18 JUNE 1948, Page 2

Disfranchised and Enfranchised

The final attempt to save university representation on the report stage of the Representation of the People Bill in the House of Commons on Monday amounted to little, not because the Govern- ment could adduce better arguments for its extinction than they did on second reading, but because the march through the lobbies produced the usual majority. To any plain man unimpressed by hairsplitting and legal quibbles the unopposed findings of the Speaker's Conference of 1944, conspicuous among them the con- tinuance of university representation, are binding on the •present Government. The proposals embodied in the Bill are a dishonourable violation of an honourable understanding. Quite apart from that there could be no worse moment for such a step. The universities are occupying an increasingly large place in the country's life, if only because of the increase in the number of students, consented to at great inconvenience under pressure from the Government. That means among other things a steady growth in their electorate.' It means too that they are producing year by year an enlarging stream of chemists and physicists and biologists, of engineers and doctors and teachers, for the service of the community. Almost all of these have special problems to raise through Members of Parlia- ment. It is an immense advantage that there should be a few Members

in the House to whom they can properly appeal. All that now -vds. An association that has lasted for nearly three hundred and fifty years between Parliament and the universities—which are older than Parliament itself—is to be broken to the detriment of both. The pledge of the Conservatives to restore university representation on the first opportunity will win them many floating votes. As for the Government's decision to add to the total 17 new constituencies which are likely to vote Labour, and reject the proposals to add five others which would be likely to vote Conservative, if that is not gerrymandering it is a pity that it looks so much like it.