§ (Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir George Grey, Mr. Villiers.)
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 4.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he rose for the purpose of moving an Amendment to the clause under discussion. He proposed to add the words, "Such clear yearly value being the rateable value of the premises as ascertained for the purposes of the poor rate." The question upon which the House voted the other night was whether premises of £14 yearly value should confer upon the occupier the franchise. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had proposed the substitution of £20 for £14, intending, 177 had he been successful, to follow it up by proposing to add to the end of the second paragraph the words, "on which he has been rated or assessed to the poor rate or the inhabited house duty." In consequence of his right hon. Friend not being able to obtain the insertion of the word £20 for £14, the other portion of his Amendment fell to the ground, because no one was assessed to the inhabited house duty who did not occupy a house of the annual value of £20. The question whether the county franchise should depend upon the rental or the rating had never been put to the Committee; but he thought it was one of such importance that the present clause ought not to be passed without the decision of the Committee upon this point. The expression in the second paragraph of the clause, "clear yearly value," without any explanation, was ambiguous. The Government in their interpretation clause, which had been postponed, sought to assign a definite meaning to it, and it was as follows:—Clear yearly value, as applied to any premises, shall mean a sum equal in amount to the rent a tenant might reasonably be expected to pay by the year for such premises if let to him, he undertaking to pay all usual tenant's rates and taxes and tithe commutation rent-charge (if any), but no deductions being made in respect of the probable annual average cost of repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the premises in a state to command such rent; and for the purpose of this Act the gross estimated rental for the time being of any premises, as ascertained for the purposes of the poor rate, shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be the clear yearly value of such premises.He thought it was not right to leave so important a question for decision on the interpretation clause, and that before going any further in the discussion of the Bill, the Committee should define what was to be the meaning of a "clear yearly value." He had endeavoured, by the clause of which he had given notice, to define what was the meaning of the clear yearly value; and if his Amendment was adopted by the Committee the deductions that would be made were those that were excepted in the interpretation clause—namely, the cost of repairs, insurance, and such other expenses as were necessary to maintain the premises in a condition to command such a rent. The rateable value, as distinguished from the annual value, depended upon the Act passed in the late reign to regulate the parochial assessment, the net annual value of the hereditaments—that is to say, of the rent at which it might reasonably be 178 fixed, after deducting the probable annual average cost of repairs, insurances, &c. If the Amendment which he proposed were carried, the effect would be to raise the county franchise to a higher standard than if the clause passed without amendment. The question, however, was not so much whether the amount should be raised to a higher figure, as whether the Committee should adopt the principle of rating, requiring every man in possession of the county franchise to discharge all the duties and be subject to all the burdens of ratepayers. As he understood the Bill, it was not a necessary condition of the franchise that a man should be on the rate book at all, and therefore it would be quite possible for a man to vote as a rated occupier without his name appearing on the rate book. By agreement between the rated occupier and a sub-tenant, under which the former was to pay all the rates, it would be quite possible for the latter to figure in the rate-book without paying any rate at all. The hon. Member for the South-West Riding had alluded to the desirability of preventing the creation of sham qualifications. By supporting this Amendment he would take the most effectual means of doing so. He was at a loss to understand why the Government had adopted the principle of rental instead of rating, or why the £14 franchise had been fixed upon unless it was that this was the figure at which the Irish county franchise stood. But if they were to go to the Irish Reform Act as a model, they would find that the Irish franchise was a rating franchise. The Irish Reform Act was carried under the auspices of the present Prime Minister, and he had never heard any dissatisfaction expressed with its operation. He was on a Committee which inquired two years ago concerning the registration of county voters when evidence was taken as to the working of the system in Ireland, and superior advantages were claimed for it over the English county franchise, because ninety out of every 100 voters in Ireland had their franchise by virtue of occupation. The presence of the names upon the valuation book was accepted as proof of the voter's right to be upon the register, and the names accordingly were all transferred to the register without entailing any trouble upon the individuals themselves; and thus a complete self-acting register was obtained, liable only to change from the claims or objections served at either side. Before the same Committee the hon. Member 179 for Lanarkshire gave evidence with regard to the system of registration in Scotland, where the valuation roll in like manner was primâ facie evidence for the purpose of the county registers, all the names of owners, as well as occupiers, being transferred to the register of voters by a public officer. The extension to England of the principle thus found to operate beneficially in Ireland and Scotland might seem a small matter to hon. Members anxious to extend the franchise widely; but though the Committee might not be anxious to go down to as lots a figure as some hon. Members desired, he would doubtless obtain their concurrence in saying that all those to whom the franchise was ultimately to be given ought to enjoy the greatest facilities for being placed upon the register. In this country, owing to the want of connection between the rate book and the register, county voters had the greatest difficulty in securing their right to vote. No public officer existed whose duty it was to transfer their names from the rate book to the register; they were accordingly obliged before a certain day to transmit their claims, in a particular form, to the parish officer. The consequence was that numbers of persons in England and Wales, either from not sending in their claims on the right day or from sending them in an improper form, or from an inaccurate description of their qualification, were omitted from the register. If the Amendments which he proposed were carried, nothing would be easier than to add a clause directing the parish officer to place on the register the name of every rated occupier, and without any trouble to individuals a register for the county would be thus obtained. Even since the passing of the Irish Reform Act this principle of rating had been sanctioned by the present Prime Minister. By the Bill brought in by the noble Lord in 1852 it was proposed that the county franchise should be £20 of rateable value, and it was further required that there should be actual payment of rates. In the next Reform measure brought in by the same noble Lord in 1854, during the Premiership of Lord Aberdeen, that principle was departed from to a certain extent, inasmuch as the county franchise was to have been for premises of £10 yearly value; but, even by this Bill, it was required that the occupier should be rated. The Bill brought in by Lord Derby's Government in 1859 proposed a county franchise on a £10 clear 180 yearly value; but it also required that the occupier should not only be rated, but that there should also be an actual payment of rates. In the Bill of 1860, which never got into Committee, he believed for the first time there was no requirement of rating. But he would ask the Government how long ago it was since they had given up the principle of rating. In the remarks which he had made last week on the subject, he had called attention to the fact that according to the Electoral Returns, compiled by the Government, it was evidently their intention in the first instance that the franchise should be a rating franchise, because the heading stated the return relating to counties to be one of the—Number of male persons who are assessed in the valuation lists now in force for the several parishes in the county or electoral division; or, if no valuation list has been approved, then in the valuation list last delivered to the assessment committee, with any alteration made by them therein, or where there is no such list, then in the last poor rate, as occupiers of a house or other building, either with or without land, within each parish, at the rateable values of £10 and under £12, £12 and under £15, £15 and under £20, and £20 and under £50, showing the number of each class who are owners of the property so occupied by them; and also of the number of male persons in like manner assessed as occupiers of lands or tenements, at the gross estimated rental of £50 and upwards.When the House came to the discussion of the county franchise on Thursday night, those were the only Returns they had to depend on, and therefore as the Government had given no returns whatever relating to a rental franchise, hon. Members were called upon to argue as to what this latter franchise would be on returns relating to a rating franchise. It appeared, however, that the Government were not in the same frame of mind on this subject from one week to another; because when they compiled those Returns they were contemplating a rating franchise; but when they laid the Bill on the table they were for a rental franchise. He had been rather curious to ascertain what was the reason for the change in the intentions of the Government, and he was told in private that there was such a difference in different counties with respect to the deductions made from the gross estimated rental, so as to come at the rateable value, that there could be nothing like uniformity, and the result would be that what would give a man the franchise in one county might not be sufficient to give it in another county. But they had made 181 great progress towards the principle of uniformity upon this subject of late years, particularly since the passing of the Union Assessment Act. In his own county deputations from the different districts had met in the county town with the view of adopting a uniform system of deductions from the gross estimated rental in order to get at the rateable value; and though complete uniformity did not yet prevail, there was much less variety than formerly. Besides, after the experience of the Union Assessment Acts of the last two years, there could be little doubt that we should have an Act of Parliament to secure complete uniformity in those deductions. Therefore, though he did not think the point was one of paramount importance in relation to the franchise, the want of uniformity was a difficulty which could be removed by Act of Parliament. He would, however, ask the Government whether the gross estimated rentals were uniform in the proportion which they bore to the real value? What was taken to be the gross estimated rental was generally the actual rent paid. Now, he would venture to say that in the case of lettings under old families the actual rent paid was much lower as compared with the value than it was in the case of lettings under recent purchases, who in many instances screwed the rent up to the utmost. He was convinced that every one who inquired into the subject would find that there were as great variations in the gross estimated rental as there were in rating. He therefore contended that under existing circumstances a rating franchise afforded quite as good a basis in respect of uniformity of result as a rental franchise did. Moreover, he thought the rating principle a desirable one to introduce, on the ground that no one should be entitled to the franchise who did not share in the burden of paying rates. They had hitherto been kept very much in the dark upon this question, but that morning for the first time hon. Members had been furnished with information showing what was likely to be the addition made to the county constituencies by the reduction of the franchise proposed by the Government, and what was the character of that addition? He must say he very much regretted that they had not that information before them when the question whether £14 or £20 should be the limit Was under discussion; because when the Committee were arriving at a decision on that point they were groping in the dark. 182 Those who voted for £14 were taking results on the faith of the Government; but he believed in that case it was the blind leading the blind. For weeks and months hon. Members had been asking for that information. They had told the Government that they could not possibly discuss the county franchise till they had it, but it was not before them last Thursday, though he believed that if the Government had been anxious to give such information, they might have supplied it long ago. It was rather late in the day to enter on an examination of those statistics now, but happily the Committee had not passed from the 4th clause yet. It was too late to alter the figure from £14; but it was not too late to make it a rating franchise, and it would be practically putting the franchise at a higher figure than it now stood in the clause if they adopted his Amendment. He ventured to think he would be able to give a good reason why they should put the franchise at a higher figure. [An hon. MEMBER: How much?] An hon. Member asked how much higher. Well, he believed about 20 per cent; but he was no authority on the subject. The President of the Poor Law Board was the proper person to satisfy the curiosity of hon. Members as to the difference; but his own information led him to believe that the increase which the adoption of his Amendment would cause would be something from 17 to 20 per cent. They had heard a great deal of talk lately about "the ancient lines of the Constitution." The Opposition were taunted with going against those lines; but he understood that originally it was only property of a permanent character and not the fleeting property represented by occupation which conferred a qualification in counties. In 1832, to a certain extent, Parliament departed from that principle for the first time, and admitted occupation as forming a part of the title to the county franchise; but he would remind the House that it was only to a small degree as regarded counties the principle of occupation was admitted. The Government Returns gave 542,633 as the total number of those upon the county register, and of that number nearly one-fifth, or 116,860, were on the register on the ground that they were £50 tenants. That was, doubtless, a departure from the ancient lines of the Constitution, but only to a certain extent—in adding occupying tenants to the amount of one-fifth of the constituency—the property of the county 183 was not swamped by the introduction of the new franchise. It was important to ascertain whether the whole of the male occupiers entitled to a place on the register were to be found there. The Government Returns showed that 155,847 was the number of occupiers who paid rents of £50 and upwards; and if only 116,860, as the Government Return said, were electors, it would be seen that at present one-fourth of the £50 occupiers did not find their way to the register. What, then, would be the effect of a £14 county franchise? By Returns presented to the House that morning, if they went down to £14 for the county franchise, the total number who would be competent to place their names on the register would be 488,942. Deducting from that number one-fourth, the proportion of £50 occupiers who did not register, 366,707 would be left as the number which would probably be placed on the register by virtue of the occupation franchise. The result was this. Taking 542,633 existing county voters, less 116,860, the number of £50 occupiers, they had 425,773, the number of voters by right of property; but the Bill of the Government would add 366,707 voters, making a total county constituency of 792,480. But mark the change. Instead of the occupation voters supplying one-fifth of the total number on the county register, they would in round numbers be three out of seven. That he felt convinced was new information to the House; because until to-day the statistics enabling hon. Gentlemen to see the real effect of the condition of the county registry at present, and as it would be influenced by the Government Bill, had not been presented to the House. He next proposed to show to the Committee the difference between the present and proposed franchise in respect to the rural and urban elements. It would possibly surprise hon. Members who had not examined the Papers to hear that out of the 542,633 county voters now on the register, nearly one-fifth had their qualifying property situated in the borough. He interpreted the statement as meaning borough free-holders, because were they only occupiers they would not be qualified for the county. Thus it appeared that, of the 425,773 voters qualified by property, about one-fourth had that property in boroughs. Lord Derby had been severely denounced for having attempted to take away the votes for the county from those whose qualification depended upon borough freeholds, 184 But this charge would not be repeated when it was seen that one-fourth of those on the register had their property situated within the boroughs wherein their interests and association were presumed to lie. The new statistics of which he was speaking also gave some information respecting the unrepresented towns in counties. They showed that out of 155,847 male occupiers of £50 and upwards, 36,792 lived in towns of 5,000 inhabitants and upwards; so that about one-fourth of the £50 occupiers represented urban interests, because they occupied premises within towns of 5,000 inhabitants. But the £14 franchise would place on the register 286,299 additional occupation voters. Taking one-fourth from them on the supposition that that proportion would not find their way to the register, there remained 214,725. That result was very nearly the number given by the Government. But of that number, as many as 97,925 had their qualifying property in towns with populations of 5,000 and upwards. Deducting one-fourth from them, about 73,000 were left, so that one-third of the £14 occupiers it was proposed to add would be urban voters. According to his calculation, while one-fourth of the present county voters were urban, the reduction of the county occupation franchise to £14 would raise the urban element to one-third of the whole. In that view of the case, hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench and their supporters should excuse the Opposition if they were a little jealous of a proposition which would detract so much from the proper county constituency by adding to it so largely the borough element. He and his friends were not afraid of lowering the franchise, nor of increasing the constituency; but they maintained that, whereas the county constituency was already inflated to a greater extent than it should be by the urban element, it was most inexpedient that the agricultural interest should be still further overridden. In resisting the attempt of the Government to reduce the county franchise to £14, they did not deny that those to whom the £14 qualification would give county votes were fit to exercise the franchise; but they asserted that their introduction would disturb the proper balance between the counties and boroughs, and tend to destroy the characteristic quality of the former. He next proposed to show the Committee the amount of property now represented by the £50 occupiers in counties, and the property that would be represented by 185 the addition to the franchise of occupiers between £14 and £50. The statistics just furnished to hon. Members gave a larger number of male occupiers at a gross estimated rental of £50 than the original Government statistics. He had been in communication with the able gentleman who had prepared those statistics, and they both agreed as to the reason of that increase. These statistics had been obtained at a later date than the Government statistics, new valuation lists having been prepared, in which the real property had been assessed much higher in consequence of the operation of the Union Assessment Act. The gross estimated rental might be represented as the actual rental of most of the property in the country, and the deductions made from the gross estimated rental for rateable value were much more uniform and much less in amount. The consequence was that the gross estimated rental throughout almost all the country stood at a much higher figure than it did when the Government statistics were prepared. There were now, 202,643 male occupiers assessed to a gross estimated rental of £50 or upwards, while those rated at between £14 and £50 numbered 286,299. Thus nearly one-third more voters would be placed on the register in respect of property assessed at a rental of between £14 and £50 than those persons who were rated at £50 and upwards. The Committee, however, must not think that this one-third represented more property than the remainder. There were three columns of most valuable information in that Return which showed that the 202,643 occupiers of £50, and upwards represented a gross estimated rental of £33,800,000, while the 286,299 voters, who were rated at between £14 and £50, only represented a gross estimated rental of £7,464,395. Now, he would ask the Committee, was a more astounding statement than that given by these statistics ever presented to Parliament? They were to have one-third more voters occupying holdings between £14 and £50 than they had upon the £50 rental, and yet the property represented by the new voters was only one-fifth of that represented by the old ones. He asked, then, was it represented without reason that the Government were seeking to overbear property by numbers. Had they not then just cause for the statement which they were now able to prove by figures that the Government had been acting in the dark, and seeking to give an undue influence to 186 those whose interest in the counties was fleeting and temporary, so as to enable them to override by their votes those whose interests were of a permanent and established character? After producing these facts, he could not help feeling that the Motion which he was about to make would be but a very small aid towards correcting the abuses he had pointed out, for he was merely going to propose that the £14 county franchise should be raised from a rental to a rating franchise. That, he believed, would not really raise the qualification to more than a £16 rental franchise. He feared that in making such a proposition, he should not at all redress the monstrous injustice of the Government proposal. After the statistics which he had read to the House it seemed a poor, a paltry, and a halting proposition to make, and he must himself confess that the plaster was by no means large enough for the wound. But it was, at all events, a step in the right direction. It established what, in his judgment, was a just and proper principle—that every man who was placed upon the county register should be a man who was bound to take upon himself the burdens of a ratepayer, and no such condition was to be found in the Government Bill. He would not detain the Committee any longer, but would move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 40, at the end of the second paragraph, to add the words "such clear yearly value being the rateable value of the premises as ascertained for the purposes of the Poor Rate."—(Mr.Hunt.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Dodson, the hon. Gentleman has brought forward, without notice, an Amendment of very great importance. ["No, no!"] I am now stating a matter of fact and the hon. Gentleman himself is a great deal too well informed to contradict me.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
As far as I am concerned, I have 187 not the slightest doubt that the hon. Gentleman did everything he could—
The rule is that when an hon. Member is speaking, if another hon. Member rises to explain something, he is not at liberty to pursue his explanation unless the hon. Member who is in possession of the House voluntarily gives away.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The reason, Sir, why I did not give way to the hon. Gentleman in the first instance was simply this:—that when I said he had brought forward his Amendment without notice, I did not mean that I had suffered any inconvenience in consequence, but I meant that which I apprehend to be a perfectly simple matter of fact—namely, that this is an important as it is also a complex proposition, and that it has been brought forward without notice to the House.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER continued
The House may think it desirable to allow me to finish the sentence. I was going to say that it was brought forward without notice to the House in the usual form—that is to say, given on the Votes. As far as I am individually concerned I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, for I have not the least doubt that he gave me the earliest notice he could.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I merely refer to the matter because it shows the difficulty in which we are placed. In the proposition of the hon. Gentleman there are involved three questions of great importance. One is whether the occupation is to be an occupation in respect to which the voter is rated. The next proposal is distinct from that, and is, whether he is to be rated on the rateable value. That is a question of the greatest importance. Then the third question is, 188 whether you are in part to undo the vote you gave the other night — that is to say, whether, having filled up the blank, or rather having confirmed the words £14 in the clause as it stands, you are to adopt a vote to raise it to £16 or £17? As regards the first of these questions, I will put it aside for the moment with a single remark. It appears to us that wherever the occupation is bonâ fide—and of course if it is not a bonâ fide occupation it cannot be recognized by the Revising Barrister—there is no object or policy in requiring that the occupier should himself be rated. We stand upon the principle which was adopted by Parliament itself in its Acts with respect to compound householders. They all proceed on the principle that, as the occupier is the real payer of the rates, whether it is collected from him or not, he ought to be allowed to be placed on the register. In effect, therefore, we are merely applying to the county occupiers that which has been done in the case of compound householders in boroughs. Nay, more, we are applying the very principle of the Chandos clause, that a £50 householder does not require to be rated. And now with regard to the second point, as to the raising of the franchise. The hon. Gentleman has produced figures which he called astounding, and which, indeed, appear to have produced a remarkable effect on his own mind. It is really difficult to deal with the hon. Gentleman, because he has propounded doctrines which are wholly new, and entirely void of foundation in our constitutional history. You cannot lay hold of these distinctions between urban and rural districts, and the conflicting classes of owners and occupiers. Whence does the hon. Gentleman draw them? They do not come from the old Constitution of England; they are some manufacture of his own and of his ingenious friends. The hon. Gentleman complains of our bringing in too many occupiers as contradistinguished from those who have more permanent interests. Well, but the greatest of all charges against the Government has been that, in our anxiety to keep up the number of proprietary votes, we enfranchised the leaseholders in boroughs; that was regarded as the most outrageous of all our propositions. This shows that when you talk of the proportion between occupiers and proprietary voters you use the words in a limited and a qualified sense of your own, and that you mean a great deal more than you say, and make distinctions unknown to the old Constitution, 189 which you can hardly expect us to recognize as legitimate. The hon. Gentleman is filled with horror at the idea of the increase in the number of occupation voters in comparison with proprietary voters. Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that in 1859 he supported the Bill which his party brought in, which on the one hand cut off 100,000 proprietary votes, because the possessors lived within boroughs, and on the other hand took the occupation franchise down to £10. Independently of that view of the case, I do not think there is anything to be afraid of. As nearly as I can calculate the number of county voters at present is about 542,000, and of these about 116,000 are occupation voters. To this proportion of occupation voters are to be added a further number of 170,000 voters, making a total of 287,000; and there thus will be 426,000 proprietary voters as against 287,000 occupation voters. If we can find more proprietary voters, by all means get them. We tried to find them, but you were excessively dissatisfied with our proposal. We withdrew our proposal, in order, if possible, to conciliate you; in principle it is an excellent proposal; it is conformable to the whole spirit of the Constitution. If it conciliates you, we are willing to withdraw it; if it does not, we are quite prepared to persevere with it. The hon. Gentleman, again, dwells upon his contrast between urban and rural interests. He says that all the small unrepresented towns belong to the urban interest. My answer is that the Constitution knows nothing of these urban interests; and on this point I threw out a challenge which no one is more competent than the hon. Member to take up. The whole county franchise is proprietary whether in towns or outside them; and the Constitution knows nothing of the distinction between urban and rural interests. I now come to what I suppose the hon. Gentleman regards as the main point involved in his Amendment. His object is to establish a rating franchise, and I have no doubt at all that, in point of fact, he regards the augmentation of the franchise as rather an incidence of his Motion than the object of his Motion. Therefore, let us argue not this question whether the franchise ought to be what is commonly termed a rating franchise—that is, a franchise fixed upon the column of rateable value. The hon. Gentlemen says that from the form of the Government statistics it is perfectly evident that the Government originally 190 contemplated a rating franchise. There is some truth in that. Before we were fully informed we had thought of a rating franchise; but upon a careful and accurate examination of the whole case we found that every advantage of a rating franchise was to be had by another operation, while at the same time the great disadvantages incident to a rating franchise might be completely avoided. The hon. Gentleman would raise the county franchise by his Motion. I object to his raising it; I object to his undoing the vote of Friday wholly or in part. if it is to be done, I think the hon. Member will agree with me that it ought to be done by a proposition raised directly ad hoc. Independently of that, I say he is going to raise it in the worst way. We began, I admit, before we examined the matter carefully, with a prejudice in favour of a rating franchise, but as we examined it we found that the case for the rating franchise utterly broke down, The hon. Gentleman has fallen into a mistake respecting the Irish case. He says that we quote it, and if we quote it let us be bound by it. That is a —12 rating franchise. I quoted it with reference to the class of voters, and to the value and amount of interest that was presumably represented. But this is not a rating franchise in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman understands it. It is not fixed upon the rateable value. I have here the two Acts—that regulating the valuation and that regulating the classes of voters, The former fixes absolutely the mode in whiels the valuation of land was to be ascertained; it then fixes the valuation of a house; and in the case of a house it directs a certain uniform fixed deduction. That valuation of land without any deduction at all and that valuation of houses with a uniform fixed deduction are the uniform rate in Ireland, and there is no such distinction in Ireland as obtains in England between the gross estimated rental and the rateable value. [Mr. HUNT: That is fixed by Act of Parliament.] Here is the Act of 1850, which says that a person shall be rated at the net annual value of £12 and upwards. That is exactly as I understand the matter; that corresponds precisely with the Valuation Act. There is no system corresponding to ours in which the basis of valuation is the column of gross estimated rental, from which, by a system of variable deductions, the column of rateable value is constructed. My point is this, in Ireland there exists a totally different system. 191 [Mr. WHITESIDE: We know it.] There is an Act laying down the valuation of lands without any deduction whatever; upon that valuation, as I understand it, the rate is made; therefore, the Irish system has nothing to do with the case of England. I should not care if it had. If it had, I should say we profit by the experience which has been obtained since the Irish Act was passed. Let us look at the English system upon its own merits. The hon. Gentleman says, "Do not take the column of gross estimated rental," which is what we propose to take. His first, at any rate his best, objection to it is that the gross estimated rental is not free from error; in certain cases it is inaccurate. I admit that in certain cases the gross estimated rental is not accurate, but it is in a very small proportion of cases; and where the gross estimated rental is inaccurate, does the rating column correct it? No. There is no single error in the column of gross estimated rental that is not carried into the rating column. Where, then, is the argument for going to the rating column to escape the errors of the gross estimated rental? It does not exist; but even although there are no errors in the column of gross estimated rental, the column of rateable value is full of errors not to be found in the gross estimated rental. It is true we have done a great deal towards bringing them within certain limits; but it is not true that all those errors are got rid of, nor do I see how, as long as the system of local government prevails in this country, as I hope it may, we can get rid of them. You cannot advise that assessment committees shall not have the power of making deductions. In Ireland there are no assessment committees; the whole thing is under the direction of Government officials, while in England it is worked by the local authorities, and that is the main reason why, even if there were a column of gross estimated rental there, the Irish system is totally inadequate for this country. The English system of deductions is full of inequalities; but the hon. Gentleman says that by this Bill they will probably be got rid of. Is not that taking a leap in the dark? The hon. Gentleman cannot have the inequalities as they exist now, he speculates that in the future they will be got rid of; I cannot see the least probability of it; and I think it is most unlikely that that will be the effect of his proceeding. In the counties it would establish an unequal franchise. The deduction 192 in the case of lands would perhaps be 5 per cent; whereas the deductions in the case of houses would be 20 per cent. In consequence of two men paying the same rental, one would be enfranchised and the other would not. The hon. Gentleman would introduce a system of inequality in each county as between a man who drew his franchise from lands and another who drew his franchise from houses. But that is not all. If we establish this system for counties we must establish it for towns. How does the case stand in towns? In many towns different parts of the town are in different unions. Under the measure of the hon. Gentleman you would have different franchises in the same town and different franchises in different towns of the same county. Is that right, or is it desirable? We know that there is a Motion proposing different rates of franchise in different towns of different populations; but that is not the question now before the House. What I would point out is, that if you establish a rating franchise the effect of that will be that the franchise will be different in different portions of the same town according as they are in different unions. In one of the parishes in Greenwich, for instance, a deduction of 20 per cent is made, in another parish a deduction of 25 per cent, and in a third a deduction of 30. [Mr. HUNT: This was on account of different classes of houses.] These are parishes, and not classes of houses. Again, in Bury St. Edmund's, where there is no very different classes of houses, the deduction in the parish of St. James is one-tenth, and in the parish of St. Mary one-sixth. In Exeter, again, in three parishes the deduction is 33½ per cent, in two more 25 to 33½ per cent, in two others 20 to 33½ per cent, in another 20 to 50 per cent, in another 15 to 50, in two more 20 to 25, in another 15 to 25, and in another 12½. In fact, according to the hon. Gentleman's proposal, in every parish in Exeter there would be a different franchise. But the hon. Gentleman says they are different classes of houses, but such an explanation is entirely visionary. It is impossible that that can be the explanation, and indeed it is well known that it is not so. I will give the hon. Gentleman a practical case, if he likes. In the county of Dorset the magistrates levied a county rate, but in doing so they found the deductions made by the assessment committee so unequal and so impossible to reduce to rule, that 193 they rejected the rateable value column altogether, and went back to the gross estimated rental as the basis of a rate. But the hon. Gentleman thinks it an answer to say that different classes of houses require different rates of deductions. That is of course perfectly true as a matter of fact, but it does not in the least help his proposition. The meaning of the law when it fixes the rental of a house at £7 or any other number of pounds as the basis for the franchise, is that it regards his rent, subject to the deduction of rates and taxes, as a test of his capacity to pay. It makes no difference whether he lives in a house that requires an annual expenditure of 25 per cent to keep it in a habitable condition, or whether an expenditure of 5 per cent only is necessary for that purpose. The law has nothing to do with this. We take the column of gross estimated rental, because by it we can test the tenants' ability to pay. What, on the other hand, does the rateable value column mean? It indicates simply the value of the building to the landlord, and with that we have nothing to do for the purpose of enfranchisement. The true test we have to deal with is the capacity of the man to pay the rent, and if he finds it worth his while to pay that rent, it does not matter to us whether he expends 1, 10, 20, or even 50 per cent, in order to keep the building in habitable condition. As a basis, therefore, for action, the hon. Gentleman's standard is one altogether false and visionary. One may fairly ask, I think, why so much has been said about rateable value, and the question is, perhaps, worth some examination. The real truth of it, I suppose, is, that it was felt when the old Reform Bill was drawn up, and indeed in subsequent Reform Bills, that it would be a great advantage to fix the franchise and govern the formation of the register by means of some standard fixed by a public authority for another and not for a political purpose. On that ground people spoke of the rate book, and in doing so thought of the rateable value, and in point of fact, until the Act of my right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board was passed, the gross estimated rental column was in a state of great uncertainty. The object, then, in fixing the franchise on the rateable value was to get rid of the swearing, the separate examination, and expense. It has, however, now been found that the advantages attending the employment of the rateable value column are 194 counterbalanced by many disadvantages which may be avoided by availing ourselves of the gross estimated rental column, and we should have acted very foolishly if we had not accepted it as our standard. My answer to the argument of the hon. Gentleman is, therefore, that the rateable value is a test false in principle, because it implies the value to the landlord, with which, at present, we have nothing to do; and, further, that it is a most unequal test, because it would give different franchises according to the variation in deductions, a variation depending solely upon local opinion and local authority, and one which you cannot by any possibility reduce to uniformity or rule. This variation would prevail not only in different parts of the country, but in a multitude of instances, as I have shown, in different parts and portions of the same town. These I believe to be very strong and practical reasons against the adoption of the rateable value, and to be quite irrespective of any question as to the amount of the franchise. But I have especial objections to the Amendment, because it endeavours by a by-blow to alter the vote at which the House has already arrived.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he wished to say a word in explanation, which he hoped to offer at the commencement of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was imputing to him that he did not give him notice of this Amendment until that afternoon. The fact was that immediately after breakfast that morning he had sent a messenger to the right hon. Gentleman informing him of the Motion which he intended to propose. He was not able to give notice before, because he had not intended on Friday to bring forward such a Motion. He was not, indeed, aware then, and he believed that a majority of the Members of the House were not aware what became of the notice placed upon the paper by his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Walpole). In fact, when he came down to the House that evening he found that the opinion prevailed on both sides of the House that his right hon. Friend proposed to proceed with his Motion. He merely wished to make these few remarks to prevent the supposition that he had the slightest intention of taking the Chancellor of the Exchequer by surprise.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I had not the slightest intention to impute to the hon. Member any discourtesy in the matter.
There is one question with respect to the rateable value upon which the right hon. Gentleman has not at all touched. The result is, that his basis does not appear to me to be altogether accurate. The right hon. Gentleman says that the rateable value has to do with the landlord, but in reality it has nothing on earth to do with him. The rateable value has to do with the amount upon which the tenant pays his taxes. The tenant does not care at what figure the gross estimated rental is fixed, for it does not concern him. All that he cares about is the rateable value, for it is upon that that he pays. And when the right hon. Gentleman says that it is desirable to take some test framed for purposes not connected with elections, he ought to have accepted the rateable value as the more accurate, for against that people will appeal if it is wrong. They cannot appeal against the gross estimated rental, for that does not touch them at all. It is upon the rateable value that they pay, and if they are assessed too high they appeal, and get it set right. Now, with regard to the Irish rating. I suppose that the valuation is fixed at the amount on which the tenant pays his rate, and it is to it that all look. Then the right hon. Gentleman has said a great deal about inequalities, but surely he does not simply call it an inequality, because the deductions in the case of a poor timber-thatched house and in the case of a strong, brick, slated building are different. Would he call it an equality to deduct the same percentage in each case? We all know that while the buildings in one parish are of a poor and inferior description, in another parish large sums of money have been expended in the erection of stronger and better houses. You cannot, therefore, adopt any uniform deduction. The real reason for my hon. Friend's Motion is, I think, to be found in the statistics of which we obtained our first view this morning. I confess I was not so much surprised as many hon. Members probably were at finding so large a number of persons between £14 and £20. But in consequence of the production of these statistics, something was necessary to be done either in this form, or by asking the House to reconsider its decision. Upon that I will not now offer any opinion, but I could not help saying a word or two when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his remarks insisted so strongly upon the inequalities perceivable in the estimates of rateable 196 value. In some places it would scarcely be possible to say what deductions ought to be allowed, and they would, of course, vary greatly according to the different description of the buildings on which the rates were made; therefore, I cannot see how uniformity in this respect is to be preserved.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that there was no appeal in the event of there being an error in the gross estimated rental, as it would be found that there was an appeal to the Revising Barrister in such a case. [Several hon. MEMBERS inquired under what Act such an appeal was given.] The appeal was given by the Bill then before the House. It formed a part of Government proposition. And more than that, hon. Gentlemen would find that there was such an appeal under the existing law. When any question arose with respect to the clear annual value of property the Revising Barrister had to determine it. It was a singular fact that in 1859 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire objected to this very rating proposition on the ground that there would be an appeal to the Revising Barrister upon the question of the gross estimated rental. The right hon. Gentleman, in the first instance, said that this rating proposition appeared sufficiently plausible, and proceeded thus—It appears to me that if you could make—to use a common phrase—the rate book the register, you would very much simplify the business of election; but when you come to examine this matter in detail, in order to see how it will act, you will find that it is involved in difficulties—great, all acknowledge, and I am sorry to be obliged to confess, to my mind, insurmountable."[3 Hansard, clii. 982.]The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, in 1859, regarded the difficulties in the way of carrying out the proposal now renewed as insurmountable, and those difficulties, although partly, had not been completely removed by union being substituted for parochial rating. Much difficulty still remained in consequence of the different principles of estimating the annual values in the various unions. Thus, were the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire adopted a man living on one side of a street might be enfranchised, while another occupying exactly the same description of house on the opposite side of the way would not have a vote simply because the union authorities might hold different views with 197 regard to the way in which the estimated rental should be arrived at, and as to the amount of deduction that should be allowed for repairs, &c.
explained that when he said there was no appeal against the gross estimated rental, of course he was speaking with regard to the poor rates.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I certainly said that I found the difficulties as to the rating proposition to be insurmountable, but that was in 1859. But there have been great changes in the law in reference to this subject since then. There have been two union rating assessments since then, and the whole tendency of our legislation in recent years has been towards effecting an equalization of rating. Therefore, the observation of the hon. and learned Gentleman has clearly nothing to do with the question.
I want to put a question to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire with regard to a point which he did not quite clearly explain. Do I understand him rightly in supposing that he intends to leave the £50 occupiers in counties as at present, and that in regard to all occupiers between £50 and £14 the principle of rating should be taken I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would recommend that there should be two principles, or whether he would extend the principle of his proposal to the £50 occupiers now on the register?
§ MR. HUNT
said, he was glad to have an opportunity of answering the question of the hon. Member for Birmingham, which had been put to him on a former occasion when the rules of the House prevented him from replying to it. He did not propose to disfranchise anybody by his clause, and therefore he presumed that those electors who were now upon the register as £50 occupiers would remain there.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he supposed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended that the gross estimated rental should be taken as the qualification test, because that method rested upon a Government calculation; but an estimate might be a fiction, whereas the assessment for actual rating was tested, not only by the local authorities, but by the ratepayers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had described the gross estimated rental as being the old basis of qualification for the franchise, but the right hon. Gentleman would find, on looking back into 198 history, that the most ancient franchise rested upon the payment of taxes. This view was supported by Guizot and other writers on the representative system upon this country. The payment of rates by the voter was good evidence of his respectability, and by requiring a qualification of this kind before a man was permitted to vote the expenses of registration would be materially reduced. The expenses of registration for counties were shamefully large, and on the part of the working classes he demanded that they should be reduced. No one ever contemplated that the county registration should be decided by the agents of two political parties in each county or division, who were to make what compromises and to exclude whom they pleased, including, of course, as many voters of independent or unknown opinions as possible. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire was taunted by the right hon. Gentleman for saying that he did not wish to see the representation of property swamped. But he (Mr. Newdegate) would ask the hon. Member for Birmingham whether the county voters for North Warwickshire were all wealthy men. The fact was that the constituency consisted largely of the labouring class. He (Mr. Newdegate) could not be taunted with objecting to the admission of the working classes to the franchise, as he and others had founded a freehold land society in his county with the express object of enabling working men to obtain a property qualification. The fact was that the Conservatives had found that the Liberals in North Warwickshire had been doing the same thing, and the Conservatives thought it a useful undertaking and joined in it; between them they had created large constituencies of working men by these means. He appealed to the House to relieve the small county freeholders from the expense of registration by adopting a rating franchise, thus creating at the same time a natural test of that which he believed to be the most natural of all qualifications. He (Mr. Newdegate) deprecated the proposed reduction of the county franchise to £14, because it was an attempt to introduce into the counties that domination of the middle class, which now existed in the boroughs. In the boroughs it was proposed to admit a certain proportion of the working classes, but in the counties that class were to be swamped. In the interests of labour and purity of election, he should vote in support of the Amendment.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, the Question really was, which was the most reliable value that could be placed upon the franchise created under the clause. Now, he contended, in spite of what had been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the rating value was ten thousand times more to be relied upon than the gross estimated value. From year to year the rateable value was continually undergoing revision, and the present mode of assessment was quite different from that of 1859. If the rating column were adopted, it would facilitate the registration of votes, keep the register pure, and secure the assistance of the parochial authorities in preparing it.
§ MR. W. B. BEAUMONT
said, that the rating column varied in different unions, according to the caprice of those who prepared it, and he thought the gross estimated rental possessed a great advantage in being a fixed and not a fluctuating amount.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, he wished to say a word respecting the comparison drawn between this proposal and the Chandos clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Chandos clause did not proceed upon the principle of rating. That was true, but that clause had no kind of analogy to the £14 rating franchise now proposed. The Chandos clause did not create a franchise of clear rateable value. It took for its test the circumstance that the voter was actually subjected to the payment of a £50 rental. The value was not a point which the Chandos clause considered. Again, the franchise under the Chandos clause was one which must be claimed; it was not a self-acting franchise like the one now proposed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Irish franchise and to the rateable value upon which it was based in the Irish Act, and the right hon. Gentlemen maintained that the system of rating in Ireland was so different to that in this country as to afford no fair analogy in the present instance. But on turning to the Act, it appeared that a house was to be valued upon an estimate of the net annual value after deducting the average cost of repairs and insurance, and other expenses necessary to maintain the building, and after deducting also rates and public charges. Thus, the rateable value of a house assessed upon that principle would be exactly the same as the rateable value of a house according to the English system. 200 It seemed to him an unanswerable argument to say that the principle on which a tenement and land were valued for the purpose of contributing to local taxation was the best principle of valuing the holding in respect of which a man received a vote for a Member of Parliament.
said, that he had always advocated a rating franchise, because it prevented all collusion and those frauds which existed with reference to value. He felt, therefore, that this was a subject which required grave consideration. It was introduced late this evening in consequence of a debate which was introduced on the other side, which was, therefore, not the fault of the Opposition; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer complained that he had been taken by surprise. Under all the circumstances, believing that the subject was one requiring ample discussion, he moved to report Progress.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he hoped that after the manner in which more than five hours of the evening had been consumed, the hon. and gallant Member would not ask the House to separate without coming to a vote. He hoped, too, that the hon. and gallant Member would not attribute to him words which he had never used. He had never said that he was taken by surprise in the smallest degree. Bearing in mind the whole history of the evening, the Government would resist to the best of their ability the Motion to report Progress.
said, he would be sorry to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but when the right hon. Gentleman said he had not been taken by surprise, and yet complained of the Amendment having been brought forward without notice, he thought he was drawing a distinction without a difference.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Colonel Gilpin.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 254; Noes 303: Majority 49.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, the question before the Committee was one in which every county Member had an interest, and as the representative of one of the largest county constituencies in England, and as he had not troubled the House hitherto in the debate, he wished to say a few words upon it. The Chancellor of the 201 Exchequer had adduced the city of Exeter as an example of inequality of rating. He would not dispute the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but he could state that that city was rated under peculiar laws of its own, and the rating was a bonâ fide rating upon the value of the houses. How many agricultural labourers would the £14 qualification enfranchise? Was there one from the North of England to the Land's End which would be enfranchised by it? Why, had the agriculturists not as much right to the franchise as those who lived in towns? Had not those who gained their livelihood by their hard labour, by the strength of their sinews, by toil in the midst of winter, and who formed the class from which the country derived its soldiers, as much right to the privilege as those who shared the wealth accumulated in large towns? It might be said that the agricultural labourer was not sufficiently educated, but of all pleas that could be urged against that class that was the most shameful that could be uttered in the House of Commons. For year past funds had been drawn from agricultural parishes to educate the artizans in large towns, while the agricultural labourers depended for their education upon the clergy, the landed gentry, and other charitable people in the agricultural districts. When a measure of that kind was brought before the House at ten o'clock at night, was it not fair and reasonable that the county representatives should have more time to consider it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer fancied he was going to cram this measure down their throats, and had accused its opponents of hindering its progress in every way. Members, on that side of the House were prepared calmly to consider any fair and proper measure of Reform. When Lord Derby was in office they sacrificed themselves to his views. [Laughter.] What he meant was, that they sacrificed their individual opinions in the desire to pass a measure which would benefit the country, but they were prevented from passing that measure by proceedings to which the Conservatives had not on this occasion resorted. They had had no meetings in public rooms. They were prepared to go into the question, and debate it night after night in principle and detail; but as long as he had a seat in that House, he should continue to oppose a proposition so unjust to the agriculturists.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had looked for the statistics with reference to the county, franchise till he thought they 202 would not have an opportunity of seeing them before the House got into Committee, and though he had at length seen the papers he had not yet had the opportunity of examining them. Under these circumstances, it was not unreasonable that the Government should grant those hon. Members who represented counties another day for the consideration of the question.
considered that the question before the House, and which had been debated scarcely two hours, was of especial importance to the agricultural community as well as to the interest of the country at large, and should be discussed another night at least. Although not opposed to a fair and equitable measure of Reform, having supported Lord Derby's Bill of 1859, he was prepared to throw every obstacle in the way of this one-sided and most revolutionary Bill which had been condemned by every Member on that side of the House, and by nine-tenths of those who sat behind the Treasury Benches. It had been sincerely supported by none except about twenty hon. Members who sat below the gangway, and who were marshalled by the great demagogue of the House—the hon. Member for Birmingham. He heartily wished the hon. Member joy of his leadership. The real and true object of the Bill was to extinguish utterly the great Constitutional Conservative party, and he warned the hon. Gentlemen opposite who sat behind the Treasury Bench that, should they succeed in annihilating the Conservative party, which had by its power in opposition upheld the interests of the country for so many years, they must look out for themselves. The day was not far distant should that Bill pass, when the successors of the old Palmerstonian party would, by their wicked policy, become the weakest party in the State. Under this measure, according as the Conservative party descended in the scale, so would the Radicals rise in power and importance. In a very short period hon. Members behind the Treasury Bench who professed to be so desirous of passing this measure, would have to go down on their knees to the small remaining section of the Conservative party, and pray for their countenance and support against the power of the Radicals created by themselves. The country was utterly disgusted at the manner in which the patronage of the State had been dispensed for the last quarter of a century by those who occupied the Treasury Benches 203 amongst the Russells, Greys, and Elliots, whose claims had been insatiable, and they still hoped, by the passing of this measure, to be maintained in office to continue this revolting system; but he hoped that the time was not far distant when the patronage of the then present officials would be taken away, and they would see what would happen when it passed into the hands of the, if possible, more advanced Liberals. He trusted that, as parsimony has been observed towards the Conservatives by the Whigs, so the Radicals, when it came to their turn, would bestow upon the Whigs precious few favours to feed their hungry families and Parliamentary supporters. He hoped that so long as the measure was not the law of the land—and thank God it had not yet become an Act of Parliament!—he relied upon every good Conservative in the land who had the honour of a seat in that House, to raise his voice against it, and proclaim through the House to the country, that, as a whole, it was a measure revolutionary in itself, uncalled fur by the people of the country, and most inimical to its interests.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, he would venture to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to whether this discussion was not about to close prematurely. He had not yet had an opportunity of expressing his opinion on the Bill in any of its stages. He entertained a strong opinion on this particular question as to the advisability of a rateable or rental valuation. At present the county registration was most imperfect. His hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire had said it was extremely difficult for a man to get on the register, but it was equally difficult to get one off when once he was there. The reason of this was that the county registration depended entirely on individual agency, not on official agency, as in the boroughs. In boroughs the overseers of the poor made out the list annually, but there was no such system in counties. He could not give a stronger instance of this than one which had occurred at the last general election. A gentleman on the register of one of the counties in the West of England was strongly canvassed by both sides for his vote, but when he was about to record it, it turned out that he was wrongly described, his Christian name was wrong, his place of residence was wrong, and he had parted with his qualification ten years before. A rating qualification would remedy all this, 204 because the lists could be prepared annually. This question was vitally important; it had only been discussed for three or four hours, and he did not think it too much to ask for further time for its consideration.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was the duty of the Government to endeavour to make some progress with the measure. The greater part of the evening had been consumed, and he must say, in an overwhelming proportion by hon. Gentlemen opposite, although he did not say they had not a right to occupy the attention of the House in a discussion on our foreign policy. Now, this (the Reform question) was a subject in respect to which they were limited to two nights in the week, and it was also a subject on which the Government had made every effort to make progress, and this they intended to do. The Committee was quite willing to listen to any Member who wished to state his views. The question had been fully debated by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire; he had been replied to by the Government, and he thought they were quite entitled to ask the judgment of the Committee upon it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I had hoped upon this important question we would have avoided those contests which threaten us to-night. I think it will be most unfortunate if we get into these troubles. I am inclined, as far as I can, to assist the Government to avoid them. I wish, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would fairly consider the position of the question to-night. I acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman, with his views of the matter, has some cause for disappointment and vexation in the opposition he has met with upon this question. But I think he will not on calm consideration impute that cause to this side of the House. Let the right hon. Gentleman but consider how this question stands. It is a question which deeply affects and interests the Gentlemen who represent the land. In Committee perhaps it is the most important question that could well be raised at this stage of the measure. There are other questions of franchise, but this is one which in its general character and many ramifications interests the county Members especially, and those who represent county populations. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say candidly whether he thinks that the Committee have had a fair opportunity of discussing it. ["Hear, hear!" and cries 205 of "Yes!" from the Ministerial side of the House.] The hon. Gentlemen who say "Yes!" cannot have studied the question, and certainly do not take the same interest in it as those on this side of the House. Many Gentlemen on this side of the House who take great interest in this question, and who wish to state their opinions from their own knowledge of the facts, have not had the opportunity of doing so. The right hon. Gentleman complains—and with his views upon the matter with some reason—that a great portion of the evening has been employed by a discussion on another subject. Let me, however, remind him that we, on this side of the House, are not responsible for that. It is true that many speeches have been delivered on this side of the House; but I may be allowed to remark that the subject referred to is one of great interest and importance, and was introduced by a sound supporter of Her Majesty's Government in a speech of remarkable ability. So far as I am concerned I did not promote that debate, and withheld myself from taking part in it, with a view chiefly of affording an early opportunity to my hon. Friend of bringing forward this important question which we are now discussing—a question which my hon. Friend has deeply studied, and which he has placed before the Committee with all that weight of argument which it deserved. Now what opportunity has been given for the discussion of this question? It is true my hon. Friend has made his speech, and the Committee have heard the reply given to it by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But nothing like a general discussion has taken place in respect to this question, involving a principle than which nothing can be more important in connection with this Bill. Our object is to elicit truth by general discussion, and arrive at some clear knowledge as to the alleged inequality of rating. A satisfactory conclusion upon it can only be arrived at by a fair discussion of the question by those hon. Gentlemen who have a peculiar knowledge of its details. This discussion if carried on further this night, could only be continued before an unwilling audience. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reconsider the position of the question, and that he will not persevere in his opposition to the Motion that the Chairman report Progress. The Committee would then resume the discussion in a better humour on the first opportunity. I am so convinced that this will be the 206 wisest course that I feel persuaded the right hon. Gentleman will not allow a false pride to influence him in opposing the Motion any longer.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that there had been no indisposition in any part of the House to listen to those Gentlemen who wished to take part in the discussion. When the hon. Member for Bedfordshire rose he was listened to with attention, but although it was only twelve o'clock, after a few sentences he moved that the Chairman report Progress. They had now been discussing this Motion for three quarters of an hour, and he could not but think the time might have been more usefully employed in discussing the Bill. Even now (ten minutes to one o'clock) he thought they might go on a little longer, and endeavour to make some Progress.
said, he had made the Motion to report Progress in consequence of not having received the statistics furnished by the Government until late that day, when it was impossible to study them sufficiently in connection with the important question that was then under consideration.
§ MR. BANKS STANHOPE
said, he was also desirous of taking part in this discussion. The papers delivered that day were of such importance and intricacy, that he defied any hon. Member to master them in one day. The county Members must have time to study them. As a great party and a country party representing the great body of the people, they had a right to be heard upon a question involving a change in the Constitution. He would only say for himself that he was prepared to sit there till ten o'clock in the morning, rather than give way.
MAJOR STUART KNOX
reminded the Chancellor of the Exchequer that upon a Bill involving the destruction of the rights of property in Ireland he agreed to an adjournment of the debate at twenty minutes to twelve o'clock.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not give the House the trouble to divide. In the first part of the sitting of the House he had been astonished to find that the hon. Member for Bridgwater had supplanted the discussion which it was expected would be raised by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, there had been a division, and the House had shown its mind on the subject by the large majority 207 against reporting Progress. He had seen many struggles of the same kind about the same time of the night, and the result of his observation had been that if the minority were determined to protract the discussion and get the debate adjourned, they must succeed. There was in such cases a great expenditure of time and temper, and no good came of it. It must be admitted that the question was one of the greatest importance, and it was only natural that the county Members should wish to discuss the subject. He hoped the Government would not give the Committee the trouble of dividing again.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, that being a Member of a Committee upstairs he had come down at noon, and had now been in the House for thirteen hours. He appealed to the Government not to detain any longer Members engaged upon Committees, who must come down in a few hours to begin their duties again. He should have much to say on behalf of adopting in this Bill the Irish system of registration, which was self-acting and inexpensive.
COLONEL LOYD LINDSAY
said, he had waited from four o'clock till ten expecting this question to come on. At the latter hour hon. Members opposite began to come down to the House in their evening dress wondering that during dinner-time the county franchise had not been disposed of. He thought that it was but fair that those who sat on his side of the House should have an opportunity of considering this matter; and if they continued the discussion that night, he was sure that hon. Members opposite who sat below the gallery would not give them a fair hearing. He hoped that the advice of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) would be taken, and that the further consideration of this matter would be adjourned.
§ SIR HEDWORTH WILLIAMSON
said, that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House seemed to think that they alone were the representatives of counties, but he begged to inform them that there were some county Members on the Ministerial side of the House also. An hon. Member had stated that the Bill would add 1,200 to the constituency he represented, and therefore wished for delay. Now he (Sir Hedworth Williamson) hoped to see his own constituents increased by 2,500, and on that account desired that the Bill might be pressed forward, and he therefore hoped the Government would persist in their course.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Major Stuart Knox.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 212; Noes 254: Majority 42.
§ THE CHANCELLOR of THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, we shall not resist that Motion. We have thought it right to take the two divisions which have occurred in order to mark our view of the case. Circumstances did not admit of the House going into Committee before ten o'clock, and we were not allowed to carry on the discussion on this Bill beyond twelve. The moment the hands of the clock reached that hour a Motion to report Progress was made, and we felt it to be our duty to enter our protest against that method of proceeding. We did not for an instant think of attempting to limit the debate, nor did we make any such attempt. ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member for Honiton must be aware that that which I have stated is quite accurate. We were of opinion that, under the circumstances, the debate ought to have been permitted to continue to a later hour than twelve o'clock, while we feel that we should be showing some disregard of the comfort and convenience of the House if we were to ask them to prolong it now.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he commenced the evening by protesting against the debate on foreign affairs, and that he has now closed it by protesting against the debate on Reform.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the statistics which had been laid upon the table ought to be studied by those who took an interest in this question.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Bagge,)—put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.