§ (Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir George Grey, Mr. Villiers.)
§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that no prefatory remarks were requisite in making the Motion of which he had given notice. The subject had undergone considerable discussion already, and the opinion of the House 1320 in reference to it had been unmistakably expressed during the debates on the Franchise and Re-distribution of Seats Bill—namely, that the question of Reform should be dealt with at once, and in a comprehensive manner. He, therefore, begged to move—That the Representation of the People Bill and the Re-distribution of Seats Bill be referred to the same Committee.
§ Resolution agreed to.
then moved—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to consolidate the said Bills into one Bill.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Representation of the People Bill and the Re-distribution of Seats Bill be referred to the same Committee:—Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to consolidate the said Bills into one Bill.—(Mr. Bouverie.)
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
, who was very imperfectly heard, rose to move the Instruction of which he had given notice—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at elections.The hon. Baronet having referred to the bribery and corruption which prevailed at the last election, more particularly adverting to the evidence taken before the Yarmouth Election Committee, was understood to say that the objections to his proposal on the score of time had lost all their force. At the beginning of the Session the Government told the House of Commons and the country that the Franchise Bill was alone to be proceeded with, and that they would stand or fall by their proposals. They had "passed the Rubicon," had "broken their bridges" and "burnt their boats." But having reached the opposite shore they found, apparently, that the position of their opponents was impregnable; for what had they done since? They looked behind them, and although their retreat was cut off and their bridges and boats both destroyed, they found, apparently, that the stream was not so forbidding, and that the current was not so rapid as they had imagined, for they quietly walked into it and waded back again to the shore from which they had started. Under the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor), and with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 1321 Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), the House were called upon, at the end of May, for an expression of opinion in favour of amalgamating the measures—a proceeding which in March the Government declared to he impracticable. But even while executing this strategic manœuvre the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not restrain his unfortunate propensity for threatening the House of Commons. He ate the leek, but swore he would be most horribly revenged; and no doubt, if his; threat were carried out, he would be most horribly revenged, for he told the Members of the House of Commons that be would punish them by "keeping" them during the whole of September and October. The House of Commons were to be treated as a parcel of schoolboys, and deprived of their holidays because their taskmasters had wasted three months of the Session by setting them the wrong lesson to learn. Whether the House of Commons would tolerate the adoption of such a course he would not pretend to say; but, if they sat until December, he hoped the Bill would not pass into law without including in it provisions such as those which his Motion contemplated. No Act to amend the representation of the people could over be satisfactory which did not amend the law relating to bribery and corruption. The hon. Member concluded by moving that it be an Instruction to the Committee of which he had given notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee I that they have power to make provision for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at Elections."—(Sir Rainald Knightley.)
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, that in which he canvassed the conduct of the Government, was, if I may be permitted to say so, rather in anticipation of the debate which will occur by-and-by, and therefore I will forego all attempts either at defence or recrimination. As to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I will not for a moment doubt that he is very sincere and earnest in his desire to make provision for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at elections. I venture to appeal to him in the name of that very sincerity and earnestness not to persevere with this Instruction to the Committee. When we contended that we were justified by a regard for the interests of the question in bringing in a Franchise Bill apart from the Bill for the 1322 Re-distribution of Seats, we were fairly open to the reply that on previous occasions, when Government dealt with the questions of Reform, it had been customary to combine these two subjects in the same Bill. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, must feel how weak is his own position when I remind him that, under no circumstances, I believe—certainly not as a general rule—baa it been attempted to combine provisions for the prevention of bribery and corruption at elections with the general question of the Parliamentary constitution. The subject is one that amply merits separate discussion, but it can hardly, I think, be discussed to advantage in connection with a Bill for the re-distribution of seats or a Bill relating to the franchise, There are many grounds upon which the objection may be put; but I put it simply on this ground, that the question? of the elective franchise and re-distribution of seats are subjects which naturally, and of necessity, give rise to those differences and conflicting interests which are connected with party in this House; but the questions connected with bribery and corruption are never regarded from the same point of view. We have always endeavoured to approach them on common ground, upon the assumption—which, I think, must be regarded as a just assumption—that we all have an equal interest in the repression of bribery and corruption; and there is no reason why upon this subject a Gentleman who sits at one side of the House should regard with suspicion any proposition emanating from those with whom he ordinarily differs in opinion. It was said the other night that health is not infectious and disease is; and so, I am afraid, if we take this, which is not a party question, and fling it into the arena of party questions, we do no good whatever in the discussion of party questions, while we really should do a great deal of harm to the discussion of a question which involves no party considerations at all. Certainly, as far as the views of the Government are matured on that subject, we are of opinion that Reform is grievously needed; but it is much easier to see the necessity than to suggest remedies, and it will not, I think, be possible to legislate on that subject without very deliberate inquiry as to what can be done. But there is another point of which the hon. Gentleman will feel the force. The commencement of a Parliament is the 1323 period at which the great bulk of the inquiries take place which commonly bring to light the practices pursued at elections, and the operation of the law with regard to bribery and corruption. It would be exceedingly desirable, before attempting to handle the question by legislation, that we should obtain all such experience as the investigation now going on may afford us. It appears, I confess, to us that the immature state of our information with regard to the election inquiries and their results would be itself a sufficient reason against attaching to the labours upon which the Committee are about to enter the additional task that the hon. Gentleman proposes to impose. The arguments of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the horrors of sitting in September or October in order to dispose of the questions of the franchise or re-distribution of seats appear to cut-directly against the view for which he contends, because those horrors undoubtedly would not be mitigated by having to sit through November in order to dispose of the questions connected with bribery and corruption. I therefore hope the hon. Gentleman will be disposed not to press upon the House the adoption of this Instruction, but will rest contented with the assurance that the Government share the convictions of the House upon this subject and that the best and most stringent provisions which the wisdom and experience of this House can devise—not too stringent I should hope, but sufficiently so to prove effectual for the purpose—the Government will be prepared to adopt and carry out at the time when they feel they can approach the subject with the greatest advantage. That time, however, will not have arrived until the information derived from the election inquiries occurring after the general election is made complete.
§ MR. OSBORNE
Having been most recently returned to this House, I beg to express my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) for having been first on the other side of the House to direct attention to a point that I think requires reform more even than the franchise or the re-distribution of seats. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman below me to say, "I want experience on the subject of bribery." In God's name, what experience more does he want? Is it not patent to this House and to the country that the real 1324 plague spot in our Constitution is the bribery and corruption which was so rife, not only in the last, but in every election? ["No!"] I say yes. And when you look at the list of election expenses that have been published, and when hon. Members remember their own experience, I say that both sides of the House would be acting a most hypocritical part in saying that this was not the most material point on which the Minister of the Crown should put his finger and legislate at once. For my own part, I deeply regret that, instead of following the advice of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock—advice which I think most mischievous and most likely to defeat the Bill, by mingling up the paltry re-distribution of seats—for a paltry re-distribution it is—with the question of the franchise—he did not take the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, and deal boldly with this question of bribery and corruption. I want to put a plain question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon which I hope there will be no evasion. When does he intend to legislate on this question? Is it to be put off till these Commissions have reported? If so, it will be put off to what is called "a more convenient season," and we shall hear nothing more of it. I think the Motion brought forward by my hon. Friend well worthy the consideration of the House. If we could by any possibility get rid of the redistribution of seats and inquire into this question of corruption we should be doing something really useful to the country. I feel so strongly on this subject that if my hon. Friend goes to a division I shall certainly support him with my vote. And I do hope some hon. Member will elicit from Her Majesty's Government what is the particular course they intend to pursue with regard to this question of bribery and corruption.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he could not separate the questions of bribery and intimidation at elections from the question of re-distribution of seats. He felt as strongly as the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) that the present organization of county elections did not secure economy. The present system was a most expensive one. The system of intrusting everything to agents had entirely failed as a measure for securing economy. An account was given by the election agent of certain large expenses which were made certain by the appoint- 1325 ment of the agent, and then followed large contingencies which, remaining behind, never came within the purview of the law. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not believe that bribery was practised to any appreciable extent in county elections; but it was notorious in borough elections. The accumulation of wealth had increased the expenditure on elections in recent years, and to a most dangerous extent, as impairing the freedom of election, and it was likely to become more so; he looked to the re-distribution of seats as the means of pre venting the undue application of wealth to corrupting the constituencies. So far from deprecating the re-distribution of seats, he did not think the Hill went far enough. He was a Conservative; some people called him a Tory; but he believed that if the Conservative party ever shrunk from the masses of their fellow-countrymen—if they ever acted as though they did not represent a genuine national feeling—their cause was lost. Thank God, the allegation that Conservatives did not represent any national feeling was not true. The people of this country were Conservative,—there was a division of opinion amongst them, but they were Conservative, especially of their own freedom, and it was with that object he was proud of being one of their representatives. It was for the preservation of the freedom of election that the Motion sought to cheek bribery and corruption. The expenditure at elections was a growing evil, and he thought that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had done his duty in bringing the abuses to which it led before the House. If it ever came to this, that wealth only was represented in the House, or numbers only-corrupted by wealth, there would be a deficiency of talent, and gradually, if the electoral system ceased to collect within these walls the highest talent, the House would become an instrument of degradation instead of being an honour to the country
§ MR. CLAY
thought that if a thing was right to be done, it would not be very easy to point out a time when it was wrong to do it. It seemed to him he must he a wise man who could exactly predict the length of the life of the present Parliament; and he must be a very sanguine man who could suppose that it would be very long lived. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire that bribery, corruption, and intimidation were the black spot on that House; but having regard to the time which former 1326 Commissions had taken to make their Reports, if the House wore to wait for the Reports of the Commissions which were to be appointed in consequence of cases which had occurred during the last election, there was nothing more likely than that we should have another general election under the present, inefficient state of the law. There might be another election with new constituencies and seats differently distributed; and he could not conceive any position more unhappy for new constituencies than one in which they would be exposed to all those evils which the present law was confessedly powerless to remedy. For those reasons, and believing the subject to be by far the most pressing that could come before the House, he would vote with the hon. Member for Northamptonshire if he went to a division on his Motion.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
confessed that the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire had taken him by surprise. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to treat the question of bribery, intimidation, and corruption as a matter of no great moment—one that might be taken up at any time that was convenient to the House. But there was no Reformer so ardent that he wished to go through a course of Reform; there was no Member who did not wish to see the question settled for at least the present generation of legislators; and there was not a Member on either side of the House who would stand up and say that any measure of Reform could be satisfactory to the House or the country that did not deal with the question of bribery, intimidation, and corruption. It seemed to him to be the very pith and marrow of Reform. He quite admitted that the measure before the House was open to great cavil and discussion, and that there was very considerable doubt whether it could under any circumstances be made a measure which would be acceptable to the country; but there was one question as to which no two men held different opinions, and that was the extensive corruption of many places which now returned Members to Parliament. There was another question which he might submit to the House. It was proposed largely to extend the franchise. Were they going to extend the franchise to those whose poverty made them more especially susceptible to the chance of being bribed or intimidated without giving 1327 them any defence? Were they willing to permit wealth to prostitute the constituencies of England, and pass it over as a question which the House could take up at any time, or whenever they had nothing-else to do? If those were the principles on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to legislate, he ventured to think they would not meet with the approbation of the House or of the country. The question was a grave one, which ought not to be passed lightly over. No man who had any pride in his country—no man who had read the page of history—could doubt that the great blot on the English constitution related to the great question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had passed over so lightly. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he thought the question could be passed by in this way he was very much mistaken. He appealed to hon. Members at the other side of the House to support the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, who he hoped would not flinch from pressing his Motion to a division.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I apprehend the question before the House is not whether bribery, corruption, and intimidation were extensively practised at the last election and at former elections, nor whether it is important that the House should use every means of checking those practices, but whether it is expedient the House should agree to this Instruction, which will not only give the Committee power but will oblige them to introduce into the Reform Bill provisions against bribery, corruption, and intimidation. When an Instruction of this kind is moved it is usual for the Member who proposes it to give the House some information as to the means by which the Committee are to carry it into effect. But in this case the hon. Member for Northamptonshire has not done so. He assumes—what I dare say no one is prepared to deny—that bribery has prevailed at elections; but he does not state by what provisions he would prevent it at future elections. Neither does the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk), though I think he has rather pointed to the ballot, to which, perhaps, he has become a convert. From my experience of one or two Bills directed against those practices, I know the subject is one with which there is no little difficulty in dealing; and I express my own opinion when I say that I cannot put much faith in mere penal enactments for preventing 1328 bribery and punishing persons who are guilty of it. The existing law is very stringent; and I believe its inefficiency is an assumed rather than a real inefficiency. The Corrupt Practices Act prevents persons from sheltering themselves under the plea that they are not to be called on to criminate themselves. There may be an inquiry first by a Committee, and then by a Commission; and I have already expressed my opinion that if the House are really in earnest they might do much by means of the existing law, after receiving the Report of a Commission, to put down bribery and corruption. I believe if they did not respect too carefully the rights of the minority who had not been guilty of bribery, but if they boldly applied the penalty of disfranchisement in cases where bribery has been shown to prevail extensively among a constituency, they would do more to check bribery than is likely to be done by any new enactment. At the same time, I am not prepared to say that some provisions of a more penal character might not be framed to deter persons from being guilty of the crime. The hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian) has given notice of a proposition, the effect of which would be to deprive for ever of his vote the person giving a bribe, or the person receiving one. I presume there would be a similar provision in the case of intimidation. The House can consider that proposition at the proper time; but to adopt the Instruction of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire in the absence of any specific proposal would, in my opinion, be unwise as regards the object in view, and would only retard the progress of the Bill which the House now has before it. I hope, therefore, the House will not agree to the Motion.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
With regard to the objection of the right hon. Gentleman that no specific provision has been proposed by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley), I apprehend that the object of an Instruction is not to propose on the face of it a specific amendment of the law, but to give power to a Committee to deal with a subject which otherwise it could not deal with, so that in the Committee proposals may be brought forward for an alteration of the law. I confess that I was rather surprised at the statement which we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The 1329 right hon. Gentleman said that my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire had assumed that the law was defective, but had not shown where it was defective; and the right hon. Gentleman stated that he himself was not prepared to say that Parliament could go further, as far as severity was concerned, in legislating on the subject of bribery at elections. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, not many minutes ago, not simply that he was of opinion, but that Her Majesty's Government were of opinion, that the law on this subject was gravely and seriously defective. Now, how can we reconcile these two statements? I must say that the two reasons given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for rejecting the Instruction are not reasons to which the House ought to attach much weight. The right hon. Gentleman said that in a new Parliament inquiries had to take place on the subject of bribery, and that, therefore, it was better to wait till those inquiries were concluded, because until then you could not have the facts on which to proceed. Now, I believe I am correct in saying that the Election Committees have terminated, and that there are Commissions which either have been or will shortly be moved for in four instances. I want to know whether the House imagines that in the course of those four inquiries anything will be elicited which would bear on the general question as to what legislation on the subject ought to be? I dare say you will find out by means of these inquiries, whether 50, 100, or 150 men were bribed in some particular borough, but no light will be thrown on the general question. Suppose, however, that all the four Commissions were to report that bribery had not extensively prevailed in those four communities, would the House be ready to say, "Oh, all that we have been talking about bribery for years past is a myth, because, with regard to four particular localities, a report has been made showing that bribery does not extensively prevail there?" I apprehend it is utterly impossible that any finding of these Com missions could alter the general question, and I think that it is necessary to make provision, in some shape or other, for the purpose of preventing the increase of bribery at elections. The second reason assigned by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is even more singular than the first. He said, "Do not give the Instruction to the Committee, because, 1330 if you do, you will find both sides of the House agreeing about it. There will be no dispute about it, it will not be a party question, and, therefore, you had better not raise the question at all. "Well, if we have that happy prospect, it will certainly be a variety to find some subject on which there is no difference of opinion.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, there could be no doubt that bribery had extensively prevailed at the last general election, and at all previous general elections. So strong was his opinion on the subject (having served as Chairman of two Committees), that he had ventured to put a Notice on the subject on the paper which stood for the next day. If that Motion should be carried, it would, of course, be very much in the nature of an Instruction, and would effect what he believed to be the universal desire of every Gentleman having a scat in that. House. The following was the Motion of which he had given notice:—That it is the opinion of this House that any person found by a Royal Commission to have been guilty of offering or giving a bribe to any elector, in order to induce him to vote, or to abstain from voting, or on account of his having voted or abstained from voting for any candidate at an, election of a Knight of the Shire or Burgess to I serve in Parliament, shall henceforth and for ever be disqualified from exercising the Electoral Franchise or from sitting in Parliament.An inquiry by Royal Commission was a judicial inquiry, and when a Commission decided that a person had received or had given a bribe, they might accept as a fact that it was so. Was it right that any person who had given or received a bribe should afterwards exercise the franchise? If such a Resolution were passed it would do more to stop bribery than had been effected by all the measures on the subject that had passed the House. If the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) should go to a division he would be unable to support him, because he (Mr. Hussey Vivian) was sincerely desirous that this Reform Bill should pass, and he had no desire whatever that it should be got rid of by a side-wind. The more they loaded this Bill with Instructions, the less likelihood there was of its becoming law during the present Session. A bribery Bill was almost sufficient for a Session in itself. He was in the House when the Act with respect to bribery was passed, and he recollected the length of time it took to pass it. He believed that if they superadded this subject to the Bill—the objections already raised being so nume- 1331 rous—the effect would be pretty well to shelve the Bill altogether.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, if any justification was required for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, it was to be found in the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary respecting the Commissions which had been appointed. It would be a month to-morrow since the Motions for the four Commissions to inquire into the existence of corrupt practices at the late elections for Totnes, Lancaster, Reigate, and Great Yarmouth had been agreed to. Her Majesty's Government offered no opposition, the matter was referred to another place, and since then nothing more had been heard about it. But surely it was the duty of the Government to take care that some one should move the House of Lords in order that the Commissions might issue. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Her Majesty's Government have done so.] He wished to know when that had been done. The public journals, from which hon. Gentlemen usually derived their knowledge of what passed in the other House, had not noticed the circumstance that attention had been called to these Commissions of Inquiry, and the Commissions themselves had not issued from the Home Office. If those Commissions were to be a ground for delay in acceding to the present Motion, Her Majesty's Government ought to satisfy the House that they have shown due diligence in causing them to issue. If the Government were really in earnest in dealing with this question, they would take care that the Commissions should issue forthwith. Then, if the sitting of Parliament were carried on till September or November, the Reports of the Commissions would be ready, and the House would have time to deal with this Bill. He hoped the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire would be agreed to.
§ MR. STANILAND
said, he also had a notice on the paper in the shape of an Instruction to the Committee. He had voted for the second reading of the Electoral Franchise Bill, and desired to see it pass; but he did not expect that, if the Bill should pass, there would be any abatement of corrupt practices unless at the same time some legislative measures for their repression were adopted. He was surprised at the assertion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was not sufficient evidence of the existence of bribery. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dis- 1332 sented.] The right hon. Gentleman's words were, that then the House had not experience enough of the prevalence of bribery to enable it to come to a decision on the subject. Why, from the days of Sudbury downward, there had been abundant evidence and experience of that fact; and during the last two months no fewer than fifty-four petitions had been presented against the return of Members representing boroughs in England, in four-fifths of which bribery was alleged to have taken place, and the decisions of the Committees appointed to inquire into these petitions fully demonstrated that bribery had existed to a great extent. There was one borough, however, which had not been the subject of investigation during the present Session—a borough on the east coast, with a constituency of between 1,000 and 1,100. He had it on the authority of a gentleman connected with that borough, that out of that number of constituents over 700 were bribed. ["Name, name !"] He had further to state, on the authority of that gentleman, that the average price of the 700 voters was £35 per head. ["Name, name !"] And he could further state, on the same authority, that several of the independent electors of the borough, who were tenants of his informant, had had offered to them, and had actually received, £60 per head for their votes. ["Name, name!"] And yet there had been no petition against the return for that borough, and it was now represented in the House. ["Name!"] He had not the slightest objection, privately, to give the name; but it would be painful, no doubt, to the feelings of the hon. Member for the borough to which he referred, and who was now sitting in that House. They had had before them, from the various Election Committees, cases where bribery had been proved, and they knew that bribery had extensively prevailed in many boroughs, and he would put it to hon. Members whether the time had not arrived for something to be done. It was obvious that if there were no persons to offer bribes there would be none to receive them; and when they inveighed against the poor voter for being more exposed to the temptation of bribery than the richer voter, they ought at the same time to remember that if the temptation were not placed in his way by the agents of hon. Members sitting in that House, the bribery would not take place. He trusted that when the question did come 1333 forward—as sooner or later it must—whoever had the conduct of the measure would take care that those who offered the bribes were made the objects of punishment rather than those who received them. The question of bribery came to this: they must do one of two things—either they must legalize bribery, or they must take effectual measures to destroy the system altogether; for they had arrived at this condition, that in the present Parliament, out of 334 Members, representing the boroughs of England and Wales, one out of every seven of them had been charged publicly, by petition lodged in that House, with the commission of bribery and intimidation. That was the unvarnished fact; and he put it to the House whether the Government ought not to pledge themselves to do some thing on a question of such importance, which so greatly affected the character and dignity of the House. It was incumbent upon the Government that they should undertake, during the present Session, to introduce a Bill to settle the law as to bribery. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said the law was already very stringent, and he doubted whether it could be made more so. Now he (Mr. Staniland) thought the law was decidedly favourable to the continuance of the system which prevailed. It was his misfortune to lose his Beat by a minority of twelve, and it cost him £500 or £600 to petition for it; but in the case of Nottingham, he was told that the expenses connected with the petition against the return for the borough amounted to something like £10,000. [Mr. OSBRORNE: Not in respect of the last election.] He supposed the hon. Gentleman had had to deal with more peaceable "lambs" than there had been at the election previous. The cost of the inquiry at Nottingham, he understood, amounted to something like £10,000. And why was that: Because the inquiry could not take place on the spot, and they had had to drag witnesses, candidates, solicitors, agents, and everybody connected with the matter to London, at an enormous cost, which put it entirely out of the question that any poor man should contest the validity of an election. This was not the fault of the Act of Parliament, but the fault of the law which Parliament had sanctioned. It would be far better if provision were made that a Select Committee appointed upon such an inquiry should conduct that inquiry upon the spot where all the cir- 1334 cumstances arose. The sacrifice of time on the part of hon. Members that such a course would entail would be little compared with the enormous sacrifice imposed upon all other persons attending a Committee. He would also venture to make another suggestion, and that was that in the case of a Member petitioned against for bribery and unseated, provision should be made to enable the candidate who had polled the next highest number of votes, in a certain proportion, to claim the seat. In the case, for instance of a man who polled one-third of the votes, and who lost the seat through the bribery of his opponent, he thought it would be better, on unseating the Member guilty of bribery, to give the seat to the other candidate. With reference to the prevention of bribery, the only suggestion he had ever heard made to effect that object was that the ballot should be adopted. He confessed that he was not an advocate for the ballot, as he believed that with the ballot and with money there was not a constituency under 4,000 or 5,000 in this country that would not return any man whose pocket was the largest. He believed that the ballot would be of the greatest assistance in promoting bribery. He believed that the only effectual remedy to prevent bribery would be to group the boroughs of this country together in such a manner as that it would be almost a physical impossibility for bribery to be committed. How was it that bribery did not exist in counties? It was because of the extent of the constituencies, and because those constituencies were so dispersed over so large an area that any machinery for the commission of bribery would be ineffectual. His proposal was—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Gentleman was not in order. He might speak generally upon the subject before the House, but he could not speak on the proposal of which he had given notice for a future day.
§ MR. STANILAND
then concluded by expressing a hope that the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary would take care that pending the discussion of these Bills some pledge was given by the Government to the House that they would introduce a measure on this subject, which should show the country that they were really as anxious as was the country itself, and as he believed the House was, to do away with this vice and to settle this question which had proved so great a pest.
§ MR. BARROW
said, it would be a matter of the greatest pain to him, as an admirer of our Constitution, if this blot of bribery should remain unchecked. He thought that before they subjected a larger portion of the population to the possibility of demoralization they ought to endeavour, by some means or other, to put a stop to the bribery which prevailed too generally at elections. No hon. Gentleman in that House could say he was ignorant of the fact that bribery was carried on in his own neighbourhood, though he (Mr. Barrow) was, happily, able to say that it had not extended to the division of the county which he represented (South Notts). No hon. Gentleman could say he was not satisfied in his conscience that there existed an amount of bribery which ought, if possible, to be put down. Bribery at present was the greatest blot upon our Constitution, and he was not willing to take the step they were about to do until the question was practically dealt with.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I wish, in the first instance, to advert to what has been said respecting the Commissions moved for in this House, because there is a misapprehension with regard to the facts. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was about to move for these Commissions in the other House, when a noble and independent Lord (Earl Grey), who takes a prominent part in the debates of that House, stated that he thought, in respect of so important a proposal, more time ought to be given to the House for the examination of the evidence; and at the instance of that noble Lord and under these circumstances delay unavoidably occurred, and the consequence is that the House of Lords has not yet expressed its acquiescence in the Address of this House, and it has been impossible that the Commissions should be issued. I hope I shall not be thought intrusive if I offer a few words upon the Motion before the House. The question is, not whether we shall endeavour, at the proper time and in the proper manner, to do all in our power to put an end to bribery, but whether this is the proper time. I apprehend the rule of business is, if you wish to do things well, to do one thing at a time, and then to consider well the thing which you are about to do. With regard to the general question of Reform, the House has expressed the opinion that the one thing which must be done comprehends two important branches of the subject—the franchise and 1336 the re-distribution of seats; and the Government, acceding to the view of the House upon that subject, has accepted the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). I am quite sure that all those who anxiously desire to do that one thing, comprehending those two important branches of the subject, must be aware that it is a very great and a very serious, not to say difficult, undertaking, which requires their whole attention and their best energies. Those who really desire to settle this question cannot wish, at the same time and as part of the same measure, to introduce another subject, which, however important in its connection with the Parliamentary system of this country, has hitherto, I believe, always been settled in a different Bill. No Government which has ever brought forward any Reform Bill at any time has ever thought of mixing this question up with Parliamentary Reform. It is a subject that will be best considered if separately considered. I feel quite convinced that if the House will look at the question upon its merits only, with the view of putting the greatest possible check upon bribery, it will say that the worst step they could possibly take would be to proceed in the way proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley). My hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hugh Cairns), of whom it is very difficult to suppose that he misunderstands anybody, has not done justice to what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend, as I understood him, did not say or mean to say that the House was sure to be agreed upon any proposal that could be made in order to put an end to bribery and corruption. What my right hon. Friend said was that he believed the House to be of one mind with regard to their general purpose in this matter—of one mind in their desire to find the best means of putting a stop to an evil requiring correction. We know, however, from experience, that, so far from its being easy to agree upon a remedy for that evil, it is, perhaps, one of the most difficult subjects in the world to deal with. What is the reason we are not further advanced than we at present are in applying a remedy? Why, because all the means hitherto tried have been inefficient for the purpose. We have heard further suggestions this evening—one to give the seat under certain conditions to the candidate of the minority; another, 1337 that the subject should be inquired into by a Committee sitting upon the spot. These may, very possibly, be good suggestions—certainly, they are very serious and important ones. But to suppose that the House would be at once unanimous in accepting them would certainly imply the possession of a sanguine temperament indeed. The subject is as difficult as it is important, and the proper course is to deal with it deliberately, relying upon the unanimity of purpose in the House, but by no means expecting unanimity of opinion. Certainly if our object is not to stop the Reform Bill, but really to suppress bribery, nothing could be worse than to insist that the Government, who do not pretend to have a measure ready, should introduce into this Bill provisions to be extemporized with regard to bribery, and that the House should act upon hasty and hurried suggestions arising from all parts of the House. I did not understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the law requires to be made more stringent with regard to penalties, nor did I understand the Home Secretary to say that the law in his judgment was susceptible of no improvement. The Home Secretary says that as to penalties he thinks we have probably gone as far as we can go; he did not say that in another direction another remedy might not be sought for. But he added that such a remedy must be sought for with great deliberation, and that it might be impossible to find it if we proceeded in the way suggested by the hon. Baronet. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say that we had not enough evidence to warrant our belief in the existence of corruption, but that these Commissions had been issued because it was thought of importance to get to the root of the matter, and to obtain information which can in no other way be supplied; and the detailed information thus to be furnished, showing the extent of the existing corruption, the length of time during which and the methods by which it has been carried on, are points which ought to be carefully considered. The real truth is this: if the present Motion is pressed upon the House as one means of throwing over all Reform in the present Session, it may be a very good Motion for that purpose. But if the object is to promote purity of election it is the most ill-considered proposal which could be made.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
The manner in 1338 which the Members of the Government have addressed themselves to this question deserves, I think, the notice of the House. My hon. Friend (Sir Rainald Knightley) put a plain practical question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the right hon. Gentleman evaded it; the Secretary of State rambled into a disquisition upon the ballot; and the Attorney General moralizes and does nothing. The hon. and learned Gentleman gives as one reason for not adopting the course suggested, that the Government have no Bill ready; but it is marvellous in how short a time the Government can get a Bill ready when they choose; and if pressure is only put upon them, I have no doubt that the Ministry, who can unsettle and resettle the Constitution in a few days, will soon be able to propose clauses with a view to repress the crime of bribery. The Attorney General admits that the law on the subject which now exists is not satisfactory. That is the very ground for discussing the subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he sees the difficulty, and cannot see the remedy for it. That is surely to pass a censure upon himself; because if a difficulty exists it is the duty of the Minister to find a remedy, and if he cannot find a remedy—I shall not tell him what he ought to do. One thing has been made clear by this discussion. The Attorney General has delicately intimated that his opinion is in favour of Parliamentary Reform—a point upon which before we were left in doubt. The hon. and learned Gentleman, it now appears, absolutely thirsts for it—he is for pressing on the Reform question—and will not allow any delay even for the purpose of considering the prevention of bribery, or curtailing the expenses of elections. The real point, however, was stated by the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian). It was that Parliamentary Reform would be endangered by considering bribery at elections. So that Parliamentary Reform consists in evading the question of bribery and corruption.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he had stated that the Bill would be endangered if this Instruction were agreed to.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Quite so. I understood the hon. Member to say he was apprehensive that if we dealt with the subject of bribery and expenses of elections, we might endanger Parliamentary Reform—so that, as I understand him, Reform is to be carried, leaving bribery 1339 and election expenses to flourish untouched. A practical question is presented to the House, and I have no doubt that a practical remedy will be found by somebody when it is understood that the House is really in earnest on the subject.
I think that those who sent us here, when to-morrow they read the report of what has taken place, especially the speeches made on the other side of the House, will be extremely gratified at the new zeal of hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to purity of election—and their gratification will be the greater if they should happen to believe in that zeal. Now, there is no man in the House, I am sure, notwithstanding the speeches that have been made, and there is no man out of it who knows anything about the principles of law-making, who is not quite certain of this—that to attempt to draw up a series of clauses upon all matters affecting the conduct of elections, with a view to insert them in this Bill, is not a proceeding which is wise with regard to the question of purity of election, and is most adverse to the Bill now before the House. The Attorney General has already stated that, and I repeat it. This question of purity of election is a very great and a very difficult question. We have had several Committees of the House to inquire into it. I recollect sitting on a Committee for many weeks with, I think, the hon. and learned Gentleman, one of the Members for Suffolk (Sir FitzRoy Kelly). Well, every kind of proposition almost was made. Most of them were rejected; and of those that were accepted by the Committee some have been rejected by the House and some have been accepted, but those that were accepted have apparently utterly failed. Some Members have an idea that you can suppress bribery and corruption by measures of punishment. I entertain no such belief. The law is strong enough now as far as the matter of punishment is concerned, and yet apparently the law effects nothing in the suppression of bribery. What is clear to every man who is connected with the representative system in every other country but this is, that you can only suppress bribery by having constituencies sufficiently large, and by having the mode of election by ballot. Now, Sir, I will not go into a discussion of that question, but an hon. Gentleman behind me has referred to it, and I wish only to utter one sentence with regard to it. It is this—that 1340 there is no country in the world but this in which we have constant charges and admissions of the gross bribery which takes place at elections. It is not charged universally—it is scarcely charged at all in the United States. ["Oh, oh!"] It is not charged in any of the countries on the European Continent. ["Oh, oh!"] I beg to tell my hon. Friend that the electoral system of all these countries, or nearly all, differs from that of this country in this particular—that small constituencies such as we have—manageable constituencies—are not known, and vote by ballot is all but universal. Now, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) has proposed that the House should go into an entirely new question in Committee on this Bill. I venture to say that, whether he be honest in making this proposal now with a view to forward generally the cause of Reform or not, I am quite sure that the result of his proposition, and I fear the object of his proposition—as far as it is supported by many Gentlemen—is to cumber the Bill of the Government so that it shall be impossible to pass it through Parliament during this Session. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as leader of the House, and the most influential Member of the Government, will think fit to accede to any such proposition. I think he has not gained much by having acceded to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. I believe the proper course to be taken with regard to Reform was that which the Government offered to the House in the first instance; and that every step they take in adding to their measure any of those propositions which are intended to make the Bill more comprehensive—in doing something now which may be necessary to be done, but which they have not proposed to do at present—is only adding to their difficulties in carrying any Bill at all. And I state without hesitation my opinion that outside this House every Member, whether he be on this side or upon that, who insists on adding to this Bill matter which does not come within its original scope of extending the franchise or of re-arranging the distribution of seats, will be adjudged as a man who is putting obstacles in the path of this Bill; and is desirous to embarrass the Government, whose difficulties, whatever else we may disagree about, we must all admit are at least sufficient for the time.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I merely rise to express my confidence that the House will come to a decision upon this question without being influenced by the reign of terror with which the hon. Gentleman is continually threatening us. These threats come somewhat too often. Not having succeeded in frightening us by the letter which was read to the meeting on Primrose Hill, the hon. Gentleman repeats these threats here; but the House of Commons will not, I am sure, be deterred from doing what, under the circumstances, I clearly believe to be its duty. The hon. Gentleman has taunted us with a new-born zeal in favour of measures to put down bribery and corruption at elections; but I was not aware that we on this side of the House were particularly inrerested in maintaining that system of corruption. I have always understood that the great mass of Gentlemen on this side of the House returned by counties do, at least, represent constituencies to whom corruption has never for a moment been imputed; and if look to the records of the last Parliament upon this subject, and especially to the proceedings of the last general election, I do not find with regard to the borough elections that we on this side of the House have any cause to be afraid of confronting this question. Whether the feelings of the hon. Gentleman and those intimately connected with him are the same I shall not stop to inquire; but if we are attacked upon this head I can fairly retort by up- pealing to the annals of Wakefield and of Huddersfield. In those instances the charges were very properly held to be proved, but they at least were not made against Members sitting on this side of the House.
§ COLONEL CROSLAND
rose to explain that the occurrences to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded in connection with Huddersfield had not taken place at the last election. ["Order !"]
§ MR. DISRAELI
The hon. Gentleman has no right to interrupt me for the purpose of making an explanation. I was not alluding to his case; but even if I were, it would be equally good for my argument. It is perfectly immaterial whether the hon. Gentleman's experience is more or less recent. I understand, however, from the hon. Gentleman that my statement with regard to the previous election was quite accurate. Let me remind the House what they are called upon to do by the Instruction that has been moved by 1342 my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire. It is to perform a duty which in my mind is the very first the House ought to consider under the circum stances in which the Government are placed with regard to their measure for the improvement of the representation of the people in Parliament. What is the argument of the Government? The Attorney General, in a speech which was really only explanatory of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, says that there is no precedent for it—that in 1832, when the great measure of Parliamentary Reform was introduced, the House was not asked to deal with the questions of corruption and bribery when it was dealing with the extension of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats. That is true enough; but in 1882 you were creating the constituencies that have since become corrupt, and it is now our duty to profit by the experience of what has occurred since 1832. We know that the measure of 1832, though it may have conferred incalculable benefits upon the country, has led to an increase in bribery and corruption; and when we are therefore called upon to increase the constituencies and to institute fresh borough representation, what is more natural than that we should profit by the experience of the past, and at the same time adopt measures by which the evil should not only not be increased, but may possibly be reduced? We cannot, therefore, I think, possibly refrain from acceding to the Instruction of my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, and I still hope that the Government will relieve the House from the necessity of dividing upon the Motion.
§ COLONEL CROSLAND
I rise to make an explanation [Cries of "Divide!"] and I hope that as a new Member I shall be allowed to make it. When I unfortunately ventured to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when he mentioned Huddersfield along with Wakefield, I did so because I felt it to be my duty as the present Member for Huddersfield; because, although I have unfortunately been put to the expense of having to go before an Election Committee, I have come out of it free from blemish and from blame, and I wished to explain this to the House, inasmuch as though I may have some faults of my own, I do not want to have the sins of other people to answer for as well as my own.
§ MR. WYLD
, said, he should support the 1343 Motion and hoped that the hon. Baronet would proceed to a division. The Government proposed to link pure and impure boroughs, to the great probable injury of the former constituencies. It was therefore necessary, for the sake of the purer boroughs, that more stringent measures should be adopted for the prevention of bribery and corruption.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the Franchise Bill to the House, he announced generally the views of the Government upon Reform, and said in his speech that a part of the subject was undoubtedly the question of expenses at elections, and of bribery and corruption; and he said that the Government would not consider that they had completely dealt with the question of Reform until they had reviewed the law affecting these subjects and made such changes as might be found necessary. He stated also that it was the intention of the Government to deal with the question, although they did not intend to do so in this Bill. The charge against the Franchise Bill, was that the exclusion of the question of the re-distribution of seats from the measure was without precedent, and one of the reasons given for including both these questions in one Bill was the fact that no Reform Bill had ever been introduced into Parliament by any Government without including both these subjects. I venture to remind the House that there never was a Government Bill relating to the question of Reform which contained a series of clauses the object of which was to deal with the question of bribery and corruption. If we had introduced such clauses into this Bill we should have been departing from all precedent; and the charge made against us would have been that we had taken as an unprecedented a course by including bribery clauses in our Bill as we had done by the exclusion of the question of the distribution of seats. It is indeed a part of Reform always dealt with separately. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire in introducing his Reform Bill of 1859, though many years had elapsed since 1832, and though there had in the meantime been plenty of bribery, never thought of including a series of clauses relating to the subject. The fact is that this Motion is a very effectual mode of lessening the chance of carrying the Reform 1344 Bill, and I should think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be acting as a true friend of his own proposals if he gave his sanction to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. If the hon. Member succeeds in carrying his Instruction, I hope he will be prepared with the clauses he wishes to have inserted. We have not had the slightest indication of what his proposals are to consist. We are asked to agree to this Instruction without any knowledge whatever of what plan is to be proposed, and I am quite certain that no person can view this Motion in any other light than as an indirect mode of obstructing the Government Reform Bill.
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at Elections.—(Sir Rainald Knightley.)
§ The House divided—Ayes 248; Noes 238: Majority 10.1347
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Cave, S.|
|Annesley, hn. Colonel H.||Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.|
|Anson, hon. Major||Cholmeley, Sir M. J.|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Clay, J.|
|Arkwright, R.||Clinton, Lord A. P.|
|Bagge, W.||Clive, Capt. hon. G. W.|
|Bagnall, C.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.|
|Baring, H. B.||Cole, hon. H.|
|Baring, T.||Cole, hon. J. L.|
|Barnett, H.||Conolly, T.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Cooper, E. H.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Cubitt, G.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Cust, hon. C. H.|
|Beach, Sir M. Hicks-||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Beach, W. W. B,||Dick, F.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Doulton, F.|
|Benyon, R.||Dowdeswell, W. E.|
|Beresford, Capt. D. W. P.||Du Cane, C.|
|Bernard, hon. Col. H. B.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Bingham, Lord||Duncombe, hon. W. E.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Dutton, hon. R. H.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Dyke, W. H.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Dyott, Colonel R.|
|Bromley, W. D.||Earle, R. A.|
|Brooks, R.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Eckersley, N.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Edwards, Colonel|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Bruen, H.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Burghley, Lord||Egerton, hon. W.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Elcho, Lord|
|Butler-Johnstone, H. A.||Fane, Lt.-Colonel H. H.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C.||Fane, Colonel J. W.|
|Campbell, A. H.||Feilden, J.|
|Capper, C.||Fellowes, E.|
|Cartwright, Colonel||Fergusson, Sir J.|
|Floyer, J.||Long, R. P.|
|Foley, H. W.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Lowther, J.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Lytton, rt. hn. Sir E. L. B.|
|Galway, Viscount||Mainwaring, T.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|George, J.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Marsh, M. O.|
|Goldney, G.||Meller, W.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Miller, S. B.|
|Grant, A.||Miller, T. J.|
|Graves, S. R.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Greenall, G.||Mitford, W. T.|
|Greene, E.||Montagu, Lord R.|
|Gray, Lieut.-Colonel||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Grey, hon. T. de||Mordaunt, Sir C.|
|Griffith, C. D.||Morgan, O.|
|Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Gurney, R.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Naas, Lord|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Neeld, Sir J.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Hardy, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Hardy, J.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Hartley, J.||North, Colonel|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||O'Neill, E.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Osborne, R. B.|
|Hayter, Captain A. D.||Paget, R. H.|
|Heathcote, hon. G. H.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Palk, Sir L.|
|Heneage, E.||Parker, Major W.|
|Henniker, Lord||Patten, Colonel W.|
|Herbert, hon. P. E.||Paull, H.|
|Hogg, Lt.-Colonel J. M.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Holford, R. S.||Peel, rt. hon. General|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Pennant, hon. Colonel|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Percy, Maj.-Gen. Lord H.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Phillips, G. L.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Powell, F. S.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Pugh, D.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Howes, E.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Hubbard, J. G||Robertson, P. F.|
|Huddleston, J. W.||Rolt, J.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Royston, Viscount|
|Innes, A. C.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Jervis, Captain||Sandtbrd, G. M. W.|
|Jolliffe, H. H.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Jones, D.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Selwin, H. J.|
|Kelk, J.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Kelly, Sir F.||Severue, J. E.|
|Kennard, R. W.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Ker, D. S.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|King, J. K.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Knight, F. W.||Smollett, P. B.|
|Knox, Colonel||Staniland, M.|
|Knox, hon. Major S.||Stanley, hon. F.|
|Lacon, Sir E.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.|
|Laird, J.||Stronge, Sir J. M.|
|Lascelles, hon. E. W.||Stuart, Lt.-Colonel W|
|Leader, N. P.||Stucley, Sir G. S.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N.|
|Legh, Major C.||Surtees, F.|
|Lefroy, A.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Sykes, C.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Thorold, J. H.|
|Lindsay, hn. Colonel C.||Tollemache, J.|
|Lindsay, Colonel R. L.||Treeby, J. W.|
|Trevor, Lord A. E. H.||Whiteside, rt. hon. J.|
|Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J,||Whitmore, H.|
|Turner, C.||Williams, Colonel|
|Tyrone, Earl of||Wise, H. C.|
|Vandeleur, Colonel||Woodd, B. T.|
|Vorner, E. W.||Wyld, J.|
|Walcott, Admiral||Wyndham, hon. H.|
|Walker, Major G. G.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Walrond, J. W.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Walsh, Sir J.||TELLERS.|
|Waterhouse, S.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Welby, W. E.||Cranbourne, Viscount|
|Adair, H. E.||Crosland, Colonel T. P.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Crossley, Sir F.|
|Akroyd, E.||Dalglish, R.|
|Amberley, Viscount||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Anstruther, Sir R.||Dawson, hon. Captain V.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Denman, hon. G.|
|Bagwell, J.||Dent, J. D.|
|Baines, E.||Dering, Sir E. C.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Dilke, Sir W.|
|Baring, hon. T. G.||Dodson, J. G.|
|Barnes, T.||Duff, M. E. G.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Duff, R. W.|
|Barry, C, R.||Dundas, F.|
|Barry, G. R.||Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Edwards, C.|
|Bazley, T||Enfield, Viscount|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Erskine, Vice-Adm. J. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Evans, T, W.|
|Biddulph, Col. R. M.||Ewart, W.|
|Biddulph, M.||Ewing, H. E. Crum.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P,||Eykyn, R.|
|Bright, Sir C. T.||Fawcett, H.|
|Bright, J.||Finlay, A. S.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||FitzGerald, Lord O. A.|
|Brown, J.||Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Eordyce, W. D.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Forster, C.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R.||Forster, W. E.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Foster, W. O.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Fort, R.|
|Butler, C. S.||Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Buxton, C.||Fortescue, hon. D. F.|
|Buxton, Sir T. F.||Gaselee, Serjeant S.|
|Calcraft, J. H. M.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Calthorpe, hon. F. H. W. G.||Gilpin, C.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Candlish, J.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Cave, T.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Goldsnnd, Sir F. H.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Goldsmid, J.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Gooch, D.|
|Chambers, M.||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Clement, W. J.||Graham, W.|
|Clinton, Lord E. P.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Greville, Colonel F.|
|Coleridge, J. D.||Gray, Sir J.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Colthurst, Sir G. C.||Gridley, Captain H. G.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Cowen, J.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Grove, T. F.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Gurney, S.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Hadfield, G.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Hamilton, E. W. T.|
|Hanbury, R. C.||Onslow, G.|
|Hankey, T.||Packe, Colonel|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Padmore, R.|
|Hardcastle, J, A.||Palmer, Sir R.|
|Harris, J. D.||Pease, J. W.|
|Hartington, Marquess Of||Peel, A. W.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Pelham, Lord|
|Headlam, rt. hon. T, E.||Potter, E.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Potter, T. B.|
|Hodgkinson, G.||Price, R. G.|
|Hodgson, K. D.||Proby, Lord|
|Holden, I.||Rawlinson, Sir H.|
|Holland, E.||Rearden, D. J.|
|Howard, hon. G. W. G.||Rebow, J. G.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Hughes, T.||Robertson, D.|
|Hurst, R. H.||Rothschild, Baron M. de|
|Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.||Russell, A.|
|Ingham, R.||Russell, F. W.|
|James, E.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Jervoise, Sir J. C.||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Salomons, Mr. Ald.|
|Kearsley, Captain R.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Kennedy, T.||Samuelson, B.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Saunderson, E.|
|Kinglake, A. W.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Kinglake, J. A.||Seymour, A;|
|Kingsoote, Colonel||Seymour, H. D.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, E.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Laing, S.||Simeon, Sir J.|
|Layard, A. H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lamont, J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Lawrence, W.||Speirs, A. A.|
|Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Leatham, W. H.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Lee, W.||Stone, W. H.|
|Leeman, G.||Sullivan, E.|
|Lefevre, G. J. S.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Lewis, H.||Synan, E. J.|
|Locke, J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Lusk, A.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Mackinnon, Capt. L. B.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Verney, Sir H.|
|M'Laren, D.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Martin, P. W.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Matheson, A.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Merry, J.||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Milbank, F. A.||Waldegrave-Leslie, hn G.|
|Mill, J. S.||Warner, E.|
|Miller, W.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Mitchell, A.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Moncreiff, rt. hon. J.||Western, Sir T. B.|
|Monk, C. J.||Whatman, J.|
|More, R. J.||Whitbread, S|
|Morrison, W.||White, J.|
|Neate, C.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Nicol, J. D.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Norwood, C. M.||Woods, H.|
|O'Beirne, J. L.||Wyvill, M.|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Young, R.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Brand, hon. H. B. W.|
|Oliphant, L.||Adam, W. P.|
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
As no other hon. Gentleman has an Instruction to move, I beg to move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair. I have only to say, on the subject of the division which has taken place, that of 1348 course we shall wait for the production by the hon. Gentleman of the plan which no doubt he has formed—though he has not as yet communicated it to the House—though we do not feel very sanguine that it will be effectual in dealing with bribery and corruption. I am afraid that some time will elapse before the production of these clauses, and when we have gone in Committee through those parts of the Bill which we have admitted to be legitimate portions of it, and when we have the clauses which the hon. Gentleman may propose, it will be our duty to give them a dispassionate consideration. If the hon. Gentleman shall succeed in dealing with what we consider a great evil, we shall be exceedingly glad to give him any assistance that we can render. We shall not, however, on account of a proposal to introduce into the Bill matters which we think should rather be dealt with separately—we shall not so far as depends upon us think ourselves justified in departing from the objects we have proposed to ourselves, whether as regards the enactments of the Bill or the vital purpose of prosecuting it during the present Session?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ CAPTAIN HAYTER
, who had placed a Notice on the paper, to move as an Amendment to the Instruction to be moved by Mr. Bouverie—That this House, although desirous that the subjects of the Franchise, and of the Re-distribution of Seats, should be considered together, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed in the present Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme of Her Majesty's Government is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure,but which had been subsequently altered, now rose to move that—This House, while ready to consider the general subject of a Re-distribution of Seats, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed by Her Majesty's Government is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme is otherwise not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure.He said, that in moving an Amendment which the House had just heard from the lips of the highest authority was regarded by Her Majesty's Government as seriously affecting what was vital and essential to the great question of Parliamentary Reform, he thought he should not be pre- 1349 suming too much upon the indulgence of the House if he ventured to trespass upon its attention for a few moments. He hoped that he and those on that (the Ministerial) side of the House who acted with him would not be open to the charge of factious conduct for the course which they proposed to take in this matter—especially when it was considered that on the great division on the second reading of the Franchise Bill he, for one, supported Her Majesty's Government with a sincere and honest conviction. They had now to deal with a question which was regarded as a necessary corollary to every great scheme of improving the representation of the people—they had to deal with a scheme for amending the representation of the people by a re-distribution of political power throughout the whole extent of the United Kingdom. He therefore felt it right at the very outset of his statement to say what were the points which he and those who acted with him thought vital and essential, and what were the causes which had led them to take a course directly hostile to Her Majesty's Government, and the reasons which justified them for so doing. In the first place, he and his hon. Friends were of opinion that to introduce a measure which, in one of its most essential features, limited its operations to towns with a population of 8,000, was to deal with the question in a narrow and unsatisfactory manner. Her Majesty's Government were placed in this position. They had out of an aggregate of seventy nine seats to obtain for re-distribution fifty to be distributed in various ways for the improvement of the representation of the people. Now, it seemed to him and to those hon. Gentlemen who thought with him, that it was impossible for the Government to form a just, equitable, and statesmanlike project if they limited themselves within the narrow hounds which they had adopted That was the first objection. The second was that the effect of this Bill upon small constituencies could not he regarded by any unbiased observer as fair to those who represented them. The third objection was that in taking into consideration a question which opened up the whole field of the improvement of the borough representation the Government were not justified in saying that the unenfranchised towns were to be kept utterly aloof. The hands of those who agreed with him were strengthened by the very principles which the leader of the House had him- 1350 self laid down as having guided her Majesty's Government in the preparation of the measure. The words which the Chancellor of the Exchequer used in laying this Bill upon the table were, as far as he could recollect, these—In grouping the boroughs, we have adopted the principle of geographical convenience coupled with local reasons, which must be understood to be expressed with a certain latitude.That was the very point upon which he joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman; and if he could prove his case to the satisfaction of the great majority of the House, surely he would be justified in saying that the measure of Her Majesty's Government was crude, immature, and not such as would present to that House a satisfactory basis—and that was a vital point—for the settlement of the great question of Parliamentary Reform. There was another point of some importance, and it was this—that he would not have ventured to come forward in this case, a little Parliamentary David with his sling and stone, against the great Goliath on the Treasury Bench, on a question of rhetorical argument or a course of reasoning—it would be absurd to attempt it—but he ventured to meet the right hon. Gentleman on the hard and rigid basis of facts. He took nothing but the facts which the right hon. Gentleman had laid before them, and the principles upon which he applied those facts; and it was with the earnest and sincere conviction that they who represented small boroughs would be doing not only a flagrant injustice to their constituents, but a still more grievous injury to the country, if they were to permit a measure of that kind to be put forward as a satisfactory settlement, that he had taken up this subject. Before entering on the important duty of pointing out in detail the facts upon which he founded his objection to the Bill as it stood at present, it was just to those hon. Gentlemen who honoured his Motion with their support that he should explain that they had found it utterly impossible to bring forward this Motion on the second reading of the Bill for the Redistribution of Seats, and that therefore they had selected the present stage as the most convenient for introducing it. He felt from the first moment that he saw this Bill, that as it then stood it could never meet with the approbation of the House of Commons; yet he had not ventured to make the present Motion until he had 1351 patiently and carefully investigated the whole subject, and had heard loud complaints from Members unaffected by the Bill, as to the unjust manner in which it proposed to deal with the representation of the various boroughs scheduled in the Bill. The conclusion at which he had reluctantly arrived was that, however distasteful it might be to him personally to place himself in opposition to Her Majesty's Ministers, he should not be doing his duty, but should be betraying the trust reposed in him, were he to sanction the scheme proposed by the Bill. He had now to ask those hon. Gentlemen sitting on either side of the House, over whose boroughs the black flag of extinction was flying, whether, if they did not exert themselves in their defence, before the Bill got into Committee, they would ever be able to write as the epitaph upon their tombs the motto of "Resurgam." He was ready to admit the anxiety of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remedy any injustice that might be pointed out in the scheme of re-distribution, but he was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman was too firmly tied and bound by the principle he had himself laid down as the foundation of his Bill, to permit them to hope that he would be able to do justice to their individual cases. It was one of the most fatal objections to the Bill that it left no sort of discretion in the hands of Her Majesty's Government which might enable them to deal fairly with special cases, but confined their operations within a narrow and prescribed limit beyond which they were forbidden to pass. It was under these circumstances that he and many other hon. Members, believing the principles of the Bill to be vicious and dangerous to the Constitution of the country, and to the fair and proper representation of the people, had regarded it as their duty to offer an organized opposition to the passing of a measure which, so far from being an improvement of the existing mode of representation, retained all the worst of the anomalies complained of and created others still more unfortunate. In touching upon the more prominent errors in the grouping of the boroughs, as proposed by this Bill—which he could not help believing had not been maturely considered—he should be materially assisted by those hon. Members whose constituencies were directly affected by the Bill, and who would be more competent than himself to enter into details with regard to the injustice with which 1352 their respective boroughs were threatened. In taking the first group as proposed by the Bill he found that Woodstock, Walling-ford, and Abingdon, situated in the two counties of Oxford and Berks, instead of returning three Members, as at present, would, when grouped, only return two. Woodstock stood in a somewhat peculiar position, as it was supposed to be somewhat under the influence of the ducal house of Marlborough; but however much it might be the interest of the present Government to free the borough from that influence, it was scarcely consistent with the improvement of the representation to group that borough with two others in an adjoining county. He was speaking entirely within the knowledge of gentlemen present when he said that Walling-ford and Abingdon were at least twenty-five miles from Woodstock, which, on the other hand, was in the immediate vicinity of Oxford city. Even supposing that Her Majesty's Government were determined to adopt the scheme of grouping represented towns only—a scheme which he was far from saying he approved—surely it would have been more consistent to join Woodstock with either Oxford or Banbury; and then, perhaps, they might fairly have included Wallingford and Abingdon in one group? The next group in geographical order was that in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and was to include Cirencester, Tewkesbury, and Evesham, towns which were to return two Members instead of six, as at present. Such a method of grouping was doubtless very effectual for obtaining seats for distribution in other parts of the country, but it was hardly the way to obtain an homogeneous constituency to unite in a group these towns having no common interest whatever. Probably not one-tenth of the inhabitants of any of those boroughs had ever seen the other two towns, since the two former were separated by the breadth of Gloucestershire, the latter was in Worcestershire, and it took four hours by railway to travel the fifty-three miles which divided them; while Cheltenham, Stroud, and Gloucester being all represented towns intervened. Passing lower down the country to the westwards, he came to Wells and Westbury, the former in Somerset and the latter in Wilts. The proposal of Her Majesty's Government to group those two boroughs exhibited a most glaring case of geographical inconvenience and want of consideration, for not only 1353 were these places twenty miles apart, but they had not one single interest in common, one being a manufacturing town and the other a Cathedral city and the capital of Somerset. But lying between them was the represented town of Frome, containing a population of 9,500, with which town or with Bridgwater, Wells should have been joined, were any proper system of grouping represented towns to be carried out. In fact, far more satisfaction would have been given had the towns of Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet, containing together a population of 13,000 or 14,000, been included in the group. All those places were connected by railway, by community of interest, by general intercourse, and by association. Notwithstanding all these considerations, Wells, whose privileges dated back to an early period, was grouped with a borough in another county with which it had no connection and no interest in common. The effect of this, as he knew upon the authority of one with whom he was most nearly connected, and who, as Gentlemen on both sides would admit, had some knowledge of constituencies, would be to create a nomination borough of the rottenest kind, and it was a salient instance of the ignorance displayed by the Government in this scheme, which, while affecting to reform the Constitution, and correct anomalies, would itself create fresh evils and fresh anomalies. He would next refer to the proposed grouping of boroughs in Devonshire, which presented the most glaring absurdities. In the first place, Totnes, Dartmouth, and Ashburton, which now had four Members between them, were to be grouped and return only one. Now, Dartmouth was a seaport, while Totnes and Ashburton were both agricultural towns; and though he did not speak from personal knowledge, it would probably be found that there would be very little community of interest or any identity of feeling between them, if they should be amalgamated into a single constituency. What, however, he had most to complain of was that, while these places—Totnes, Dartmouth, and Ashburton—would form together a population of 12,000, and were to have but one Member, Tiverton, with a little over 10,000 inhabitants, was to retain two. Now, what could the people of Ashburton, Totnes, and Dartmouth, think of the equity of such an arrangement? Upon what conceivable principle of common sense or common jus- 1354 tice could it be based? But it must be remembered that this was by no means an exceptional case. They had not to travel beyond the limits of the very same county to discover another instance of the same port. The next group was that of Bridport, Honiton, and Lyme, which instead of returning five Members, were for the future to return only one. Yet he found upon reference that the united population of Bridport, Honiton, and Lyme was nearly 15,000, while in the closest proximity to them lay the borough of Tavistock, with less than 9,000 inhabitants, which was still to return two Members. Could anything be more absurd, or more contrary to the most obvious principles of equitable distribution? The House could easily imagine with what feelings of astonishment it must have been learnt in the neighbourhood of those places that Tavistock—which was something of a nomination borough—still retained her two Members, while Bridport, Honiton, and Lyme were deprived of four out of the five Members who at present represented them? Passing on to the adjacent county of Cornwall they discovered another anomaly though of a somewhat different character, as relating not to one borough or another, but to the two portions of the same county. In the north of Cornwall, Bodmin, Launceston, and Liskeard were to be thrown together in one group. He did not think the geographical convenience of this arrangement was very remarkable, for he was told that there was a distance of eighteen miles in one case and of twelve miles in the other, between the places grouped together. Nor does it appear that there was much identity of interests to form them into one homogeneous constituency. But, if they glanced at the other side of the county, there they found the three constituencies of Penryn and Falmouth, Truro, and Helston entirely untouched. These features of the measure reminded him of the game of bowls as he had seen it played in America, the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming down with his bowls and at one stroke knocking over these unhappy constituencies in the north, then turning round to look at the happy triumvirate in the south, where Helston as the very focus of electoral purity stands as the centre figure of the group. They must expect, however, in the end to share the same fate, for he did not believe that this Bill would be the last scheme of re-distribution, and those places 1355 would one day find themselves in the same awkwark predicament. The next anomaly to which he would allude, and which was the first that caught his attention, had been mentioned by the leader of the Opposition, and very naturally so, the boroughs in question being situated in the right hon. Gentleman's own county. It was a very striking example of the inconsistencies of the plan on which the re-distribution was to be carried out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the House that in framing Schedule B some boroughs were to lose one Member because they could not be geographically and conveniently grouped—of these Marlow was one. Now, the towns of Wycombe and Marlow were situated not many miles from each other, about ten, he supposed [Mr. DISRAELI: Six], and it took you not more than twenty minutes to travel from one to the other by train. Marlow, because supposed to be incapable of convenient geographical grouping with any other constituency, was, in accordance with the plan laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to lose one of her representatives, but Wycombe retained both, although the population of the latter place was only about 300 above the 8,000 which the Bill fixed as the limit for the possession of one Member; while the population of the two places that thus were to have between them three Members did not exceed 15,000, the limit, according to the principle laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, entitling them to but one representative. Another instance of unwise grouping was presented in Hampshire. Andover and Lymington were to be united, though one was a seaport and the other an agricultural town, and though they were separated from each other by almost the entire breadth of the county. Surely, if the plan of grouping represented boroughs were adopted, and if geographical convenience were consulted, Andover ought to be joined to Winchester and Lymington to Christ-church? The Government would thus have obtained four seats instead of three. It was monstrous to group together towns which were forty miles apart. Such a proposition was altogether monstrous. He would now refer to a case which had been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in his great speech on the second reading of the Re-distribution Bill. Had the right hon. Gentleman known all the facts, he might 1356 certainly have made that case much stronger. He (Captain Hayter) referred to the group of Wareham and Dorchester, which were to return one Member instead of three. Now, in immediate proximity with Wareham was Poole, which returned two Members with a very small margin over the population required. That borough might much more naturally be associated with Wareham. Then, on the other side of Dorchester, and united to it by railway, was Weymouth, which, with a population under 15,000, was to return two Members, while Dorchester and Wareham thrown together were only to return one. Why did they not group Weymouth and Dorchester? Surely this was a case of injustice to these boroughs. It was difficult to see how Government could have been led to act in any case in such a spirit; but the accumulation of such cases showed how crude and immature their whole scheme was. If they had really at heart the settlement of this question, they ought to have introduced a comprehensive plan, and taken proper means of ascertaining how best the principle of geographical convenience could be worked out, while they did justice to the unenfranchised towns. There was another extraordinary group—in Sussex—he meant that of Petersfield, Horsham, Midhurst, and Arundel. He could not conceive how it was possible for any one with a map before him to suggest a group that would be more inconvenient. He must have gone out of his way to do so. On the score of geographical convenience Arundel surely ought to have gone with Chichester. Together they would have returned two Members, and that would have given another seat to be disposed of; but it was manifestly absurd to suppose that the group as now arranged would form a homogeneous constituency, or act together in that spirit which should animate an united electoral body. There was yet another group to which he must refer—that of Maldon and Harwich. These two towns were divided from each other by half the length of Essex. Between them lay the represented town of Colchester; Harwich and Ipswich lay near together, and would have formed a group much more geographically convenient than Maldon and Harwich; while close to the former lay the unrepresented town of Chelmsford. These were some of the absurdities in this Bill, and to which he called the serious attention of the House, He had done so very im- 1357 perfectly, but the Members immediately connected with the proposed groups would, no doubt, enter more fully into the details of each case. He had referred to ten out of the sixteen groups, and bethought he had pointed out what the House would consider the most glaring anomalies. In order to a satisfactory settlement of the Reform question, they ought not to be called on to take a step in the dark. They should, at least, know what they were doing. If he might be allowed to do so without trespassing unduly on the attention of the House, he should wish to read one or two extracts from communications which had passed between him and his father, who might be supposed to have some knowledge of the borough constituencies in this country, but who was the last person in the world to wish to offer opposition to anything brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. His father's words were these—Undue influence may in certain cases be done away with, but the joint action of a constituency which is surely in accordance with the Constitution will be wholly destroyed. The possibility of bribery will remain the same as before, the expenses will be trebled.He maintained that the expenses would be not only trebled but quadrupled and quintupled in some cases.The analogy of the Welsh boroughs does not hold, they being always in the same county so as to admit of united action. Here they are so far divided as not to admit of union for any purpose. Nothing can justify the disfranchisement, under the plea of Reform, of one good constituency to create a rotten borough. Meantime, all the nomination boroughs besides those created by the Bill above 8,000 population are left untouched. The present crude proposal is, in fact, no Reform at all; it leaves all the questions of importance open, and, so far from settling the matter, invites a further Bill.How it was possible for the Government to consider this a satisfactory settlement of Reform would task all the eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show. He should be sorry to bring his father's name unduly before the House, but he himself had told him that if he still enjoyed a seat in that House, and still had the honour of holding the official position which was then intrusted to him, he should have resigned office rather than give support to a measure he so strongly disapproved. Another duty, and not a very agreeable one, remained for him to perform; but, as the opposition he was now giving to the Bill was certain to be attacked on every possible ground, it was necessary to show 1358 that it was grounded upon equity and justice. Taking not any wide limits of comparison, but merely the narrowly-increased limit of 10,000, the House would see what glaring discrepancies were disclosed by contrast with the limit of 8,000 selected by the Government. In his humble position it was not for him to suggest any improved plan, but it should be borne in mind that according to the dictum of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself boroughs with a population of 8,000 were not necessarily to be regarded as subject to corrupt influence. Windsor, with 9,000 inhabitants, was to retain its double representation, though, from sad experience, he knew that Windsor enjoyed the distinction of combining corrupt influence with aristocratic power. Next upon the list was Wycombe, just above the limit; and then came Tavistock. With regard to Poole there were some strange stories, which, upon his own authority, he was not in a position to endorse; but the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition had shown satisfactorily that there were boroughs like Wareham with which it might be grouped and still retain something like a homogeneous constituency. Stamford escaped, because, as it was said, it "had fifty-seven voters to the good;" and Guildford had even a narrower escape, its population being 8,020. He had no complaint to make against Guildford, but the House would see that if it, rejoicing in a resident population of twenty above the limit, retained its double representation, while another borough, with perhaps twenty below the limit, was merged in a group of other boroughs, there was an utter disorganization of the smaller constituencies. Chichester had fifty-nine and Malton seventy-two beyond the limit of 8,000; and, finally, he came to that borough which returned one of the most useful of all the Members of the House—useful to junior Members, useful to his party, and generally esteemed—the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand). It would have been rather too much to expect from the hon. Member, who might be supposed to have had something to do with the preparation of the Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats, that having just returned from ingratiating himself with his constituents he should mark his sense of gratitude by improving that constituency off the face of the earth. Accordingly Lewes was spared. So far he had spoken merely of towns under 10,000 inhabitants, possessing 1359 a double representation, and he would not travel over any wider field of survey. But if the Government found themselves placed in a position of difficulty and embarrassment in obtaining seats sufficient to distribute among the great towns of the North, and the rural constituencies, surely they might have enlarged their circle of observation. On the list of boroughs having populations of between 10,000 and 15,000, he found these boroughs—Barnstaple, Berwick, Bridgwater, Sandwich, Stafford, Weymouth. Were all these towns conspicuous for their purity? Yet these were all to retain their two Members, while the grouped boroughs, approaching, or, perhaps exceeding, the same limit of 15,000, would only have one Member between them. He felt deeply thankful for the indulgence which the House had extended to his remarks. The subject was one upon which many Gentlemen at both sides of the House felt keenly—not alone those who were personally affected by the provisions of the Bill, but others in a position to take a thoroughly impartial view of the question. He implored Her Majesty's Government to reconsider the nature of their own proposals, or, if this course could not be taken, at least to offer some means of escape from the difficulties with which the question was at present surrounded, making it impossible for hon. Members to support the Bill without grossly betraying the interests of their constituents, and also betraying the interests of the country. On his own part, and on the part of those acting with him, he assured the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they were animated by no spirit of factious opposition, but would give a hearty support to any measure calculated to effect a settlement of the question. What they claimed was such a settlement as would prevent the need of reopening it again. But when the provisions of this Bill came to be seriously considered, what would be said by the unenfranchised towns? Did the right hon. Gentleman think they would sit down calmly under such a measure? When he saw their hungry mouths clamouring for the prize they were not to obtain, the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, would remember the line so often quoted in his Eton days—Tantalus à labris sitiens fugientia captat Flumina.He asked the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his determination, and if he produced a measure dealing simply with the 1360 anomalies of the representation, and pruning from the Constitution those excrescences which had grown upon it with the lapse of time, he would have little difficulty in securing its adoption by Parliament. He was not opposed to the granting of further representation to Scotland if Her Majesty's Ministers considered that desirable; as one who had enjoyed the advantages of an University education, he should not declaim against the proposal to grant representatives to the Universities of London or Edinburgh; and if additional representation of counties was shown to be necessary, he was prepared to acquiesce in the proposal. But he was not prepared to supply the Members in the way proposed by the bald and immature project before the House. Moreover, he thought that if increased representation were given to counties the third Member in each case ought to represent, not the opinions of the majority, which already found ample expression, but those of the minority. Whenever the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or whoever else it might be who guided the Counsels of Her Majesty, should introduce into that House a Bill really dealing with the anomalies of our representative system, and correcting, by a fair measure dealing with the re-distribution of seats, the abuses which had grown up in the lapse of time, he could promise that Minister in all earnestness for himself, and for those at least who sat upon the Benches at his side of the House, that they would not offer him their support in a niggard and ungenerous spirit when called upon to yield up the representative privileges which their constituencies had so long enjoyed. In return for justice they would offer him the loyalty of every separate section of a powerful and united party. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MAJOR ANSON
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that when the Government first introduced the Franchise Bill they had made up their minds to deal with the question of Reform by piecemeal. The House thought that the course then taken by the Government was open to grave objection, and the question that the Bill be read a second time, was met by a Resolution declaring that it was inexpedient to proceed with the Bill till the whole question was before the House. On that Resolution a division was taken, and the Bill was read a second time; but, in consequence of the relative numbers on that 1361 division and of the threatening attitude of the Liberal Members, the Re distribution of Seats Bill was brought in, and the Liberal Members who had opposed the Government gained their object, and the Government was defeated. ["No !"Hear!"] The House now found themselves, for the first time during all this discussion on the subject of Reform, face to face with the whole Bill of the Government; and it was, therefore, their duty to consider whether the Bill now before them was founded on true principles—whether it was a good Bill and one likely to settle the question. He must say for himself that after a full consideration of the subject, he had been unable to discover any principle, sound or unsound, on which this Bill was based. He therefore thought it was a bad Bill, and one which could not bring about a settlement of the question at all. He was of opinion that it would have been better if the Government had followed the example of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay), who had laid on the table a Bill which was, at any rate, founded on an intelligible principle—one which they could all understand, and when that Bill came before the House for a second reading he would give it his support. In discussing the proposition of the Government, he would first deal with the question of the borough franchise. He was afraid that both the House and the country had heard rather too much on the subject during the present year; but it would be necessary for him to say a few words on the manner in which the Government proposed to reform the borough franchise. He was determined to oppose the Bill for the reduction of the franchise in or out of Committee, wherever he could, which they had been brought to bolster. In the first place, their proposition was founded on statistical information which every one in that House concurred in holding to be erroneous. This he believed to have arisen simply from the fact that the Returns, like the Bill, had been concocted in a hurry He opposed it, in the next place, because he observed that by the extreme Reform party that Bill was represented to be a compromise. This was worthy of observation when the House came to consider whether it was likely to effect a settlement of the question. Again, he opposed it, because it was uniform in its action. He should have no objection in a great many boroughs where there were large numbers of the working classes to lower the fran- 1362 chise not only to £7, to the extent of making it simply a household franchise; but, on the other hand, he thought there were a great many boroughs in this country—a majority of them—where it would be a great mistake to lower the franchise at all. He therefore thought it would be a very great mistake to have a uniform lowering of the borough franchise; certainly it would be so in the absence of good statistical information to show them what they were about. He had referred to a certain section who asserted that this measure would be a compromise. This was said, he presumed, to weaken the opposition of those who would be against any further lowering the franchise. He felt that he was justified in alluding to the matter, because there had been more plain speaking on this subject elsewhere since the Franchise Bill had been read the second time, than there had been before. The real movers in Reform agitation—those who got up public meetings on the subject—were the Members of an association called the Reform League. That body had held two meetings within the last week; its great mouth-piece in the House of Commons was the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and by a letter which he had addressed to the Association, and which was read to the meeting on Primrose Hill, that hon. Gentleman showed that he joined with it in the object which it sought to achieve—that object being manhood suffrage pure and simple. He confessed he could not believe any of those gentlemen when they said that lowering the franchise to £7 was likely to settle the question, because the letter of the hon. Member for Birmingham showed that he bad no wish to conciliate those who were opposed to an extension of the franchise. As one of the Liberals who had voted against the Government on this question before, he must say that the hon. Member's letter was plain and blunt in its language—so plain and blunt that it required to be met in rather plainer language than the rules and courtesies of that House permitted to be used. As to the question of the redistribution of seats, he did not think that any question ought to be more carefully dealt with than that, for it was a measure which involved disfranchisement and touched a large variety of interests. He had got an authority for this in the present Prime Minister. In the year 1821 Lord John Russell proposed certain Reform re- 1363 solutions to that House, and, curiously enough, he combined together bribery and corruption and a re-distribution of seats. He moved that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider what persons it would be advisable to enfranchise, and what would be the best method of effecting it without a diminution in the number of representatives in this House. But the Government had shown by their haste and carelessness in dealing with this question that they were not actuated by the principles of Lord Russell in 1821. They had neither consulted the interests nor the wishes of the various boroughs they had pitchforked into groups. He would remind the House that before they could get at those groups they had to go through two processes. They must first disfranchise every one of those boroughs, and then they were to be brought together again and enfranchised, with one or two representatives as the case might be. But in this second process they would leave other boroughs much more important still unenfranchised, and they would give every one of those unenfranchised boroughs a good case of grievance. He, therefore, could not regard the Bill as likely to settle the question. He understood the object of Reform to be to get rid of certain anomalies in the present system of representation, but he could hardly think that object would be effected by a measure which, while it got rid of certain anomalies, created other and greater anomalies in their place—for such, he believed, would be the effect of the proposed plan of grouping. The next part of the Bill to which he would refer was the proposition to give an extra Member to four towns already returning two—namely, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. One would suppose that the reason why a third Member should be given to each of these towns consisted not only in the fact of their large labouring population, but also in the circumstance of their great mercantile importance, and of the great shipping and manufacturing interests connected with them. But the operation of the £7 franchise under the present Bill would swamp the existing constituencies—the great shipping, commercial, and manufacturing interests would be completely disfranchished, and the addition of a third Member would simply be the giving one Member more to the working population of those towns. And yet there were great manufacturing and mercantile towns, such as West Bromwich and Stockton-on-Tees, that would remain 1364 entirely unrepresented. He would much prefer giving one Member to each of these unrepresented towns to giving a third Member to those towns which already had two. Another portion of the Bill to which he objected was that giving a third Member to any division of a county, and with respect to South Lancashire the better alteration would be, instead of giving three Members to each of two divisions to divide it into three divisions, and give two Members to each of those divisions. This was an instance of the carelessness with which the Bill had been prepared. There were also some divisions of counties to which it was desirable not to give an additional Member. In South Staffordshire there was the large district of West Bromwich, having a population of 70,000 or 80,000, and it would be a better plan, instead of giving a third Member to that division of the county, to take that district out of the county and give it a Member. He objected to the arbitrary line of 8,000 inhabitants adopted by the Government, and believed that it would have been a fairer plan to have taken as the rule the number of electors, instead of the actual number of inhabitants, the larger number of whom would consist of women and children; whereas, by taking the number of electors, they would see at once what was the nature of the constituency with which they had to deal. The city he represented (Lichfield) was a case in point, If a really good Bill for the re-distribution of seats were brought forward, he should not object to Lichfield losing a Member; but then he should demand that it should be treated fairly, and that other boroughs not half so important should not be left with two Members. At the present moment the number of electors in Tavistock was 426, and under the £7 franchise the number would only be 475. In Lichfield the number of electors was 564, and under the £7 franchise the number would be 780. Under a £6 franchise, which in most of the boroughs in this country a £7 franchise would virtually be, the number of electors would be 1,000. In Tiverton the number of electors was 465. Under a £7 franchise the number would be 588, and under a £6 franchise 672. There were various other boroughs of the same character, but it was unnecessary for him to mention them. The number of the electors was the true ground to take, and by that they would attain their object, that of 1365 keeping as many as they could in possession of the franchise. He believed there was not a single clause in the Bill that would in any way promote the settlement of the question; and tinker it as they might, it would be utterly impossible to make a good Bill of it. It might be all very well for the hon. Member for Birmingham to say that those who supported the Motion then before the House would do so because they were opposed to all Reform—all he could say upon that point would be of little avail; therefore, whatever might be his feelings about Reform, under no circumstances would he give his vote in support of a Bill which he sincerely believed to be bad in every way, and which was not likely to be a settlement of the question, because simply the name of Reform had been by courtesy given to it. He had felt it to be his duty to oppose the Bill on the first opportunity on the Motion for going into Committee, and he should feel it to be his duty to oppose it at its subsequent stages. There was another point worthy of consideration. They had consumed already four months out of the ordinary six months of the Session, and they were then only beginning to enter into the question. It was notorious that on all sides of the House—behind the Government Benches, below the gangway, and on the opposite side of the House-serious objections were raised against the Bill. There was scarcely a single clause that was not threatened when the Bill got into Committee, and he could see but little or no chance of the Bill passing through Committee, whatever shape it might assume there, until the middle of July, After that the Bill would have to go to "another place," and they could not ignore the fact that, in all probability, that "other place" would then decline to deal with a question of such vast importance at so late a period of the Session, but indignantly refuse to have anything to do with it. The House of Commons would therefore be throwing on the shoulders of the House of Lords a duty which they ought to take upon themselves. No doubt one section of that House would be only too glad to see the House of Lords place itself in an unpopular position by the rejection of a measure which was supposed to be for the better representation of the people; but all moderate men in the House of Commons ought to take into consideration the small chances there were of the Bill becoming law, and take OH themselves the respon- 1366 sibility of throwing it out. It was because he could not see that the Bill would lead to the settlement of the much-vexed question of Reform, or any chance of Its passing into a law this year, that he seconded the Motion that had been submitted to the House by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while ready to consider the general subject of a Re-distribution of Seats, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed by Her Majesty's Government is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme is otherwise not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure,"—(Captain Hayter,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left, out stand part of the Question"
§ MR BAGNALL
, in supporting the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, declined to admit that those who did so were opposed to Reform, The assertion was that they wore incapable of proof, and it was quite sufficient to meet it with a simple denial. Progress was admitted to be one of the laws of creation; and however good our Constitution might be, it was necessary not only to preserve it, but also to improve it and to adapt it to the present time. Arrangements which once worked well might become anomalies, but it was not Reform to substitute for an existing anomaly a still greater anomaly. The Reform Act itself of 1832 did great benefit, no doubt, to the country, but many of the arrangements then made had since become anomalies. The representation of the country was not what we could wish, but it would be made worse rather than improved by the Re-distribution Bill before the House. He would illustrate this by reference to cases of which he had a personal knowledge, and which told as strongly against the Bill as any that could be brought forward. It would have been much better to have given Members to West Bromwich and Wednes-bury than to have increased the representation of South Staffordshire, in which they were situated: and it would have been much fairer to have given them Members than to have given a Member to Middlesborough. He had nothing to say in disparagement of that place, for he was well acquainted with the marvellous— 1367 almost magical—development of its iron-making industry. Now, as the Government had proposed to give it a Member, he would take it as the standard of a place that ought to have a Member, and compare with it West Bromwich and Wednesbury. In 1861 Middlesborough had a population of not quite 19,000; the population of West Bromwich at that time was more than 41,000, and that of Wednesbury 22,000, making a total of 63,000. Of inhabited houses there were in Middlesborough 3,117, or, making allowance for houses in progress of erection or void, 3,367; while in West Bromwich and Wednesbury there were 12,166. He would further compare the relative importance of these places by the value of their iron trade. From Returns he had obtained he estimated that the annual value of the iron trade of Middlesborough was £1,034,000, while the value of the iron made at West Bromwich and Wednesbury was £1,958,000, or nearly £1,000,000 more. In the trade values he had given he omitted the value of the iron and coal mining of West Bromwich and Wednesbury. In Middlesborough there was no mining; it smelted iron from the Cleveland Hills with the coals from Northumberland and Durham, but in West Bromwich and Wednesbury iron works had been built because they had coal and iron mines of their own. If Middlesborough be taken as the standard of a place which ought to have a Member, how many ought West Bromwich and Wednesbury to have? It was observed the other day that West Bromwich and Wednesbury were not municipal towns; but they both had Improvement Acts and Commissioners appointed under them; they taxed themselves for local purposes; and, in his opinion, without the form and ceremony of the civic garb, they had all the advantage they could have under mayors and corporations. How, then, were they to account for the conduct of the Government in offering a Member to Middlesborough and omitting to recognize the claims of West Bromwich and Wednesbury, of which the Government could not be ignorant, for it was proposed that they should have a Member in Lord Derby's Reform Bill in 1859. He was almost ashamed to suggest that Middlesborough might be indebted for the recognition it had received to the visit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who met with a handsome reception, and who, no 1368 doubt, like every other visitor to the town, was impressed with the marvellous, almost mushroom-like growth of the manufacturing industry of the place, and left with the conviction that so much energy and industry deserved representation in Parliament. He believed they did, but that West Bromwich and Wednesbury still more deserved representation; and if these two towns were not large enough, the constituency might be made larger by adding Tipton. The three places joined each other; they were engaged in the same trades, mining and the manufacture of iron; they had common interests; they were grouped naturally, and their claims deserved attentive consideration. The Bill ignored them, and he would oppose it at every stage.
§ MR. BARNETT
rose as the unfortunate representative of the first borough named in Schedule A of the Bill (Woodstock) to be grouped with others, and ventured to think that the alliance proposed for his borough with other boroughs would be truly an unholy alliance, and would result in the virtual disfranchisement of the former. He admitted that a question of this kind, being one of national importance, ought not to be argued from isolated cases, and that it would not be right to allow individual interests to interfere with the settlement of such a large question. His justification for drawing attention to the borough in question was that its particular case occurred over and over again in the Bill, and that a number of small instances produced an important aggregate result. The general question of grouping boroughs had been already touched upon by several Members, and especially, in a remarkable manner, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, with whose views he entirely agreed, and therefore he entirely disagreed with the proposal to unite Woodstock with Abingdon and Walling-ford; he could not see on what principle such a arrangement was based, and, in fact, nothing could be more incongruous than the union of the three places. Abingdon and Wallingford were not in the same county as Woodstock; they were widely separated from Woodstock, Wallingford being twenty-five miles distant from Woodstock; they had no community of interests with Woodstock; no market brought the people of the three places together, and Abingdon and Wallingford were as much separated from Woodstock as if they were a hundred miles from it. Boroughs so circumstanced 1369 might positively have antagonistic interests, as the interests of one county were often opposed to those of another, and representatives of such united boroughs might occasionally find themselves placed in a very awkward position. As had been already well remarked, if any principle of grouping was to be sanctioned, it would be only reasonable that those towns which were now unrepresented, and which were within reasonable distance of small boroughs returning Members, should be grouped together. Near Woodstock, there were one or two growing towns—Chipping Norton, and Witney—at which a considerable manufacture was carried on; and if it had been proposed to unite one or both to Woodstock, although it might not have been exactly agreeable to his constituents, no strong objection could have been urged against such a proposal on the score of reason or justice. He could assure the House that Woodstock viewed the present proposition with the greatest dislike. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel Lindsay) had that afternoon presented a petition from the Town Council of that place and another from Walling-ford, expressing disapprobation of the proposed alliance; and he was daily expecting to receive a petition to the same effect from Woodstock. To him nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the prospects of the proposed union. The future candidates would be exposed to greatly increased trouble and expense; there would have to be an election agent and independent machinery in each borough; and, although there was partial communication by railway, it was not immediate or direct. He foresaw as the result of such an union, additional trouble, expense, and probable bribery and corruption, while Woodstock would be overwhelmed by the united influence of the two other towns. The population of Woodstock at the date of the last Return was 7,800—within 200 of the magical number of 8,000, and he could not help being reminded on this matter of the pithy words of Lord Melbourne, "Why can't you let it alone?" The right hon. Gentleman proposed to give Woodstock two-thirds of a Member; although there were no less than seven boroughs which were now represented by two Members, and which, if the Bill were to become law, would still have one Member left; yet each of these had a smaller population than the borough of Woodstock. The object of the Bill was, of 1370 course, as everybody was aware, to procure a certain number of seats to give to places which were no doubt entitled to be represented; but if the Government were to adopt his suggestion and let Woodstock alone, they might see whether the constituencies of Abingdon and Wallingford, which had a common interest, would not be content to be joined together, and with a population of some 12,000 persons, return one Member, thus leaving two Members still to the three boroughs. The statement had been referred by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Captain Haytor) that a preponderating influence prevailed in the borough of Woodstock which it was desirable to neutralize. That was a point, however, on which much misapprehension existed. There could, of course, be no doubt that a large landed proprietor, whether titled or otherwise, must exercise some influence in any borough with which he was immediately connected; but he (Mr. Barnett) denied that in the case of Woodstock the influence alluded to could fairly be said to be preponderating. Whatever the Manchester and Birmingham school might say, the Chancellor of the Exchequer professed that he by no means desired to deprive the landed interest in this country of its legitimate influence; and when a landlord, surrounded by intelligent men, who formed his tenantry, told them to vote as they thought right, and some twenty out of seventy who might be supposed to be influenced by him either did not vote at all, or in direct opposition to the politics of their landlord, it was scarcely right to speak of his influence as preponderating. If, then, the Government were not disposed to be generous towards Woodstock, he would ask them, at all events, to be just, and not deal with it upon the score of the existence of a preponderating proprietary influence, while such places, for example, as Tavistock and Tarn-worth were left untouched. It had been suggested that it might be possible to unite Woodstock with Oxford, and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for that City (Mr. Neate) would not object to such an union; but he could see no justice in the proposal unless the House was prepared to act upon the principle that small boroughs should be abolished altogether. For the reasons he had given he should support the Amendment, and he could scarcely conceive that the House would be pre- 1371 pared to sanction a scheme which he ventured to look upon—and he had regarded it from various points of view—as one of the most ill-digested, unjust, unreasonable, impolitic, and therefore unsatisfactory that had for a long time been submitted to Parliament.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, that while he expressed his concurrence in the condemnation with which the Bill seemed to be received on every side, he claimed to be at all events disinterested in his opposition to it, inasmuch as he did not think it could, if it were to pass into law, materially affect the character of the constituency of North Hampshire, which he represented. He was, he might add, one of those who had evinced a sincere desire to see the question of Reform, if possible, settled in the present Session; and he had hoped, after the forbearance which had been exhibited on the Opposition side of the House, the second reading of the Bill having been taken after only a few hours' discussion, the Government, acting upon the suggestions which had been thrown out in the comprehensive speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, would have so modified the measure as to make it more acceptable to all parties. The Government, however, had thought fit to press it forward without making any material change, and under those circumstances, the House, he contended, ought not to be asked to go into Committee and then trust to the chapter of accidents, by amending the most objectionable clauses, to convert a dangerous and unsatisfactory measure into a safe and reasonable one. For his own part, having paid considerable attention to the subject, it appeared to him highly inexpedient that any such course should be pursued, because the objections which he and others entertained—especially to the Bill for the re-distribution of seats—involved questions of principle, which could, as matters stood, be fairly raised only before going into Committee by means of Resolutions affirming or rejecting those principles. The Bill as proposed by the Government was full of anomalies. One main objection he had to the Bill was the proposed addition of a third Member to populous places on what was called the "unicorn" precedent. This course, followed further, would lead into enormous difficulties. Places were said to require an additional Member on account of their size. He doubted the principle—but in the case of 1372 towns which required more Members, we must go a great deal farther than the Bill proposed if we were to remove the anomalies that existed to any great extent. Take the case of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, which were to have a third Member each. But Finsbury was as large as two or three of them—as large as Manchester and Salford together, which were to have five Members, whereas Finsbury was to merely retain its two. Again, Sal-ford contained 100,000 inhabitants, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made a great point of giving it a second Member, and no one could deny that it ought to have two representatives: but Kensington, with 100,000 inhabitants, was to be left in the position of a little town with one Member. Was it, he would ask, likely, under these circumstances, that the metropolitan constituencies would rest long contented with the moderate character of their representation? Lambeth furnished another instance of the anomalies by which the Bill was pervaded. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, indeed, said that the representation of the metropolis might be supposed to be more efficient than would otherwise be the case, because its Members were on the spot, while he also intimated that an addition to their numbers would not be very popular in the House. It was perfectly true that some years ago that was the case; but the explanation of that matter was that the metropolis was at that time represented by certain Members who were no particular credit either to it or to the House; but matters were now entirely altered, for some of the most distinguished ornaments of the House were to be found among the metropolitan representatives. But to pass to another point, it seemed to him, he must confess, as if the authors of the English, Scotch, and Irish Bills had proceeded on entirely different principles. In Scotland there was to be no grouping at all; in England the grouping was to be of represented towns only; while in Ireland eleven unrepresented towns were to be grouped with others now sending Members to Parliament. Another very objectionable principle in the Bill was the proposal to take away seven seats from England to confer them upon constituencies in Scotland. If it could be shown that claims to be preferred on the part of English constituencies were exhausted—no more towns to be enfranchised, and no more counties to be divided—that England had more Members than 1373 she knew what to do with—then it would be proper to give those seats to Scotland, But there was no pretence for anything of that kind. The case of Wednesbury and West Bromwieh had been forcibly stated already, and that of Croydon was another instance. It was said that Croydon could not be enfranchised because it had no municipality; but the same objection applied to Chelsea and Kensington, Stockton-on-Tees was another strong case. He would not mind giving a Member to the Scotch Universities, but entirely objected to take from England, where there were places with such strong claims, in order to add to the representation of Scotland. If more representatives were required for Scotland he would rather see a small addition made to the number of Members than adopt the plan now proposed. He disapproved of the arrangements made in the case of some of the most populous constituencies. Take the case of West Kent. That division contained upwards of 9,000 electors, and the £14 franchise would double the constituency. He should have imagined that some arrangement was possible by which West Kent might have retained its character of an agricultural constituency. Gravesend was no doubt made into a borough, but it was by no means a large or important constituency. But the parish of Lewisham alone contained 22,000 in habitants, and, of course, under the new £14 franchise would contain a proportionate number of electors. He could hardly think that the House would allow West Kent to be entirely swamped as an agricultural constituency as it would be now if the new franchise were created. East Surrey was another case of the same nature. It was estimated that 12,000 voters would be added by the Bill to the 10,000 already existing in East Surrey; and this result might in great part have been avoided if Croydon had been made a Parliamentary borough. Middlesex, where 11,000 new voters should be called into existence, was another strong case. The formation of Chelsea and Kensington into a Parliamentary borough would modify this result to a limited extent; but still the number of new voters would be enormous; and in other counties the same results would follow from the Bill. Now, he was not one of those who feared a low franchise in the counties; but he would never be a party to the creation of enormous masses of new county electors without being certain that they had the means of exercising the fran- 1374 chise. What was the use of giving a man a vote if he lived eight or ten miles from any polling-place? The question of polling-places was quite germane to this subject, and in Lord Derby's Reform Bill provision was made for it. He thought it out of the question to impose on the constituencies the burden of providing a fresh polling place in every parish, as would be necessary with such an enormous mass of voters. Members did not find it their interest to move in the matter, because the greater the number of polling-places the greater the expense to them: but it was the bounden duty of those who created large constituencies to enable voters to poll at the public expense, and also to simplify the present cumbrous and hardly intelligible system of registration. The elector should have reasonable facilities for exercising the franchise which was given to him; but under this Bill no such facilities were furnished. Another important subject was the expenses of candidates. Some time ago, when the House had to consider the question of the conveyance of voters to the poll they discovered that bribery and corruption might be practised under an infinite variety of forms; and when the Solicitor General took great trouble in endeavouring to provide some machinery for prohibiting the conveyance of voters, it was found to be a question of great difficulty, and upon the intervention of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) a miserable compromise was adopted. But the subject was one which had an important bearing upon the present Bill. Unless you provided some means by which voters could poll in their own parishes, how could you prevent the conveyance of voters? Such conveyance gave rise to great evils, but on none of these points—polling-places, registration, electoral expenses—did the Bill offer any provisions whatever—and it was so framed that he considered it to be impossible in Committee to render it efficacious for the attainment of the objects proposed. Then the scheme of grouping proposed was in many instances most objectionable. Representing the constituency of North Hants he could not omit to refer to the case of Andover and Lymington. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had cut the ground under his own feet when he said that in the grouping of boroughs geographical considerations should not be violated. He (Mr. Sclater-Booth) would refer to the proposed grouping of boroughs in which 1375 Hampshire was interested—namely, to what was called the Horsham boroughs. The grouping of Andover and Lymington was the most flagrant case that had been brought before the House. Then there was the grouping of the Horsham boroughs. He saw below him the right hon. Member for Petersfield (Sir William Jolliffe). Petersfield was not properly a town, but it was an agricultural district comprising several parishes, yet it was proposed by this Bill to combine it with three towns in Sussex. The great portion of the electors who would be enfranchised as borough voters by this Bill were already voters for the county. He protested against this act of flagrant injustice on behalf of his constituents, who would much rather retain their privileges of voting as county electors than of being empowered to vote for the borough of Arundel, Midhurst, and Horsham. Was it conceivable, putting all those circumstances together, that the House could go into Committee with the hope of passing a Bill that would redress all those anomalies? He had not put himself forward as an advanced Reformer, or as one who was particularly anxious to see that question raised at all; but he had always held himself out as unprejudiced with regard to any measure which might be proposed for the real amendment of the representation. The question of Reform was exceedingly unpopular with his own constituency (Hampshire), and that quite as much, if not more, with those electors who opposed him as with those who supported him. He believed that the same was the case throughout the whole of the South of England. There a strong dislike existed to any great transfer of power and shuffling of seats throughout the kingdom; and even if it were true that among the population of the North a somewhat different feeling prevailed, yet he maintained that no settlement of the question of Parliamentary Reform could be satisfactory which was distasteful to so large a proportion of the country. He would only add, in conclusion, that that measure for the re-distribution of seats had been proposed in an inverted order. Instead of beginning by grouping all the small boroughs they could lay hold of, and thus obtaining as many seats for disposal as they could find, the proper course for the Government to have pursued, if they wished to produce a Bill of a conciliatory character and which was likely to pass, was first to have ascertained how many 1376 seats were absolutely necessary to make the representation satisfactory, and having discovered that, then to have obtained the requisite number of seats by taking as many of the second Members from the small boroughs as were actually needed. The Government, however, had not adopted that course, and no alternative was open to him but to support the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, which was based upon a common-sense view of the subject, and which he believed would meet with the approval of the House.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he was not surprised at the opposition offered to the further progress of the measure by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, because Wells was one of those boroughs which must appear in every Re-distribution of Seats Bill as a place to be either wholly or partially disfranchised. It was to be regretted, however, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's opposition should have taken the form of the present Motion; for of two things, one—either his objections to the Bill were such as might be met in Committee, or such as could not be so met. If they were not such as could be met in Committee, then the hon. Gentleman's proper course was to have opposed the second reading. If they were such as could be met in Committee, then when they got into Committee was the proper time at which to raise them. It was impossible for the hon. Member for Wells to escape from that dilemma. It was to be observed that there was a considerable difference between the language of the Amendment of which the hon. Gentleman had given notice and that of the Amendment which he had actually proposed. The Amendment as it stood on the Notice Paper was—On going into Committee on the Representation of the People Bill, to move, that this House, although desirous that the subject of the Franchise and of the Re-distribution of Seats should be considered together, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed in the present Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme of Her Majesty's Government is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure.Now, the actual Motion was, "That this House, while willing to consider the general subject of the Re-distribution of Seats"—omitting all mention of the subject of the Franchise—"is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed," and so forth. For some reason or other the hon. and gallant Gentleman had seen fit to adapt 1377 his Resolution to the Re-distribution of Seats Bill only, thus giving the entire goby to the question of the franchise. But he that as it might, his Motion was substantially a Motion against the second reading of the Bill. That was though not in terms, the real issue now before them, and as such it would be understood by the House and by the country. The House would see that it was absolutely impossible for the Government to accept that Motion. The hon. and gallant Member said it would be too late to raise those questions which were chiefly geographical when they went into Committee, Why, in Committee was just the place where they ought to be raised. To quote the memorable words of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Bulwer Lytton), "If you have a complaint, prove your case in Committee." So if they had a geographical objection to make—for, after all, their objections were mostly geographical—let them make it and establish it if they could in Committee. The House had had the advantage of hearing from the leader of the Opposition an outline of the plan of redistribution which he would propose if the Government should fall into his hands, and it might be well to contrast the present measure with what might be called the rival Bill of the Opposition Any Government desirous of settling the question of Reform, and presenting to the House of Commons a practical measure, must have in view two considerations—the first was, how to effect the desired improvements with the smallest disturbance of our existing representative system; and the second was, not what might be the best conceivable Bill, but what was the best Bill which there was a reasonable prospect of passing. That was the very question which the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) said Lord Derby's Government in 1859 proposed to themselves. They were perfectly right in proposing it to themselves, although that they failed in solving it the result proved But if these were the considerations which should guide any Government in dealing with that subject, it was obvious that any Bill they might introduce could not possibly do away with every anomaly. It must be open to the objection that it left this, that, and the other anomaly untouched. Why, if a measure were introduced that should propose to remove every anomaly, making a clean sweep of 1378 our present system and substituting a perfectly harmonious and a symmetrical system in its place, that might please abstract theorists and speculative philosophers, but it would not commend itself for a moment to the practical good sense of the House or of the country. The question, therefore, was not whether the Bill before them removed every anomaly; but whether it did not remove or, to a certain extent, lessen those anomalies which were principally complained of, and whether it did not effect a substantial practical improvement in our representative system. In dealing with that question the first consideration, he apprehended, should be enfranchisement rather than disfranchisement. The most pressing need was first to find Members for those great constituencies which had grown up of late, and which were now unrepresented; and next to provide additional Members for those great constituencies which were not adequately represented. As to the desirability of the first of those objects, he apprehended there was no dispute. The right hon, Member for Buckinghamshire agreed with the proposal of the Government—at least as far as it went—to enfranchise new boroughs; but both that right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. SclaterBooth) objected to giving additional Members to great towns and large constituencies. It was said that if the interests of Manchester were affected they would be defended by the Members for; several other boroughs having similar interests. This came to the argument of virtual as against actual representation, which was adduced at the time of the great Reform Bill by Mr. Wilson Croker and others against giving Members to Manchester at all. They said that if Manchester was not actually represented, it was virtually represented by the Members for London and other large towns, That argument did not, however, commend itself to the authors of the Reform Bill or of the country at large: they insisted on actual as distinguished from virtual representation, and thought that Manchester and the large towns required to be represented not only by speeches in the House, but by votes in the lobby; and there were occasions, as they knew, when one vote in the lobby was worth a dozen speeches in the House. He concluded, then, that according to the principles of the Reform Bill, it was desirable to give actual increased representation to the larger con- 1379 stituencies. Well, if a certain number of Members were required for new constituencies, how were they to be obtained? It appeared to him that the Government had fixed about the right number of seats so to be distributed. If they had fixed upon a less number, it would not have been a satisfactory settlement of the question; if a larger number, it would probably be said that they had proposed a revolutionary measure to Parliament. There seemed to be a general agreement that it was not desirable to add to the number of Members of the House, and, if so, it was necessary to obtain seats for the larger constituencies by some such measure as that of the Government. They had heard from the right hon. Gentleman an elaborate defence of small boroughs, which he thought had been generally given up. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had expressed an opinion against them, but the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to defend them. His argument, however, if it proved anything, only showed how utterly hopeless the case of the small boroughs was. No doubt, his defence was very ingenious and plausible if it had been supported by facts. He said that the large constituencies mainly returned men engaged in manufactures, agriculture, and commerce, while the small boroughs were required in order to return professional men—men eminent in literature, or connected with our Indian and Colonial Empire. But the argument was not founded on fact—nine out of ten of the Members of the legal profession sat for large towns; the larger part of the literary men in the House also sat for large towns; and the Bill of the Government did not take a single seat which was at present filled by a man eminent for his connection with our Indian and Colonial Empire. So that the right hon. Gentleman's argument, although it sounded well in theory, was opposed to the facts. The right hon. Gentleman had flung over the Pitt, Fox, and Canning argument, but he rested his case on one equally untenable. The House was left to conclude that any scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, if he returned to office, would retain the small boroughs. He said he would not group them, for to group them was to disfranchise them; but to group them with un-represented boroughs would equally disfranchise them. The right hon. Gentleman would retain the small boroughs without grouping or disfranchisement, except so 1380 far as one Member was concerned, while the scheme of the Government was the non-retention of small boroughs by the process either of disfranchisement or grouping. Whatever merits these small boroughs might possess from being unconnected with agriculture, manufacture, or commerce, the same merits would appertain to the group. By the Government scheme, therefore, none of the advantages of the small boroughs were lost. But what were the objections to small boroughs? In the first place, the extent to which these small constituencies were represented, as compared with large and populous towns, was an anomaly in the Constitution. The second argument against them was, that they were liable to the influence of the adjoining landowner, who in some cases owned half the borough, and in others had a predominating influence, so that the nomination system was perpetuated in them. The third was, that where the landowner did not exercise a preponderating influence, a small clique in these boroughs really returned the Members. The fourth was, that the smallness of the constituencies gave facilities for the commission of acts of bribery and corruption. He would not say that every small borough was corrupt, and every large borough incorrupt; but, as a rule, the larger the number of people it was attempted to corrupt, the more likely the corrupt practices were to be found out; while, on the other hand, it was more easy to corrupt few than many, and detection was more difficult. He contended that the system of grouping adopted in this Bill would put an end to every one of these defects. ["Oh!"| At all events, it tended to lessen these evils. In the second place, would it be denied that the influence of the great landowners would be almost destroyed, and that very few nomination boroughs would remain? The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Captain Hayter) told the House that Wells was the purest borough in the kingdom, and that Westbury was the next pure, and yet he argued that if they were grouped together a rotten borough would be created. Now that seemed a very extraordinary argument, for it was difficult to conceive how by putting two pure constituencies together a rotten borough would be created. Practically, there would remain scarcely a nomination borough in the kingdom if this Bill passed. ["Tavistock!"] Tavistock was not a nomination borough. 1381 ["Oh!"] At all events, there would not be a nomination borough in any of the groups created by this Bill. In the third place, the influence of a small clique would be destroyed and swamped by other cliques. Again, the work of corruption would be rendered more difficult. It was easy to manage a corrupt election from a single centre, but to carry out these practices from a distance would either be fatal, or would interpose great difficulties in the way. For these reasons the system of grouping proposed in the Bill, while embracing all the benefits which could be expected, would greatly lessen the evils of which there had been so much complaint, He would contrast the plan of the Government with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who proposed to group unrepresented towns. But to what extent would the right hon. Gentleman go in that process—for it was extremely important to know that? It appeared to him the right hon. Gentleman would proceed with his system of grouping throughout every county in England until he had entirely separated the urban from the rural population and left an agricultural constituency pure and simple for the counties. It would not be enough for that purpose to group comparatively few boroughs, as was proposed by the Government, for the whole number of groups which they proposed to make was only sixteen, and the number of Members to be returned by those groups twenty-two; but that system would be as nothing compared with the innovations recommended by the right hon. Gentleman. If they grouped on the principle of leaving purely agricultural constituencies they would enter upon a task perfectly endless, the issue of which they could not foresee and from which they would create the greatest confusion, And when they came to the question of boundaries he could not see how the scheme could possibly be carried into effect. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to Scotland as furnishing instances of grouping according to his plan, and denied that the Scotch system was in accordance with the plan of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that in Scotland they had grouped only unrepresented towns, and he appeared to have thought that the framers of the Reform Bill of 1832 proceeded upon that principle. But the very opposite was the fact. Every borough in Scotland that was grouped had been represented before. Therefore he ventured to say that if the 1382 ignorance of the Government was "double"—for that was the epithet applied by the right hon. Gentleman—triple, or quadruple, ignorance, would scarcely express the state of the right hon. Gentleman himself. Had the right hon. Gentleman considered the extensive disfranchisement that would be required by his plan? It would be necessary to disfranchise twice the number of boroughs in order to carry out the right hon. Gentleman's plan; but if that were attempted it would be quite sufficient to insure the rejection of that or any other Bill. And what would be the effect of this scheme of the right hon. Gentleman? It would be that every county Member would represent a purely homogeneous constituency of farmers and farm labourers. The right hon. Gentleman complained of the "monotony" of the Government plan, and asked what could be so monotonous as having large constituencies represented by more than two Members? Well, he would tell him—it would be 200 Members sitting in that House representing only farmers and farm labourers. The right hon. Gentleman seemed determined to recur to the errors he committed in 1859, and which were then fatal to his party. In 1859 he sought to secure what he called this "homogeneous" constituency, and for that purpose he tried to disfranchise the freeholders in boroughs, and it was that which led mainly to the rejection of his Bill. The right hon. Gentleman sought to effect the same object now, when in fact he went further, for he endeavoured to confine the county constituencies to one class, and to one class only. Was that in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution? It was not for the benefit of the country that county Members should represent only the class of tanners and farm labourers; it would be far better that they should represent constituencies containing a number of elements and therefore represent wider views, and thus the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman would be subversive in a great degree of the main principles of our Constitution, and would be far more open to objection than the plan of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman's plan would be fatal to small boroughs, and from the counties it would eliminate everything urban, everything independent, and leave the representation entirely in the hands of the great landowners. In fact, it might be shortly described as a scheme for giving 1383 a preponderance to the Conservative party, and could not possibly obtain the sanction of Parliament. If that were so, in what position did this question now stand? If this Motion were carried, it might be supposed it would result in this, that the settlement of the question would be transferred to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, he would venture for a moment to appeal to the anti-Reformers in the House, and they were many. There was, and everybody knew it to be true, a certain amount of latent hostility in that House to Reform, and that hostility did not show itself in opposition to the second readings of such Bills, but was always on the alert to defeat every measure of the kind, proposed by whatever Government, by some general Resolution or other indirect means. He would venture to put it to those who were opposed to Reform, that by carrying this Motion they would not get rid of the question. Reform could not be disposed of in that way. The question would recur Session after Session, demanding each time more loudly and imperatively to be solved. He would put it to those, on the other hand, who desired to settle this question, whether hon. Gentlemen opposite would be able to settle it. The House had had the plan of those hon. Gentlemen before it, and if their scheme of 1859 had brought about their overthrow, the plan which the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had recently sketched would lead to a fall still more precipitate and disastrous. What, then, should happen? They would of necessity be succeeded by another Government, and then it might happen that the country would not be quite so patient as it was now, and it might not be possible to carry a measure which would now be gratefully accepted by the people. He sincerely hoped that Members on both sides of the House who sincerely desired to see the question settled would not allow this opportunity to pass by. We were now living in times of tranquillity, but how long they would continue it was impossible to say. Times of dissatisfaction, trouble, and disquiet might again recur, when this, or a larger measure, if conceded, would be conceded without grace, and accepted without thankfulness. In conclusion he would say, in the language of Burke, an early Reform Bill is an honourable arrangement with a friendly Power; a late Reform Bill is a dishonourable capitulation with a conquering enemy.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, it was not at all a complimentary fact to the Government that not a single independent Member had risen to defend their Bill—though perhaps, when they considered what it was, that was not very surprising. At last a Law Officer of the Crown had been found to hold a brief and make a speech on behalf of Her Majesty's Government; and, singular to say, that speech contradicted the expressed convictions both of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General stated that small boroughs were an anomaly. He might be permitted to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that the British Constitution was an anomaly. Was there no anomaly in the Bill of the Government? Did they not propose that boroughs with 8,000 inhabitants should return the same number of Members as Marylebone with its 400,000? Well, then, he would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that his speech if good for anything was good for this—a system of electoral districts. Now, though the hon. and learned Gentleman might not be able to appreciate the advantage of small boroughs, he could quote the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who had not had seven years, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to change his mind to the opposite effect. For what did he find? In a book published last year, and with notes made up to the latest period to support his conclusions, Lord Russell said—But there is another class who ought to form a part of any good representative body whose election is not so sure. I mean those who are distinguished by their learning or their talents, but not by their fortune or their commerce with the world; men who have devoted their youth to the acquirement of English law—laws of nations, history of the Constitution, political economy, but who are excluded by their want of pecuniary means, their temper or their habits from popular contests. For it is not to be denied that a body of 10,000 farmers or tradesmen will choose no man who if not known to them either by his station in the country or by a course of popular harangues. If then you make none but elections by large bodies, you either shut out the aristocracy of talent from your assembly, and constitute them into a body hostile to your institutions, or else you oblige them to become demagogues by profession—things both of them very pernicious and dangerous to the State.These were not only the views of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, I but the right hon. Gentleman the Chan- 1385 cellor of the Exchequer expressed similar opinions in 1859, and if the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman had undergone a change since that period, the only consolation that he in common with hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House possessed was the probability that in 1873 they would find the right hon. Gentleman coming forward, and in the turgid language of the Schools, denouncing the opponents of the small boroughs as the opponents of those constituencies which formed the most important portions of our Empire. The words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1859 were—Practice has proved that the real paradox lies with those who will allow of no ingress into this House but one. If that ingress is to be the suffrage of a large mass of voters, the consequence is a dead level of mediocrity, which destroys not only the ornaments but the force of this House, arid which, as I think, the history of other countries will show, is ultimately fatal to the liberties of the people. Allow me, in explanation of my meaning, to state the case of six men in one line each:—Mr. Pelham, Lord Chatham, Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Canning, and Sir Robert Peel. Mr. Pelham entered this House for the borough of Seaford in 1719, at the age of 21; Lord Chatham entered it in 1735 for Old Sarum at the age of 26: Mr. Fox in 1764 for Midhurst at the age, I think, of 20; Mr. Pitt in 1781 for Appleby, at the age of 21; Mr. Canning in 1793 for Newport, at "the age of 22; and Sir Robert Peel in 180(1 for Cashel, at the age of 21."—[3 Hansard, c liii 1056.]Now, however, the right hon. Gentleman entertained a different opinion, for., according to the right hon. Gentleman, "small boroughs no longer have any special utility in the working of our system." The House had, therefore, to consider the sudden change which had taken place in the small boroughs in the short period which had elapsed between 1859 and 1860, and it was to that that he desired to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Did the right hon. Gentleman remember the size of the borough which was represented by his late chief, whose death they all regretted, and whose death was probably never more regretted by the Government, than it was at the present moment: Did he believe that the borough of Tiverton, in returning Lord Palmerston, was of no special utility in the- working of our system? He would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the purposes of special utility served by small boroughs since 1859 in another respect. Another illustrious statesman, who, when rejected by a large constituency, found refuge in the small borough of Dor- 1386 chester, was the late Sir James Graham, and he would ask if there was a single man now upon the Treasury Bench who could be compared to the late Sir James Graham in point of eloquence or ability. Looking into the Cabinet as at present constituted, he found that the right hon. Gentleman himself owed his introduction to Parliament to the borough of Newark—but it was quite possible that the right hon. Gentleman might think that that borough had exercised no special utility in the working of our system. In the same way the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell), who had been set up the other night with singular infelieity to speak against small boroughs, had been first elected for Clitheroe; while the Secretary of State for the Home Department. (Sir George Grey) was at present the representative of Morpeth. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that lawyers found no difficulty in obtaining seats in that House, he was perfectly willing to admit that; many inferior lawyers had been elected by large boroughs; but the right hon. Gentle- man had apparently forgotten that the Treasury Bench would have been deprived of the services of one of its most valuable; Members had there not been a Richmond in the field. Turning to the Opposition side of the House, he found that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) was the representative of a small borough; that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) was introduced into that House by the electors of Midhurst; that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton) was in the same way first elected by St. Ives; that the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), a late First Lord of the Admiralty, at present represented Droitwich; and that the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) owed his introduction to Parliament to the borough of Newark. Turning to the independent Members of the House he would select three as illustrating. There were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe); the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), who formerly represented Cockermouth; and his noble Friend (Viscount Cranbourne), who still sat for Stamford. These instances showed that the small boroughs had not been unmindful of the high duties which the Con- 1387 stitution intrusted to their care, but that j they had been the nurseries in youth and the refuge in age of our public men, and it was to them it was due that the House still possessed among its body men who added lustre to their Assembly and who brought intelligence and information to bear upon their discussions. Again, if small boroughs were destroyed, where would they find representatives for the minorities? Where, otherwise, would the 3,824 electors who polled for Mr. Smith at the late election for Westminster, or the 4,197 who voted on the same occasion for Mr. Fowler for the City of London, be represented? Turning in a fresh direction, and glancing at the list of Bank Directors, he found that one (Mr. Thomas Baring) occupied a seat for the borough of Huntingdon—a fact which, to his mind, was rather an indication of the special utility of small boroughs. Another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cave) represented the agricultural constituency of Shoreham; one ex-Governor of the Bank (Mr. Kirkman Hodgson) was Member for Bridport, and another (Mr. Hubbard) represented Buckingham; while, last, but not least, another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hankey), whose personal popularity and general aptitude for business no one, he thought, would dispute, was sent to the House by the electors of Peterborough. He believed, therefore, that he had a right to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what respect the character of the representatives of small boroughs had changed since 1859? When the Bill was introduced he had expressed his conviction to a friend that it would contain no sweeping changes in reference to small boroughs, and he had referred to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1859 in confirmation of his opinion. His friend replied, "Don't you know him better than that? That is the very reason why he will propose them." He was now compelled to bow to the opinion of his friend, and confess that his friend had better divined the character of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than he had. In the Bill before the House no precaution was taken for the representation of minorities, and that was no small constitutional drawback. In the United States they had seen minorities rising in arms against the intolerable oppression of majorities; but, in spite of the changes which had taken place in our own country, while dynasties had been changed and monarchs overthrown, no shot had ever been fired against 1388 the justice of our Parliamentary system. The right hon. Gentleman had charged the small boroughs with corruption; but upon that point they had no other test than the petitions presented to the House. Of Great Yarmouth, Totnes, and Wakefield ["Nottingham"], one only could be regarded as a small borough, and that borough was a nomination borough—under the nomination, too, of a member of the Liberal Administration. Although small boroughs might have a small population themselves, yet they virtually represented other towns, and the aggregate population thus represented was large. With respect to the boroughs of Essex, he found that the electoral statistics gave the population of unrepresented towns as 36,000. That was one of the many inaccurate statements in those Returns. The hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Neville-Grenville) pointed out the other night many particulars in which the statistics were erroneous, or incomplete; and with reference to Essex he (Mr. Sandford) had found them so inaccurate that they had omitted West Ham with 38,000, Romford with 6,000, Waltham Abbey, with 5,000, and Waltharnstow with 7,000. With what object could the Government cause such inaccurate Returns to be made? How was it they had 36,000, as the population of unrepresented towns in Essex, and omitted to return the towns which he had mentioned, containing a population of something like 60.000? But what would be the consequences if representation were taken from small boroughs? The House would be made up of wealthy manufacturers, representing the large towns, and squires representing large local constituencies. Nothing could be more fatal to the constitution of the House, which would in that case be divided into two hostile camps, extreme in their opinions, and bitter in their feelings towards each other, while moderate men would be wanting to soften down the differences between them. The great objection to the present franchise was its uniformity. He had the authority of Lord Russell for saying that the great objection to the Reform Bill was, that it destroyed the variety of franchises formerly existing. How was it proposed to meet that objection? By substituting the uniformity of £7 for the uniformity of £10; no provision whatever was made for the protection of minorities; and he therefore thought it right to assert that both with respect to the distribution 1389 of electoral power, and also the distribution of the franchise, the measure was hastily considered and ill-judged. Much had been said with respect to the expense of elections; but what, he asked, would the system of grouping entail upon candidates? None but the very richest would be able to stand for any one of the proposed groups. He asserted, moreover, that the Bill would be fatal to the intellect of the House, and that the system of grouping would prevent the small boroughs from fulfilling the purpose for which they were intended. What group of boroughs in Wales had been the political birthplace or harbour of refuge for any public man of eminence? They all returned a squire of local influence or a great manufacturer. These were not constituencies that would have returned Canning, or formed a harbour of refuge for Sir James Graham. But the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, and the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), had pointed to the Scotch boroughs and said how pure they were. No one would charge the Scotch with indifference to money—he would as soon think of charging them with tolerance in religious matters—but he believed he could give the reason of there being so few petitions from Scotch boroughs: it was that the electors were all of one way of thinking, and consequently there were no close contests. In large and small boroughs alike, when there was a close run and a poor constituency, there electoral corruption would be found to prevail. Then the principle on which the grouping was arranged was unfair. Groups were proposed having an aggregate population of 12,000 or 13,000; three Members wore taken from them and one only left, while boroughs of 8,000 in population were permitted to retain their two Members. If the Government had fairly applied their own principle they would have put their minimum of population for two Members at 10,000, which would have given nine additional seats, and they could have been divided among the groups of boroughs having 12,000 or 13,000 inhabitants. That would, at all events, have been logical, but it would have taken a Member from Tavistock, one also from Malton, and one from Lewes; and there was to be found the reason for being illogical. Then, why was Ludlow to be joined with Leominster, since they were in different counties; while Bridgnorth was near to Ludlow, and in the same county? He believed the reason the con- 1390 sistent course had not been proposed was to be found in the fact that the framers of the measure would have found that group more difficult to carry. Why, too, was Petersfield joined to Midhurst, and not to Lymington and Andover? He believed it was from a similar reason. The whole Bill was full of unfair dealings of that character, and he appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite—yes, even to the Member for South wark—whether it was not fair to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells? Another objectionable feature of the Bill was the proposal to give three Members to towns. That proposal implied the recognition of numbers only, and on that account it was objectionable. The principle had been tried in counties and had signally failed; another objectionable proposition in the Bill was that of giving seven Members to Scotland; and he thought that he might trace the hand of the master in the mystic number seven which pervaded its details. £7 for the boroughs, £14 for the counties; forty-nine seats taken away, seven Members given to Scotland. He was only surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had not proposed to increase the number of Members in the House to 666—the number of the Beast. But he knew the reason why seven Members had been given to Scotland, it was in order to bribe the Scotch Members. And because it was thought that the addition of seven puritanical semi-republicans to the House could not be otherwise than distasteful to the Roman Catholic Members of Ireland, it was sought to purchase them by bringing in a Bill for the confiscation of the property of the owners of the soil. In short, the measure was an organized system of confiscation and corruption; and it only showed that there were Bismarcks in other places besides in Prussia, who, to gratify their own inordinate and unscrupulous ambition, did not hesitate to lay their hands on the property of their neighbours. But he had faith in the good sense and good feeling of the constituencies of the country; and if it should be found necessary by the Government to appeal to them, as he trusted it would, he was sure their verdict would be one of sweeping condemnation on both their policy and themselves.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he was bound to admit that the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Sandford) was effective; but he supposed it was because 1391 he spoke from paper, and the copious way in which he appealed to his notes almost forced him to the conclusion, notwithstanding the stormy eloquence the hon. Gentleman was known to he master of, that he was indebted to some one else for all the effective part of his speech. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the fact of his (Mr. Locke's) having had his dinner; but he perceived from the hon. Gentleman's garb that he was in the same state himself. Now, with respect to the hon. Member's argument—it happened that he represented a small borough himself. The hon. Member represented one of the unfortunate boroughs which were to be grouped, and the House owed to that particular circumstance the eloquence with which it had been favoured. It was certain, however, that such eloquence, and this assertion would be endorsed by Members on both sides of the House, had not been by him displayed before. It had, nevertheless, been entirely lost. The hon. Member had stated that the small boroughs had been the cause of the salvation of the country, though he had not put himself forward as an exemplification of that proposition. He alluded to bygone days, when Fox, Pitt, Burke, and other great men sat in that House by virtue of the small boroughs. But, as he (Mr. Locke) had told hon. Members on a former occasion, the patron of a rotten or small borough no more concerned himself about the qualifications of the person he determined should represent it than did the patron of a living. It was a friend or a relative who was fixed upon, not in order that the country might be benefited, but simply because he was a friend or a relative. So it was with regard to patrons of livings. Why was it that there were so many bad preachers? ["Question!"] That was exactly the Question; and perhaps some hon. Member opposite would get up and give him an answer. Why was it that there were so many bad preachers and so many bad Members of Parliament? The answer was, as stated by an hon. Member opposite, because their selection was so largely left to patrons. There were, however, some exceptions to be made, and of course he made an exception in the case of such a man as his right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). He did not wish to say anything in condemnation of that right hon. Gentleman; but he would tell the House what was said of him at a public meeting by one of his (Mr. Locke's) con- 1392 stituents. Some person spoke disrespectfully at that meeting of the right hon. Gentleman; whereupon a working man got up and said, "You have no right to abuse the right hon. Member for Calne, for he has had a brick thrown at his head, and, therefore, he does not admire the working classes." The opinion of the country he believed at the present time was this, that a great extension of the franchise should be made. That question, however, had been disposed of by the second reading of the Franchise Bill. ["No, no !"] Hon. Members said "No, no;" but why did they divide upon it? Why did not hon. Members opposite boldly avow that they were opposed to an extension of the suffrage? He did not see, however, that they could do so when they reflected upon the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) in 1859. He deeply regretted that the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Captain Hayter), a Gentleman connected with the party with which he had the honour to be identified, had brought forward the Resolution under the consideration of the House. It was a sinister Resolution, and he could apply no other term to it. Members for small, insignificant boroughs might wage war against the interests of the country, and the Bill might be defeated; but upon the next occasion when the question of Reform should be discussed the House, strengthened by the voice of the country, would not accept the infinitesimally small measure now before it. Before long they would have a decisive measure—one by which these small boroughs would be swept away altogether.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, that he would not take upon himself the task of replying to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, but would simply observe that if he did not enlighten the juries whom he had the honour to address in the large town of which he was the Recorder with greater clearness than that exhibited in his speech that night, he was afraid they could derive but little assistance from him in the performance of their duties. It was time that the question before the House should be considered with great care. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) who had addressed them that evening, did not in any way answer the arguments of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). The hon. and learned 1393 Member said that the Amendment ought not to have been brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells at this period of the question; and that if it was to be brought forward at all it ought to have been submitted to them for the purpose of ensuring the rejection of the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, Now he (Colonel Barttelot) thought that if the hon. and learned Gentleman had endeavoured to answer the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire when he addressed the House on the second reading of the Bill, it would have had a much better effect than the lame attempt to answer it he had made that night. That address, indeed, reminded him of two men going out hunting, the one well mounted and the other upon a horse which he was not accustomed to ride. It was generally found that a man could ride a pet horse in his stable better than another, but the hon. and learned Gentleman evidently did not ride the horse "Reform" either with case or satisfaction to himself. When the Franchise Bill was introduced, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would take the whole Session to pass it, without a Seats Bill at all. They had been told by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Captain Grosvenor) that the speech of the noble Lord who seconded the Amendment on the first reading of the Bill was unanswerable; he firmly believed that, it was unanswerable, and the only answer attempted to be given to it by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the introduction of the Re-distribution of Seats Bill. Let them look back to the Reform Bill of 1859. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had no share in the deliberate plan for the rejection of that Bill—a plan the object of which was to eject from the Government Benches those who now sat opposite. He believed that the Amendment which overthrew that Bill was proposed by the noble Lord who was now at the head of the Government—not for the sake of passing a Reform Bill, but simply for the purpose of regaining the seat on the Government Benches which was so much coveted by him. Had the Government had any intention of passing a Reform Bill, why had not one been introduced since 1860 until the present time? No sooner, however, had the statesman who had held the chief post of the Government for so many years with such satisfaction and advantage to the country passed away, than they found the 1394 right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, assisted by the hon. Member for Birmingham, endeavouring to carry a measure of Reform, the advantage or disadvantage of which for the country remained to be proved. He wished to call the attention of the House to the difference between the state of the county representation as it was at present and as it would be if altered as proposed by the scheme before them. The operation of the Bill would simply be to group boroughs, and to leave the agriculturists unfairly represented, and adding to the anomalies of the present system by making the leaseholders and copyholders of the large unrepresented towns voters for the county constituencies. Taking the Eastern Division of the county of Sussex—-which was not the division he represented—it would be found that its total inhabitants were 254,370 in number, but it was not proposed to give that county an additional Member. He believed that it was a bad system to have a unicorn county; still, he thought that if an additional Member was to be given to counties having a population exceeding 150,000, the Eastern Division of the county of Sussex was entitled to one, It was also forgotten that the large boroughs exercised a very great influence on the county constituencies. Thus, at the last election for East Sussex, 6,670 electors voted for the four candidates. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Dodson), who stood at the head of the poll, obtained 2,821 votes, of which 950 were from Brighton. The gallant and noble Lord who was second on the poll (Lord Edward Cavendish) obtained 2,647 votes, of which 897 were from Brighton, Mr. Walter Burrell obtained 2,463, of which 424 were from Brighton; and Mr. Abbot obtained 2,408, of which 386 were from Brighton; thus, out of a total of 6,670 votes for the county, 1,743 were derived from the single borough of Brighton, and he understood that if the Bill passed the number would be increased to 3,486. It was very hard upon the county constituencies that they should thus be swamped by the voters in large boroughs, whose interests were directly opposed to those of the agricultural districts, the one being a consuming and the other a producing population. The counties required a distinct representation from that of the boroughs, which the present Bill did not provide for. Turning to the proposed grouping of the 1395 boroughs, he found that Horsham, Arundel, Midhurst, and Petersfleld were grouped together, the latter being thirty-four miles from Horsham, the returning borough. The whole of those boroughs represented agricultural interests, and by thus taking them away from the county the latter would lose a portion of its strength. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire the other night to propose that one Member should be taken from each of the small boroughs and given to the largest unrepresented towns; but by the proposed scheme the smaller boroughs were grouped, and the seats so obtained were not distributed among the unrepresented towns. Thus, the town of Croydon was not to have a representative, while Reigate still returned a Member. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in moving this Bill, had observed that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had once carried his £10 Franchise Bill, and suggested that the present Bill was founded upon that assumption. But, in truth, the hon. Member for East Surrey had since altered his views, and would now be satisfied with a £20 instead of a £10 franchise in counties. In his nomination speech on July 18, 1865, the hon. Member said he was not tied to a £10 franchise, but that he would take £15 or £20, and that he was not in love with Mr. Baines' Bill. Subsequently, at Kingston, the hon. Member said that the difference between £50 and £10 was too great, that he was not pledged to £10, and that if the general feeling was in favour of a £20 franchise, he would bring in a Bill proposing that amount; and a voice in a crowd said, "And quite low enough." It was to the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Birmingham that the House was indebted for this Bill. He begged to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a portion of his Lancashire speech that had not yet been remarked upon, but which showed a lamentable ignorance of agricultural matters. The right hon. Gentleman in that speech said that the House of Commons was like an estate worth £1,000 per annum, which by better management might be made worth £2,000 per annum; but supposing a man had vastly improved his estate by draining it, would a sensible man say that by draining it twice as deep the value of the estate would be doubled? Then there was the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who was con- 1396 stantly telling them that there were 5,000,000 of their fellow-countrymen who were unrepresented; but this he (Colonel Barttelot) begged to say was not the fact; but even were that the case, was the hon. Member for Birmingham the proper person to tell them so? The hon. Member for Birmingham had invariably supported the interests of the masters as opposed to those of the men; and some years ago, when taunted by the late Mr. Muntz with having once signed a petition in favour of the Ten Hours' Bill, he stated that that was one of the acts of his boyhood, and that he regretted to find that the follies of his boyhood appeared to attach themselves to Mr. Muntz' mature age. The hon. Member predicted ruin to the manufacturers from the passing of that measure; but his prognostications had been signally falsified—they were better off than they ever were before. Speaking at Birmingham before the opening of the present Session, the hon. Gentleman alleged that the Conservatives supported the Factories Act out of revenge for having lost the Corn Laws; but this was quite contrary to fact, for the limitation of the hours of labour was mooted so early as 1784, at Manchester, and in 1815, at Stockport, the magistrates came to a resolution not to employ apprentices more than ten hours a day. As to the oft-repeated assertion of the working classes being without the pale of the Constitution, he maintained that that phrase, applicable originally to Ireland, where the class so described were liable to be shot, was inapplicable to the labouring men of this country, to whose grievances Parliament always extended willing and careful consideration. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) said that females were unjustly left out of the pale of the Constitution—were they going to admit them? Even, however, if the statement with regard to the working classes was true, this Bill would only admit a portion of the excluded to the suffrage, the only person who proposed to admit the whole being the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, on a memorable Wednesday came down to the House and declared that universal suffrage was the only thing for this country. That (the Opposition) side of the House were quite prepared to consider any fair measure of Reform in a proper spirit, and to extend to the working classes a reasonable share of political power, but they objected to this Bill as one which 1397 would settle nothing and unsettle everything.
§ MAJOR JERVIS moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Major Jervis.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The Government have no disposition to prevent a full discussion upon this question; but I cannot help expressing my regret at the Motion for adjournment, because having listened to the debate from the commencement, it does not appear to me that it has been a debate on the principle of this Bill, but almost entirely on points of objection that ought rather to be discussed in Committee. If, however, there is a desire for the adjournment I trust we shall be able to proceed with the debate to-morrow, for as all par ties profess to be agreed on the great importance of this question, all patties, I hope, will be prepared to testify their sense of that importance by facilitating arrangements which are intended to bring it speedily to an issue. At all events that is the view of the Government; and in that view I shall presume to make an appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian), who has a Motion on the paper for to-morrow with reference to bribery at elections. It stands alone on the Notice paper at pre sent, but I understand that two or three Motions have been added in the course of the day, and of course my hon. Friend cannot be asked to postpone his Motion unless other Gentlemen do the same. [It appeared that Mr. HUSSEY VIVIAN was not in the House.] I suspect my hon. Friend has been misled by the early hour at which the Motion for adjournment has been made, because I believe he was prepared to entertain the question so far as to say that he would withdraw his Motion provided other Gentlemen would do the same. Of course I am not authorized to commit him to anything in his absence, but I would ask whether Gentlemen who have notices for to-morrow are willing to withdraw them if my hon. Friend does the same. ["No, no!"] If they are not, of course the Government are in the hands of the House, and I must in that case fix the adjourned debate for Thursday.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think it will be for the advantage of both sides that some 1398 general understanding should he come to on this matter. The House, I hope, will allow me to express not my views only of the position in which the House has been placed on this important question. I have no wish to indulge in recrimination of any kind, but only to ask the House to consider what is the best course to pursue. From the remarkable manner in which the measures for the improvement of the representation of the people have been brought before the House, there really has been no discussion on what may be called the principle of the complete measure. A partial measure was brought forward by the Government. The propriety of the course was noticed and contested; and after considerable discussion—although a discussion limited to the partial measure—another course was adopted by the Government, and another half of the measure was brought forward. From the manner in which this measure was introduced, and from the peculiar circumstances attending the discussion that arose, we were obliged to take the second reading of the partial measure, and a general understanding existed on both sides that that having been done the other moiety should be placed in the same position that the first part of the measure found itself in—rather by good luck than good guidance. The case was one of difficulty, and involved a considerable sacrifice on the part of many hon. Members. Still, on the whole, bearing in mind the very complicated and perplexed position in which the House was placed with reference to what may fairly be described as the most important subject that could come under its consideration, it was, I think, the best course that could be adopted. The House acted with perfect good faith in that spirit; and therefore, when the question of the second reading of the second moiety of the measure was brought forward, I on the part of my friends expressed our intention to place it in the same position as the first moiety. We have thus succeeded in having the complete measure placed before us. But while I will not say it was a condition that we should read it a second time, yet from circumstances over which, perhaps, we agree, that no one had any control, it so happened that the House was really obliged to agree to the second reading of a measure which never was discussed as a whole. After nearly three months, therefore, from the introduction of the first Bill, we have had no opportunity until to-night of consider- 1399 ing the complete measure. Now, whatever influence I may possess with my friends I certainly exercised to induce them to agree to the second reading of the Redistribution Bill, in order that it may be put upon the same level as the Franchise Bill; but I did so by assuring them—for I thought I could repeat the assurance I had received from the Government—that the House should have a fair opportunity of discussing the whole measure before we went into Committee. I was most anxious not to embarrass the Government on that occasion; but, at the same time, I was so anxious that the House should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the complete measure that I should have been satisfied if I had succeeded in my attempt—which was to have a discussion though not a division on that occasion, because a discussion on the second reading of the Re-distribution Bill would have enabled the House to consider the complete measure of the Government. The House knows that I did not succeed in that object. It was not my fault. I gave every opportunity to the Government, if they had chosen to avail themselves of that occasion, generally to consider the subject. A right hon. Gentleman a Secretary of State (Sir George Grey) did me the honour, certainly, to reply to the observations I made; several Gentlemen, however, rose on this side and offered their views to the House, but they were not responded to, and it appeared—I do not know whether the omission was accidental; but whether it was accidental or not it was most unfortunate—that the Government and their supporters were not prepared to take the debate on that occasion. In what position do we now find ourselves? To-night a very important Amendment has been at length proposed to the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair. It has been proposed in a speech of considerable detail, and seconded in a speech of great ability, and entering very much into the details and merits of the scheme of the Government; but really, so far as the Government are concerned, no notice has been taken of it. No notice has been taken of the Amendments or the speech either of the Mover or Seconder. Several Gentlemen on this side of the House had continued the debate for a considerable time without the slightest evidence being given to the House that Her Majesty's Ministers and their supporters were even conscious of the subject which was before them. 1400 At length it became absolutely necessary that something should be done. It became absolutely indispensable that some individual on the Treasury Bench should rise. And what took place? An hon. and learned Gentleman rose, and, instead of addressing himself to the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, or to the speech of his Seconder, the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield, he offered to the House what I suppose he considers an answer—and if it tends to promote the easy slumbers of the hon. and learned Gentleman to indulge in that dream, I will not dispel it—but which was, in fact, no more than an answer to some observations I made a week ago—in fact, before the holidays. Well, Sir, I cannot for a moment suppose that Her Majesty's Government are not conscious of the importance of the subject, or of the merits of their own measure; and I can only draw this inference, that they are not prepared for the discussion which the House seems very anxious to proceed with. It appears to me, Sir, that the best course for us will be not to interfere with the business for to-morrow. I should say, let it take its course, and as with the Tuesday so the Wednesday. I take it for granted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no engagements on Thursday. [A laugh.] It seems that I have disturbed some arrangement? But I should say that we have a very good chance, on Thursday, of Her Majesty's Ministers or their principal supporters being capable of taking that part in the debate on this subject which I think both the House and the country require of them. Therefore, the Amendment not having been noticed to-night either by the Government or their principal supporters, and on a previous occasion Ministers having avoided any discussion when it was offered to them under circumstances that showed it was offered with no intention of embarrassing them, and the House having had no opportunity until now of viewing as a whole the scheme of the Government, I think the best and most discreet course for us is to let the debate be adjourned till a future day, in order that those who ought to take a leading part in it may be able to address the House with that deliberation which may be expected to result from further reflection, without which no debate can be conducted with advantage to the country, and without which, I think, we should occupy a position which would 1401 scarcely be creditable to us in the eyes of the public.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Hon. Members having notices for to-morrow will, no doubt, take what course they think proper—the Government have not attempted to dispute their right to proceed with the Motions standing in their names—but I must say all that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the importance of this Motion is new to the House. We now learn for the first time from the leader of a united party that they were anxious to proceed without interruption with the debate on the Re-distribution of Seats Bill. I thought they had assented to the second reading of the Franchise Bill, and also to the principle of the Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats I ["No, no !"]; but now we find that they merely assented to the second reading in order that the opinion of the House might be taken on the combined Bill. Yet from that time no hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House gave any notice of Motion on which the opinion of the House was to be taken. He says we are now to discuss the principle of the united Bill on the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells—a Motion which was changed in the course of the delivery of the speech by which it was prefaced, omitting all reference to the Franchise Bill, and confining itself exclusively to the consideration not even of the Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats, but to the details of the different boroughs grouped. We are asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells to go into a consideration of these details, which might be dealt with in Committee. He did not even object, to the principle of the Bill, but we are now told by the right hon. Gentleman that there is no wish to place the question on this narrow issue—whether Wells shall retain its present share in the representation. ["Oh, oh!"] I understand that is the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman accepts the Amendment and speech of the hon. and gallant Member. We are willing to meet him on that issue—although it is now distinctly understood that no hon. Gentleman opposite had the courage to give notice of any Amendment to that effect. No Member has ventured in terms to move, according to ordinary Parliamentary usage, that the Speaker do leave the Chair this day six or this day three months, and we are left to deal with this ambiguous Motion, placed on so 1402 narrow a basis, but which, we are told, if carried, will involve the whole scheme of the Bill, and that is a mode resorted to by the right hon. Gentleman to get rid of the Bill altogether. We are quite ready to meet the right hon. Gentleman on that ground; indeed, we are most anxious to do so.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
Sir, the Secretary of State appears to have been slumbering, and his slumbers must have begun at a very early period, for he could not have heard the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the commencement of the proceedings this evening. What did he tell us? He took up the Notice paper, and going over the various Notices, he came to that under the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells. And what did he say of it? The Secretary of State says that the Government now knows for the first time the importance of the question at issue. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us at the commencement of the evening that there was one Notice of Motion which went to the root of the whole matter. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER made an observation.] I am very sorry I cannot carry on a conversation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I. am afraid it would be out of order. [Sir GEORGE GREY: The notice was altered.] The Secretary of State says the Notice of Motion has been altered. How altered? It was not moved as it originally stood, because it was decided that it could not come in order as an Amendment to the Instruction of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. But, as I heard the Notice moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, it was almost in the very words, and certainly in sense, the same with what I have now before me. It stated the desire of the House that the two subjects—[The CHANELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No, no !]—it is better that there should be no mistake. The Motion was in these words—That this House, while ready to consider the general subject of a Re-distribution of Seats, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed by Her Majesty's Government is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme is otherwise not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure,—words almost more explicit than those upon the paper before. Those words were—That the scheme of Her Majesty's Government is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure.1403 The introduction of the word "otherwise" points, therefore, to every part of the scheme other than the re-distribution of seats. And then, forsooth, we are told by the Secretary of State that the Amendment deals with nothing but the re-distribution of seats, and that the Government, for the whole evening, have been under the impression that it was the only Question before the House. If that had been the Question before the House, I should still have thought it worth attention and worth some answer from Her Majesty's Government. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer says the Government are anxious to encourage discussion. "Encouraging discussion" apparently consists in allowing Member after Member to get up and state objections, not merely to the proposed redistribution of seats, but to various other parts of the measure, and to sit down again without any response from the Treasury Benches, though in the course of the evening we did certainly hear what I will not call a response, but observations from the learned Solicitor General. After all this, it is rather too much for the Secretary of State to get up and tell us that the Government for the first time are alive to what the question at issue is. I will not attribute to them any particular motive or object; but I will say that, in point of fact, by the course they have pursued, they have done their best to stifle discussion. Every one knows that a very convenient way to stifle discussion and to end a debate is by not replying to the speaker. Those out of doors will judge of the course which has been taken in this debate, but I say that it certainly does not tend to promote free discussion of a question that the House is anxious to have fully sifted. With regard to the course taken at this side of the House, I assert that it has been free from ambiguity, and is not open to reproach. My right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, upon the second reading of the Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats, expressly stated his objections to the measure, and called attention to this fact, that as the House had required the complete measures of the Government to be laid before it, in order that these might be discussed on a whole, it was impossible to discuss the general merits of the scheme upon the Motion for the second reading of the Redistribution of Seats Bill. It is literally the case, and the Secretary of State cannot dispute that this is the first night on 1404 which we have the opportunity of discussing the scheme of Parliamentary Reform as a whole. I trust that discussion will proceed at both sides of the House with the energy and ability that this great and vital question requires, and that we shall not again be told by Members of the Government that they are discovering bit by bit what is really meant by the Motion submitted to the House.
§ MR. CARDWELL
We are charged with endeavouring to stifle discussion, our desire being that the discussion shall proceed at the earliest possible moment, and that it shall not be indefinitely or needlessly delayed. I appeal to the judgment of the House whether the charge just made of endeavouring to stifle discussion is properly attributable to those who desire immediately and promptly to proceed with the discussion, or to those who seek to overlay the discussion with extraneous and unimportant matters leading to tedious and unprofitable delays. If the Motion was of importance, as hon. Gentlemen say, they ought to be as anxious to proceed with the measure as Her Majesty's Government. No objection has been offered by the Government to the Motion for adjournment; their only objection is to not proceeding with the Bill at the earliest possible moment.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he had an abstract Resolution on the paper for next night, relating to the important subject of bribery at elections; but he was willing to waive his right in favour of the more important subject of Reform. He believed that the Government were in earnest to force this measure through the House, and he would postpone his Motion if the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), would postpone his Motion. [Mr. BAILLIE COCHRANE: No, no!] Well, then, if the hon. Member would not yield, neither would he give way, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) who was speaking with the hon. Member for Honiton could no longer say that the Government were not prepared to discuss the question. He would not take the responsibility of standing between Her Majesty's Government and the discussion of this measure, and he put it to other hon. Members to stand up and say what he had stated—that they were prepared to withdraw their Resolutions, and allow the Government to proceed with this great measure.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, that 1405 notwithstanding the taunt that had been thrown out to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, the delay had arisen from the Government; for three Motions that were on the paper might have been disposed of on Friday if the Government had I made a House; they would then not have now stopped the way. [Mr. HUSSEY VIVIAN: My Motion was not down for Friday.] He did not say that the hon. Member's Motion was down for that day, but Motions were on the paper for Friday, these might have been discussed and disposed of if a House had been made on that day; but the Government, being anxious for delay, did not then make a House, and the Motions therefore still stood in the way. The taunt against the hon. and gallant Member for Wells by the Home Secretary was equally misplaced. The right hon. Gentleman had charged the hon. and gallant Member for Wells with having altered the terms of his Motion during the debate. Notice of the Motion was given on Thursday; it became necessary to re-model it on Friday, and the hon. Member intended to have placed it on the books in its amended form. The House did not sit, and the hon. and gallant Member had no opportunity of doing so. He must retort on the Home Secretary the charge of sinister designs on that side of the House.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that as his Motion had been pointedly alluded to, he must recall to the attention of the House the state of the case. He had given way once before on this Franchise Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exhequer then said that he did not intend to introduce the Re-distribution of Seats Bill because there were only twelve nights for discussing the Franchise Bill, and he did not calculate that private Members would postpone their Motions to suit the convenience of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had since changed his mind, the whole of his policy with it, and introduced the other Bill; and was the whole business of the House to be postponed night after night to suit the pleasure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Opposition was not interfering—nor did they wish to do so—with the progress of the measure, or its free discussion; but it was not right that private Members should be called upon to postpone Motions of great importance, simply to carry a measure which he considered the most mischievous that had 1406 ever been introduced into that House. So far as he was concerned, he had not the remotest intention of postponing his Motion.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
was at a loss to conceive why Her Majesty's Government should be so anxious to press this measure on for discussion. He was unable to appreciate the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary when he said that the Motion had not been given in sufficient time to allow the Government to meet it with a direct negative. Now, the reason why it was not done rested with the Government, and not with hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, inasmuch as no House was made on Friday last. He concurred in the propriety of adjourning the debate.
§ MR. EARLE
said, that after what had occurred at an earlier hour of the evening, he was not surprised that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian) should be ready to withdraw his Motion, because that Motion was superseded by the Instruction moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley). No doubt, as the result of that Instruction, they would have another Bill from the Government, for he could not concur in the present opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was incumbent on the hon. Baronet to move clauses to carry out his Instruction. It might as well have been said that it was the duty of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) to introduce a Re-distribution of Seats Bill. The Home Secretary complained that no legitimate Amendment had been moved to the propositions of the Government. In the opinion of the right hon. Baronet the only legitimate Amendment would have been, "That the Speaker leave the Chair this day six months." But he (Mr. Earle) would remind the Home Secretary of the Amendment moved in 1859 by the present Prime Minister. The notice which now stood in his name related to the Danubian Principalities, a question which he believed every hon. Member would admit to be important, and which he (Mr. Earle) believed to be urgent. In his opinion the affairs of the people of those provinces were at present under what the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) would describe as "a sinister influence," by which, 1407 however, he did not mean the influence of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells. He thought that those Provinces had some claim to the sympathy of the House of Commons, for they represented that they had already been disfranchised by a Conference, and that they were in hourly apprehension of being grouped by a Congress. Under those circumstance, he must decline to postpone his notice.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.