SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, he was anxious to put a question to the President of the Poor Law Hoard upon a subject that was just then of considerable importance. In the course of the discussion upon the Reform Bill many doubts had been cast upon the accuracy of the Returns which had been obtained by the Government, and which had no doubt been taken as the basis for their Reform Bill. For instance, his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich had stated it to be notorious that premises were very frequently rated at amounts below the rent for which they were let. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) had told the House that these Returns made out the addition to the number of voters in that borough to amount to only 50 per cent, whereas, after a careful examination, he found that the actual increase would be 90 or 100 per cent. As the noble Lord the Member for the City of London and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department contended that the Returns were accurate, the matter was a vexata quœstio, and an effort ought to be made to settle it. The instructions from the Poor Law Board to the proper authorities in the different boroughs were clear and precise, but they required, in addition to the Returns that had been published, a return of all those who paid rates from £5 to £6. Such a Return had accordingly been furnished, but the Government having determined upon a £6 franchise had not thought it necessary to lay before the House the return of persons assessed at £5 and under £6, yet it was really important to have it, as affording information on a most material point. In reference to Hertford, one of his constituents, who was very well informed on the subject, in reply to an application from himself, had favoured him with a communication in which the whole matter was so conclusively stated that he would read it to the House. His correspondent said:—In answer to your inquiry, I do not think that the Parliamentary paper No. 124 shows the maximum increase that may be expected under the £6 franchise. The parish returns may, I think, be relied upon. The instructions from the Poor Law-Board, on which they are founded, are so clear and precise that the parish officers could not misunderstand them; but the whole of them are not given in No. 124, and I think that, in order to obtain the maximum under a £6 franchise, the returns from the parish officers in the column '£5 and under 226 £6' gross estimated rental should be taken into consideration. The returns from Hertford wore as follows:—£5 and under £6, 135; £6 and under £7, £75; £7 and under £8, 38; £8 and under £9, 98; £9 and under £10, 27; £10 and upwards, 541; but the '£5 and under £6' column is not given in No. 124. The number under that column is, you see, 135, and from inquiries that have been made, I am told that positively sixty of these are paying rents of £6 and upwards, and that probably more of them would come in under a £6 franchise. The error in the Government calculation, if an error it should turn out to be, appears to mo to be that they have taken the 'gross estimated rental' of the parish books as amounting to the same thing as the 'clear annual value' of the Reform Act. Perhaps, in law it ought to do so, but certainly in fact it does not. As far as Hertford is concerned, part 2 of No. 124 gives 238 only as the maximum increase for Hertford under the £6 franchise, whereas the real maximum would be, for the reasons I have stated above, about 300. Again, part 1, No. 124, seems designed to show the excess which the £6 franchise would give over the number of electors now on the register. The column relating to the number of electors gives 613 for Hertford in 1858–1859, whereas that is the number of names on the register book: but the real number of electors, as was clearly stated in the Hertford return, was only 539; the difference of 74 arises from the fact of duplicate qualifications. Then take the last column, for 'excess over electors,' this gives 166 only for Hertford, whereas, if the correct number of electors had been given, the excess would have been 240; and, if we add to this the number that would come in from the '£5 and under £6' column, the maximum would be at least 300 of excess, instead of only 166. I merely state how the matter stands as to Hertford. I know nothing about other boroughs, but it seems to me that return No. 124 does not give the maximum under a £6 franchise.That statement clearly showed that proper conclusions could not be drawn from the Returns which had been produced. His hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury had also received a communication from a gentleman at Aylesbury, who said:—Lord John Russell's notion that about 220,000 voters will be added to the borough constituency is incorrect, and I feel persuaded that the increase will be at least 400,000. The fact is, that he bases his calculation upon the returns from the poor-rate; but the words in his Reform Bill are 'value or rental,' and my own impression is that if you take the two columns in the rate-book and find a house with a gross value of £5 and a rateable value of £4, it will nearly always command a rent of £6, and will consequently confer the vote as I understand; but all these cases are omitted in Lord John Russell's calculations as to the increase, because his returns only included properties which have a value of £6 attached to them in the poor-rate book. Everybody who has had any experience in the mode of making poor-rates well knows that the gross value in the poor-rate does not represent the rent, and of course the rateable value is still less.A gentleman had written from Windsor 227 in a similar sense to his hon. Friend the Member for that borough (Mr. Hope):—I enclose you an account of the number of houses rated at sums varying from £5 to £6 but not including any at £6, which I have personally extracted from the rate-book, and can, therefore, rely upon. The rateable value of houses in "Windsor is at about two-thirds of the actual rent, and I have known several eases in which parties have claimed to be on the register as £10 householders, although only rated at £6 or £7.As it was very important that the Returns upon which the action of the House was to be based should be accurate, he wished, for the sake of information, to ask the President of the Poor Law Board whether, in obtaining Returns of Male Persons resident within each Parliamentary City and Borough in England and Wales, or within seven miles thereof, assessed to the last Poor Rate made before the 7th of November, 1859, at £6, £7, £8, £9 and £10 and over, instructions were not issued for Returns, and Returns made, of Male Occupiers at £5 and under £6; and, if so, why such information was not given in the Return of Male Occupiers, No. 124, of the present Session?
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, in answering the question which had just been asked upon this subject, he should not enter upon a matter which belonged to the general subject. He was asked whether the instructions for a Return of the male occupiers did not extend to that of £5 occupiers. His reply was, that the instructions did so extend. The reason why that information was not laid before the House in the Return numbered 124 was that he (Mr. Villiers) did not move for that Return. In the first place, these Returns were not made on any Motion of the House, but were Returns made for the information of the Government before they decided on the measure of Parliamentary Reform to be submitted to the House; and when it was decided to limit the franchise to £6 occupiers, he did not think it would be interesting to the House to know the number of male occupiers of a lower denomination. A wish had, however, since been expressed in the House for that Return; a Motion had been made on the subject; and he believed that the document would be laid on the table that evening. Up to this moment not the least reason had been found, in the department with which he was connected, for doubting the accuracy of the Returns. Whenever an instance of inaccuracy had been cited in the House, a particular inquiry had been instituted, and 228 the correctness of the Returns had been verified. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) had stated, for instance, that there was a difference of 50 per cent between the numbers on the Returns and the real numbers in that borough, referring to the addition which would be made to the constituency. He thought that noble Lord must have had very precise information, and, in consequence, he directed special inquiries to be made as to the Return for King's Lynn, and the result of those inquiries was that the Return was perfectly accurate; therefore the statement of the noble Lord must have been made on somewhat inaccurate information. It was almost exactly the same with every other case of supposed inaccuracy which had been brought before the House. He did not pretend that the Returns in question were infallible; he did not say that there might not be some way of accounting for the discrepancy between the numbers stated by hon. Gentlemen and those which appeared in the Government Returns; but whenever an inquiry had been made, the accuracy of the Returns had been verified. The statement made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. James) had made a statement as to the inaccuracy of the Returns, offered no exception to this observation. He did not pretend to question the inquiries which his hon. and learned Friend said he had himself made, not only into the Return for his own borough, but into those of not less than eighty other boroughs to which he had extended his investigations. His hon. and learned Friend had stated the result of those inquiries very distinctly and emphatically to the House; and when any hon. Gentleman made a statement on his own word and honour, the House was bound to pause. He repeated that he did not deny the accuracy of his hon. and learned Friend's statement; but he did say that inquiries of the parochial officers had been instituted, and that up to that moment the Returns had been verified. He did not believe that a Return of those persons who were rated at £5 would prove of much more importance to hon. Members, because no one is likely to be placed on the rate-book at a higher valuation than the rent which he paid, and if he were placed on it at a lower value that fact would attract the notice of his neighbours, who would not allow him long to be favoured at their expense.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I must 229 express my surprise at hearing the right hon. Gentleman state that he adheres to the opinion that the Returns are accurate. I presume that what he means is this—that they are fairly copied from the rate-book. Is that his reason? [Mr. VILLIERS intimated his assent. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's meaning, I for one do not doubt it. I never imputed to the right hon. Gentleman that these are falsified lie-turns, or that the Government had any intention to deceive the House. What I have said is this—that these Returns convey to the House an erroneous impression as to the number of voters which will be added to the register under these respective amounts. And why? Because I maintain that the column in the rate-books headed "gross estimated rental" affords no accurate information as to the amounts of rental really paid. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman correctly or not? Is that what he means when he says these Returns are accurate—that they are correctly copied from the rate-book? [Mr. C. P. VILLIERS: Yes.] I am very glad to hear that admission; the right hon. Gentleman has only told us what we never doubted; and I tell him that his answer is no answer at all to the point really at issue, and which is a point of immense importance in discussing this subject,—namely, what is to be the real addition to the constituencies. Since I brought this matter before the House I have had communications from, I was about to say, all parts of England; but, I may say, letters from many places containing local information as to what will be the real effect of a £6 franchise if adopted. They are unanimously to the effect that in the local knowledge of the parties writing, these Returns give no information whatever that can be relied on. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to what was said on a former occasion by my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). He says he has caused inquiry to be made in King's Lynn, and that he finds the Return for that borough to be perfectly correct; that the addition will be 50 per cent and not 100, as my noble Friend says. But the two statements are quite compatible. The right hon. Gentleman has been to the rate-book, and finds the addition to be 50 per cent; my noble Friend inquires into the real state of the case and finds it 100. Among the gentlemen from whom I have received letters on the subject is one who fills the office of Revising Barrister. His letter is 230 not marked "private," and I presume he has no objection to my repeating its contents. He says he revises the lists of voters for three of the most populous boroughs in Staffordshire, the Potteries, the town of Stafford, and Newcastle-under-Lyme; and that in those three boroughs he is in the habit of adding numbers of persons to the electoral roll who come before him and prove that they pay £10, or more than £10, rent, though they appear in the rent column of the rate-book at much lower amounts. I have no doubt the Returns are correctly copied from the rate-books; but that is no criterion; and the only complaint I make against the Government is this—that in making this Return to the House of Commons, professing as it does to be the guide as to what will be the real addition to the constituencies, they did not candidly state on the face of it that which is notorious to every person acquainted with these subjects, namely, that the "gross estimated rental" column of the rate-book is not a fair criterion by which to judge of the number of persons who pay a rent of £6. But within the last few days a little light has been thrown on the omission on the part of the Government. Every hon. Gentleman must have seen a very long letter which appeared in The Times newspaper a few days ago, signed "W. V. H." I read that letter because it bore on this interesting question, and I was struck with two things; first, that it was perfectly evident on the face of that letter that the writer of it, whatever he may know of the law, knows nothing of the practice of rating; secondly, that while he betrays his own want of knowledge on the subject, he indulges most indecorously and offensively in the abuse of every one who differs from him. But since I read that letter I have heard with surprise that the writer is a person who was employed by the Government to collect information for the purpose of compiling this very Return. I know nothing but common rumour for the authenticity of this report; but if it be true that the Government were induced by any reason whatever to intrust the collection of this information to a gentleman who, though he is a master of vituperative language, knows very little of the subject on which he writes, I am not surprised that the Government were misled, and that they did not convey to the House that information which it had a right to expect, but which it is quite clear that this gentleman was little calculated to impart.
said, he thought it right to take the opportunity of making an explanation to the House relative to statements which he had made a few evenings previous, when the accuracy of the Government Returns was under discussion. On that occasion he incidentally took part in the debate, and he then mentioned the fact that the Government estimates of the addition which would be made to the £10 constituency by the Reform Bill differed very materially from a private estimate which he had received. It would be recollected that on that occasion he carefully guarded himself from expressing any personal opinion as to which return was correct and which was incorrect, and that he contented himself with simply stating that the fact afforded a fair ground of inquiry. He felt bound, however, in fairness and justice to state to the House that he had that day received a letter from the gentleman who supplied him with that private estimate or return, in which he stated that, after having looked over and compared it with the official document they were now discussing, he was inclined to think that his own estimate was overrated, and that he did not doubt the general accuracy of the Government Returns. He hoped the House would do him the favour to bear in mind that he had expressed no opinion of his own on the subject, and he had now thought it his duty to state to the House what had since occurred with reference to the subject.
said, he hoped his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor-Law Board, if he had it in his power, would add to the Return a column, showing the number of persons who lived in houses between £4 and £5; because without that the House would not get full and accurate information on the subject. He begged to say he agreed with every word which had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich. Every one conversant with rating knew that the column of gross estimated rental did not represent the actual rent paid to the landlord. They were, therefore, attaching different meanings to the same words. The President of the Poor Law Board had supposed that the accuracy of the Returns had been doubted. That was not the fact. The fact doubted was whether that Return represented the actual rent paid. He (Mr. Henley) confessed he was never more astonished in his life than when he heard the President of the Poor Law Board express an opinion 232 that it did accurately represent the rent paid. He knew very well, and he (Mr. Henley) knew, that it ought to represent the rent, but whether it did or not was a totally different thing. There was another thing that ought to be mentioned. All who were acquainted with rating knew that the difference between the real and estimated value was much greater, as they went lower in the scale. For what was called cottage property the rent, which was usually paid weekly, was always estimated at a figure proportionally much lower than the rent of larger houses, the rent of which was paid annually. He believed that in order to come to a correct estimate on this subject, they must give Returns as far down as £4, or the House would be misled as to the number of voters who would come in under the £6 rental. He did not say that without consideration. He had recently had an opportunity of comparing in a place very recently valued, under circumstances of very sharp litigation, within the last few years; and he had an opportunity of comparing the persons in the register as £10 householders, and he found that many of them were rated at a much lower figure than £10. Parishioners would not be at the trouble of a revaluation, and certainly there was no tendency to deteriorate in rateable value. He further thought the Government might have an opportunity of testing the accuracy of these Returns by means of the Returns to Schedule A of the property tax. He thought that these Returns, if the Government possessed them, though they would tell them nothing about the tenements, would give them something about the rentals. But throughout the whole country he did not believe the gross estimated rental was anything like the rent actually paid.
said, he had made inquiries into the Returns for Nottingham and it might interest the House if he stated that the rate-book contained three columns—one for the rent actually received by the landlord, another for the net-rent, a third for the rateable value. The first column consisted, with regard to the houses which were compounded for, of the total payment by the tenant to the landlord for rent and rates; the second contained the net-rent, the point on which the House was seeking information; and then the rateable value was a calculated amount. He had received from several collectors of rents in Nottingham the actual amount of rent they re- 233 ceived for several hundreds of houses. He had had these compared with the rate-book, and the result was that the latter was found to be substantially correct, if not correct in every instance. His own belief was that they were entirely correct; and, contrary to his expectations, he found that the additional constituency in the ease of Nottingham would not be greater than had been stated by the Government.
§ MR. J. C. EWART
said, he had made inquiries into the case of Liverpool, and was told that the Returns were correctly given by the Government. He thought, however, that they would give a very imperfect idea of the probable constituency owing to the wandering habits of the population, under £10 rental, and from the circumstance that so very few paid their full rates. He believed the additional number of voters would not be higher than from 4,000 to 5,000. Under the present qualification there are 39,730 tenements, but there were so many occupiers who did not pay the whole of their rates, that although at present the constituency was considered to be 18,000, after making the necessary deductions it was not in reality more than 16,000. On the supposition that the Reform Bill passed, the number of the constituency, according to the information he had obtained, would not exceed 20,000, or about 4 per cent of the whole population of Liverpool.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
said, he had taken considerable interest in the question I of rating, and his belief was that in the rural districts the gross estimated value did not represent the real rent of house property. He did not see how the Government could have obtained any Returns as to the real rental in all the parishes of England, as the rent was entirely a matter between the landlord and the tenant; and the Government was obliged to take the best Returns they could get. There was another consideration, that at present the £10 franchise did actually exist with respect to those who were entered on the rate-books for £10. A largo number of these would get themselves entered on the rate-books at less than £10, and these must be deducted from the gross estimated number of votes, whilst there must be added a certain number living in houses which were below £6 in value, though rated at that amount. So that the result would be pretty nearly six on one side and half a dozen on the other. It was impossible to obtain strict- 234 ly accurate Returns, but he believed that the Poor-law Returns were as accurate as could be.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he wished to call the attention of the Home Secretary to an observation he had made to the House. There was no person in the House whose authority was greater than the right hon. Gentleman's on that particular subject. He had been President of the Poor Law Board; he was now Secretary of the Home Department. It was well known that he paid great attention to the subject, and great weight had been attached to a statement he had made the other night, in his reply to the hon. Member for Leominster, that he believed the Returns which had been furnished to the Government of the gross estimated rental upon the whole represented fairly the number of persons who would claim under the £6 franchise. It was no doubt very difficult to obtain information from different parts of the country on this subject. In some places the Returns were very accurate, in others very inaccurate. In order to furnish himself with information relative to the mode of rating, he turned last evening to the evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Lords in 1850 on the Parochial Assessment Act, and to the most valuable Report made in 1843 by his hon. Friend the Secretary of State on local taxation. In the first the House would find it stated, on the authority of Mr. Lumley, the Secretary of the Poor Law Board, and of Mr. Hyde, the Inspector of Taxes, that the differences in valuation were very great, amounting, according to the former, to a large percentage on the estimated rental, and according to the latter, in one instance at least, to no less than 100 per cent. [Sir G. GREY: In rating?] In rating and rental both. The Report on local taxation stated that 4,400 tenements out of 15,000 had been valued, some by professional and others by independent valuers; that even when professional men made the valuation there was a difference between the real value of the tenements and the value as represented in the rate-book of 25 or 30 per cent; that when independent parties made the valuations, the inaccuracies were in some cases still greater—being, in some respects, greater than they had been before the valuation was made. The Report was signed by his right hon. Friend. It seemed to him that when a valuation took place under the Parochial Assessment Act, within six years of the time when it was made, 235 and when subsequent valuations had not taken place, the gross estimated rental would not furnish them with accurate data as to the number of persons brought in under the Reform Bill.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he could give an illustration of the difficulty of getting accurate Returns of the value of property for rating. He had been Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for Devonshire, and they had the Woodbury case brought before them for settlement, after considerable delay and litigation. That was the first occasion on which he had anything to do with making a rate, and he inquired of his brother chairman what was the principle upon which the column of gross estimated rental was made up. His reply was as follows: "Get the gross estimated income by asking the tenant what he would give, he paying all taxes and tenant's rates. After that one-eighth would have to be deducted for repairs and cost of collection, and for house property take off 20 per cent." That was the rule laid down in Devonshire, which he merely mentioned as an illustration of the principle.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he very much agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, that if the Government had other information with regard to £5 or any other class of occupiers, the more information the House had the better. He was satisfied himself that it would show the enormous magnitude of the class of householders who, after the Reform Bill of the Government was passed, would be still excluded from the franchise. He wished, not in an unfriendly spirit, to say that hon. Gentlemen opposite were acting not very intelligently or fairly in the matter. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire admitted, he believed, that the investigations were complete, and as good probably as he himself would have drawn up. He (Mr. Bright) himself thought, at one time, from reading some paragraphs which had appeared in some of the newspapers, that the Returns were not accurate; but he had taken the trouble to get from the borough in which he lived the most minute information, and also to see the instructions which had been sent down to the officials. He submitted those instructions to a friend who was more competent than himself to discuss the matter, and that gentleman had come to the opinion which he (Mr. Bright) had previously formed, that was utterly impos- 236 sible for human ingenuity to frame instructions more complete, comprehensive, and to the point, in every particular, than the instructions which were sent out by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Poor Law Board. Those instructions went down to the officers of the several parishes, townships, and boroughs throughout the kingdom. The House could not, however, be sure that all the men who made the Returns were of equal capacity or intelligence, and it was possible many mistakes were made. He was told that there was a very curious mistake from the borough represented by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. It was quite possible that that might be so; but what he (Mr. Bright) complained of was that hon. Gentlemen opposite discussed the question as if the Government had intended to lay before the House unfair Returns. He did not think the hon. Member for Hertfordshire meant that, but he was sure the House would feel that in every discussion which had taken place upon that measure there had been rather a passionate disposition shown to lay a charge against the Government as if they wanted to conceal the actual number of voters that were about to be admitted to the franchise. With regard to the main question, he was disposed to agree with the Earl of Derby, who said—and he wished hon. Gentlemen opposite would act upon the noble Lord's advice a little oftener—that he was not afraid of numbers, and that what he wanted was the quality of voters. Whether the number was 200,000 or two millions was altogether indifferent to Lord Derby if the quality of the voters was satisfactory. ("Hear, hear," from the Opposition.) He was delighted to find such a general agreement upon that point. He wished to make one observation with regard to the £6 voters, whether according to those or any other returns, a house, to get upon the list, must have a £7 rental, because the amount of rate upon a £7 house should he so much—taking the borough rate, the church and poor rates, &c, into consideration—as to bring the holder of a £7 house down to £6, or even below £6; and the. House would find that the vision which some hon. Members had of the extravagant number of persons to be enfranchised would turn out to be visions indeed. He believed it was utterly impossible even to collect a constituency at all approaching to the numbers which were stated in the Returns. He took the trouble, in the borough of 237 Rochdale, where he resided, and also with regard to Birmingham and Manchester and Salford, to make inquiries as to the accuracy of the Returns, and he found that there was no complaint whatever that they were inaccurate. There was another point in the Returns to which he would allude. The Government deducted 27½ per cent from the number in the Returns, and some friends of his in Manchester who were connected with a political reform association, not knowing in the slightest degree, any more than he did, what course the Government were taking in the matter, made some calculations based on the number of £10 electors which were produced by a certain number of £10 occupiers, and they came to the conclusion that, at least, 28 per cent was necessary to be deducted before the number of persons was obtained who were at all likely to have the franchise. It must also be borne in mind that all the causes which, above £10, diminished the number of electors as compared with occupiers, would have almost a redoubled force in the constituencies below £10 occupiers. He was therefore satisfied that the number of electors would be very much less than was feared by some hon. Members of that House, and, he was sorry to add, very much less than he wished.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, he rose simply to state that so far from supposing the Returns were placed before the House by the Government in any unfair spirit, he actually said to the right hon. Baronet opposite that he only asked for information, and that he made his request in no hostile spirit.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, that his information as to the operation of the noble Lord's Bill in Liverpool differed very much from that of his hon. Colleague. His hon. Friend stated that the whole constituency of Liverpool under the new Bill would not exceed 20,000. Now, the constituency at present numbered 18,700, and, adding the 3,000 or 4,000 new voters admitted by his hon. Friend to be enfranchised, the number, on his hon. Friend's own showing, would be more than 23,000. He estimated, on the contrary, that the whole number, with the additions under the present Bill, would exceed 30,000. The value of houses in Liverpool was such that the suffrage under the Bill would be really and truly a household suffrage.
§ MR. KENDALL
said, he had no doubt that this would prove an unpleasant question for the hon. Member for Birmingham. 238 His attention was called to the subject in consequence of what had taken place in the other House in a discussion which took place there the other night—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that he was incorrect in the course he was pursuing of alluding to what had taken place in the other House.
§ MR. KENDALL
apologized, and stated that from inquiries he had made, he was satisfied that these Returns contained great inaccuracies. Having heard that the question whether or not the gross estimated rental and the actual rental were the same, had been raised in "another place," he wrote to a gentleman in Bodmin for information as to the state of matters in that borough. The answer of his friend was that he had very carefully gone over the whole of the rate-book, and as he knew perfectly well the rental of all the houses in Bodmin, he was prepared to prove that there was a difference between the gross estimated rental and the actual rental, varying from 15 to 35 per cent; and, as an instance, he gave a house of his own, which was let for £37 10s., while it stood on the rate-book for £28, and was rated at £21. He (Mr. Kendall) thought there could not be a stronger evidence than this that the gross estimated rental and the actual rental were two very different things. No one meant to insinuate that the Government, in giving these Returns, wished to mislead the House; but what they wanted to show was this—that the Government had no data before them on which they could construct their Bill. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary refer, in proof of the accuracy of these Returns, to the auditors of the unions. Why, the fact was that the auditors of unions know nothing whatever about the matter.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he could not suffer the discussion to close without giving the house his personal knowledge on the matter. He had made inquiries on this subject from the overseers of a parish of moderate size, who told him that there were a number of houses in the parish not included in the Returns at all, because they were compounded for by the landlord as under £6, though the actual rental was above that sum. He was satisfied, therefore, that no dependence could be placed on those Returns. But he rose to suggest to the Government that they had gone to the wrong office for information on the 239 point, and that they might ascertain exactly what was the number of £6 rented houses throughout England if they had applied to the surveyors of taxes, who could call the assessors of taxes to their aid when they found it necessary. In that way the Government might have obtained accurate information, which was most material to them in the present measure, though he admitted the point was of no importance at all if they were to come to universal suffrage.