§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is proper that I should state to the hon. Member and the House my reason for thinking that the Instruction, which he proposes to move, would not be in order, and it is this;—That the Committee already possess power to do that which the hon. Member desires they should do, and it is a rule of the House that no Instruction shall be given to a Committee to do that which they already have the power to do. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that the proposed Motion is not in order.
§ MR. HUNT
I will at once how to the decision of the right hon. Gentleman; but, perhaps, if I read the Instruction which I propose to move, that decision will be found not to apply. I propose to move that the Committee have power to provide increased facilities for polling at elections in the United Kingdom. The title of the Bill is to "further amend the Representation of the People in England and Wales." As the Instruction extends to the United Kingdom, I thought it did not fall within the rule just stated.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I rise to order. I should like to put it to you, Sir, whether, as the hon. Member is now stating it, there is not another objection in point of order to the proposed Instruction. The Bill before the House is a Bill for Amending the Representation of the people in England and Wales. It seems to me, therefore, that an Instruction for converting it into a Bill which will be applicable to purposes connected with the United Kingdom does not come within the purview of the Bill. It is for you to say, Sir, whether an Instruction referring to the general representation can be given to the Committee on this Bill.
§ MR. HUNT
I speak to order. There are no doubt other Bills on the table which have reference to other parts of the United Kingdom. It is doubtful from the present state of business whether these other Bills will advance another stage this Session. There is an evil in regard to the election of the representatives of the people of the United Kingdom. I wish to see a remedy introduced for that evil, not only in regard to the representation of the people in this kingdom, but also in regard to the people of Ireland and Scotland. I therefore desire to propose that any new provision for the election of the representatives of the people shall apply to the United Kingdom, so that every part of the United Kingdom shall have the advantage of it, even though the House shall be unable to pass either of the other two Bills through a further stage.
§ MR. T. S. DUNCOMBE
I apprehend, if the hon. Gentleman opposite is out of order with his Instruction, that I am 1953 equally so in regard to mine of which I have given notice—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to give greater facility, and render more frequent, the Registration of Voters.There can be no doubt that the original Act of 1832 was merely to amend the representation of the people. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman opposite is out of order, I am of course out of order. I confess, however, that when I gave notice of my Instruction, my impression was that I had the power in Committee to move clauses for improving the registration. The only thing that raised a doubt in my mind upon this point was the existence of separate Bills for the registration of voters. The Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) in 1859 was according to its title not only a Bill to amend the representation of the people, but also to facilitate the registration and the polling of electors. In regard to the addition of the words "United Kingdom," I consider the objection taken to them a mere quibble, and unworthy of the noble Lord.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I apprehend the rule is clear upon the point. You cannot properly move as an Instruction what the Committee can do without any Instruction. Now this is a Bill which upon the face of it is confined to England and Wales only; but the reason given by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire for his Instruction is that he desires this provision to apply not only to England and Wales, but to all other parts of the United Kingdom. I apprehend, if my hon. Friend proposed such a provisoin Committee on the Bill, he would be stopped on the ground that it went beyond the purview of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman therefore thought proper to give notice of his proposition in the shape of an Instruction to the Committee, and, with submission to you, Sir, I apprehend he is quite in order.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he had given notice to introduce a provision for taking votes in the election of Members for the Universities by voting papers. He had inquired of high authority whether it was competent for him to move that clause in Committee without having previously moved an Instruction to the Committee to entertain the question, and he was informed that the subject was sufficiently germane to the Bill to be entertained without any Instruction. He therefore conceived it was competent for the hon. Member to move a 1954 more extensive question than the subject of voting papers.
§ MR. SPEAKER
As the notice of the hon. Gentleman stands on the paper, I think there is no doubt that the objection I have made to it is a valid objection, and that it is not competent to the hon. Member to move that Instruction. I think the addition of the words which he now proposes would rather increase the irregularity than diminish it; because as there are already two Bills before the House upon the subject of the representation of Scotland and Ireland, it will be anticipating a discussion upon those two Bills, which it is not in order to do. I therefore, think the addition of the words "in the United Kingdom" would not place the hon. Member in order, and give him power to proceed with his Motion. As to the question asked me by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe), I think the Instruction which he proposes to move would also not be in order, because the Committee certainly have the power to do that which he proposes to empower them to do. In the original Bill, which bears the same title, namely, "A Bill to amend the Representation of the People of England and Wales," provisions were made for the registration of voters, and it will be perfectly competent for the hon. Member to move in Committee any clauses which he may desire to move on the subject of registration.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is one of my duties to give decisions upon points of order as they arise; but not to give anticipatory decisions on hypothetical cases.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
, who had a notice on the paper to moveThat it be an Instruction to the Committee, that no Borough shall be deprived of One Member until it has been ascertained by an actual census of the population of such Borough, whether or not the present number of its population falls below the limit of 7,000 inhabitants.Then rose—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I feel bound to state that there is an objection also to the Instruction which the hon. Member for De- 1955 vizes proposes to move. The hon. Member has given notice to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that no Borough shall be deprived of one Member until it has been ascertained, by an actual census of the population of such Borough, whether or not the present number of its population falls below the limit of 7,000 inhabitants.It cannot be competent to the Committee to inquire with regard to the census. The Committee have to deal with the Bill which is placed before thorn, and cannot entertain any question outside its limits; therefore in my opinion this Instruction is not in order. There is another objection in point of form—that it is mandatory on the Committee as to what they are to do. The real intention of an Instruction to a Committee is to give them power to do a certain thing if they think proper to do it, not to command them to do it. For this reason, also, I think the hon. Gentleman's Motion is not in order.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, tie bowed to the decision of the Speaker; but if he were allowed to proceed, he thought he should be able to state to the House grounds for their assenting to his Instruction. Since he had placed his notice on the paper, the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon) had also placed a notice on the paper which included the object of his proposition. He was, therefore, happy to resign the matter into his more experienced hands.
§ MR. BENTINCK
rose to moveThat it be an Instruction to the Committee not to proceed further with the Bill till provision bas been made for giving to the Counties in England that share in the Representation to which they may be shown to be entitled by population and by property"—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The same objection exists to the hon. Gentleman's Instruction: it is mandatory in form. In fact, the House has directed the Committee to proceed with the Bill, and the hon. Member proposes by his Instruction to direct it not to proceed with the Bill until it has done something which in due course of proceeding it would be competent to do if it thought fit. The Committee may enter into the question referred to in the Instruction of the hon. Member, if it thinks fit, and dispose of it in any way. It is not necessary for it to receive an Instruction. Therefore, in my opinion, the Motion is irregular and out of order. I am bound to state that in my opinion there is no objection to the second Instruction of which the 1956 hon. Member for Norfolk has given notice. It perhaps would have saved the time of the House if I had stated generally the objections which appear to me to present themselves to the various Instructions of which notice has been given; but I thought it more respectful to each Member to wait until he rose to state the objections to his particular Instruction. There are objections to the other Instructions, some of them of a different nature to those I have stated; but I reserve any observations upon them until the time arrives for moving each of them. The second Instruction of the hon. Member for Norfolk relates to bribery and corruption. Those subjects have been dealt with almost universally by distinct Bills, and, if the Committee thought fit to deal with that question in this Bill, it would require an Instruction to enable them to do so. If, therefore, the hon. Member thinks it right to move that Instruction, in my opinion, he will be in order.
§ MR. BENTINCK
In reference to the first Instruction that stands on the paper in my name, I believe that it would not be competent for me, after the decision of the Speaker, to move such Instruction; and, therefore, I beg leave to rise for the purpose of speaking to order. I would commence by saying that no man in this House is more disposed to treat with the most respectful deference any decision coming from your lips, Sir, whilst sitting in that Chair. It is, therefore, far from my intention to impugn any decision you may come to. But it is clear, even in cases like the present, that there may exist a wide difference between the letter and the spirit of a rule of the House: and I think, with the permission of the House, I can show that in the present case—assuming even that your decision is strictly in accordance with the letter of the rules—that the spirit of those rules is of a character that would rather justify my proceeding with my Instruction. I am induced to persevere in it because I think that any point of this kind arising, and upon which, you, Sir, have favoured us with your opinion—if there be still any doubt upon the question, that doubt should be solved by the decision of the House. I believe that is the general rule, and with the greatest deference to your decision, I wish to bring the matter before the House. The Instruction I am moving goes to this effect—that the Committee shall not proceed further with the Bill until provision be made 1957 for certain purposes. I think it is quite clear to the House that it is impossible to move this Instruction if the Committee have already the power of dealing with the matter referred to. I would, however, suggest that it would not be competent for the Committee to deal with this particular matter unless they were empowered to do so by an Instruction. Upon these grounds I submit that I am fully justified in taking the opinion of the House as to whether my Instruction is one which ought to be dealt with on the present occasion. In no shape or way, nor by any clause, could I ask the Committee to deal with this question, so as to induce them, without an Instruction, to do that which I for one hold as a mere act of justice, and indispensable to fair dealing with this measure. Very few Members in this House will deny that taxation and representation are convertible terms; and I think that the most ardent Reformer in this House, even in the extreme sense of the word, will be prepared to admit two things—firstly, under the present state of things the rural districts are inadequately represented; and secondly, that if the Bill now before the House pass into law, they will virtually cease to be represented at all—
§ MR. BENTINCK
Sir, I am speaking to order. ["Chair, chair!" "Order, order!"]. If the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to favour me with his views when I have finished I shall have much pleasure in listening to him.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Allow me for one moment ["Order, order!"—"Chair, chair!"] I apprehend when a Gentleman rises to speak to order it is not before any Question has been put from the Chair, but when the Question is under discussion. There is no Question before the House on which the hon. Gentleman opposite can speak. I should like to take your decision, Mr. Speaker, on that point.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
Exactly so. The hon. Gentleman opposite is, I apprehend, out of order, seeing that we have no Question before us.
§ MR. BENTINCK
Sir, I undertake to conclude with a Motion:—I will move the adjournment of the House. My object in addressing the House now is to submit the interpretation of the question at issue to 1958 its decision. I do not understand upon what grounds hon. Gentlemen opposite are attempting to stifle discussion. ["No, no!"] It is very difficult for me to avoid repetitions when such pains are taken to interrupt the free discussion of this Question. I was arguing that taxation and representation are convertible terms; and that it is obvious, in the present state of the counties, that the people there are inadequately represented, and still more obvious that under this Bill they will not be represented at all. It is impossible if we go into Committee that we should be able to deal with this Question in a manner satisfactorily to solve the difficulty I have raised; and I argue that it is only by the authority of a direct Instruction from this House that the Committee can deal with the subject of remedying the gross injustice of which I complain. I hold in my hand a document which refers to this point, and deals with the question most ably. It is a speech made some time ago to his constituents by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). The right hon. Gentleman with great clearness and ability went into this Question, and showed how monstrous was the present state of things, and how such a Bill as the present would aggravate the injustice to such an extent that it would be impossible to assent to it. The right hon. Gentleman, as I was observing, showed that there is such a discrepancy between the county and town representation that the counties in England are entitled to 132 Members more than they possess at present; that is, that the representatives of the counties are 132 short of the number they are in justice and fairness entitled to. My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and other hon. Members have made similar calculations and have come to a nearly similar conclusion. The smallest number claimed in addition to the present representatives is 132, the largest 137. Now, I do not think it is in the power of any hon. Member to disprove that. If so, I hope we shall have the case fully argued and dealt with before any further attempts be made to go on with this Bill. A curious document has been placed in my hands—one which shows how completely the present state of things is at variance with what has been really intended by the constitution of this country. ["Order, order!"] The hon. Member for Finsbury calls me to order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will 1959 be kind enough to state the grounds of his opinion in considering me out of order.
§ MR. T. S. DUNCOMBE
Yes, I will state grounds. I called the hon. Gentleman to order for this reason:—He gave notice of an Instruction to the Committee bearing on the very question on which he is now speaking, in these terms:—"That it be an Instruction to the Committee not to proceed further with the Bill till provision has been made for giving to the counties in England that share in the representation to which they may be shown to be entitled by population and by property." You, Sir, having decided that the Instruction cannot be given, he then rises and says, "I shall move the Adjournment of the House," and proceeds to make the speech which he had intended to deliver on the Motion relative to the subject of county representation. I say that is out of order. If he moves the Adjournment of the House, he must give the reasons why the House should adjourn, and not why the counties should have more representatives.
§ MR. SPEAKER
There has been, without doubt, an irregularity in the course pursued by the hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman rose, and said that any decision or expression of opinion which I might give with regard to an Instruction to a Committee was subject to the confirmation of the House. It is perfectly true that any decision of the kind by myself is subject to confirmation or rejection by the House; and I understood the hon. Member to question the correctness of my decision, and that he proposed to submit it to the decision of the House. I certainly must point out to the hon. Member that the course he is now pursuing, in moving the adjournment of the House for the purpose of making his speech, is not in accordance with the statement which he made or in conformity with correct practice. It is necessary for the hon. Member, if he questions the decision given from the Chair, to conclude with a Motion framed so as to subject that decision to the judgment of the House in a distinct form.
§ MR. BENTINCK
Sir, I moved the adjournment of the House because I understood you to say that it was not open to me to deal with the subject in any other way. But if you think that the more correct course for me to pursue is to move that in the opinion of the House the Instruction I propose ought to be given to the Committee, I am perfectly ready to take that course. You, Sir, must be ex- 1960 tremely obliged to my hon. Friend for having voluntarily undertaken a portion of your very onerous duty. As you, Sir, did not interrupt me I went on presuming that I was in order, until the hon. Gentleman called me to order, and in so doing attached some blame to you for not having stopped mo sooner; but as you did not, I must presume that my hon. Friend is rather premature in interrupting me. In order to satisfy my hon. Friend, who seems to be so sensitive on points of order, I will adopt what I now understand to be the proper course of proceeding by moving that this Instruction be given to the Committee. I hope that will satisfy my hon. Friend. Well, when my hon. Friend was good enough to interpose I was about to say that in the paper which I hold in my hand there is a passage regarding the state of the law in an early period of our Constitution, and which shows the vast difference between the existing state of things and those of that time in respect of our county constituencies
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I rise to order. In the hon. Gentleman's argument I understood him to say that he was about to move—and it certainly was a very proper Motion and one quite competent for him to make—that it be an Instruction to the Committee not to proceed further with the Bill. The words he has given notice of to that effect would be in order, and could be properly considered by the House. That is a perfectly intelligible proposition, and it is quite competent for the hon. Gentleman to proceed with his argument; but it is not competent for him to state that, according to the argument which he is about to put forward, the counties are not properly represented; because, supposing him to prove that the counties ought to get 130 or 150 Members more, it would not advance him in his argument. What he requires to show is that he could not move that in Committee.
§ MR. BENTINCK
I ought to feel extremely grateful at the kind attention and considerate courtesy shown me by hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords opposite. I cannot be insensible to the kindness of the noble Lord in coming to help me, seeing the lame way in which I am proceeding; but with great deference to the noble Lord, I am not at all sure that I cannot make good my case in my own way without his able assistance. The noble Lord uses a most extraordinary argument. He says I am perfectly in order in my Motion, but then he 1961 objects to my endeavouring to show that the counties are not fairly represented. Why, that is the whole gist of my argument. If I do not prove it I prove nothing. He says, "go into your objection, but do not go into the subject-matter of it." Merely reminding the House that these delays are not of my seeking, and trusting that I may not again excite the sympathy and enlist the support of hon. Members, I will again refer to the pamphlet of which I have already spoken, which most forcibly establishes the inadequacy of the representation of the rural districts. "In the early periods of the Constitution," it states, "the tax-payers were divided into two distinct classes, the landed proprietors and the tradesmen; and it was required that these two classes should be kept wholly distinct." ["Question, question!"] Perhaps some other Gentleman had a suggestion to make.
§ MR. RICH
Yes, I have. I beg leave to ask a question. I wish to know whether it is competent to a Gentleman who rises to argue whether the decision of the Speaker is right or wrong to assume that the question has been carried in his favour, and to proceed to argue a question which you, Sir, have decided he ought not to argue.
§ MR. SPEAKER
—I have been unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member for West Norfolk, but certainly what was stated by the noble Lord is perfectly correct. The hon. Member ought to proceed to show why the Committee have not the power to do that which, in the opinion I have already declared, is within their province. The question is not whether the counties are adequately represented, or whether the boroughs have too many Members and the counties too few; because it will be perfectly competent for the House in Committee, if they think fit, to take from the representation of the boroughs and to add to that of the counties; and the hon. Member, if he feels it right to do so, will have the power of moving in Committee that a subtraction he made from the number of borough Members and an addition to the county representatives. Of course, I am only stating what it will be competent for them to do. I must point out to the hon. Member, though he rises to order, that it is possible to be not in order in the statement which he is making on the subject of order, and that the sufficiency of the representation of counties or boroughs is not the question which is now before the House.
§ MR. BENTINCK
I repeat that nothing is further from my wish than to gainsay any opinion of yours, Sir, or to violate any rule of the House; but I distinctly understood you to lay down that I was at liberty to refer a decision of yours on the rules of the House to the House. I am doing that in a legitimate and proper manner. [" No, no."] In order to do that I must state the grounds on which I dissent from the opinion which you have given; otherwise it seems to me that it would be impossible for me to make out my case. [" No, no."] I have no wish to go on in despite of the opinion of the House. If the House think that I ought not to proceed with the point I shall not do so; but I must bid the House bear in mind, and the county Members bear in mind, that I thought I should have received more assistance from them in fighting the battle of their constituencies, and that if those constituencies are fleeced and thrown over by this Bill it is not my fault. I shall go on with the Instruction which you, Sir, have decided to be perfectly regular, and which has reference to a subject which is of vital importance to the welfare of the country and also to the character of this House itself. The present mode of treating bribery and corruption is not only a scandal to the House of Commons, but tends to make it the laughing-stock of the country. The omission of all attempts to deal with this evil is one of the most glaring omissions of the present Bill. Such a provision is most essential in a Bill of this kind; because, in the main, the sole feature of the measure was to extend the franchise among that class of the electors who, whether justly or not, have always been esteemed to be the portion of the constituency which is most liable to the temptation of bribery. It appears to me that this hiatus is of itself sufficient to prevent the House from proceeding with the Bill till the deficiency is supplied. What has been the case up to the present time? What has been the Parliamentary history of bribery and corruption? I am not prepared to say for how long, but for centuries past there have been petitions, election Committees, Royal Commissions, and, above all, and at all times and all occasions, the strongest expressions of reprobation and disgust from the House of Commons, but more especially from the Liberal side, whenever their ears were offended by the recital of these vicious and mischievous practices. And what has been the result? 1963 The whole thing has ended in one result—a very considerable outlay, and a very considerable cost for Committees and Commissions. Beyond that not a single step has been taken to check bribery and corruption. The records of those Committees and Commissions we have on the shelves of our library; and they state very remarkable facts. I shall not weary the House by long quotations, but I shall take the liberty of referring to one or two passages. The Committee on the Wakefield Election make a very short Report; but in it they say that at the last election for the borough the Member was guilty of bribery; it cites various cases and winds up in these words:—"There is reason to believe that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the last election for the said borough of Wakefield." That is a very large and very populous Liberal constituency; yet the Committee declare the corruption to have been general; and it is clear that either a majority of the electors participated in the bribery or did not show themselves to be very much shocked at it; because there can be no doubt that if a large majority of the electors of Wakefield had set their face against bribery, that fact must have put a stop to its extensive prevalence. Therefore, even though a majority were not guilty of it, it is only by their connivance it can prevail. The Committee on the Gloucester Election wind up their Report by saying "The Committee believe that corrupt practices extensively prevailed at the last election for the city of Gloucester." That is another large Liberal constituency. There is another Report which contains a somewhat similar statement with reference to Huddersfield. In 1854 a Commission sat upon election proceedings in Hull, and their Report and the other documents to which I have referred prove to demonstration that the practice of this House is not to deal with the question of bribery. Persons have been named as guilty of that offence, but no consequence has followed—they go about as if nothing had happened, and are looked upon as favourably in this House and out of it as if it had not. The Commission to which I have just referred to reports, "We find that systematic corruption has uniformly prevailed at all the elections for Hull to which our attention has been called?" What has been the result? Have any steps been taken to put a stop to the bribery and corruption in Hull? I am not aware that any act followed the publication of the Report con- 1964 tained in a very voluminous Report which I hold in my hand. The same Report says, "We find that at the election of 1841 there was systematic bribery on behalf of Sir Walter James, with his knowledge and consent." I do not know that any step has been taken against him. The Committee also find that systematic bribery prevailed on behalf of Sir John Hanmer. They make the same finding with respect to James Clay, Esq., and also with reference to General Perronet Thompson, though they express some doubt as to whether the gallant Gentleman was cognizant of the fact. They further find systematic bribery on behalf of Lord Goderich, though they are not satisfied it was committed with his knowledge, and they give him the benefit of the doubt. Looking at all this, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that whenever a discussion has taken place in this House on the subject of bribery and corruption, the whole thing has been nothing but a broad farce, strong though the denunciations and eloquent though the speeches have been on those occasions. Committees and Commissions simply mean shelving the question. Is this state of things to continue? What does the Bill of the noble Lord propose to do? As I have already observed, it proposes to extend the franchise among the very class of men who are allowed not to be the most unassailable by this species of corruption. The noble Lord must acknowledge this:—it is a, fact that poor men are more open to the temptations of electoral bribery and corruption than those in better circumstances. They would be more than human if they were not. The noble Lord knows that a large proportion of those whom he is about to enfranchise only value the franchise for what it will fetch. That is notoriously the case. I appeal to hon. Members, not only on this, but on the other side of the House, to state here what I have heard them admit in private, namely, that hundreds of those to whom the noble Lord is about to extend the franchise will stand aside at any election waiting to see how much they can get for their votes. Are you, then, prepared gravely and deliberately to increase tenfold the area for bribery and corruption without taking any precaution against it? Will the noble Lord rise in his place in this House and defend such a course? Will he rise and say that the effect of his Bill will not be to extend largely the area for bribery and corruption? I do not antici- 1965 pate that I shall hear the noble Lord do anything of the kind. If not, will the noble Lord be good enough to tell us on what ground he proposes to enlarge the area of bribery and corruption without taking any precautionary measures? It is a very curious fact, but one not the less true—that the last fifty-seven cases of bribery which have been investigated by Committees of this House have been, without exception, committed in boroughs. There has not out of these fifty-seven been one single case of bribery in a county. What is the result of this? That the boroughs are returning Members who are sent here under the influence of disreputable practices, and who in consequence of the manner of their election have no right to seats in this House; but who, nevertheless are, by reason of their number, sufficient to override and decide the fate of those who have been fairly and honestly returned. Is this a just state of things? Is the noble Lord prepared to defend that? If he is, it will require more than his usual ability to enable him to accomplish his task. There are certain penalties provided in the case of bribery and corruption, but no attempt is made to inflict them, and therefore the whole thing becomes a farce. Again, there is a regulation that men holding certain posts under Government shall not have the right to vote. If, because a small salary arising from an office, the duties of which a man discharges faithfully, is likely to sway his vote, and therefore he is not to be looked upon as an independent voter, and is to be deprived of his vote, might we not be as scrupulous with regard to our own character, and see whether we could not produce a measure to remove imputations against the character of the Members of this House? I cannot see on what ground a man who keeps a post-office at £4 a year is not to vote for a Member of Parliament, when a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench, who receives £5,000 a year, is allowed to vote on every question that is brought before us. That seems to be an anomaly which, when we are dealing with a question affecting the representation of the people, and when we are going to attempt to prevent bribery and corruption, ought not to be lost sight of. Whatever may be the crime, the disrepute which attaches to the voter with £4 a year, who is induced to go, not strictly according to his conscience, in voting for the most eligible Member of Parliament, that 1966 disrepute is increased ten thousand-fold in the case of the Minister who is receiving a very large salary, and is compelled at various times to vote, not confessedly but notoriously, against the opinions which he entertains. It, therefore, appears to me to be essential, in order to relieve public men from one of the greatest stains that can be possibly attached to their character, that no man should be allowed to receive a salary, and to vote in this House. Unless you are prepared to do this, you cannot remove the stain which attaches to the proceeding I have mentioned; and you never will persuade the electors or the public that you are dealing fairly with the people on the question of bribery. I again say, is any comparison to be drawn between a man with £4 a year, giving an occasional vote, and the Statesman with many thousands, voting against his convictions, not once, but perhaps many times, during a Session? The House can hardly be prepared to say that they should not be relieved from such an imputation on their character. It must, at all events, be very distasteful to them, to hear the comments often made on the subject in this House, and in the journals; they must writhe under the imputations, and there is but one way of doing away with them—namely, to put the voter and the Minister on the same footing, and say that no money should pass in either case where there was a vote; that the Minister should have the choice of the salary or the vote. We should then know whether men served their country for ambition or profit; and that seems to me to be a most desirable item of knowledge. At all events, it would relieve Ministers from the imputation that they take large salaries for doing that for which many poor voters are prosecuted. Therefore, whenever the time comes, I shall move that no Minister in this House, receiving a salary under the Crown, shall be allowed to have a vote. I again appeal to the noble Lord, whether he is prepared to say that the effect of his Bill will not be to largely increase the area of bribery and corruption; and unless he is prepared to make that statement, I will ask him to state on what grounds he is prepared to defend its enactments. The hon. Member concluded by moving,That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to make provision for the better prevention of Bribery and Corruption at Elections.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
It has been 1967 the usual course to deal with the subject of the representation of the people and the collateral one of the prevention and punishment of bribery and corruption by means of separate Bills. That, in my opinion, is a course to which it is desirable to adhere. The questions of the extension of the suffrage and the re-distribution of seats are in themselves extremely important, and it would not, I think, be conducive to the public interest that we should introduce in a measure dealing with them provisions relating to bribery and corrupt practices. I have, however, no objection that the House should in Committee take the matter into consideration; nay, more, it appears to me that we are bound to lend to any proposition which the hon. Gentleman may make with the view of preventing, as far as possible, the recurrence of that offence, a favourable ear. But while I am of that opinion I entirely dissent from the view of the probable operation of the present Bill which the hon. Gentleman entertains. I do not think its tendency will be to increase bribery and corruption; still less do I imagine his proposal that Members of this House holding office under the Crown should be deprived of the right to vote would prove conducive to the public advantage. Holding the view which the hon. Gentleman does on the subject, he must, it seems to me, be prepared to go one step further and to preclude Members of the Government from having seats in this House. Now, that is a question which was a century and a half ago very much debated, and, in fact, our whole system of Parliamentary Government is based on the provisions then adopted, after being discussed at great length; and I for one do not think it would be advisable to adopt the change. The hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the offences of bribery and corruption have lately been the subject of investigation before a Committee up-stairs, which has reported and sent us down some thirty or forty Resolutions as the fruit of its labours. These afford matter for consideration on the part of the House, and will probably be found of sufficient importance to form the subject of a separate Bill. For my own part, however, I must say that, having had a good deal of experience in matters of this nature, I am not very sanguine with respect to the efficient working of any legislative provision for the prevention of bribery. If, as I have repeatedly observed, both parties to the offence are disposed to commit it— 1968 if the candidate is willing to pay £5 to an elector for his vote, and the latter is willing to receive it—they will not have much difficulty in acting upon their individual inclinations. The best mode of preventing bribery under those circumstances is, in my opinion, to preclude those who are guilty of it from obtaining the results which they proposed to themselves to accomplish. If a candidate, after having spent some £3,000 or £4,000 on an election, finds that for having done certain illegal acts he is deprived, by means of a Committee of this House, of his seat, much will be done to prevent bribery, inasmuch as it will come to be regarded as useless and unprofitable. I do not deny that while there are men having long purses who are desirous of bribing the poor voter, it will, as a matter of course, be difficult to provide against the offer being accepted—it was so before the Reform Act, and it is so now—it was the case at Gloucester and Wakefield, and may be again. But, on the other hand, if the rich man who is guilty of such practices fails as a consequence in securing the object for which he seeks, he will be deterred from repeating the offence. Be that, however, as it may, if the hon. Member for West Norfolk or any other Member thinks he has any proposal to make which will put a stop to bribery and corruption, I am not disposed to prevent an Instruction being given to the Committee.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, I confess I have heard the observations which the noble Lord has just made with some degree of disappointment. The question which we are engaged in discussing is not, I would remind him, one with respect to which the practical reformer can afford to indulge in speculation. It is, upon the contrary, one which addresses itself to the good sense and experience of the House, inasmuch as it involves the consideration whether the Bill of the noble Lord, as I will endeavour to prove is the opinion of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, would not turn out to be more injurious than otherwise to the country if the question of bribery and corrupt practices were not in the first instance dealt with. The noble Lord told us in what the offence of bribery consists, alluding to an offer of £5 made by a candidate and accepted by the voter; but he furnished no answer to my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), who clearly demonstrated from the documents to which 1969 he referred that bribery and corruption have been more prevalent since the passing of the Reform Act, and that it has prevailed more in boroughs than in counties; and having demonstrated that such was the case, he contends that the present is the proper time to grapple with so great an evil. Now, the subject is one to which our attention has already been drawn in the course of this Session. I find that on the 24th of January last a rather sharp discussion took place in this House on the Motion for issuing new writs for Gloucester and Wakefield. The Government was upon that occasion asked whether their contemplated Reform Bill would contain clauses striking at the root of the offence of which we are now speaking?—and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department met the inquiry with his usual good sense. The right hon. Gentleman said there had been a Reform Bill and a Corrupt Practices Act, in order, as I suppose, to cure the mischiefs of the Reform Act. But my hon. Friend contends that the system heretofore pursued of having a separate measure for the Amendment of the representation, and then a separate measure to cure the evils which the representation Bill may cause, is an ill-advised course, and that, therefore, we ought to endeavour to grapple with the evil you mean to create, as the noble Lord does by his new Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, on the occasion to which I have alluded, said, The Government have under their consideration—I do not place so much reliance on that—the Government have under their consideration a measure on this subject; we are prepared and hope to be able to introduce a Bill for materially altering the Corrupt Practices Act, and also for amending the procedure for the trial of election petitions. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that subject is important—much more important than the Reform Bill, because it goes to the purification of the House, whereas the noble Lord's Bill may add to the corruption that at present exists. I have no complaint to make of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, because he announced that the intention of the Government was drawn to this subject in connection with the subject of Parliamentary Reform; and the proposition of my hon. Friend is in exact consistence with the course which the right hon. Gentleman threw out. Then I find the hon- 1970 and learned Member for Nottingham (Mr. Mellor) a supporter of the Government, but an independent one, on the 31st of January brought in a Bill to accomplish something in this direction. That Bill had the great merit of being intelligible; and it would be important to say as much if one could of this Bill to amend the representation of the people. The hon. Member proposed to punish those who took bribes, and change, in some respect the law of evidence, and do several other things to enable him to grapple with the evil. On that occasion the noble Viscount at the head of the Government made a speech which showed his great knowledge of mankind and of Reform Bills, and I would, for a moment, draw the attention of the House to a single sentence spoken by the noble Viscount on that occasion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That was a speech made in the present Session of Parliament, and it is irregular for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to refer to it.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I have seen it somewhere in print, Sir. Our memory is sharp and good whenever the noble Viscount speaks, and on the occasion to which I allude he spoke so plainly that it was impossible to forget what he said. He differed from the noble Lord. He said the liking of bribery is not in the House of Commons, but among the lower class of the electors of the country. It is the inclination of the lower class of electors who have votes to be bribed that causes the mischief. This was the argument of the noble Viscount. The seat of corruption is not in the House of Commons—no body of gentlemen can be more anxious than they to put down corruption; but what can we do when we have a low class of electors willing to be bribed? What, then, is the Bill of the noble Lord? It will increase the number of those who are ready to be bribed, and so add to the mischief—not intentionally to be sure, so far as the noble Lord is concerned, for there is not a more sincere advocate for purity of representation than the noble Lord; but latterly he has been labouring in vain, for according to the noble Viscount the lower class of electors are the cause of the existence of bribery. That opinion, so announced by the noble Viscount, sufficiently justifies the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk; because the projected Reform Bill will increase the mischief unless we grapple with it at once. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Suffolk 1971 (Sir F. Kelly) had also a Bill on this subject; but it was distinctly stated and admitted that unless the Government took up the subject, unless the Government cither introduced clauses in the Reform Bill or brought forward a measure to accompany the Reform Bill, this great evil will never be redressed. The hon. and learned Member for Nottingham's Bill was read a first time, and on the 15th of February he got the advice invariably given by official men to their supporters, in this way:—Your Bill is excellent, the intention is good; but it will be better to leave it for future consideration. Let the matter rest; you have done your duty by bringing in the Bill; we do not intend to carry it; it is well meant; we will have a Committee—that is the usual way of shelving a subject of this nature for the Session. The hon. and learned Member was accordingly induced to give it up. [Mr. MELLOR: It stands on the paper still.] Well, it stands still, and is, I suppose, likely to stand still in all time to come. I thought it had been given up when the Committee, moved by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, was appointed to deal with the Corrupt Practices Act. The Home Secretary pronounced a strong opinion on the provisions of that measure. He said that a Committee or Commission had declared the Corrupt Practices Act to be of no avail, and therefore he intimated that the Government had some large, statesmanlike measure to put down corruption. The Committee were appointed; the Committee sat, and, as the noble Lord has stated, they drew up a formidable Report, containing thirty or forty recommendations. If that be so, we are now in a very favourable situation for dealing with this question; and I put it to the good sense of the noble Lord that it would be well to withdraw his Bill, which, according to the noble Viscount, by increasing the lower class of electors, will add to the mischief, and increase the corruption complained of. This will enable us to proceed with a measure that will do all the noble Lord anticipates, and put a check on practices against which the morality and virtue of this country have so loudly pronounced. The hon. and learned Member for Nottingham said the evil was not in the character of the people, but in the infirmity of the law. Where there is an inclination to be bribed, however, where poverty and destitution prevail, where there is a low class to be tempted by money, you cannot eradicate bribery 1972 and corruption; but you may do something to show your sense of the evil and its magnitude. I therefore think the Government are bound cither by this Bill, or one accompanying it, to deal with this subject in the manner in which my hon. Friend has pointed out.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a speech in support of a Motion for an Instruction to the Committee, giving them power to insert certain clauses relating to bribery and corruption; and with a view of supporting that Motion he recommends my noble Friend to withdraw the Bill into which those clauses are to be introduced; thus, so far as I understand, rendering the Motion he supported entirely nugatory and absurd. I have no wish to engage the House in a premature and fruitless discussion on the subject of bribery and corruption. The hon. and learned Gentleman has given a perfectly accurate detail of what passed on the subject during this Session. It is quite true that I stated that Her Majesty's Government had the subject under their careful and detailed consideration; and it is true that they had prepared certain measures which, under other circumstances than those which have since occurred, they would have been prepared to submit to the House. But some other Bills were brought in which were referred to a Select Committee. A Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Corrupt Practices Act. Of that Committee my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and myself were Members. It sat a great many times, took most important and valuable evidence, and framed a largo number of Resolutions, which embraced the whole of the subject of bribery, and also the question of the amendment of the present Corrupt Practices Act. That Report is on the table, although it has not yet been circulated among Members, and will afford a basis for a reconsideration of the law whenever the time arrives when that task can be undertaken. I, therefore, think that, although the Committee may obtain under this Instruction the power of introducing these clauses, it will be far more convenient to consider the subject in connection with the amendment or rearrangement of the Corrupt Practices Act. That will be a far more advantageous mode of approaching the subject than that proposed by the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the question of the Members of the Executive Government having their seats 1973 in this House, it is wholly unconnected with the subject of bribery and corruption. The present law is, that in general persons holding office under the Crown are not disqualified for voting for Members of Parliament except those connected with the Revenue Boards, and that is the cause why postmasters are disfranchised; but I believe there is no truth in the doctrine that persons holding office under the Crown generally are disqualified.
§ MR. KNIGHTLEY
said, he had put a Notice upon the paper to move that it be an Instruction to the Committee that they should have power to provide for taking the poll at elections by means of voting papers. He believed that voting papers would, in a great measure, do away with direct bribery; but, upon consideration, he would not press his Motion. It was not unworthy of remark, however, that much of the bribery recently brought to light had taken place in the model boroughs—such as Wakefield and Huddersfield for instance—which owed their very existence to the passing of the old Reform Bill.
§ MR. WYLD
had heard with extreme satisfaction the observations of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bentinck) about the necessity of adopting measures to put a stop to bribery, and he had hoped as the hon. Gentleman moved the Instruction to the Committee, that, as he had seen the evil, be would be prepared to furnish a remedy. However, he would himself propose to add to the Resolution of the hon. Member what would be a sufficient remedy, and that was, that the votes of electors should be taken by ballot. The hon. Member thought that the Bill for the amendment of the representation of the people would extend the area of corruption. He (Mr. Wyld) had no doubt that it would extend the area not only of corruption but of intimidation. The hon. Gentleman stated that bribery existed only in boroughs and not in counties; but those who were conversant with counties knew that, although there was no bribery there, yet there was intimidation to a great extent. He believed that the only remedy for this evil was the adoption of the vote by ballot. He should not have presented himself to the House at that moment but that he intended to move a clause in Committee to carry out that object. The necessity for some remedy was felt by every Member of that House. Unless some remedy against corruption was provided, he thought the Bill of the noble Lord would extend instead of 1974 diminishing the evil. He therefore hogged to propose, as an addition to the Resolution, the words "And for that purpose that the votes of the electors be taken by ballot."
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not in order. He will have it in his power to effect his object, by moving a clause in Committee; providing for the taking of votes by ballot, and therefore it was not competent for him to add words to the Resolution authoritatively directing the adoption of such a clause.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, that no person had I a greater desire than himself to see the laws for the prevention of bribery and corruption put on a sound basis; but a more inopportune Motion than that of the hon. Member for Norfolk be could not conceive. Why were they to mix one question with another? The country would not believe; that this Motion was a real, a sincere, and an earnest Motion, brought forward under the circumstances under which it was brought forward, fie should not hesitate to recommend to all persons on this side of the House not to vote for the Instruction of the hon. Member for Norfolk, because he felt that they would not proceed to consider that Instruction under circumstances at all favourable. Believing this to be a Motion not honestly designed to advance the amendment of the law, but simply to delay the progress of the measure of the noble Lord, he hoped hon. Members would not fall into the trap. If they did they would do so with their eyes open, and would lend themselves to the delay and prevention of the passing of this important measure, which he believed, notwithstanding all that had been said, the country did desire to see passed.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, that it was very well for the hon. Member for Nottingham to pretend to a monopoly of purity and to cast reflections upon other hon. Members, but he begged to remind him of a scene which he witnessed in that House only the other night. He then heard the Attorney General state the necessity under which he felt himself of prosecuting two persons against whom charges of bribery had been made; and he saw several hon. Members rise up to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman not to enforce the full severity of the law. Among those who were most earnest upon that occasion was the great apostle of democracy, the hon. Member for Birmingham. With that stain upon the reputation of those who sat upon 1975 the Ministerial side of the House in respect to purity of election, it did not become the hon. Member to cast reflections upon those who sat opposite to him. They had every reason to proceed with this Instruction to the Committee. They had had from two Ministers of the Crown declarations more calculated to raise alarm in the minds of those who dreaded the increase of bribery than any that it had ever before been his fortune to hear. The Home Secretary had recommended—and perhaps with great justice—that they should not proceed by way of Instruction, but should rely upon a Bill that was still to be brought forward, which would embody the recommendations of the Committee which had so long sat to investigate the subject. If that recommendation stood by itself it might deserve their attention; but then the noble Lord the Member for London said he had little faith in the passing of the measures that might be proposed on the subject of bribery: and they all knew what weight to attach to despairing words like those coming from a Minister on the 4th of June. If, therefore, no Instruction of this kind were adopted, and the Reform Bill were to pass, it would pass without there being any sincere intention on the part of the Treasury Bench to accompany it with a measure to secure purity of election. There were two ways in which the noble Lord's Reform Bill would increase bribery, which it was their duty to counteract. It both increased the number of bribees and the number of bribers. Which of two classes of men was more likely to accept bribes for their votes—those who could live without them, or those who could not? There could be no doubt that the man who had the most difficulty in maintaining himself free from embarrassment and debt would be the most likely person to sell his constitutional right. That opinion did not rest upon mere theory—it was proved by pregnant facts. What was the case with our Municipal Corporations? Had not bribery to an enormous extent been discovered in them? Yet in these Municipal Corporations the franchise was lower than in Parliamentary elections. On the other hand, in the counties, where the suffrage was considerably higher than in the boroughs, they knew perfectly well that not one case of bribery had been discovered, although many had been discovered in the boroughs. At Gloucester, Berwick, Norwich, Beverley, Hull, and other notorious places, there were large numbers of freemen; and that was the 1976 class from which the noble Lord proposed to take his new constituents. As they extended the area of the suffrage they would therefore also extend the area of corruption. But it was not merely on the bribees that the noble Lord's Bill would have this effect. It would have a direct influence in increasing the number of bribers. He did not believe they would ever reach that millennium when the poor man would refuse £5 when offered to him for his vote. But bribery might possiby be got rid of through the action of public opinion upon the class who offered bribes. What, then, would be the position in which they would stand after this Bill passed? They would have the power of legislation taken from the well-to-do class and placed in the hands of the poor. The power of taxing the rich would be possessed by the poor. All those questions of finance which that House now debated would then be decided by people who had not to bear the burden. When that tyranny existed was it to be supposed the wealthier classes would submit without a struggle to regain their rights, or make no attempt to restore that just and equal taxation which this legislation was refusing to them? On this point they had the example of America before their eyes. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), in a speech which much delighted and astonished the House, proved that in no place did bribery prevail on a larger scale than in that model Republic. There, when matters became very bad and the rights of property were likely to be infringed, the wealthier inhabitants of the same county or state united together and bought up all the elections at one fell swoop. If this Bill passed the same course would assuredly be taken in self-defence by the richer classes in this country. If, following the example of America, political power were transferred here to those who did not pay the taxes, depend upon it our wealthier classes would be found imitating the course pursued by the corresponding class in America, and endeavouring by corrupt and illegitimate means—but still by the only means left open to them—to obtain the justice that was denied to them. The subject of voting papers, which an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Knightley) had referred to, deserved the serious consideration of the House in reference to the question of bribery and corruption. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had lately attempted to prove, in a very able speech, that the ballot prevented bribery in Australia, but 1977 he had only succeeded in showing that it would prevent what might be called "afternoon bribery; that was, it would prevent the purchase of votes by rival candidates who were running each other very close late in the day, by keeping from them the knowledge of the state of the poll. Now, by the system of voting papers "afternoon bribery" might be effectually prevented, for if a large number of voters sent in their voting papers only a short time before the close of the poll, it would be impossible for the candidates to discover at the polling places how the contest was going on, and, therefore, its adoption would secure all the advantages claimed for the Ballot without any of the debasing associations which belonged to secret voting. This was one only of many suggestions that might be made on the subject. In conclusion, he urged upon the House that the main danger to be apprehended from this precipitate change was a vast increase of electoral corruption, and that they would not be doing their duty to their constituents unless they bound up indissolubly the questions of reform and purity.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, the practical question before the House was, what was the best mode of checking practices which they all equally condemned. The hon. Member for Norfolk wished to accomplish that object by introducing clauses for the purpose into a Bill which he said would increase corruption, because it would extend the franchise. That was the chief burden of the hon. Gentleman's song. The hon. Gentleman was for insulting the constituencies about to be reconstructed by adopting stringent provisions for arresting that deluge of corruption which he so confidently predicted. That, however, was neither the right time nor the right way for dealing with this question. A Committee to whom the subject had been referred, had, after much deliberation, made their recommendations to the House, and they had almost a pledge from the Home Secretary to bring in a Bill embodying those recommendations and enabling the House to deal practically and substantially with this question. The hon. Member for Norfolk was not anxious to expedite the passing of the Reform Bill; his great anxiety was to stop corruption, and his mode of doing that was by tacking on to this Bill provisions which he hoped would have the effect of detroying it altogether. How did the matter stand before the House? They had six Resolutions to be moved on 1978 the Question "That the Speaker do leave the Chair," and also eight pages of Amendments to discuss when they got into Committee. Without imputing motives to the noble Lord who spoke last, he must ask, that if to the eight pages of Amendments already on the paper were to be added ten or twelve more on the subject of bribery, what possible chance could there be of passing this Bill? The real object of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, although they had not the courage to avow it by making a distinct Motion to that effect, was to delay this Bill, so that it might not reach the House of Lords. He hoped the House would not consent to an Instruction that would only make confusion worse confounded.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
wished to explain that his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) said that he would assent to the Instruction but without pledging himself to the details. All the noble Lord said he would do was, that if the hon. Member for West Norfolk wished to propose in Committee some provisions tending to prevent bribery and corruption, he would not shut him out from doing so; and to that extent only was he prepared to accede to the Instruction. He desired merely to reserve for the consideration of the Committee whether it was expedient to mix up those provisions with the Reform Bill, or whether it would be better to proceed by way of a separate Bill, founded on the recommendation of the Select Committee to whom the subject had been referred.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, he repudiated, in common he believed with those on his side of the House, the imputation cast upon them by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bouverie). He desired, and he said it conscientiously, that this Bill should be passed in an amended form during the present Session, and it was a monstrous and very unfair imputation to make against those who were desirous merely of moulding it into a satisfactory and statesmanlike shape, that their suggestions were made with a view to delay the measure. He had a specific reason for supporting the proposition of the hon. Member for West Norfolk, because it raised the question whether into this so-called Reform Bill they should introduce clauses to purify the representation of the people, or leave that object to be attained by a separate Bill based on the recommendation of the Select Committee which had just reported on that department of the subject. For his own part, 1979 he thought that provisions against bribery and corruption at elections should form part of a great measure for reforming the representation of the people. Out of doors far more interest attached to this question than to the problem of extended representation. The Corrupt Practices Amendment Bill, if passed this Session, would have precisely the same origin and the same objects as the Corrupt Practices Bill itself; and it would be in the recollection of the House that a right hon. Gentleman who had sat in Parliament for a quarter of a century had declared, before a Commission appointed to inquire into the corrupt practices of a certain borough, that he had always treated that Act as a dead letter. Now, it appeared to him important that they should frame their laws in such a way that hon. Members should have their attention called to such measures, and should not treat them as "dead letters." Some hesitation would be felt, for instance, in saying that a Reform Bill, if passed, was at any time to be considered as a "dead letter." With respect to the causes and remedies of electoral corruption, many theories and opinions had been advocated. It had been said that the effect of the Bill being to increase the number of electors, it would necessarily increase the amount of corruption. He did not think this at all a necessary consequence, nor that corruption would be necessarily increased by lowering the franchise. He did not believe that the very poorest people wore the most corrupt; but he did believe that the main source of the evil was to be found in that House itself, in the principle, or more properly speaking, want of principle, by which hon. Members sought the suffrages of the electors. He, therefore, maintained that it would be absurd and useless to attempt to pass any Bill for a real Reform in the representation of the people so long as such practices as those which were disclosed before the Wakefield and Gloucester Commissions were allowed to take place with impunity. He did not allude to any of the cases of bribery that actually occurred; but when a right hon. Gentleman who had been upwards of twenty years a Member of that House, stated that he had employed a gentleman to send down £500 to a certain borough; when it was admitted that that gentleman passed under a false name, and was at the same time employed in bribing another town; when it was further proved that the agent selected by the right hon. Gentleman employed a 1980 sub-deputy who shammed illness at Gloucester, and employed a barmaid to telegraph to London for more money, under the name of "medicine;" and when that right hon. Gentleman, upon being asked whether he did not consider the sending of £500 under such circumstances a corrupt practice, protected himself by saying it was an unfair question, he (Mr. Mills) maintained that when such subterfuges were practised it was idle for them to attempt any legislation. He said, let them make an effort, if they could, to improve the system in that quarter in which it most needed improvement—namely, in the principle upon which hon. Members attempted to obtain the suffrages of those electors whom they aspired to represent. If they voluntarily closed their eyes to the inevitably corrupting tendencies of their own acts, what was the use of legislating against them? If, however, they did attempt legislation, let them not trust to chance, or depend upon the results of a Select Committee, but deal with bribery and corruption as the most scandalous of those abuses which they were called upon to eradicate by a great and comprehensive measure of Parliamentary Reform.
SIR JOHN HANMER
said, in allusion to an observation made by a previous speaker, that, as far as he remembered, he might have stated that nineteen years ago the payments at Hull were made in the way of head-money; and be remembered that, when the Report to which the hon. Member had alluded was issued, he had not agreed with the Committee about that election, and for a very good reason; namely, that it was then not at all certain whether the payment of head-money was illegal. After 1841 a Bill was actually passed declaring such payments illegal: and this showed that the doubts he had entertained were tolerably well founded. But, however, with regard to the principal question now at issue—namely, what was the best way of stopping illegal practices at elections?—he certainly thought it a great mistake to suppose that bribery would be promoted by an extension of the suffrage, or that the disposition to accept or offer bribes was to be found more in one part of the community than another. It was a simple fact—he would not mention names—that the most corrupt election that had ever taken place since the Reform Act, was a county election. He knew, of his own knowledge, that that election was petitioned against; and that the Member 1981 thought himself an exceedingly lucky individual when he got out of the Committee-room by resigning his scat. ["Name, name."] It was quite unnecessary to mention names; the fact was recorded in the blue-books, and he was ready to show it to any hon. Member who wished to see it. It was not an election in which he was concerned. For his own part, he thought the best way of putting down bribery was greatly to extend the franchise; because his experience had taught him that the most honest of all electors wore the "scot-and lot" voters [laughter]. This, he could; assure hon. Gentlemen was a simple fact. Bribery might be likened to the dry rot, and ought to be treated in a similar manner by being "put down," as soon as it was discovered. The best way was to put in force the laws against bribery. The existing laws against bribery were stringent enough; and if the process of disfranchisement had been resorted to oftener, it would have removed the necessity for this Reform Bill, which was troubling everybody, and consuming unnecessarily the time of the House. As soon as a constituency was discovered to be corrupt, it ought to be wholly or at least partially disfranchised; and a vacant seat should not be suspended, as in the case of Sudbury and St. Albans, but transferred to a more deserving" constituency. Had that course been pursued in times past, not only would a great impression have been made upon bribery and corruption, but the state of the representation would have been considerably improved. Let the House deal with constituency by constituency, applying the law in every case of proved corruption, and there would be no occasion to pass "comprehensive measures of reform." If a Reform Bill were to be passed at all, be said, as he had said many years before, that the most extensive measure was the best.
MR. H. BERKELEY
said, though he was not a great admirer of the Bill, he would accept it; but he desired that it should be known throughout the country that the obstruction that had been offered to the Bill did not proceed from that (the Ministerial) side of the House. Nothing could be more mean than the opposition to this Bill on the other (Conservative) side of the House. ["Order, order!"] He would correct the phrase, and say nothing could be more improper than the way in which a great party opposite had banded themselves together to oppose this Bill in an indirect way. After the numerous 1982 speeches they had heard, none of them ending with any Resolution whatever, and after the numerous adjournments they had had, it was rather calling upon their credulity too much to ask them to believe now that they desired to make purity a prominent clement of the Bill, and that that was the reason why they sought to amend it. The country was perfectly well aware that the Bill was excessively distasteful to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that they would do everything in their power to prevent its passing. Something had been said about protecting people by; means of voting papers. If the noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) were decidedly in earnest, and wished to correct the impurities of our elective system, he would not talk of voting papers, but he would adopt the only real remedy—namely, the Ballot. This Bill would certainly be thrown out, for it could not stand against the delays that had arisen to stop its progress. It was perfectly understood that it would be thrown out by indirect means. He did not think the Government were in fault, for they had done their best to pass it. All he would say was, let those hon. Gentlemen who thought proper to reject the Bill take the consequences with the people on their own shoulders.
§ MR. COLLINS
thought that if the House wished to put down bribery and corruption, they ought not to throw upon individuals the great expense of Election Committees, which, in the case of the Berwick Committee, was estimated at £1 per minute. Bribery was the only offence put down at the private cost of individuals. If hon. Members were in earnest in wishing to put a stop to corrupt practices at elections, the only course was to throw the cost of prosecuting the inquiry, if a primâ facie case were made out, upon the Consolidated Fund, or some other public fund. The inquiry was a matter of public concern, and the expense ought to be defrayed by the country; which was actually done in the case of an Election Commission.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley), not having the fear of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock before him, had thought fit to prolong this already long debate, and to make a sweeping charge against all who sat on that (the Conservative) Bide of the House, as if they, and they alone, had been the cause of the delay that had occurred at the several stages of the Bill. 1983 But the hon. Member would remember, that of all the speeches that had been made on the second reading of the Bill none was so animated, so vehement, and so damaging to the Bill as that he had himself delivered. Great wits were said proverbially to have short memories, and it was perhaps excusable, therefore, considering the early period of the Session at which it was made, that the hon. Member should have lost sight of his own opposition. He (Lord John Manners) could not, however, permit the charge so unnecessarily and unjustly brought against the Opposition by the hon. Member to pass without a word of protest. He must also remind the hon. Gentleman that after the declaration made by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) the House might have passed from the Instruction moved by his noble Friend (Mr. Bentinck) to other Motions of which notice had been given; for the noble Lord said he had no objection to this Instruction. Upon the principle that there was "nothing like leather," the hon. Gentleman evinced untiring energy in the cause of the Ballot, and put it forward on every occasion as the only remedy for bribery and corruption; but had it not been for such speeches they would have long since passed this stage of the Bill, and have been discussing the next step. Again, he protested generally against the charges that had been brought against the party with which he had the honour and privilege to act. If there had been any delay in the progress of the Bill through the House, it was to be attributed, not to hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, but to the unpopularity that had attended it from its first introduction.
§ MR. SLANEY
said, it was greatly to be lamented that hon. Gentlemen should attribute motives, and that charges should be bandied about; such personalities were not favourable to the progress of the Bill. He belived that if both sides would make fair and candid concessions some practical result might be arrived at. He could not forget that hon. Gentlemen opposite had brought forward a large measure which showed they were in earnest in responding to the desire of the country for a settlement of this question. No Reform Bill could pass through Parliament without mutual concessions, and, if the present measure were considered in that spirit, a Bill might be framed which, if it were not put into shape this Session, might pass in 1984 the next Session. The question of Parliamentary Reform might thus be put to rest for a quarter of a century to come. It was most desirable that a settlement should be come to now, when the country was in the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, for if the adjustment were deferred, times of difficulty and trouble might interpose an effectual barrier to its proper consideration. If the borough franchise proposed by the noble Lord's Bill were too low—and he believed it was too low—let a clause be brought in raising it somewhat. There were many Members on the Opposition side, and he also knew there were many Gentlemen on his (the Ministerial) side of the House, who thought the £6 rental too low. Let them, therefore, go into Committee and see whether a £6 rating, or some other qualification, could not be adopted to meet these objections. Everything might be arranged satisfactorily by mutual concession, and it was most important that such a measure should be carried in a period of tranquillity. He trusted that there would be no more bandying of accusations from one side of the House to the other, and that they would all endeavour, in a spirit of good feeling and mutual concession, to settle this important question.
§ MR. STEUART
said, as there was but little chance that such a spirit of mutual concession as the hon. Member who spoke last had recommended, he trusted that he should not be chargeable with creating unnecessary delay to the progress of this Bill if he expressed his regret that it was not accompanied by some measure for putting down bribery and corruption, for it appeared to him essential that provisions for the prevention of corrupt practices should accompany any enlargement of the constituency. The payment of the travelling expenses of voters, for instance, was one of the most insidious and prevalent forms of bribery, and it should be prevented. The Reform Bill which was introduced by the late Government a twelvemonth ago did contain some provisions which would have had that effect, because the system of voting papers would have removed all those opportunities of bribery and treating which were presented by the conveyance of electors to the polling places. It was now proposed, by giving the franchise to every £6 householder, to extend the area within which bribery might he exercised. He would not inquire whether voters of the poorer class were more liable to corruption than those belonging to a grade 1985 above them; but with regard to the municipal franchise, it appeared from the Report of a Committee of the other House that bribery and undue influences did prevail to a very large extent amongst those who were entitled to exercise the municipal franchise; yet it was now proposed to extend the suffrage in Parliamentary elections to that very class. He could show cases in which the influences created at the municipal elections, by the payment of ten shillings or some other small sum to voters upon those occasions, became afterwards the most insidious means of gathering parties together in the borough, and securing the votes of a certain class at the Parliamentary elections. He thought, therefore, that the noble Lord and the Home Secretary ought not merely to have assented to the Instruction moved by the bon. Member for West Norfolk, but should have pledged themselves to introduce, as part and parcel of the Bill, provisions for dealing with bribery and corruption. Before many days it was probable that the recommendations of a Committee of the House of Commons on the best means of putting down this great evil of electoral corruption would be laid before the House, and it would be right to take that subject into consideration. He would not, therefore, pledge himself to support this Reform Bill in its future stages, and he did not think this late period of the Session would admit of its being passed into law; but he would sincerely and entirely disclaim any disinclination to add to the existing constituency at least as large a number of persons as the noble Lord's Bill proposed to add to it, though he differed with the noble Lord ns to the means by which it should be done, and he thought the principle of selection would give a purer and better class of voters less liable to be acted upon by corrupt motives. He was quite willing to adopt a test of fitness, which would place the franchise in the hands of the most intelligent portion of the working classes.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he protested against the principle which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster bad seemed to lay down, that if the noble Lord agreed to the Motion, and the House adopted these Instructions, the Committee should only accept them with certain limitations. He demanded that these Instructions should go to the Committee without any limitation whatever, inasmuch as they related to a most important part of the present subject of 1986 legislation. In was in vain to talk of extending our electoral system, unless we first did something to purify it; the very first step, whether in moral or physical operations, must be to purify the elements with which we had to deal. He did not wish to deny that very honest voters might be found amongst persons in a low class of society; but there could be no doubt that the persons of that class who were open to corruption might be tempted by a bribe of much lower amount than those in a different social position, and this he said without meaning to cast any imputation upon their morality, as compared with other classes. The natural gradations of society found distinctions in themselves; and 5s. might bribe one man while £100 would not buy another. The whole subject had lately been exposed to the House in the case of those boroughs which had been shown to be stews of corruption. At the close of last Session the writ was moved for Berwick, when it must have been perfectly well known to hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench that there was a corrupt engagement between the two parties that one should vacate the seat and another should take it. He objected to the writ being issued, but if he had called for a division he should not have had a teller to go into the lobby with him. Corruption was encouraged on the Treasury bench, and every Government, formed from whichever side of the House it might be, was under the temptation to wink at transactions when they operated in its own favour. If it were really desired to extinguish corruption, the Members of peccant boroughs should be transferred to new constituencies, as was proposed in the case of East Retford. The noble Lord adopted that principle in his Bill of 1852, and it was the only way to obtain purity of election. It was the first stop which the ought to take, and therefore nothing could be more germane to the Committee than the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk. He required and demanded that it should have full operation as an Instruction to the Committee, and he disclaimed any participation in any understanding which would mitigate the responsibility of the Committee to give full effect to it.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) who was well-known and esteemed for his philanthropic views, had made an appeal which was rather an appeal to their charity than anything else. But he was inclined to take 1987 an uncharitable view of the appeal, and the j more so because the ban. Gentleman was one of those who last year bad the opportunity of doing that which he was afraid the hon. Member did pot do—namely, allow the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire to go into Committee. Considering the charitable view which the hon. Member takes of things, I think it was rather hard of him to seize this opportunity to deliver a body blow at the noble Lord's Bill; because be intimated that in Committee he should endeavour to raise the franchise above that which was proposed by the noble Lord.
§ MR. SLANEY
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not say it was my intention to do so, but that I could wish to see it done.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
believed the hon. Gentleman said he should like to see it done, which was very much the same thing. The whole argument of the hon. Member for the Flint burghs (Sir J. Hanmer) was also opposed to the Bill, which be well described as giving trouble to every one and satisfaction to no one. He was perfectly satisfied that nothing could be more honest than the intentions of the hon. Member for West Norfolk, and he could not conceive a more opportune moment for proposing such an Instruction. It was of the utmost importance that, if they passed a Reform Bill, they should introduce means to put down bribery. It was said that hon. Members on that side were taking this course merely for the sake of delay; but he wanted to know why hon. Members on that side were debarred from taking any constitutional course possible against a Bill to which they objected. The Bill was a very simple one, it was true, but it gave a preponderating power to one class of electors. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government said last year:—I feel quite as much as many do that you ought not, by admitting a large numerical majority of the least instructed part of the community, to swamp the better class of voters and overwhelm the fair influence of property and intelligence. I am ready to admit that it is not only ignorance that ought to be excluded from governing intelligence; but those who have no property ought not to be the persons to direct the legislation applicable to those who have property.He (Sir M. Farquhar) maintained that no speech could more strongly militate against this Bill. This Instruction was an endeavour to carry out the principles there laid down, and he should therefore give it his cordial support.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision therein for the bitter prevention of bribery and corruption at Elections.
§ MR. HASSARD
rose to move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee to frame and insert in the Bill a form of Oath in lieu of those now taken, to be taken by each Member of this House on taking his Seat, without any distinction as to religious denomination or profession.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It appears to me that the two Instructions, both of the hon. Member for Waterford and the hon. Member for Athlone, are equally out of order, and for a reason entirely different from that which I was obliged to assign in the previous cases. Those Instructions were out of order, because it was competent to the Committee to take the subjects of them into consideration without an Instruction; but the Instructions to which I now allude are out of order, because it would not be competent to the Committee to take the subject of them into consideration, even if these Instructions were agreed to. It is a rule of the House that all Bills and Motions relating to the oaths of Members must pass through a preliminary Committee of the Whole House, and be introduced afterwards on the Report of the Resolutions of that Committee. If it were attempted to introduce into this Bill in Committee a clause relating to the oaths of Members, it would be passing over that preliminary stage which this House has thought important, and indeed essential, in regard to this subject. I believe this to be a fatal objection to the proposal of both Instructions.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
asked, Whether it would be competent to move an Instruction to the Committee to insert in the Bill such provisions with reference to a new form of Oath to be taken by Members as should hereafter be agreed to in Committee of the Whole House, and reported to the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think it would be an irregular and inconvenient course to give the Committee a conditional power—a power to do something in the event of something else being done. It is entirely 1989 unnecessary, also; for if the proper steps are taken, if a Committee of the Whole House is appointed, and alterations in the oaths agreed to and reported, it would he competent then to move an Instruction to the Committee to insert such alteration in the Bill. As this can he done when the act has been effected, I would not recommend the House to take an anticipatory step.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I rise now to move that you do now leave the Chair; and in doing so I cannot refrain from noticing the objections which have been made, not only in this House but out of doors, to the provisions of the Bill; and I will also take the opportunity of stating what course the Government intend to pursue. In the first place I will answer the Question put to me by an hon. Gentleman on this side of the House a short time ago, whether it was the intention of the Government to proceed with the Scotch and Irish Bills in the course of the present Session. I said then that I could not give him an answer, at the moment, but that I would state the views of the Government on a future occasion. I now say that considering that, according to our opinion, the English Bill should go into Committee, and a settlement of the franchise be agreed on and assented to by the House before these two other Bills are proceeded with, we cannot expect that either the Irish or the Scotch Bill could be proceeded with in the course of the present Session. As regards Scotland and Ireland, therefore, the series of measures we have proposed for a reform in the representation would he incomplete. But that does not seem to be any reason for not proceeding with the Bill which stands for Committee to-night. Well, Sir, with regard to this Bill, I must state the position of the Government and of the House in respect to it; and in doing so I do not intend to state the position of either one side of the House or the other, nor to make any reproach to the other side of the House with regard to their conduct on this Bill; but I will simply state the position of the House generally, including both sides. In doing so, I wish seriously to call the attention of the House to the subject, be cause, if the character of the Government is involved in the measure which they have introduced and in their lime of introducing it, the character of the House is also implicated in the mode in which they deal with it. There are two different questions arising in regard to the Bill; first, as to its substance; and next, as to the time at 1990 which we propose to go into Committee on it. With regard to the substance of the measure, I will only mention one point; but it is the point on which during the debates on the second reading almost all the objections taken to the Bill, and all the descriptions of it as a measure destructive of property, giving ignorance power over intelligence, and tending to create confusion in our representative system, were based. What I speak of is the borough franchise, and that franchise, without now going into the rate at which it is proposed to fix it, is intended to give the right of voting and certainly greater power in the representation to the working classes. Now to that proposition various objections have been made. It must be admitted, without entering into what was done in 1832, that at the present time very few persons belonging to the working classes have the right of voting. In the debate last year an hon. Gentleman, now the Member for the West Riding (Mr. F. Crossley), stated that though he had many men in his employment—men of great intelligence, householders, in whom he had great confidence—not one of them bad the right of voting. Similar statements have been made in debate in the course of the present year. Is the objection to this Bill, then, that some of the working classes would be admitted, or that it would give them overwhelming power over the rest of the community, and thereby an undue influence over property? With regard to the first objection, so long ago as 1852 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks stated that he was glad—I do not quote from Hansard, but I have the passage perfectly in my memory—that I admitted that the' working classes ought to have the franchise. Again, when we were discussing the measure of last year, the Motion which was submitted by me to the late House of Commons and carried by a majority, in the first place objected to the proposed transfer from the counties to the boroughs of the county freeholders, and in the next place, to the non-reduction of the borough franchise—that is to say, to the non-admission of the working classes. When the Parliament was dissolved upon that vote, on our return here the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks stated, in words which I have quoted on a former occasion, that the Government to which he belonged, and of which he was the organ, agreed that the country had made up its mind that there should he a reduction of the borough franchise, and that they were 1991 prepared to assent to such a reduction, accompanied with such provisions as would guard the safety of our institutions. The right hon. Gentleman spoke, and I hope he still speaks, as the organ of the great party opposite; though I have seen it stated—and I have seen it in print—that the right hon. Gentleman has no longer the confidence of that great party. [Cries of "No, no!"] I have seen it in print, and I will state where I have seen it; I read it the other day in a periodical which is supposed to be the organ of the Conservative party—I happened to be coming into town, and I read it in The Quarterly Review. There was great abuse of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I was not surprised at that. There was great abuse of myself, and a number of motives were invented for me by this obscure writer. I was not surprised at this, either. But, as I read on, I was very much surprised, for I found that this organ of the Conservative party declared that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, to whom certain faults were imputed, was unworthy of the confidence of the great party of which he is the head. ["No, no!"] I quite agree with the expression of dissent from that opinion, because the right hon. Gentleman has won his way to the high position which he holds by his great ability in the conduct of public affairs; and, whenever it has been his fortune to pass from that side of the House to this, and to lead the House, his management of business has shown that he was fully equal to the discharge of the high functions entailed by his position. Therefore, I may take notice of the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman as one who has long possessed, and who still possesses, the confidence of that great Conservative party. [Cheers.] Then, I say, with regard to the question whether or no any of the working classes should have the franchise, and whether there should be a reduction of the borough franchise for that purpose, we have not only the affirmation of the Liberal majority of the last Parliament, but we have the consent and co-operation of the right hon. Gentleman the organ of the party which last year sat on the Government benches. Well, we have proceeded in this direction. The present Government have introduced a Bill which they thought did not carry the franchise lower than it ought to be placed. We may be told—you may decide—that we have had too much confidence in the in- 1992 telligence, too much faith in the integrity, of the classes who live in houses at a moderate rent, That you may say; but it is not a question of principle; it is only a question of degree. And, indeed, if you dissented altogether from the reduction of the franchise, if you thought on principle that there ought to be no reduction, it is quite clear that you should have opposed the second reading of this Bill. You did not do so; and, therefore, I conclude that you are ready to consider the question of the reduction of the franchise, and how far it should go. And, consequently, I think I am justified in asking both sides of the House to go into Committee; because, the principle being admitted, the next point is, to what extent should that principle be carried? I stated that, after mature deliberation, we had proposed the franchise contained in the Bill. I have since heard many objections to that franchise. I have heard it said that it would quite overwhelm property and intelligence. That again is a question for Committee. And this I will say, that, if you will propose any of the measures that have been mentioned this evening either for raising the franchise by making it a rating instead of a rental franchise, or by increasing the amount of the rental, or in another way that has been pointed out, by admitting a great number of voters who are distinguished by property, or by a high degree of knowledge from those belonging to the working classes, any proposition of the kind shall be fairly considered by us in Committee. We certainly shall not declare ourselves so completely wedded to the franchise which we have put forward that we will not submit to treat on the subject. If, in Committee, such a proposal as I have alluded to be made, and if the House should prefer it to that which we have originated, it will be our duty to sec whether the Bill with such an alteration would be a valuable measure, whether it would extend the franchise in a manner that would strengthen the institutions of the country; and, in that case, though we might not think it a change for the better, we should be ready to adopt that alteration. I will not speak—there is no necessity to speak—of other parts of the Bill; there is certainly no need to refer to the county franchise, which, of course, would greatly depend on the opinion held by this House, with regard to the extent of reduction in the borough franchise. I will only say that I think we are in a position to go into Committee on the Bill, and 1993 to decide this important question. If you objected altogether to the reduction, it was your duty to have opposed the second reading, and you should have refused to name a day for the committal of the Bill; but, having agreed, without opposition, that the Bill should be read a second time, it is now the duty of the House of Commons to consider in Committee the particular proposals which the Government is to submit. I will take the first objection which has been urged—with regard to the time at which this Bill is brought forward. Notice has been given of other Amendments, but the objection to which I particularly allude is one taken by an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Mackinnon), whom I understand to contend—That in order to obtain a safe and effective reform, it would be inexpedient and unjust to proceed further with the proposed legislative measure for the representation of the people until the House has before it the results of the Census authorized by the Bill now under consideration.I must say that, without imputing to any hon. Member a desire for mere delay, I can -not reconcile that Motion with any wish to pass a Bill for the extension of the franchise within a reasonable period. The Census will be taken in 1861, but it can hardly be before the House in a full shape before the end of the Session of 1862. This is, therefore, to propose that we should not undertake a settlement of the Reform question for the next three years, whatever might be the circumstances, whatever demands might be made, however strong might be the feeling that there ought to be an Amendment in the representation. Why, that is a proposal to put it off for ever—nobody could understand it to be otherwise. And on what excuse is this proposition founded? I have spoken of the objections that Gentlemen have entertained to the borough franchise. Now, I may say the exceptions taken to the borough franchise do, in fact, comprehend all the salient objections to the Bill. During the six nights debate on the second reading of this measure those were the questions that were raised, those were the objections that were entertained—I am not imputing now that they were not very sincerely entertained—but how does the Census of 1861 bear on the discussion? We have returns—you say that you find fault with them—but we have returns up to the year 1858 which do not depend on the Census of 1851, but which are dependent on the rate-books of the year 1858, and which you might have for any time, even to a later 1994 period. Therefore, that question, which is the one mainly in dispute, has nothing to do with the Census of 1861; and it is a mere evasion of an obligation, it is merely putting off, on a very hollow pretence, that which is really the question before the House. I will say—and can any man contradict me?—that neither the £6 franchise for boroughs, nor the £10 franchise for counties, are in any way affected by the Census. You may say that a £6 householder is too poor, that he is ignorant, that is too likely to be bribed. When you have all the volumes of 1861, and a precise enumeration of persons, and the number of men, women, and children in every house in every parish, you will be no wiser as to the character of £6 and £10 householders than you are now. There is only one part of the Bill that it does affect—a portion of the Bill which it has been said, and with very great truth, does not much alter the question, and is capable of being argued at one side or the other—I allude to the redistribution of seats. We have taken a certain number of seats from places containing less than 7,000 inhabitants—not because the number of 7,000 is absolutely, geometrically, and arithmetically necessary in order to entitle a borough to return two Members, any more than, according to the Bill proposed last year by the Government which then sat on these benches, the number of 6,000 was necessary to entitle a borough to send two Members to Parliament; but we said it is desirable that places with a very large population which are insufficiently represented should return some of those Members now elected by boroughs which are at the bottom of the scale. There may be a transposition of one or two of these boroughs, but no one can alter their position in fact—these are the boroughs which have the smallest populations and are of the smallest importance. It may be that one will be able to show that its population has risen, while another has fallen off to the extent of 500 below the number named, and by waiting till 1863 we may arrive at a knowledge of that curious fact as relates to some particular borough; but as regards the general interests of the country—as regards the great question of representation—as regards Yorkshire, Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham—such questions have no importance in themselves, and in the eyes of men who wish to deal with the subject of Reform can hardly be made a ground for postponing this Bill for three years. I 1995 wish to view these questions with reference to the character of the House of Commons, I nm speaking to this point not with any reference to the opponents of the present Government, as if they were bringing forward questions with a view to delay, for the proposition to which I am referring is brought forward by a supporter of the Government. But I put it to the House of Commons as a serious question for them to consider. If they think this a dangerous and revolutionary Bill, they may say that they do not think it is their duty to entertain it further, and in so doing they would come to a clear and deliberate conclusion. But if they say that having given a second reading to this Bill, having nominally entertained it and professedly given consideration to it, they will now put it off on the paltry pretence that three years hence we shall have more information on the subject, nobody will believe in the sincerity of the assertion. I come now to other excuses with regard to time which I have seen put forth. One of these is that it is now the 4th of June, and too late to enter into the consideration of this measure, because we have the remaining Estimates for the year to discuss. If this were a question of the Army or Navy Estimates I could under stand the objection, because they certainly are Estimates of very grave importance; but when it has reference to the Miscellaneous Estimates I cannot conceive, when we have a measure of such supreme national importance before the House as that involved in the representation of the people—for even those who oppose it must admit its importance—I cannot conceive how it should be pretended that there is such need for haste in the consideration of those Estimates that we cannot, in consequence, proceed with the Amendment of the representation of the people. Recollecting, partly, what has passed in former years, I looked into the record of our proceedings to see what were the times when, no dissolution of Parliament having taken place, this House has usually considered the Miscellaneous Estimates; and I found that in 1851 they were considered on the 7th, 11th, 14th, and 17th of July; that in 1853 they were considered on the 4th, 5th, and 8ih of August; that in 1854 they were considered on the 3rd, 6th, 7th, 24th, 25th, 27th, and 31st of July; in 1855, on the 26th, 30th, and 31st of July, and 1st and 2nd of August; and in 1858, on the 5th, 8th. 9th, 12th, 14th, and 15th of July. Such, therefore, has been the custom of 1996 the House of Commons for six or seven years, when there was no dissolution of Parliament. It may be urged that in several of those years there were measures of such supreme importance before the louse, that it was agreed on account of them to put the Miscellaneous Estimates off for a time. But it is quite clear that though those Miscellaneous Estimates furnish very interesting occasions of discussion—though they very often give rise to interesting debates on education in Great Britain, and education in Ireland, on questions of religious liberty and endowments connected with the Regium Donum, on the administration of criminal justice, and the application of the fine arts to the Houses of Parliament, and other matters of a similar kind—yet it has not been in the power or the inclination of the House very much to reduce these Estimates. I remember that once, indeed, the House refused permission to the Crown to purchase two pictures of Sir Edwin Landseer's—admirable pictures of animals, which, no doubt, were very desirable for the decoration and adornment of the House of Lords. On another occasion the House refused to sanction the salary that was paid to a gentleman who was sent abroad by the trustees of the National Gallery to choose pictures. But the practice of the House has been to pass the Miscellaneous Estimates without any reduction; and I think if I were to appraise the economy effected in Committees of the House during the last few years at £2000 a year, I should be exaggerating. Then, how can I believe that all of a sudden there has sprung up such a desire for economy, that such a spirit of reduction and retrenchment has seized upon the House that the Reform Bill cannot be proceeded with, because the Miscellaneous Estimates have to be considered? I am told that in the last year or two there has been a change made by which there is not such a large surplus left as used to be in the hands of the Government, to be applied to the Civil Service at the end of July, or the beginning of August, without taking any vote; and, therefore, it might be necessary for the Secretary to the Treasury, as he did the other day, to ask from time to time for a Vote on account. But that is a question of detail, which it is not now necessary to consider. I say again, as I said with regard to the Census, that if this House were to determine, from a sudden zeal, to reduce the Civil Service Estimates, or to discuss such questions as the fine 1997 arts or education in Ireland, that they would not consider this Bill till the Month of August, then I believe that the sincerity of the House would be much distrusted, that the country would not believe in this sudden zeal for retrenchment; but that it would attribute the course they had taken to a desire to get rid of the Bill without having the manliness to do so by a direct vote. With regard to the time at which we have arrived, I have to say that we are now at the beginning of June. The Session generally goes on till the beginning, the middle and sometimes to the end of August. There is no reason why there should be an earlier prorogation this year than usual. There is no time positively fixed for prorogation. We are not, like the American Congress, under the necessity of proroguing on a certain day; and if we have important business before us—business that it is desirable to settle—there is no reason why we should not do so. Why the House of Lords should not undertake that, I do not see. They have undertaken many measures of importance at the same time at which they may receive this Bill; and I do not see why they should not receive it at a period when it would be possible for them to arrive at a decision regarding it. I have thus stated the reasons why I think the House should go into Committee on this Bill. Let me remind the House that it is uncertain at what other period you would be able again to bring forward this measure. You have decided to give the Bill a second reading after six nights' debate. If it were brought on in another Session, you would have to go through the second reading again, and hear all those arguments over again; probably with much the same result. That would be a consumption of the time of the House, and a very unnecessary delay of the measure. But who can insure that you shall have a fit occasion on which the question might be raised. Who can answer for the state of the public mind or the altered condition of the times? You might have, as we have now, a time of tranquillity at home, and also of peace with all the nations of Europe; but you might have a period of commercial distress at home, and war threatening us abroad, when men would be loth to enter into questions of this kind, and when, certainly, yen would not be able to give them calm and deliberate consideration. If you can make up your minds as to what the franchise should be; if you can either adopt the proposition of the Go- 1998 vernment, or some oilier proposition that would seem to be wiser, and better fitted to improve the representation with safety to your institutions—then, I say, is is for you calmly to consider whether or not you ought to come to n decision now. We have done our duty in bringing the question before you; and it is for you to deal with it and dispose of it. Do not forget, likewise, that the language used with regard to the £6 householders, and with regard to the poorest of those who by means of it may come to have the franchise, has been such as may in a time of prosperity be lightly passed by, but that it may come back to the memory in a time of commercial distress, and may well cause irritation. I have alluded to an article in a periodical which is generally supposed to represent the great party opposite; and this is the way in which they speak of those who may be enfranchised by this Bill:—Some say that the publicans will be our masters; others declare that it will be the Trades Unions. It is a blessed choice between debauchery and crime.That is language which is likely enough to sink into the minds of the people. I believe that among the working classes many are to be found possessing greater intelligence and equal integrity with householders of £10 a year, many of whom are beer-shop keepers and small shopkeepers. What will they think if we debate this Bill upon the question, "Whether we shall be governed by debauchery or crime?" Can such insulting language be expected to produce no effect? If you enter upon the consideration of this Bill, and settle what your franchise shall be—extend it as you please—it will have a composing effect, and will tend to satisfy the country that you have fairly considered this subject; but if you leave the question with the declamation that took place on the second reading—erroneous as that declamation was—depend upon it you will dig a trench between the working classes and the richer classes, which you will afterwards repent. I therefore ask the House anxiously and earnestly to go into Committee upon this Bill, and examine its provisions carefully and narrowly. If you think its provisions are rash, insert safer provisions; but do not attempt, with such a question before us, either to evade or conceal its importance; for if you do you will produce a feeling of doubt as to your sincerity, and sacrifice all respect for your decisions. I move, Sir, that you do now leave the chair.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I am not surprised that the noble Lord should have seized this occasion, after the preliminary discussions we have had, to take a general review of those discussions, and to attempt to meet some of the objections that have been raised. In the few remarks that I shall make, I hope I shall do so in the same candid spirit as that in which the noble Lord has addressed the House. It appears to me that the noble Lord has occupied half the time devoted to his observations to giving reasons why the Conservative party should have consented to the second reading of his Bill, and then to complaining of the Conservative party for having allowed the second reading to pass. The noble Lord has stated accurately enough—and if not with perfect accuracy in no spirit of unfairness, I am confident, but perhaps from his being misled by the interval that has elapsed since the casual observations I made respecting the franchise and the working classes—he has stated to the House that so long ago as 1852, I being then a Minister of the Crown, expressed my opinion that if a measure of Reform were again brought forward—the noble Lord having recently failed in one of his attempts—that it was much to be regretted that both in the measure of 1832, and in subsequent measures of the noble Lord's, the fair claims of the working classes had not been considered. That is not an opinion that I expressed in 1852 only, or which the great body of Gentlemen on this side of the House professed on that occasion solely. That has always been our opinion, and I think in 1859, although there may be a difference respecting the mode and means by which we endeavoured to carry that view into effect, there is no one doubts the sincerity of our attempt to give in some degree a direct representation to the working classes by the measure we then proposed. The noble Lord also states that, after the last general election, I, on the part of the Conservative Government and my political friends generally, recognized that the verdict of the country must be taken as one in favour of some reduction of the franchise in boroughs. I am not aware that any one on this side of the House wishes to shrink from that opinion. But the inference that the noble Lord has drawn from these circumstances appears to me to be rather in- 2000 consequential. It may or it may not be a necessary deduction from all that has passed that we should vote for the second reading of this Bill for the representation of the people; but it is not one of the necessary consequences of those opinions or of those pledges, that we should approve of the policy of the noble Lord in this matter, or of the mode in which he has attempted to carry that policy into effect. Assenting to the general principle of the measure, we did not oppose the second reading; but when the noble Lord says all the rest is matter of detail, he has quite forgotten that he came forward on the earliest occasion when he introduced this measure in a spirit very different from that by which any Minister had before been animated with reference to this question, and pursued a line of reasoning very different from that which had been adopted on any previous occasion. The noble Lord came forward and introduced a Bill for the amendment of the representation of the people of this House, and recommended it for adoption as being founded on the principle of numbers. Having laid down that principle, he very properly said—"Documents shall be placed in your hands from which you will be able to collect an opinion as to the data on which the policy of the Government is founded, and sanctioned, and recommended." The noble Lord cannot pretend that the accuracy of these estimates has not been gravely impugned; he cannot pretend that the objections to their accuracy are not of a weighty description. He cannot forget that, in "another place," the question has been considered so important as that the labours of an eminent Committee have been unceasingly given in order to arrive at the truth upon this subject; and if we are to believe general rumour, the result of their investigation is in accordance with that generally and widely circulated opinion which the people of this country generally entertain upon the subject. But while the policy of the noble Lord depended on these facts—the policy of the noble Lord being that of entrusting political power to a certain number, and being the first Statesman who ever came forward in this House and said we ought to lay down such a rule. The statements of the noble Lord being not only suspected but impugned—he cannot be surprised that Gentlemen on both sides of the House, although willing to consider the question of the Amendment of the representation of the people—though 2001 they may be ready and desirous to a certain extent that all classes in the country should be directly represented in this House—still, at the same time, should recoil with apprehension from a measure which is, perhaps, founded upon grave inaccuracies, and upon statements which, if incorrect and acted upon, may entail upon the country the gravest consequences. So far with reference to the general observations of the noble Lord with respect to the opinions of those who sit on this side of the House, and on the apparent inconsistency in their conduct. I think the noble Lord failed in that—failed in succeeding to establish any inconsistency. We accept and adopt that which we have always professed; we are not the enemies of the working classes. I think we have shown that often and I think the general policy of the Tory party, as it is termed, has been one not unfavourable to the interests of the working classes. But feeling that the political franchise is not be considered as the privilege of a class, but as one to be exercised for the benefit of the country—we have to consider when a class is brought forward as claiming the franchise, not merely whether they shall enjoy the personal privilege, but whether that privilege shall be enjoyed to such a degree that it shall give that class a preponderating power contrary to the general interests. Therefore, so far as the observations with which the noble Lord prefaced his remarks are concerned, I do not think he succeeded in establishing any fair cause of complaint against Gentlemen sitting on this side on account of their Parliamentary conduct in this respect. If it be a matter of complaint by the noble Lord that the most important measure a statesman can bring forward in this country—one which affects the depository of power has been severely, and perhaps, completely examined, I am sure the noble Lord must feel that there have been on his own measure, and on his own side, critics as keen, as able, as eloquent, and as assiduous as any on this opposite bench. I could understand the tone of the noble Lord if he were about to fulfil the important programme with which he commenced the Session. I could understand the noble Lord if, remembering the late period of the Session, and the objections to proceeding with the measure at the present moment, the noble Lord were to say, "Gentlemen may urge these as exceptions to my conduct, and argue that the time and season are no longer fair and opportune; but I, on the part of my Col- 2002 leagues, give my assent to the great policy we have recommended. All your objections are of a trifling character in comparison with our convictions of the importance of our policy; and whatever may be the convenience or inconvenience to the House, or the menacing features of the times, we still believe that this is a policy of a vital character, that ought to be pursued and carried, and, whether or not the Parliamentary Session be continued without prorogation for six months longer, carry it we will." That, however, is not what the noble Lord has said; but he talks of the paltry objections which have been made to his measure, and of the paltry course of conduct pursued in the House in regard to it. But what does the noble Lord himself do? Parliament is to be reformed, and he commences the Session by introducing three measures of Parliamentary Reform. The representation of England, of Ireland, and of Scotland are all to be amended. The representation of England, however, is to be the model representation, in accordance with which the others are to be fashioned; and the noble Lord is stern and stiff as to the conditions upon which this Amendment of the representation of the country is to be accomplished. The noble Lord remembers very well that, when in opposition, he gave a programme upon which he claimed a verdict from Parliament which led to its dissolution, and which forced the country somewhat against its will to what probably was a premature decision, speaking under the responsibility of an expectant Minister, he defined the franchise on which he called for a verdict from Parliament and an opinion from the country. But what have we heard to-night? That two of the three Reform Bills are to be given up! And that, with regard to the other, the House may do what it likes with the franchise! Thus the high policy which destroyed a Ministry and dissolved a Parliament has melted away! He will accept anything, if the House will but agree to something that may shuffle this great impediment to progress out of the course. Anything the House will settle by the end of the Session will be accepted by the Government! Well, that may be very discreet; it may be a very wise course for the noble Lord, in his present position, to give these moderate counsels and make these temperate offers; but, I ask, is this the Minister who ought to talk of "paltry" behaviour on the part of the House of 2003 Commons? Having just occupied such a position, and made such an address as the noble Lord has done, while all that has occurred is still fresh in the memory of Parliament and the country, is this the Minister who should regard the conduct of this House as "paltry?" The House listened, I am sure, with no hostile feeling while, calmly and in well-selected words, the noble Lord stated the course he intends to take; but every one must have felt that the policy he has recommended to-night offers a strange contrast to the policy he recommended from this bench with respect to Parliamentary Reform. And the tone and temper with which this measure was brought before us when the House first met, contrasted with that of the statement made by the noble Lord to-night, must not be looked on merely in relation to the convenience of the Minister, or as a mere consequence of the party conflicts of this House. The question is too great and has too deep an interest for such considerations. The noble Lord, after all his fanfarronade in Opposition, after having fully matured his scheme, in the responsible position of a Minister of the Crown, comes forward to-night and proposes that we should reconstruct the whole constituency of England, totally omitting the consideration of the constituencies of the two sister kingdoms. To say nothing else of it—is this a constitutional course? I will not say it is a "paltry" course, but certainly it is a way of cutting the Gordian knot which I think the House, on reflection, will hardly sanction or admire. We have always heard, when this question of Parliamentary Reform was brought for ward, that the Bills reconstructing and revising the constituency of the three kingdoms should proceed pari passu; and that there were sound constitutional reasons for such a course in 1832 no one can dispute. But of late years other questions have arisen. We have had claims by Members for Scotland and by Members from Ireland for a greater share in the representation to those countries. We have always told them that the proportion of Members could not be settled in a manner satisfactory to us without taking the claims of English constituencies into consideration. What will Members from Ireland and Scotland say now, when they are told that the question of the representation of England is to be decided in this month of June, 1860, and that the revision and 2004 resettlement of their constituent bodies is to be postponed certainly for another year? What will become of their claims for an increased representation? I give no opinion on those claims now—it is unnecessary. But I must remind the House that no Gentleman from Ireland or from Scotland will be able to urge such claims with any effect when the question of the English representation has once been settled to the satisfaction of this country. Suppose, notwithstanding the tranquil state of public affairs,—and certainly we have a description of the present state of things which, coming from the lips of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, must be considered most encouraging—suppose the tranquil state of affairs happens to be changed in the course of next year, what then would be the situation of Gentlemen from Scotland and from Ireland? It may be most inconvenient—nay, it may be impossible—to amend the representation of Ireland and Scotland next year. Notwithstanding the all-pervading tranquillity of Europe, the noble Lord may find troubles next year which may so absorb and engross public attention, and so monopolize the care and watchfulness of the Government—especially of the statesman who occupies the office which the noble Lord now fills—that we may not find time to amend the Representation of Ireland and Scotland. Well, and what are you going to do with the amended representation of England? Do you mean to appeal in the interval to that revised constituent body? Are we to have a partial dissolution of Parliament? Are the Members of Parliament for England, elected by the new constituency to meet here the Members for Ireland and Scotland elected by the old? Or, in the midst of your difficulties, will you seek to avoid this embarrassing state of affairs by having no dissolution whatever? What, then will be our position? We who represent England will sit here in a condemned Parliament. Session after Session, year after year, we shall have large bodies of our countrymen saying—"That man calls himself the Member for Buckinghamshire. I have a vote in the election of Members of Parliament, but I never voted for him; and he has no right to be there!" Though I can, perhaps, bear such a test as well as most, I can well conceive a state of things that might be very embarrassing to some hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House. When is this to happen, and at what time is it that Parliament is to be placed in so uncertain 2005 and inconvenient a position? I cannot agree with the noble Lord in that sanguine view, which, animated by his faithful adherence to the principles of Parliamentary Reform, he has to-night taken of the prospects of the country. I am not and I never have been an alarmist. I know it is possible to exaggerate danger, and that exaggeration of danger is as likely to lead to a depression of public feeling, as it may sometimes induce a high and patriotic tune of mind; but taking the calmest and gravest view of public affairs, I think I am justified in saying that much is going on that may, and should, excite the anxiety and engross the attention of the country. Is this, then, a period when Parliament should be left in the dislocated state in which the plan—for I cannot call it the policy—of the noble Lord contemplates leaving it? I cannot believe that on calm reflection the House can sanction the policy of dealing with the representation of England, without at the same time dealing with the representation of the sister kingdoms. I cannot believe that the House will run the chance of leaving the representation of England condemned as a Legislature with the prospect of meeting next year in the midst of immense danger, and amid all those circumstances which will require that the country should look up to us with respect and confidence, which cannot be if an Act passes both Houses declaring that the representatives of England are not competent to the performance of their duties, and are not worthy of public confidence. This is a grave position. The noble Lord has come forward to-night, not to make a mere ordinary observation on going into Committee of Supply, but to announce a policy in dealing with these measures which will startle the whole country. He has made an announcement which, in a constitutional, in a national point of view, is one of the gravest announcements ever made to Parliament—namely, that we should reform the representation of England without any security that the representation of Ireland and Scotland shall be reformed. Such a proposition has never before been made to Parliament by any Minister. Is there anything urgent that we should pursue so unprecedented, so indecorous a course? On the contrary, the noble Lord, even at this immense price, does not contemplate accomplishing the policy which he recommends. Whatever he has said respecting the working classes, he has no conviction of the ab- 2006 solute and Imperial necessity of the measure which he originally brought forward; nor has he any conviction that if it were carried it would accomplish and fulfil its purpose. What does he tell us? "If you do not like this, for God's sake, propose something else, and I give you to understand that your proposition will be received by the Government in a candid and fair spirit." What does that mean? It means that the Government have no settled policy whatever which they intend to carry out. Giving up Ireland, giving up Scotland, coining to the Members for England and asking them to place themselves in the despicable position described, calling upon the House to legislate in this scrambling fashion—all this proves that there is no conviction of the necessity of this measure, no confidence in its provisions. It shows that the noble Lord, from the first exercising a fatal influence—as I told him when I sat opposite to him, and he occupied these (the Opposition) benches—exercising a sinister influence on the fortunes of his party and on his own reputation, was induced to recommend a policy in Opposition which it is impossible for him to accomplish as a Minister. It shows that the noble Lord is hazarding the safety of the country, in order, not that he may realize a fair reputation, but that he may terminate the question in a manner nothing dignified, and which is hardly respectable, by recognizing that in Opposition he was exempted to pursue an unwise, immature, and—I will now say—even a factious policy. Then the noble Lord turns round with what I should have thought was mock indignation to one of his supporters, who had absolutely been so presumptuous as to conceive some decent means to extricate himself and his colleagues from the painful position they occupy. One hon. Gentleman thinks it would be just as well that we should wait till we have accurate, authoritative information as to the number of the population. This the noble Lord thinks paltry, compared with his own conduct. Why, the noble Lord has virtually confessed to-night that he is prepared to give up the marrow of his Bill, that he is prepared to change the rate of franchise which when in Opposition he laid down as indispensable; and with what face or reason can the statesman who brings forward a measure for amending the representation of the people, and who founds his measure on the principle of numbers, turn round and reproach his supporter for saying, "If this be the 2007 principle on which your measure is to be based, let us at least take care that we have the most ample, the most authentic, as well as the most novel and recent information on the subject?" I make these comments on the remarks of the noble Lord. I think they are fair and just comments. Yielding none of the opinions which I have ever expressed in this House upon Parliamentary Reform—believing, as I hope I may, that upon this subject, the Quarterly Review notwithstanding, I am expressing the opinions of Gentlemen around me—I am not afraid to say that I think it most impolitic at this moment to attempt a settlement such as that projected by the noble Lord. If, indeed, the noble Lord had the power to deal comprehensively and completely with this question—if he came forward and said, "I have here a comprehensive policy for England, for Ireland, and for Scotland, and the principles and conditions upon which we propose the power should be allotted in these countries have been long considered and deeply matured; by them we are prepared to stand or fall; and even perhaps with impending war and impending revolution we feel that such a policy will strengthen the commonwealth, increase the public courage, and animate the public spirit of England"—in that case we might deem the noble Lord and his colleagues rash; we might think them ill-advised; we might regard the occasion as full of danger; but all must admit that this would be the policy, assured and determined, of eminent men, such as they undoubtedly are, and that, if not entitled to adoption, it would at least command respect. But when, in a moment of undoubted danger, when at a period of almost certain peril, the noble Lord comes forward after all with no policy, with a compromise which, to use his own epithet, I must, indeed, call "paltry," I see no safety in such a course, I recognize no security in such proceedings; but I feel that at a time when this House should stand high and the country should be united, we are recommended to take a course which will enfeeble the one and may dishonour the other.
rose, pursuant to notice, to move a Resolution that, in order to obtain a safe and effective reform, it would be unjust and inexpedient to proceed with the proposed legislative measure for the representation of the people until the House had before it the result of the Census authorized by the Bill now under its con- 2008 sideration. He was fully sensible of the importance of the question now under the consideration of the House; having been so long a supporter of a Liberal Government, he was aware the situation in which he was placed was an extremely awkward one; he, therefore, felt it to be his duty to state to the House the reasons that induced him to take the course which he was about to adopt. He might add that he had given notice of his Motion without any communication with Her Majesty's Ministers. He had for the last ten years conscientiously given all the aid in his power to the policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government in the hour as well of his adversity as of his prosperity, while during that period he had never received at the hands of the noble Lord a single favour either for himself or for any member of his family. It was with some reluctance, then, being, as he was, a general supporter of the policy of the present Government, that he felt called upon to make the present Motion. He did so, however, in the belief that the measure was not popular in the House or in the country, and not because he entertained any objection to it on personal grounds; for neither his own seat, nor that of a near connection of his, would, he believed, be at all endangered by it passing into a law. It was, he might add, a somewhat singular fact that a Motion, such as that to which he was now about to ask the House to assent, he had himself made in reference to the Re form Bill of 1831. In submitting that Motion to the House in his maiden speech in the July of that year, he contended that it was not expedient that the House should proceed with the Reform Bill then under its notice until the Census of 1831 had been taken. The Motion was rejected; but, in considering the cause of that rejection, it must not be forgotten that the cry at the time was, with respect to Reform, "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill;" and that almost every person who was returned to that House stood pledged on the subject. Yet, notwithstanding that state of things, his Motion was defeated in a full House only by a majority of 74. What, let him ask, followed? The Bill was not passed that year; and the next year the Census he advised in his Motion was actually taken. Now, he should wish hon. Members for a moment to consider the different position in which the question of Reform at present stood as compared with the year 1831. In 2009 that year the country was mad for Reform, and the middle classes were determined to put down the system of boroughmongery. At the present day the state of public opinion, to the progress of which he had paid the utmost attention, afforded a marked contrast on the subject. Some few of the upper classes at present were, perhaps, disposed to wish to see the county franchise lowered to £6. The middle class, which was most influential, was against this Bill, for the simple reason that they were likely through it to be swamped by numbers. If one in a hundred among the middle class could be found in favour of the measure, that was the largest proportion. Then what necessity was there to push on the Bill at railway speed before the Census of 1861 was obtained? In Marylebone, where he resided, a vast amount of wealth and population had been created since the last Census, and yet it was proposed, in reference to the Reform Bill, to pass over the great increase which had taken place in the prosperity of the country, and to go back to the Census of 1851. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. James) had distinctly stated that, if the present Bill was passed in this year, another Bill must be passed in the next. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had also distinctly declared that he was not satisfied with the present Bill, but regarded it as a stepping-stone to another, being resolved to take all he could, and then to get more. The Reform Act did not pass until after the Census of 1831, and at that time the country was anxious for the measure; but now it was proposed to pass the present Bill before the Census of 1861, though the country did not care a farthing for it. Could anything be more absurd? Now, with regard to the lower classes, what was their opinion about the measure? They had little or no opinion on the subject. He happened to know something of the working classes, having for two successive Sessions been the Chairman of the Committee for considering the state of the law between masters and operatives, and in consequence he had obtained some insight into the feelings of the lower classes, and he could honestly and conscientiously say that the lower classes—he was speaking of the operatives, who had very great power in this country—were by no means anxious for the Bill. It might be said that this was mere assertion, but he would prove it. He had had the opportunity of speaking very often to the per- 2010 sons forming Committees of working people throughout the country, and among the working classes were to be found men who, though of no great education, were of extremely strong minds. He would read a letter from one of those individuals, a member of the Executive Committee of the National Association of United Trades in London, whom he told to express honestly and candidly his own opinion and the opinions of his fellow workmen, observing that the writer would get into disgrace with them, when his letter should; be published, if it did not state the circumstances truly and fairly. The letter was dated the 16th April, 1860, and was as follows:—Sir,—Seeing the use which some parties seem desirous to make of the working classes in order to secure the passing of the Reform Bill of Lord John Russell, allow me, however, to assure you that as far as I am able to judge of their feeling on the matter, they are perfectly indifferent about it, and, for all the excitement or agitation that exists, there might be no such measure before the country. In London, if there is any feeling at all upon the matter, it is rather against than in favour of the Bill, because it entirely and intentionally excludes the most thoughtful, sober, and intelligent portion of mechanics from its operation, simply from their inability to do more than occupy apartments, though many of them pay £15 or £20 a year rent. A Reform Bill which purposely excludes this portion of the people from its operation cannot be very captivating to them, and therefore the House of Commons need not be surprised at the evident apathy and indifference of the working classes to Lord John's little Bill; nay, further, their very silence is not perhaps so much indifference as it is positively contempt for the measure; but, whether or not, they are evidently indifferent whether the Bill becomes law or whether it follows the fate of its predecessors. The only demonstration held by the working classes arising out of the Bill was that held in Hyde Park on Sunday, April 15, when it was denounced in no very complimentary terms as a sham, a delusion, and a snare, and other terms not very flattering. There is another point to which I wish to draw your attention, and that is the appeal of Mr. Bright to trades' unions, to send delegates to meet in London and so to bring a working-class power to bear upon Parliament. This, however, is a vain and empty appeal, which Mr. Bright knew very well, if he knew anything of trades' unions, that in every one of which, in every part of the country, political questions of every shade and complexion are most rigidly excluded, and for this reason—if political questions were permitted to form a part of trades' unions, their discussions would load to dissension, dissension to dissolution—a consummation which would no doubt be highly gratifying to the hon. Member for Birmingham, but which would be regarded by the working classes as a great calamity. This being the case, you may depend there is no danger of trades1 unions responding to Mr. Bright's appeal. It is the same with regard to the various friendly and benefit societies of the country. The hundreds of thou- 2011 sands of working men forming those institutions are all strictly forbidden or prohibited from introducing to their meetings all questions of a political character, so that these societies are not likely to endanger their existence by becoming the instruments of any political party to ensure their interests.The letter was signed "Edward Humphries," and in every point of view he sincerely believed that it was a correct representation of the feelings of the working people. He did not know whether it was worth while to trouble the House with any further testimony of the same kind. He would read one other communication he had received:—
§ "To Mr. W. A. Mackinnon, M.P.
§ "Sir,—I have observed through the public press that you have given notice in your place in Parliament to move, on going into Committee on the Reform Bill, that it is inexpedient to legislate upon that question until after the census is taken in 1861. This course I believe to be sound policy, because the measure is based upon old and unreliable data. Many of the present Parliamentary boroughs which are proposed to be partially disfranchised have, since 1851, materially changed their character in point of population, wealth, and importance; others, proposed to be retained, have diminished on all those points, and will still continue to grow less in importance, and yet still will send representatives in equal force with the large constituencies of the country. The Bill does not give satisfaction to any class, because it is framed upon a false basis. It has been recommended for its simplicity, but it closes the door against all who do not pay their own rates, and shuts out of the list men of intelligence, station, wealth and independence of character, to make room for men who, in all probability, will be forced to the poll in shoals to vote for their masters or the masters' nominees. I believe your Motion to be an urgent necessity, in order to prevent injustice being done to the people at large. To legislate upon evidence nine years old would be to commit a great error, and in many instances great wrong. The Bill, if passed to-morrow, would leave the question as unsettled as ever. It is an ugly shaped piece of mechanism, unseemly to the eye, uneven in construction, and unfair to a large mass of the people of this country. I hope you will be successful in your Motion, because it will allow time for a proper Bill to be matured on a safe basis—one that shall secure to intelligence and moral worth a voice in the country, as a counterpoise to the ratepaying class.
§ "I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
§ THOMAS WINTERS.
§ "No. 3, St. John's Place,
§ "Smith Street, Kennington, May 1860."
§ Was it not absurd then, he asked, to suppose that the lower classes felt at all interested in the passing of this Bill. Nor was the Bill more acceptable within the House than it was popular out of doors. He had asked one hon. Member, for instance, what he thought of it, and the reply he received was, "Oh, I hate the Bill; it is a 2012 good-for-nothing, bad measure." "But," he asked, "How will you vote?" "Oh, I will vote for the Bill." "Why, will you vote for a bad Bill?" "Oh," was the reply, "the Lords will throw it out, and so we shall get rid of it." He asked another Member how he meant to vote? The reply was, "I hate the Bill, but I think I shall vote for it." "Why?" "Because the British lion would be up." Upon which he replied that the British lion would he done by the Bill, for the lion's teeth and claws—the army and navy—if the Bill passed, would be reduced, and the British lion would then become a sneaking wolf. He did not like to make personal observations. His wish was to treat the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) with all the courtesy to which he was entitled. He regarded him as a man of strong mind, but he must frankly say that hon. Gentleman did not possess that power which he seemed to suppose. He had some influence over the lower classes in Manchester, in Birmingham, and also in Rochdale, but there his influence ended. He had seen a flock of sheep, while enjoying their verdant pastures, driven by a. butcher's boy and his dog into a pen and there slaughtered, and the scene reminded him of the Member fur Birmingham driving the House of Commons into the Reform Bill. They were called upon by this Bill to introduce a new element into the representative system which would swamp all the others. Was it fair or right that individuals with little or no education or property should legislate for all the other classes of society? As Chairman of the Committee in relation to masters and operatives, he had put a number of questions to Mr. Potter, the Secretary of the Associated trades of London, who stated that he corresponded indirectly with 600,000 operatives throughout the country; and over whom he had a certain influence. Let them consider for a moment the great danger of admitting that number of operatives to the elective franchise. The noble Lord calculated on the enfranchisement of 200,000 £6-pounders; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that this was a great mistake—that the number admitted would be much less. All this showed clearly that neither had very distinct or accurate notions on the subject. He believed they would have at least 600,000 operatives entitled to the franchise. They must take not only those who now were £6 householders, but those who would be £6 householders. In every city, 2013 town, and borough, speculative builders would run up £6 houses; and what would be the result of having 600,000 operatives invested with the franchise, acting under one head? They would swamp the entire constituency. The lower classes, without education, or property, would be making laws for the educated and wealthy. Either the middle and upper classes would be so frightened about their property that they would court a sort of dictatorship, as bad occurred on the Continent, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whoever he might be, would, to please the people, abolish indirect taxation, and substitute direct taxes of 20, 40, or even 60 per cent—a very comfortable way of depriving all the middle and the upper classes of their property. If this Bill passed into law the rights of the Crown would not be respected, and, as it was said to the Sardinians, "If you cannot fight for liberty you do not deserve it," so he said to the gentlemen of England, "If you cannot preserve the Constitution you do not deserve to have one."
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in order to obtain a safe and effective Reform, it would be inexpedient and unjust to proceed further with the proposed Legislative Measure for the Representation of the People until the House has before it the results of the Census authorized by the Bill now under its consideration.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
It will not he necessary for me to trouble the House at any length in answer to the observations of my hon. Friend. The speech which he has delivered is in fact, as it seems to me, a complete anachronism. It must have been intended to have been delivered upon the second reading of the Bill, as an introduction to a Motion for reading it a second time that day six months; but my hon. Friend unfortunately forgot to deliver it upon that occasion, and has presented it as a preface to a Motion relating to a totally different subject. I therefore hope that the House will not expect me to follow him through the oft-iterated topics of which we have heard so much during the last few months with regard to the 2014 large addition to the constituency which would be effected by the present measure, the overwhelming of knowledge and property by ignorance and poverty, and those other general arguments which have been so often used on one side of the House, and so often answered on the other. The most weighty part of my hon. Friend's remarks, as it seemed to me, was one of the two letters which he read to the House, and which he stated were addressed to him by members of the working classes, or at any rate, by members of some of those committees connected with trades which constitute themselves for the time the representatives of the working classes. I understood that letter to assert the Bill before the House to be "a sham, a delusion, and a snare," which I took to mean that this Bill, professing to enfranchise the working classes, would not, if passed into law, confer upon them any substantial political power. Unless that was the meaning of the letter, it seemed to me to be totally destitute both of meaning and applicability. Well, Sir, what I wish to know is, how is that view of the Bill to be reconciled, not only with the view which is taken on the other side of the House, but with that taken by my hon. Friend himself, who argued that this was a democratic measure, and that it was inconsistent with the maintenance of the influence of property and intelligence, and of the Constitution as by law established? The plain and obvious tendency of that letter, which he paraded to the House as a great discovery and as a great revelation of the esoteric feelings of the working classes, was in fact a complaint that this Bill did not go far enough, that it was too limited in its operation, and that it did not include within its provisions a sufficient number of the working classes. There was one expression, indeed, which it was somewhat difficult to comprehend—namely, that this Bill excluded all the thoughtful portion—I think that was the expression—all the thoughtful portion of the working classes. Now, I profess myself utterly unable to comprehend by what process of interpretation the author of that letter was able to discover that a franchise which admitted the occupiers of houses of between £10 and £6 a year rental to vote for Members of Parliament, would include the thoughtless portion of the working classes, while it carefully excluded all the thoughtful portion of that section of the community. I think that, when the House 2015 reflects upon the contents of that letter, it must come to the conclusion, first, that it is founded upon a very partial and imperfect view of the facts of the case, and in the next place, that it was utterly inapplicable to the purpose to which my hon. Friend applied it; and that, so far as it had any logical effect whatever, it entirely disproved the conclusion which he sought to establish. I will now, during the few moments which I shall detain the House, address myself to the proper object of my hon. Friend's Motion—namely, the postponement of the further proceeding with this Bill until the Census of next year shall have been taken. In the first place, the Census of next year will, if the Bill now upon the table receives the sanction of Parliament, be taken in the month of April next, and its result cannot by possibility be in the hands of Parliament in time to form the foundation for legislation during next Session. Therefore, the necessary effect of postponing all proceedings upon this Bill until after the results of the Census shall be in the hands of Parliament will be to render legislation on Reform during next Session impossible. That may be matter of congratulation or not to hon. Members; I merely state it as a fact that those who give their votes for the postponement of the Reform Bill until the Census shall have been taken will vote for its postponement beyond the period of next Session, and until the year following. With regard to making the Census a reason for postponing the proceedings upon this Bill there is one obvious remark which must occur to every one—that is, that the Census has no bearing upon that which is the disputed and contested part of this Bill. Those who have attended to the debates upon the second reading of this measure must be aware that they turned almost exclusively upon the question of the franchise; they turned mainly upon the question of the borough franchise—whether or no it should be lowered from £10 to £6, or any amount lower than £10. To a very slight extent did they turn upon the question of the transfer of seats in the manner proposed by the present Bill. Therefore, the ground of postponement now alleged applies exclusively to that portion of the Bill which is not the main subject of dispute in this House. With regard to the question of the Census itself, and to the ground which has been taken for the transfer of seats, there is no clause in the Bill 2016 which says that all boroughs under 7,000 of population shall lose one of its seats. That is a proposal only mentioned in debate by my noble Friend in introducing the measure. All that we ask the House to agree to is the partial disfranchisement of certain boroughs, and the transfer of the seats to certain other boroughs and counties. It is stated as a ground for the selection of these particular boroughs that they come within the line of the 7,000. But there is no peculiar charm in the number 7,000 any more than in the number 6,000, the limit proposed by the late Government. It was necessary to take some number by which the disfranchisement should be governed, and it is quite immaterial whether it should be 7,000 by the last Census or 7,500 according to the Census of next year. The material point is—what is the relative position of the boroughs selected as compared with the other boroughs or districts? And if it should turn out, according to the next Census, that the boroughs we have selected stand in the same relative position to other towns, it is perfectly unimportant whether the population of the highest of them should prove to be 7,000 or a few hundreds over that number. Unless, therefore, it can be shown, as I maintain it cannot, by probable argument, that the relative position of these boroughs is likely to be materially influenced by the Census, the reason assigned for delay by my hon. Friend must entirely fail. I defy any hon. Gentleman to prove that there is the smallest justification for postponing our decision till the Census shall be taken. That which is material is to ascertain what are proportionally the twenty-five—or any other number you choose to select—lowest boroughs in point of importance and population to be subjected to disfranchisement. That fact is not likely to be altered by waiting for another Census. The ground assigned for postponing our decision is so utterly inadequate, so trifling, as to have all the appearance of a mere pretext for the sake of delay. The line can be equally well drawn under the Census of 1851 as under that of 1861. Let mo add I am much inclined to think that, even if we have the option, it is better to adopt the Census made at a time when there was no prospect of a Reform Bill being proposed which was to be made the foundation of disfranchisement, such disfranchisement to be based upon population, than to adopt a Census which will be taken with the knowledge that its re- 2017 sults will affect the representation of particular towns. I have consulted the Registrar General on the subject, and he assures me that he would repose far more confidence as to the numbers which are to guide disfranchisement in a Reform Bill in the Census of 1851 than he could place in the Census of the next year, in which there is no doubt that in towns which are near the 7,000 line a very great effort would he made to influence the result with reference to the known intentions of Parliament. I do not mean to say that any deliberate fraud would be perpetrated, but there can be no question that in an operation which is necessarily of so loose a character as the counting of the population a desire will exist in certain towns, and an endeavour be made somewhat to enlarge their numbers, so as to raise the population above the disqualifying figure. I cannot admit, then, that the slightest valid ground has been shown by my lion. Friend upon the merits of the case for postponing our further proceedings on this Bill until we have the Census of 1861 in our hands. If the House are of opinion that this measure is founded upon just principles—if it is desirable to take the limit of population as a ground of disfranchisement, according to the principle adopted by the Bill of last Session as well as by the present Bill, I confidently maintain that no case can be made out in favour of delaying legislation till we have the results of the Census of 1861 before us, and that the Census of 1851 offers a most secure and sufficient basis for such legislation. If, therefore, the House seriously purpose to proceed with this measure—if they are not merely looking to this Motion as a means of procrastination, but are ready to discuss the Bill upon its merits, and to entertain the question of disfranchisement upon the ground of population, I entreat them to reject this Motion. Some Gentlemen may think that, instead of disfranchising according to population we ought to throw in the clement of property, or that in lieu of taking population you should take the number of voters. All these facts are in the possession of the House. They are questions which maybe fairly raised in Committee. The Government considered these various alternatives before making their proposals. I am aware it may be said there are certain towns with respect to which, by adopting the number of the voters instead of the population, you would arrive at a different result. If we had proposed to disfranchise 2018 according to the number of voters instead of according to population, then it would have been urged that our standard was capricious, and that we ought to have taken that of population. In short, whatever single principle is adopted, it is quite certain Gentlemen will be found to maintain that some other principle should govern disfranchisement. I have, therefore, no expectation that unanimity will prevail with respect to the most desirable test of disfranchisement that can be adopted; it can only be decided by a majority of votes when we get into Committee. But I must again call on the House to remember that no useful object will he gained by delay, that all the materials for the decision of this question are already in their possession, and that the country would hardly believe that we are seriously bent on the consideration of a Reform Bill if we were to assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ SIR HENRY STRACEY
said, he had risen immediately after the very excellent and lucid speech of the hon. Member for Rye, because he thought his proposition a very fair and reasonable one, and one that ought to meet with the acceptance of the House. If population was to form an element in their legislation surely they ought not to come to a decision at a time when that standard could not be accurately applied, and when the basis on which it was proposed to legislate would he cut from under them in so very short a time as next year. There was every reason to believe that Her Majesty's Government had fallen into many errors in reference to the facts upon which their Reform Bill was professedly based. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone and others had clearly shown this; and he had been informed by the town clerk of Yarmouth that a £6 rental franchise would more than double the number of the present voters in that borough, for it would raise the constituency from not quite 1,400 to 2,850 electors; and the preponderance of power would thus be transferred from persons of some property and education, and who paid income tax, to persons who had comparatively little property or education, and who paid no income tax. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had in that Bill a sickly child, whose life he would find that the aid even of the professors from Birmingham would not enable him much further to prolong. The noble Lord had had many opportunities of withdrawing the measure, but, with the fondness of a parent for his ricketty off- 2019 spring, he had refused to turn them to any account. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire that there were but two persons in the House who approved of the Bill, and that statement had met among hon. Members with very considerable marks of assent. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that the measure was in itself a bad one, and three-fourths of the House had responded to that observation. A short time afterwards the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes) recommended the noble Lord to postpone the Bill until the next Census should have been taken; but with that recommendation the noble Lord had refused to comply. Then came the proposal of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey) for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, which had since been so politely and condescendingly withdrawn. He (Sir Henry Stracey), believed that if the noble Lord had embraced any of those opportunities of giving up the measure, the noble Lord at the head of the Government would have been very much obliged to him. The hon. Member who bad brought forward the present Amendment had alluded to the very interesting evidence which had been given by Mr. Potter to a Committee, of which the hon. Gentleman himself had been Chairman. Mr. Potter had shown in the course of that evidence that be believed he possessed a dominion, or at least a considerable authority over so large a mass as 600,000 individuals. The hon. Member put the question to Mr. Potter, how many out of those 600,000 would be voters? Perhaps he put it very fairly when he stated that great numbers would be added. But the numbers actually doubled those given by the Treasury Bench. Then, however, came in the extraordinary power of combination, and it was clear enough that this Mr. Potter held in his hands a great power of combination. He telegraphed from the central Committee to other Committees, and if a strike were thought desirable by that Central Committee a strike took place. On one occasion a telegraphic message arrived at a provincial Committee in the morning, and before noon not a single operative, out of many thousands, was at work. This would show the extraordinary powers of this man, or this union, over which he presided, in the way of combination. He (Sir Henry Stracey) would have thought that the capacity of the voters' minds would have been made a point for consideration. He 2020 would have thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have advocated this point. On the Bill brought forward by the late Government the right hon. Gentleman said the fault he found was that the Bill went too far. Surely the present Bill went somewhat further—at any rate it did not pay much attention to the mental power of the voters. Yet the right hon. Gentleman not only sat on the same bench with the noble Lord, but supported him in the advocacy of his Bill. There was one point which he would touch upon, although there was a certain delicacy in referring to the hon. Member for Birmingham in consequence of the frequent allusions to him in the House. But that hon. Member had said on a former occasion, as had been also said to-night by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley), that he accepted the Bill. Why did he accept it? Simply because it was a stepping stone to something more. Well, that would be universal suffrage. Now, universal suffrage—
§ SIR HENRY STRACEY
I am presuming, though I may be wrong, that when you said you accepted the Bill as an instalment, your ultimate object was universal suffrage. It may be household suffrage.
§ MR. BRIGHT
My object has always been plainly stated in this House, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not say anything which he is not prepared to prove. I have never uttered a word in favour of universal suffrage either in this House or elsewhere. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to correct himself.
§ SIR HENRY STRACEY
I believe the words of the hon. Member were that he accepted this Bill as an instalment.
§ MR. BRIGHT
When I spoke of a further measure I referred exclusively to the question of the re-distribution of seats. I never was an advocate for universal suffrage.
§ SIR HENRY STRACEY
said, he would be very sorry to misrepresent the hon. Member, but it seemed to have struck other hon. Gentlemen, as it had struck him, when the hon. Member for Birmingham spoke of "an instalment." Perhaps he ought to apologize to the hon. Member for referring to him, but considering the prominent part the hon. Member took as a democratic leader he could hardly expect that he would not be made a subject of comment and reference.
§ SIR HENRY STRACEY
The position of the lion. Gentleman was somewhat peculiar one, for he received the greatest possible deference to his opinions from the Treasury Bench. He had gone into power, certainly without place, but he had reason to congratulate himself on his influence with the Treasury Bench. But was this the proper position for the Treasury Bench, the proper position for the Government of the country, as an independent Government, to assume? Was it not rather a lowering position that they should feel themselves subservient to the few votes commanded by a private Member of the House? Would it not be a higher position for the Government of the Crown, if they did not, in obedience to the opinions, he would not say of the hon. Member only, but to the opinion of another most leading hon. Member, and one who was not a properly accredited diplomatist to a foreign country, if they did not bow to a democratic array in that instance as they did in all others, and at the same time sanction the subserviency shown by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs in the same quarter with regard to this particular Reform Bill? He saw behind the Treasury bench men who, he was sure, felt as hon. Members ought to feel. But he saw others who, by the expression of their countenances, were most unwilling supporters, at any rate, of the noble Lord. Their faces said plainly enough video meliora proboque, but they must unfortunately add, deteriora sequor. He saw certain hon. Gentlemen who sat there in helpless disapproval; or they would come forward and support the noble Lord in this conjuncture. They might pride themselves on being "honourable men." They might pride themselves on being, like Chevalier Bayard, in one respect, sans peur, but, believe him, if they voted for the present Bill against their convictions, it would be a thorn in their sides, and they would never be able to add as he could, sans reproche.
§ MR. GREGSON
said, that although he sat behind the Treasury bench, he must be allowed to deny that he was in the unhappy state described by the hon. Baronet who had just spoken. The hon. Baronet had spoken of the Bill as a sickly child. If it were so, it was the hon. Baronet's duty to nurse it instead of endeavouring to murder it as he had done. He would entreat the House to go into Committee and 2022 endeavour to pass the Bill by making such Amendments as might be desirable. There could not be a more opportune moment than the present for passing a Reform Bill. The country was profoundly tranquil, and we were at peace with all Europe. If the Bill were not passed this Session, Parliament might be obliged by the country to pass a measure much more extensive and objectionable. Nothing less than household suffrage and vote by ballot might then satisfy the country.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he quite agreed in opinion with the hon. Member for Lancashire, that this was a proper time to pass a Reform Bill: but he wished to pass a Bill that would last for a few years; and he thought the Bill before the House would not last more than a few months. The House had not before it the various measures which had been announced as likely to be introduced by Members on the other (the Ministerial) side of the House; and, therefore, he hoped the Bill would be postponed till there was information on that point, as well as with regard to the number of voters the Bill would add to the constituency, and which could only be furnished by the coming Census, Without additional information it would be a waste of time to discuss the Bill in Committee. When charges of want of manliness for not opposing the second reading of the Bill were made, he felt bound to say, for himself, that he had tried to catch the Speaker's eye, and that he was equally opposed to the present measure as well as to that of last year, disapproving as he did the principle involved in both. The ancient principle of the Constitution, that property ought to be the basis of the county constituency, had been overlooked in both Bills. This might be considered in Committee. His objection to the Bill of 1832 was, that it destroyed the representation of classes—that it destroyed the representation of scot-and-lot boroughs, of boroughs where the constituency were freemen, where the working classes had the power, if they chose to exercise it, of sending to the House representatives of their own classes, and at the same time gave to the master, manufacturer, and capitalists, the opportunity of having Representatives in the House: and at this moment he would, as a matter of expediency, rather see a few, a fair, and reasonable number of such boroughs existing, and sending their Representatives to Parliament, even if they had no property, than that they should not be represented 2023 at all. This might not be an opinion which he held in common with other Members of the House; but, nevertheless, it was an opinion which he held most strongly. He thought property should be represented, but he thought that industry should be represented also. He saw much weight in the opinions advanced by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey). He was as convinced as any man could he that it was necessary to have some alteration of the existing representation; he was anxious, however, that it should be such an alteration as would last some time; for the inconvenience to the public business by the perpetual discussion of this subject was very great. He desired, therefore, that any legislation on the subject should have the character of permanence about it, but that he was unable to perceive in the present measure, and he was satisfied that it could not be until the House had more information than was in its possession at present.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
thought the ground of delay till the next Census bad been made was the most unreasonable that could be urged. So urgent was the question of Reform, that more than two years ago the noble Lord at the head of the Government found it necessary to promise a measure of reform, and the Government which succeeded the noble Lord's previous Administration was obliged to bring in a Reform Bill to satisfy the demands of the country. He would warn the opponents of the Bill that it was not safe to play at "bob-cherry" with the rights of the people; and to delay the measure until they had the results of the next Census would be a loss, not of one, but of two years. The only question of importance that the House had now to determine was, whether the borough franchise should be lowered, and hon. Gentlemen should have helped the noble Lord to determine that question, instead of blocking up his way with piles of Resolutions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were no doubt rejoiced at the suggestion that the Bill ought to be delayed till the next Census was obtained. It was strange that they did not think of asking last year for a postponement of the Bill of the late Government on the same ground. He hoped that on neither that nor on any other ground would the House delay the Bill of the noble Lord.
§ MR. BOVILL
said, that the abstinence of hon. Members on the Opposition benches from discussing the question of the disfranchisement of boroughs, had led the Home 2024 Secretary to imagine that the main objections to the Bill were directed against the franchise, and that there were no great objections to other parts of the noble Lord's scheme; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there were many Members on that side of the House, though not occupying scats on the front benches, who felt a deep interest in the question, and who had refrained from expressing their opinions on the second reading of the Bill rather than lay themselves open to the charge which had been so frequently repeated, that there was an intention unnecessarily to delay the progress of the measure at that stage. The question now before the House was whether they should pass at once to the consideration of the Bill in Committee; and one naturally looked to see what materials the Government had laid before the House, and whether they had availed themselves of the best materials at their command, or whether they had adopted a principle with respect to the disfranchisement of boroughs which was altogether fallacious and unsatisfactory so far as that question was concerned. What, then, were the materials to which they should look in proposing the disfranchisement of a borough? Ought they to take the test of population which included men, women, and children, and embraced a vast number of persons whose political existence was entirely ignored, or ought they to act upon the relative importance of boroughs, or upon the number of voters in each, or upon the number of voters in relation to the number of inhabitants? These last materials they had before them in the returns of voters on the register in 1859–60; but granted that there were, as the Home Secretary had stated, objections to acting upon the number of voters; was there not another test which had already been adopted by this House and the House of Lords on the occasion of passing the Reform Bill of 1832? Population had been proposed as a test of disfranchisement in 1831; but after giving it the most deliberate consideration, it was found to be so falacious that it had to be abandoned. A new scheme was therefore proposed in 1832. The most eminent men of the day were consulted upon the subject, and the result was that the Government determined not to proceed upon population or the number of voters; but upon the relative importance of boroughs determined by the number of rated inhabitants and the amount 2025 contributed by each borough to the direct taxation of the country. Acting upon that test, the Government were enabled to carry out an extensive disfranchisement, for the principle recommended itself to every one. Now, the materials upon which the Government of 1832 proceeded were quite as accessible to the present Government, but they were not disposed to act upon them. What they proposed to do was to adopt population alone, and to place the franchise in the hands of a class who were without property, influence, and education; to take it from those who possesssed these qualifications, and transfer it to those whose property was next to nothing, many of whom were wholly, or almost wholly, uninstructed, and who were liable to be influenced, not by their own honest and independent judgments, but by appeals addressed to their passions in the inflammatory language of demagogues. Moreover, in re-opening this question at the expiration of a period of twenty-eight years, when they said that a change of circumstances required an alteration in the representative system, and acting upon population they proposed to go back nine years, to the census of 1851, for the materials upon which to legislate in 1860. When they produced their scheme, how was it met by Gentlemen below the gangway opposite? Why, they plainly told the Government, that they did not receive the measure as a final settlement of the question, but only as an instalment. Such being the language held by hon. Members opposite, surely it was no more than reasonable, if they were resolved to adopt the principle of population, that they should wait until the next Census had been taken, and ascertain what the real statistics of the population were before they committed themselves to any legislation founded upon mere numbers. They had been told by the Home Secretary that a certain arbitrary number of the population had been adopted by the Government for the disfranchisement of boroughs; and having rejected the precedent of 1832, of the relative importance of boroughs, as well as I the test of the relative number of voters, or the number of voters in relation to the number of inhabitants, and determined to proceed on the basis of population alone, how did they propose to act in respect of that basis? As to the disfranchisement of boroughs, the present Government took an arbitrary line, and said that whereas the late Government took 2026 6,000 as the line of demarcation, they would take 7,000. But the late Government went on the principle of ascertaining what were the requirements of the country, and then they determined to disfranchise as many boroughs as would meet the required want. But what principle had been adopted by the present Government? Not any; they merely said that as 6,000 was the amount of population decided upon before, they would choose a little higher, and take 7,000. They then took 25 seats from boroughs of England; and returned only 21 seats to England and gave two English seats to Scotland and two to Ireland; it was notorious, however, that the principle of population was not applicable to Ireland, because the population of Ireland had decreased and not increased. He would not then go into the question of the right of the Government to transfer English seats to Scotland and Ireland, but he would say that in transferring these seats to Scotland and Ireland, and also to other boroughs and counties of England, Government had taken the present condition of the population, in 1860 for distributing the seats whilst the boroughs were to be disfranchised upon their population of 1851. By way of example he would take the case of the town of Birkenhead, which had an enormous population. No one could doubt that in its present condition it ought to have a representative; but if they were to take the town as it stood in 1851, they would have a totally different state of figures represented. Might there not be among the towns it was now proposed to disfranchise, places which had so increased in relative population and importance as to be more deserving of having two representatives than many of those towns which it was proposed should retain their two seats. He would take the cases of Tavistock, of Tiverton, and of Tamworth, and consider them in reference to the scheme of the Government. He would begin with Tavistock, which was to retain the privilege of returning two Members to Parliament. At present its number of electors was 433, and the contemplated addition, estimated according to the data afforded by Her Majesty's Government, would he 59; so that its total number of electors, if the Bill passed in its present shape, would be 492. He would compare that with the case of Guildford, which it was proposed to deprive of one of its Members. Guildford had 723 voters at the present time; 2027 therefore it had more than 200 voters above the number that Tavistock would have if this Bill were passed; and if they took the number of electors that Guildford would have, supposing the present Bill to be passed, the estimated addition being 207, they would find Guildford with 930 electors, while Tavistock would have only 492—yet Tavistock was to retain its two Members, while Guildford was to be deprived of one of its representatives. In like manner the noble Lord had not disregarded the interests of Devonshire in his distribution of seats to the counties. In South Devon there were now eight boroughs, and altogether returning 14 Members; yet by this Bill it was proposed to give an additional member to South Devon; while West Surrey, with only one borough, namely, Guildford, and four Members, was to be deprived of one Member. Let them take relative importance or any other test they chose, but he must say that data nine years old afforded a most unsatisfactory test. The borough of Tiverton had at present 526 voters; if the Bill were carried in its present form the addition of voters would be 242, according to the Returns before the House; so that, after the passing of the Bill, its constituency would be 768, whereas Guildford would have 930 voters. He did not object to Tiverton having its two Members. The House was proud to receive both the Members from Tiverton, but he had said enough to show that they had adopted an improper test for disfranchisement. Then as to Tam-worth, there were at the present time in that borough 520 voters; the contemplated addition under the present Bill, according to the returns, would be 98; making together a constituency of 618.
§ MR. BOVILL
said, the grounds on which it was erroneous had been explained to the House, but he was obliged to take the Returns the Government gave them. If the Returns were erroneous in one case they might be so in all, but they were the only materials before the House; and the probability that they were erroneous made the grounds for postponement stronger, and lie had no doubt the lion. Baronet would, therefore, cheerfully give his vote to prevent further proceeding with the Bill. But it would be immaterial if they took the same scale with respect to all the boroughs. They had the fact then, 2028 that Tamworth, under the Bill, if it were passed, would have only 618 voters, while Guildford had already 723 voters, and would have 930; so that Tamworth, after the passing of the Bill, would have fewer voters than Guildford had at present. These figures he thought sufficiently showed the fallacy of the test it was proposed to apply. There were many other boroughs which would come properly under consideration if the Bill went into Committee, but he had referred to these particular boroughs, because they were rather distinguished on account of the representatives they returned to that House. What were the other principles set forth in this Bill. As regarded taking 7,000 intead of 6,000 as the line of demarcation for the disfranchisement of boroughs, he should like to know upon what principle it rested. The Government, as he understood, merely said that they adopted the principle of the late Government. Then, again, with regard to the franchise, the noble Lord said that if the House did not like a £6 franchise it might adopt a £7 franchise, or an £8 franchise—or, in fact, anything the House liked! Then why was it that the noble Lord proposed his famous Resolution of 1859? If the noble Lord said the question of a £6 franchise was not one of principle but of detail, why might not that question have been settled in Committee last year as well as now? It seemed, then, that after the great Resolution of the noble Lord, which had necessitated a general election and a change of Ministry, the question of whether the franchise was to be fixed at £6 or at £7 or £8, was to be still left for settlement in Committee. They were now asked to go into Committee without proper information, and with information which had been condemned by both sides of the House as incorrect. Were they to act blindly and in the dark as to the increase in the number of electors by an extension of the franchise—particularly when they were about to throw open the door to numbers in preference to property and education? These were important considerations, and by voting for the Amendment they would give Her Majesty's Government an opportunity, if they persisted in adopting that fallacious principle of population as a test of disfranchisement, of having more accurate data upon which to proceed. But was this Bill considered satisfactory by anybody? Was it satisfactory to the noble Lord himself? To any of his colleagues, or to any single Member of the 2029 House? Was it proposed that the measure now under consideration should be taken as a final settlement on the matter? Some hon. Members on the other side did, indeed, affect to be satisfied with it, but only as an instalment: and was it not likely that to proceed at this time without accurate information, would render their case more complete when they came forward with their further demands? If he were not mistaken, an outcry had been raised among some of the Gentlemen opposite with respect to what they called the rotten or nomination boroughs. What did hon. Members think would be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House with respect to a borough like Calne? Did they not think that that would be put forward in the following year as a reason for introducing another scheme? Would Arundel also be left untouched, and would it not be used for a similar purpose? The hon. Gentlemen opposite, to whom he bad referred, were only too happy to take this measure as an instalment, when they saw Tamworth, Tiverton, and Tavistock, Calne, and Arundel, were not now to be interfered with, because these and other similar boroughs would he an addition to the instalment they would certainly ask on a future occasion. But there were other matters that might not be considered undeserving the attention of hon. Gentlemen. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Lewis) had hinted at a principle upon which this question might be determined—namely, to look at the relative importance of boroughs. This was a test that had been acted upon with success on a former occasion in 1832, and if it were now adopted, no one would have a right to complain; but, even then, proper information and data were requisite. It would not do to decide such a question upon the information obtained nine years ago; since that time some boroughs would have decayed, and others increased, in importance, and for these reasons he should give his cordial support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rye. The Amendment, if carried, would give the Government an opportunity of retracing their steps, and of introducing a Bill founded upon facts, arguments, and reasoning, which would be incontrovertible; instead of being based upon the fallacious principles and the uncertain facts upon which the House was now asked to give its opinion.
§ MR. BAINES
said, the House would certainly require to know what was implied 2030 in the postponement of the Bill until the results of the Census should be known;—for he could see from the speeches that had been made on both sides of the House, that this was not at all understood. They would not only require to know the change in the population that would be made evident by the Census of 1861, but also the change in the civil condition of that population. Having investigated this question he found that that portion of the Census of 1851 giving the number of the inhabitants was published in 1852; but the report bore date 21st July, 1852; and therefore that first portion of the information derivable from the Census would not have been available for legislation until the following year, 1853. But when were the other portions of the Census, and which were equally important for the purpose in view, published? The part containing the ages, civil condition, occupation, and birthplace, of the people, was not issued until 1854, the report bearing date April 29, 1854, after which a considerable time must have elapsed before it could have been printed; so that that information would not have been available until 1855. The part relating to religions, another most important element, bore date December 10, 1853, but was not published until 1854. The report upon educational statistics was dated March 31, 1854, but could not have been legislated upon until 1855. But the case with respect to Ireland was still more remarkable. The part relating to ages and education was not published until December 20, 1855, and the General Report of the Registrar General was not published until June 28, 1856. It was evident, therefore, by parity of reasoning, that if they now waited for the Census of 1861 they would not be able to proceed to legislation upon it until 1867. But had they, as the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bovill) had intimated, information of no more recent date than 1851 to proceed1 upon? On the contrary, the paper moved for by that hon. and learned Member himself, and which he (Mr. Baines) then held in his hand, contained the number of houses rated to the poor, the amount of taxation, and the relative importance of boroughs according to those facts up to 1856, besides the number of registered electors in 1859–60. He trusted the House would not compromise its character by consenting to a postponement which would be considered unnecessary and frivolous, and adopted for the purpose, not merely of delaying, but of 2031 defeating, any measure of Parliamentary Reform. He was quite convinced that if, after each opposing Government had in turn presented a Measure on that important subject, after four or five successive Governments had taken it up, and Her Majesty had as many times announced it in the Speech from the Throne, the House were further to delay the serious consideration of it, that course would be considered by many in the country as an insidious mode of getting rid of a subject which some thought disagreeable. He honestly believed that if the Conservative party in that House, and in the community, wished to settle the question at a time favourable to their own opinions, they ought eagerly to embrace the present period, when a condition of general prosperity, never exceeded within his recollection, caused a degree of political tranquillity, and almost political stagnation, such as might never present itself again.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
expressed his entire concurrence in the eloquent and interesting speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill), who had so clearly given his reasons for supporting the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon), and for objecting to the test adopted for the partial disfranchisement of boroughs in the Reform Bill now before the House. Had his hon. Friend moved the Amendment of which he had given notice for to-night, he should have had great satisfaction in seconding it. In the two speeches of the noble Lord the Member for the City (Lord John Russell), and of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Sir George Lewis), two points had been particularly dwelt upon—in the former with respect to the working classes, in the latter with reference to the disfranchisement of boroughs, with which he entirely disagreed. Taking the latter point first, he must distinctly say that he thought the rule laid down for partial disfranchisement according to a test of the amount of the population in 1851, both arbitrary and unfair, and he was at a loss to understand why the Government had departed from the principle established in 1832, when disfranchisement was regulated according to the relative importance of boroughs, as judged by the number of houses they contained, and the amount of direct taxation they paid. It had been said that the late Government took the test of population for the fifteen boroughs which they had intended to disfranchise. It was a poor rea- 2032 son indeed to give, that because a bad example had been set by one Government it was therefore to be followed by another; and certainly the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) ought not to put forward such an excuse, for he had twice tried the test of population, which had been objected to and rejected by Parliament, and he had himself adopted that of the number of houses, and of the amount of direct taxation paid in his Reform Bill of 1832, which ultimately became law. He thought he could prove that this test of population was not a just one, and one which the House ought not now to accept. On the 24th of November, 1831, Lord Melbourne, then Home Secretary, for whose memory every Member must have the highest respect, wrote thus to Lieutenant Drummond:—The Government having determined to found the Reform Bill upon a new basis, I request your assistance to enable them to ascertain the relative importance of the smaller boroughs in England and Wales. It is proposed to take the number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes for the year ending April, 1831, together, as the test of disfranchisement.On the 12th of December, 1831, Lieutenant I Drummond replied to Lord Melbourne, enclosing a list of boroughs drawn up according to the instructions which he had received. He said—The principle on which the list is founded, consists in allowing equal weight, in the estimation of the relative importance of a borough, to the number of houses which it contains, and amount of assessed taxes which it pays; and the method adopted for carrying this principle into effect may be stated in the following words:—1st. Take the average number of houses contained in the boroughs to be arranged, divide the number of houses in each borough by this average number, and a series of numbers will be obtained, denoting the relative importance of the different boroughs with respect to houses.—2nd. Take the average amount of the assessed taxes paid by the same boroughs, and proceed precisely in the same manner as described with respect to the houses, a series of numbers will result, showing the relative importance of the different boroughs with regard to assessed taxes.—3rd. Add together the numbers in these two lists which relate to the same boroughs, and a series of numbers will be produced denoting the relative importance of the different boroughs with respect to houses and assessed taxes combined.Well, upon this question of relative importance a debate arose in Committee on the 20th of February, 1832. The principle; was impugned by Mr. Pollock, but the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) not only justified it, and also Lieutenant Drummond's calculations, but stated that so satisfied was he of the accuracy of the test that he had 2033 referred it to Professor Airey at Cambridge, Professor Wallis at Edinburgh, and Sir John Herschel, who had authorized him to say that they approved of it; and Mr. Davies Gilbert, a high authority on such a point, declared that although opposed to the principle of the Reform Bill, he could not withhold his testimony to the accuracy of Lieutenant Drummond's test. That was the test adopted by the noble Lord himself in 1832, and then accepted by Parliament, and yet now he had reverted to the test of 1831 rejected at that time by the House, instead of taking that which he had him-self adopted, and which had been accepted by Parliament. His hon. Friend the Member for Guildford had illustrated the injustice of the Government proposal by a reference to the circumstances of the borough which he represented. Possibly the House would permit him to give a few similar figures in the case of Hertford. Now take the number of voters registered as £10 householders, which afforded a good test of the importance of a borough. He found that the numbers were relatively—
Thus, as far as these voters registered as £10 householders were concerned, the result was in favour of Hertford. Then, looking to the number of electors, he found there were in Hertford,
Hertford 462 Bridport 434 Wycombe 407 Cockermouth 455 Lichfield 401 Bridgnorth 374 Tavistock 430 Buckingham 353
Again, the preponderance was in favour of Hertford, and yet Hertford, was to lose a Member, whilst the other boroughs named were to retain two. He had next a return of male occupiers at £10 and upwards, and at £6 and upwards, assessed to the last poor rate, made before the 7th November, 1859.
Hertford 541 Bridport 496 Wycombe 412 Cockermouth 455 Tamworth 520 Tavistock 433 Buckingham 356
2034 Notwithstanding these figures, Hertford and Guildford were to be partially disfranchised, although they were the only Parliamentary boroughs in their own counties, and were likewise county towns. The injustice was still more glaring when they looked at the returns, showing the amount of property and income tax charged in different boroughs under schedules A, B, D, and E, for the year ending the 5th of April, 1857. The amount was:—
Male occupiers at £10 and upwards. Male occupiers at £6 and upwards Hertfort 541 779 Bridport 540 752 Wycombe 385 540 Cockermouth 455 567 Lichfield 411 624 Malton 423 665 Tamworth 439 563 Bridgnorth 436 621 Tavistock 407 473 Buckingham 368 496 Stamford 390 557
and yet Hertford was to be partially disfranchised, and these other towns were to retain their two Members ! There was further a return of 52 cities paying an amount of taxation (property, income and assessed) of less than £4,500, of which 26 returned one Member, and 26 returned two. Hertford did not appear in the list at all, but Cockermouth, Tamworth, Bridport, Wycombe, Newcastle-under-Lytne, Penryn, Malton, and Lichfield do appear, which are not to lose any Member. It appeared, moreover, by another return that Hertford paid in property, income, and assessed taxes in 1857, £6,030, there being 78 cities and boroughs which paid less, of these 35 returned one Member, and 43 returned two; of the last 25 were to lose one Member, including Hertford, which paid the most of these 25, and which paid more than the following boroughs which were not to lose a Member, taking population as the test, namely:
Hertford £4855 Penryn 3416 Buckingham 4730 Wycombe 3210 Cockermouth 2719 Bridport 2999 Poole 4273 Weymouth 4548 Bridgnorth £3810 Lichfield 2522 Newcastle-under Lyme 3484 Stafford 4210 Tamworth 2755 Malton 3110 Pontefract 4834
and yet Hertford was to be partially disfranchised whilst all these boroughs were to retain their two Members. He had endeavoured, then, to show, and he hoped successfully, that if the noble Lord's own test of 1832 were adopted Hertford ought not to be disfranchised. The noble Lord had however, departed from the principle which he had himself laid down in the Bill of 1832, and had reverted to the Bills of 1831, which he had himself abandoned in 2035 1832. There were many lion. Members who represented boroughs proposed to be partially disfranchised, and who, from the manner in which the test of population according to the Census of 1851 affected their constituents, had every right to insist upon opposing this Bill on the Motion now before the House. No charge had been brought against Hertford and Guildford, whilst there were towns such as Wakefield, Gloucester, Norwich, and others, whose constituencies had been proved to have been guilty of corrupt practices, but which were passed over and left untouched by this Bill. Two Members had been taken away from St. Albans, and not only was it proposed to give those two Members to Scotland and Ireland, but also to take away one Member without any sufficient cause, in his opinion, from the county town, which was the only Parliamentary borough in a county of high position and wealth, and whose share of borough representation the Returns before the House showed to be much smaller than that of other counties of less importance. Was that just? He thought decidedly not, and he hoped the House would think not too. He would now leave this subject, and with the permission of the House would comment on certain remarks which had fallen from the other side of the House. His hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson) had pressed this side of the House to permit the Bill to go into Committee without delay. He would venture to remind his hon. Friend, as he had reminded at an earlier part of the evening the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) of the course he had pursued last year when sitting on this side of the House, and which he seemed to have forgotten—he then thought it quite fair and right to refuse to go into Committee on the Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli). His hon. Friend had changed his side of the House, and also had changed his opinion upon this question of going into Committee. There was what was called doing as you would be done by, and it was a pity his hon. Friend had not acted up to that principle. He must confess that after hearing the speech of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to-night, he was astonished to think that he could have moved the Resolution last year which upset the Bill of the late Government. He never heard a speech more condemnatory of the course which the noble Lord then pursued. It had been admitted in that 2036 House, and by a Cabinet Minister in "another place," that the Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) had been unfairly treated, and no doubt it was a Bill far superior to that of the noble Lord. He (Sir M. Farquhar) was in favour of the working classes being admitted to the franchise, and as far as they were concerned it would have admitted, in various ways, the prudent, the thrifty, and the intelligent. At the last general election he had told his constituents that he looked upon the Resolution of the noble Lord as an ingenious manœuvre, and he said so again now. It had been insinuated that they (the Opposition) were anxious to keep the working classes out of the representation—that he emphatically denied. He had said on the hustings last year, "It has been insinuated in the House of Commons that the Conservative party is afraid of the people; I emphatically deny this charge. I wish to know what I, who represent many artisans and freemen, have to fear from them? I am not prepared to beslobber them with lip flattery like some political agitators. No one is more anxious for the advancement of the working classes, but I will not for the sake of popular applause consent to swamp the property and intelligence of the country to mere numbers. I am most anxious to give to every class its fair share of representation, so that one class shall not predominate over the other. ["Hear," and cheers.] He would, if necessary, repeat the same thing to his constituents tomorrow. This would show that what he wished to see was a fair share of the representation enjoyed by all classes—whether the aristocratic, the middle, or the working classes, but by the Bill now before them a preponderance of power would be thrown into the hands of one class alone, and therefore he objected to it. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had referred to an attack in a review on his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), and had said the article must have been written by some obscure individual. He knew not who the writer might be, but if he were, as the noble Lord represented, an obscure individual, it signified little what his opinion of the right hon. Gentleman was. He (the right hon. Gentleman) knew what were the opinions of those who sat around him, and needed to care little for those of an obscure writer. The noble Lord had said something about digging a trench between the working classes and the richer classes by 2037 the course now pursued; he had no fear of such a result. He denied that the working classes took any real interest in the Bill before the House; if they had, meetings would have been held throughout the country to support it. Where were those meetings? Where the petitions in favour of the Bill? Even since the autumn of 1858, when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham began his wandering tour in the provinces, he had been labouring to get up an agitation in favour of Reform, but from beginning to end these efforts, and those to set class against class, had been attended with total failure, and his whole line of conduct showed that he little understood the class whose case he stated himself to be anxious to advocate. The hon. Gentleman, in contradicting his hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Sir Henry Stracey) said that he had never, either inside or outside of the House, proposed universal suffrage. Now he (Sir M. Farquhar) happened to have a paper in his pocket which showed that although the hon. Gentleman had not proposed universal suffrage, he had no objection to the widest possible extension of the suffrage. What did he say at Birmingham on the 27th October, 1858? "Let me say that personally I have not the smallest objection to the widest possible suffrage that the ingenuity of man can devise, not the slightest." Now as such an extension must include universal suffrage, there was not much ground for the hon. Member's indignation at the suggestion that he had approved of such a proposal. This Bill was considered by many to be acceptable as an instalment, an instalment he supposed towards the widest suffrage which the ingenuity of man could devise. Then again, what had the hon. Gentleman said about electoral districts in the same speech:—
Cockermouth £3368 Tamworth 3453 Bridport 3530 Newcastle-under-Lyme 4057 Penryn 4173 Lichfield 4340 Bridgnorth 4660 Stafford £4814 Barnstaple 4950 Poole 4999 Buckingham 5436 Weymouth 5724 Pontefract 5731 Berwick 6756 Bridgwater 5868Every elector in the eye of the law is of the same importance as every other elector. Why then should not every elector, in voting for Members of Parliament, vote for the same portion of the whole Parliament that every other elector voted for?Was this Bill, then, to be an instalment in the direction of electoral districts? Again, in the same speech the hon. Gentleman had said,We will ask ourselves, when we talk of the question of Reform, what is it we really want? I hold it to be this, that we want to substitute a really honest representation of the people for that dishonest and fraudulent thing which we call representation at present. The whole thing, as at present arranged, is a disgraceful fraud, and ought to be put an end to, and if it be not put an end to, 2038 your representation will remain in future, as it has been in the past, very little better than a farce.This was strong language at any rate, and no wonder then the hon. Gentleman supported the Bill, which many looked upon as a mere stepping stone to further extensions of the suffrage. He (Sir M. Farquhar) should certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon).
§ MR. HUNT moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.