HC Deb 01 March 1860 vol 156 cc2085-95

—Sir, in rising to ask permission to introduce a Bill further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation in Parliament of the people of Scotland, I think I had better commence by relieving the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black) with regard to the manner in which the two remaining seats are to be disposed of. Those two seats, he will be glad to hear, are to be given to Scotland; and I dare say he will agree with me that one of them could not be better disposed of than by bestowing it on the great and flourishing commercial community of Glasgow. The other Member, it is proposed, shall be given to the Universities of Scotland in the aggregate, to be elected by the four Universities; and I hope the House will entertain the opinion that we have well and justly, and, I trust it may prove in the end, beneficially disposed of the two seats which were within our control. With regard to the general provisions of the measure, they are as identical as circumstances permit with those proposed for England. The Bill proposes an occupation franchise of £10 in counties, and of £6 in boroughs. It proposes also to simplify the system of registration in Scotland. We are in the same fortunate position as Ireland in possessing a complete system of valuation, made up year by year, which shows the number of proprietors, tenants, and occupiers, and the value of all the property in the kingdom. We made an experiment in this direction some years ago, but we now propose to carry it a great deal further. We propose to make the Valuation Rolls the register of the proprietors, occupiers, and the qualifications as the basis of the franchise, dispense altogether with the re- gistration machinery of the Reform Bill, which in practice has been found exceedingly cumbrous. The Valuation Rolls will be the register, and we propose to do away altogether with the Registration Court. All the business of the Registry will be done by the assessors of counties and boroughs, with an appeal from them to the Court that meets in the month of October, and which, as far as the registration cases are concerned, will have very little to do, as every possible objection will be limited to a very few elements indeed. In Scotland the property franchise in counties has been £10 in freehold, or £50 for lands held on long lease. Some efforts have been made to introduce into Scotland the 40s. freeholds of England; but, on consideration, we have not thought it desirable to do so. In counties we propose to reduce the freehold franchise from £10 to £5, but that £5 must be without any deductions. It is desirable, to prevent the possibility of the franchise being abused, to provide that the value of the holding shall in no case be reduced by the burdens on it below £4. The great danger of the property franchise in Scotland is the creation of fictitious votes. Even the £10 franchise has been largely used for that purpose, and if it is reduced to £5 the facilities for this abuse will be still greater. It is, therefore, proposed that residence shall be enforced to give a right to the franchise, for all freeholds below £10 value. The valuation roll being the basis of the franchise, it will necessarily be a substantial one; and, having with it a clause compelling residence, it will, I hope, effectually prevent the manufacture of votes, for which purpose the small and widely scattered population of parts of Scotland gave greater facilities than existed in the populous counties of England. I do not know that there are any further observations that I need make to the House; and I now move for leave to bring in the Bill.


said, that great injustice was done to Scotland in the number of Members given to it. Scotland was entitled, on the fair basis of taxation and population combined, to nineteen additional Members; yet all the Government proposed was to give it two—one to the commercial city of Glasgow, the other to the four Universities. Other large cities, like Aberdeen and Dundee, and populous counties like Ayr and Lanark, were entitled on the basis of the English Bill to additional representatives; and he could not understand why, if Dublin was to have an additional representative, Edinburgh should be left out. He felt so strongly on the subject that in the event of the House agreeing to the second reading of the English Bill, he should move an instruction to the Committee to disfranchise at least four or five more English seats, in order to take some steps towards doing justice to Scotland.


, considering these three Bills as one measure, had one objection to make to it as a whole. It appeared to him that the principle on which the Government had proceeded was that of promoting uniformity in the franchise of the three kingdoms. Now, the Irish franchise would continue as hitherto, founded on rating. They had just heard from the Lord Advocate that the Scottish franchise would be founded on the valuation rolls, which was tantamount to a rating franchise—it was, in fact, as nearly as circumstances would admit, a rating franchise. He was sorry that the Government had determined on making the English franchise an exception to this rule of uniformity. He had long felt that the rating franchise, though not in the Bill of last year, would greatly simplify the franchise; and he hoped the Government would think it desirable to reconsider the matter, and adopt it for England as well as for Ireland and Scotland. The noble Lord had given as a reason that the rating was extremely unequal. He admitted the fact, but denied that it was an argument. It only showed that the law was not enforced. The inequality was created in the teeth of the law which required that property should be rated at its full value; and he believed that if the Government were to make the rating the basis of the franchise, it would tend in its result to put an end to the inequality of the rating. He trusted the noble Lord would reconsider this portion of the measure, and see whether it would not be possible to adopt the rating system for England as well as for Ireland and Scotland.


said, the subject of Reform occupied a much more prominent place in Scotland than in England, and he believed that the proposal of the Government would be considered a very moderate measure indeed by the reformers of Scotland, where there were more thinking men among the lower classes than in England, where education had been in a very advanced state for centuries, and where the labouring population were ac- customed to occupy themselves very much with public affairs. For his own part, however, he considered that the very moderation of the measure proved the sincerity of the Government in their desire to carry through a measure of reform during the present Session. The measure, it must also be admitted, had the merit of simplicity in its provisions. He did not see how the enfranchisement of a large portion of the working classes would be attained by a £10 qualification in counties, and he would like to know the proportion of persons of the working classes who occupied houses of that value. He should not approve of the admission to the franchise of the working classes in a mass, because their greater numbers would give to them an unfair preponderance of political power. He thought that it was not right, as the noble Lord the Member for the City had done, to promise enfranchisement to large portions of the working classes, which, in practice, it was not intended to give. He did not approve of the Government being, to any great extent, in the hands of the working classes, because they were so much more numerous than any other; but he maintained that the principle of admitting those classes to the franchise was not fully carried out by these measures. He held that the intelligent working men should be enfranchised, which was very different from admitting the whole of the working classes, and he believed that object would have been better effected by the Bill of the late Government.


, in reply to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) as to the bases upon which the Government proposed to form the franchises of England, Ireland, and Scotland respectively, said that the rating franchise had been maturely considered, and the Government were not likely to alter their views. The reason of the distinction between England, and Ireland, and Scotland was this:—In Ireland there was a valuation of all tenements upon uniform principles, and there was therefore no difficulty in adopting it as the foundation of the Parliamentary franchise. It was done some years ago, and it was to be observed that the franchise in Ireland was not only dependent on the payment of the rate, but was defined by the amount at which the tenement was rated. In Scotland that was not the case. The rating there was on the yearly value, as in England; but that yearly value, according to the proposal of the Lord Advocate, was measured by the amount on the valuation roll. The valuation roll was a valuation which was founded to a great extent upon the income-tax assessment, and was tolerably uniform throughout Scotland. Wherever there was such a valuation it was unquestionably a benefit to take it as the foundation of the franchise. But in English parishes such a valuation did not exist. The right hon. Baronet, who was a thorough master of all our rural economy, would not deny this. In England, unfortunately, no such uniformity of valuation existed, [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: But the law requires it.] The law, no doubt, required that the rate should be made up to the full value, but, unfortunately, there was no sufficient control exercised over the parish officers to secure uniformity, and there was a different mode of rating in different places. In some parishes they made a considerable reduction, and in others rated at the full value. If the franchise in England were based upon the unamended practice, the right hon. Gentleman would see that great inequality would remain and great injustice would be done. He would very much wish to see an Amendment in the English law in this respect, and if the House were not already occupied with many more Bills than they had time to consider he would undertake to propose a Bill to effect an uniform valuation. The Bill was already in existence, but if introduced it would not be with any view to the present Reform Bill; it would be with the object to amend the practice with respect to assessment. The reason why the Government followed one course in Ireland and Scotland, and another in England, was that they did not believe that under the existing practice there was such an uniform valuation as could be properly and justly taken as the foundation of the Parliamentary franchise.


agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that the proportion of Members allotted to Scotland was far less than justice required, though he supposed the Lord Advocate was unable to obtain the proportion which would be proper. He must, however, express his opinion, that the proposed registration of voters was a great improvement on the present system; and that it would be self-acting was also of great importance. He would suggest that there should be a central court to determine the law, because in Scotland the law differed in every part of the country. It gave him unqualified satisfaction to hear the Lord Advocate say he would follow the principle of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), but the promise was not fulfilled when the property franchise in Scotch counties, instead of being lowered to 40s, as in England, was limited to £5. He also understood that up to £10 there must be occupation as well as ownership, and, as he disapproved of a distinction which would deprive the provident working man of a vote for freehold property without residence, he should endeavour to amend the Bill in Committee. With regard to bribery and the manufacture of fictitious votes, he would suggest that the attempt should be punished as well as the act; because, when a bribe was once accepted, both parties were interested in concealing the whole matter; and, as to fictitious votes, those who created them should be punished by fine and deprivation of franchise for ever afterwards. Bribery in boroughs would never be properly prevented, unless the franchise was accompanied by a distinct provision that it should only be enjoyed by those who occupied the promises in respect of which they voted.


thought that Scotland was not so well treated as she ought to be as regarded the additional number of representatives. Adding only two was far below what it ought to be, seeing that their claim was as strong as that of Ireland, and more in proportion to its valuation. He questioned, moreover, whether the Bill of the Lord Advocate had done justice to them in other respects. He did not understand the question of the property vote, and whether it applied to counties or boroughs. He did not mean to give any opinion as to the amount of the property franchise, whether it was too large or too small; but he was of opinion that it ought to be the same as that of Ireland. If the Government, on full consideration, thought the 40s. franchise should be extended both to Ireland and Scotland, he had no objection; but he questioned whether it might not be a colourable franchise altogether.


said, that Scotland would only gain two seats taken from places so notoriously corrupt that they had been disfranchised. If Scotland was only to get seats from the disfranchisement of corrupt places, he thought that one or two other seats might have been gained in that way. The returns of population and property in Scotland showed that there were many constituencies so large as to render an addition to their representatives a mere matter of justice. On that ground and not merely for the purpose of increasing the number of Scotch Members he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose.


said, he had no doubt that the scheme which the Lord Advocate had submitted to the House would he received with disappointment in many quarters in Scotland. There were at least three constituencies in that country which might very naturally expect to be provided with additional representatives. The point, however, to which he wished more particularly to refer was the expediency of giving two instead of one representative to the four Scotch Universities. Those institutions were placed at a great distance from one another, and it would be found that when the constituency was made up it would be very large in numbers. In England there would be five university representatives; and it would be admitted that the Members sent by those constituencies were not the least efficient or distinguished. There was no reason to suppose that those sent by the Scotch Universities would be inferior to their colleagues in England.


was glad that the Government had undertaken, under favourable circumstances, to settle a long pending question—that of self-acting registration. The proposal was made with regard to England by the late Government; he therefore hoped that they would support it as applied to Scotland. As representative of the largest constituency (Lanarkshire) that was represented by one Member single-handed, he felt some disappointment that another Member had not been given to that important district. The population was about 200,000; exclusive of the boroughs represented, it contained many large towns that were not represented; and the way in which that county was treated would cause much dissatisfaction. Without wishing to say anything which might be deemed invidious, he thought they would have a better chance of getting eligible representatives for the counties than for some of the large towns to which it was proposed to give an increased number of Members. He saw no objection to the proposed property franchise. It was so nearly on a level with that proposed for England that only a microscopic eye could distinguish between them. Upon the whole he thought it a better franchise than the one now enjoyed in England; but it was open to grave doubt whether residence ought to be required to form part of the qualification. As to the claim on the ground of right on the part of the Scotch, he could bear the strongest testimony to that feeling, for he had nearly lost his seat because he supported the Bill of the late Government, which rendered such scant justice to Scotland. But he feared they were about to receive less from the present Government.


suggested to the Lord Advocate that, instead of giving Glasgow a third member, the two new representatives to be bestowed on Scotland should both be given to the Universities. It was obvious that the alterations proposed to be made in the representative system in Scotland were much more considerable than those with regard to England and Ireland, and therefore until he saw the precise mode in which his right hon. Friend intended to work out his scheme he would abstain from expressing any opinion on it. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that in doing what he could to prevent the creation of fictitious votes he should have his most cordial assistance. He must confess, however, he doubted very much whether the proposal of creating a £5 qualification in the county, and at the same time not dealing with the question of heritable burdens, would be the means of accomplishing that object. Some years ago a Committee of the House investigated the system of fictitious votes which existed in Scotland; and one of the principal remedies which they suggested was that there should be a deduction of heritable debts from the property qualification in Scotland, without which, they said, fictitious votes could never be stopped. For his own part, he quite concurred in that recommendation. As to registration, he was not sure that the plan of the Lord Advocate would work quite so smoothly in all its features as he anticipated; but he thought some such plan as he had described might be beneficially introduced. He would, however, wait until he saw the Bill itself before he offered any opinion on this point.


wished to remark that upon all the principles which had been announced by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary it seemed perfectly obvious that the Government could have come to no other conclusion than that which they had done, namely, that Glasgow should have another Member. When they were increasing the representatives of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, he did not see how they could overlook the claims of Glasgow, which was larger than either of them. No doubt Lanarkshire was a large and populous county, but as between Lanarkshire and Glasgow there could be no difference of opinion. As to the Universities of Scotland, he was glad they were at length to be represented in Parliament; he thought it a disgrace that they had not been represented before.


thanked the learned Lord Advocate for the two additional Members he proposed to give to Scotland, but regretted that there were not more given. He thought the Bill for England would be much improved by taking away some of the double Members given to insignificant boroughs and transferring them to the large constituencies of Scotland. He thought that the adoption of the valuation roll as the test of qualification would tend to prevent the creation of fictitious votes, but did not believe that the residence which the right hon. Gentleman insisted on would have that effect in any degree whatever.


said, he could not sit tamely by and hear it said that the Bill would not give satisfaction to the people of Scotland. He had no hesitation in stating that it would give satisfaction. Residence, he thought, should be the qualification for being on the register. As to the 40s. freehold generally throughout Scotland, there was no desire to possess that qualification. He had never heard such a wish expressed in his own county.


understood that the franchise, as defined by the learned Lord, was a £10 occupancy in counties, and a £6 occupancy in burghs. Then there was to be a deduction of the few duty; that, he understood, was not to be made unless it exceeded one-fifth of the value. There was also to be a £4 proprietorship in counties, but with residence. He wished to know if proprietors at £10, who were non-resident, were to be abolished?


thought the distribution of Members to Scotland had been very scanty. His own constituency, which equalled that of twelve minor boroughs in England, and was remarkable for intelligence and industry—Aberdeen, the seat of universities for centuries—had a right, and did look forward, to have another Member; and the decision of the learned Lord would be received in the North with disappointment and mortification. He approved of giving one of the two Members available to the Scotch Universities; but with so many small boroughs in England, there should have been no difficulty in finding the means of doing more justice to the claims of the large towns in Scotland.


pointed out an anomaly which existed in the burgh which be represented, with reference to the interval that must elapse between the issue of the writ by the sheriff and the nomination, a much larger space being required than in any county of Scotland, being not less than ten nor more than sixteen days. He hoped every means would be adopted to prevent the manufacture of fictitious votes in counties. At present the practice was to convey a cottage to a workman, taking at the same time a secret hack bond to return it when called upon.


said, there ought to be a further distribution of seats in favour of Scotland. The representation of that country was very pure. Scarcely was there ever a petition presented against the returns from that part of the United Kingdom. He warned the Government against not satisfying Scotland. The Scotch Members were a compact phalanx, under the leadership of the Lord Advocate, and might be very troublesome unless their reasonable demands were complied with.


wished to know, whether the Bill of the Lord Advocate would contain any provision for giving additional polling places in Scotland. In the county he represented the number of electors would be more than doubled and additional polling places would certainly be required.


said, that there was a provision for increasing the polling places. He did not propose to enforce residence where the property was above £10. To prevent fictitious votes the receipt for feu duty would be produced where the property combined with residence was under £4. He would not go into extraneous matters. It was most desirable to have the benefit of the self-acting principle of the valuation roll. There would have been more justice in the complaints of some of his hon. Friends if this was a real adjustment of the proportion of representatives between the three kingdoms, but it was nothing of the kind; it was merely the distribution of four vacant scats; and he certainly thought, under the circumstances, it was fair enough to give one to Cork, one to Dublin, one to Glasgow, and one to the Scotch Universities.


urged upon the Government the importance of a new valuation system in Scotland, a measure which would greatly facilitate the carrying out of the franchise.

Leave given.

Bill further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation in Parliament of the People of Scotland ordered to be brought in by the LORD ADVOCATE, Viscount PALMERSTON, Lord JOHN RUSSELL, and Sir GEORGE LEWIS.

Bill presented, and read 1°.