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Glasgow City Council (Ex-Officio Members)

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that they are not subject to election by democratic methods, he will abolish the posts of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener as ex-officio members of the Glasgow City Council.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener are not posts filled by democratic election, he will introduce legislation to exclude the holders of these offices from the Glasgow City Council.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing an amending Bill to abolish the offices of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener of the city of Glasgow since these offices are relics from before the era of democratic election.

I am looking into the whole question, but as this will involve detailed inquiries, I am not in a position to make any statement.

In looking into the question, will my right hon. Friend keep before him the fact that the retention of this extraordinary privilege whereby certain electors-have two votes in the council elections of Glasgow and the other towns concerned violates the principle of "one elector, one vote" contained in the Local Government Act, 1947, and the Representation of the People Act, 1948? Will he seek to give effect to that provision in whatever decision he reaches?

All the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) will be kept in mind in the inquiries I am making.

When he is making these inquiries, will my right hon. Friend also pay particular attention to the fact that the Deacon Convener, whatever be his responsibilities, and the Dean of Guild, whatever be his responsibilities, both decided against the will of the people of Glasgow in electing the Lord Provost?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild exercised their right to vote in that direction they gave great satisfaction to the citizens of Glasgow?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great indignation throughout the City of Glasgow that people who returned a majority by means of their democratic vote have now been defeated by some office which dates back to the fifteenth century? Will my right hon. Friend advise that these offices should be abolished now that we are a democratic country?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take counsel with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and also have the anomalies corrected which resulted in the gerrymandering of the London County Council in the recent elections? Will the right hon. Gentleman also note that the result of the voting in the Glasgow City Council is identical with the vote of the people of Glasgow, namely, a Progressive majority?

Naturally, many of these points have already been brought to my notice. I would not go so far as to describe either of these things as gerrymandering. Needless to say, all these things will be taken into account.

Has my right hon. Friend any idea when he will be able to reach a decision on this matter and intimate it to the House? Is he aware that the use of these offices to vote out the majority party and to vote in the minority party causes great satisfaction to the Tories and very great anger to the Labour majority?

I am unable to say when, because the matter is more complicated than appears on the surface. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman will agree that they have been in existence for a long time and the urgency of the contention seems to have disappeared for the moment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the many occasions on which these dignatories have voted for Labour proposals there has never been any question of the abolition of their offices?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the City of Edinburgh, which is in a position corresponding to that of the City of Glasgow, it is possible for a ratepayer, whether he has a good, bad or indifferent character, to purchase a life-time vote for the Lord Dean of Guild for two guineas? Is he also aware that nobody knows who constitutes the franchise for the Deacon Convener?