate?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I understand that there have been discussions through the usual channels, Mr. Speaker, and that agreement has been reached about it.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

In our view, that is the right procedure. It is one that we have followed before.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that my hon. Friend is probably on the same point, or a similar point. You will have noted, Sir, that there are over 20 Amendments set down to the proposed Motions, because hon. Members on both sides, apparently, wish to discuss their individual constituencies and the effect which the proposed Orders would have upon their constituencies. By way of a preliminary point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether you intend to call any of the Amendments?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I think that he is probably right in suggesting that hon. Members will be interested in the fate of the Amendments which have been put down.

The position is this. The Amendments are not in order. It is not in order to amend Statutory Instruments proceeding in pursuance to the Act of Parliament of 1949 with which we are here concerned, the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act. The Instruments before us today may be approved or rejected, or withdrawn by the Minister. No other course is possible.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the appropriate provisions of the 1949 Act, an Act which we cannot discuss or amend this afternoon. It is Section 3 (4): If any such draft is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall submit it to His Majesty in Council.(5) If a motion for the approval of any such draft is rejected by either House of Parliament or withdrawn by leave of the House, the Secretary of State may amend the draft and lay the amended draft before Parliament, and if the draft as so amended is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall submit it to His Majesty in Council. Thus, all we can do this afternoon is either reject or approve the four Orders, but we may advance as reasons for rejection or approval of them the points which are raised by the Amendments.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for your careful answer to my question, which, if I may say so, was much as I had expected. But it puts the House in the difficulty that there may be large parts of an Order which are approved although, clearly, there will be individual sections disapproved of by individual Members and on which, if they had opportunity, they might be able to carry the House. The Government have put us in this position today by laying the Orders en bloc. [Laughter.] Yes, I am fully aware of all this.

I should like to be clear on the matter, Mr. Speaker. Could you confirm that it would be possible, without any offence to the Act, for the Government to do what has been done on previous occasions—and about which there was complaint because I did not do it when they were in opposition—namely, lay these Orders individually, by counties, or in any other form which they choose so that the House may be free to take individual decisions on counties or constituencies?

Would you be good enough to confirm that that is so, Sir? I believe that it is, and, in that circumstance, if the Government have chosen not to do it they have acted of their own free will and they are themselves denying the House this opportunity, although they complained bitterly that it was not given to them when they were in opposition.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I can rule only on matters of order. I cannot rule on the motives in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House. All I can say is that the proceedings on which we are about to embark are perfectly in order. We are carrying out a perfectly usual and normal procedure. I cannot rule on hypothetical questions.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I was not asking you to rule on the motives of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Far be it from me to suggest that you should peer into those murky depths. I was asking whether there is anything in the rules of the House which would prevent the Government from giving the House an opportunity to debate these questions. I take it that there is nothing, and, therefore, the Government must accept full responsibility for asking us to agree to these Orders, although they could have presented them in a different way, and a way which would give the House an opportunity to make Amendments.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

That is a matter for the two Front Benches, not for Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Kensington North

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I accept, of course, the Ruling which you have given, but it appears that the House is put in an exceedingly unsatisfactory situation. May I put it to you, Sir, that one of the Amendments put down raises two substantial point of constitutional law: one, as to whether the recommendations presented to the Home Secretary are ultra vires as the Boundary Commission presented them; and two, as certain High Court proceedings, in which you, Mr. Speaker, were one of the defendants, were overridden by the presentation of the Boundary Commission's report, the only way, once the jurisdiction of the court has been ousted, by which the legality of the recommendations can be tested is in this House, but, if the Amendment is not to be called, it becomes impossible for the legality of the proposals to be considered in any forum whatsoever.

While I accept that the wording of the Act would appear to support the Ruling which you have given, Mr. Speaker, I submit that this is a highly unsatisfactory situation, and I implore you to find any solution you can to enable the matter to be discussed.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman has clearly expressed, first, the importance which he attaches to his Amendment, and second, his regret that Mr. Speaker cannot change the rules of order, or the parent Act of Parliament or the procedure on Statutory Instruments. I imagine that other hon. Members may share his regret, but nothing can be done about it.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

With respect, Sir, is that really so? Is it true that nothing can be done about it? I agree, if I may say so with respect, that, in the way the Orders have been presented, they have to be accepted or rejected en bloc, but the point I am putting, with respect, is that, despite what you have said, the Act does not require them to be presented en bloc, that bitter complaint was made on a previous occasion when they were presented en bloc, and that on other occasions they had been presented separately.

Although there may be nothing that can be done at this moment, is it not clear that the Government chose to do it in this way, although they could give the House a full opportunity of debating these matters separately by withdrawing the Orders as they now stand and relaying them in separate form?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. It is in order for the House either to reject the Orders or to accept them, or for the Government to withdraw them. No doubt, when we come to the argument on the Orders themselves, these points will be advanced as reasons why they should be rejected.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not true that, if the Labour Whips in the last Parliament had not killed my Amendment of Statutory Instruments Bill, they would have been able to amend Statutory Instruments, so that any complaint now about inability to amend comes very ill from right hon. and hon. Members opposite?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

We know the hon. Gentleman's interest in the child which he lost in the House, but that is not a point of order.

4.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I beg to move, That the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved. We shall debate at the same time, the three further Motions, as follows: That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) Order, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved.That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved.That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) Order, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969 in the last Parliament, be approved. As my Motion makes clear, the draft Orders were laid in the last Parliament. The Motion differs only in one small particular from that moved by my predecessor on 12th November, 1969, the small particular being the omission of the word "not" before "approved". Therefore, I do not think that it is very easy for my predecessor to object to a procedure which follows so closely the admirable example he set us then.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The charge the Opposition made against me was precisely that I was presenting the orders en bloc, and that any decent Government should present them in a way in which they could be discussed individually. Why has the right hon. Gentleman now gone back on that, or was the opposition totally synthetic?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I was merely pointing out that it was a little difficult for the right hon. Gentleman of all people in the country to complain about the procedure we are following.

The Motion is in exactly the same terms, apart from the omission of the word "not". The effect is to carry out in full the recommendations of the impartial Boundary Commissions. I stress the word "impartial". It is enormously important. There is a very strong case in all the circumstances for accepting in full the recommendations of a body seen and known to be impartial. We must recognise in the House that any appearance of the Government of the day apparently picking and choosing between individual recommendations is bound to lead to suspicion. That, on this particular occasion, is especially important in view of the very unhappy circumstances that surrounded the issue in the previous Parliament. It is of the utmost importance to restore and retain public faith in the impartiality of Parliament as a whole and of individual Members of Parliament in matters touching upon electoral advantage.

We are a parliamentary democracy, but in practice our form of democracy really means the dictatorship for the time being of the party that holds a majority in this House. This form of democracy, I think the best in the world, is tolerable only so long as the electorate as a whole believes that those who are given power, who are granted a majority, get it on a fair and honourable basis. That is why it is fundamentally important that the public should be convinced, and have clear evidence, that an impartial review of the constituency boundaries should not be varied at all for reasons which might appear to be partial in any particular. That is why, in the Government's view, we are concerned with a matter of major principle. We made quite clear our intention to do what we are doing this afternoon, and we certainly have the support of the people of the country, before whom we put our intention at the last General Election.

If the draft Orders are approved in both Houses, as I hope they will be, I shall submit them to Her Majesty in Council, and they will subsequently come into force in 14 days, but they will be effective only for the next General Election. By-elections in the meanwhile will not be affected by the new Orders. This is standard constitutional practice, laid down by the Act.

The reports of the four Boundary Commissions are the result of their second periodic general review—the first since 1954. They are the outcome of four years' hard work, and I know that both sides of the House will wish me, like my predecessor, to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and your fellow Members and your assistant Commissioners, for the pains you took in your deliberations, for the meticulous care taken in conducting inquiries, and for the admirably detailed way in which the Commissions' recommendations have been explained. These explanations are far fuller than was generally the case in the 1954 reports, and for this the House is grateful.

I should briefly explain the effect of the Orders, although no doubt they are well known to most hon. Members. Article 2 of each Order substitutes the constituencies described in Part II of the Schedule for those described in Part I. Unless otherwise stated, the constituencies in Part II are described by reference to the circumstances of 1st January, 1969. Certain changes in local government boundaries—mostly minor changes—have, of course, occurred since then. It is difficult for any Order of this kind ever to be completely up to date, but this time the changes are rather more numerous than usual, because of the time which has elapsed since the Commissions reported and the draft Orders were laid.

I regret this, but it is another consequence of the rather unusual parliamentary proceedings in the previous Parliament. The Commissions have, of course, power to submit interim reports, and I have no doubt they will consider the need to do so in appropriate cases, to take account of the changes already made and of any other boundary adjustments which may be made before local government reorganisation. I shall say more about this later.

Between them, the four Orders provide for major alterations in 322 out of 630 constituencies, and for minor alterations in a further 88. The draft Order relating to Northern Ireland affects eight of the 12 constituencies, notably South Antrim and North Down, which will be considerably reduced in size. South Antrim is now the largest constituency in the United Kingdom, with over 144,000 electors. Here let me remind the House—since someone is sure to raise it—that the Rules for Redistribution fix the number of Northern Ireland consituencies at 12. This is rather fewer in proportion to population than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The reason for this is the view which was taken when the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920, that, having its own Parliament, Northern Ireland did not need representation at Westminster on the same scale as England, Wales and Scotland. I am sure the House will agree that, if there were to be any reappraisal of this, it could best be made in the context of the report of the Commission on the Constitution.

The draft Order for Wales makes few changes. The number of constituencies remains at 36, and there are major alterations in seven of these—all in South Wales.

The draft Order for England makes major alterations in 271 constituencies, and minor alterations in a further 75. In addition, there are to be five new constituencies, bringing the English total to 516.

This total of 516 is, in fact, still rather less than the number of seats to which England would be entitled by electorate, by comparison with Scotland and Wales. Even with the five new seats, the average constituency electorate in England will be 9,000 more than in Wales and 12,000 more than in Scotland. Sixteen English counties will have one or two more seats, and four will have one or two fewer. Greater London, which now has 99 constituencies and the major part of four more, will have 92.

Now let us look at the effect of these changes in terms of adjustments where they are most needed—adjustments to the largest constituencies and to the smallest. The electoral quota which the Commissions were required by their rules to take into account was that of 1965. And the quota for England—that is the total electorate divided by the existing number of constituencies—in 1965 was 58,759. That was the average constituency electorate. But the Commission's work lasted for four years, and by 1968 the electoral quota had risen to 59,825.

Some constituencies were growing fast, and in others the electorate was declining. In certain borderline cases where the 1968 figures confirmed an existing trend, the Commission took account of such changes, and there is of course nothing in their rules which says they must not do so. What the rules say is that the electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable having regard to the foregoing rules. It is for the Commission to decide what is practicable.

Up to 1969 the electoral quota rose, with the normal growth of population, by a few hundred a year. But in 1970, with the lowering of the voting age to 18, the quota jumped by several thousand to 64,502. We must bear this in mind in looking at the size of the new constituencies. The Commissions aimed at electorates of between 40,000 and 80,000. In terms of 1970 electorates, with this increase this aim would have been, say, 45,000 to 85,000, and no fewer than 496 of the 516 new English constituencies are, in fact, within this range. Only 10 are smaller and only 10 are larger.

To bring up to date the figures in Appendix C of the reports of the Boundary Commissions, I have placed in the Library of the House tables showing the 1970 electorates of all the new constituencies constituted by the draft Orders.

Those are briefly the details of the effect of the Orders. I do not think that anyone would now need to be persuaded about the necessity for change. The present distribution of constituencies is based on the situation in 1954–16 years ago. It is clearly time for a change, and we can see this illustrated in some of the constituencies. For example, Portsmouth, Langstone has 113,000 electors, Billericay 124,000 and Epping 116,000, while Birmingham, Ladywood has only 18,000, Glasgow, Kelvingrove 19,000, and Orkney and Shetland 25,000. The possibility of this unacceptable discrepancy in the size of constituencies was recognised by Parliament when it provided for an impartial review at intervals of a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 15 years.

It seems to me that there are only two possible arguments against passing the Orders today. The first might be that some detailed changes are wrong or have been overtaken by time, and the second that there will have to be another review after the reform of local government which is foreseen.

I should like to deal with those two points. First, as you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, obviously individual constituencies can and will be raised in the course of debate as illustrations of the principle we are discussing. But the Commissions took very great care in the work they did. The job they have to do, and the rules by which they must work, require a constant process of judgment and compromise, a constant awareness of local circumstances, and a constant readiness to modify their views and their provisional recommendations in response to soundly-based local representations. I believe that the recommendations of the Commissions and the number of local inquiries they held—10 times the number held in 1954—are witness to the great care which the Commissions gave to their task.

I hope that these considerations will help those hon. Members—and I know that there are several—who are unhappy about particular recommendations, to accept them as a fair outcome, a fair answer to a series of complex and interrelated problems, and a fair reconciliation of widely differing views and interests.

But, above all, the Government attach great importance to accepting these impartial reports in full as a token of the determination of the House to make quite clear that there will always be impartiality in the electoral arrangements in this country.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is a rather dangerous practice if any Commission appointed by the House to investigate a problem, whether constitutional or otherwise, is to do so on the understanding that what it recommends will be implemented without any discussion or amendment by the House?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The hon. Gentleman has not quite taken my point, which is that the recommendations of these Commissions affect both political parties and individual M.P.s. Therefore, in these circumstances there is a quite exceptional need to ensure that impartiality is observed, and openly observed. It is a very special case, and a very strong constitutional argument.

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

Whilst I accept all that the Home Secretary has said, can he give any logical reason why the people he has mentioned, such as political parties, M.P.s and local people, who know local circumstances better than other people cannot suggest an improvement in the name of a constituency, even though that would mean no change in the proposals?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I know that there are arguments about names. The question of name affected my own constituency. By sheer coincidence we got what we wanted, which meant that others did not get what they wanted. Where there are disputes, as there can be in these important matters, I say once again that it is right for the decision to be taken by an impartial body, and is in accordance with our traditions.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

On a point of order. The Home Secretary is presenting an argument which the House will agree is complex. We are all trying to follow it closely, but the right hon. Gentleman said that the list of 1970 electorates has been placed in the Library. This is not so. I have just been to the Library to endeavour to obtain a copy of this document. It is not there. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how hon. Members on this side of the House at least, if not hon. Members generally, can follow this complex argument in the absence of this vital document?

Further, another document which is essential if we are to be able to follow the debate and which the Government should have provided is the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, but it is impossible to obtain copies of this Act from the Vote Office. Again, I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. How can the House follow the Home Secretary's complex argument in the absence of these essential documents? Will you ensure that the Government provide these documents for the consideration of the House, so that hon. Members can follow the Home Secretary's argument?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Strictly speaking, these are not matters of order for the Chair. I am sure that the Home Secretary would be under the complete understanding that these documents are available and that, if they are not available, it would not be his fault, and that he will do all he can to ensure that they are available.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

On the question of the interim review provisions, which I think is of interest to a number of hon. Members, there is provision for interim reviews to be made in particular circumstances—

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that in representing Mr. Speaker, as you do in that Chair, you are in charge of the Library. In so far as you have that authority and there is something essential to the debate which is required, I believe that the point of order which was addressed to you was in order. I was wondering whether the Home Secretary can say whether he can meet the requirements of this debate by enabling the Library to satisfy that which seems to be necessary for the further continuance of this debate.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I understood that the document had been placed in the Library. I am checking on that. If it has not been, the omission will be repaired imemdiately. If I had not mentioned these figures in the first place, nobody would have asked for them.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

I had intended to go to the Library to ascertain whether this information was available at the start of the debate. I think that the Home Secretary should withdraw that imputation.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

If the hon. Gentleman were interested in my speech, he might have gone a little earlier to see whether the information was available.

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

Further to that point of order. You may recollect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a recent case when papers and documents which should have been available for Members were not available and Mr. Speaker then, very kindly and helpfully, arranged for those documents to be Roneoed. With the help of the staff of the House and the Clerk, Roneoed copies were provided and, no doubt with the help of the Government at that time, they were circulated to all Members.

As I understand, there is not one of these documents available. I am more concerned that hon. Members on the Government side should have these papers and documents. I suggest that it is the usual custom and practice of the Chair to ensure that hon. Members can and do have these documents. I did not know that there was such a document until the Home Secretary mentioned it. If there are such documents, all hon. Members should have copies.

Whilst I have been speaking I see that the Home Secretary, very fortunately, no doubt because he is the Home Secretary, has been supplied with a copy. I should like to know why the Home Secretary, as an ordinary Member of the House, is getting preferential treatment over myself; because I, too, am a Member of Parliament and I, too, am entitled to have a copy. I see that the Home Secretary is sending his P.P.S. all round the place to get copies for the Government Front Bench. May I request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you ask the P.P.S. to obtain copies for myself and all other hon. Members?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I was seized of what the hon. Gentleman was saying. What Mr. Speaker did on that occasion was not quite the same as this. This is not strictly a point of order. Nevertheless, I am sure that the word will go forth to the Librarian now to help in every possible way and I am sure that the Home Secretary will do all that he can to help. It is not strictly speaking a point of order, not the same as that on which Mr. Speaker ruled.

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

On a point of order. In view of the crucial importance of these documents to enable the House to give proper consideration to this matter, may I suggest that the House adjourn for an hour until they are available for Members in the Library?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I think that there has been some misunderstanding, because I have here the letter which covered the delivery of the documents to the Library some days ago. There must be some misunderstanding in the Library. I quote from the letter the Home Office sent: I am also enclosing certain unpublished tables … of the proposed new constituencies for the use of Members. So far as I know, that has been carried out and the information that I wanted Members to have has been despatched.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

Further to that point of order. I do not think that any of us are particularly concerned to ascribe blame as between the Home Secretary and the Library. What we want is a document which is germane. It is one of the points which is relevant to my speech. We want to see what the up-to-date position is.

Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would you be willing to accept the Motion which my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) was willing to move, namely, that the debate be adjourned for, say, 30 minutes, to enable the Library to find the document or, alternatively, to enable the Home Office to provide the Library with more documents so that we can have the document before us?

After all, the Home Secretary has quoted from the document. I will not belabour the hon. Gentleman with the rules of order about whether his speech is in order if he quotes from a document which is not before us. I endeavoured beforehand to get details of the 1970 electorates—not from the Library, but by my own researches. I was not able to do so very successfully. It would be valuable if we could see these figures. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford had a case in asking that the debate be adjourned for a short time.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I think that I can now help the House. I have received further information. The information was placed in the Library two weeks ago. When approached by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) the Librarian thought that the hon. Gentleman referred to the "Electronics Order". These copies will now be found to be available.

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

Further to that point of order. We have all enjoyed the Home Secretary's electronic joke, but I am not concerned about whether there was or is a document that has been laid. The Home Secretary said that copies are available. There may be a copy in the Library, but I do not believe that 500 copies are available for hon. Members. Our usual custom and practice is to go to the Vote Office and obtain, if necessary, one for ourselves and, as I often do, a supply for hon. Members on both sides. I want to be assured that I can go to the Library and obtain 100 or 150 copies of this document.

I am not concerned whether my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) said "electronic" or "election". I trust his word implicitly and I am sure he is right in saying that there are not 500 copies available.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I must make it clear to the House that these are not points of order. These are questions of arrangements by the Government and what they can best do in the interests of the House. There is nothing that I can do, in the sense of a direction on a point of order, to help the hon. Gentleman. What I can and will do is to look into the circumstances of what has happened and, if there has been any slip-up by the Library or, indeed, by anybody else. I will do everything that I can to rectify it. There is nothing I can do here and now. So I ask the House to let the matter rest there now and let the Home Secretary proceed with his speech.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

Further to that point of order and with great deference to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I suggest that this matter could be a point of order in so far as the document has not been produced to the House and laid on the Table. The question whether the document is in the Library does not answer this. I quote from page 458 of the current edition of Erskine May: Another rule or principle of debate may be here added. A Minister of the Crown is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch or other State paper not before the House, unless he is prepared to lay it upon the table. If that is correct, I submit that this therefore becomes a point of order.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I am still of the same opinion as I was before, that what the hon. Gentleman is saying is not particularly germane to this case. I therefore rule that it is not a point of order and I call the Home Secretary to continue his speech.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Further to that point of order. I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the difficult situation you are in, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that you understand that we as Members of the House are in a difficult situation, too. Therefore, may I, through you, appeal to the Home Secretary to help the House and to help you in your difficult situation by agreeing to the proposal that we should suspend the debate for at least half an hour to enable hon. Members to sort this matter out and read the document for themselves, thereby relieving you of a difficult situation and satisfying the will of the House?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

The Home Secretary is not under the rules of order able to decide that question. I have to decide that question on the strength of what I think is right. I rule that the House should not be adjourned and that the Home Secretary do continue his speech.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I am sure that we all accept that Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I say, further to the point of order, that I have now been given one copy of this statement.

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

Why has my right hon. Friend been so honoured?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

That is a very good question, and I was about to spring to my hon. Friend's defence. Apparently, there are two copies available, one of which I have been fortunate enough to obtain and the second of which must not be taken from the Library. As I cast my eye over this document I see that it throws up important considerations.

I am submitting this on a point of order to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to why hon. Members should have these figures. I beg you to believe that this is a serious point of order. The constituency of Gateshead is almost the first one on which my eye alights. The 1965 figures for the two constituencies of Gateshead were 52,000 and 40,000, in reasonable equality. In 1970 Gateshead, East has risen to 62,000 and Gateshead, West dropped to 34,000 The House might feel much more deeply than it does now even about the need to discuss the Orders individually if there are other such illustrations where, within the space of five years, on the basis of the figures that are now in the Library, such a discrepancy can occur.

I therefore ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it could well influence the way in which hon. Members decide on this issue, whether you will not seriously consider the not unreasonable suggestion that for the space of 30 minutes the House should adjourn. Let us have these documents duplicated and then other hon. Members—[Interruption.]—the hon. Gentleman says "No". He does not know what is happening in his own constituency until he sees the document. He might find himself legislated out of existence before he knows where he is.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Further to that point of order. May I make it clear that it was on 20th October that this information and a lot more was made available to hon. Members by placing it in the Library. If hon. Members had wanted this information, all that they had to do was ask for it from the Library or the Home Office on any day since then.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. We come back to what I have said already. These are not points of order. I must ask the House to accept that and now to allow the Home Secretary to continue his speech. When I say that there is nothing that I can do, I mean it.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

On a point of order. I should like to draw to your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the fact that this information is not available to the House because of the laziness and dereliction of duty of the Home Office. In July, I put down a Question to the Home Secretary asking for this information. Instead of its being provided—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. This is not a point of order. What an hon. Member puts down in a Question to the Home Secretary is no business of the Chair. I cannot accept that as a point of order.

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

Then, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can you advise me about my rights as an ordinary back bench hon. Member? It may be that, inadvertently, of course, the Home Secretary is not giving full details to the House. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would never mislead the House, but I might think that he was. If I am not allowed a copy of the document, how can I pull him up and say that I believe that in the case of my constituency he is not giving all the facts?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

There is nothing that I can do to help the hon. Gentleman. With his parliamentary experience, no doubt he will think of a way in which he can come back on the Home Secretary later. There is nothing that I can do to help him or any other hon. Member at the moment.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Further to that point of order. I would ask you sincerely whether an hon. Member's contribution to the debate can be effective, whatever the weight of parliamentary experience behind it, when the full facts in terms of numbers and electorates are not before the House. As the biggest alteration in the franchise since 1928 has occurred subsequent to the time that the Orders were laid before the House, ought not the facts have been made known to the House that in 1968—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite out of order in putting this to me. There is nothing that the Chair can do. These are matters which are entirely for the Government to do what they think best in the interests of the House as a whole. It is not for the Chair to rule upon this point. We have had a long discussion on it and, having tried to satisfy hon. Members as far as I can, I really must ask the House to allow the Home Secretary to continue his speech.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have had a number of exchanges, you have been very patient, and we appreciate that. However, after all these points of order and exchanges and in spite of your patience, we have resolved nothing. The House is extremely disturbed. The original appeal was designed to help you, the House, and hon. Members on both sides.

In my view, the Home Secretary should agree to a suspension so as to allow the matter to be resolved properly. That would remove the embarrassment which you, obviously, are suffering and which hon. Members on both sides are suffering. It is the only way to help the House, and I hope that the Home Secretary will be big enough to agree to it.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

It is clear now that the first report that we had that the documents were not available was based on a misapprehension. In fact, I took the deliberate choice of making all the information available to the House more than a week ago, by the normal methods.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. I only wish that the House had known it earlier. But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that you have done your best to help the House. If you will accept a delaying Motion, I think that we should now proceed. Of course, if the Home Secretary cared to read the document, that would save a lot of trouble, but it would extend his speech.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I suspect that my speech would get almost as long as some of the totals of constituency numbers if I did.

I want to deal with the important point about interim reviews. There is a power resting with the Boundary Commission to make interim reviews of particular situations in between general reviews. It is important to have this in mind because it affects certain constituencies, and it would be especially relevant where rewarding is taking place. This would be on the initiative of the Commission and not that of the Home Office. When reconstituted, obviously the Commission will take note of anything said in this debate. The provision of the Act is that the Commission can take the initiative in interim reappraisals if it thinks fit.

I remind the House of the main argument. It is the same argument as that raised on previous occasions, namely, that another review will be needed when the local government reorganisation has been carried through. I am afraid that this argument does not stand up now any more than we thought that it did a year ago.

The last General Election was fought on the 1954 boundaries. It is quite unacceptable that the next General Election should be fought on the same boundaries. They are already 16 years out of date, and they will be more out of date when the next General Election comes. However, that would be the position if these Orders were not passed: the next General Election would be fought once again on boundaries which were settled 16 years ago.

It is likely to be 1978 or 1979 before a complete new review becomes available. I think that the minimum period is 10 years and, by the Statute, it would not be available until 1979, anyway. In practical terms, the Commission cannot start on a definitive review of the new boundaries until new legislation relating to local government has been passed and until new local government boundaries have subsequently been settled. Anything else acting before that would be just another interim review.

A definitive review will not take place until local government legislation has been passed and local government boundaries have been settled. After that, the work of the Commission will take three or four years to complete.

In other words, unless we pass these Orders, we shall not be able to have a General Election in this country on anything other than the 1954 boundaries within the next six, seven and possibly eight years. I do not think that that is a situation which is acceptable.

As the House knows, we do not intend to hold back on local government reform. We intend in due course to put comprehensive proposals before the House. But they will take a long time to work out. They will take a long time to pass this House. There will be much controversy on local government reform, often cutting across parties. There will then have to be the detailed working out of local government boundaries. It is not right to await that process before bringing constituencies, upon which Parliament is determined and democracy depends, more in line with the circumstances of the present day than those of 1954.

That is my case for asking the House to pass these Orders. They are the recommendation of an impartial body. It is particularly important on this occasion, after the history of the last year or so, that the House should be seen to accept wholeheartedly an impartial recommendation. If we do not, we shall proceed to a situation where the next General Election, like the last, is fought on boundaries which are not the right boundaries.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you were troubled with the point raised, which we regard as a material one. I thank you for your good humour and courtesy in dealing with it, even though you did not meet our wishes. However, we felt that it was a point of some substance. When one realises the rapid way in which constituency figures can move, it is important that the House should have up-to-date figures.

This is part of my case for saying that the Home Secretary has very much overstated his position. I would not accept, nor would my right hon. and hon. Friends, nor indeed would many hon. Gentlemen opposite, that because we have had recommendations from an impartial body we must accept them whole-heartedly. That was the proposition the Home Secretary rested upon.

I say this for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that these recommendations can be rendered stale and out of date by the passage of population and its movement. We have in our wisdom, and I was party to it, introduced a new system which has now been brought into force for the first time as to the way in which the Boundary Commissioners should operate. It is a system that requires them to be extremely painstaking, careful and, by definition, very lengthy in the way in which they conduct their reviews and put forward their recommendations.

It is not good enough for the Home Secretary to say that I am responsible for the fact that the recommendations have taken so long to get through. I am not here to ascribe responsibility, but it is a fact that it is now nearly six years since the Commission began to consider the recommendations to which we are asked to agree this afternoon. During this time a great deal has happened, with many movements of population. This is a new factor.

The 1954 Review took only 15 months to complete and we then had a review presented to Parliament freshly-minted. We are now getting a review which, as the Commissioners properly say, was started five years ago. I do not blame them for this since we asked them to follow this procedure. Therefore, it is the more necessary that we should not accept the proposition that, because an impartial body has considered the matter, the House must wholeheartedly accept it.

Every one of my predecessors at the Home Office took the view that Parliament must be supreme in this matter. I believe that proposition to be even more necessary because of the lapse of time since the beginning of the Commissioners' consideration to the end of such consideration.

What has happened to stretch out the procedure over such a long period? First of all, the Commissioners issued their provisional recommendations. They reviewed the matter, decided what they thought it was right to do and then considered representations made in writing. If they thought those representations were of sufficient merit, they held a local inquiry. Those local inquiries occasionally took up a good deal of time and effort, and as a result of such an inquiry they then published their further recommendations which may or may not have been different from the original recommendations.

In a number of cases further representations were made and, because the Commissioners were doing their best to be impartial and to show that they were trying to get the right answer, in some cases they held second inquiries which were followed by a second batch of recommendations. Therefore, inevitably a long period elapsed between the time when the Commission set about their task and the time when Parliament came to consider the results of their efforts.

For that reason it is not good enough, when the Home Secretary wants to make changes, for him to present these Orders in such a way that they cannot be dissected, either county by county or individually, because circumstances in particular counties or in individual constituencies may well have changed. I have given one illustration this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I did not present the Order originally. The right hon. Gentleman the former Home Secretary did.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The Home Secretary wishes to ride off on a technicality. He is not very good at technicalities. He is the sort of man who is much better at dealing with the real position. This point is too synthetic. We have already established that it was open to the right hon. Gentleman to present the Orders in any way he wanted.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Or to follow the right hon. Gentleman's example.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

Or to follow my example, and I will come back later to what the Prime Minister said about the way I did this. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would listen to this with relish, since I do not know what the relations are between the right hon. Gentlemen.

The fact is that the Home Secretary is asking that new boundaries should be established and that changes should be made. But since there has been a lapse of time of six years since the Commission began its work, I feel that he should have considered, and I doubt whether he has, presenting these Orders in such a way that Amendments could have been tabled so that the House could have decided upon them straight away.

I would point out that there were about 70 local inquiries in England alone, affecting upwards of 200 constituencies. It meant that there were many objections to the Commissioners' recommendations and, with respect, it would take the wisdom of Solomon for the Commission to succeed in satisfying everybody. But to my mind that is another reason why the House should be enabled to examine in detail the Commission's recommendation. So many of these matters turn on fine points of judgment. It is not good enough, as all the previous Home Secretaries accepted as a proposition that, having handed the matter over to the Parliamentary Commissioners, Parliament should abdicate its responsibilities and vote in the recommendations without any opportunity to debate individual cases and to take a decision on them.

This redistribution is the biggest undertaken since 1832. Three hundred and thirty-two major changes, not minor ones, were made in the complexion of constituencies. Therefore, it was more than ever desirable that Parliament should have an opportunity of voting on the individual and particular proposals.

Let me give some examples. I will give three in Greater London. In Ealing, where at the moment there are four seats, the Commissioners propose a reduction to three. There were, of course, objections to this proposal, as was natural, and the Commission held an inquiry. The Assistant Commissioner, after an inquiry, proposed different boundaries for the constituencies and gave his reasons in some detail. The Commissioners did not accept the Assistant Commissioner's report. Therefore, there is a difference of opinion between the Commissioners and the Assistant Commissioner who actually held the inquiry and heard the evidence given before it.

One argument which has been advanced and to which the Commissioner referred is the fact that there has been a large influx of immigrants into the area. Nobody in this House would take the view, or at least I hope they will not take the view, that immigrants should be disfranchised. Since this influx has happened during the last two or three years this is all the more reason that the House should have the opportunity of considering the Ealing cases separately and deciding whether they agree with the Commissioners or with the Assistant Commissioner.

This very illustration, in my view, destroys the Home Secretary's dictum that, because this is an impartial inquiry, we must accept it wholeheartedly. Which are we to accept: the Assistant Commissioner or the Commission? Why should we be asked to accept the Commission rather than the Assistant Commissioner who held the inquiry? I am not saying that the Commission is wrong. I do not know enough about this case. I am saying that there was a clear division of opinion between impartial gentlemen who considered this matter. Therefore, it is the case, and my very strong view, that the House should be supreme and that the Members concerned should have an opportunity of bringing their cases in detail before the House—not, in the throwaway words of the Home Secretary, as an illustration. These constituencies are now to be taken out of circulation; they are to be destroyed. It is not a case of illustrating a general argument by reference to a particular constituency. The hon. Members concerned should have the opportunity of voting on their issue.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

In support of the argument of the Assistant Commissioner being in conflict with the Commission, there is also this point to be considered. I put to my right hon. Friend that, in the instance of the London Borough of Ealing, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, as political parties, the Conservative councillors and Labour councillors on the Borough Council are at one in their opposition to the recommendations of the Commission and the Assistant Commissioner that there should be four constituencies. If we could have a thorough debate in the House we could reflect the views of the political parties in the London Borough of Ealing who have an intimate knowledge of the situation and whose views should be represented.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

It will take two days to do that.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman says that it will take two days to do that. That may be so. Why not? Or is it that, because it will take so much time, we cannot afford to spend time debating this kind of issue? The hon. Gentleman will probably have an opportunity to debate this point later. I selected Ealing because, when I was Home Secretary, I had joint representations from the Conservative and Labour Parties about the effect of these changes. All I am saying is that, right or wrong, it is not sufficient to say that they can be brushed aside and that we must decide the whole lot in one. In my view, the Home Secretary has made a grave mistake by putting us in the position that we either accept or reject the lot.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Mr. Onslow rose

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the gracious manner of his giving way. Last time we were put in the same position of having to reject or accept them all.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman has fallen into a trap. I shall be glad to dig him out when I come to that part of my speech. I hope that he will stay to listen to it. I am sure that he will stay to listen. I cannot carry it any further.

I turn to Hounslow. The Commission has proposed a reduction from three to two seats. Here, again, there were objections. Here, again, the Assistant Commissioner held a local inquiry. Here, again, he considered that housing development would cause the two constituencies to grow unreasonably large. What did the Commission say? It said that it thought there was a lot in the view of the Assistant Commissioner; it had to stand by its view; but Hounslow—here I quote— … still had the best claim of any London Borough to an additional seat". Do not hon. Members on both sides consider that this is a matter which should be within the decision of the House? It is not a question whether we have had an impartial body considering it. We have had more than one impartial body considering it. Here is an issue on which there was a difference of opinion and on which the House should be supreme. The Home Secretary should have brought forward these Orders in a manner which would have enabled us to take these individual decisions.

I turn to Kensington and Chelsea. The Commissioners originally proposed three seats, as at present. They were impartial gentlemen doing their best. I mean this quite sincerely. I am not "taking the mickey" out of anybody. I think that they had a most difficult job. They were doing their best, but I will illustrate the difficulties that they and we are up against.

In Kensington and Chelsea the Commissioners originally proposed that the existing number of seats—three—should be continued. There was no inquiry. Naturally, everybody was happy and satisfied because they were keeping the same number of seats. Later, for reasons unrelated to Kensington and Chelsea, the Commission came out with a second proposal—to reduce the number of seats in Kensington and Chelsea from three to two. The reasons—I ask hon. Gentlemen to remember what I said about Hounslow—were: … we considered that we would not be justified in allocating more seats to Kensington and Chelsea than to Hounslow. It was not a question whether Kensington and Chelsea should have three seats on their merits. Because the Commission had taken the decision, against the Assistant Commissioner's view, that Hounslow should have three seats, it said that it was forced to the position where it must reduce Kensington and Chelsea from three to two. Is this the kind of issue on which we have to wholeheartedly—I use the Home Secretary's word—back the Commission in its impartial judgment? Or it is that there are five issues to be debated and decided, that this House should be supreme, and should have been given that opportunity?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I am sure that hon. Members wish to make their own cases. I have a number of illustrations to give. I should like to pursue my own course, because I believe that I can bring out the point as admirably as I want to bring it out. I have not finished on this point.

Having so decided there was then trouble, and an inquiry was held in Kensington and Chelsea. What did the Assistant Commissioner say? Despite what the Commissioners had said, he said: "You Commissioners are wrong. I think that there should be three seats in Kensington and Chelsea, not two, no matter what you Commissioners say. You originally thought three seats. You changed your minds and reduced them to two seats. I, the Assistant Commissioner, have heard the evidence at the inquiry and I think that there should be three seats."

The Commissioners rejected the Assistant Commissioner's inquiry. They said: … we could neither give special treatment to one London Borough nor make recommendations based on the population of an area rather than its registered electorate. It may be that the Commission could not, but the House, if the Home Secretary had given us the opportunity, could have done. The right hon. Gentleman has failed to give us this opportunity.

I turn to the Cities of London and Westminster. The boundary between the constituencies of St. Marylebone and Paddington has been a matter of great dispute over a long period. There was an official inquiry. There were a number of representations. The Commissioners then modified their original recommendations. With what result? That the electorate for Paddington is now 68,000 plus and for St. Marylebone only 46,000. They altered what was a relative equality to a great disparity in treatment to the disquiet of a large number of people. Should not the House have the opportunity of deciding whether the Commission—this impartial body—was right the first or second time?

Havering. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) has an Amendment down about Havering. I have no doubt that he will try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Consider what has happened in Havering not only in relation to the difference in the proposals but also to the length of time which has elapsed and see whether I have established my first point.

In 1965 the Commission came out with its first proposals. Objection was taken and there was a local inquiry. In June, 1966, a year later, there was a second set of proposals. Objection was taken and there were further representations. In March, 1967, came the third modified proposal. There were then objections by the Conservative Party. A second local inquiry was held in October, 1967. Then, on 3rd April, 1968, a further set of proposals came from the Commission.

I do not think that the Home Secretary has studied this matter. Is he saying that where the Commission has produced four different sets of proposals we should wholeheartedly support the impartial decision of this inquiry? Which one? The first, second, third or fourth? They were all honourable men doing their best. This is why the House should have been given the opportunity and why the Home Secretary has failed us today.

There are similar difficulties in the provinces. Cornwall and Cumberland suffered a reduction of one seat each in the provisional recommendations. This was restored in the final report. Good for Cornwall and Cumberland. But what happened? To accommodate Cornwall and Cumberland, Bradford was reduced by one seat. That is why the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) raised a point of order this afternoon. Does the House think that it is not within the competence of hon. Members sitting here to consider whether the right judgment is that Cornwall should get one seat more if the price is that Bradford has to get one seat less? I do not pronounce on this issue, but I say that when these are such fine issues of judgment it is for the House to reach a conclusion, and that is being denied us by the attitude of the Home Secretary this afternoon.

I could give a number of other illustrations. Leicester was one where the Commission differed from the Assistant Commissioner. In Bedfordshire there was a great controversy over the Luton boundaries. Mr. Will Howie discussed the matter with me at an earlier stage before he lost his seat. I do not know whether there are still great controversies over that issue, but, whether there are or not, the Assistant Commissioner in his report said that the arguments for our recommendations and for the counter proposals were finely balanced. Which of the two impartial inquiries are we supposed to back in this case? Surely, when the issues are "finely balanced", here is a case on which the House should have the opportunity of adjudicating?

Durham is another example. The elimination of Sedgefield has caused a great deal of controversy, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. David Reed) has sent me a detailed statement of the case. I could cite Norfolk, Walsall, West Bromwich, Cannock, Lichfield and the Rhondda. I could go on with a number of other cases, if I were not trespassing too much on the patience of the House, to illustrate where the Commission had the greatest difficulty—perhaps not in the case of the Rhondda—and yet the House is being denied the opportunity to consider the proposals. I am sure, as the Home Secretary said, that the Commissioners took all these matters into account. I am sure that they carried out their duties with great care, but we should have been given the opportunity to debate their proposals.

I come to what has happened previously, because I want the House to understand that irrespective of what has been said today this is the first time that this procedure has been followed. When Major Gwilym Lloyd-George was Home Secretary he had to introduce such Orders, and on 15th December, 1954 he described his attitude and said: Now a word about the orders themselves. We did not think it right to present to Parliament, on a take it or leave it basis, an omnibus Order covering the whole of the recommendations of the Commission. That is what is being done now. We have thought that it would be for the convenience of Parliament, so far as possible, to have a separate Order for each separate change recommended by the Commission."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 1788.] That is what was done, and it was quoted against me with great effect by the present Prime Minister as recently as 12th November last when he said: The Home Secretary has only to look at what Major Gwilym Lloyd George did in 1954. I have already told the House what he did. 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 —even longer than two days— 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?']—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. Where is the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon? Too busy peddling arms to South Africa, I dare say.

What was the Prime Minister's complaint against me a year ago? It was that I had laid the Orders in a way That is neither the form nor the spirit of the Act, nor the wish of the Parliaments which have passed them. What is the Home Secretary's case? Is it that two blacks make a white, that two wrongs are right when they are done by Conservatives, even though a complaint was made when I did it? The Home Secretary is behaving in the same way as the Prime Minister alleged that I was doing and complained about.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

There is a lot of difference. The previous Home Secretary wanted the House to reject the impartial findings. I am asking the House to accept them.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I shall come to the difference very shortly. The right hon. Gentleman should not have interrupted at that point.

I want to continue with my quotation from the present Prime Minister because I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to know what their attitude was when they were in Opposition and to ask how they reconcile it with their attitude now that they are in power. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 455–8.] Why is the Home Secretary not now giving hon. Members the opportunity to debate and decide on their own constituencies in the way that the Prime Minister asked that I should have done?

Twice this afternoon my attitude has been raised by the Home Secretary himself in the matter of the debating of individual constituencies. I do not know whether hon. Members have refreshed their minds about the Bill which I introduced in June, 1969, the House of Commons Redistribution (No. 2) Bill, which is in both the Library and the Vote Office, but if they turn to pages 5–12, the First Schedule to the Bill, they will see that in every case where I proposed that there should be a change in the boundaries of a constituency it was included separately in the Bill so that hon. Members had an opportunity of putting down Amendments and voting on them. That is the difference. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not know what he is talking about. These were the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners, starting with Barking and finishing with the City of Westminster, St. Marylebone. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Chichester?"] In respect of Chichester we were asking the Commission to fix the boundaries. This is the first occasion on which any Home Secretary who has asked the House to approve changes in boundaries has not given the House the opportunity to amend them, debate them and vote on them.

As I have shown, and as I hope the House is now aware, the changes which I proposed were subject to amendment by the House, and a number of Amendments were put down and debated. When the Home Secretary says that I should not rebuke him for depriving the House of the opportunity to debate these changes, he is accusing me of doing something that I did not do. It was only where I was proposing no changes that they were presented en bloc, not when it was suggested that certain constituencies should be changed and others wiped out. The Government advocated this procedure. How quickly they forget in Government what they preached in Opposition. How synthetic was a great deal of the rubbish that we heard last year in connection with this matter.

I suppose that the Home Secretary wants to save himself trouble. He has adopted a lazy way of doing this. No doubt debating these proposals would take three or four days of Parliamentary time, or maybe three or four nights. It has happened before. So be it. But if our constituencies are to be altered—not if they are to remain unchanged—there is every reason why we should take the necessary time to debate and vote on the alterations. What the Government want to do is to save a little time here to prevent hon. Members from discussing these proposals to enable them to ram through the Industrial Relations Bill. That is why the Government were unable to give us the necessary time to debate the Commission's proposals.

On the whole I accept that, broadly, the House should adhere to the advice—and it is no more than advice—that is given it by the Boundary Commissioners, but I hope that I have said enough this afternoon to show that there are individual cases where the Commissioners had the greatest difficulty in coming to a conclusion. On occasions they reached different conclusions, and in those circumstances surely the House would agree that it is best for the House to be in a position to consider these matters individually?

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the need to reform local government, as indeed his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has done. The reason why we put forward—and the House accepted—the postponement of parliamentary redistribution was the need to reorganise local government first. It still needs both drastic and early reorganisation. I regret that although the Minister for the Environment has paid lip-service to the question of local government reorganisation we have seen no proposals from him. It would have been far better for the Government to go ahead with local government reorganisation and, as soon as the new boundaries were clear, to instruct the Boundary Commission to accelerate its next review. If they still cared to push ahead they could have done the whole job by 1975, and if the next election were as late as that it could have been fought on the new boundaries. As it is, because of the pedantic insistence of the Government in pushing these stale recommendations through we shall fight on a political register and on a map that will be little better than the one we have now, because it is becoming out of date so quickly. The Home Secretary held a blunderbuss at our heads, with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. On the whole, I recommend my hon. Friends to take it, because we must accept the great majority of decisions. But I say once again that the Home Secretary should have given the House the opportunity of taking certain decisions out and considering them.

It would have been quite possible—because the Commission made it clear that it considered this matter county by county—for the Home Secretary, even if he had not wanted to sit through the tedium of a night's debate on individual constituencies, to proceed in such a way that the matter was dealt with county by county, so that we could have sent individual counties to the Commission to re-consider instead of having to deal with a whole block of constituencies.

The Home Secretary chose not to proceed in that way. The Government have behaved with insincerity in this matter, in presenting the Orders in this way. They have gone back on what they said, while in Opposition, was the proper procedure. They are preventing a vote from being taken and are preventing hon. Members from taking individual decisions on the future of their own constituencies.

5.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Cockeram Mr Eric Cockeram , Bebington

I have the pleasure of representing the constituency of Bebington, which consists not only of the borough of Bebington but also of part of the county borough of Birkenhead and is, I suppose, as fair a representation of a cross-section of this country as it is possible to find. We have our share of industry, represented by Lever Bros., for example, with its various companies specialising in everything from food to industrial supplies. We have large housing areas, spaciously set out in areas with trees, and with plenty of parks. We also have our agricultural aspect, consisting of many hundreds of acres of fine Cheshire land.

This constituency was represented previously by Dr. Edwin Brooks, who worked hard to represent his constituents. He was untiring in his questioning of any policy with which he disagreed. I speak today because I wish to question one aspect of the changes in boundaries as they affect the Wirral Peninsula. The Peninsula has a total electorate of about 307,000, which is an average of 77,000 per electorate. Clearly, if it were the intention to average out the number of electors in each constituency, the Wirral Peninsula should have had an extra constituency. But that has not been recommended.

The Bebington constituency has an electorate of 82,000, approximately half of which—43,000—live in Bebington itself and the balance—about 39,000—in the southern end of the county borough of Birkenhead. Under the proposals which we are considering we shall lose that 50 per cent. of our electorate in Birkenhead and have added in its place the Borough of Ellesmere Port.

That change will result in a reduction of 542 electors in an already oversized electorate of about 82,000. This, however, is only an apparent reduction. By the time the Order comes into effect, Ellesmere Port will have expanded by far more than those 542, because it is a very fast-expanding town, taking a lot of overspill population from other parts of Merseyside. Furthermore, Ellesmere Port is not a natural bedfellow with Bebington. For example, it is not part of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, and in any change in local government Ellesmere Port is likely to be linked with Chester, with which it has much stronger ties than with the Merseyside area. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take note not only of the possible changes in local government but of certain changes in the total electorate, and of the fact that by these Orders he is in reality increasing the size of an already oversized constituency.

Having said that, however, I must go on to say that I support the proposals because I believe strongly and passionately that it would be wrong for any Government, of whatever party, to attempt to rewrite these impartial proposals. For that reason I believe that the Government have no option but to accept them. Nevertheless, I urge the Home Secretary to bear in mind the points that I have made because it is more than probable—it is almost inevitable—that it will be necessary to review this constituency within a very short time.

5.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

It is with great pleasure that I rise to give what I suppose is my maiden non-maiden speech, immediately following the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Cockeram), who made a very distinguished maiden speech. I know exactly how he was feeling. I myself was in the same position recently. I am sure that he is relieved to have got it over. The House listened with great interest to what he said. He spoke with confidence, fluency and brevity. He made a constructive contribution to the debate, quite rightly speaking up for the interests of his own constituency. I am sure that we all look forward with pleasurable anticipation to his future contributions.

I rise to oppose the four Motions on the Order Paper and to give notice that if any of my hon. Friends—or any hon. Members opposite—will join me in the Division Lobby I intend to vote against all four. Having made that plain, I must declare a personal interest in the matter. The boundaries of the Romford constituency are to be altered under the proposals before the House. To put it at its lowest, the alteration proposed will not improve Labour's prospects in the constituency at the next election. Being human, I reckon that I should oppose these proposals even if I could not muster up any other objections to them. But, in fact, there are other objections to be made—at least three very cogent objections—to the argument that we should pass these proposals at this moment.

The basic issue before the House—despite what the Home Secretary suggested—is not whether redistribution should take place in this Parliament in time for the next General Election. We all agree that that should be so. The point at issue this afternoon is whether that redistribution shall or shall not take account of recent population changes and, in particular, the extension of the franchise to new voters under the age of 21. The proposals before the House take no account of the increase in the electorate; they are already five years out of date. By the next election, they may well be 10 years old. They are based on the 1965 electorate, which then consisted of 36 million voters. The 1970 electoral register contains 39·6 million. That is a very considerable increase, the greater part of which is accounted for by the enfranchisement of the 18-year-old voter.

It may be argued that the growth in the franchise is not relevant to the redrawing of the parliamentary constituency boundaries, and this would certainly be the case if these young voters were evenly distributed throughout the country. But it is not the case. In the average constituency, there are about 3,000 voters under the age of 21, but in my constituency of Romford, which is by no means unique in this respect, there are over 10,000 young voters and in some constituencies with an ageing population there cannot be more than a few hundred.

This being the case, it seems extraordinary that the Home Secretary has not asked the Boundary Commissions to reexamine their proposals to take into account the new voters who have been added to the electorate. What, after all, is the hurry? This examination would not take very long—perhaps a year, certainly not much longer—because most of the work has already been done by the Commissioners and they would merely need to check their present proposals against recent changes in population.

The second argument against acting precipitately this afternoon is the desirability of synchronising local government reform and parliamentary redistribution. I would not be the only hon. Member, I think, who was horrified at the Home Secretary's indication that he does not expect to be able to have a local government reorganisation before 1978–79. This goes to show how little sense of urgency the Government show towards the problems of local government, which are getting out of hand under the obsolete structure which now exists. The Redcliffe-Maud Committee looked very closely into the problems of local government reform. If the Government felt a sense of urgency over this, it would not be impossible to effect a reform within this Parliament and to synchronise it with a parliamentary redistribution.

I come to my third objection. The two previous redistributions under the 1949 Act took place towards the end of a Parliament. It is now proposed to effect a redistribution in the opening months of this Parliament. I wonder whether the Home Secretary has thought out the consequences of this. There is a large number of hon. Members whose boundaries will be changed. Many of them will find that they have to represent bits and pieces of two, three or more constituencies for the next three, four or five years.

Then there is the question of by-elections. The Home Secretary said that by-elections would be fought on existing boundaries. The local political parties will not waste much time reorganising themselves according to the new boundaries, and wisely so, because they will not want to be caught on the hop if there is a snap election. But, on average, there have been about 12 by-elections a year over the last two or three decades. If this Parliament is going on for four or aye years, there might be 30, 40, 50 or even 60 by-elections which had to be fought on the existing boundaries. This would mean that phantom organisations would have to be set up to select candidates and wage a campaign—a totally unsatisfactory and unacceptable state of affairs.

These are some of the reasons against passing these Orders, but I should like lastly to deal with the desirability of the whole system, because the long-term issue is much more important than the fate of these Orders. The present system was introduced in 1949. We would all agree that it was a major advance over the previous arrangements, but, because this was thought satisfactory in 1949, is it necessarily the best method in 1970? Many arrangements which might have been appropriate a generation ago have now been overtaken by economic and social progress."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 37–8.] I quote from the statement of the Chancellor yesterday afternoon.

We now know that the 1949 system is working most imperfectly. The first redistribution under that system, which came into effect in 1950, introduced a bias against the Labour Party, which has been estimated by David Butler at 1½ per cent., into the electoral system. The consequence was that, in the 1951 election, as we all know, the Conservative Party won power even though they polled 230,000 fewer votes than the Labour Party. This bias against Labour has been somewhat reduced through population changes during the 1960's, but if these present proposals are passed—according to the academic experts who have examined the question closely—the bias will be restored and even increased.

We should be quite clear as to the reason for this bias. It is emphatically not a question of political partiality by the Boundary Commissions. The reason is the uneven distribution of Labour voters. The only way in which this bias could be removed in the short run under the present system would be to give a specific instruction to the Boundary Commission that it has to make sure that the overall effect of its recommendations is not detrimental to either major political party. What this means in practice is that, when adjudicating borderline cases, it will always have to come down on the side of the party which would be disadvantaged by the general trend of its recommendations. If such an instruction were given, it would greatly add to the complexity of the Commission's task, and it might well, as my right hon. Friend said, need the wisdom of Solomon to undertake this rôle effectively.

Fortunately, however, news from the United States suggests that a solution to this problem may be at hand. A great deal of money has been spent in America on research into what they call "redistricting" by computer during the last five years. This has the inestimable benefit of removing any suggestion of subjective bias by the Commissions.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should follow the American practice, upon which this whole system is based, of people declaring their political allegiance on the registration form?

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

With respect, I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me—perhaps I was not making myself clear. What I am talking about is the use of computers to help draw electoral boundary lines, according to principles built into the computer. The requirement of political impartiality could be one such principle. There was a great deal of scepticism in the United States when this research began. As I see, it would be echoed in some quarters of the House today. But after five years hard work, this scepticism is rapidly disappearing in the United States.

Four principal methods have been investigated, according to the type of computer used and the variables which are built into the programme. Some of these methods might be unacceptable in British conditions, but it is already clear that the process is readily adaptable to a very wide range of political and demographic circumstances.

I can understand that a proposal, the effect of which would be to remove a pro-Conservative bias in the present system, might not have a great or obvious appeal to hon. Members opposite, but I would ask them to reflect that a system which disadvantages Labour today may harm the Tories tomorrow. In fact, before 1950, there was an anti-Tory bias in the electoral system which was even greater than the anti-Labour bias which has existed in recent years.

If the Government are really concerned to secure fair constituency boundaries and remove the redistributive process from the party dogfight into which it has been plunged during the past year, the proper course of action is clear. It is to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into relevant American and other overseas experience in this delicate sphere and, in the meantime, to refrain from rushing ahead with these now obsolete proposals of the Boundary Commission.

5.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I offer my sincere and cordial congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Cockeram) on his admirable maiden speech. He combined, as the House will testify, the qualities of clarity and brevity and I know I speak for hon. Members on both sides when I say that we look forward to hearing from him soon and frequently.

I listened with attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) and there was much in the first half of his speech with which I could agree. Then he went into his final exordium, about the introduction of computers. I thought that it was as if the Labour Party, having apparently dispaired of commanding themselves to the sound political judgment of the British people, and casting about for allies, had to range so far as to light upon the improbable assistance of the computer.

Whether or not it would work out in the way the hon. Gentleman described I do not know. He might find it a shorter cut to adopt the tactics of a town clerk in the last century when divorce could be obtained only by Act of Parliament. He slid into the Municipal Bill a Clause declaring the divorce of the town clerk in question. The hon. Gentleman might move to amend the Order to insert a provision for his perpetual representation of his constituency.

I go with him in some of what he said earlier about the shortcomings of our present procedure in reflecting the demographic changes in this country. I have no difficulty in resisting his invitation to vote against the Order, however. That would be extremely unwise and unrealistic. We must obviously accept the Order as being the impartial product of the Commission and as being at any rate much better than the state of affairs that we now have.

Having said that, I am bound to say that I have a good many comments to make on the Order and the position which it reflects. This is, of course, a debate in which hon. Members properly refer to the effects on their own constituencies, and I will make some references to the position in my area, but rather by way of illustration of the more general comments which I wish to make.

I will first indicate the background against which I think we should approach these matters. We have had a quarter of a century of rapid and considerable demographic change and during this time we have persisted in our national characteristic of proclaiming the virtues of Parliamentary democracy, and we have even devised constitutions for various other countries.

Our own efforts, however, to fit the parliamentary representation in this country to a changing demographic pattern have been slow and hesitant and, to some extent, ineffective. In saying that, I am not referring primarily to the disputes that we had in the last Parliament. I intervened in those debates and have nothing to unsay. But I do not want today to hark back to "far off things and battles long ago". I am referring to our whole mechanism by which we seek to shape our parliamentary representation on the basis of equality of voting power, which is the touchstone of parliamentary democracy.

The Order represents the first major change in nearly 16 years since the Commission's report of November, 1954, and it is only the second major revision in the whole of this quarter century of the changing demographic pattern in this country. The criticisms I have to make are, first, that the Order is in many respects unfortunately out of date, even at the time of taking effect, and, secondly, that the machinery for rectification is slow and inadequate. The resulting position from these two matters is that the pattern of representation that we get is not as good as we should seek to make it.

I will illustrate the position from the constituency which I know best, which is my own. I will round off the figures in thousands to make the illustration easier to follow. In 1966 we in East Hertfordshire had 79,000 electors, which was about 21,000 above the national constituency average. The suggested remedy by the Boundary Commission was an adjustment which, on the 1965 figures, which were used, would have brought it down to 69,000—still, of course, 10,000 above the then quota or prescribed optimum. Those figures, on the Commissioner's 1968 evaluation, came up to 74,000 electors and 15,000 above the quota. The figures, even on the 1968 evaluation, are already out of date and falsified.

Unlike the Commission, we now have the benefit of the 1970 February electoral register, and that gives us in East Hertfordshire, on the existing boundaries, until the passage of this Order, 94,000 electors, being 30,000 above the revised electoral quota of 64,000. But we are also able to evaluate the effect of the adjustment made by the Order, and that adjustment made to the East Hertfordshire constituency is simply to take out of it the urban district of Ware, which has 10,394 electors. Taking off that 10,000 from the 94,000 gives us 84,000.

Having made these notes without knowledge of the Home Office statistics, I felt a tremor of apprehension when I learned of the document which had been placed in the Library. I thought that my figures might be wrong. Having now secured a copy of the statistics, I see that I am right and that the figure is given as 83,812. That means that taking that constituency as an example, we start on the basis of the Order with a figure of 20,000 above the electoral quota, an excess of nearly one-third over what the prescribed optimum should be.

One must think that it hardly makes sense to cut up a constituency, and necessarily sever old associations, to produce such an unrewarding result in terms of parity of constituency electorates.

Photo of Mr David Weitzman Mr David Weitzman , Stoke Newington and Hackney North

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in his criticism, and I agree with him, has he not adduced a strong argument to show that there should be a Motion in respect of each constituency to enable each case to be given and dealt with? As things stand, there is no remedy whatever.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I do not think so. It would not help to have matters subdivided, and for me to vote against the Order accordingly, because in the unlikely event of my succeeding, I would make the position even worse in terms of electoral equality from the point of view of the representation of my constituents. That is why I am using this not as an ad hoc argument but as an illustrative argument of general propositions which, I feel, underlie the whole of this case. It is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a fairly usual phenomenon, especially in the outer Metropolitan area and the South-East region.

Indeed, in looking at the Home Office statistics which I have obtained from the Library I see the following Hertfordshire figures in addition to the East Hertfordshire constituency of 83,812: Hemel Hempstead, 79,000; Hertford and Stevenage, 73,000; Hitchin, 69,000; St. Albans, 68,000; South Hertfordshire, 63,000; and South-West Hertfordshire, 76,000. Nearly all of these are well ahead of the electoral quota.

There are two basic reasons for the somewhat unsatisfactory position that we now have. First, the statutory rule directs attention to the existing population figures with an implied exclusion of future population movement. Secondly, having so excluded the future by implication, nevertheless the Order extends a long way into the future before it is capable of replacement.

The Commission expressly recognised the first of those difficulties at paragraph 39 of its report when it said: We are not required by the Rules to pay regard to future population movement … The Rules require the use of current electorates and do not ask us to make recommendations on the basis of electorates as they will be in, say, five or ten years That limitation becomes the more serious when the timetable for reviews and reports is, as in the 1958 Act, a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 15 years. If past experience is a guide, the maximum will become the normal. That means that it will be 1984 before we get another report. If we look at the position then, some of these Hertfordshire constituencies may well be 100,000 or, perhaps, double—who knows—the prescribed quota by that time.

We are not without guidelines to future population movements. For example, there has been recently published the Strategic Plan for the South-East, known as the Burns Report. It provides some projections. We see from page 51 of that Report that whereas the population of Greater London is expected to fall by nearly half a million between 1966 and 1981, the population of the outer Metropolitan area and the rest of the South-East region is expected to rise by over two million. During that period, as we see from the timetable in the 1958 Act, it is unlikely that we shall have any revision of the electoral boundaries. We therefore get anomalies at the start, certainties of aggravation over the next decade and no timely means of correction.

I know and appreciate the sort of considerations which militate against frequent revision, in particular the consideration that too-frequent changes disrupt old and valued constituency links and associations. To some extent, however, we are already getting the effect of the disruption of constituencies, but we are getting it without achieving the desired result. To some extent, we are paying the penalty without receiving the goods.

I therefore come to the conclusion that it is right to approve the Order, because that is the clear contemplation of the outcome of the Commission's work which is contemplated in the enabling Act of 1949. I ask my right hon. Friends, however, not to be content with this, not simply to take the view that they have done their statutory duty, whatever their predecessors may have done. I ask them to recognise that although the position will be better after the passage of the Order than it is at present, it will still, in many respects, be anomalous and unsatisfactory.

It is not that I dislike representing a large constituency or seeking to the best of my ability to serve the interests of many constituents, but I thought it wrong in the last Parliament that when we went through the Division Lobby, Hertfordshire Members should be representing the votes of, perhaps, 90,000 or more constituents when some hon. Members—from Birmingham and Manchester, for example—represented only 20,000 or 30,000. What I do not want to have to do is to tell my constituents that in spite of the Order, we may be the end of the decade be getting very large disparities again.

I therefore ask my right hon. Friends to consider carefully whether we cannot improve the approach and the procedures in this vital matter of Parliamentary representation and, in particular, whether effect cannot be given to estimates and projections of population changes as well as merely the current population position; whether they cannot consider perhaps the expedition of the timetable of review and revision; whether we might not have more partial reviews under Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act, perhaps on a regional basis, reviewing complementarily areas of over-representation and under-representation and seeing whether a more equal and fair allocation cannot be made by balancing the one against the other.

I think and hope that those are reasonable and moderate requests and I for one would certainly feel a good deal happier at the passage of the Order, inevitable and right as I believe it to be at the present time, if my right hon. Friends would bend their undoubted abilities and good will to this task, so vital to our Parliamentary democracy.

6.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Kensington North

I wish to endorse the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) and also to oppose the Motion. I have tabled an Amendment which, I am sorry to say, the rules under the Act prevent being called. At this stage, however, I appeal to the Home Secretary—or rather, in his absence, to his hon. Friend the Minister of State—to withdraw from the Motion the recommendations concerning Kensington and Chelsea. In urging that course, I wish to concentrate on a purely legal issue. If the Home Secretary cannot do that at this stage, I must oppose the Motion.

The basic reason why I urge that the recommendation for Kensington and Chelsea should not be included is not only that it was one of the five most borderline recommendations in the Boundary Commission's Report, as is clear from paragraphs 48 to 50, but that it is the only instance in which the Commission has changed its recommendations in the light of information which did not become available until 1968. I consider that this recommendation is ultra vires the Commission, and I am supported in this view by a number of lawyers of considerable eminence.

Hon. Members may know that the validity of the recommendations was challenged in the courts in proceedings in the Queen's Bench Division, in which Dr. Horace King was the first defendant. Those proceedings were frustrated by the presentation of the Commission's report to the Home Secretary's predecessor. As a result, those proceedings, in which the whole question of whether what is recommended is valid in law would have been considered, have been overridden by the presentation of the report. There is no possibility, except at the discretion of the Home Secretary or by the rejection of the Order, for the legality of the recommendation to be considered.

I am fortunate enough to have a copy of the Representation of the People Act, 1949. The Vote Office appears to be without copies. The rules contained in the Second Schedule require that: The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as practicable having regard to the foregoing rules … The relevant date for the purposes of the recommendations now before the House was 16th February 1965.

At that time, the Boundary Commission considered the situation in Kensington and Chelsea and, taking account of everything that it could forsee at that time, recommended that there should be three constituencies. As they say in their report, the Commissioners quite reasonably took account of population changes that they could foresee. In paragraph 39, they say: We are not required by the Rules to pay regard to future population movement but in the 1954 review the Commission took some account of this factor where population change was 'imminent'. The Rules require the use of current electorates and do not ask us to make recommendations on the basis of electorates as they will be in, say, five or ten years. We cannot, however, escape the fact that the intention of the present law is that a general review shall form the basis of constituency boundaries for at least the next ten years and it would therefore be desirable to make recommendations that would, so far as possible, cushion the effect of gains or losses of electorate so far as they could be foreseen with some degree of certainty. I think that the House will accept that that is a commonsense and reasonable viewpoint for the Commissioners to have adopted. But it is clear from further passages in the report and from detailed passages relating to Kensington and Chelsea that what they foresaw in 1965 was that the population of Kensington and Chelsea would continue to justify three constituencies. They recommended three constituencies. Then, in 1968, they had regard to changes in the population of those constituencies and recommended that they should be reduced to two.

As my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary pointed out, the recommendations were then considered by another public inquiry. Further representations were made, and the Assistant Commissioner reported to the Commission that, in his opinion, the electorate of Kensington and Chelsea should continue to be represented by three constituencies. His report, nevertheless, was disregarded by the Boundary Commission. In reaching its conclusion, the Commission clearly had regard to facts which became known only in 1968. In other words, it disregarded completely the recommendations which it set out in paragraphs 39 and 40 of its own report. If we are to have the Boundary Commission changing its mind three years after the enumeration date on the basis of information which came to hand only in 1968 in respect of one constituency, we must have all the constituencies reviewed on the basis of the situation in 1968.

Obviously, I accept that regard must be had to what was foreseen in 1965. If it was know that a new town was to be built or that an entire area was to be demolished, the Boundary Commission obviously would have been right in 1965 to take those factors into account. However, if one date is not settled upon with the country taken as a whole at that date and recommendations made accordingly, there is no end to the consideration which has to be given. It must be based on one date alone. The powers of the Commission are to base it on one date alone, and that date is February, 1965, not 1968.

That is the essentially simple point on which the High Court proceedings to which I have referred were based. I would invite the House, in circumstances where a recommendation is placed before it which is directly contrary to the express requirements of the Act about having regard to one enumeration date, to reject the Order, assuming that that is the only way in which we can express disapproval of individual matters. The point made by other hon. Members that these matters should be brought before the House individually is thus underlined. When they are lumped together, an hon. Member has no alternative other than to vote against all the items if he objects to one.

I would reinforce what I have been saying in relation to the recommendations about Kensington and Chelsea with a point which was strongly made by the Assistant Commissioner who held the public inquiry. It was represented to him that there was a substantial under-representation of the electorate in Kensington and Chelsea by reason of the fact that in areas of high multiple occupation, large numbers of electors were not recorded on the register. This was fully accepted by the Assistant Commissioner, who said in relation to North Kensington: I think (1) that the fall in electorate in North Kensington is more apparent than real, (2) that it is far more than counterbalanced by the heavy number of those who ought to be electors but, not being politically conscious, are at present unaware of their right to become electors as many of them probably ultimately will. The views of the Commission on this are set out in paragraph 41 of its report: In some areas it was represented that certain element of the resident population had escaped inclusion on the electoral register, and that we should make allowance for this as such areas merited special representation. Though superficially attractive, this comes close to an argument that an area should be overrepresented as compared to other areas because it is supposed to contain a larger number than usual of people who do not take steps to ensure that they are registered as electors. We did not feel that we should make recommendations on the basis of this argument. I can understand why the Boundary Commission should have taken that view, but certainly, in any future inquiries, account should be taken of the fact that in areas of high multiple occupation there is not adequate representation of a very large proportion of the electorate. There is a widespread belief that the electoral register is used for income tax purposes and, as landlords are responsible for filling in forms, they tend to under-represent their tenants since they feel that rents will be assessed for tax. There is also an incentive to under-represent numbers of tenants where houses are overcrowded, as a large proportion of houses in North Kensington are. The result is a substantial under-representation of the electorate in areas of acute housing stress. We know the areas of high multiple occupation, and I submit that the Boundary Commission in future should take account of this fact in areas where it is virtually certain that there will be substantial under-representation of the number of potential electors.

I will not pretend that I am making these points disinterestedly. These changes with regard to Kensington and Chelsea are likely to result in the loss of the prospect of Labour retaining one of the seats. I submit, however, that the points I have been making are of general application, that the recommendation of the Boundary Commission so far as it relates to Kensington and Chelsea is ultra vires and that in view of the High Court proceedings, the matter should, at the least, have been referred to the Law Officers for consideration, as I requested, in correspondence, the Home Secretary to do, before the report was placed unamended before the House. Failing that, I have no alternative but to oppose the Motion.

6.21 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Representing, as I do, a great industrial city in the North, it is particularly pleasurable for me to be able to make what I might call my second maiden speech on a subject which particularly concerns my constituency and the fine city which I have the honour to represent.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that there was a strong case for implementing in full the recommendations of the Boundary Commission as laid before this House, but he went on to say that the Government recognised that there was an exceptional need to show impartiality. A sign of strong government is a willingness to recognise the requirement for flexibility, to recognise where situations and circumstances have drastically changed. I submit that one of those areas where circumstances have drastically changed is in the proposals of the Boundary Commission for the City of Bradford.

As is known, I have laid before the House an Amendment, which regrettably was not taken, but that Amendment would in essence have had the support of all parties in our city. The Liberal Federation has written to the Home Secretary, and I have a copy of the letter before me. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons), although not a friend in politics, has also laid before the House an Amendment on the same subject.

A very wide range of informed and responsible opinion in my city has made representations to the Government—to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary—to the chairman of the governing party and to many others concerned in this matter. These bodies have ranged from the Chamber of Trade, the Chamber of Commerce, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, the Ukranian community, the Pakistan Society, the Professional Women's Guild and a whole host of interested individuals who care for the workings of this House and are concerned for the workings of our parliamentary institutions. In this age of cynicism, it does them credit that they should take the trouble to make these representations, and I believe that the Government would be doing them a grave disservice if they did not show flexibility and did not yield in some way to the efforts which these people have made to ensure that the city in which they live shall receive proper representation in this House.

There is precedent on which we can worthily draw. Let us turn to the great debates of 1948. In them we can read magnificent speeches from the Bradford Members of that day. I read first from the speech of the then hon. Member for Bradford, East, Mr. McLeavy, who said: Speaking for myself and for my three Bradford colleagues, I say that we are less concerned about whether our seats are retained by this adjustment than we are that the City of Bradford shall have fair and equitable representation, in order that our great industrial activities may find true expression in the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 3082.] The same is true today. The position is very similar. To within a thousand or two either way, the case is identical. This time, if the proposals of the Boundary Commission go through, the City of Bradford will be grossly under-represented with regard to its neighbours in the same area, the wool textile industry, and the rest of the country as a whole. Speaking for those industrial activites, I believe that many hon. Members in this House are clothed thanks to the work-people of the City of Bradford. The city's wool trade and the wool trade generally contributes £150 million to the balance of payments annually. It is the country's sixth most important exporting industry.

These are factors which should be taken into consideration, because at this time the wool trade is facing a difficult period. Our industrial activities require the highest degree of political representation to point out the difficulties which they face. Our city has unemployment higher than at any time since the Second World War.

We have seen how, in cold legal terms, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) drove a horse and buggy through the case of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. My right hon. and learned Friend represented the council's case at the court of inquiry in the City of Bradford, and it is interesting to note that not only was the recommendation of the Assistant Commissioner at the court of inquiry that we should retain four seats, but also that the Commission's provisional recommendations were the same, that we should retain four parliamentary constituencies.

Referring to these industrial problems, it is interesting to note that in a document which will be available very soon, the Yorkshire and Humberside Planning Council expresses the belief that only by the most strenuous efforts will my city and its area be able to arrest the adverse trends over the period up to 1981. We need adequate representation for our City.

To quote another example, I learned yesterday that the Secretary of State for the Environment had decided that our local airport was not to have the runway extension that it needed—

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

I will return to the matter in question, Mr. Speaker. These are examples of the great necessity of having adequate Parliamentary representation.

Let us go back to October, 1944, to Mr. Secretary Morrison and his great speech on this matter, to which hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred, in which he said that Parliament must at times be supreme in this matter. If there is a question of dispute and if this House cannot adjudicate, the impartiality which we have been exhorted to ensure will not in my own city be seen to have been observed. People say that for fear of gerrymandering we must not pick or choose items in the report.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East said on 19th June, 1969, that there was a duty to give effect to the proposals, subject only to the power to modify. The meaning of 'modify' is to make partial changes in something; to alter without radical transformation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1969; Vol. 785, c. 762.] I insist that it would not be a radical transformation to enable the City of Bradford to have the representation which was recommended by the provisional recommendations and by the court of inquiry.

Then we turn to our noble Friends in another place. They are immune from the shackles and trammels of party responsibility. I turn to my noble Friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who, in July of last year, said that the Home Secretary of the day had an obligation to lay proposals before Parliament based on, but not necessarily identical with, the Commission's recommendations. If my right hon. Friend finds it impossible to accelerate an interim examination into Bradford's case, which is similar to many others in the country, I for one will not be able to support him.

I come now to other factors of interest and importance in this connection. First, does it so much matter whether we lose a seat? The very fact that such a wide range of responsible bodies and public opinion have taken an interest in the matter is a strong argument. Moreover, we have precedents to which we can turn. In 1954, the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said, We believe in the future of Blackburn and its future expansion. I believe in the future of my City of Bradford. Bradford will fight on this, and Bradford will be seen by the House and the country to be right.

Speaking on 18th June, 1947, another right hon. Member for Bradford, was reported in the Bradford Press as follows: In our case, it has really nothing to do with party valuations. That was none other than the late Mr. Maurice Webb, whom you will recall personally, I think, Mr. Speaker. He went on to say: Whether Bradford is represented by Labour, Conservative or Liberal, or any other Members of Parliament is beside the point. Of course it is. Our fine city has contributed much to politics and civic institutions over the past 100 years. This is the centenary of the W. E. Forster Education Act. It was in the City of Bradford that the I.L.P. had its origins. It was in Bradford that radical forward-looking Conservatism has had forthright expression. Many such hon. Members from Bradford, as Mr. Arthur Tiley and Sir William Taylor in recent years, are familiar to the House.

Mr. Curtis Bennett, the Assistant Commissioner, put it in this way: I was left with the impression that such a step"— that is, the reduction of Bradford's Parliamentary representation— would tend to diminish its prestige and give an appearance of a reduction in its relative importance and would thus be damaging to Bradford's development. I come now to the question of those who reside in our constituencies but who are—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman must not move the Amendment which he would like to move. He must argue why he is for or against the Order as a whole.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

I wish to make a general point, a point which has been touched upon by several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who is the shadow Home Secretary, and the hon. Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann), among others. I refer to the position of people who reside in the constituency but who are not on the electoral roll. As the hon. Member for Kensington, North and others have observed, many people living in tenements and properties in multiple occupation, and others of immigrant origin who cannot understand the language of the registration form, are put at a disadvantage.

According to an article in the Sunday Times of 7th June, 1970, a lecturer in politics at the local university—Bradford—is quoted as estimating that 20 to 25 per cent. of the immigrant population of Bradford—there are probably between 30,000 and 40,000 in the city—are not on the electoral roll. A similar state of affairs can be found elsewhere in the country, and it raises a question which I most earnestly press the House to consider.

It is particularly sad that under these proposals the very places which most need adequate parliamentary representation, the centres of industry and the big conurbations, tend to be underrepresented and are losing Members of Parliament. Apart from the residents to whom I have already referred, there are the displaced persons from Eastern Europe, people who came here after the war and who have contributed in every way to our society, but who are disfranchised by not being on the register.

Here is a list of the county boroughs and London boroughs principally concerned. Birmingham county borough loses a seat. Bradford is another example, as are Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. In the London area, there are boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith, Hounslow, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and the City of Westminster.

No one can deny that these are places which fully deserve truly adequate representation, since they are, on the whole, places in which immigrant populations are concentrated and in respect of which it is most important that community relations and the results of immigration be brought to the attention of the House. I ask the indulgence of the House for a moment to read from the representation sent to the Home Secretary by our own Pakistan Society, a representation which concerns not just Bradford, but many other parts of the country: It is generally agreed that under-representation of the city's immigrant population on the electoral register is a fact. We feel"— this is signed by a leading justice of the peace who is an immigrant and many others— We feel that considerations of racial harmony are of paramount importance, and the number of the city's Members of Parliament should reflect adequately the rights of the immigrant population". People care in my city. We in the House of Commons should care about the situation there and in comparable cities. One can adduce other examples and make comparisons to demonstrate where manifest injustice is likely to be perpetrated if the Orders go through. It is a reasonable and just exercise to compare cities of comparable size. Let us take three major cities—Bradford, Newcastle and Cardiff. In 1965, when this great exercise began, the City of Bradford had 202,098 electors on the register. Newcastle had 194,580, and Cardiff had 183,260. One must take into account not only those figures but the 1970 figures, too. In 1970, Bradford had 221,000, Newcastle had 196,000 and Cardiff had 192,000. Yet Cardiff, the smallest of the three, is to gain a seat and go up to four. I realise that the Welsh have special susceptibilities which we must not infringe, but Cardiff is none the less a comparable industrial city. The number on the register in one of Newcastle's divisions—Newcastle, Central—has fallen to 31,628, whereas Bradford, East, which is to be abolished, has 40,720. Yet Newcastle is to retain its four constituencies although the entitlement of the Northumberland area is, I believe, one-tenth over the norm.

One can see in this way, taking comparable cities into account, that there will be monstrous injustice.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford East

Is it not a fact, also, that Newcastle now has 15,000 fewer population than Bradford but will keep four seats, whereas Bradford will go down to three; and does not the hon. Gentleman consider it to be a crowning insult by the Government that they should think of Bradford, of all places, to sacrifice a seat simply because they require to give an extra seat to Devon and Cornwall, at the other end of England?

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Yes, indeed; I am grateful to my friend from Yorkshire, the hon. Member for Bradford, East. I am glad that he has brought that also to the attention of the House. It reminds me that there was another historical accident. The Commissioners provisionally recommended that there be four Members of Parliament for Bradford. Then, in 1967—there must be many similar instances throughout the country—they discovered that a local ward redistribution was taking place, so they were statutorily bound by the Act to go in and look again. They duly did so, and said that over the years and in other parts of the country the quota in question had created difficulties and they reckoned that the West Riding had one-third or thereabouts of a Member of Parliament too many; so they took it out of Bradford because Bradford had changed its ward boundaries. It was just as fortuitous as that, and I am sure that such fortuitous occurrences are not the sort of basis on which my right hon. Friends would wish to legislate.

I have done my best to state the importance attached to the proposals by those of us in my city who are affected, as are some others. I have made it clear that I will not be able to support the Government on them unless they show some flexibility.

I pointed out in an intervention earlier that the greatest alteration in the franchise since 1928 has taken place. An example is the seat that is likely to be abolished of Bradford, East. Not only has a brand new technological university been established there since the Commissioners did their little exercise, but there are also the technical college, with students on the register, and the college of education. In fact, if the changes go through in my city, one constituency will have nearly all the immigrant population, both railway stations, the cathedral, the university, the college of further education, and the city hall. It would virtually have the lot. That is the sort of imbalance and injustice which the Government should seek to rectify.

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

6.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Laurie Pavitt Mr Laurie Pavitt , Willesden West

I liked the declaration of independence by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson). It is a rare thing on the opposite side of the House and I rejoice in it. I also rejoice in the hon. Gentleman's faith that he was hoping for some impartiality and flexibility on the part of the Government, especially after the Home Secretary's speech, which showed some of the greatest inflexibility I have seen in my 10 years in the House.

As for impartiality, I served on the Standing Committee which considered the London Government Bill. There I saw Conservative Party's so-called impartiality carve up the old London County Council in such a way that it was practically impossible for my party ever to win control of the G.L.C. or to get back to power for some years.

I liked particularly the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for his constituency. I know that he will forgive me if I say that I regret to see him here, because Norman Hazeldine, his predecessor, was a personal friend of mine. But most of us agree with the hon. Gentleman in that we are seeking to argue this blanket Order on the basis of constituency problems and experience. We do so against the whole constituency background, because what happens in one constituency is often similar to what happens in many other constituencies.

For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann), the hon. Member for Bradford, West and I share several things. In my constituency I have the fourth highest number of immigrants in the country. The question of how multi-occupation and fluidity in moving across constituency boundaries affects the drawing of boundaries is very pertinent, and it was given no consideration by the Boundary Commissions.

I regret very much the way in which the Government have put forward the Orders in blanket form. Most of our time in the House is spent in discussing general matters and creating legislation and climates of opinion economically, socially and politically. The number of times when we are charged with the responsibility of representing things which directly affect the people who sent us here are few and far between, so much so, Mr. Speaker, that at Question Time when you feel that a constituency interest is involved you go out of your way to call the Member so that that interest can be stated.

Therefore, the hon. Member for Bradford, West, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and I inevitably draw on our constituency experience and make constituency points. The right hon. and learned Gentleman put his finger on the whole question of numbers and statistics which emerged from the Commission and did so very succinctly. His hon. Friend followed up the point that in the light of the Commission's remit we find it almost incomprehensible when we look at the disparity of numbers in all the constituencies which are being re-drawn. They seem to have no bearing at all on the optimum number in the original remit.

I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman in that I am rather suspicious of computers. I agree with my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary that in the ultimate it is Parliament which must decide and I question the wisdom of both the Commissioners' and the Assistant Commissioners' inquiries in many cases. I should be even more concerned if the decision were so weighted by computerised facts that Parliament became even further away from deciding future boundary changes. I am especially concerned with future possibilities because I happen to serve on the Medical Research Council. We have now reached the stage where research is going on to help the computer with things called "Samis"—socially acceptable monitoring instruments. I can see the possibility of future boundaries being drawn as a result of socially acceptable monitoring instruments being placed on each individual voter, and the facts so obtained being fed into some computer. Eventually we would need no Boundary Commission or even Parliament, because the result would come out at the end of the tape.

The two points I wish to raise are human, and this is where the Government's blanket proposals are so bad from a constituency point of view. It so happens that the proposed changes will benefit my party in my area, but I oppose the way in which the changes are being made because they ride roughshod over all the local knowledge and local cultural activities. A parliamentary constituency is more than just so many heads to be counted every five years. It is a community. Therefore I object on two counts to the way in which the boundaries have been drawn in my area, and these objections must be equally valid in many other areas.

First, there is the ignoring of local history and tradition in small unnecessary ways. Willesden goes back to the year 983, and my parish church was built at the same time as Westminster Abbey. A change of name after a thousand years annoys local susceptibilities. I put it no higher than that. There is no reason why things like this should not be considered and why it should be impossible for Parliament to reach a conclusion on our representations on behalf of the people who sent us here, so that local pride can be maintained.

My main objection, however, in my own area is purely geographical. As the Order stands, my party will gain, and unless there is an enormous change in political thinking the London Borough of Brent will have two Labour Members and one Conservative, instead of two Conservative and two Labour Members. But the boundaries have been drawn in such a way that both the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus) and I object to them. Part of his constituency will stick into mine like a peninsula, and vice-versa.

The North Circular Road runs through the heart of Brent, dividing it into two clear parts, rather like the Berlin Wall with two Checkpoint Charlies. There are only two ways of getting from the Wembley part to the Willesden area. The boundaries have been redrawn in such a way that there is only one road which bridges the six wards in my old constituency to the three new wards that I shall assume in Wembley. This will mean that I do not have a viable area from the point of view of social work, and community activity—the recently-started organisation to help the disabled, for example, and the deaf, in which I am very interested. There will be just the one bridge between two pockets of the constituency. There are no houses in one part of the constituency adjacent to houses on the other side of the constituency. There is only a row of factories and that bridge between the two.

One of the things that hon. Members on both sides are constantly trying to do is to create community participation and responsibility—and not just in politics, because our responsibility goes further than that, but in the whole way in which a neighbourhood and community are built up. We are particularly proud in Willesden that we have events which used to take place only in country areas, like the Brent show, which attracts at a weekend 30,000 people who come to see what farming looks like. They are people from a completely industrialised area where the only farm belongs to the Guinness factory, more noted for a beverage other than milk.

We naturally want to resist to the utmost this kind of boundary revision, pushed through without the opportunity to discuss the true local feelings of the people we are sent here to represent. The Government have been very ill-advised in view of all the changes since the boundaries were recommended by the Commissioners. My constituency population has changed three times, and within the past year it has changed by 3,000.

Even more important is the fact that unless there is a method by which changes in the community caused by the large number of immigrants and other changes can be reflected in the way in which we represent our electors, unless there is contact between me and those whom I represent, we make a farce of our being here in the rarefied atmosphere of Westminster, unable to keep our feet firmly on the ground in our constituencies.

What I am putting to the House are non-statistical, non-computerised arguments. These matters should have been considered, and we should have had the opportunity to consider them if the Government had chosen to act as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) did in July when we had an opportunity to discuss and amend any changes.

I condemn the Government for gerrymandering and being inflexible and absolutely partial in trying to seek electoral advantages at the expense of the traditional, ordinary rights of the voters that send us here.

6.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

I apologise to the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) for not having been here for the whole of his speech. Unfortunately, I was called away during the debate, but I heard his concluding remarks.

I listened with great care to the speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I was not sure which I admired most—his debating skill, which is considerable, or his effrontery, which is even more considerable. As far as I could make out, he based his case upon the fact that two wrongs do not make a right, from which I gathered that he now admits, as I am sure he admitted before, that his original action when he held the responsibility as Home Secretary was wrong.

I do not want to pursue that part of the argument, but only to intervene briefly to add my protest to those from both sides of the House about the way in which we are now dealing with the question of boundary changes. In 1954, as hon. Members on this side pointed out to the then Prime Minister nearly 12 months ago, we adopted a very different procedure. We were able to consider grouped constituencies which were mutually affected by the proposed changes, and if necessary vote against the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. The arguments adduced by us nearly 12 months ago, when the question was first raised in the House, were sound then and are sound now. We should have made it possible for the House to debate the recommendations in such a way that those of us with objections to them could have made those objections known and carried them into the Lobbies. I thought then that the procedure suggested by the then Government was abuse of the procedure of the House, and I must confess that I think that the present system is abuse of the procedure of the House, too.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) had some critical things to say about the way in which we carry out boundary changes, and I support what he said. Looking at the changes proposed, as they affect the various constituencies, we find that even now, because of the lapse of time since the Commission carried out its investigations, many constituencies are much larger than it was the established aim of the Commission to effect. For example, the constituency, of Wycombe, after it has been torn and dismembered by the Commission's recommendations, would still have over 75,000 electors on the register. I hazard the guess that, by the next Election, supposing it came by 1974, which is not too unlikely, the electorate would be well over 80,000, probably approaching 85,000. Therefore, the Commission's original aim would not be met by these recommendations.

Because of the lapse of time, and because the recommendations are now out of date, we should have taken the opportunity to have speeded up our reconsideration of local government reform, which might have carried with it changes in responsibility in local government in general. That might have meant the establishment of some form of regional authorities to which certain responsibilities now earned by the House could be devolved. This would mean a change in our form and shape of government national and local. It could mean that we would not need as many Members of Parliament as there now are. I am one of those who hold the perhaps unpopular view that there are too many Members and that any changes which add to the number are to be deplored and not welcomed.

I foresee that, unless there are changes right throughout the whole structure of government, national and local, so that there is a spreading of the responsibilities now carried by the House, it might be necessary to carry on with the same number of Members. A comprehensive review might have enabled us to look at this logically.

To illustrate this by a personal example—in these matters one can speak only from personal experience—when I first won the Wycombe seat the electorate was 56,000. Today under the old boundaries it is over 90,000. If they remained unchanged until the next election I suppose that the number could well be 110,000. I personally—I suppose this applies to the majority of Members with a constituency of the same geographical size as mine—have found no greater difficulty in looking after the interests of nearly 100,000 electors than I did in looking after the interests of 56,000 electors when I first won the seat. It is a question of having the right resources and organisation. If constituencies were larger, provided that the procedures of the House were altered accordingly and proper facilities made available to Members, there would be no problem in Members dealing with larger constituencies than those with which they now deal.

I am sorry that we are faced with the necessity of either voting for all or against all of the proposals contained in these Orders and that we are not able to consider them at least section by section, county by county, or in groups of mutually affected constituencies. That would have been a much better way of dealing with the matter. If I understood correctly what was said by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, it is not the Opposition's intention to vote against the Orders. I think that that is a correct decision and that in all probability the Orders will go through without a dissenting voice. However, that does not mean that there is not a great feeling of uneasiness on both sides about the way this is being done. I join my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East in urging the Government to look afresh at the future methods by which we change constituency boundaries. I am certain that the present method is not right. A system which introduces recommendations which are out of date even before they come to the House cannot be right for the proper allocation of boundaries.

Having made my protest, I do not wish to add any more, except on a note of personal regret to say that for over 18 years I have worked in my constituency and have grown to know many thousands of people throughout it. I am about to lose a considerable part of it. I like to think that my electors regret that as much as I regret it. It is splitting up some traditional associations which have existed for many years. At one stage, it threatened to take away the Hughenden valley, including the home of Disraeli, from the constituency which traditionally, for hundreds of years, has been associated with Wycombe. Fortunately, we were able to avert that during the inquiry. That is what happens when old associations of this kind are broken up. I express my personal regret that I am about to lose a very attractive and nice part of my constituency, as I am sure that other hon. Members who are losing theirs deeply regret their loss.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

One point on which general agreement emerges is that hon. Members on both sides think that the Home Secretary has shown very bad judgment in presenting the Orders to us en bloc. His attempt to defend his course of action by citing the procedures proposed, in the very different circumstances, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), for not changing the boundaries last year, was very feeble.

The Home Secretary's action is regrettable, because hon. Members have much to say which is of great importance to their own constituencies and areas. They should have been given the proper time to deploy their case and, if need be, to divide the House. As it is, anyone intervening in the debate feels under a certain constraint and restraint. He has his eyes on the clock, because he knows that many other hon. Members wish to speak. Therefore, an hon. Member is almost obliged to make a broad speech rather than a narrower one but one of great importance to his own area.

I shall make a few remarks which cover not only my own constituency, which is affected by these changes, but also a general problem affecting many other constituencies. I am thinking of the heart areas of our big cities. As a result of these boundary changes, the number of constituencies which now exist in the central parts of cities—certainly of London, but also of the great provincial cities—is about to be greatly reduced.

It will be said that the argument for arithmetical equality inevitably dictates that the representation in older inner city areas should decline. Their populations have been declining as people have moved out to other areas—to new towns, to expanding towns, and so on. The argument of arithmetical equality in terms of constituency representation dictates that the growing areas must have an increase and the declining areas a decrease.

I do not propose in general to quarrel with that argument, because it is virtually irrefutable. However, in making its proposals the Commission is allowed a considerable margin. Under the rules which have been adopted, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own electoral quota, which is different from that of England. Most of us would agree that in the past the Commission has given a slight weighting of representation in favour of rural areas or has taken account of other factors, as it is entitled to do; so it is not the slave of arithmetical equality.

Among the factors of which this Commission should have taken account and of which I hope a future Commission will take account is the need to give special weighting to the inner areas of great cities. I argue this on two grounds. First, our social thinking in recent years has come to recognise that the inner areas of big cities have problems which are out of scale with those of other areas. In the last few years we have defined housing priority areas and educational priority areas, areas in which the urban programme would apply. The common core of this priority area approach is the fact that in these areas there are far greater problems than those existing elsewhere. There are problems of poverty—environmental poverty to an extreme degree, real personal poverty which the measures taken yesterday will certainly not alleviate. There is also the problem of immigration. All these problems come together in the priority areas in the inner part of big cities.

It is strange that our redistributive arrangements for cities should seem to be moving in the very opposite direction to our recogniton of priority areas in terms of social policy and allocation of resources. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said that the size of the electorate made no difference. I invite him to come to Tower Hamlets and see the great problems that Members of Parliament have to face there. They are problems of squatters, of homeless people, of a large concentration of families with great problems, and of local authorities whose resources are stretched to the utmost. It is paradoxical that these very areas, which in the past have admittedly been somewhat overrepresented in terms of population, have become under-represented in the new constituencies which have been formed. The quota for England is little more than 58,000, but wherever we look in the new areas of our cities there is tendency to find new constituencies being recommended whose size is above the English constituency quota, whereas throughout the rest of the country there are constituencies which are far smaller and whose problems do not even begin to match the scale of those that the inner areas have to face.

I certainly do not argue that there should be any sharp departure from the arithmetical rule. I am not saying that even areas under great stress should be so favoured that they have an extra Member of Parliament where this would not be justified in terms of the electoral quota. I am saying that if the Boundary Commission had had its attention drawn to the need to make sure that these areas of great stress were not under-represented, then it is almost certain that the Commission could not have recommended that there should be two or three Members of Parliament in those areas where at present there are three or four.

I conclude by urging on the Minister who is to wind up the debate, ideally to withdraw these Orders, to think again and to present some new ones. However, if the Government cannot do that, let them for heaven's sake think about these areas with great problems since they could become major problem areas in our social life in the years ahead. Let them see whether they can build some reasonable principle of weighting into whatever rules the Boundary Commission has to operate in future.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak. If speeches are reasonably brief, as they have been so far, I should be able to call everybody who wishes to speak.

7.12 p.m.

Photo of Sir Brandon Rhys Williams Sir Brandon Rhys Williams , Kensington South

I am glad to have the opportunity of making a brief contribution to the discussion. I wish to make a minor constituency point but a point with some general relevance. I apologise that I was not able to be present during the remarks of the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann). He has, however, been kind enough to keep me fully apprised of his point of view. I have very great sympathy with his case, and it is most unfortunate that the point that he argues so forcefully was not able to be decided in any court.

In the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea the recommendation that the number of Members of Parliament should be reduced from three to two was regarded with consternation by members of all parties. A two-day hearing was held in which the inspector was exceedingly thorough and he was kind enough to give us the full text of his report. The report said in the strongest terms that the Boundary Commission should revert to its original recommendation, namely, that we should continue to be represented by three Members. He added a rider that if the Commission were not prepared to leave us with three Members to represent the Borough, the boundary should be the Cromwell Road instead of the zigzag frontier which had been put forward by the Commission.

I found convincing the reasons given in the inspector's recommendation that the Cromwell Road should mark the boundary. By adopting such a frontier the Borough would be divided into more equal numbers. Indeed, the Cromwell Road in recent years has become the natural frontier. It has now a six-lane highway and is exceptionally busy at all hours of the day and night. To divide the Borough by reference to the road system is already normal practice because the existing boundaries, which are recognisable and easily identified, are the Fulham Road and Holland Park Avenue. Therefore, it would seem natural that the Cromwell Road should form the boundary. In any event Chelsea, although ambitious enough now to extend itself even to take in Earls Court, cannot claim that it extends right the way up to High Street, Kensington.

The Commissioners rejected the first and also the second recommendation of the inspector and said that, in spite of their sympathy with the latter recommendation, they could not adopt the Cromwell Road as the frontier because it did not follow old-established ward boundaries. But the borough council has already in hand a scheme for re-warding in the borough. One change which is virtually certain among the other changes which will result from the study is that the Earls Court ward will be divided along the Cromwell Road. The considerations affecting the parliamentary constituency boundaries are, of course, just as strong in regard to local authority ward boundaries.

I do not know how quickly the rewarding of the whole borough can be brought into effect, but the simple decision to divide the Earls Court ward along the Cromwell Road is a matter that could well be completed by the end of this year. So that here is an example of a boundary being brought in as a result of these Orders which is already virtually obsolete. I believe that there are other instances which can be adduced where changes have taken place since the Boundary Commission has reported, which have already made the recommendations controversial.

It is understandable in the situation inherited by the Home Office that they should have resisted amendments up to the present time. I support what they are doing in taking the Commission's recommendations as a block. But it would be a blunder if Parliament were to establish the recommendations of the Boundary Commission where they are already obsolete without making it easy for minor and uncontroversial changes to be made afterwards as quickly as possible. I therefore welcome the Home Secretary's expression of sympathy with this point of view and in particular his statement that where particular ward changes were in progress the Commission would be able to initiate changes in parliamentary boundaries also.

I wish to add a note of haste to the proceedings. It is most confusing for an electorate to find itself in a completely new situation, particularly where constituency boundaries have been established for many decades. In order to minimise the uncertainty and confusion which will be inevitable where long-established boundaries have been changed, may we ask the Home Office—or whoever is responsible for the pace of these things—that subsequent changes should be made as expeditiously as possible, and that wherever possible the Commission's findings should be made known within a few weeks.

7.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

I promise to be brief, but in Scotland there are particular problems of geography and I propose to deal with some of them.

I find this an extremely uncomfortable debate. In the way this matter has been presented to the House, there has been no feeling on the part of the Government Front Bench of any burning sense of righting wrongs. Indeed, we have sensed an uneasy feeling among hon. Members opposite and we have seen signs on the Government Front Bench of a little piece of petty political vindictiveness. All honour to hon. Gentlemen opposite who also have sensed this and who have displayed their own discomfort by arguing the case for withdrawing the Orders.

When, earlier today, we were debating points of order and seeking to move to adjourn the debate, we were asking that one of two things should happen. We were asking either that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland should seek modifications of the Orders so as to bring the situation up to date, or we were seeking to delay this matter until such time as the local government boundaries were decided. This is not an irrelevant factor. It is written into the 1949 and 1954 Acts, as well as in other Acts of Parliament. This is why we postponed the changes. We were right then and I suspect that there is this discomfort in the debate because many hon. Members opposite recognise the fact.

While this pettiness may have been true of the Home Secretary, on the other hand, I have no doubt, with the typical generosity of Scotland, that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary of State will recognise the need, if anything, for postponement of action and the withdrawal of the Order in the case of Scotland. We have peculiar geographical problems in Scotland because of size. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) covers 8,000 square miles. The constituency of Orkney and Shetland probably covers even more square miles, although mainly of water. There are thus special reasons why we should apply geographical considerations and not simply fulfil the electoral quotas in terms of Scottish constituencies.

For example, Ross and Cromarty has 27,000 electors on the 1970 predictions, according to the document we saw today, while the Western Isles constituency has 23,000, Orkney and Shetland 25,000, Caithness and Sutherland 28,000 and Banff 31,000. These are all very small constituencies, not only in United Kingdom terms but also in Scottish terms, but there are geographical reasons for it. An area of 8,000 square miles is a very large one to get round, but that is the great difficulty in Scotland. Precisely because we have a number of such constituencies, inevitably their electorates are very small in total.

This factor, however, also affects the nature of the electoral quota as applied to other areas. I do not think that this point has been taken properly into consideration, but it is the kind of thing which hon. Members understand better and should get the opportunity to examine and consider. This is the kind of argument which one would have been able to deploy detail by detail if we had been given the proper opportunity to examine these proposals by debate. I shall not go into the consequences of this situation but I am adducing it as a reason why the Secretary of State for Scotland should withdraw his own Order, which would enable us to examine this matter properly.

The situation caused by the existence of constituencies with small electorates means that, in the central valleys and areas of Scotland, a certain pressure is felt. For example, at the next election my constituency will probably have twice the number of electors of the Secretary of State in Moray and Nairn or the Under-Secretary in North Angus and Mearns. Because of this situation, we get anomalies. For example, we get anomaly in Midlothian and West Lothian, the one with 77,000 electors, according to the prediction on the 1970 figures, and the other with 72,000, giving a total for the two constituencies of 150,000. Yet that area will still have only two Members of Parliament although in terms of electoral quota there should be three.

Then there is the case of Renfrewshire. It was even stated in the Boundary Commission's report that Renfrewshire was almost sufficiently large for five constituencies on the electoral quota, but it gave as the reason for not advocating that there should be five constituencies the present local government boundaries, which the Commission did not want to cut across. We can still, therefore, get these very large discrepancies and anomalies of size, partly conditioned by existing local government boundaries. That factor, too, should be taken into consideration.

One can compare North Angus and Mearns, with a total electorate, on 1970 predictions, of 83,000, with Dundee, which has two Members representing 130,000 voters. Both cases are above the quota, however, because of the importance of local government boundaries. Geographical factors, tied in with other aspects such as local government boundaries, are producing, because of the presence of small-electorate constituencies in Scotland, these gross anomalies, and the situation has not been adequately examined. I see no evidence in the Boundary Commission's report which suggests that this aspect, which is within our knowledge, has been examined by the Commission, and it should be examined in detail by this House.

We have accepted and written into the Acts, particularly the 1949 Act, the importance of local government boundaries. We have written into those Acts most of the geographical factors as constituting a reason for departing from the strict language of Section 6 of Schedule 2. Equally important is the passage of time and development, which has become particularly important because of the history of these Orders.

These Orders were postponed, for good reason—because of forthcoming local government boundary adjustments. Because of that postponement, if they are now implemented in this total fashion they will be nine or ten years out of date. The Boundary Commission was bound to make its adjudications on the basis of the 1965 figures. It was not at that point allowed to predict. This should have been the prerogative or the discretion of a new Boundary Commission, with the modification phrase written in for the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland. I suggest that the passage of time, with the consequent developments and changes, is equally important with the local government conditions and geographical conditions. Yet local government borders and geographical conditions were the only two factors which the Commission was entitled to look at. It is up to the Government to take into cognisance the third factor of change and development and realise that a 1965 analysis is totally inadequate for 1974 or 1975—if, indeed, the present Government last as long as that, and after yesterday I doubt whether they will.

As I have promised, I want to deal with my own circumstances. The Home Secretary adduced the argument that these Orders must be accepted in tow because they were produced by an impartial body, but that does not hold water because two impartial bodies were involved. The Commissioners produced the first Boundary Commission Report and then there was another impartial report by the Assistant Commissioner, who rejected the Commission's report. Competent gentlemen were employed in each case and the Assistant Commissioner was no less impartial than the Boundary Commission. Yet he rejected its report. In turn, the Boundary Commissioners rejected his report. I suggest that this is precisely why the Secretary of State for Scotland should look again at the matter.

Who is to judge between the Boundary Commission and the Assistant Commissioner? I see no evidence that this point has been properly considered. The Secretary of State backs the Boundary Commission on this matter for the reasons which the Commission itself gives for rejecting the Assistant Commissioner's report. He gave me that information when I wrote to him. This is an interesting aspect. I want to refer to paragraphs 43 and 46 on page 15 of the Boundary Commission's report, I remind the House that the first point was that the Boundary Commission recognised that there was a case for almost five constituencies in Renfrewshire were it not for local government problems. We are now envisaging the situation in 1973, 1974 or 1975. I suggest that by then it will not be a case of Renfrewshire being almost sufficient for five constituencies, but, indeed of being more than sufficient for five.

The second point is where, in paragraph 43, the Boundary Commission said: Our recommendations, therefore, were confined to proposals for reducing the disparities in the 1965 electorates". The Commission could not interfere with the local government boundaries. Therefore, it was concerned only with reducing the disparities in the 1965 electorates.

When, however, it came to examine the Assistant Commissioner's report rejecting that analysis, in paragraph 46 the Commission said: … while on the 1965 figures of the electorate, the objectors' proposals gave a more balanced distribution of the electorate". So it was saying, first, that its own task was to produce a balanced figure to reduce the disparities.

The Commission then said that the public inquiry came up with a more balanced picture. The point that I am making will be seen. The Commission have driven a horse and cart through its reason for rejection. It goes on to say why it discards the findings of the public inquiry—because it cuts across the local government boundaries. It said: … this would only be temporary, as development was taking place in West Renfrewshire which … was to have the largest electorate. The Boundary Commission is saying that it rejects the public inquiry despite the fact that it would produce a more balanced division of the electorate because of predicted population change.

I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland must look at that very closely. It seems that the argument that has been given for rejection of the public inquiry cuts across the remit to which the Commissioners must be bound. I am surprised, therefore, that the Secretary of State has backed the rejection, not for any good reasons of his own, but for the reasons that are given in the report. I think that these reasons require careful examination. I believe that the reasons are wrong. The Under-Secretary must withdraw the Order tonight in order to examine the position closely.

That was the main point that I wanted to put. I do not want to go on to the many other arguments, such as the question of size. Either we accept the population and demographic prediction as part of the factors, as the Boundary Commission does, or we do not. If we do not, the public inquiry produced a better balance. If we do, we will end up by bringing in the future population development, and that in Renfrew, West will add between 18,000 and 20,000 electorate over and above the natural growth because of the Glasgow overspill situation. We will have an extremely unbalanced situation by 1974 with three of the four constituencies having roughly 60,000 and the fourth, in Renfrew, West, having nearly 80,000.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall). I liked most of his speech. However, it is not true that there are no more difficulties when a constituency becomes bigger. I have one "surgery" at one end of my constituency which lasts about five hours on average. I have another at the other end where I am lucky if two or three people turn up. This is because there are real problems within one area.

Apart from the human point, I must ask the Under-Secretary to look closely at what seems to be almost a breach of the legal duties of the Commission in using this argument as a reason for rejecting the public inquiry.

7.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

With the permission of the House, it might be helpful if I intervene in the debate at this early stage to say a few words about the Scottish Order. I emphasise that I am merely intervening and in no sense winding up.

Apart from answering some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan), I do not intend to go into the actual circumstances in which redistribution is being considered. This is part of every hon. Member's speech, and the proper place to deal with it is in the winding-up speech. I should like to confine myself—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate this—to the remarks that he made and the particular points that he raised concerning Scotland.

I should like, first, to take the opportunity, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did, to express Scotland's thanks to Mr. Speaker and to the Deputy Chairman of the Scottish Commission, Lord Kilbrandon, and to its members for the work that they did in producing this document. All the criticisms this evening of particular aspects of the recommendations concerning particular constituencies—this applies equally to England and Wales as to Scotland—are largely criticisms of detail. I am sure that all hon. Members accept that the Commission went about its task in a constructive way, fulfilling the duties laid upon it. I am sure that we all pay tribute to the way that it has carried out its duties.

I certainly consider that the Scottish Report is a well-reasoned document. However, I accept that in certain instances, as the public inquiries showed, many people had reservations about what was proposed.

I should like to deal with the detailed points raised by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West concerning his constituency and then deal with some of the wider issues relating to Scotland as a whole. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Commission laid out in some detail the reasons why it rejected the advice or opinion given by the Assistant Commissioner who conducted this inquiry.

Under the legislation, the Boundary Commission is not obliged to accept recommendations from the Assistant Commissioner. It is important to say that straightaway. It is not obliged to do so, although obviously it can take them into account. Indeed, the case raised by the hon. Gentleman—I appreciate his personal interest—is the only one in Scotland where the Assistant Commissioner's Report was not accepted by the Boundary Commission. In the past, in reappraising boundaries we have never had as many public inquiries as we have this time. Equally, there is no precedent why the Boundary Commission should be bound by what the Assistant Commissioner may report as the result of an inquiry. Therefore, I believe that the Boundary Commission has behaved and acted perfectly properly and there is nothing wrong with the action that was taken.

It is important to look at the points raised in the Boundary Commission's reasons. It gives four reasons, the main reason being the fourth on which the hon. Gentleman touched only briefly. That is the question whether it is right that a constituency boundary should straddle a local government boundary. This is the point which bore most heavily of all in the Commission's conclusions.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

I think that I might save the hon. Gentleman some trouble. My argument was not dealing with the rightness or wrongness of the arguments but with the method of approach. It is so seriously faulty that I think it should be re-examined and the Order withdrawn. Other arguments are involved, some of which I accept.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

That will save time. I wanted to demonstrate to the House—I know that the hon. Gentleman wished to be brief—that the Boundary Commission reached its conclusions in a properly reasoned way.

I understand that the hon. Gentleman's main concern relates to future developments in population in his constituency and to whether in future projections the balance of the four constituencies will be fair. This is a matter of opinion. The Assistant Commissioner expressed one opinion. The Commission weighed against it the other considerations set out in the Report and came to the conclusion that it did.

The hon. Gentleman said that it was five years ago that this examination of the constituencies began. If one makes an assessment of the boundaries suggested by the Commission and those suggested by the Assistant Commissioner as a result of the inquiry, it is interesting to compare the results. Under the Commission's proposals, as at 1970 the distribution of the electorate among the four constituencies in question would be as follows: East Renfrewshire, 59,600; West Renfrewshire, 60,200; Greenock and Port Glasgow, 62,500; Paisley, 66,000. In fact, Paisley would be the same under either proposal. If the objector's case had been sustained and accepted by the Commission, East Renfrewshire would have remained the same at 59,600; West Renfrewshire would have been 66,200; and Greenock would have been as low as 56,500. Even with projected development and population expansions, the Commission's recommendation will result in a more equitable distribution of the electorate, taking into account all these other factors. I therefore do not believe that there is a case for my right hon. Friend accepting the view that these proposals need to be re-examined.

I accept that in an area like Scotland where there are problems of geographic distribution and communication one cannot have the same electoral quota for constituencies regardless of where they are. The hon. Gentleman referred to my constituency, which is a scattered constituency. I have a very much smaller electorate than has the hon. Gentleman, but it would probably take me longer to cross my constituency than it would take him to cross his.

Because, in Scotland, for good reasons we have at one end of the scale a number of small constituencies, it means that at the other end we have a number of larger constituencies which push up the average size of constituencies. But even if one looks at it that way, one still has to remember, as the Home Secretary said in opening the debate, that in Scotland as a whole we enjoy a lower average electoral quota than one finds in England and Wales.

I believe that the Commission's proposals are effective, and that despite what the hon. Gentleman said it has done its best to strike a balance between the small geographically scattered constituencies and the more populated industrial areas in central Scotland.

For the purpose of my argument I am using figures based on the 1970 register which takes account of the increase in the electorate resulting from the lowering of the voting age. Whereas under the existing arrangements we have 20 constituencies with an electorate of fewer than 40,000, 29 constituencies in the 40,000 to 60,000 band, and 22 constituencies with electorates in excess of 60,000, under the Commission's proposals there will be only 10 constituencies with fewer than 40,000 electors—the number of small constituencies with fewer than 40,000 electors will be halved—48 constituencies in the 40,000 to 60,000 band, as against 29 at present, and of the 13 constituencies with an electorate in excess of 60,000, only two will have more than 70,000 electors. This demonstrates that the Commission has done its job effectively and fairly.

That brings me to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman about the constituencies of Midlothian and West Lothian which occupy a special part of the Commission's report. For various reasons with which I do not want to deal now, the Commission found considerable difficulty in trying to set up a third constituency to reduce the size of these constituencies or to produce one which would not straddle the boundaries of large local authorities. In all this there is a fine balance of judgment. On one side the Commission makes a recommendation. On the other side local people, and sometimes even the Assistant Commissioner, come to a different conclusion. As I say, these are finely balanced issues, and I think that in Scotland as a whole the Commission has come to sensible conclusions. The fact that there has been serious controversy in only three areas shows that in general what has been proposed by the Commission is acceptable to people in Scotland. Of course there have been difficulties. Of course the solutions are not perfect in every respect. But I believe that the Commission's proposals for the future pattern of constituencies in Scotland commend themselves to most people in that area.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

What is the outlook for these two constituencies, one of which has an electorate of 77,000 and the other one of 72,000, and one of which will increase because of the new town in the area? When will someone put forward a solution to that problem? One could talk about having six constituencies in another part of Scotland in an effort to strike a balance. Has anyone thought of recognising that there are areas with exceptionally low population densities? One would not dream of denying them representation, but they are in a different position from other areas of Scotland. To provide everybody with roughly the same representation might mean having more than the existing 71 constituencies. How long is this disparity to continue in the area which my hon. Friend and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, represent?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

I appreciate the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that I showed my concern about it. Although objections were raised to the Commission's proposals, none of the objections was followed through to the point of having a public inquiry because it was appreciated by those concerned that there were special circumstances in their areas. The adjustment of this situation will have to await the Boundary Commission's further consideration in the future.

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Reed Mr David Reed , Sedgefield

It is a matter of great regret to me personally that for only the second time that I rise to speak in this Chamber it should be on this subject. I say that because should the Orders that we are discussing be accepted without Amendment, as the Home Secretary is suggesting, my constituency would be eliminated. It would be wiped off the map. I refer to the constituency of Sedgefield, in County Durham.

Irrespective of the merits of maintaining my constituency, I hope to demonstrate that in County Durham the Boundary Commission has not only failed, but has failed lamentably, to fulfil its own objectives. I oppose the Order, not because I feel that the Commission can be regarded as anything other than impartial—it is and it must be; in party political terms it must be completely impartial—but because I think, and this is something which nobody has mentioned so far, that the basic objective of the Commission's exercise is to ensure that each person's vote, wherever he or she lives, is worth the same in electing a Member to represent him or her in this House. It is the failure of the Boundary Commission to achieve just that in the County of Durham that leads me to oppose the Order.

If the Boundary Commission were to succeed, I have a feeling that the result of the exercise should be something like the operation of a surgeon's knife—as precise and exact as that. In the County of Durham, it looks as if a drunken man has rampaged round the country with a blunt axe, lashing out in all directions. In not one part of the county can the Boundary Commission review be regarded as thoroughly satisfactory.

The reason lies basically in the quota system used by the Commission. I accept that it must start from one premise or another. It took the quota system and arrived at the conclusion that a figure of 59,000 would be desirable for a constituency in England. It then applied that to the County of Durham. In the county the electorate had fallen when the Commission began work, due to the creation of the Greater Teesside Council. This meant that by strict mathematical methods, one constituency in Durham had to disappear—that the county's entitlement had to fall from 17 to 16 constituencies. Even accepting that as correct—and even that is disputable—the Commission went on to compound its mistake.

It said categorically in its second periodical report that it ignored the Tyneside seats in Durham in revising the constituency boundaries. This means that about half the Durham seats have been completely left out of its review. The reason for its acting in this way was fair enough; it wanted to take into account possible changes in local government boundaries. But what I do not understand is why, at the same time, the Commission could not apply the same principle to the southern half of the county, which could also be subject to a quite major review should any far-reaching changes be made in our local government structure.

A principle was applied to one half of the county but not to the other. That is the first of the Commission's principles that I question in respect of Durham. The effect is that in respect of the county, the Commission has worked out a quota on the basis of the county as a whole but has implemented it taking into account only half the area under review—and has done so despite a string of anomalies that it has created from one end of the county to the other.

Fortunately, the regional office of the Labour Party in Newcastle provides good research facilities, and it was able to give me the figures to which the Home Secretary referred today. I can recommend the office for all research work.

The Commission, on the quota system, said that it would try to create constituencies with electorates between 40,000 and 80,000 and would try to concentrate electorates between 50,000 and 70,000; and that even taking into account the greater electorate in Britain in 1970, using the Home Secretary's own figures, the electorates would be between 45,000 and 85,000. It is an indication of the unholy mess that the Commission has made in the County of Durham that almost one-third of the seats are outside the Commission's own target figures.

Two seats are even outside the Commission's absolute maximum figure. Even taking into account the 1970 electorate if these proposals are accepted one constituency in Durham will have an electorate of only 34,000 while another, within seven years, is likely to have an electorate of over 90,000. There is no doubt that this could have been appreciated by the Commission; these figures were available to it. Yet, for some reason, it proceeded to ignore them. Any review that fails to meet its own objectives to a factor of one-third-which is what has happened in Durham—is, to put it mildly, a highly unsatisfactory one. There are even more inconsistencies, in fact the more I looked at the White Paper—Cmnd. 4084—the more I was amazed.

Another Boundary Commission principle is to take into account foreseeable growth in constituency electorates. It said this categorically. In fact, it said, in the case of the new towns: We had in mind that new towns had been a major cause of growth of electorates in some constituencies since the last review. The new town of Newton Aycliffe lies within the area of my constituency and the Darlington Rural District Council which the Commission proposes to transfer to the new constituency of Bishop Auckland. The electorate of the latter constituency is already in excess of 70,000. In Newton Aycliffe the proposed growth of population over the next seven years is 20,000 and if, in normal terms, that means a growth of some 15,000 in the electorate, it means that in seven years' time the new Bishop Auckland constituency will have an electorate of 85,000plus—and if growth is affected elsewhere in that constituency, it may approach 90,000. What appears to me to be wrong is that the Commission has stated categorically the principle of taking into account foreseeable growths in the electorate, but in the County of Durham has completely ignored it.

Another principle is that of local ties. The Commission said that it considered that local ties were of more importance than strict mathematical equality in determining constituency boundaries. I accept that principle, because there is no doubt that my constituency of Sedgefield is a coherent parliamentary constituency. Three rural district councils are involved. Only one part of the constituency—Billingham Urban District—is really part of Greater Teesside and must be treated as such in terms of parliamentary representation. Otherwise this is a coherent parliamentary constituency. The administrative, economic, social and political ties within it all make sense. Yet the Boundary Commission is threatening to split it asunder in its recommendation. I bow to no one in my knowledge of the constituency, I know the travel-to-work distances; I know the employment and transport patterns. They all set up a strong series of local ties. But the Commission does not accept that.

What makes the situation even more ludicrous are the Commission's proposals for constituencies in surrounding areas. I want to consider the constituencies among which the Commission proposes that the various sections of my constituency should be split up. What I have to say applies particularly to the constituency of Easington, where the Commission proposes to link two areas which at present have no ties whatsoever in any sense. It is proposing to link a strong mining community and the new town of Peterlee with the urban commuter areas of Eaglescliffe and Egglescliffe—one to the north and one to the south of Teesside, and both split by the urban area of Teesside in the middle. This would create a great sausage down the eastern side of England, and it would link two areas which have nothing in common.

The same consideration applies to the new constituency of Bishop Auckland. The reason for the Commission's proposal is that it is stuck with its decision in respect of the rest of the County of Durham and has taken the easy way out, in terms of looking at a map and saying "Hang the consequence for the people concerned."

I should like to question one or two other premises of the Boundary Commission, particularly the system of local inquiries that it employed. Surely, it cannot be good in a democratic society that any organisation should act as judge and jury in its own cause. This, however, is what the Boundary Commission does. I accept that it has done a good job and has been impartial, but surely it is stretching impartiality too far to expect it to do this. I should like the Home Secretary to look at this again before another Boundary Commission review is undertaken.

Another question which I should have liked to ask the Home Secretary is why one county, Oxfordshire particularly, was given an extra parliamentary seat as a result of a growth in electorate of 13,752 from the time that the Commission started work to the publication of its second periodical report. Over that same period, the growth of the Durham electorate was more than 78,000, yet no extra parliamentary seat is given to Durham.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Boundary Commission has botched the job in County Durham. Whatever the Home Secretary may have said earlier, there can be no doubt that he has been well aware of these facts and has refused to do anything about them. He was made aware of them in a 2,000-word report that I sent to him on 1st October. Since then, many other representations have been made to him by people who are concerned in my constituency. These have not been party political concerns, but everything from women's institutes to working men's clubs, from old age pensioners' associations and community associations to trade unions and miners' lodges. The people of Sedgefield were trying to let the right hon. Gentleman know that they wanted to maintain the identity of their constituency. Do the wishes of the people concerned matter to the right hon. Gentleman? It would seem very much that they do not.

I understood that the object of having a Boundary Commission was to ensure that each elector's vote is worth the same in electing a Member to serve him in Parliament. The Commission's failure to do that in County Durham is the reason that I question these Orders. Implementation of their proposals without Amendment would mean that there would be one constituency in County Durham with an electorate of 34,000, four well in excess of 70,000 and one which would push up to 90,000 within a very short time. This means that a vote in one half of the county would be worth only half the same vote in another half of the county.

Does the Minister of State not realise that what he is doing is in effect, devaluing the votes of a large section of the County Durham electorate? Because he is doing that, I must oppose the Orders.

Photo of Miss Betty Harvie Anderson Miss Betty Harvie Anderson , Renfrewshire East

Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, may I repeat the appeal which has been made for short speeches? It will be just possible to call all those who wish to speak, provided that speeches are brief.

8.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

I will try to be very brief and will concentrate mainly on a local point concerning Sheffield and a constituency point concerning both Heeley and Hallam. First, may I make one issue completely clear, in view of what has been said—that the two Conservative Members in Sheffield are very much involved in the recommendations in the Order which is before us today. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Spence) has been with me listening to this debate throughout. We should have liked to support the decision tonight but we have reservations and we would very much like assurances of greater flexibility from the Minister of State.

We consider it right that there should be an independent review body, and we think it wrong that whatever Government is in power should be able to devise a way, for whatever reason, of not accepting these recommendations in full. The last Administration are to be condemned, and have rightly been condemned, including the last Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), for his interpretation of the Representation of the People Act. His Bill was rejected in another place and we had the remarkable performance of an Order being voted down by the Home Secretary's own supporters, using their majority—hypocrisy and a bad example to the county which at the time was almost unequalled.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East talked about the impartiality of the review body. This must be the case. I doubt whether we in this House, when our own constituencies are involved, even collectively, let alone individually, can claim equal impartiality. I support the view that the body should be independent of this House and not at the mercy of the Government in power.

For that reason, my hon. Friend and I support the basic recommendations in the Orders. But the fact that we support them does not mean that we do not have grave reservations about the recommendations which concern Sheffield. In challenging these proposals, it is indelicate and unwise for a Member to complain of recommendations of the Commission if they add to his constituency areas which have had strong Conservative support, namely, Dore and Nether Edge. But the recommendations of the Commission increase the electorate in my constituency from 60,000 in 1959, 58,000 in 1964, 56,000 in 1956 and 59,000 in 1970 to 69,000 as published in the recommendations of the Commission, Command 4084. Now, according to the papers in the Library, the number is to go up on the new basis from 69,000 to 73,544. If, however, it is indelicate to comment on the possible increase of support in his own constituency, it is reasonable for a Member to comment on the question of size.

I do not want to comment on how the report was received in Sheffield, or on the appeal against the recommendations by Conservative representatives in the city. But this appeal was based on community interest, geographical considerations, means of communication within the constituencies and natural boundaries between the Heeley and Hallam constituencies.

Mr. Paul Curtis-Bennett, Q.C., in his report of the inquiry following the appeal, said: These contentions were supported in considerable detail in the Inquiry and despite the cross-examination which was directed to diminishing their significance, I was left with the impression that there was a good deal of force in them. That was his comment on the case put forward by the Conservatives in Sheffield. The appeal was rejected because, he said, … the case for counter-proposals did not establish regions of sufficient compelling character to justify the displacements of the Commission's proposals—which are themselves workable and in contormity with proper principles by them. This is the point: the appeal was marginally rejected, so the verdict is before us today in the Order.

The criteria on which the original decision was reached have changed. The population has changed considerably in different parts of Sheffield. The expansion in Sheffield that was forecast three or four years ago—a separate report will be sent to the Home Secretary in the near future—has not taken place. An increase in population in Mosborough is not now likely, possibly due to the recent legislation affecting intermediate areas.

The then valid arguments to justify Heeley adding a ward—namely, Intake in the south-east—no longer applies. This ward comes from the Attercliffe division. There is now no valid case for Heeley to lose the Dore and Nether Edge wards to Hallam, as there is not a valid case for Millhouse to go from Hallam to Heeley. There is, indeed, a strong case for the Boundary Commission to make a quick review of its recommendations concerning Sheffield based on what has happened in the area since its conclusions were originally given in its initial report.

The Home Secretary outlined the thoroughness with which the Commission had done its work, and I do not dispute that. However, its arguments for Dore remaining in Heeley are based, first, on community group interests which must be taken into account. Secondly, it is acknowledged that Dore is cut off by Doremoor from Eccleshall. Thirdly, Dore, Totley and Bradway are communities connected with wards like Intake, Dore and Nether Edge. I will not reiterate all the arguments concerned with these areas because they are well known. But what is of greater importance is the fact that the marginal argument for not changing Hallam and Heeley might have been accepted if the criteria had been different.

In Chapter II of Cmnd. 4084, there is a reference to Rules 4 and 5. Those Rules embrace two principles of representative Government: equal representation, Rule 5 and territorial representation, Rule 4. There was some agreement between the main two political parties over ward distribution in Sheffield, providing a large number of marginal wards so as to increase local interest in politics. This same principle was discussed between the parties, but there was no similar sort of agreement about political balance over the constituency redistribution.

In terms of political balance, if Sheffield is looked at as a whole, there is a good case for the division being such as to provide under normal voting conditions two Conservative seats as against four Socialist seats. The position in Heeley and Hallam is worse than it was in 1965. At that time there were 127,000 voters in both constituencies, while now there are 139,000. This means that the Conservatives have roughly 70,000 electorate per Member here while the Socialists have 62,000 per Member.

Political balance should be accepted as one of the criteria, but certainly not the overriding criteria which the Boundary Commission must consider when presenting recommendations for a borough containing a number of seats. I therefore now ask the Government to review the rules and the criteria.

The Home Secretary spoke of the next constituency boundary review after changes in local government and ward boundaries, but this could be a decade away. It means that no changes will occur for that length of time after these proposed changes. I urge the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to comment on the need for more frequent area reviews. We must keep under constant review projected population changes and compare them with performance, the position in Sheffield providing a classic argument to demonstrate this.

I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that this problem must be looked at city by city. The present method of review is unsatisfactory and I urge the Government to reconsider the points that have been made in the debate so that we have a more flexible system than that indicated by the Home Secretary earlier this afternoon.

8.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Davies Mr Gwilym Davies , Rhondda East

I shall be brief because a number of hon. Members still wish to speak. The points made by my hon. Friends in 1969 on this issue are still valid. If anything, they are stronger. We pointed out, first, that it was not in the best interests of the country to go through the upheaval of these changes, affecting constituencies throughout Britain, and then repeat the exercise shortly afterwards as a result of changes due to local government reform.

We are considering massive changes: 322 major and 88 minor ones, 410 out of 630 constituencies, or changes in two-thirds of the constituencies. The Government must pay careful attention to this.

The second point we made was that the Report was out of date. It is now almost six years since the proposals began to be formulated. The Home Secretary seemed to shrug off the possibility of local government reform as something that might happen but only in the far distant future.

Is the Home Secretary aware that in recent months the Secretary of State for Wales—hon. Members can read yesterday's Western Mail has expressed the hope that there will be legislation on local government reform in Wales in the 1971–72 Parliament? If that is so, it is an added reason to support the views that were expressed on this subject by my hon. Friends when they pointed out that no action should be taken and that the issue should be studied afresh by the Commission.

The Home Secretary said that the last changes were made 16 years ago and that it was not right that the next General Election should be fought on the old boundaries. It is equally foolish to change at this time and have a further upheaval shortly as a result of local government reform.

The Home Secretary said that the Commission was impartial. I do not question that. However, are its findings sacrosanct? Surely Parliament, having taken the advice of this body, has the final right to decide what is best for the nation. We have the final judgment. If every Government accepted every report of every commission and committee that was set up, life would be very much easier for hon. Members, but it would be less democratic and manifestly unjust to the people we represent.

Seven major recommendations are proposed for the Rhondda. The two Rhondda seats will become one, and I need not say that this proposal is opposed by almost every organisation and political party in the Rhondda, including the Rhondda Borough Council and the Glamorgan County Council.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) mentioned another serious factor which seems to have been neglected by the Commission in reaching its decisions. He pointed out that there are areas of great social problem. The Rhondda is one of these. It is a tragedy that at a time when the Glamorgan County Council and the Rhondda Borough Council have set in motion an inquiry to anticipate the position of the Rhondda as far ahead as 2001, it should be proposed that the two constituencies should be merged into one.

Local government reform is badly needed. In one area of my constituency, in Trebanog, one side of the street is part of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) and on the other side is Rhondda, East. A little further along, I walk into Tonyrefail and I again pass through the constituency of Pontypridd. I travel on through Gilfach Goch and on the left I pass the constituency of Ogmore and then again on the right is the Pontypridd constituency. In another street at the remote end I come again to Rhondda, East. Indeed, I travel some 10 miles in order to get to one small street of my constituency. If that is not a reason for parliamentary reform in order to get these things put right before the boundaries are changed, I do not know what is.

The 1967 proposals for Wales suggested the possibility of all this area becoming part of Rhondda borough. If that were so and these proposals went through, we should have the situation, within a very short time, of having the whole thing looked at again and, possibly, two constituencies being re-created—a complete upheaval twice over for no apparent reason. The Rhondda electorate in 1968 was 65,429, and in 1970 it was 68,187, an increase of nearly 3,000 in that short time. Yet a seat is to be taken from the Rhondda as a result of the merger while Cardiff's constituencies are to be increased, with an electorate in Cardiff, North of 26,621—less than Rhondda, East at present. How stupid can one get? This is something that no Boundary Commission can justify. It should be turned down out of hand.

I sincerely believe that there should be a complete re-examination of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission, that it should be done by the Commission in the light of the changes that have occurred in population since it examined the matter last, and that there should also be a weighting for areas which have social problems which are badly in need of attention. This process need not take too long. It is my opinion that the Boundary Commission could well report before the end of this Parliament and, if so, decisions could be taken on an up-to-date report.

I regret that the orders have been tabled in the way they have, which has prevented a vote on the relative merits of the proposals for individual constituencies. The Home Secretary justified this by referring to the form in which they were presented by his predecessor 12 months ago, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) pointed out that, in the Redistribution of Seats (No. 2) Bill which he presented, each change proposed was presented separately, giving the right to hon. Members to discuss it, table Amendments and vote accordingly. That has not happened on this occasion.

I remind the House that that Bill was passed by this House and that it was the decision of another place, prompted and encouraged by the then Opposition, which prevented it from becoming law. I believe that it is in that same spirit that these Orders have been presented in the manner and in the hurried way in which they have been put forward today. For these reasons, I shall be pleased and proud to join my right hon. and hon. Friends in voting against them.

8.25 p.m.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Cannock

It is something of a daunting task to follow the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) who has brought all the fervour of a revivalist meeting to the Chamber, but when one looks at what we are debating one must conclude that an awful lot of humbug has been talked today. It is only a year since those of us who were not then in the House read with disgust, and talked to our constituents about, the proposals of the last Government. People of all political opinions were ashamed to think that Parliament was being debased by the antics of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). It is about time that we got away from the particularities and started to look at the generalities because the duty we have is surely the duty to the wider issues of democracy and justice and the things to which the hon. Member for Rhondda, East, referred so fervently.

I was moved to try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by several things. The first was the bogus fillibuster we had this afternoon when, for almost an hour, we had points or order that were not points of order. We had absolute nonsense, and why? It was because hon. Members opposite, although they have legitimate interests and legitimate grievances, were suffering also from a severe attack of sour grapes. They remembered what happened a year ago. It is our duty to the people to cut across sectional and trivial and individual interests. I speak as one who constituency will be completely carved up if these recommendations are implemented. [Hon. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite need not worry. I shall be back.

It is right that we should consider geographical interests, and the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) made some very good points about that. It is nonsense that we should perpetuate a parliamentary system which allows my constituency to have nearly 100,000 electors while Birmingham, Ladywood, which is only 20 miles away, has only 18,000. That system must be ended and it is humbug to suggest that we should go through these things detail by detail, particular by particular.

It is also humbug to suggest that we should await local government changes, whatever they might be and whenever they might be. There will always be anomalies in any electoral system, however devised, and I would not claim that the recommendations before us will produce perfection, because of course they will not. There is always room for change. There is always legitimate opportunity to challenge and dispute particular instances. Nevertheless, we should look at this as a general pattern and it would be a manifest injustice foisted upon the people by their Parliament if we rejected these Orders tonight and allowed the system of 1970 to operate in 1975.

We have a duty to set a lead, and in voting for these Orders I shall feel that I am casting a vote for British democracy, for a parliamentary system which means a great deal to me and to hon. Members on both sides of the House. The right thing to do is to support these Orders and to make sure that in future when recommendations are made they are quickly implemented and not brushed under the carpet for narrow sectarian interests.

8.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I would much prefer to listen to the sound, sensible comments, even if they were in revivalist tones, of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) than listen to the comments of the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) who seemed to me to be intoxicated with his own verbosity.

The Home Secretary this afternoon seemed terribly embarrassed after the thorough thrashing which he received at the hands of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I think it has now been realised on the Conservative benches that the arguments of my right hon. Friend were unanswerable. The Home Secretary's discomfiture is to the credit of my right hon. Friend. He was uncomfortable because he knew that he had no answer to my right hon. Friend's arguments. I hope that the Secretary of State has noted that the criticisms of this Motion have not been confined to this side of the House. Indeed, a number of hon. Members opposite who had harsh things to say 12 months ago are now amending their views because they have arrived at the frontiers of understanding on this issue.

During this debate, we have heard mention of British democracy. One of the most incredible paradoxes that we had was when the Home Secretary opened his speech by delivering a small eulogy on the subject of parliamentary democracy in this country. Yet he is the author of a Motion which does a great deal to damage parliamentary democracy, and my right hon. Friend pointed out that fact this afternoon.

I come to a criticism of both Front Benches. When will they face up to that incredible undemocratic organisation a couple of miles from here known as the City of London which, so long as it exists, will be a blot on British democracy? That has to go, and I hope that the House of Commons one day will have the courage to do away with it.

I should like a reply to this question. May I assume that henceforth the report of any Commission, no matter which Commission—whatever it says—will be rubber-stamped by the present Tory Government? I should like an answer to that question. Otherwise, the Government will stand in more discredit than they did after yesterday's announcement.

The Home Secretary found himself in a terrible difficulty when my right hon. Friend pointed out that in some instances an unbiased, independent Assistant Commissioner gave a different report and a different recommendation from the Commissioner. What is the logic of this? Here we have, on the one hand, the recommendation from the Commissioner and, on the other, quite often contrary suggestions by the Assistant Commissioner. Any kid of 10 would fail his 11-plus examination if he could not answer this question. What does one do in those circumstances? The answer is: examine them both and adopt both of them. But the Government say, "No" They condemn the Assistant Commissioner. He is a terrible person. He has "had his chips". The Commissioner is elevated to the heights of the Archangel Gabriel.

This will not do. Before long we shall have other Commissions' reports. All sorts of matters will come before this House. Will the Government say, as they might have said about the Donovan Report, "This must be the law; we will not allow anyone to discuss it in detail; this is what the Commission recommends and it must be the law"? This is a very dangerous precedent to establish. This Order is not an omnibus Order; it is a steamroller Order. I regret that a man of the calibre and high standing in British politics of the Home Secretary should be associated with such a disreputable Order.

To some hon. Members opposite, matters like Boundary Commissioners, democracy and the views of local people are things to laugh at; they are amusements. According to them, all one has to do is to kid them for a couple of weeks, tell them that prices will be brought down, and then, when one gets elected, one does the very opposite and shoves up prices. The Conservative Party is adept at that sort of thing. The Tories have been beguiling the British nation for a number of years, and I give them credit for having done it successfully. Their incredible ability would make Sweeney Todd and a few others blush for shame.

What is not fully realised is that the House of Commons could, and would, have looked at other matters affecting constituency boundaries, quite apart from the Boundary Commission's report. This point has been the theme of several speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as from my hon. Friends. We know our areas much more closely than do the members of the Commission, who are concerned primarily with statistics. It is a sad day for British democracy when all we consider is statistics. Statistics are important, and they must be taken into consideration, but not by themselves alone. It is here that the principle of adopting the Commission's report by itself is wrong.

I come to the situation in Ealing. My right hon. Friend selected Ealing as an example to show how this business has gone wrong. I can tell the House quite honestly that the views which I hold on this matter are shared by the Conservative Party in Ealing.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

The hon. Gentleman says "Never", but his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), sitting next to him, nods his head. If the hon. Member for Shipley looks back to the Amendment to the Order which I put down in the last Parliament, he will see that the second name against it was that of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford). The hon. Gentleman drops his mouth open in astonishment. He will be well advised to keep it shut during the next half hour or so. Not just the political parties but the councillors, Labour councillors and Conservative councillors, all take the view that the London Borough of Ealing ought to have four Parliamentary constituencies.

Let us consider for a moment whether there is any logic in the case which is put. When the Boundary Commission reported, it said that the London Borough of Ealing had a notional entitlement to 3·54 constituencies, but it would have only three. Later, it dealt with another London borough and said that this borough had a notional entitlement to 3·4 constituencies, but it could have four. My colleagues, Labour and Conservative, on the Ealing Borough Council say that this is a load of nonsense.

In a situation like this, it is an expression of real democracy to say that the individual case should be put to the House of Commons so that the House may judge whether the Commissioner is correct, whether the Assistant Commissioner is correct, or whether the political parties and other organisations in the borough concerned are correct. True democracy would say, "Let us have all the arguments, and let the House of Commons, the supreme legislative chamber, decide". Yet that is what the so-called champions of freedom have denied us this afternoon. That is their crime, and it must be made known to the country.

Many other things have been happening in the London Borough of Ealing. We have quite a large housing programme. It was held up by the present incumbents of office in the Ealing Town Hall, but the Labour administration's housing endeavours are now coming to fruition. They were savagely cut by the Tories, but the estates are being built. There was a pause because of the Conservative Party's take-over in Ealing, but there are to be local government elections shortly and we are now hearing noises from the Conservative Party in Ealing that they will suddenly decide to build even more houses. This will go into their election address. Who knows? They might catch us napping and keep their promises, and if that happens, bang go the Boundary Commission's recommendations again.

We all know in our surgeries the complexities of modern life—housing, people finding difficulty with their pensions, transport problems, particularly in Greater London, and so on. In my own constituency it is even a problem to cross the road, and there are large deputations simply to get a bridge over the Western Avenue, for example. I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides have similar problems, which show the remarkable changes in society over the past 20 years. As a result of all these things, the work of the average hard-working M.P. today is much greater than that of his predecessor of 25, 30 or 40 years ago. If there are to be calculations that a borough is entitled to 3·54 constituencies, the figure should automatically be four constituencies.

Our rôle in the difficult circumstances of the House is very important to those who put us here. Because of the complexities of modern life, and the complexities to come, if Members intend to do their job properly, not only must they have more resources but there must be a few more of us. The trend should be towards a larger House rather than a smaller one. I hope that I find support on both sides of the House for that proposition. It is particularly in the context of the M.P.'s future rôle and his relationship with his constituents that I feel it to be a great shame that we were not given an opportunity on the Motion to put to the test of the House of Commons each individual case which has been recommended. That would have been an honourable thing to do, which all of us, irrespective of party, could have defended to our constituents.

8.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

I have only one point to make, and because I believe it to be a very valid one I can be very brief. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) will forgive me if I do not follow his journeys through Ealing.

Under the recommendations of the Boundary Commission, my constituency of North Down will lose just over 40,000 voters, which is a considerable number. I regret losing them, because I have a high regard for them, since most of them voted for me, and I like the areas where they live. But it is impossible to represent properly a constituency of the size of North Down, and here I agree with the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. Not only are there the difficulties of getting about a constituency which is geographically large but there is the problem of dealing with the great number of questions brought by constituents. The complexities of modern life mean that more people come along to our advice centres.

The present electorate of North Down is just over 120,000. On the basis of the recommended changes, the 1970 register would have an electorate of 81,073. The other constituencies in Northern Ireland are all over 70,000. Nine are over 80,000 and three of those are even larger—91,255 for Londonderry, 96,578 for North Antrim, and 103,789 for South Antrim. The electorates are far too large in those constituencies. The electoral quota for England is 59,000, if I have the figure correct; for Scotland it is 56,000; and for Wales about 50,000.

I know the argument, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that when the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920 it was thought that Ulster, having its own Parliament, did not need as many Members of Parliament as other parts of the United Kingdom. But that position has changed. There was a shift of power from Stormont to Westminster under the last Labour Government. Powers which legally or under convention previously resided in Stormont now reside here. Therefore it is vital that the people of Northern Ireland should have an effective voice in this House. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, North would agree that it is unfair for the electors of Northern Ireland to be treated in this way. Northern Ireland should have four or five more seats. We have often heard allegations about Northern Ireland and the need to bring British standards to it. It is the very essence of British democracy that we must make sure that the vote of the elector in Northern Ireland has the same value as that of the elector in Great Britain. It is essential that there is a change: instead of 12 Members, Northern Ireland should be represented by either 16 or 17 Members.

8.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda West

In one respect Scottish Members are fortunate in that they have had a contribution from a Scottish Minister, whereas hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies not only have not had a contribution from a Welsh Minister but have not even had the presence of a Government Minister for Wales.

The Under-Secretary of State said that, except for small and minor criticism of detail, there was general acceptance of these proposals. This is not so. Almost every speaker has been critical of one or more than one aspect. The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) was the only exception, as he is the exception in many other ways.

There has been objection to the procedure which is being adopted by the Home Secretary. Many hon. Membets have made strong constituency speeches emphasising how unacceptable a proposal is for themselves, for their constituents, and for the area they represent. It was a grave mistake not to have separate debates: they are essential if we are to deal with the individual and different problems of each constituency.

If that is not to be, equally I deplore—I shall probably be out of favour with the usual channels for saying this—the agreement which was reached through the usual channels that there would be one joint debate on the four Orders. It would have been far better and far more useful if there had been a separate debate at least on each of the four Orders so that the special and differing interests and needs of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland could have had adequate and full expression. The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) made it clear that the problem in his constituency differs from the problems of Wales and that the suggested solution to his problem might not be ideal for the problems of Welsh constituencies.

The Home Secretary said that the Government had the support of the country for these proposals and that they were put into the Conservative manifesto. I do not believe that the majority of the people cared a tinker's cuss about the Commissions' reports or read about them in the manifesto of any political party at the last election.

Even if the Home Secretary's assertion were correct, I ask him: which country supported them? It is a certainty that the policies, including this one, of the Tory Government do not command the support of the people of Wales. Before the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) becomes too excited, I concede that the Tories did better in Wales in 1970 than they did in 1966. After yesterday's savage attack on the welfare services in Wales they are never likely to repeat the performance.

Rhondda is to lose one of its Members of Parliament. It is a borough with tremendous social problems, with the running down of industry. It is an area which needs extra assistance right across the board. It needs at least the same representation in the House as it has enjoyed for many years.

Naturally I have a personal interest in this, and I should be foolish and stupid if I pretended that I had not. However, I have an interest in this not only as the Member for Rhondda, West, but as a citizen of Rhondda who was born there, who lives there now, and who will continue to live there whether or not I am a Member of the House.

If I were alone in my criticism of the proposal to halve Rhondda's representation, or if I were supported only by my own party, hon. Members opposite and my hon. Friends would have the right to challenge my impartiality. As I am supported in my opposition to this proposal by every political party in Rhondda and by every active social organisation in Rhondda, I do not believe that my impartiality can be challenged.

I oppose the proposals because they are illogical and ill-timed. They are illogical because they do not remove the differences in the size of electorates which many people believed was the purpose of these changes. They are ill-timed because they do not take account the present position of local government reform as it affects Wales.

Let us consider the logic of the argument and the variation in constituency sizes. The largest constituency in Wales has 67,000 electors, the smallest 25,000, a difference between the two electorates of 42,000. We might have assumed that as a result of these Orders that gap would be narrowed, though I am not saying that that should be the case. However, we find that if these proposals are accepted the larger constituency will have 73,000 electors and the smallest will stay at 25,000. The gap is thereby widened from 42,000 to 48,00 electors. Is this logical? I certainly cannot see any logic in it.

If all the proposals for Wales are implemented it will mean that there will still be ten constituencies with electorates of fewer than 45,000, there would be 11 constituencies with electorates more than 60,000, and half of the constituencies of Wales would be either 10,000 below or 10,000 above. In the Rhondda we would have an electorate of 68,000, 30 per cent. above the quota, which would make us the second largest constituency in Wales, whereas the newly created constituency of Cardiff, North would have an electorate of only 36,000. It might be said that its population will grow, but I understood that the Commission were not to take into account possible future population trends. If we use the 1970 figures, the relative positions do not change at all.

On the timing of the proposals, we in Wales have had a glut of White Papers on local government reform, but we clearly understood that the Secretary of State for Wales was anxious and indeed willing to proceed with local government reform in Wales. When the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) was shadow spokesman on Welsh affairs he criticised the Labour Government for being slow to implement local government reform. Indeed, in the Welsh Grand Committee he urged the right hon. Gentleman to go ahead with local government reorganisation and not to keep everyone waiting. So that one must assume that the present Government are equally anxious not to delay local government reform. The hon. Member for Hereford has also said that he supports the 1967 White Paper, with certain exceptions. If the Government believe these things, why are they now proposing major changes in parliamentary representation before they have first sorted out local government problems?

If the proposals in the Orders are carried out, they will bring into the Rhondda the northern part of the old parish of Llantrisant, which would bring in an additional 8,000 electors, making the Rhondda electorate more than 76,000. It is not only desirable but essential that where possible the parliamentary boundaries should be married with local government boundaries. It is possible to do this in Wales fairly quickly. There is no need for this rush toward Parliamentary redistribution. People already get confused between Members of Parliament in adjacent constituencies, and when Members of Parliament represent parts of two different boroughs the confusion becomes total.

I ask the Government to give us local government reform in Wales and, having done so, to give us a parliamentary boundaries redistribution based on a far more logical approach. Unless we have some assurance on that score, I for one intend to vote against these proposals.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

I hope that I did not appear to be too excited when the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) referred to recent Conservative successes in Wales. It is idle for him to speculate about what will happen at the next election, but certainly both our constituencies come under review in these proposals. Both are affected by the Order.

The hon. Gentleman appears to be far more excited and anxious about the proposed changes than I am—and with good cause. As for the electorate of 36,000 in Cardiff, North which he said might grow, I can assure him that it will, since considerable housing developments are taking place with further developments envisaged.

At this point, I want to apply some of the principles expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the situation in Wales and the proposals in the Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) Order. The major changes are that the two Rhondda constituencies will be merged into one and that there will be four constituencies in the capital city of Wales where there are now three. I would remind hon. Members that, over the last three years, Cardiff has taken in a considerable part of the constituency of Barry and that, if these proposals are approved, part of that constituency will be redistributed between the four new ones.

The argument was put forcefully by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) and has been echoed by the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) and the hon. Member for Rhondda, West that the proposed local government changes will make nonsense of any parliamentary proposals which are now put forward in this Order. However, whatever local government proposals there may be, the community of Cardiff will not be divided, nor is it possible in the reality of South Wales life for Rhondda to be divided by any arbitrary decision.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda West

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Surely he realises that the local government proposals for Rhondda would stretch its boundaries to include the northern part of Llantrisant. That would mean a parliamentary constituency of Rhondda which did not represent the whole local government area of Rhondda.

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

The hon. Gentleman has obviously misunderstood my point. I was seeking to establish that Rhondda would not be divided. It is true that it might be expanded in any local government change. It is true, too, that the capital of Wales has been taking an expansionist view in the direction of Glamorgan and that it might like to take in certain other areas. However, there is no question of Rhondda and Cardiff being divided. Two local government communities will remain, with no danger of any local government proposal dividing them.

Then I would apply another criterion which was very well argued by the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), who stressed the importance of a greater weighting being given in central areas of our great cities, including the capital city of Wales. We have great problems in Cardiff connected with university expansion, with urban motorways which are proposed to go right through the centre of the city, and with central development. It is well known that great social stresses are developing in the area. Consequently, it is proposed to reduce the constituency of Cardiff, North from six wards to four. That will allow the hon. Member representing the constituency to apply his time and skills to the increasing needs and social stresses of the constituency. In Rhondda, on the other hand, it is fair to say that it is a community which is in no way socially divided. It is a community, as only those of us who live in South Wales appreciate, that has two valleys—Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr. Most people refer not to two Rhondda Valleys but to one. Therefore, the proposals of the Boundary Commission meet the needs of both communities, the capital city and the Rhondda, the two areas most closely affected. I welcome the Boundary Commission's proposals and support the Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) Order.

9.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

If the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) thinks that Cardiff will not be changed, he has forgotten the effect of possible re-warding. Even though the local area of a borough may not change significantly, it is conceivable that the boundaries of the wards within that borough will be changed, and that, in the criteria of the Boundary Commission, is one of the causes for a change. Certainly in my Borough of Greenwich, in London, we are at present going through a process of re-warding. When that process is concluded, the recommendations of the Boundary Commission relating to that borough will be completely upset.

One of the major criticisms of the haste with which the Government are presenting these proposals tonight is that they overlook altogether the large number of places where re-warding has taken place recently, is taking place now, and will take place in the next four years. This surely is one reason, above all the others put forward by my right hon. Friend this afternoon, why the Government should look again at these Orders.

Cardiff, North, with 36,000 electors, fares extremely well compared with Newport with 72,000. One argument often used, which was used by the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, is that in Wales and Scotland one vote certainly counts for more than in England because the areas are so large. One cannot say that about Cardiff, North, because it is not like Merioneth or Anglesey.

This disparity between constituencies, not only in Wales, not only in Scotland, not only in Northern Ireland, as the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) said, but throughout England, runs right through the Reports of the Boundary Commission.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

It might interest the hon. Gentleman and the House to know that since 1965 the City of Cardiff, the capital of Wales, has had its electorate within the county borough decline steadily. In 1965, it was approximately 183,200; in 1968, 181,800; and in 1969, 180,840. However, the electorate of the City of Bradford, the capital of the wool textile district of the West Riding, in 1970 was no fewer than 211,000—about 19,000 more than this year's electorate for Cardiff, which is to gain a seat—and yet we are to lose one.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for introducing that further point which buttresses the case put forward by my right hon. Friend and completely destroys the Government's case. What the hon. Gentleman has just said, and what he said in his admirable speech earlier, is that there is no logic, no rhyme or reason in the Orders before the House. The hon. Gentleman will run into trouble with his Whips before he is much older. When we were in Government we used to think that we had trouble with our people below the Gangway. There is one hon. Gentleman above the Gangway who will be a damned nuisance to his Front Bench.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. Damned is an un-parliamentary word.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I should say that he will be an intolerable nuisance, a pernicious nuisance. I suggest that he keeps it up.

Throughout the debate no hon. Member, with the exception of the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack), who has disappeared—he was not here for long, and he did not stay for long—has supported the Government's proposals. Every speaker, including the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, gave ample proof that my right hon. Friend is right and that the Government are wrong— and now I shall refer to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. He said that the Government knew that there were inconsistencies. He knows that West Lothian is wrong. He knows that all these things are wrong, but the Government still intend to get these Orders.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

I did not say that they were wrong. I said that they were the best at the time of the publication of the report, and they are still the best in the circumstances of today.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

And what a bad best. When one looks at the figures for West Lothian and other constituencies in Scotland one sees the wide disparities in industrial areas, let alone in the rural areas. There is no logic, no fairness and no justice in the Order before the House.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why his hon. Friends the Members for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) have made no representations to me on this matter, have not spoken during the debate, and have not appeared in the Chamber? I suggest that the hon. Gentleman checks his facts before he gets to his feet.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

The fact that my hon. Friends are not here does not mean that there is justice in the proposals. I am saying that there is no justice in them. I am here, and I am making a speech. I have the figures and the hon. Gentleman has the figures, too.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

The hon. Gentleman should speak to his hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

The hon. Gentleman knows that these figures are unjust. He knows that the Government have not presented a case for them.

We are told that we should accept these proposals because this is the best that we can do. If that is so, the Government should take these proposals away and bury them. We are told that the Commissioners have been impartial. Should the House accept the Orders simply because the Commissioners are impartial? We are told that the Commissioners worked hard. They worked so hard that the figures are completely irrelevant to 1970, let alone to 1974, when the next General Election may take place. Or are the Government thinking of a snap election? Possibly that is why they want these Orders now, in case they have a snap election next year.

If the figures are irrelevent now, if they are wrong now, how much more wrong will they be in 1974? The only reasons advanced by the Home Secretary and the hon. Members for Cannock and Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. John H. Osborn) why the House should accept the Orders is that the Commissioners have worked hard, that they have been conscientious, and that they are impartial, but the question which I hope the Minister of State for the Home Department will answer is, are these proposals just? Are they just to every constituency throughout the country? Are they just to electors in Cardiff, North or in the Rhondda? Are they just to electors in Ealing, or Kensington and Chelsea? Are they just in Bradford?

With two exceptions every speech that we heard was based on principles and on arguments. They were based on the argument that the reports of the Commissioners were wrong in justice, were wrong in equity and were wrong in every principle. The Government have no case for putting these Orders before the House.

I propose, now, to direct my attention to one or two other considerations which ought to be borne in mind. In London we have the example of 207,000 electors having four Members of Parliament, and 209,000 electors having only three. Are the Home Department justified in that? Are they saying that that is right? The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) made one of the fairest speeches that we have heard from any Conservative on this question in the last two years. He completely supported the case put forward by my Front Bench calling for the Government to look again at all these proposals.

Are we to be faced, in 1974 or 1975, with a General Election based on these boundaries, with all their manifest unfairnesses? Are we to face a situation in which the electors of England are manifestly under-represented in comparison with those of Wales or Scotland. It is implicit in the rules that English electors shall be treated less fairly and less justly than the electors of Wales or Scotland. The electors of Northern Ireland are treated even more unfairly. The rules were laid down in the 1949 Act, and are now 21 years old. The Act should be scrapped. We should have new rules which are as fair to English electors as to Welsh or Scottish electors. That is one important principle that should be applied in this matter.

There are other considerations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) referred to the special conditions in Tower Hamlets, East London. We can think of many other urban communities of a similar nature. I think of Kirkdale, in Liverpool, represented so well by my able hon. Friend. The Commissioners have said that that district was over-represented before. We shall lose one seat in Liverpool. The electors there will lose one Parliamentary representative. But surely everything that my right hon. Friend said about Tower Hamlets can be said about the inner areas of Liverpool or Manchester.

Member after Member has put forward his constituency as a special case that should be given more consideration. I deduce from all that has been said that there are general principles at work. All these cases indicate to me—and ought to indicate to the Home Office if it would listen—that these Orders should be taken away, and that the Government should look again at the whole basis of the 1949 Act and the rules under which the Commission has worked. They should ask, "What are we trying to do? What is the purpose of the exercise?" That is what all this is about. One wonders why the Government were in such a hurry to introduce these Orders. Is it merely out of pique because, a year ago, they took a hammering and they want to get their own back early, or is it because they are thinking of a snap election next year and want all the advantages which they think might arise from the Commission's report?

I hope that they do not think that. In the debate last year, I criticised my right hon. Friend because I thought that he was being overfair to the Conservative Party in some of the things he said, and because I thought that there were many advantages for Labour constituencies and Labour candidates in the reports. I did not think of party considerations here. We would have had a great advantage if we had fought the last election on the new boundaries, particularly in places like Billericay and in some other places where some of my hon. Friends lost their seats although polling 40,000 votes. I am thinking of Alan Lee Williams in this regard—one of the better Members of the House—who lost his seat although he polled over 40,000 votes. I have no doubt that if that constituency had been reorganised, it would have been a good safe Labour seat.

It is not party advantage that is in my mind. What I am thinking of is the principle of this exercise. I hope that the Home Secretary will take it away and look at it again, and come up with something better. We have the reforms of local government. Is it beyond the wit of this Government to produce something quickly in their local government reform? I know that many of the Tory Party do not like Maud but they will still have to come to terms with local government reform—and better soon than late.

One advantage of the speed of this debate is that it has given the House a chance to hear the points of view of various hon. Members. Is it not astonishing that so many Conservative Members are now criticising the report that they wanted to drive through the House a year ago? I wonder why this change on the road to Damascus.

Another advantage of the debate is that it gives the Home Office an early opportunity of changing its mind and of asking the questions which have been asked from these benches, the questions of general principle that they should have asked themselves, instead of this sloppy, slipshod, quick recourse to introducing Orders, which the Home Secretary introduced in the most perfunctory speech I have ever heard from a Front Bench. He gave no reason at all for the Orders and we had an apologetic speech from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I have never heard a proposal put forward in the House with so little reason as these have been today.

9.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford East

It would seem, as a result of these proceedings, that I shall have the doubtful distinction of being the last Member of Parliament for Bradford, East. This is a distinction which I would rather have done without, because my constituency has an honourable history and there is no substantial reason why it should disappear.

The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) described Bradford as "my city". I hope he will allow me to describe it as "our city". Bradford East has been faithful to the Labour cause and there are rumours that the Liberals and Conservatives are anxious to preserve me as the hon. Member for this constituency—not for my intrinsic merit, but to preserve the 9,000 Labour majority from spreading over into other less comfortable boroughs. However, I urge that the considerations which we must have in mind in dealing with this matter are not those of narrow party advantage.

We face an incredible situation. There was a provisional recommendation of the Boundary Commission that Bradford should retain its four seats, after the Assistant Commissioner had come down narrowly, if a little ambiguously, in favour of four seats. But Bradford is to have three seats, for no reason other than that Devon and Cornwall are to have one more seat.

It is no use saying that the Boundary Commission has done its best and that this is a rational, overall result. Why should Bradford, which has nothing in common with Devon and Cornwall, with the Celtic fringe, sacrifice one of its parliamentary seats because of some adherence to a total number of seats for England? Bradford has its own manifold problems, but there is, apparently, a rule which says that in England we must not have more than a certain number of Members of Parliament.

When the Commissioners decided to get rid of a seat, they could have gone for Gateshead, West, with 34,000 voters, or Newcastle, Central, with 31,000. But no. By what appears to have been a process of sticking a pin in the middle of a collation of constituency statistics, they came down on Bradford, East, which has nearly 41,000 voters. It is scarcely rational. It cannot be logical.

One must bear in mind, as I said earlier in an intervention, the fact that Bradford is to have only three seats while Newcastle, with a population of 13,000 less, is to retain four seats. Why must all these decisions be lumped under the umbrella of this one Order so that we cannot deal with the justice of the case area by area?

The West Riding has severe difficulties already. It will have one hon. Member less in this House. It has been calculated that Bradford contains within its borders 39 different nationalities. There are the problems arising from the cosmopolitan nature of this population. Promlems arise from the closures and rationalisation which occur in the textile industry. There are problems due to dereliction. This Order comes one day after a decision of the Secretary of State for the Environment to prevent the enlargement of the Leeds-Bradford Airport, which will probably mean the closure of that airport, a dreadful decision for the West Riding.

Now, the Conservatives, being in office, have decided that they will not do justice to Bradford. Instead, under the umbrella of the Order, they are taking steps against which there is no appeal, either in whole or in part. In most courts, a decision can be appealed against in a higher court. It was always believed that whatever the Boundary Commissioners decided, their recommendations would be appealable in this House. That possibility of appeal has been taken away from us today and we are presented with a situation in which we must either accept or reject everything.

One has occasionally to make a protest. My duty is to the City of Bradford. In my submission, it is higher than the duty to my party on this occasion, and I will vote against the Order as a protest because the reduction of the City of Bradford to three seats will be taken by many as a demotion. It will be regarded as a symptom of accelerating decline at a time when every effort is being made to revive that city. I am a Member of Parliament for that city and I am not prepared to support an Order which would lend colour to the view that Bradford—and, indeed, the West Riding generally—is of less importance than hitherto—far from it. I propose to vote against the Order.

9.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I first congratulate the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Cockeram) on his maiden speech. As was said earlier, he spoke clearly and concisely and made the point that in his area, the Wirral, there will soon be a need for redistribution. It is a point to which I should like to return later in terms of the immediate future, of the legislation under which we operate and of the remarks of the Home Secretary.

The debates on redistribution over the last year have fitted into the pattern of all debates on redistribution since this political need was put within the present rules after the Speaker's Conference of 1944. The redistribution of 1948 was characterised by the then Leader of the Opposition as being carried out in bad faith and as being gerrymandering. The present Lord Chancellor said that the then Bill should not be called the "Representation of the People Bill" but the "Representation of the Labour Party Bill". The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) argued cogently but wrongly that that Bill was to the advantage of the Labour Party. In the event, every estimate when the election came showed that the changes that had taken place made the Labour Party 40 to 60 seats worse off in this House.

At the same time, the charge of impropriety did not depend wholly on the alleged breach of faith. The Opposition maintained that the then Labour Government had flouted a constitutional practice, established for 60 or 80 years, whereby the franchise and the distribution of seats were changed only by agreement or on a direct popular mandate. But as Mr. Williams, of Nuffield College, in the Political Quarterly of July-September 1968, showed, during those years, Reform was always a party matter, involving both a philosophical difference between the egalitarian democrats and the defenders of prescription and a hard-headed awareness on both sides that the Conservative Party benefited from traditional privileges and would protect them with every weapon at its command". One of its weapons was, of course, the House of Lords.

Redistribution last year was characterised by exactly the same hyperbole. Irrespective of the merits of the case for postponement of the main distribution, there was little evidence that the electoral effect was anything like the extreme figures then bandied about. Indeed, in The Times this week, in spite of the large figures quoted last year, we are now down to five seats, making a difference of ten seats. All the evidence was subjective, and anyone who would dare to stand up now and make an estimate about the effects of the redistribution, when there was not a psephologist, or whatever those people call themselves, who was right at the last election, would be a very brave man indeed.

In my estimate, which is as good as anyone else's, the redistribution had little effect either way on any of the parties. In any event—and it is as well to bear it in mind in talking about redistribution—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) pointed out a year ago, in 1964 a total of 40 seats were decided by majorities of less than 1,000, one seat in 1966 was decided by a majority of three and in that same election 75 seats were decided on majorities of less than 2,000. What matters to the determination on polling day are those who stay at home, the weather and factors of that kind.

There is the size of the poll, which was the determining factor in June—far more important than the marginal effect of distribution—and the number of seats, such as at Ipswich, Brighouse and Spenborough, and Leicester, South-West, with majorities varying from 106 down to 13. These are the factors, together with the postal vote—the most insecure in terms of the secrecy of the ballot.

Those are the facts of the matter, but the "gerrymandering" cry has served its purpose. We on this side of the House were right last year. There was to be a major local government reform affecting 400 constituencies. We were absolutely right to suggest what we did and in the method by which we put it to the House, by a Bill. There were debates on all the constituencies and, indeed, by the ingenuity of the then Opposition, on constituencies which were not affected, because we did it by Bill, as the rules on Bills are different from the rules on Orders. We ignored the political pay-off. We should have looked at the history of the last 50 or 60 years. The word "gerrymandering" comes easily to the mind of the party opposite, even when they have no facts with which to justify it.

There are a number of points that I should like to put to the Government. The matter is still not crystal-clear. The 1949 Act, as amended in 1958, will still go on, whatever happens tonight. What are the rights of this House tonight and in the future when Orders of this type are put before us? The Home Secretary's view is that we have an impartial Report and that we should do nothing. That, however, is a matter of opinion. What I want to know clearly from the Government is, what is the right of the House of Commons?

In the debate last year, there was a to-ing and fro-ing between the present Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary about what was intended by the coalition Government when the procedure was set up. The late Lord Morrison told the House in the days of the coalition Government that: … these recommendations will not, of course, be binding upon Ministers. It will be competent for Ministers to accept, or reject or amend … Parliament will settle the principle. Parliament will deal with the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners as modified or not and submitted by the Government of the day, and at no stage would there by any situation which is not entirely under Parliamentary control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1613.] Whatever are the views of right hon. and learned Gentlemen, that was certainly the intention. He was talking about Section 4(5) of the Act of 1944. The same provision is in the Act of 1949, word for word. Parliament is supreme over the periodical reports.

In a debate on 21st March last year, when I was replying from the Front Bench opposite and using a form of words which I had very carefully checked, I said: The Government propose to consider the recommendations and reach their conclusions on them in the light of circumstances when the Reports are received. The matter would then be in the hands of Parliament, and I remind the House that, under Section 3(5) of the 1949 Act, if a draft Order is rejected by either House, or withdrawn by leave of either House, the Secretary of State may amend the draft and lay an amended draft.".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 988.] There is, therefore, a way of looking again at proposals from the Boundary Commission.

It is possible, in the present case, given the passage of time, for proposals to be put again to the Boundary Commission. Given the fact that these proposals are not to be applied until the next General Election, there is plenty of time for the Boundary Commission again to look at some of the problems—the problem of Bradford, of the Rhondda and of other parts of the country, those areas where the population has grown since 1965 because of the weaknesses of the Rules under the 1949 and 1958 Acts on which Boundary Commissioners have to work. There is no hurry. There is time to look at some of the sillinesses which would be involved if we passed the Orders in their present form.

If the Government's proposals go through, what then? The Secretary of State referred to Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act and the interim reports. How are those interim reports to apply? Would such a report benefit Bradford, or is it merely a pipe-dream for Bradford? The same goes for Sheffield. Is it simply a question of marginal effects? What will those interim reports do? Will they all be collected together in the next year or two and then be brought to the House in another Order, or will they come in dribs and drabs?

Will they take into account what has happened in so many cases, for example, in Birmingham, where everyone speaks about a small constituency but, as I remember, having made inquiries before any question of redistribution arose, where there is to be more rehousing in that part of Birmingham which will make the population, not enormous, but certainly far greater than any figures being bandied about at the moment?

The House ought to know what those interim reports mean. This is of vital importance to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), for example, in whose borough there is all-party feeling, as there is in Bradford, against the iniquities of the situation.

In Bradford, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) told us, as did his colleague from the same city, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), there is such strong feeling that a very large document on the subject has been sent to the Prime Minister. Whoever prepared it did his homework carefully, because it points out what the Prime Minister said he would do last year and what he has done this year. The right hon. Gentleman set himself up at the time of the election as being above the mere politician, but the Achilles heel has quickly shown itself. The Prime Minister is responsible tonight for a process which, as Leader of the Opposition, he strongly stigmatised last year. He has done exactly the same, or even worse, because he did not know what could have happened under the Measure which we put forward.

What about the local government changes? We are not clear, but it seems that there will not be a swift movement towards local government reform in the way envisaged in the Redcliffe-Maud Report. One hears talk about a two-tier system rather than the system put forward in the report last year.

In the debates in 1948—I have read them carefully, and they make interesting reading—the present Lord Chancellor was concerned to postpone the redistribution at that time until there had been local government reform. Chameleon-like, he had changed his mind 20 years later. But the argument of the Labour Government on this issue a year ago remains the same. There will be local government reform of some kind, I presume. The reforms which we should have introduced would have affected about 400 constituencies. Are we to wait 14 years before there is a major redistribution, with major local government reform taking place in the meantime, even if it is not based on Redcliffe-Maud, even if it is based on the minority proposals of Mr. Senior or something of that kind?

Will the Boundary Commission be reactivated? We went through this night after night and the question was debated also in the other place. Reactivation was the important word. Is there to be reactivation of the Boundary Commission to deal with the major reforms which take place—I am not referring to the interim reports—so that we do not have to wait 14 years in face of the major local government reforms which are to come? We may not have heard much from the Government about local government reform since the election, but it is important for the House to know what their intention is.

What about consultations with the Opposition in such circumstances? The bit that left the nastiest taste in my mouth from all the arguments about redistribution in the last Parliament was the allegation made against my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East by a number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite that no approaches had been made to the then Opposition about it. They waxed furious on the subject and impugned his integrity. I happened to look the matter up—my right hon. Friend knew but was prepared to sit back and say nothing because of the conventions of the House—and I read the documents which showed that the Opposition had been consulted. The present Leader of the House was involved. There was not one word from anybody withdrawing the imputations.

However, it did not matter. The party opposite had to belabour the gerrymandering and win an election. It did not matter what was done here against the good name of right hon. and hon. Members. That does not augur very well for any discussions that might take place in this or the next Parliament, because it was done in an ungentlemanly fashion, and I for one would be very suspicious. If there is to be local government reform, are the Opposition to be consulted in the same way as we approached the then Opposition, although they conveniently forgot about it in the heat of the debate?

There are a number of general points. The method we use for redistribution is 30 years old. Redistribution used to be done by the Government of the day, and the history books about the nineteenth century refer to the great effect on the development of democracy of redistributions carried out by Act of Parliament. Eventually, nearly 30 years ago, the present system of the Boundary Commissions was introduced. There is very strong feeling on both sides of the House tonight that Parliament should be able to have a view on the matter and that it is not good enough to say that an impartial report is brought to the House. We have had plenty of examples of nonsenses perpetrated by the Commission, however excellent is its report in general. It is like so many other things that have happened, because we keep setting up Commissions that tie the hands of Ministers, particularly in National Insurance. I discovered this when I was a junior Minister. Members write to a Minister and one can only write back saying, "I can do nothing because the matter has been put before an impartial Commission". We should have the right to play a part in these things.

Are the statutory Rules right? They were put into the Act of 1949 and amended in the Act of 1958. We fetter the Boundary Commissions. They have to work within legislation made by the House, and one of the grave weaknesses is that we tell them not to take into account the trends in population. A new town may be being built in an area, but we say, "Do not take it into account. It will be flowering in a population sense by the time the report is published, but do not take it into account. Take into account the date—in this instance 1965." So, whether they had been agreed by the House last year or this year, the proposals are five years out of date. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) pointed out the great mobility of population and the change in the demographic map which our predecessors in 1949 did not take into account.

There is one other factor which, I suppose, can be shrugged off in narrow party terms. But there is a very strong feeling within the Labour Party that in the methods by which we redistribute seats there is a very strong bias against the Labour Party. It is something that can be shrugged off, but it is strongly felt.

There is another view, that the law is badly drafted. Mr. Butler wrote: It is desirable that constituencies should be equal in size and determined by a routine and neutral procedure that is outside party control. I would like the rules of the game to be above suspicion, but as one who has read every word uttered in Parliament in this century I know that this has seldom happened. There is a great deal of hypocrisy about the matter. The Boundary Commissioners must take into account the warding done within boroughs and urban district councils. The Minister of State has kindly reminded me of how this works. I was responsible for this until a few months ago. I am grateful to him for the information that under the Local Government Act, 1933, and the London Government Act, 1963, there are rules for re-warding. I wonder whether the suggestions for warding from various local authorities, whatever their political composition, are neutral and politically objective and not subjective. Once they are in force in the local area, however, those are the basis on which the Boundary Commissioners must work. All of us in the House know that the way a borough or urban district council is re-warded has a major effect on constituency boundaries.

When I read reports such as those by Mr. Butler and think of what we all know in our heart of hearts, I wonder whether the time has come for the Home Secretary and the Government to look afresh at the whole system. It is a long time since 1944. It is a nonsense that because of the Act the Boundary Commissioners must work on a population which is five years out of date. It is possible to look afresh at the population, and to do so very quickly, in the period before the Report is published.

There is general dissatisfaction with the procedure involved in the Boundary Commission reports. Hon. Members on both sides are concerned with the effect in their own areas. If the Government really want to be helpful, there is plenty of time to look at the reports again—there is no urgency in these matters—and I can only hope that they will do so. Many of my hon. Friends look at the matter far more firmly, and I understand that they will act in their own way when it is time to vote.

9.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I know that the House listened with great interest to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Cockeram), who reflected the point of view expressed and felt by many hon. Members. My hon. Friend's constituency is considerably affected by the Commission's recommendations and it would have been well understood if he had taken a stronger line than he did, but he rightly said in his concluding remarks, having made his case very strongly indeed, that it would be wrong for any Government to re-write the impartial proposals of the Commission. The House certainly supports him in that. We shall look forward to hearing my hon. Friend again. The House greatly appreciated his contribution.

I shall try to deal with the majority at points which have been raised in this wide-ranging debate. It is apparent that this is a subject which, as in previous debates, cuts across the main party lines. One of my first recollections about entering the House is of the debates which took place on the recommendations of the Commission in 1954. I well remember the long debates which we had on individual constituencies at that time. The House always has had considerable sympathy with any hon. Member whose constituency is to be abolished or even substantially altered.

The first theme which has run through the debate—it was the main point in the speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—is that the Orders should have been taken separately. For reasons advanced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is quite the best person to advocate that course, because he described the 1954 procedure of taking each Order separately as a farce.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

The right hon. Gentleman was young then.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I hope that I remain young for many years to come. My attitude arose because I thought that Major Gwilym Lloyd George was not responding to the arguments which were put forward, not because he was laying the Order separately—I approved of that.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I seem to recall that the right hon. Gentleman during his time as Home Secretary was accused not infrequently of not responding to the arguments which were advanced. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary dealt very effectively with this point, and I need not traverse the ground again.

The second major theme which has run through the debate has been points affecting individual areas. I shall say something in detail about these later. In relation to areas of the great cities of Bradford and Sheffield and of individual constituencies such as the two Kensingtons, the Rhonddas, Wycombe, Durham and other constituencies, we have heard the kind of debate which took place when the 1954 Orders were considered. I do not think that any hon. Member who wished to make a point about his own constituency has been precluded from doing so by time.

The third theme running through the debate has been broad proposals for altering the considerations which the Commission should take into account. I listened carefully to what was said. The Government will be ready to consider suggestions that have been made for improving the procedure by which boundary changes can be made. The Government would always be ready to do so. If any changes were to be made, they should be in the spirit of the 1949 and 1958 Acts—that is, on the basis of all-party agreement, without which impartial machinery of this kind cannot work.

In answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), I do not know of any proposal during the past six years for changes in the procedure under the 1948 Act which were put forward at that time for consideration by the Conservative Party. We would be willing to listen to proposals which are put forward in the future.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South also asked about the reactivation of the Commission. I understand that discussions took place before the General Election. Technically, the position is that at the moment all the Commissions have no members. Their last term of office expired on 31st December, 1969. It is our intention to reappoint the Commissions in the fairly near future and an announcement will be made very soon.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the abortive House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill introduced by the last Government. He gave that as an example of giving hon. Members on all sides of the House the opportunity of debating separately the various proposals. I would remind the House that that Bill at a fairly early stage in its passage through the House was subject to the Guillotine.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South asked about the powers of the House in relation to these Orders. The draft Orders can be approved or rejected or withdrawn by the Government with a view to amendment. They cannot be amended by the House and therefore for that reason Amendments put down to alter the Orders were ruled out of order.

I turn to some of the individual points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder).

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I hope that we can be clear about the situation regarding interim reports which will now come from the Boundary Commission. Since it will be many years before there is a major Commission, how will this work? Will it be up to the Boundary Commission to say that there is a need for a change?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

A number of hon. Members have asked about interim reports and I shall be saying a little about that later. It is important that the matter be covered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North referred to larger electorates in Northern Ireland. I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend said about that. My hon. Friend will appreciate that any alteration in the number of Members from Northern Ireland would involve amendment of the 1920 Act, with the considerable difficulties that would flow from that procedure.

The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) said he opposed the Orders on the grounds that they were already out of date and did not take into account changes in the electorate which had occurred since the Boundary Commission had reported. Given the time factor and the fact that it takes the Boundary Commission some four years to carry out the detailed examination which it has to make, we shall always be in a position where recommendations of the Commission will be somewhat out of date. He also made some interesting observations about the American system and how it might be used here. I listened carefully to what he said, but I did not notice very much support on either side of the House for the proposals that he put forward.

Another point he made I should like to correct as a matter of fact. He said that my right hon. Friend had stated that the local government reform would not take place until 1978 or 1979. If he looks up what my right hon. Friend said, it was that the next review of the Boundary Commission, taking into account any local government changes which might be made in the meantime, could hardly be completed before 1978 or 1979. The point was that, unless one makes the changes in the course of this present Parliament, the next General Election will be fought on the 1954 boundaries. I am sure that such a proposal would not command support in any part of the House.

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

My point was that, given a proper sense of urgency concerning these matters on the Conservative benches, there is no reason why the local government reform should not be enacted in this Parliament and in time for a parliamentary redistribution to take place before the next General Election, assuming that this Parliament runs its full course.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

We have to examine carefully the proposals for the reform of local government. This is a major step, and it would be wrong for a new Government to rush lightly into major proposals of this kind.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) made some play about whether one should accept the recommendations of the Assistant Commissioner who carried out the inquiries on the ground or those of the Commission. The hon. Gentleman also complained about the reduction from four to three of the number of constituencies in Ealing. It is perhaps a little unfortunate from his point of view that both the Assistant Commissioner and the Commission recommended the reduction in that case.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) made a very interesting speech—

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I conceded that point. I hope that I shall not have to resort to a surgical operation to bring my argument to the forefront of the hon. Gentleman's mind. My point was that here were the Assistant Commissioner and the main Commission recommending three constituencies, while the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and all the local organisations in Ealing said that, in their view, there should be four. I was suggesting that their viewpoints should be recognised as well.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

Certainly, but that is a demonstration of the impartiality of the Commission.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

What about the ordinary people?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) and the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann) raised important issues concerning their constituencies. The hon. Gentleman questioned the legality of the recommendation of the Boundary Commission and asked whether the Commission was entitled to take account of population changes occurring since its original Report and whether those changes should apply to one constituency only.

Obviously, the Boundary Commission considered this matter. In paragraph 47 of its final recommendations, one sees: The requirement in the 1958 Act to hold local inquiries and publish revised recommendations, coupled with the review of local government boundaries proceeding at the same time as our general review of constituencies, has meant that our review has taken four years to complete. One disadvantage of this was that the 1965 electorates on which we were required to base our review became increasingly out of date as the review has proceeded, and so we decided to re-appraise, in the light of the 1968 electorates, all the border-line entitlements and claims for additional seats. In fact, the Commission carried out an examination of a large number of seats in a position similar to that of Kensington.

Concerning the legality of the Commission's recommendations the rules laid down are not binding upon the Commission. They are intended to guide the Commission in framing its recommendations, but it is for the Commission to interpret the rules, to decide what is practicable, and to recommend accordingly. It is for the House of Commons to decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations put forward by the Government of the day in order to implement the Commission's recommendations.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Kensington North

The requirements of certain of the rules are discretionary and the Boundary Commission can take them into account—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman must speak up. I must hear him and so must the reporters.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Kensington North

The requirements of certain of the rules are discretionary, but the requirements of Rules 5 and 7 of the 1949 Act are not, so far as I read the Act, discretionary at all. Although I appreciate that the Boundary Commission, in paragraph 47, has stated what it intends to do, it has given no reference to the Act as its source or justification for doing so. I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on that aspect.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I understand that it is for the Boundary Commission to interpret the rules. That is my advice.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

My hon. Friend will find that Rule 5 of the 1949 Act is expressly qualified by the 1958 Act.

As I am on my feet making that observation, may I say that my right hon. Friend was about to make a reference to my speech when he was interrupted. Will he satisfy my curiosity as to what he was about to say?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I will return to my right hon. and learned Friend's speech when I have finished with Kensington.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) suggested that the constituency's boundaries should be readjusted in the light of a re-warding scheme to be brought in by the local authority. I understand that as yet we have had no proposals from the council about its re-warding scheme; but, subject to the usual procedure, they would be dealt with as quickly as possible. Once a re-warding order has been made it is for the Boundary Commission, not the Home Office, to decide whether the constituency boundary can be adjusted by means of an interim review.

I return to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East. I thought that my right hon. Friend was not going to be here. In fact he sent me a note saying that he would not be here. My right hon. and learned Friend quoted from paragraph 39 of the Commission's report and criticised the requirement of the Commission not to take into account future changes in population. My right hon. and learned Friend quoted the part of paragraph 39 which says: The Rules require the use of current electorates and do not ask us to make recommendations on the basis of electorates as they will be in, say, five or ten years. My right hon. and learned Friend stopped his quotation there, but I should like to quote the remainder of the paragraph: We cannot, however, escape the fact that the intention of the present law is that a general review shall form the basis of constituency boundaries for at least the next ten years and it would therefore be desirable to make recommendations that would, so far as possible, cushion the effect of gains or losses of electorate so far as they could be foreseen with some degree of certainty. It was in the light of that that the Commission went on to take the action described in paragraph 47 of its report, to which I have referred.

We heard powerful speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) and the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyon) about the situation in Bradford. Both hon. Members put forward powerful arguments in support of the points of view which have been expressed to my right hon. Friend and myself from many quarters in that city. The main argument against the loss of one of the constituencies in Bradford—and this was the main argument of the two hon. Members to whom I have referred—is that the reduction in the city's parliamentary representation will diminish its prestige at a crucial stage of its redevelopment. The second argument is that large numbers of the immigrant population have not registered. Both these points were considered by the Assistant Commissioner who held the inquiry. It is fair to say that the first point about the prestige of the City carried considerable weight with him, but I do not think that the second point carried the same weight. The Assistant Commissioner estimated that only about 2,000 of the immigrant population had not registered and this would not have made any difference to the recommendations.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

The point made by Bradford Members is that, whether registered or no, immigrants present a greater work load and greater responsibility for hon. Members, and from the point of view of community relations the interests of the immigrant community and of the indigenous community in areas where immigrants have settled must be fully represented in the House. My hon. Friend will be aware that from the point of view of personal considerations immigrant problems absorb a great proportion of a Member's time in a city or seat where there are large concentrations of immigrants.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

Those are considerations to be borne in mind, but the Commission and the Assistant Commissioner, after taking all the considerations into account, came down in favour of the recommendation to reduce the number of constituencies in Bradford. I appreciate the strong feelings of my hon. Friend and of the Member for Bradford, East on this issue, but it is the view of this impartial Commission that this change should be made, and this is a matter on which I can give no comfort to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

Perhaps I may raise a simple statistical point. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to answer it immediately, but perhaps he would do so before he sits down.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Member must speak up. The reporters must hear what he says.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) spoke about the reduction in the representation of Bradford and the increase in the representation of Cumberland. Can the Minister tell the House the comparative electorates of Cumberland, which is to retain four Members, and Bradford, which is to be reduced from four to three?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I cannot recall the figures off hand but the hon. Member will be able to look them up just as easily as I can. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) drew attention to the very narrow decision arrived at in the case of Sheffield. He has made strong representations to my right hon. Friend and myself, as have other Sheffield Members, that there should be no change in the representation of that city. I would only point out that the new constituencies for the 1970 electorate come out approximately as follows—73,500 for Hallam; 65,800 for Heeley; 56,100 for Hillsborough and 68,800 for the Park division. All those constituencies fall within the broad target referred to by my right hon. Friend—between 45,000 and 85,000— within which the Boundary Commission sought to work.

A number of hon. Members, including the Members representing Bradford and Sheffield constituencies, asked about the question of interim reviews. Various suggestions have been made to the effect that the Home Office should in some way initiate interim reviews at early stages to meet certain points. The decision whether to initiate an interim review does not lie with my right hon. Friend; it lies wholly with the independent, impartial Boundary Commission. The Commission is bound by Section 2(3) of the 1949 Act. The scope of the interim review is limited to cases where a report is required to give effect to the rules for redistribution. It means that an interim review can take place only in an area where, because of local government changes, constituency boundaries and major local government boundaries might overlap. The idea is to prevent their overlapping.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

In the case of Sheffield the recent redistribution affecting the city boundary was based on certain population forecasts. They have been affected in terms of the formation of intermediate areas. Is that a criterion which, by writing to the Boundary Commission, could enable it to consider the justification for an interim review fairly quickly?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

It is not for me to say the basis on which the Boundary Commission can undertake an interim review. The responsibility for undertaking an interim review is entirely that of the Commission. I should be misleading the House if I were to pretend that my right hon. Friend has any power to influence the Boundary Commission in a decision of that kind.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Will the hon. Gentleman make the point crystal clear? Does he mean that the Commission can move for an interim report only where local government changes have been properly carried out under the 1933 Act and the 1963 Local Government Act in London, and only under those circumstances?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

The Boundary Commission can undertake an interim review, I understand, in conditions which it thinks merit it. It would not normally do so unless the conditions to which the hon. Member refers existed.

All that I can say is that I sympathise with my hon. Friends—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. If the Minister does not give way, continually standing does not help.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I should be misleading hon. Members if I gave any promise about an interim review, which I am not competent to do.

These Orders arise out of the report of the impartial Boundary Commission. The Commission and the Orders have been criticised. It would be extraordinary if they had not. That has happened, so far as I know, every time that the Commission's recommendations have been put forward—for reasons that the House well understands. But the machinery is wholly impartial and it is essential that we should recognise the impartiality of this machinery.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman must be gratified by the large attendance that his speech has compelled among his hon. Friends, but it occurred to me that perhaps they were here because they had been whipped. A year ago, the Prime Minister told us that this was not a subject on which he thought it desirable that there should be whipping on the Government side. Would he assure us that there is no Whip on that side tonight?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I would give the right hon. Gentleman exactly the same kind of assurances as he gave us when he occupied this position and advised the House to reject the recommendations of the impartial Boundary Commission.

that this is another example of doing one thing in Opposition and another in Government?

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

It is for the right hon. Gentleman to draw his own conclusions, but it is our determination to keep to the spirit of the 1949 Act, introduced as a result of all-party agreement, and to advise the House to accept the recommendations of the Commission and the Orders which implement them in full.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Is the hon. Gentleman rising on a point of order? I am only asking because he has spoken in this debate, I imagine.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I want to reassure your imagination, Sir. I certainly did speak in the debate. I wanted to seek your guidance. The Minister of State was courteous enough to refer to one part of my speech and I very courteously requested him to inform me of the Government's attitude à propos any other Commissions which might be established to make recommendations to the House. I wanted to know whether they would be automatically rubber stamped by this Government or whether we should be able to debate them. This is a reasonable question for a Member of Parliament to ask and the British people should know what will happen in such circumstances.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

It may be reasonable—it was put very gracefully—but it is not a point of order.

Question put, That the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved:—

The House divided: Ayes 231, Noes 62.

Division No. 11.]AYES[10.28 p.m.
Adley, RobertBenyon, W.Bray, Ronald
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Berry, Hon. AnthonyBrinton, Sir Tatton
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Biffen, JohnBruce-Gardyne, J.
Atkins, HumphreyBiggs-Davison, JohnBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)
Awdry, DanielBlaker, PeterBurden, F. A.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Butler, Adam (Bosworth)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Body, RichardCampbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)
Balniel, LordBoscawen, R. T.Carlisle, Mark
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyBossom, Sir CliveChannon, Paul
Batsford, BrianBowden, AndrewChapman, Sydney
Bell, RonaldBoyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnChataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Braine, BernardChichester-Clark, R.
Churchill, W. S.Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)Raison, Timothy
Clark, William (Surrey, E.)Hunt, JohnRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Clegg, WalterHutchison, Michael ClarkRedmond, Robert
Cockeram, EricIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)
Coombs, DerekJames, DavidRees, Hn. Peter (Dover)
Cooper, A. E.Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Corfield, F. V.Jessel, TobyRidley, Hn. Nicholas
Cormack, PatrickJopling, MichaelRoberts, Michaed (Cardiff, North)
Costain, A. P.Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Crouch, DavidKaberry, Sir DonaldRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dalkeith, Earl ofKellett, Mrs. ElaineRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)Kerby, Capt. HenryRost, Peter
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. JackKilfedder, JamesRussell, Sir Ronald
Dean, PaulKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Scott-Hopkins, James
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Kinsey, J. B.Sharples, Richard
Dixon, PiersKirk, PeterShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Dodds-Parker, DouglasKnight, Mrs. JillShelton, William (Clapham)
Drayson, G. B.Knox, DavidSimeons, Charles
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardLambton, AntonySinclair, Sir George
Eden, Sir JohnLane, DavidSkeet, T. H. H.
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Legge-Bourke, Sir HarrySoref, Harold
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Le Marchant, SpencerSpeed, Keith
Eyre, ReginaldLloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Spence, John
Farr, JohnMacArthur, IanSproat, Iain
Fell, AnthonyMcCrindle, R. A.Stainton, Keith
Fenner, Mrs. PeggyMcLaren, MartinStanbrook, Ivor
Fidler, MichaelMaclean, Sir FitzroySteel, David
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)McNair-Wilson, MichaelStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Stokes, John
Fookes, Miss JanetMadel, DavidStuttaford, Dr. Tom
Fowler, NormanMaginnis, John E.Sutcliffe, John
Fox, MarcusMarten, NeilTapsell, Peter
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Mather, CarolTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gardner, EdwardMaudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Gibson-Watt, DavidMawby, RayTaylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Tebbit, Norman
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Mills, Peter (Torrington)Temple, John M.
Goodhart, PhilipMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Goodhew, VictorMitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)Thomas, John Stradiing (Monmouth)
Gorst, JohnMoate, RogerThomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Gower, RaymondMolyneaux, JamesThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)Monks, Mrs. ConnieThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Cray, HamishMore, JasperTilney, John
Green, AlanMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Grieve, PercyMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Trew, Peter
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.Mudd, DavidTugendhat, Christopher
Gummer, SelwynMurton, OscarTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Gurden, HaroldNabarro, Sir Geraldvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)Neave, AireyVaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Normanton, TomWaddington, David
Hannam, John (Exeter)Nott, JohnWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Haselhurst, AlanOnslow, CranleyWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hastings, StephenOsborn, JohnWard, Dame Irene
Havers, MichaelOwen, Idris (Stockport, North)Warren, Kenneth
Hawkins, PaulPage, Graham (Crosby)Weatherill, Bernard
Hay, JohnPage, John (Harrow, W.)White, Roger (Gravesend)
Hayhoe, BarneyPeel, JohnWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Heseltine, MichaelPercival, IanWoodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Hicks, RobertPeyton, Rt. Hn. JohnWoodnutt, Mark
Hiley, JosephPink, R. BonnerWorsley, Marcus
Hill, James (Southampton, Test)Pounder, RaftonWylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Holland, PhilipPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Holt, Miss MaryPrice, David (Eastleigh)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hornby, RichardProudfoot, WilfredMr. Tim Fortescue and
Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame PatriciaPym, Rt. Hn. FrancisMr. Hector Monro.
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)Duffy, A. E. P.Kaufman, Gerald
Atkinson, NormanEadie, AlexKinnock, Neil
Baxter, WilliamEnglish, MichaelLambie, David
Bidwell, SydneyEvans, FredLatham, Arthur
Bradley, TomFisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, East)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Hardy, PeterMcBride, Neil
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)Hunter, AdamMcCartney, Hugh
Clark, David (Colne Valley)Janner, GrevilleMcElhone, Frank
Conlan, BernardJenkins, Hugh (Putney)McGuire, Michael
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)John, BrynmorMackenzie, Gregor
Deakins, EricJones, Dan (Burnley)Mackintosh, John P.
Doig, PeterJones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)McNamara, J. Kevin
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)Jones, Barry (Flnt, East)Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Douglas-Mann, BruceJones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Meacher, Michael
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Sillars, JamesTorney, Tom
Oswald, ThomasSilverman, JuliusWainwright, Edwin
Pavitt, LaurieSkinner, DennisWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Probert, ArthurSpearing, NigelWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Reed, D. (Sedgefield)Spriggs, Leslie
Rhodes, GeoffreyStallard, A. W.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Strang, GavinMr. William Molloy and
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)Mr. Dick Leonard.

Motion made, and Question put:That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969,

in the last Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Maudling.]

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 55.

Division No. 12.]AYES[10.42 p.m.
Adley, RobertFookes, Miss JanetMarten, Neil
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Fowler, NormanMather, Carol
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Fox, MarcusMaudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Atkins, HumphreyFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Mawby, Ray
Awdry, DanielGardner, EdwardMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Gibson-Watt, DavidMeyer, Sir Anthony
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Balniel, LordGoodhart, PhilipMitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyGorst, JohnMitchell, L.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)
Batstord, BrianGower, RaymondMoate, Roger
Bell, RonaldGrant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)Molyneaux, James
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Gray, HamishMonks, Mrs. Connie
Berry, Hon. AnthonyGreen, AlanMonro, Hector
Biffen, JohnGrieve, PercyMore, Jasper
Biggs-Davison, JohnGrimond, Rt. Hn. J.Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Blaker, PeterGummer, SelwynMorrison, Charles (Devizes)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Gurden, HaroldMudd, David
Body, RichardHall, Miss Joan (Keighley)Murton, Oscar
Boscawen, R. T.Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Bossom, Sir CliveHannam, John (Exeter)Neave, Airey
Bowden, AndrewHaselhurst, AlanNormanton, Tom
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnHastings, StephenNott, John
Braine, BernardHavers, MichaelOnslow, Cranley
Bray, RonaldHawkins, PaulOsborn, John
Brinton, Sir TattonHay, JohnOwen, Idris (Stockport, North)
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Hayhoe, BarneyPage, Graham (Crosby)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Heseltine, MichaelPage, John (Harrow, W.)
Burden, F. A.Hicks, RobertPeel, John
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Hiley, JosephPercival, Ian
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)Hill, James (Southampton, Test)Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Carlisle, MarkHolland, PhilipPink, R. Bonner
Channon, PaulHolt, Miss MaryPounder, Rafton
Chapman, SydneyHornby, RichardPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Chataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherHornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame PatriclaPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Chichester-Clark, R.Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)Proudfoot, Wilfred
Churchill, W. S.Hunt, JohnPym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Clark, William (Surrey, East)Hutchison, Michael ClarkRaison, Timothy
Clegg, WalterIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Cockeram, EricJames, DavidRedmond, Robert
Coombs, DerekJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)
Cooper, A. E.Jessel, TobyRees, Hn. Peter (Dover)
Corfield, F. V.Jopling, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Cormack, PatrickJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithRidley, Hn. Nicholas
Costain, A. P.Kaberry, Sir DonaldRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)
Crouch, DavidKellett, Mrs. ElaineRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Daikeith, Earl ofKerby, Capt. HenryRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)Kilfedder, JamesRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. JackKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Rost, Peter
Dean, PaulKinsey, J. R.Russell, Sir Ronald
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Kirk, PeterScott-Hopkins, James
Dixon, PiersKnight, Mrs. JillSharples, Richard
Knox, David
Dodds-Parker, DouglasLambton, AntonyShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Drayson, G. B.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryShelton, William (Clapham)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardLe Marchant, SpencerSimeons, Charles
Eden, Sir JohnLloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Sinclair, Sir George
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)MacArthur, IanSoref, Harold
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)McCrindle, R. A.Speed, Keith
Eyre, ReginaldMcLaren, MartinSpence, John
Farr, JohnMaclean, Sir FitzroySproat, Iain
Fell, AnthonyMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Stainton, Keith
Fenner, Mrs. PeggyMcNair-Wilson, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
Fidler, MichaelMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Steel, David
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Maddan, MartinStewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)Madel, DavidStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMaginnis, John E.Stokes, John
Sutcliffe, JohnTilney, JohnWeatherill, Bernard
Tapsell, PeterTrafford, Dr. AnthonyWhite, Roger (Gravesend)
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Trew, PeterWhitelaw Rt. Hn. William
Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)Tugendhat, ChristopherWoodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.Woodnutt, Mark
Tebbit, Normanvan Straubenzee, W. R.Worsley, Marcus
Temple, John M.Vaughan, Dr. GerardWylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. MargaretWaddington, David
Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)Walder, David (Clitheroe)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)Ward, Dame IreneMr. Victor Goodhew and
Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)Warren, KennethMr. Tim Fortescue.
Thorpe, Rt Hn. Jeremy
Atkinson, NormanJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Baxter, WilliamJohn, BrynmorRhodes, Geoffrey
Bidwell, SydneyJones, Dan (Burnley)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bradley, TomJones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Sillars, James
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, West)Jones, Barry (Flint, East)Silverman, Julius
Clark, David (Colne Valley)Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Kaufman, GeraldSpearing, Nigel
Conlan, BernardKinnock, NeilSpriggs, Leslie
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Lambie, DavidStallard, A. W.
Deakins, EricLatham, ArthurStrang, Gavin
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, East)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Douglas-Mann, BruceMcBride, NeilTorney, Tom
Duffy, A. E. P.McCartney, HughWainwright, Edwin
Eadie, AlexMcElhone, FrankWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
English, MichaelMcGuire, MichaelWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Evans, FredMackintosh, John P.
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)McNamara, J. KevinTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hardy, PeterMeacher, MichaelMr. William Molloy and
Hunter, AdamOswald, ThomasMr. Dick Leonard.
Janner, GrevilleProbert, Arthur

Resolved, That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Maudling.]

Motion made, and Question put:That the Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th October, 1969, in the last Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Gordon Campbell.]

The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 52.

Division No. 13.]AYES[10.54 p.m.
Adley, RobertChapman, SydneyFletcher-Cooke, Charles
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Chataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherFookes, Miss Janet
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Chichester-Clark, R.Fortescue, Tim
Atkins, HumphreyChurchill, W. S.Fowler, Norman
Awdry, DanielClark, William (Surrey, East)Fox, Marcus
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Cockeram, EricFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Coombs, DerekGardner, Edward
Balniel, LordCooper, A. E.Gibson-Watt, David
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyCorfield, F. V.Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Batsford, BrianCormack, PatrickGoodhart, Philip
Bell, RonaldCostain, A. P.Goodhew, Victor
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Crouch, DavidGorst, John
Berry, Hon. AnthonyDalkeith, Earl ofGower, Raymond
Biffen, JohnDavies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)
Biggs-Davison, Johnd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj-Gen. JackGray, Hamish
Blaker, PeterDean, PaulGreen, Alan
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Grieve, Percy
Body, RichardDixon, PiersGrimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Boscawen, R. T.Dodds-Parker, DouglasGummer, Selwyn
Bossom, Sir CliveDrayson, G. B.Gurden, Harold
Bowden, Andrewdu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnDykes, HughHall-Davis, A. G. F.
Braine, BernardEden, Sir JohnHannam, John (Exeter)
Bray, RonaldEdwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Haselhurst, Alan
Brinton, Sir TattonElliot, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Hastings, Stephen
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Eyre, ReginaldHavers, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Farr, JohnHawkins, Paul
Burden, F. A.Fell, AnthonyHay, John
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Fenner, Mrs. PeggyHayhoe, Barney
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)Fidler, MichaelHeseltine, Michael
Carlisle, MarkFinsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Hicks, Robert
Channon, PaulFisher, Nigel (Surbiton)Hiley, Joseph
Hill, James (Southampton, Test)Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)Sinclair, Sir George
Holland PhilipMoate, RogerSoref, Harold
Holt, Miss MaryMolyneaux, JamesSpeed, Keith
Hornby, RichardMonks, Mrs. ConnieSpence, John
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame PatriclaMonro, HectorSproat, Iain
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)More, JasperStainton, Keith
Hunt, JohnMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Stanbrook, Ivor
Hutchison, Michael ClarkMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Steel, David
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Mudd, DavidStewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
James, DavidMurton, OscarStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Nabarro, Sir GeraldStokes, John
Jessel, TobyNeave, AireySutcliffe, John
Jopling, MichaelNormanton, TomTapsell, Peter
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithOnslow, CranleyTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Kaberry, Sir DonaldOsborn, JohnTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Kellett, Mrs. ElaineOwen, Idris (Stockport, North)Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Kerby, Capt. HenryPage, Graham (Crosby)Tebbit, Norman
Kilfedder, JamesTemple, John M.
King, Tom (Bridgwater)Page, John (Harrow, W.)Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Kinsey, J. R.Peel, JohnThomas, John Stradilng (Monmouth)
Kirk, PeterPercival, IanThomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Knight, Mrs. JillPeyton, Rt. Hn. JohnThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon S.)
Knox, DavidPink, R. BonnerThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Lambton, AntonyPounder, RaftonTilney, John
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochTrafford, Dr. Anthony
Le Marchant, SpencerPrice, David (Eastleigh)Trew, Peter
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Proudfoot, WilfredTugendhat, Christopher
Longden, GilbertPym, Rt. Hn. FrancisTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
MacArthur, IanRaison, Timothyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
McCrindle, R. A.Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterVaughan, Dr. Gerard
McLaren, MartinRedmond, RobertWaddington, David
Maclean, Sir FitzroyReed, Laurence (Bolton, East)Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)Ward, Dame Irene
McNair-Wilson, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWarren, Kenneth
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Ridley, Hn. NicholasWeatherill, Bernard
Maddan, MartinRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)White, Roger (Gravesend)
Madel, DavidRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Maginnis, John E.Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Marten, NeilRost, PeterWoodnutt, Mark
Mather, CarolRussell, Sir RonaldWorsley, Marcus
Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldScott-Hopkins, JamesWylie, Rt Hn. N. R.
Mawby, RaySharples, Richard
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Meyer, Sir AnthonyShelton, William (Clapham)Mr. Walter Clegg and
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Simeons, CharlesMr. Hugh Rossi.
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Atkinson, NormanJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Baxter, WilliamJohn, BrynmorRhodes, Geoffrey
Bidwell, SydneyJones, Dan (Burnley)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bradley, TomJones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Sillars, James
Campell, I. (Dunbartonshire, West)Jones, Barry (Flint, East)Silverman, Julius
Clark, David (Colne Valley)Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Kaufman, GeraldSpearing, Nigel
Conlan, BernardKinnock, NeilSpriggs, Leslie
Davies G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Lambie, DavidStallard, A. W.
Deakins, EricLatham, ArthurStrang, Gavin
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, East)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Douglas-Mann, BruceMcBride, NeilTorney, Tom
Duffy, A. E. P.McCartney, HughWalker Harold (Doncaster)
Eadie, AlexMcElhone, FrankWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Evans, FredMcGuire, Michael
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)Mackintosh, John P.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hardy, PeterMcNamara, J. KevinMr. William Molloy and
Hunter, AdamMeacher, MichaelMr. Dick Leonard.
Janner, GrevilleOswald, Thomas