§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Millie Miller (Ilford, North)
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the conduct of proceedings following the counting of votes at a general election in multi-constituency boroughs so as to ensure that each successful candidate shall be entitled to speak.I ask for leave on the ground that I myself was denied a pleasure, an honour and a privilege which I suspect that every other hon. Member has considered his birthright on winning an election. In order to explain the significance of this matter, it will be as well for me to tell the House of the events of the night of 10th October in the borough of Redbridge, which is just such a multi-constituency borough.
On this occasion the returning officer, at the conclusion of the counting of the votes in two of the constituencies, which took place in one small hall, after announcing the result, immediately withdrew from the hall followed by his retinue without any explanation as to his leaving or whether he intended to return.
In the absence of any indication of this matter I, as the successful candidate, not knowing what else to do, decided to use my own machinery, which was to mount a step at the side of the platform in order to thank my supporters and helpers and also the workers in the administration who had been involved in the vote counting.
At the end of the proceedings, in common with Labour Party practice throughout the country, we joined in singing "The Red Flag"—a matter which will come as no surprise to my right hon. and hon. Friends. When we had concluded, we joined in raising our arms, as I suspect many hon. Members have done, to give three hearty cheers.
Suddenly the door of the hall opened and the returning officer came back. He invited candidates to take their places on the platform. He announced that it had been arranged—but he did not say by whom or with whom it had been arranged—that the candidate with the highest number of votes and the candidate with the lowest number of votes would be 1591 the only ones allowed to join in the traditional vote of thanks to the returning officer.
I am sure that the House will understand that it was not just my suspicious mind which made me wonder how it came about that a Conservative speaker and one who, had he been present, would have represented something called the Movement to Improve Prosperity in Britain were to be the only people to speak on this occasion, although there were two successful Labour candidates in the same borough.
Of course, I did not question the ruling of the returning officer. But, as hon. Members will understand, this raises the question which perhaps all hon. Members might ask themselves, namely, whether they should have an entitlement to speak at the conclusion of a successful election campaign.
Perhaps it would have been of no great consequence if it had not been followed by an occurrence of some consequence. Certainly it was of consequence to me. The gentleman on whom the honour fell to move the formal vote of thanks, after a few brief words of formal thanks to the officials, said, "This is an ill omen for Britain. Something very ominous has happened in Ilford, North tonight". Looking meaningfully at me, he went on, "A Communist salute has been given in this hall".
At that, the helpers of the Labour Party erupted in disorder. That was not altogether surprising since, during the whole of two election campaigns we had been regaled with descriptions of ourselves of various kinds including such delectable phrases as the fact that we were "Red Nazis". Hon. Members can imagine that a further Communist smear on this occasion provoked a somewhat strong reaction on this account.
I prefer not to indulge in personal attacks on other hon. Members. Nevertheless, I feel that this is a matter which I have the right to bring before the House in order to clarify my position. It may be known to a few of my hon. Friends that I have been an elected representative in the London area since 1945. Never during that time has it been suggested that I had sympathies with or predilections to Communism. To deny it, which 1592 was the only redress offered me by the hon. Member concerned, would have been in the same category as an answer to the question when I stopped beating my husband or when a certain right hon. Member stopped saving fuel by cleaning his teeth in the dark.
This is not a trivial matter, and I am not prepared to allow it, in the words of The Times diarist on a similar issue in the same constituency… to pass into Right Wing Tory mythology.What I have said outlines clearly the point that I am trying to make and the Bill which I seek to promote. I say to this House that every successful candidate in every constituency—not in a selected part of any borough—should have the right to move a vote of thanks to his speakers, to his supporters and to his electorate. It is for that reason that I ask leave of the House to present my Bill.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Cormack
I do, Sir, but I shall not detain the House very long.
This is a preposterous waste of the time of this House. It is a preposterous abuse of the Ten-Minute Rule. If it is allowed, we shall have Bills to regulate the order in mayors' processions and matters like that. It is totally absurd. It does not deserve the serious consideration of this House.
None of us will dispute that successful candidates should have the right to speak at elections, but this is not the sort of thing with which an hon. Member should waste our time, especially when we are about to debate some of the most serious issues that the country has ever faced. I shall oppose the motion.
§ Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the conduct of proceedings following the counting of votes at a general election in multi-hyphen constituency boroughs so as to ensure that each successful candidate shall be entitled to speak.