§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OFSTATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, this is a Bill very similar to that with which we have just dealt, to continue in force for another year the Local Elections and Register of Electors (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1939, and to amend it in some not very important respects. That Act continued in office existing members of local authorities, provided for the filling by co-option of such casual vacancies as might arise owing to death or resignation, suspended all steps for the preparation of the register of electors, or the Jurors book in Scotland, and prohibited any alteration of the area or constitution of local authorities. Your Lordships have just consented to the Second Reading of the Prolongation of Parliament Bill, and I need scarcely point out that precisely the same reasons hold good for this Bill. The register is hopelessly stale and out-of-date, vast movements of population have taken place, and many hundreds of thousands of soldiers are away from their homes. It is quite clearly as undesirable to hold local government elections at this time as it is to hold a Parliamentary General Election.
311 I need not keep your Lordships more than a moment longer in explaining the Amendments. This Bill proposes to amend the Act of last year in some respects. One Amendment applies to the City of London, where the qualification for election as a Common Councillor is peculiar to that City. It requires not only inclusion of the candidate's name in the register of Parliamentary electors, but also the actual occupation of the premises in respect of which he is registered. In consequence of the damage to, and destruction of, property in the City, persons who would otherwise be eligible as candidates are in some cases no longer in occupation of premises in their wards. It is thought wrong that they should be disqualified for that reason, and the Bill proposes to remedy that by suspending the requirement as to occupation of premises. There is another Amendment relating to the City of London where election as alderman is for life by the body of the electors, and not as elsewhere for a limited period by the corporation. The qualification to vote in an aldermanic election in the City demands inclusion in the Parliamentary register for the occupation of premises in the ward, or occupation of premises with a £10 rateable value for twelve months prior to 1st December. There again the Government hold the view that these statutory provisions might be suspended for the time being, and that is the effect of the other Amendments to Section 4.
The Amendments to Section 8 which this Bill proposes apply to Scotland where, I understand, it is the wish of the local authorities, through their associations, that these Amendments should be 312 made. The Amendments provide that members of burgh councils appointed by their councils as members of county councils, should demit office as county councillors in December as they would have done under peace-time conditions. The reason for that Amendment is that these burgh councillors are chosen by the town council and not elected by electors, and in present circumstances they car perfectly well be chosen afresh by the councils. There is no reason why the stop to local elections should apply to such members of county councils. There is another small alteration under which a town councillor elected a bailie or appointed a judge of police since the Act of 1939 was passed is put in the same position as a person appointed in normal times whose term of office cannot exceed three years. With that explanation, I commend the Bill to the House, and move that it be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Duke of Devonshire).
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, there is only one point I should like to ask the noble Duke. He has not explained the last Amendment to the Schedule which has come up from the House of Commons.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
Perhaps I might have an opportunity of consulting my right honourable friend on that subject and of dealing with the point during the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned.