§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I hope the Committtee will allow me to make a few observations before the Chancellor of the Exchequer addresses them. They are aware that I have given him my most strenuous support during the passage of this Bill, and that I did so in particular on the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), when I formed one of the majority.
said, he rose to order. He did not wish to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, but there was no question before the Committee.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Then I shall move, Mr. Dodson, that you report Progress. I was about to say that the reasons which induced me to support the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion were—first, because I thought his plan of re-distribution the better one; and next, because I was told that if the Government were put in a minority the passing of the Bill would be jeopardized. Last night, however, another Motion was made, to which the right hon. Gentleman acceded, thus breaking through the rule which he had laid down that we ought to distribute the representation over various parts of the country, and not accumulate representatives upon large masses of population. The right hon. Gentleman, moreover, out of his especial favour, gave the town of Leeds an additional Member. Now, it must be recollected that the places suggested by the hon. Member for Wick were six—namely, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham, and Sheffield. Four of them are now to come in—not, I suppose, to do away with flagrant anomalies, because they will still exist. With regard to Leeds the right hon. Gentleman said he gave this additional representative to the great metropolis of Yorkshire. Now, I deny the claim of Leeds to that title, because Sheffield, though its population is somewhat smaller, has a larger constituency, thereby showing that there is a class 858 of persons in Sheffield of a higher and superior position to the people of Leeds. I supported the right hon. Gentleman at some danger to myself, for it was supposed that my constituents were about to be blessed with an additional Member, and everybody must know that I could have been actuated by no personal or party feelings in supporting the Bill. I was delighted to hear last night that there have been changes in the opinions of Members regarding the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire said it must now be passed—a very great change of opinion, and I think my foresight was rather better than that of the right hon. Gentleman, who so violently attempted to destroy it. I want to know, however, why Sheffield is left out. It cannot be because of the rule of not giving additional Members to large populations, because we have departed from it; and it cannot be that there is any difficulty in obtaining another seat. Why, then, should Sheffield be left in this way out in the cold? I have done my duty in this House, and I think my constituents have done their duty by sending a Member who will support this Bill. I put it, then, to the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks it fair to me and to my constituency thus to desert us. I do not see myself any great advantage to Sheffield in its having another Member; but I cannot help feeling that the people of Sheffield will regard themselves as affronted, and I do not think that they or I deserve it. I move, Sir, that you report Progress.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
said, that after the concession of the Government on the previous evening and their departure from their original plan, he wished to take that opportunity of saying a few words upon the clause now under discussion. Shortly before the Whitsuntide recess he had felt it his duty—in a manner which he intended k> be most respectful to the Committee and to the Go-I vernmeut—to enter his protest against the insufficient means which Government had at their disposal in dealing with the question of re-distribution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, unwilling that his policy should be criticized by so humble an individual, taunted him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) with having made proposals without any weight of responsibility upon him, and jeeringly invited him to a further declaration of opinions to which the forms of the House prevented him from giving any practical effect. But since that time 859 he had had the satisfaction of hearing that protest (which he had made without concert with anyone) entirely endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, and every alteration or Amendment which Government had made in their Bill had been in the spirit and in the direction of that schedule which he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had been presumptuous enough to publish subsequently. Emboldened by this, he wished respectfully to urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the consideration of the question whether he could not even now somewhat extend his scheme of re-distribution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House last night that he hoped they would not attempt to settle the principle upon which the representation of the country was founded—that time, accident, and contrivance had much to do with its present position. But, however true this might be, and whether or no it was desirable that the Committee should settle any principle of this kind or not, surely the right hon. Gentleman would allow that the fewer incongruities and anomalies we left behind us now after the passing of this Bill, the better chance there was that the element of permanence would attach to the plan, and that the arrangement made would be satisfactory to the country. They might give—they probably would give—a large extension of electoral rights to the community, but unless with that extension was coupled a wide—a fair—a just revision of the manner in which electoral power was distributed, they would do but half their work, and would bequeath to their successors the necessity of dealing with this question, possibly, if not probably, in the teeth of an agitation which a little wisdom, a little foresight, a little courage now might forestall and prevent. And what was the right principle upon which to act? Not—as had been done by different Governments and individuals—calculate how many seats the House of Commons might probably allow them to take from small boroughs, and then consider how they should best distribute them, but consider in the first place what are the most patent and glaring incongruities in our system — how many seats it is necessary to obtain to remove or mitigate these, and then appeal to the wisdom and patriotism of Parliament in order to obtain the necessary number. Now what were the most glaring anomalies in the system? First, that the counties, that is, the population dwelling elsewhere than in represented towns, have 860 not got their fair share of representation. Secondly, that equal representative power is given to very large and very small constituencies. Thirdly, the existence of unrepresented towns larger and more important as regards population and property than many which are represented. No scheme would be satisfactory that did not in some degree touch all these three points, and he would venture to urge upon the attention of the Committee this broad principle—that where you find a large population representing a large amount of property and having, as compared with smaller communities, an insufficient representation in Parliament, you should equally consider the claims of that population, whether it is massed together in a town or scattered abroad over a wider area—namely, in the division of a county. Now, if they looked broadly to this principle of population they would find that including the five metropolitan districts which this Bill does not touch there are just eleven borough constituencies in England, the population of which exceeded 150,000 at the Census of 1861. The Government had already proposed to deal with counties upon this principle, according to their population and wealth; and if they would deal with the boroughs upon one and the same principle, the matter would stand thus: these eleven large borough constituencies would absorb eleven seats—seven seats had been already appropriated — Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, London University, Salford, and Merthyr Tydvil, and it was proposed to give twenty-five to counties. This would account for forty-three seats out of the forty-five at their disposal; and he would beg to observe at this point that, considering the strongest claim to be that of the counties, he would vote for no proposal, from whatever quarter it might come to abridge or curtail the number of spats allotted by the Government to counties. But having satisfied upon equal terms the claims of these large county and borough constituencies, then it was that, in his opinion, the question of the enfranchisement of other new towns should arise, and their claims weighed against those of existing constituencies of smaller importance. Now there were four ways in which additional seats might be obtained—first, there was the plan which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already proposed vith a view to obtain scats for Scotland—namely, an increase of the numbers of the House — and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would respectfully but earnestly press upon the Chancellor of 861 the Exchequer that the fairest, simplest, and most straightforward course to adopt would be to call upon the House to decide aye or no upon the question whether the number of its Members should be increased, before proceeding further with his scheme of re-distribution. The claims of Scotland were great and undeniable; but the question of increasing the number of the House ought to be decided not with reference to the claims of Scotland alone, but to just claims for increased representation from whatever part of the whole kingdom they arose, considering England and Scotland as one country. And if, as was now proposed, the Committee went on to distribute among English constituencies all the seats at their disposal, the question would come on at a time and in a manner most unfair to Scotland, when the House, if it objected to increase its numbers, would have to decide between doing that of which it disapproved or refusing the just claims of Scot land. But putting aside this point, there was a second plan for obtaining more seats, of which he spoke in fear and trembling, because he knew that it affected several friends around him, twelve seats might be obtained by taking away the second Member from the twelve boroughs which had a population between 10,000 and 12,000, Of the thirteen new boroughs proposed to be created by the Government ten were of much more importance than the other three, and with these twelve seats and the two over after the above disposition of forty-three seats, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might either exhaust his last, or might take these ten and have four seats over to give to counties or other constituencies. Then there was, thirdly, the adoption of the principle of grouping, by which the Government could get as many seats as they wished. He believed the grouping scheme of the hon. Member for Wick would give nine seats, and though it was not a system to which he himself was partial, it was certainly an alternative which might be suggested. Then, lastly, there remained the plan which appeared to him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) to be by far the best—namely, the disfranchisement of very small boroughs. He was not afraid to say that in such places he believed the low suffrage which had been granted would be an evil, introducing an element upon which corrupt practices would be attempted, without the advantage of numbers to counterbalance and neutralize such attempts. Now, he was not in the 862 habit of troubling the Committee with statistics, but he would just read one single fact. There were at this moment forty boroughs with a population below 7,000 each — their aggregate population was 220,959—the number of their inhabited houses was 43,353—they returned sixty-three Members, and their population and inhabited houses altogether was less than several of our large towns and several divisions of counties which only return two Members each. Was it possible to leave such anomalies and expect your system to carry with it the character of permanence? But he would not ask for a violent or extensive change. If the Government would agree to disfranchise only those boroughs whose population was below 6,000, they would obtain twenty-three additional seats—which would enable them to enfranchise all towns whose importance was sufficient to entitle them to enfranchisement, to give another Member or two to counties, and to bestow eleven Members upon Scotland, whose just claims he contended could not be satisfied with a less number. ["Question!"] The hon. Member who cried question would soon be satisfied, for he had now discharged his duty. The Government had shown a pliancy and desire to concede, which encouraged him to urge upon them some extension of their scheme. He hoped the Committee would be able to get rid of those scruples against disfranchisement which really appeared to him so absurd, and urged upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the consideration of the question.
§ MR. JOHN HARDY
said, he wished to explain his vote of last night. He protested against giving additional Members to the large boroughs at the expense of the smaller ones. He could not understand what right certain constituencies could have to give four or six votes to as many Members, while in other towns two votes were the limit. He did not object to giving an additional Member to the largest of these towns; but no man ought to have more than two votes. It was a most selfish thing on the part of the large boroughs to beg for more Members. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) said he could hardly call him a man who did not possess the franchise. If so, why did they not spread the franchise all over the country? But to give an additional vote to those who were already well off in that respect was like giving three coats to one man while another was naked, or like giving three loaves to one man while another 863 was starving. He thought it an anomaly and an injustice that any voter should have the power of voting for four Members. If this were done the large boroughs would get such a power with their four or six votes—for he supposed they would come to that—that they would swamp the counties.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he represented a borough that had been "left out in the cold." The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) proposed to give Swansea an additional Member, to which it was well entitled. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would re-consider his scheme in this respect.
Although reporting Progress at the commencement of the Committee is not a practice which ought to be drawn into a precedent, I do not censure my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck). In the course of a lengthened Bill of this kind it is absolutely necessary sometimes to review our position. This consideration justifies the Motion. My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the marvellous change in my opinions on this Bill, but that change is grounded upon the marvellous changes in the Bill itself. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked last night to state the course he intended to take in consequence of the Motion made by the hon. Member for Liverpool and of the Government having acceded to that Motion. The Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Horsfall) was not the last of the same kind, and therefore it is desirable that the Committee should take a view of their position and re-consider the whole question of enfranchisement and dis-enfranchisement generally. I believe the Committee will require more seats than are yet provided. To use a financial phrase, we are taking Votes of Supply on such occasions as last night, and must have Ways and Means to meet them. It would be most inconvenient to adopt the Motions for additional seats, and then ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to re-consider the Schedules. The right hon. Gentleman himself has on a former occasion laid down the course to take. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the proper course was to consider comprehensively the claims for enfranchisement, and adopt what should be adopted, and reject what should be rejected; and, having done that, then proceed to find the disfranchisement necessary to get the required number of seats. What I suggest is this—that with the consent of the House some arrangement 864 should be come to, by which we shall go through the various proposals about to be seriously made, either as to enfranchisement altogether new, or an addition to the representation of communities already represented. If we do that, then the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to know what he can do with regard to providing any additional seats. I would beg the Committee to refer to the state of the Notice Paper for a few minutes, and they will find that we stand in this position. Last night we dealt with the question of additional enfranchisement, and then there is to follow a Motion of disfranchisement to be made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick. Then we get to the proposals to give a third Member to Sheffield, and two Members to Huddersfield, Swansea, and Birkenhead. Then follows a Motion of my own, which seems to me to be perfectly irresistible in point of reason, and that is, to give two additional Members to the Southern Division of Lancashire. I do not at all wish to make that Motion as against the claims of any other county, but I wish my Motion, as every other Motion, to be considered on its own merits, so that it may not clash with anything else. Then we have Motions on the Paper to give Members to Cheltenham, Chesterfield, and other places, making in all sixteen seats which are asked for in good faith, and in no one case can it be said that the Motions are unworthy or unsuitable to be brought under the consideration of the House. Then there is the claim for Scotland — which is one upon which some decision ought to be come to before we proceed with the question of enfranchisement and disfranchisement. It appears to me that we should be altogether in a false position if we took these questions casually, as they will come up from their position on the Notice Paper, rejecting one to-night, adopting another to morrow, and endeavouring to provide by modifying the scheme of disfranchisement with reference to the Motion we adopt. I submit that the proper course would be to say nothing at all about alterations in the scheme of disfranchisements until we have gone through all these claims, and the sooner we go through them the better, because when we have gone through them we shall be in a position to try the question of what amount of disfranchisement this House ought to sanction.
The hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. J. Hardy) has made a 865 reference to me. I beg to tell him and the House that I have received a letter from an important member of his constituency, asking me to propose the disfranchisement of his borough. The writer is a gentleman very well known to the hon. Member; and he says that the corruption of the borough is such that there is no cure for it but absolute extinction; yet, that if that absolute extinction cannot be had, it might possibly be desirable to unite the place with some neighbouring borough, the name of which I do not recollect. I am sorry I have not the letter with me; but if I had known the hon. Member was going to refer to me, I would have brought it down and read it to the House. The observations of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire will have shown the Government and the Committee the difficult position in which we are placed. If all these proposals are to be discussed fully and divided upon, the House will have to sit a good deal longer than most of us wish; and the Bill going up so late to the other House may give no opportunity for that consideration to which it is entitled from that assembly. If I were in the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—which is rather a bold figure of speech—I should do one of two things: I shall just mention them to explain to him what he should do to get us out of this difficulty. I think he knows, from the discussion which has taken place, what is the disposition of the House generally with regard to this matter of re-distribution. The scope of it is not sufficient to meet what the House really wishes. I do not confine my observations to this side of the House. I think it applies equally to Gentlemen opposite, many of whom, I am sure, do not desire to perpetuate the continuance of some of the smallest boroughs which now usurp a place in the representation, but are, in reality, no part of a true popular representation. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after the liberality with which both sides of the House are disposed to treat him, might take this whole question into consideration and obtain a few more seats. I believe ten more seats would have been obtained if the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) had been carried. The right hon. Gentleman might take those ten seats and so dispose of them as to enable the Committee to pass the Schedules as they ought to leave this House. Then we should get through without any of that prolonged discussion 866 which, if we go on from Amendment to Amendment, I foresee is likely to present itself. That is one way of getting out of the difficulty. The other mode is one which many might think unwise, and respecting which it might be said we had gone too far to adopt it. I regret extremely that the Government did not from the first include in their Bill the whole question of the franchise both in boroughs and in counties for the three kingdoms. They might have done that in one Bill, which might have been passed without difficulty during this Session, It would have been passed by this day if it had been so introduced, and then, in the next Session—next year the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to deal with the question of Scotland and of Ireland—in the next Session, he might in one measure have settled the whole question of re-distribution. When he came to give more Members to Scot land there would then have been no need of any proposal to increase the numbers of this House, which is, I think, one of the most untenable proposals which could be submitted to Parliament, and I hope one which will never be made. Scotland has no claim to more Members because it is Scotland, but because it is a part of the United Kingdom. It has just the same kind of claim as Lancashire. It does not derive its claim from the fact of its having been an ancient and independent kingdom. We repudiate all that. If I as an Englishman, and the hon. Member for Montrose as a Scotchman, are to look on our selves as belonging to different nations, and to contend here some of us on behalf of Scotland, and some of us on behalf of England, it seems to me that we are going back to a barbarous age, to which I hope nobody is anxious to return. I would treat Scotland exactly as I would treat Lancashire, Yorkshire, or any other portion of this kingdom, and would give more Members to Scotland just as I would give more Members to Lancashire. This matter, it is clear from the position we are in, has never been fairly considered by the Government; there always has been a difficulty with them; they have been afraid that they were going further than some of their sup porters would follow them. Notwithstanding what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday, they have been afraid that the measure might be of so popular a nature as to disturb what is called the balance of parties and of power in the House; but if you come before the country to adjust 867 a great question like this, pettifogging, cheese-paring, little tricks of management, are out of place and unworthy of statesmanship. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown great breadth of view in the course he has taken with regard to the franchise. I think it would be satisfactory to him, and I hope also to the Members of the Government and to Gentlemen opposite—I am sure it would be satisfactory to Members on this side of the House—if the right hon. Gentleman would only open his eyes a little wider to look at the question of these Schedules, and would bring before the Committee a somewhat broader scheme. I am not asking for anything extravagant or that need startle any hon. Member. I do not ask him to take the Schedules which I proposed some years ago. Many persons, especially among the powerful class, are perhaps not yet fit for that; but I ask him to do that which I think he may gather to be the view of the great majority of the House, and to meet, to a greater extent than this proposal does, the general wish of the country to get rid of the smallest boroughs, and of the "sham" representation and corruption inseparable from those boroughs. Let the right hon. Gentleman follow either of the plans I have suggested, and improve his Schedules as he perfectly well can—just as well as I could myself, and in saying this I am giving him as much credit as he will expect me to give him—and the difficulty is disposed of. If he cannot do that, I am not sure that he will not even now do better to dispose of the question of the franchise for the three kingdoms this year, and postpone the whole question of disfranchisement till next Session.
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had absolutely pledged the Government to an increase in the representation of Scotland, and he would therefore be compelled either to obtain the additional seats from England, or to increase the number of Members in that House. The right hon. Gentleman must see the difficulty of increasing the number of Members in that House; and he therefore appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to relieve himself from the prospective dilemma which was thus before them by agreeing to one or the other of the two proposals which had been suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham. In Scotland there was not a borough with less than 10,000 inhabitants which sent a representative to this House, 868 while in England there were eleven boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants, and fifty-six boroughs with between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, that had representatives in this House. He submitted that such a glaring anomaly as this ought not to be allowed to longer exist.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Member for Birmingham has spoken much about the opportunities the Government have had of gathering the opinion of the House on the question of the re-distribution of seats. I must, however, be permitted to say that that opinion is not to be gathered from the speeches of individual Members, however ingenious, although these ingenious speeches may come from Gentlemen of influence. It is to be gathered from Motions made and votes given upon divisions. We have had two occasions presented to us during the more recent portion of the Session for considering the question of re-distribution and taking the opinion of the House upon it. Notice was given by an hon. Gentleman opposite that, in re-distributing the seats which we might have at our disposal, it was expedient that no borough with a population of less than 10,000 should be represented by more than one Member, even though it might now be represented by two. There was ample notice of that Motion; a very full House considered it and came to a decision upon it. It was carried by an overwhelming majority, and the opinion of the House thus distinctly pronounced, that no borough having not more than 10,000 inhabitants should in future be represented by more than one Member. I gathered, then, that that was the opinion of the House on the subject; and I thought that, like practical men having a difficult task before them, they were desirous that in legislation upon the point the Government should be guided by that division. We had also another Motion, the object of which was to disfranchise altogether boroughs whose population did not exceed 5,000. The decision of a very full House was taken upon that question, and a very considerable, though not an overwhelming, majority voted against the proposal. I gathered also the opinion of the House from that division, and it is only by such expressions of opinion that a Minister can satisfactorily be guided. Those proceedings have been going on for a considerable time; we have acted upon the divisions which have been taken, and I put it to the Committee what chance have we now, or can we ever 869 have, of arriving at a practical result on a question so large and complicated as this, if, after the House has formally and deliberately decided points such as those I have mentioned, we are on the 2nd of July to treat all those solemn decisions as a mere nothing? In acting in that manner we should really be proceeding more after the fashion of a debating society than of an assembly conducting its deliberations with the sedateness which is necessary in order that a great question should be settled in a manner satisfactory to the nation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire has a scheme for conducting the business of the House, and has favoured me with an intimation of it. He says that there are on the Notice Paper a great many clauses which relate to the re-distribution of seats, proposing enfranchisement in some cases and increased representation in others, and suggests that it would be better that the Committee should proceed to deal with that branch of the subject, and decide upon it, leaving the means to be afterwards considered by which those requirements, should we think fit to acknowledge them, might be satisfied. My answer to the right hon. Gentleman's that the new clauses proposed by the Government have been disposed of, and that those to which he refers are clauses which are brought forward by independent Members, in whose power it lies to arrange their own business, and to submit those questions to the Committee or not as they please. We, as a Government, are prepared to meet them, and to give our opinion upon them whenever they may come on for discussion; but I must at once say that we are not prepared to support any proposals for the further disfranchisement of boroughs, and there is not one proposal on the Paper with that object which the Government will not deem it to be their duty to oppose. The position of affairs, so far as the Government is concerned, is extremely simple. When I came forward with the proposal which I made yesterday, I stated to the Committee that it was made in the spirit of compromise and conciliation, and that it was not one which I approved in principle; but that I believed that the principle was one which might, under the circumstances, be applied without any of those dangerous consequences which, if acted upon on a larger scale, I apprehended might arise. I never for a moment concealed the spirit in which we made that overture, or the 870 opinion with respect to it which was entertained either by myself or my Colleagues, and I expressed a hope that it would have the effect of expediting the progress of these discussions. Nor do I despair that the Committee will, after calm consideration, be of opinion that the general scheme brought forward by the Government with regard to the re-distribution of seats is one which it is advisable to accept. Of this, at all events, I feel quite sure, that if after having, in the course of a long Session, arrived at decisions on points of importance connected with this subject, we treat all those decisions as mere idle matter, and indulge in all sorts of dreams and vagaries respecting the representation of the people, we shall end by doing nothing and thus disappoint the fair expectations of the country. I hope therefore, seeing that we have all made some sacrifices to come down here this morning and proceed with the Committee on this Bill, that we shall do so at once; but I would first recall to the attention of hon. Members the exact position in which we stand. The new clause which was proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool was, at my suggestion, read a second time. I then moved to report Progress, promising that when we met again I would propose an Amendment which would express what I believe to be the feeling of the Committee, and certainly the views of the Government, with respect to giving a third Member to a city and three boroughs which we yesterday decided should enjoy that advantage. If we proceed in Committee, I shall propose that Amendment. It will then be open to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon to move his Amendment if he should think proper. If he does not, I think the Committee will accept our proposal, and that we shall make some progress in our labours.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he agreed with his hon. and learned Colleague in urging the claims of Sheffield to increased representation.
said, he entirely concurred with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in thinking that the only true way of ascertaining the feeling of the House was by means of Motions made and divisions taken, the results being duly considered. In dealing with a matter so difficult as the re-distribution of seats—in volving as it did so many various views and interests—he had thought that the best course which the House could adopt was 871 to support some one scheme, taking the good and evil together, and trusting to the Government as having looked carefully into the whole question. Acting upon this view he had made up his mind to give his support to the plan which Her Majesty's Ministers had proposed; but he must confess that he had felt, after what had taken place the night before, great difficulty in the course to be taken. The decision they arrived at seemed to be a complete reversal of what had previously happened, and a complete departure from the conclusions at which the House had already arrived, as evidenced by its votes. He was, under those circumstances, afraid that further opportunities would be laid hold of to endeavour to open up almost every question that had already been decided. He was glad, therefore, to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer announce his determination not to give way on any of those other points on which the opinion of the House had been pronounced. If that declaration were adhered to, some security as to the conduct of the Bill would be afforded. If, however, hon. Gentlemen opposite chose to bring forward their theories for electoral districts downwards or upwards, it was impossible to say when the Committee could arrive at the end of the discussions in which they were engaged. He had, until last night, some hope that there was a reasonable prospect of passing the Bill this year; but, unless the Government adhered to some definite scheme, it would be impossible in the course of the present Session to get through the work before them. He believed that this question could only be settled by adherence to some general system, and he was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not mean to cast any more seats loose.
§ Motion withdrawn.
(Certain Boroughs to return three Members.) From and after the end of this present Parliament, the several Boroughs named in Schedule (G) to this Act, each having a population (according to the last Census of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one) of upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand, shall respectively return three Members to serve in Parliament.—(Mr. Horsfall.)
In line 1, after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "the City of Manchester, and the Boroughs of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds, shall each respectively return three Members to serve in Parliament."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he proposed that the town of Sheffield should be added to the list. The trade of the town was increasing. It contained 38,000 electors, and was increasing with a rapidity unexampled; therefore, it ought to enjoy increased representation in proportion to other largely increasing towns. No charge of bribery had ever been brought against the constituency of Sheffield. The two great towns of Yorkshire ought to enjoy the same privileges of representation which had been granted to the two great towns of Lancashire.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the word "Leeds," to insert the words "and Sheffield." — (Mr. Hadfield.)
§ MR. H. BERKELEY
said, he must advocate the claims of Bristol to additional representation, when other constituencies were having their claims recognized. Bristol ought to be particularly favoured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it brought in a greater revenue to the Exchequer than Birmingham. Bristol had more claim to increased representation than any other city in the kingdom. The Customs returns amounted to upwards of a million, the Excise returns were nearly the same, and the number of electors was upwards of 14,000. Bristol was a city and county in itself, and had large shipping, mercantile, and manufacturing interests, and if it had three Members a Tory must come in.
said, he regretted that Bristol was not included in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal. When they heard of the capital of Yorkshire getting another representative, and of all these northern towns, which were within an hour's railway ride of one another, having the same privilege conferred upon them, it would be a great shame if the south-west of England, including South Wales, were left without additional representation. Bristol was only a small degree inferior in population to Leeds, and was entitled to the favourable consideration of the Committee.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he regarded the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield as a very natural one, and he hoped and expected that similar proposals would be made by other representatives in large towns. It was the natural sequence of the vote of last night, and he was extremely anxious to hear the grounds on which the Government would resist this and other similar 873 Motions. Last night the Government sanctioned the principle of giving representation to numbers in large towns, and when the right hon. Member for South Lancashire raised the question of additional representation for South Lancashire, he should like to know how it would be possible to oppose it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that he wished to be ruled in coming to a decision upon these great questions by previous decisions of the House of Commons, and that being the case, why was he not last night ruled by the previous decision of the Committee? As long as this vacillation on the part of the Government was exhibited, the House would be in a chaos of perplexity and difficulty. Every representative of a large town was entitled to ask what was the principle upon which the Government were prepared to act in giving representation to numbers.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that the proposals of the hon. Members for Sheffield and Bristol were justified. With respect to the latter city, he had had a long hereditary connection with it, and therefore he felt an interest in it. He desired to know what guidance the House was under in respect to this Bill; for it appeared that the House enunciated one principle in one week and abandoned it in the next. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Adderley) had been put forward to raise the standard of "No Surrender;" but a little later in the discussion the Chancellor of the Exchequer surrendered at discretion, and was even more generous than the Member for Liverpool desired, for he threw in Leeds, as one would throw an additional penny to a crossing-sweeper.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, he was in favour of carrying the principle of representation a great deal further than was now proposed. He favoured the direct representation of minorities. He was only sorry that his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey was not able to bring forward his scheme, as it affected both boroughs and counties. But when Sheffield was singled out, and he was called on to give an additional representative to that borough, he could not admit that there was any specialty in the case which should induce him to vote in favour of the proposal. Leeds had a claim as the capital of the woollen industry of the country.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, the case of Sheffield was in very good hands, but he 874 wished to say a word or two in favour of Bristol, which was one of the great centres of industry.
said, he would suggest that, for the convenience of the Committee, the two cases of Sheffield and Bristol, which were so nearly alike, might be considered together.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he had a horror of being a bore, and therefore would only say a few words. He thought there was a special case for Sheffield. It was a constituency so large that there was hardly another in the country equal to it at the present time to which it was not proposed to give a third Member. All the boroughs that were to have three Members, with the single exception of Leeds, were not larger in population than Sheffield. They had had it very often stated that if the Government were put into a minority they would desert the Bill. He had been very often frightened in that way; but, like the people who were called to by the boy that the wolf was coming, he had been so often called that he was no longer frightened. If they were to put the Government at that time into a minority, he had no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see excellent reasons for immediately including Sheffield. He wanted to put that to the test. He had hitherto voted for the Government, because the Bill was too good to be lost. Having said this, he must add that what he had foreseen had come to pass. He was told by a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and another hon. Gentleman very near him (Mr. Bright) that a Bill could not be improved in Committee. He thought the Bill had been improved in Committee, and he believed the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. Hadfield), if adopted, would still farther improve it.
§ MR. LAING
said, he was placed in a position of considerable embarrassment by the present Motion, because he was the author of the proposal to give additional Members to six large towns, including Sheffield and Bristol. On the other hand, he felt there was considerable force in the appeal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that these questions should be met in a spirit of compromise and conciliation. A good deal of obloquy had been thrown upon, the Government in the course of this discussion by Members on the other side for having made the concession of an additional 875 Member to four large towns. He thought that concession was a most wise act on their part. He had urged additional representation mainly with a view of their arriving at some sort of settlement upon the question of re-distribution, which might be accepted by the common sense of the country as in a certain degree a permanent settlement. He therefore regretted exceedingly the decision to which the Committee came, under the pressure of the threat thrown out by the Government, by which any addition to the representation of large towns was rejected, though by a very narrow majority. He was not going to taunt the Government with inconsistency in having come forward with this proposal. Many inclined to take that course might have been quite as inconsistent if they had been in the places of the Ministers. It was an arduous and difficult task for any Government not commanding a decided party majority to carry a Bill of that sort through the House. On many occasions the second thoughts of the Government had been better than their first, and he thought it very honourable on their part that they had had the moral courage to reconsider this matter, and to bring forward a proposal in the spirit of compromise. As to the case of Sheffield, he felt pretty strongly that, under the peculiar circumstances which had transpired with regard to that town, the circumstances were very exceptional. He did not mean for a moment to say that the majority, or anything like a majority, of the people of Sheffield were tainted with the spirit which had produced these horrible outrages; but he thought it a good moral example, when a taint of that sort was introduced into a town, that they should not take that particular opportunity of giving it additional representation. In the case of Great Yarmouth, the House had decided on disfranchising a large and numerous constituency, of whom the majority was probably pure, because that pure majority had not exerted themselves sufficiently to prevent the introduction of the tainted and impure element. If, five years hence, when Sheffield had been freed, as he doubted not it would be, from the taint of that spirit, a seat should fall vacant in that House, he would be the foremost to support a Motion for giving that additional seat to Sheffield; but, under present circumstances, he saw no special ground for acceding to this Motion, and in the spirit of the compromise and conciliation exhibited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, and accepting 876 the offer then made, he felt bound to give a conscientious vote against the proposal of his hon. Friend. He did not for a moment wish to prejudge the question as to what the Committee might do in respect of the other places, whether to enfranchise or disfranchise them. His only desire was to intimate that, while he should vote to give additional Members to the four large towns, he should not feel at liberty to support the proposal for giving an additional Member to Sheffield.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that some time since, when a discussion took place with regard to the Pension List, the case of an unfortunate gentleman whose name began with A, and was therefore placed at the head of the list, was always being brought forward. The case of Sheffield, being the first of the kind, was placed at the head of the list, and it ran the risk of being continually brought before the House as a standing example. The Royal Commission had reason to believe that the evil which had been brought to light at Sheffield had spread further and deeper into the country at large. He was divulging no secret. They had asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to bring in a clause to repeal the one which limited their inquiries to the town of Sheffield, and to enable them to extend their inquiries throughout Great Britain. The county of Lancaster was not the freest from taint.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, he must protest against what had just been stated. It would be improper to bring the matter before the House on that occasion; but as it had been stated that the Commissioners had asked for powers to carry over Great Britain the inquiry that had hitherto been carried on at Sheffield, he begged to say, as one of the Commission, that he did not understand it to be at all an application of that kind. The only application which had been made was to extend the inquiry to two places that the Commissioners had ear-marked, and which were in the county of Lancaster. Further than that there had been no application.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished to say a word or two in explanation of his previous statement. The application of the Royal Commission to the Home Secretary was that a clause should be introduced authorizing the Home Secretary to extend their powers of inquiry to the towns in the county of Lancashire, and also to any part of Great Britain, should they think fit to ask him for such an extension of their powers.
said, that quite independently of the point which had been raised by the two hon. and learned Gentlemen, he thought that the conclusion which was drawn by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) from the recent lamentable disclosures at Sheffield was erroneous. In the first place, the hon. Member said that he would not at this particular moment enfranchise Sheffield, in consequence of the circumstances that had been brought to light by these deplorable disclosures, but that it might be done some little time hence with propriety. The hon. Member admitted that the claim of Sheffield to additional representation in other respects was very strong. But the opportunity of enfranchising a town did not occur every year. Therefore, when the time arrived, which he trusted would not be long, when Sheffield had purged itself of this taint, the opportunity for increasing its representation would have gone — for the question of the re-distribution of seats was not one to be needlessly opened from year to year. But he went still further, and demurred to the proposition that, because, unhappily, certain persons in that particular town had been guilty of these abominable and horrible acts, and because certain other persons—their number was at present unknown—might have winked and connived at these acts, on that account a smaller share in our political institutions was to be awarded to that town than would otherwise have been the case. If it were desired to strike at the very root of these outrages the labouring classes must be brought into closer union with those who represented them; if it were desired that they should adopt more universally the laws of freedom in their dealings among themselves in the labour-market they must be placed in as close connection as possible with the representative system. ["Oh!"] That, at any rate, was the opinion he had conscientiously formed, and he confessed it appeared to him to be a reasonable one; if there were reasons against it he should be glad to hear them. The more the people possessed the privilege of representation in that House, the less likely would they be to devise for themselves irregular and guilty means of asserting what they believed to be their rights, but what other people perceived to be outrageous wrongs. So much for the special ground which had been taken by the hon. Member for Wick, but which he did not believe would be 878 taken into consideration by the Committee in coming to a vote upon the question before them. There were two other points bearing upon this question to which he wished to direct attention, In the first place, without any disparagement to the claims of the metropolis, he might say that the cases of Sheffield and Bristol stood upon ground in some degree peculiar to themselves, seeing that they were the remaining two towns out of the six which, by common consent—by their special and separate existence, by their great population and wealth—were taken to be in a special sense the great towns of England. The metropolis did not consist of a number of separate communities, but of subdivisions of one large community; so that the case of the metropolis ought to be treated rather by itself, than as standing on precisely the same ground as Sheffield and Bristol. The hon. Member for Wick said that the Government, having made a concession in the spirit of compromise, should be met half-way. But in looking at the question it must not be forgotten that the people had been waiting in long-deferred expectation for a settlement of the question of Reform, and that the wide measure which had been adopted during the present year in reference to the extension of the franchise had created, in the same degree, a desire on then1 part for an extension equally great with regard to the re-distribution of seats. In the belief that any decision which might be arrived at on this point would be a settlement of the question, not only within the walls of that House, but throughout the country at large, he was ready to go all possible lengths with the hon. Member for Wick in joining hands with the Government where they showed a disposition to meet reasonable demands, and to act upon the principle of compromise; but in the present instance he felt bound to support the proposal for giving an additional Member for Sheffield. A more important consideration, that led him to take that course, was an anxiety on his part that in passing this Bill they should leave no claim so prominent and powerful in character as would serve as a lover, either immediately or upon the meeting of the Reformed Parliament, for re-opening this great question. He felt convinced that if they left Sheffield and Bristol upon the footing upon which they now stood, especially after the concession which had been made in reference to the four towns last night, they would 879 leave behind them that excitement and that cause of renewed agitation that it was their first and obvious duty to put out of the way; and, upon this ground, he felt that if they really did mean to settle the question the wise course was to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) has admitted the principle that the opinion of this House can only be arrived at legitimately by means of a division; but he has declared that he feels himself in a difficulty in consequence of my having deviated from that principle in adopting the course I did last night. ["Hear!"] No doubt by the cheers I hear that opinion is shared by other Members of the Committee, and I admit that it is one, the accuracy and soundness of which cannot be impugned. The principle, however, in its application, like every other, is capable of being modified, and let us see how that may apply in this instance. Taking the instances in which the opinion of the House on re-distribution has been expressed, there was in the first case an overwhelming majority in a full House, and in the second no inconsiderable majority in a full House; but in the case of the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, there was but a scant majority in a full House on the side of the Government. Although I am not prepared to say that where there is a majority, however slight, it is, as a general principle, expedient to deviate from its decision, yet, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, in advising the Committee yesterday to adopt the course I felt it to be my duty to recommend them, I considered I was justified in doing so, not only in consequence of the very small majority by which the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick was rejected. I found that that slight majority was not likely to continue. In the interval which occurred between the period of the rejection of that Motion and last night, frank and proper communications were made to me from a number of hon. Gentlemen who had voted with the Government on that occasion, and from those communications I learnt that I could not count upon receiving any further support from them upon this subject, unless Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the case, and were prepared to make some proposal to the House which would show that we were Willing to meet them in a spirit of compromise. 880 Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that it was their duty to make the concession to which I announced yesterday we were willing to assent. I thought it would be unadvisable to ask the House to come to a division again upon the question—a course which must under all the circumstances have imported, most unnecessarily, party feeling into our labours, and which, considering the stage at which the Bill had arrived, would have been a most unwise one to have adopted. I thought it would be most unadvisable to have unnecessary divisions upon the question, which would have failed to carry out the object all sides desire to see accomplished; whereas, by treating this subject in a spirit of compromise, we have a fair chance of carrying that more moderate proposal which we recommended for adoption by the Committee. This proposal involves no assertion of new principles in our Parliamentary representation. We have opposed, and are not friendly to, the unnecessary development of the principle, but the principle has been accepted by the House long ago. We have counties with three Members: I regret that arrangement, but it exists; it has existed for some time, therefore it is merely a question of degree. We believe that at this moment the principle may be extended to a very moderate degree, whereas when the proposal of the hon Member for Wick was made there was every prospect, from the Motions on the Paper, and from the mode in which the hon. Member proposed to apportion the increased representation of the counties, that if he had succeeded then it would have led to a new machinery in our Constitution of which we have little experience, and which, in fact, would involve a great and, as we believed, a dangerous change in the mode of election. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said that hitherto he has supported Her Majesty's Government in their course from a feeling of fear. I am sorry to hear that. I was in hopes that his conduct had been influenced by a more tender sentiment. I assure the hon. and learned Member that the Government have been very sensible of the honourable, disinterested, and spirited support which very often during this great struggle they have obtained from him, and coming from one who has gained so much of public respect, and who speaks in this House with such 881 authority, we have duly appreciated it. But although I can fully understand why the hon. and learned Member should seize this occasion of advocating the interests of his constituents and assert the claims of his locality, I am bound to say that I do not think the Committee ought to accede to his proposal. In my opinion a fair distinction may be drawn between the circumstances of these great cities as to the amount of their population and of their property. I must remind my hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) that I have not at any time pretended that the course of the Government depended merely upon the principle of population. It is very convenient to refer to the question of population on these occasions. But, while I believe that few hon. Members would recommend that the extension of representation should depend merely upon population, no one would pretend that, in considering the case of any of these great cities of the North, population should not be considered in deciding the amount of their political interest. If you take Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Glasgow, you have in point not only of population, but of property, four great cities that stand apart from all others. With regard to Glasgow, we have made a proposal which I think a very wise one, and which I believe will be adopted in due course by the Committee. The claims of Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham will be conceded according to the scheme to which we have assented. With regard to Leeds, the population and the property of that town are not so considerable as in the four cities to which I have adverted. But there is something in the distinct industry of Leeds, in its local position, and in many other circumstances, besides its considerable population, which mark it out as one of the places which, if you choose to adopt this course, ought not to be omitted from consideration. Under these circumstances, we proposed as a compromise—for I defy anybody to attempt to adjust any of these matters upon a clear and severe principle of representation—that, taking a general view of the case, the Committee should adopt this course. I think it is unwise to proceed further in this direction, and therefore I must, under all the circumstances, oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. WALROND
said, that he would vote against the hon. Member for Sheffield, on the same ground that he had voted against the hon. Member for Wick's proposal, 882 and would have voted if he were in the House on the preceding night against the concession of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would do so, because he did not see how they could expect agitation to cease so long as they gave a third Member to certain towns and withheld from other large and important towns any representation whatever. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had advocated this doctrine—that as Sheffield was composed, in great part, of a criminal population, it was therefore desirable to place this population in closer connection with the representation than they now were. In his opinion, this was not a reason for giving a third Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that the town of Sheffield was in mourning, in consequence of the circumstances that had occurred, and the best remedy for what was wrong would be increased political power. Good order had always prevailed during election time.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he should vote against the Amendment, not in consequence of the remarks of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), because he thought that the unfortunate disclosures before the Royal Commission ought not to have been brought into this discussion, but because he accepted the clause of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a compromise.
§ Question put, "That the words 'and Sheffield' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided;—Ayes 122; Noes 258: Majority 136.
§ MR. MONK
said, after the division that had taken place he should ask his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol to refrain from moving his Amendment. He (Mr. Monk) had placed a Notice on the Paper to this effect — that henceforward Clifton should cease to form a part of the city of Bristol for electoral purposes, and that in all future Parliaments Clifton should be a borough, and be entitled to return one Member. He had taken that course upon the principle enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the present temper of the Committee he thought it was impossible for his hon. Friend to carry his Amendment. He did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to treat any part of the country unjustly; but it appeared to him that West Gloucestershire was treated with greater hardship (he would not say the grossest injustice), than 883 any other county in the kingdom. It contained upwards of 300,000 inhabitants, and had only one borough in it—namely, Bristol, containing 163,000 inhabitants. Clifton had altogether distinct interests and had a different class of inhabitants to those of Bristol; it contained 32,000 inhabitants, and presented a somewhat similar case to that of Glasgow, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give an additional Member.
§ MR. H. BERKELEY
said, he regretted he could not comply with the request of his hon. Friend, nor was he convinced of the necessity of separating Clifton from Bristol, and making it a separate borough. He felt so strongly the right of the old city of Bristol to an additional Member that he should persevere with his intention, and he now moved that the words "city and county of Bristol" be added to the clause.
§ Another Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the word "Leeds," to insert the words "and the City and County of Bristol." — (Mr. Berkeley.)
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, that the Bill took away two Gloucestershire seats—Cirencester and Tewkesbury. Seeing that Gloucestershire contained the largest city (Bristol) that had now only two Members, the largest town (Cheltenham) that had only one Member, and the largest division of a county that was not to be subdivided, he thought that Bristol might fairly claim an additional seat. No county in England and Wales had been treated with greater hardship in the Reform Bill than the county of Gloucester.
said, he thought that Bristol had a claim to an additional Member, and that all the seats that were gained should not be given to the large towns in the North.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he could not hear the claims of the county of Gloucester mentioned without saying a word in its favour. The only reason for his not voting for the addition of Bristol to the clause was the hope that when they came to the consideration of the counties, a strong case would be made out for West Gloucestershire on the grounds of its population, its variety of interests, and its extent of area.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, he wished to say a word of comfort to the hon. Members for Bristol and Sheffield. There would be 884 plenty of opportunities of meeting the just claims of those boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had told them that the opportunity of enfranchising a borough did not often occur. He thought that opportunities of this kind would very soon occur. It was more than likely that at the very first election under this Bill a considerable number of constituencies would be disfranchised for bribery and corruption.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 235: Majority 99.
said, that the Question was that the clause be amended by inserting after the word "Parliament" the words "the city of Manchester, and the boroughs of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds shall each respectively return three Members to serve in Parliament."
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, there could be no doubt that Salford would have to suffer in order to give an additional Member to Manchester. Very soon after the Bill was placed on the table he gave notice of a Motion that Salford should have an additional Member. From what afterwards occurred, the borough authorities were led to suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to give that borough an additional Member; but now they were informed it was to be taken away and given to Manchester. He considered that Salford had stronger claims for additional representation than Manchester. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether he would insist on his determination to deprive the borough of Salford of an additional Member in consequence of the course taken of increasing the representation of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds, If he did so the country would witness the anomaly of Salford, with a population of 130,000, returning only one Member, and Birmingham, with 190,000, returning three.
§ Question put: Words inserted.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he 885 wished to propose that the following words be added to the clause:—"And that each of the said boroughs shall, for the purpose of election, be divided into two wards." If the clause was passed, he should propose that his Amendment be put into a separate clause. What he wished to do was to bring his proposal before the Committee. He proposed to deal with these boroughs in the same way as the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to deal with Glasgow—namely, to divide them into two wards, not into three. The one ward would return two Members, and the other one. He regretted that the threat held out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to his (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee's) former Amendment—namely, that he would abandon the Bill—had operated on the minds of hon. Members. He was under the impression on the Friday that the Amendment, which was the best that had ever been brought forward, would be supported; but on the Monday came the threat of abandoning the Bill. Speaking in a Parliamentary sense, considering what had happened, he did not think they could rely on what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that day. The Bill without the Amendment to which he alluded would be mere waste paper, and he assured the Committee it would be again brought forward. The Bill, if amended as he proposed, would be a very good Bill, and to withdraw it would be a great misfortune to the country. When the Bill was amended by the adoption of his present proposal, he had no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find some reason for accepting it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that before the Amendment was put, the words from "the several boroughs named in Schedule G" down to the end of the clause would have to be struck out in consequence of his own Amendment upon the original clause of the hon. Member for Liverpool having been accepted. He moved accordingly.
§ Words struck out.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he moved the following as the words of his proposed Amendment:—And the said boroughs shall, for the purposes of an election, be divided into two wards, one to return two Members and one one.
§ Amendment negatived,
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will inform 886 the Committee how he means to get the four Members which he intends to give to Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds. The right hon. Gentleman last night in rather a jocular tone proposed, I thought, to take a Member from Salford; hut, if I am not mistaken, the new clause giving that borough an additional Member has already received the assent of the Committee. ["No, no!"] I believe I am right in what I have said, and if I am it will be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to repeal that clause, supposing him to be in earnest in what he said last evening, I was, I may add, surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) speak of a compromise in connection with this matter; but that seems to me to be a very odd sort of compromise which is all on one side. No proposal came from these Benches, nor was it proposed by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), that those four additional Members should be taken from four boroughs which, by the Bill, it was intended to enfranchise, and to which proposal the Committee had agreed—at least a part of it—and to disfranchise or discontinue the proposed enfranchisement for the purpose of giving the four Members to large towns. That was not the proposal before the Committee. There is no compromise in it. But I suppose, as a question of party or of great results, nobody cares in the least whether a Member be given to Salford or Manchester, or whether one be given to West Bromwich or Wednesbury, or to the town of Burnley. The right hon. Gentleman is a little shuffling the cards in giving four to one class of boroughs and taking them from another class. That was not the proposal before the Committee. ["Order!"]
§ Question put, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
I did not wish to move that the Chairman report Progress, because it causes delay; and I do not in the least wish to cause delay. I wish to show the Committee that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, according to his proposal, in which I hope he is not in earnest, is depriving four boroughs, which he proposed to enfranchise, as in the cast: of Salford, for the purpose of conferring an additional Member each on those four towns. Therefore I say it is not a compromise, and I am very much surprised at the credulity of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham 887 in being influenced by such a proposal. It may be quite right to get rid of four of the smallest of the boroughs in the Schedule to give the seats to large boroughs; but that was not the question before the Committee, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have taken them from some other source—say, two from the boroughs and two from the counties. That would be something in the nature of a compromise both sides of the House might have consented to, but it is not so now. When we recollect that the five seats for the boroughs of Lancaster, Great Yarmouth, and Reigate—for I say nothing of Totnes—belong to the boroughs and ought to have been given to the boroughs, and to which the counties had no right, I say the course taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not a fair course, or one in general harmony with the object of the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not explained the course he will take, and I rise for the purpose of asking him to explain it before the clause is finally agreed to, and to intimate when he will say from what source he will take the four Members proposed to be given to these large towns?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Member for Birmingham says I am only shuffling the cards in proposing to take four Members from the boroughs we originally intended to enfranchise and giving them to the large towns named in this clause; but that, I would remind the Committee, is the policy which he himself has always re commended. The hon. Gentleman has always proposed to disfranchise some of the small boroughs, in order to increase the representation of the large ones, and how, under those circumstances, he can call our policy a mere shuffling of the cards I am at a loss to understand. I have intimated to the Committee already quite clearly the source from which we recommend that the additional Members should be taken which by their decision are to be given to the four larger towns. We must find them in the Schedules of the boroughs we meant to enfranchise. The idea of a compromise entertained by the hon. Member for Birmingham is that we should take two Members from boroughs and two from counties; but to ascertain the justice of that proposal, I should have to enter again into the whole question of the balance of our representation and the manner in which 888 counties, as compared with boroughs, are now represented. That, however, is a subject into which I am sure the Committee has no wish that I should enter. The hon. Member for Birmingham, I may add, always takes refuge in those exploded fallacies on which I should have thought a man of his talents and standing would scarcely have found it necessary to descant in his Parliamentary exercitations. He wrings his hands over the assaulted interests of the four boroughs with which we have to deal, but he quite forgets that the borough is now double the county representation. If there be one subject on which both sides of the House are unanimous it is that the moderate addition to the county representation which the Government propose should be supported. I shall certainly resist any attempt to curtail it. The proposal we have made is in the nature of a real compromise. It is a very fair one. According to our original plan, we had a representation more distributed over the country, and which would have given Parliamentary life to new constituencies, but which, in the opinion of the House, ought to have added to the representation of some important constituencies which they deemed not adequately represented at present. We have conceded that point, and, with certain modifications, have endeavoured to carry it into effect. I have sufficiently indicated the source from which the four representatives for those large towns are to be derived, and, though it is unnecessary at present to go into details, I may add that it is in the Schedule we must find them.
said, that Salford was not in the Schedule, and that the case of that town had already been fully considered and decided on, the Committee having declared that it should return two Members. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, intimated that he would ask the House to recede from the decision and deprive Salford of that privilege which he had announced should be given to it. The alteration could not be made in Committee; but must be made out of Committee, if the right hon. Gentleman's present proposal were adhered to. It had already been enfranchised with Merthyr Tydvil in a separate clause. The Government must be prepared for the most resolute resistance to any attempt on their part to amend the clause on the Report. If he demurred to his hon. Friend's definition of a compromise at all, it would be because 889 it conceded too much to the right hon. Gentleman. The only way in which there could be anything really deserving the name of compromise would be in the enlargement of the number of seats proposed to be dealt with — a number which he contended was wholly inadequate. It was certainly not by—he would not say "shuffling," the right hon. Gentleman did not like the term—but not by any shifting of the cards backwards and forwards that the right hon. Gentleman would give satisfaction. A real concession, and one that would impart to this scheme of re-distribution any character of permanence, would be one that would render available more of the seats at present assigned to insignificant boroughs. There would be no prospect of anything like permanence in the system of re-distribution, except through an enlargement of the number of seats to be rendered available. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his power of charming, could not succeed, "charm he never so wisely," in producing a permanent settlement by a plan so limited and inadequate.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the time was approaching when the question would be asked whether the House intended to pass the Bill in the present Session. If it were not passed, the country would like to know on which side of the House the fault lay. In that case, the verdict of the country would be that it was on that (the Opposition) side, and not on the other; and if they did not take care they would not escape the censure of the country. When the Committee by a large majority had arrived at a conclusion it, was absolutely necessary that they should proceed on that conclusion. The Committee had deliberately decided that it was impossible, under present circumstances, entirely to disfranchise any town. ["No, no!"] Well, it was a question of fact, find if any hon. Gentlemen could have charmed the House to a different conclusion, it was a pity they had not exerted their powers when the question was before them. The Government had submitted a scheme to the House, and having carefully examined it, he was bound to say that on the whole it was just and fair. Of course, it might; be altered in its details; and the House had, in point of fact, decided that it would be better to give Members to Liverpool and Manchester — that was, to communities of 300,000 or 400,000 persons—than to other Lancashire boroughs with only 890 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants. When the Government spoke of a compromise they did not mean a compromise of principle or a compromise between the two sides of the House, but a compromise between their own friends. He trusted that the House would never allow itself by any power of speech or accidental combination of circumstances to be overborne by Lancashire, but that it would consider what was best for the interests of the country. The Gentlemen of Lancashire were much mistaken if they supposed they would be allowed to appropriate the representation which belonged to the South of England. If they wished to make progress with the Bill, they might proceed at once with the consideration of the Government Schedules, and vote on them, instead of on these isolated questions. If they did that, they would get through their work very soon—otherwise, they would only be frittering away their time and making no progress.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he should be prepared to state on Thursday what modifications he would make in the Schedule, and he should be glad to find the Committee follow the sagacious advice of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), and proceed to the consideration of the Government Schedules, though he would not say that there might not be some points to consider first.
said, he should be glad to do so, but in his case it would be impossible. The county Schedule contained only divisions with two Members each, and he wished to propose that South Lancashire should be formed into two divisions, with three each.
I think it is quite right that we should hear on Thursday what are the intentions of the Government; but I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take the four Members from the most insigificant, and not from some of the largest towns, to be found in the Schedule. I object to their being taken from the boroughs at all; but if he is determined to do that, I hope he will not put such a strain upon the fidelity of some of his supporters on this side of the House as to ask them to support the disfranchisement of some of the largest instead of some of the smallest towns in the Government schedule.
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, he thought it would greatly facilitate progress if on Thursday the Government would state whether they saw their way to accept the Schedule of the hon. Member for Wick with reference to the grouping of boroughs. That certainly was the mode in which additional Members could most easily be obtained, and the principle of grouping had already been successfully carried out in Wales and Scotland.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ MR. LAING
said, he had proposed his clause for grouping boroughs originally as part of a complete scheme, based on a certain amount of enfranchisement. Seven seats were to be got in this way, because that number were required for the boroughs to be enfranchised. On the whole, he had no reason to complain of the manner in which the House had dealt with the proposal, a great part of it having been adopted. But the precise number of seats proposed to be got by grouping were no longer required, and he concurred in the opinion that any measure of disfranchisement should follow rather than precede enfranchisement, when the extent to which that was to be carried had been finally determined upon. It would not, therefore, be for the convenience of the Committee that he should press his proposal for grouping at the present moment, when they were ignorant of the exact amount of enfranchisement. It would be better to adopt the course suggested by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, that they should assist the Government in getting to their Schedules, which contained the real gist of enfranchisement. They would then know the precise manner in which the Government proposed to deal with the four large towns to which additional Members were to be allotted; and they would be in a better position to judge how far it would be necessary to resort to grouping in order to supply them. Sooner or later the very extended franchise now adopted would lead to a much wider system of distribution and more direct representation, which must be at the expense of the small boroughs, But the question was whether they would adopt this system at once, or be content to arrive at it by two separate steps. On the whole, he preferred the more prudent 892 and cautious course, if they could arrive at a fair compromise this Session, based on a system of permanence, not for ever, but for a term of years. He hoped the Government would re-consider the point in regard to Salford, because he felt that on questions of this kind, to supply the wants of Manchester by taking away the additional Member already given to Salford was robbing Peter to pay Paul. He would for the present not bring forward the clause of which he had given notice.
§ MR. NEATE
said, he moved the insertion of the following clause to follow Clause 17:—Where any corporation, lay or ecclesiastical, shall be entitled as owners in their own right to lands or tenements of freehold tenure in any county, and such lands or tenements shall be let at rack-rent, and the rent recoverable therefrom in any one county shall be such as would give to each member of such corporation, according to the rules or statutes of such corporation, a sum of not less than £20 as his annual share thereof, then every member of such corporation shall be entitled to be registered as a voter, and, when registered, to vote at the Election of a Member or Members to serve in Parliament for such county.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the clause would introduce a new principle of representation hitherto unknown to the law of England, and the Committee would no doubt hesitate before they accepted it. Corporations hitherto had not been permitted to do any personal act. According to Lord Coke, having no souls they could not be ex-communicated. What the consequence of such a clause would be he could not venture to foretel. That he must leave to gentlemen of the long robe; but that it was a great innovation no one could doubt, and in his judgment it was altogether unnecessary.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he had to move a clause to render the payment of expenses of conveying voters to the poll illegal. The subject was not one that would give rise to any party feeling, as both Liberals and Conservatives were equally affected by the enormous election expenses which candidates had to pay. He thought that the time had come when the House of Commons should make an attempt to reduce the burden which lay so heavy upon them. He admitted that the question was surrounded with difficulties, but he believed that those difficulties were not insuperable. According to the Returns laid before the House last Session, 893 the legal expenses of carrying on elections in the United Kingdom at the last General Election was something like £800,000; but they all knew that the actual expenses were much greater than those which the returning officer returned as legal expenses. Of this sum no less than £100,000 was paid for the conveyance of voters to the polling-places, and he found, on making a comparison, that the expenses of the Conservative and Liberal candidates were pretty nearly equal. By 21 &c 22 Vict. c. 87, it was provided that it should be lawful for any candidate or agent to provide a conveyance for any voter for the purpose of voting, but the Act made it illegal to give money to any voter in respect of his travelling expenses. This Act was continued by an Act passed in 1861; but in 1860 a Select Committee inquired into the operation of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act of 1854, and recommended that the conveyance of voters should be prohibited in boroughs but not in counties. He admitted that in counties there were reasons for continuing the conveyance of voters which did not exist in boroughs, the population of counties being scattered, and the polling-places often very far apart. With respect to boroughs, he might be met with the objection that the clause would bear hardly upon the poor man; but he thought that the poor man who cared about exercising the franchise would not be debarred from doing so by reason of his not being conveyed to the poll. In Durham, at the last election, the cost under this head for the Northern division was nearly £3,000; in the Southern division, £2,456; in South Lancashire it was £4,947; in the borough of Chester, £707; in Lancaster, £804; in Liverpool, £1,084; and in other boroughs in the same proportion, the expense, as he had said, being borne pretty equally by the two parties. He objected to this practice both on account of the great expense it occasioned and also because it was a practice that afforded a great opening to bribery and corruption. As they were now about to increase the numbers of the constituencies, also to increase the number of the polling-places, he thought the occasion a very proper one for making an effort to repress this large source of expense at elections, and he trusted the Committee would accept his clause.
Moved, That the following clause be added to the Bill after Clause 23:—
It shall not be lawful for any candidate, or any one on his behalf, at any election, to pay any money on account of the conveyance of any voter to the poll, either to the voter himself or to any other person, or for any other person to receive from any candidate, or any one on his behalf, any money on account of such conveyance: and if any such candidate, or any person on his behalf, shall pay, and any such person shall receive, any money on account of the conveyance of any voter to the poll, such payment shall be deemed to be an illegal payment within the meaning of 'The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854.'
§ MR. P. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he was of opinion that if polling-places were multiplied, as the clause contemplated, election expenses would be increased instead of diminished. Travelling expenses formed but a comparatively small proportion of the total outlay. In an election for South Warwickshire, while the total expenses averaged £4 12s. for electors polled, the travelling expenses were only 11s. 8½d. A wide election experience led him to believe that there was little or no corruption under this head. The payment of the election conveyances was never made the excuse for bribery; and, in the long run, it would be both cheaper and better to pay the expense of conveyances than to increase the number of polling-places, which would inevitably result in a corresponding increase in the charges of agents, collectors, and other officers.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he differed from the hon. Member who had just spoken, and thought that, in every way, the present system lent itself to corruption. In boroughs if the cab system were continued it would be impossible to poll the new constituency within the time allowed for polling. Time would be saved by making the voters walk to the poll; for there were never cabs enough to convey them all, and constant delays arose in consequence. But as regarded counties, he was assured on good authority that it would often be impossible to poll the constituencies unless the use of conveyances was allowed. He therefore recommended his hon. Friend to limit the operation of his clause to boroughs, and in that case he hoped the Committee would support it as an additional means of introducing purity and good order during an election.
§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
said, that the clause, if applied to counties, would disfranchise a large number of electors, for it would be impossible to carry polling-places to every man's door. In his own county many of the electors had to go 120 895 miles to the poll, over a country in which there were no public conveyances. Some of them lived thirty miles out in the Atlantic, and could not come to the poll unless steamers were sent for them. The case was different, however, in boroughs, and there he thought some such clause as that of the hon. Member would be useful. If the Committee had agreed to the proposal respecting voting papers, this question would have admitted of easy settlement.
said, he had had some experience in this matter. Some short time ago he was threatened with an opposition, not of a very formidable character, and he did not think it necessary to incur any expense in conveying voters to the poll. He found, notwithstanding, that the voters came up quite as well as when the conveyance was provided. He polled 2,200 voters, which was as large a number as he was accustomed to do on former occasions, and, what was more, the town was infinitely more quiet. He believed if the hon. Gentleman would confine his Motion to boroughs it would meet with almost unanimous support.
§ MR. OSBORNE
thought that however much the toiling millions might be delighted at the prospect of this Bill passing, it was not so much a subject of rejoicing to future candidates. Nothing having been done to lessen the expense of a contest, he looked forward with perfect horror to the idea of a contest, where there were 20,000 voters. They had refused to allow the expense of hustings or polling-places to be taken out of the borough or county rate, they allowed the payment of messengers, though they were not to be voters; and now the proposal was hanging in the balance whether provision was to be made for the conveyance of 20,000 voters in cabs and omnibuses. He had had some experience on this subject, and though the hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Wykeham Martin) argued that this was a matter of 1s. 6d. a head, a connection of his represented Rochester for many years and found the case very different. He knew, moreover, that nobody could presume to enter upon a contest for Middlesex unless he was prepared to put down, at a moderate calculation, £2,000 for cabs. This acted as a direct bribe to livery-stablekeepers, and the man who was able to spend £3,000 for cabs got all their votes. The Committee, by the policy they were pursuing, were making the House only accessible to millionaires and great land-owners, 896 and were wiping out all chance of any man of moderate means getting in. It was all very well for the hon. Gentleman below him, who had an enormous rent-roll, to talk of this as a mere fleabite; for what was a fleabite to him was a very different thing to the man of modest means. He hoped, however, this proposal would be confined to boroughs; for there were great difficulties in applying it to counties, particularly that agreeable county (Inverness) represented by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who of course would never undergo a contest, because nobody could pretend to compete with him in chartering steamboats. If the Committee were really sincere—which he had always doubted, for he believed their policy was to confine the House to wealthy men—here was a good opportunity of showing their sincerity by supporting the clause of the hon. Member for Oldham, and so strike at the root of a great deal of bribery and corruption.
said, he recommended his hon. Friend to simplify the matter by consenting to limit the clause to boroughs, with respect to which the argument was really all on one side. There might be exceptional cases, such as grouped boroughs; but even there he thought it would be better that provision should be made for the establishment of polling-places in each of the boroughs. As to boroughs in general the whole thing was absurd, and he could point out the absurdity even in the cases to which reference had been made. With regard to Chester, it must be remembered that the expense of cab hire had no relation to the number of voters conveyed, and the fact of more being paid by one candidate, who polled only half the average number that the other three did, only showed how the candidate was made a victim of. The charge was not proportioned to the number conveyed, but the same amount of booty was expected from one candidate as from another. Conveyances were charged for, not according to the number of men that were conveyed to the poll, but those who were interested in the hiring of conveyances charged their expenses without reference to the work. The House had not heard much from county Members on this subject; but he hoped that, in a modified form, it would be found possible to make some provision for the county Members. If the plan were adopted for the boroughs—and he believed it would be almost unanimously adopted—and if no similar 897 lief were afforded to the county Members he should think it a great hardship. He hoped some of those gentleman who were well acquainted with the subject would consider whether some modification of the clause could not be applied to the counties.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he would accede to the suggestion that the clause should be confined to boroughs.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
said, it would be necessary to insert a proviso for such boroughs as that which he represented (East Retford), which extended over a large area, and were, in fact, in the condition of counties.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, that when he brought forward this question to forbid the conveyance of voters to the poll, a few years ago, he made exception of such boroughs as the noble Lord referred to. Notwithstanding, his Motion was defeated by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
said, he would like to see the expense of conveying voters to the poll declared illegal as much as the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but he defied them to do so as long as things remained as they were. If the Committee could reopen the question of voting papers they might dispense with the practice, but he did not see how it was to be done otherwise.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, he had carried a division against the late Government on this point in 1862, because in the case of agricultural boroughs it practically disfranchised a large number of voters. His borough (Shoreham) was as large as Rutland, and though he had since carried a Bill under which the polling-places had been increased from two to seven, they were still not sufficiently numerous to be within easy reach of old and infirm voters. When money was paid to voters on account of travelling expenses, great abuse took place; this was no longer the case, and though he would be glad to be spared the expense, he saw no possibility of it, so long as the present mode of taking the poll was retained.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would urge the House to consider what they were about before they passed this clause. The question had been under the consideration of the House some years ago, but they were not able to agree upon the terms of the clause. The present state of the law was passed at his (Mr. Ayrton's) suggestion. If the present clause were passed this ridiculous consequence would follow—that if a gentleman 898 hired a carriage to take himself to the poll, and then took up another voter along with him, he would be liable to all the penalties of bribery. He suggested that the clause should be withdrawn, and that the Government should bring up a clause more distinctly defined.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he would appeal to the Committee not to be impatient to pass this clause, as the change which it would introduce was one of considerable magnitude and had not been duly considered. He maintained that it operated in favour of the poor candidate rather than the rich to allow voters to be conveyed to the poll. Suppose, as frequently happened, the rich candidate was supported by all the owners of horses and carriages in the constituency, what a disadvantage would the poor candidate be placed at if he were not allowed to hire vehicles to convey his supporters to the poll. Even with regard to boroughs, it would be a very serious matter to the poor man if they were to pass this clause. If they wanted to place all candidates on an equal footing, they must go further, and say that no man ought to be allowed to ride to the poll. Otherwise, there would always be a difference in favour of the rich as compared with the poor candidate. He admitted that the thing was wrong in principle, and that the real remedy was to bring the polling-places nearer the voter. The right hon. Gentleman opposite thought the case of the boroughs was a simple one, but he did not seem to be aware of the immense areas of many boroughs. This question with regard to boroughs had been under consideration before, and on that occasion he gave the House some statistics which he wished now to quote again. It appeared that there were 37 boroughs whose area was 15 square miles, 22 with an area of 20 square miles, 21 with an area of 25 square miles, 15 with an area of 30 square miles, 11 with an area of 35 square miles, 4 of 45 square miles, 1 of 47, 1 of 49, 1 of 69, 1 of 73, and 1 of 78 square miles. He quite admitted as a principle that they ought not to convey any voter to the poll who was able to walk there, if the poll was at a reasonable distance. But it must be remembered that there were aged and infirm people, and would it be maintained that no mode of conveying them to the poll should be allowed? He understood that as regarded counties the point had been given up, but with respect to the large boroughs the case rested on exactly the same footing. 899 He should be sorry if, in their zeal far purity, they inserted a clause which would not work, and he suggested that it should be carefully considered, and brought up again on some future occasion.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.