HC Deb 21 April 1948 vol 449 cc1923-43

(1) No person shall use a motor car or any such like vehicle for the conveyance of voters to or from a polling station during the holding of a parliamentary or local government election, provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent the owner from using such vehicle for his or her personal conveyance and of any person in residence with them.

(2) It shall be a statutory duty of the returning officer in a parliamentary or local government election to provide transport facilities, if available, to and from the polling station for persons entitled to vote and who in the opinion of the said returning officer may owing to a casual illness be prevented from recording their vote unless means of transport were available, provided that no transport shall be so provided beyond the limits of the said parliamentary boundary or in the case of a municipal election the electoral division or ward.

(3) The returning officer shall cause a public notice to be published in the local press setting out the form of application for transport facilities, the closing date for such applications shall not be earlier than six clear days prior to the date of the poll.—[Mr. McLeavy.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This new Clause seeks to prohibit the general use of motor cars by candidates for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll at Parliamentary and municipal elections. Provision is made for the returning officers to provide transport facilities for persons suffering from a casual illness. It is assumed that the returning officers would form a pool of available cars, and that public-spirited owners would be willing to place their cars at the disposal of the returning officers. It is also felt that the national motoring associations would be willing to co-operate in carrying out this public duty. I believe that the motoring community would respond to any appeal which was made. If, however, sufficient cars were not available from voluntary sources, the returning officers would hire as many as might be available for this purpose.

Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill deal with the problem of persons prevented from voting at Parliamentary and local government elections because of illness and other difficulties. I assume that this would mean that such persons would have to be placed on the absent voters' register. What I am concerned about, therefore, is casual illness. If this new Clause were accepted, it would be essential that casual illness should be catered for as indicated in the Clause. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in what I thought was a very clear and explanatory speech, said: This Bill completes the progress of the British people towards a full and complete democracy begun by the great Reform Bill of 1832…This Bill wipes out the last of the privileges that have been retained by special classes in the franchise of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 839.] This was indeed a very bold statement to make. I should be the last person in this Committee to deny to the Home Secretary full credit for the far-reaching reforms which are contained in this Bill, but it can hardly be claimed that this Bill completes the progress of British people towards a full and complete democracy if we still have the unlimited use of motor cars by one candidate, to the detriment of others. To my mind, democracy is not represented by a collection of high-sounding phrases, but by the application of the principle of fair play and equity. It was said, I think by the late Lord Hewart, when speaking on the subject of the administration of justice, that justice must not only be done, but must manifestly be seen to be done. We cannot claim that justice is being done if we allow this abominable system to continue. It is foreign to the true conception of democracy and out of accord with the spirit and purpose of this great Bill. It is a system which loads the dice heavily on the side of the wealthy candidate. It almost makes our electoral laws for the prevention of corruption a mockery and sham.

This is by no means a new issue arising from the desire of the present Labour majority to impose some unjustifiable restriction upon the more wealthy sections of the community. It has been the subject of Parliamentary and public discussion for many years. I ask the Committee particularly to note that 65 years ago a Measure was introduced in Parliament which eventually became the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883. That Act went some way to remove some of the evils then present in the electoral system. Section 7 made it illegal to make any payment or to enter into any contract of payment for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate. Subsection (3) of that Section expressly allowed the hiring and use by voters of any kind of vehicle provided it is for their own use. There is nothing in the law to prevent the use of privately owned cars. Section 14 of the 1883 Act prohibits the hiring and letting for hire of any public, stage or hackney carriage. Therefore, hackney carriages cannot be used to convey voters to the poll. It is clear that it is unlawful under that Act to buy pints of beer for voters, but we may use gallons of petrol to take them to the poll.

I understand that the Debate on that Measure lasted for many nights and that Mr. Gladstone, Lord Randolph Churchill and other distinguished Members took part. It is reported that a strong case was put up in favour of the view that if the hiring of vehicles was to be abolished, as in fact it was, equally the lending of vehicles ought to be abolished. One hon. Member, in following up this point, said that the lending or hiring of carriages for electoral purposes appeared to be one and the same thing in principle, because it conferred a distinct advantage on the rich man over the poor man. Mr. H. H. Fowler, afterwards Sir Henry Fowler, then Member for Wolverhampton, pointed out that the Measure proposed to forbid the man who could afford two guineas to hire a carriage from doing so, while it continued to permit the man who could afford 200 guineas for the permanent ownership of a carriage to use that vehicle for the conveyance of himself and his friends to the poll. He went on—[Interruption.]

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

On a point of Order. In view of the noise that is being produced on this side of the Committee, will the hon. Member repeat the last few phrases?

The Deputy-Chairman

May I ask hon. Members to be silent, and to allow the hon. Member to resume his speech? I myself was unable to hear what the hon. Member was saying.

Mr. McLeavy

The occasion upon which the use of motor cars was raised was a private Member's Bill brought forward in Parliament in 1938 by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). The new Clause now before the Committee conforms very closely to the terms and spirit of the Bill which my right hon. and gallant Friend proposed in 1938, the only difference being that, in the proposed Bill of 1938, provision was made for transport to be provided by returning officers in case of age, sickness and infirmity, and also for conveyances in country districts. The reason we have left out these two provisions contained in the proposed Bill of 1938 is because of the system which is being applied by the present Bill of postal voting and the increased number of polling stations in the country districts.

I recommend this new Clause to the Committee, because I believe that it is unfair that motor cars should be allowed to be used, either at Parliamentary of local government elections, by those who are privileged to own the cars or to accumulate a number of cars. It is not merely a question of Parliamentary elections, but also one affecting municipal elections. I remember very well some 12 years ago fighting for a seat on the county council in an area which consisted of a municipal borough and a large number of small areas It was almost a Parliamentary division in itself. I found myself on election day without a single car for my own personal use in order to allow me to visit some of the outlying polling stations, while my Conservative opponent was very proud of the fact that he had over 50 cars at his disposal in order to take electors to the poll. However happy Members of the Opposition might be in such circumstances, it is neither fair nor reasonably good citizenship that the balance of conveyances should be all on one side.

I think that, if our democracy is going to work at all, it must work out fairly as between all the respective parties. I therefore ask the Home Secretary to agree to accept this new Clause, which, at least, will right a very great wrong, and will restore a position, both in Parliamentary and local government elections, which will be fair and equitable to every section of the community.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I am quite sure that this Clause must appeal to the fair-mindedness of hon. Members opposite. I have always believed that the Tories were quite sincere when they have said that in this democracy there should be equality of opportunity. Tonight they have a chance to demonstrate that they do not want any advantage merely because they have deep pockets and big bank balances which enable them to have cars which many of the workers who make the cars can never hope to own. It would be good for their self-respect if they agreed to this Clause.

What do we see when we take part in elections? I have seen the big limousines pass Mrs. Jones waiting at the bus stop, probably with a baby in her arms; but when it is election day, how kind and considerate are the people in those cars to Mrs. Jones. She is somebody who must be seen to, somebody to be assisted. When I see the way those cars are used for picking up people on election days, by people who pass them in the street like dirt on other days, I think it is hypocritical. I remember the Jarrow by-election. At that time there was a danger that we might lose Jarrow because the Road Haulage Association decided to show the Tory Party how to defeat the Socialist candidate. They came in with all their cars. Their organisation was like the municipal transport service. There were at least 250 cars—more cars than Jarrow had ever seen. Of course, the cars departed when the result was declared; and the people of Jarrow have not seen them since, and are not likely to see them again.

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

There has been no petrol.

Mr. Fernyhough

We had seven cars. We were so short of cars that although I started to make a tour of the polling booths at 8.30 in the morning, I did not manage to get to the last polling booth until one minute to nine at night. The reason was that we were so short of cars, and the car I had was used to fetch in some poor cripples who would not go in a Tory car.

Air-Commodore Harvey

Why not?

Mr. Fernyhough

Because they were honest. There cannot be a real and true democracy as long as one party has the power to bring hundreds of voters to the poll when that power and privilege is denied to other candidates. I ask hon. Members opposite, who I sometimes feel, in my kinder moments, are not quite so bad as other people make them out to be—

Mr. Scollan

Is my hon. Friend a "crypto" Conservative?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Send us a telegram.

Mr. Fernyhough

I would send the hon. Member a telegram with pleasure, but my elementary education is such that I do not think he would understand the language.

Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)

Put it in Italian.

Mr. Fernyhough

I do not know much about the Italians or their language. If you really believe in fair play, if you believe that two men should enter a contest with equal chances, this is a Clause you should support, because it is one by which you as a party can demonstrate—

The Deputy-Chairman

I must remind the hon. Member that I am not a party.

Mr. Fernyhough

I apologise, Mr. Beaumont. By supporting this Clause hon. Members opposite can demonstrate their sincerity to those workers from whom they are so anxious to get support; they can win that support by revealing that they believe in fair play for all parties.

Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)

One car, one vote.

Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)

I cannot help thinking that the supporters of this new Clause are living in the world of 25 to 30 years ago. Nowadays, there are as many Socialist Party members as members of the Tory Party with cars. It is quite unfair to expect voters in remote country districts such as mine to walk five miles and back to the polling station. I speak with some experience of running a car at elections, and I know that 25 or 30 years ago it may have been true to say that the Conservative Party had more cars at their disposal than the Socialist Party. Many people cannot get home from the polling station unless they are taken in a vehicle of some sort, and it is unfair for hon. Members to condemn people living in remote country districts to long walks after they have done a day's work, in order to go to the polling station and then to walk home.

My part of the country may be different from that of some hon. Members, but there we have no hesitation in taking to the poll a man who may be voting against us. I have often taken to the poll a man who I knew perfectly well would vote against me. I remember one man who resolutely refused to go to vote, but his wife came with me, and she voted on our side; but it might just as easily have been the other way round. I hope that this new Clause will not be taken seriously. I do not understand the wording of the Clause where it says: motor car or any such like vehicle.

Mr. Scollan

Why not a barrow?

Mr. Baldwin

Could that refer to a smallholder's donkey and cart? Cannot a smallholder take his neighbour or a friend to the poll in his own horse vehicle? This Clause is wrong and out of date and, like all controls that are being imposed on the country at present, will lead to further wangling, and I hope that the Government will not accept it.

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

Those who had motorcars, which they used at elections in the past, or whose friends had motorcars, have had an advantage. Those of us from my part of the country, who have had a long experience of electioneering, have felt for many years that this advantage was unfair. I do not wish to attempt to be humorous—not that I am a comedian of any kind—but I hope that as a result of this Clause I shall be spared the necessity, in future, of advising people who want to vote for me, or for one of my friends, to ride to the polling booth in someone else's car. There may be a case for consideration for the rural areas, but I think the time has come to make this change in our electoral law. We should so arrange it that one side will not have an advantage over the other through the use of motorcars.

Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)

This is a serious Clause, which should be taken seriously. I have to make up my mind whether to support it or not and, in doing so, I look at the words of the Clause in the first line of which it says: No person shall use a motorcar or any such like vehicle… Before I make up my mind whether to support the Clause or not, I need to know from its Mover what is meant by the words "any such like vehicle"? I therefore propose to put two serious questions to the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy), which I hope he will answer. First, do the words "any such like vehicle" include a hearse? During my election campaign I found myself in the undignified and regrettable position of having to go to meetings in a form of cart which some people would describe as a hearse, and which was certainly drawn by two hearse horses. I felt that horses of a better type should have been provided. Later, I observed these horses galloping through the streets, drawing vehicles which were filled with my supporters going to the poll. Will I be deprived, by means of the words "any such like vehicle", of the use of these admirable carts, which took my humble supporters to the poll? I can assure the hon. Member that most of my constituents cannot afford a motorcar, and have never had a motorcar.

The next question I ask the hon. Gentleman is: do these words include donkey carts? The hon. Member described an occasion when he was fighting for a seat on his county council. That is nothing to the time when constituents of mine are fighting for a seat on the donkey cart, to get from the place where they live to the polling booth. That is one of the methods by which they get there. These things must be explained, and I hope the hon. Member for East Bradford, who moved this Amendment, will tell the Committee what he means.

9.45 P.m.

Miss Bacon (Leeds, North East)

I only want to make a short point and to raise a query. I agree wholeheartedly with the principle of this new Clause, but I must confess that I have certain misgivings about the way in which it is drafted, because I believe it leaves certain loopholes whereby some sections of the community could evade the law. Most of us will realise that a great number of the constituencies in this country are composed at one end of a poor part, where there are very few car owners at all, and at the other end of better-off people where there is a car in almost every house in each street or road.

I want to feel certain in my own mind that we are not prohibiting the taking of cars into the poorer areas while, at the same time, leaving the car owners in the better-off areas free to take their friends and relatives to the polling booths. It may be said that it would be an offence to take anybody but relatives to the polling booths, but as I can see this Clause there is nothing to prevent anybody from taking his or her friends in the car and dropping them off round the corner from the polling booth. I hope my right hon. Friend will accept the principle in this Clause, and that between now and the Report stage, he will draw up a Clause which will make such practices impossible.

Mr. Ede

This matter has been frequently debated during my membership of the House of Commons, and I have always supported the principle in my hon. Friend's Amendment. In this Bill I have taken steps to make it easier for people to poll than has previously been the case. In addition to the postal vote, I have arranged that in rural areas, unless it is a very exceptional case, every parish shall be a polling district, so as to avoid as far as I can the kind of walk to which the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) referred and which some of the electors in rural areas have to take. I wish to see people being able to record their votes without making any previous declaration by way of indication as to the party they propose to support. The postal vote and other matters contained in the Bill very largely avoid the necessity for the second Subsection of this new Clause.

I am quite certain that the first part of the Clause as drawn is not watertight and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Miss Bacon) suggested, it would be perfectly capable of penetration as drafted. I accept the view, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) said, that in 1883 there was started the first use of vehicles by candidates for the conveyance of voters to the poll and that that is something that ought not to occur. I cannot accept the Clause as drafted. There are great difficulties in the way of finding any Clause that is not open to the kind of evasion mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds. However, between now and the Report stage I will endeavour to see if it is possible to do something which will very strictly limit the number of motorcars which can be employed in a Parliamentary or local government election and the way in which they can be used even in the cases where they are permitted.

Mr. Sparks (Acton)

Will my right hon. Friend also consider the question of persons who do not live in a constituency bringing themselves and their vehicles into that constituency, in which they have no interest whatever, for the specific purpose of serving the interests of one particular party? I mention that because I am informed that last November in the borough council elections in my constituency more than 250 cars were used there, a large proportion of which came from outside my constituency and were driven by people who did not live in my constituency. Even if one admits the necessity to use cars at elections, it is manifestly unfair that persons shall be drawn from many miles away into a constituency, in which they have no interest whatever, for the purpose of assisting one political party.

I would also like my right hon. Friend to look into the matter of persons owning more than one car. I have taken part in general elections in county constituencies and I have known persons owning more than one car sending not only their cars for use on polling day, but chauffeurs to drive them. That requires looking into, because it is manifestly unfair that a rich person who has more than one car, no matter to which party he belongs, should send them along with drivers for that specific purpose. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take those matters into account in his consideration of this Clause.

Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)

I wish to comment on what the Home Secretary said about limiting the number of cars to be used at an election and finding some words between now and the Report stage to give effect to such a limitation. I would bring to his attention the very careful heed which should be paid to the differences between constituencies in different parts of this country. I represent a very rural area in Scotland—this Bill would apply to the whole country—and under the conditions which apply there at the time of a general election it is nothing uncommon in some of the outlying districts for people to have to make a journey of 10 or 12 miles each way. It may be peculiar to Scotland but in Scotland we drive people to the poll whichever way they are going to vote, and hope for the best. So far as I can find, there has been no question of selective driving, at any rate not in the country areas, though it may be different in the towns. I hope that the Home Secretary will bear in mind the varying conditions in constituencies in this country.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Grimston

I rise to make it clear that so far as I am concerned, and I think most of my hon. Friends, we do not accept the entire principle which the Home Secretary stated on this matter. The Socialist Party evidently take a dim view of what their achievements are likely to be if they are always to remain the people who have fewer motor cars than anybody else. I was interested in a remark made by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) that many workers make motor cars, not one of which they can hope to own themselves. That is a dim view of the future under Socialism. In the United States the workers who make motor cars drive down to the factory every day in droves, and enormous car parks are needed for the workers alone. Apparently, the Socialists do not envisage anything of the kind in this country under their regime. I think the Home Secretary will find it difficult to draft a Clause, through which a coach and four cannot be driven, unless he orders all motor cars off the streets on polling day, and I cannot imagine that he, even in conceding to his back benchers, will go as far as that. With regard to outlying constituencies, although there are to be polling stations in every parish, there will nevertheless remain places where people will still have to walk great distances to the polling station.

Mr. Tolley indicated assent.

Mr. Grimston

I see the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Tolley) agreeing with that point of view. The Home Secretary will have to look carefully at any form of words which can be drawn to cover the abuses which will be able to take place, and also to cover the points I have mentioned. I hope we shall not see another example of the degradation of the law by some form of words which cannot be enforced, simply to pander to the inhibitions of the Socialist Party.

Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I want the Home Secretary to think about the point made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) with regard to rural constituencies. I suggest that he should look at it in two ways. First, as to whether he could allow constituencies with an acreage of over 500,000 to have a fleet of cars placed at their disposal; secondly, where an elector has a distance of over five miles to travel, that a car should be placed at his disposal. I listened with appreciation to what the Home Secretary had to say about a polling station being in every parish, but I have in my constituency 14 parishes voting at one polling station at the present time. Surely, he will not put up a polling station for a parish of 60 electors? If so, my own will go straight away to 150 from 80. If that is not possible, any elector who has to go more than five miles to a polling station, ought to be conveyed at the expense of the State.

Mr. Hogg

I hope the Committee will forgive me if I say, first, one or two things about the individual ways in which a Clause of this kind might work and, secondly, something about the principle upon which it is alleged to be based. To begin with, I think that hon. Members opposite have failed to draw a somewhat important distinction of principle in their minds. The hon. Member who proposed this new Clause compared the conveyance of voters to the poll to the giving of free drinks at an election. I do not see the analogy. In one case one is assisting, without any obligation, a person to discharge his right to vote. It is a moral obligation on the voter as a citizen. We are helping him to do something which it is his obligation to do. In the other case we are trying to influence him to vote in a particular way. I think it is pure hypocrisy to pretend that there is any analogy of that kind to be drawn.

Let us see how far the principle behind the Clause will achieve its alleged objects. One of the alleged objects is to prevent a disproportionate advantage to those who own motor cars, and who it is alleged are more likely to be Conservatives than not—and I am not surprised at that after what has happened recently—as against those who do not own motor cars. Curiously enough, the effect of the Clause, and I think the effect of any Clause which is substituted for it, will be directly the opposite. No one is going to make it illegal to drive to the poll in one's own car. No one suggests that in this Clause. What is to be made illegal—let us face it —is not the rich driving up to the poll in their Rolls Royce cars, but the poor who have not got cars, getting a lift from anybody else. That is the effect and object of the Clause. To represent that, as it is now sought to do, as a means of penalising the rich at the expense of the poor, is exactly to contradict its actual effect.

The matter does not really stop there. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) told a pitiful story about his own failure to arrive at the poll before a minute to nine, because he was so short of cars that they were always carrying some cripple to the poll and had not time for him. He seconded this Amendment, but has it struck him that cripples cannot in future be carried to the poll under this Amendment? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes they can."] No they cannot. The only type of sick person who can be carried to the poll under the Amendment is the case of casual sickness. The hon. Gentleman who proposed the Amendment told us that that was not a mere oversight. It was a matter of deliberate intent, in order to drive the permanently sick, the crippled, the blind and those who might live at a distance from the polling station, or outside the constituency, to exercise their right by voting by post. My own view is, and I know I am not more likely to be more dispassionate about this matter than hon. Members on the other side of the Committee, that it is a thoroughly retrograde step to prevent people carrying the sick, the blind and the crippled to the poll.

I regard it as an extraordinary example of the perversity of a certain type of mind in the party opposite—I am not saying it is universal—that when they are faced with a situation which they have alleged exists here, that parties on both sides of the House do not have an equal quantity of motor cars or other conveyances to convey crippled people, or otherwise incapacitated people to the poll, their instinct is not to level up, to provide more people with more transport. It is not to enable those who may otherwise be prevented from voting for the Labour Party from being carried to the poll. Their instinct is to prevent those who vote for the Conservative Party from voting at all.

That is what they mean in this connection by equality. It means that if for some economic reason, which is not their fault, people who are inclined to vote Labour cannot get carried to the poll, the remedy is not to provide them with carriage, but to prevent other people who can get carriage from exercising their legal right of going to the poll. That is what is put to the Committee in absolutely naked form as a form of equality. In answer to it I cannot go at very great length, and I shall not try to, but I suggest to hon. Members a view of the matter which might put it in a rather different light. It is true that in any highly complicated society when different parties represent different kinds of locality, different kinds of persons and so on, in one matter one party will have an advantage and in another matter another party will have an advantage. We are constantly complaining that the Labour Party have an immense advantage in the matter of funds owing to the political levy, but it does not follow, therefore, that because they have a great deal of money that we ought to take that money away.

Several Hon. Members Rose

Mr. Hogg

I cannot give way for the moment, there is too much noise going on. This new Clause is put forward on the basis of equality, or as one hon. Member put it, "equality of opportunity." It may be true—although I do not think it is, for a reason I will give—and it has been true in the past, that in this matter of transport we, exercising perfectly legal and proper rights according to rules which are perfectly rightful rules, have very likely gained on the balance. It is also true that hon. Members opposite, with other rules—and other rules affect electoral law—notably those affecting trade unions, benefit hon. Members opposite. The right moral to be drawn is not for each party to try to deprive the other party from such advantage as they get from proper rules—[Interruption.] Even if it were true we have done so, which I deny, I still say that two wrongs would not make a right. It is not for hon. Members who happen to be in a temporary majority to say that this is something which advantages the party opposite and therefore it is against equality and we should destroy it. The proper remedy in each case is to consider the legitimate rights of the voter, and what are the real obstacles to his exercising his rights and to try to remove those obstacles.

My case, and I have yet to hear a single argument from the other side of the Committee against it, is that even if it be true that certain people on the Labour side are prevented from voting by the absence of motor cars, it cannot be a remedy for that evil—because obviously it is an evil if they want to vote and cannot—to take away the opportunity from a number of Conservatives who want to vote and can because they have available to them a lift in a motor car. That is mere political spite and it is not democratic.

I conclude with this observation in which I associate myself with the remarks of an hon. Friend behind me and my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. Hon. Members are very largely—and this has struck me more than ever in this Parliament—living in the past in matters of this kind. There was a time, and I can remember it, when a great fleet of Conservative cars was to be seen carrying blue colours at elections and one tiny little Socialist car, gallantly bearing the yellow and red flag, would be seen trundling along on the other side, but those days are past. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Even if the fact of their passing has not become obvious to hon. Members opposite, partly owing to the war and partly owing to other factors which limit the development of the mechanical age, they will certainly soon discover that fact.

I would ask hon. Members to vote upon this Amendment putting away from them all the miserable inferiority complexes which they have acquired over 25 years, and looking into the future when this country, a great social democracy, will go to the polls supporting and opposing parties representing great interests in this country, both of which have an almost unlimited quantity of transport at their disposal. That is the real future for which we are legislating. Let hon. Members turn their eyes from the past and look to that future, and they will find not a shred of argument to support this Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

There was some very remarkable special pleading in that speech to which we have just listened. I can assure the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that I have no more inferiority complex than he has. Let us go a little further into this matter. When this Clause was brought forward there were two kinds of argument produced from the benches opposite. The first was the common or garden cackle. One heard a lot of it. It did not impress me, and I do not think it was a credit to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to treat a serious matter in that way. The second kind of argument was to pick holes in the particular wording of this Clause. I agree in that respect with the Home Secretary. There are holes in the wording of the Clause, and I put my name to it with some hesitation on that account. I felt it right to support it, however, as a matter of principle. Quite frankly, I did not think that the Clause would be accepted in the form in which it was put down.

That, however, has nothing whatever to do with the principle, and the principle is a very serious matter. To describe it as a kind of party warfare, about which the hon. Gentleman talked, and which in my view he practised, is to treat questions of principle in a way in which they ought not to be treated in this connection. I come to the principle. It seems to me to be perfectly simple that either both sides of this Committee and the parties they represent have an equal opportunity in this respect or they have not. If they have an equal opportunity, we have to direct ourselves to the question of whether it is or is not for the public good that motorcars should be used in this way. Actually, does any one on either side of the Committee believe that in practice the position of both sides has been or is now equal?

10.15 p.m.

One hon. Gentleman said that this was taking a poor view of the future and that the time would come when the aspirations of various leaders of humanity would be fulfilled and there would be a car to every voter. Lenin wanted a car for every moujik. I am glad hon. Gentlemen share so fully Lenin's aspirations in this matter, but at this point we have to deal with the present and the immediate future, and we are justified in having some regard to our own experience in this matter. I have taken part in three general elections. There are hon. Members who have taken part in a great many more. I do not believe that there is one who can stand up and say in honesty that in respect of transport for transporting voters to the polling booth, there was equality between the two parties.

Surely that is the one point we have got to consider. We are told that to carry voters in a car is an act of kindness, and that no inquiries will be made as to the way they will cast their votes. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite really mean to say that carrying voters to the poll is an act of charity that happens to occur to them on that day, and one without any political thought whatever? It is a claim which, frankly, we cannot support. The cars come out covered with flags and invitations to vote for one candidate or the other as clearly instruments of a political battle as anything possibly could be.

Mr. Baldwin

Can the hon. Member say whether, at any of the elections at which he has been connected, there was any number of voters who could not get to the poll because they were not able to be carried in a vehicle?

Mr. Mitchison

That is not the point. The real point is this: are we, in fact, exercising, or attempting to exercise, persuasion on the voters by offering them a free ride? That is what it comes to. A free ride is something which they regard as worth having. There is the common case in which a man who has worked all day has to decide for himself whether it is worth his while to go to the poll. I agree it is harder for him to go a long distance in a Worcestershire constituency than it is for him to walk along a few streets in a town; the problem is even more acute in a rural constituency. There will always be human beings who will not vote if they have to walk, but will vote if they can get a free ride. Does anybody seriously suggest that they are not either influenced or attempted to be influenced by being carried in motorcars belonging to the supporters of one political party, carrying exhortations to support that political party? It is an absolutely ridiculous suggestion, if I may say so. Surely we ought to approach this in a way which befits the dignity of this Committee.

We know perfectly well that, if we go back far enough, to the time of Eatan- swill, there was wholesale corruption in every election in this country. In those days it was not looked at in the same way; voters were openly bought in the old rotten boroughs. Anyone who goes back to the excellent political novels of Victorian times will find it described many times by others than Dickens. We have now brought the matter to a degree of strictness in most respects; and that does credit to our democratic institutions and our political practice is a matter of the greatest importance. Reference has been made to the candidate who stands a man a pint of beer. I cannot think that giving a man half a pint of beer long before polling day, when a candidate is in the field, is really a more serious form of corruption than taking a tired man to the poll by car at the very last moment instead of making him walk. I fail to see the distinction drawn in the, respect by the hon. Member for Oxford.

My strong objection to this practice in the past has been, and still is, two-fold. Firstly, I regard it as a form of political corruption to take people to the polls in a motor car when by so doing we are trying to induce them to vote one particular way. I have no doubt that that is why people bring motor cars into polling districts at election time. As for my second objection, I think we should have a real equality of opportunity. As between the two parties or any number of parties in the State, let us at least see that each has an equal chance. It is not the least use telling me that in theory they ought to have an equal chance. I know quite well that as a matter of fact the party opposite has a far better chance than the party on this side of the Committee. It is no use telling me that I have a car. Of course I have, and I shall use it if I am allowed to, but I would far rather that cars were not used at all except where they were really needed. It is right and proper that people should walk to the poll and exercise their votes freely, uninfluenced by considerations about what car they came in and under what colours they travelled.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

We are all agreed on the fundamental principle which is that in casting a vote in an election no undue influence or outside pressure should be exerted. I ask hon. Gentlemen to believe that we think that they have a certain amount of undue in- fluence which they can exercise just as they think that we have a certain amount of undue influence. But the Committee would be making a great mistake if they tried to go into too much detail in this important Measure. It a Clause such as this results in a multiplication of election offences, it will do a great deal of harm Political parties and agents can easily be prevented from hiring cars or organising the presence of cars in large numbers But what is to prevent some supporter of nine in some village or town, without any reference to me, picking up his friends and neighbours and taking them to the poll in his own car? The Home Secretary would find himself involved in innumerable difficulties connected with the multiplication of election offences if this Clause were accepted. If we multiply election

offences any more than they have been multiplied so far, the number of elections that will be invalidated will he enormous there will be an atmosphere of uncertainty and a careful watch over one's opponent in an effort to catch him out. It would be a mistake to adopt this proposal. In the long run, we must leave the issues at general elections and by-elections to the good sense of the people of the country.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Freasury (Mr. Whiteley)

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put. "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 230, Noes. 108.

Division No. 131. AYES [...]1.24 p.m
Acland, Sir Richard Edwards, John (Blackburn) Leonard, W.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Leslie, J. R.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)
Alien, Scholefield (Crewe) Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Alpass, J. H Evans, John (Ogmore) Lindgren, G. S.
Attewell, H. C Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M
Awbery, S. S. Ewart, R. Logan, D. G.
Bacon, Miss A Farthing, W. J Lyne, A. W
Balfour, A Fernyhough, E. McAdam, W
Barstow, P G Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McAllister, G
Barton, C. Foot, M. M McEntee, V. La[...]
Bechervaise, A E Forman, J. C McGhee, H. G
Belcher, J, W Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mack, J D
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J Freeman, J. (Watford) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N W)
Berry, H. Gallacher, W McKinlay, A. S.
Beswick, F. Ganley, Mrs. C S Maclean, N. (Govan)
Bing, G. H. C Gibson, C. W McLeavy, F.
Binns, J. Gilzean, A. Mallalieu, E. L (Brigg)
Blyton, W. R Glanville, J E (Consett) Mallalieu, J. P W (Huddersfield)
Boardman, H. Gooch, E. G. Mann, Mrs J
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Griffiths, D (Rother Valley) Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George
Brook, D. (Halifax) Guy, W. H. Mellish, R. J.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Middleton, Mrs. L
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Mitchison, G. R
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Monslow, W
Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G Hardy, E. A Moody, A. S
Burden T. W Harrison, J. Morley, R.
Burke, W. A. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield C)
Callaghan, James Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Morris, P. (Swansea, W)
Castle, Mrs. B. A Herbison, Miss M. Moyle, A.
Champion, A. J Hewitson, Capt. M Murray, J. D
Coldrick, W. Hobson, C. R Nally, W
Collick, P. Holman, P Neal, H. (Claycross)
Collins, V. J. Hoy, J. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Colman, Miss G M Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Noel-Baker, Capt. F E (Brentford)
Cook, T. F Hutchinson, H. L (Rusholme) O'Brien, T.
Corlett, DT. J Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Crawley, A. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N) Palmer, A. M. F
Crossman, R. H S Isaacs, Rt. Hon, G A Pargiter, G A
Daggar, G. Janner, B. Parker, J
Daines, P. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Paton, Mrs. F (Rushcliffe)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Paton, J (Norwich)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W) Johnston, Douglas Pearson, A.
Deer, G Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Peart, T. F
Delargy, H. J Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Perrins, W
Diamond, J Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Popplewell, E
Dodds, N. N Keenan, W. Porter, E. (Warrington)
Donovan, T. Kenyon, C. Porter, G. (Leeds)
Dumpleton, C. W Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E Price, M. Philips
Durbin, E. F. M. Kinley, J. Pritt, D. N.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lee, F. (Hulme) Pursey, Cmdr. H
Randall, H. E Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Ranger, J. Stross, Dr. B. Wells, W. T (Walsall)
Rankin, J. Stubbs, A. E. West. D. G
Reeves, J. Sylvester, G. O Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)
Reid, T. (Swindon) Symonds, A. L White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Richards, R. Taylor, H B (Mansfield) Whiteley, Rt. Hon W
Ridealgh, Mrs. M Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wigg, George
Robens, A. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wilkes, L.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Thomas, D. E, (Aberdare) Wilkins, W. A.
Royle, C Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Sargood, R. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Shackleton, E A A Thurtle, Ernest Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Sharp, Granville Tiffany, S. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Titterington, M F Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Shurmer, P. Tolley, L. Willis, E.
Silverman, J. (Erdington) Turner-Samuels, M Woodburn, A
Simmons, C J. Usborne, Henry Woods, G. S.
Skinnard, F. W. Vernon, Maj. W. F Wyatt, W.
Smith, C. (Colchester) Viant, S. P. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Walker, G. H. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E) Zilliacus, K.
Sorensen, R. W. Warbey, W. N
Soskice, Sir Frank Watkins, T. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sparks, J. A Watson, W. M Mr. Snow and
Steele, T. Weitzman, D. Mr. George Wallace.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Henderson, John (Cathcart) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H
Baldwin, A E Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Barlow, Sir J Hogg, Hon. Q Peto, Brig, C. H. M
Birch, Nigel Hollis, M. C. Pickthorn, K.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hope, Lord J. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Bower, N. Howard, Hon. A. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. [...] Hurd, A. Prescott, Stanley
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Rayner, Brig. R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Jennings, R. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Byers, Frank Keeling, E. H Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Carson, E. Kendall, W. D. Robinson, Roland
Clarke, Col. R. S Lambert, Hon. G. Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Sanderson, Sir F
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Scott, Lord W.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Shephard, S. (Newark)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Davidson, Viscountess Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Spence, H. R.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Lyttelton, Rt Hon. O Stoddart-Scott, Col M.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. McFarlane, C. S. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Drayson, G. B. Mackeson, Brig. H R Studholme, H G
Drewe, C. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Sutcliffe, H.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Maclean, F. H. R (Lancaster) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E A. (P'dd't'n, S)
Eden, Rt. Hon A Marples, A. E Teeling, William
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Marsden, Capt. A. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Marshall, D (Bodmin) Thornton-Kemsley, C N
Fyfe, Rt Hon. Sir D. P M Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Turton, R H.
Gage, C. Medlicott, Brigadier F Vane, W. M. F
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Molson, A H. E. Wadsworth, G.
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Wakefield, Sir W. W
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury) Walker-Smith, D.
Grimston, R. V. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Mullan, Lt. C. H. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Neven-Spence, Sir B York, C.
Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Nicholson, G.
Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Headiam, Lieut.-Col Rt Hon Sir C Nutting, Anthony Major Ramsay and
Major Conant.

Resolution agreed to.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put accordingly, and negatived.