HC Deb 07 February 1850 vol 108 cc518-24

hoped the House would have the same patience with him which they had had with the Motion just disposed of. His case was simply this. He saw two vacant seats in that House caused by the disfranchisement of Sudbury, while on the other hand he saw four compact parishes, with a population of 125,000 inhabitants, 18,000 of whom paid a rental of 10l. and upwards. His resolution was, that they should, by Act of Parliament, erect Kensington, Chelsea, Fulham, and Hammersmith, into a Parliamentary borough, returning two Members. Lord Chatham once said, that taxation without representation was tyranny. Looking at the electoral distribution of the country, he found 40 boroughs returning two Members each, or 80 Members for a population which, according to the census of 1841, did not exceed 220,000 inhabitants. According to this ratio, the four parishes to which his Motion referred, would return 62 Members, and yet he only asked two. The case was precisely parallel with that of East Retford in 1829. Mr. Huskisson proposed that the representation of that borough should be transferred to Birmingham. The Government, however, resisted it and with success, but in 1830 a new Government came into power, and the Reform Bill was the consequence, and by Schedule A, not only East Retford, but many others were disfranchised. He verily believed, that if they refused to agree to this resolution, he result would be a second Schedule A. He merely claimed this moderate instalmant of Parliamentary reform that they might have an opportunity of showing the people that, when amendment was really necessary, they were ready to carry it out. [The hon. Member then went into voluminous details for the purpose of showing the unequal manner in which the representation of the country was distributed.] He placed the claim of the inhabitants of these four parishes upon the footing that they paid taxes, and ought to be represented. It would be impossible for the country to go on with its present representation, and every Member who voted against him that night would be regarded as opposed to all reform.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That in consideration of the parishes of Kensington, Chelsea, Fulham, and Hammersmith, containing a population of about 120,000 inhabitants, residing on an area not exceeding 8,000 acres, and comprising also above 18,000 houses of the annual rental of 10l. and upwards; and further, in consideration that there is no other district in Great Britain with so great a number of inhabitants and houses unrepresented directly in this House, it is expedient and just to incorporate, by an Act of Parliament, the parishes of Kensington, Chelsea, Fulham, and Hammersmith, into' a Parliamentary Borough, empowered to return two Members to this House, to fill up the vacancies caused by the disfranchisement of the late Borough of Sudbury.


seconded the Motion.


observed, that as a petition had been presented in the course of the evening from Sudbury for the re-enfranchisement of that borough, he felt bound to state, as he first drew his Parliamentary breath in that place, that he knew that a large body of young men had grown up in Sudbury, who would never be guilty of such practices as had been alleged against the late constituency; they, therefore, wished their right of choosing representatives should be restored to them.


was sure the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow had been productive of great pleasure on the other side of the House. The first point which presented itself on the consideration of the subject, was the disfranchisement of Sudbury. The hon. Member for Glasgow seemed to think that this circumstance had entailed a kind of privation on the constitution of the country. The hon. Member therefore proposed that this privation should be made up by their creating a new and large constituency. Now he (Mr. Campbell) wished to ask the House two questions on this subject. The first was, whether this proposed new constituency was calculated to improve the House of Commons?—and the second was, whether this new constituency was calculated to give representatives to a class of opinions or interests which had not been represented before? As an illustration he would take Birmingham, whose members represented a class of opinions which were entertained, as he believed, nowhere else in the British empire. He would also take the hon. Member for Manchester as an exponent of peculiar opinions as to the constitution of King, Lords, and Commons; and he (Mr. Campbell) must express his earnest hope, if such opinions were entertained in that borough, that they prevailed in no other town in the country. The hon. Member for Glasgow had not told them what peculiar opinions prevailed in these compact parishes. He (Mr. Campbell) would ask with what class of new boroughs was this proposed constituency to be associated? Was it to be a new metropolitan constituency? It was not a manufacturing district, as it was notorious that no manufacturing or commercial interest existed there. Residing in the vicinity of this district in 1847, he (Mr. Campbell) had attended a public meeting and parochial dinner, in consequence of a pressing invitation, and was then brought into collision with certain inhabitants of this proposed borough; and it appeared to him that they were unwilling to be the objects of the hon. Gentleman's experiment. The fact was, that the passions of those who called for the erection of these new institutions were led away by the worthy knight the Member for Bolton. He thought the Motion should be rejected; and the argument on which he rested his opinion was, that by its adoption a gross injustice would be inflicted on a district in the neighbourhood of these compact parishes. The question should be put as to what ground there was why Knightsbridge should be excluded from this arrangement? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow had seemed to have forgotten that there was between Hyde-park-corner and Kensington, a district, the inhabitants of which in point of civilisation and in other qualities, were as fully capable of exercising the elective franchise as any other district. Knightsbridge was a hamlet in the county of Middlesex, and was contiguous to these four compact parishes. On what ground, then, was it to be excluded from the boundary of this new borough? He thought this was a sufficient ground for the rejection of the Motion, which, however, he trusted the hon. Member would be induced to withdraw. If, however, the hon. Gentleman should persist in pushing it, and should carry the House with him, he (Mr. Campbell) certainly should, in the Committee on the Bill, propose that Knightsbridge should have the benefit of enjoying the franchise with these compact parishes.


said, it certainly appeared to him, from what had passed during the debate, that the House had not arrived at that precise degree of information which would warrant them in coming to a final decision on the question to which so important a Motion referred. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge gave notice of his intention to propose a clause in the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow if it should pass a second reading; but there was only a resolution now before the House, which had been recommended to them, not only by the arguments of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but by those which were set forth in the notice on the paper. The first question involved in the resolution was, whether, if the vacancy of two Members should be filled up at all, they ought, without a much fuller consideration of the existing claims of many parts of the country, independently of the claims on the part of Ireland, to increase the number of the metropolitan Members. He apprehended that the representation of the metropolis had been very fully considered at the passing of the Reform Bill, and he contended they ought not lightly, and without deliberation, to disturb that proportion which had been assigned to it. On that ground alone he would resist the Motion; but there were other principles involved in it equally objectionable. The population returns showed the number of the inhabitants of the different parishes, no doubt; but it did not appear to him that the number of acres, or the density of population on a certain number of acres, constituted a fair claim to the franchise. As to the question of rental, he did not believe there was any information on which Parliament could rely. He did not doubt but that the industry of the hon. Member might have obtained full information on that point; but, in the absence of authentic information in the shape of Parliamentary returns, the House could not decide the question. A notice had been given last Session, which they were given to understand would be renewed during the present year, that if the House proceeded to dispose of the vacancy, a claim would be made on the part of his constituency by the hon. Member for Cork, which would, no doubt, be supported by a strong circumstantial statement. But the hon. Gentleman went on to state in the resolution that, "in consideration of so great a number of inhabitants and of houses unrepresented directly in this House, it is expedient," &c. Now, he really did not understand what the hon. Gentleman meant by "houses unrepresented" independently of their inhabitants. There might, in some places, be a certain number of inhabitants of houses unrepresented, but he could not at all admit that houses had a claim to the franchise. He was prepared also to take issue with the hon. Member on the arbitrary selection he had made. Knightsbridge was comprised in three parishes—Fulham, Chelsea, and St. Margaret. So far, the claim of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge was unfounded. But why did the hon. Member stop short—why had he not taken Turnham-green? Why had he left out Chiswick? Those districts contained as many inhabitants unrepresented as the parishes the hon. Gentleman had selected. He cordially concurred with the hon. Gentleman in hoping that the Motion would be withdrawn, or, if pressed to a division, that the House would not pledge itself on such vague information to a resolution so important.


said, that in the course of the last Session he had presented a petition from the inhabitants of the four parishes, which contained their view of the case. They looked upon the House as incomplete—as wanting two Members—and they considered that according to the constitution of the House the proper number of its Members ought to he completed, and they suggested that the two Members should be elected from their parishes; and they prayed that they might be created into a metropolitan borough for that purpose. He (Mr. Hume) considered that they were in a worse position with regard to representation than any other portion of the country; and he thought that they ought at the time of the Reform Bill to have received equal consideration with Marylebone, and to have been included in the change. We had been acting contrary to the prinples alleged at the time of the Reform Bill. When a general reconsideration of the system of representation took place, the present inconsistent method must be altered. He had expected that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would have avowed the intention of Government as to reform of Parliament, and that he would soon take the opportunity of stating a general plan. The power of the Peers half filled the House, and the promise of the noble Lord had not been fairly and properly kept. Still, however, he advised the hon. Gentleman not to divide the House on the present occasion.


stated, that if the present Motion were pressed to a division, his hon. Friend the Member for Cork would move an Amendment in favour of giving the two new representatives to places in Ireland. He wished to make this observation for the purpose of showing that the Irish Members were not inattentive to their duty on the present occasion.


said, that after the statement of the right hon. the Home Secretary, and after the recommendation of the hon. Member for Montrose, he should not press the matter to a division. So great a population could not remain long unrepresented in Parliament. He was certain that Scotland and other places would be duly represented.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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