§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he rose to move a new clause which had for its object the extension of the limits within which an elector for the City of London might reside, while retaining his right to vote. Prior to the Reform Act every voter for a borough was entitled to vote for that borough without reference to his place of residence. When, however, that Act was passing through Parliament a clause was introduced limiting the privilege of voting to those who lived in, or within seven miles of, the borough. The object of that clause was twofold—to prevent what might have been the undue extension of the privilege in the case of freemen, and to compel persons claiming to vote to live sufficiently near to take part in the performance of the various duties attaching to citizenship, such as serving on juries and filling certain parochial offices. Since 1832 a very large proportion of those who were engaged in the City in the daytime were enabled to avail themselves of the facilities afforded by the railway system to reside at a distance of fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five miles from their places of business. They were, indeed, driven to do so. He might also observe—and he was sure he would be borne out in the statement by the authority of his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), than whom no one was more competent to form an opinion on the subject—that the value of property in the City had, since the time of the passing of the Reform Act, increased at least four or five-fold. He knew of one instance in which a place of business in the vicinity of the Royal Exchange, which originally let for a sum of £80 a year, had risen to 1194 the improved rent of £500, and as leases fell in, much larger rents had to be paid for renewals. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Liverpool a few nights ago that the population of the City hardly exceeded 100,000. That, however, was simply the result of the Census as taken at midnight, when seven-eighths of its ordinary inhabitants during the day were absent. He might call the attention of the Committee to a very instructive work which had recently been circulated by the Chamberlain of the City, entitled A Statistical Vindication of the City of London, from which he found that there were 3,297 different firms carrying on the business of brokers there, for which they had to take out a licence, it being calculated that there were two or three persons in each, thus making the total number of about 8,000 carrying on that particular business. Out of that number it appeared that no more than thirty-three resided within the limits of the City. It was not right that so large a proportion of men, who must be regarded as constituting a specially good class of voters, should be excluded from the franchise because they were compelled to reside beyond seven miles from the City, to which they came day after day to prosecute their business, doing little more than sleeping and eating their breakfasts at their homes. The constituency of the City of London amounted in 1832 to 18,584. In 1852 the number was as high as 20,728, but since that time, as railways increased, and property was set apart for the construction of railway stations, and rents had risen, the number had decreased. The actual number of the persons now on the register, deducting doubles, was 15,500, so that the constituency which had greatly increased in wealth and prosperity, was gradually diminishing in numbers. It was true that those voters who resided at a distance had a vote for the county; but on mercantile matters they consulted the City Members. They were what might be called a "good" sort of voters, because they could afford to live at a distance from their business. It was advisable to take means for keeping up the numbers of a constituency which was now decreasing, but which paid for income tax more than all the rest of the metropolis. The radius which he now proposed to adopt would include Gravesend, Sevenoaks, Reigate, Egham, Windsor, Welwyn, and Ingatestone. He had been 1195 asked why Brighton was not included; but he did not think that the number of City electors residing there was sufficiently large to justify a proposal for their being included. The limit of twenty-five miles, to which he now proposed to extend the radius within which qualified persons residing might vote for the City of London, would comprise all the principal places to which people in the City went after the conclusion of their business, with the exception of Guildford and Chelmsford, which were beyond the distance of twenty-five miles. He confined his proposal to the City of London, because he was not so well acquainted with the circumstances of other places; but it would be in the power of the Committee, if they thought fit, to strike out the words restricting the operation of the clause to the City of London, and to extend it to such towns as Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. He moved the following clause:—That so much of the twenty-seventh and thirty-second sections of the Act of the second William the Fourth, chapter forty-five, and of the seventy-ninth section of the Act of the sixth and Seventh of Victoria, chapter eighteen, as relates to the residence of electors within seven miles of any City or Borough shall be repealed, in respect to electors otherwise qualified to be registered and to vote for Members to serve in Parliament for the City of London: Provided always, That no person shall be registered as an elector for the said City unless he shall have resided for six calendar months next previous to the last day of July in any year, nor to be entitled to vote at any Election for the said City, unless he shall have ever since the last day of July in the year in which his name was inserted in the register then in force have resided, and at the time of voting shall have continued to reside within the said City, or within twenty-five miles thereof, or any part thereof."—(Mr. Crawford.)
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ On Question, "That the Clause be read the second time,"
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the circumstances of the City of London differed from those of other towns, for in no city was so large an area occupied by warehouses and places required for the conduct of business as in the City of London. He supported the clause, for it would be an anomaly if the merchant princes of London should be debarred, in consequence of the enormous increase of their transactions depriving them of residences in the City—those residences and the ground on which they stood being now required for offices 1196 and warehouses—from voting for the representatives of the world's centre of commerce.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, that he wished to make an addition to what he had already stated. With respect to the number of annual tickets taken by persons who resided more than seven miles from the City, he was informed that the number was about 13,500. That statement was founded upon a return from the principal railway companies, though there was one company from which he had not received a return. He did not say that the whole of this number was to be counted; but, probably, from 7,000 to 8,000 of these tickets were taken by persons who came up day by day to the City for the transaction of business.
§ MR. JAMES
said, he had given notice of an Amendment to the Motion of his hon. Friend, and though that was not the time to go into a detailed explanation of his proposal, he wished to advert to the effect of repealing that clause of the Reform Act of 1832 which related to the rights of the occupiers of premises for which they paid rates, and to the continuance of the seven miles radius. In 1832 the matter of distance stood upon a very different footing from that which it now occupied. No doubt in 1832 the reasonable distance within which it was supposed that gentlemen carrying on business in the great mercantile towns would reside would be about seven miles, or an easy drive. Circumstances had since considerably changed, not only as regarded London, but Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, and other great commercial and manufacturing towns. Persons were now enabled to reside at a considerable distance from their places of business, and though it might, therefore, be desirable to extend the area of residence, the difficulty was to fix any precise limit. Why should they take twenty-five rather than thirty miles, or even a greater distance? [Mr. CRAWFORD: Twenty-five miles is an hour's ride.] Fifty miles might also be an hour's journey by railway. The Amendment of which he had given notice was limited to the 27th section of the Reform Act, the principle of which was to give to every person a vote who occupied premises of whatever character provided they were of the value of £10, and paid all rates in respect of those premises. It was suggested that it was not reasonable that they should require residence in respect of those occupiers who 1197 paid rates, and consequently the Reform Act fixed the limit of seven miles. For the very reason therefore that seven miles was taken then, there should be no limit in the present day, for if they fixed thirty or even fifty miles they might not take in all whom they wanted to include. He trusted the Committee would read the clause a second time in order that he might have the opportunity of moving his Amendment, the object of which was to extend its principle to all great towns returning Members, or any that might be thought proper. Thus justice would be done to the best class of voters.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that if the second reading of the clause was not opposed, it would at once be better to affirm the principle of the clause, and proceed with the Amendments to it. It was his intention to support the clause.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he was rather surprised at the decision of the right hon. Gentleman, for the proposal really was to repeal one of the most important provisions of the Reform Act. One of the greatest evils that that Act was intended to cure was that of having a large number of non-resident borough voters, and the present clause, carried to its logical conclusion, would re-introduce that evil. The gentlemen on whose behalf it was proposed had no great grievance to complain of, because the occupation county franchise would give them all county votes. They took no active part in the management of the affairs of the City, they formed no part of the municipal government, and they were not citizens in the old-fashioned sense of the term. If for their convenience they came to London for a few hours a day that gave them no title to vote for the City. It was distinctly enacted by the Bill that occupiers of shops and places of business below £10 were not to have votes, so that this clause would introduce an invidious distinction in favour of gentlemen who occupied houses of business within the City above £10.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that these Gentleman rested their case principally upon the fact that they were liable to serve on juries, and as sheriffs, and were bound to perform all the duties of citizens. It was not correct to say that they merely spent a few hours in town, for they really belonged to the City, and merely slept a few hours in the country. All their interests and thoughts were identified with 1198 the City, and in his opinion the limit of twenty-five miles ought to be adhered to, in order to insure that connection. They were not non-resident in any sense, because they occupied premises in the City to which they went every day. Though he would have no objection to extend the principle to voters below £10, he might mention that there were only 130 houses in the City which would in that way be included.
§ MR. BARNETT
said, he hoped the clause would be adopted. The present radius excluded men who were in every way well qualified to exercise the franchise. The habits of life and the mode of doing business had entirely changed since the time of the Reform Act; and it was not fair to draw conclusions from what existed at that time.
MR. M. T. BASS
said, he could not see a single reason in favour of this clause which did not apply a multo fortiori to every borough in the kingdom.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
said, he was not at all surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in favour of this clause, for it was entirely in accordance with the principle of the Bill. The merchants and traders of the City were a class of voters that it was desirable to enfranchise as widely as possible. At one time, two of his partners were disqualified from exercising the franchise owing to the fact of their residence being beyond the seven miles radius, while he was invested with a vote because he resided within the circle. Under the present system, some of the best members of the constituency were disqualified from voting. If similar inconvenience was felt in other great towns it ought to be remedied.
said, he would support the clause, if only for the reason that these gentlemen were liable to serve on Middlesex juries.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the same reason would apply to every other borough in the kingdom. The City of London was the only place in England where the occupants were not called upon to undertake municipal functions. The merchants and bankers of the City of London had obtained for themselves a law by which they were exempt, unless they themselves chose, from being compelled to accept any kind of municipal or civic office in the City. Therefore they had less connection with the district than any other occupant would have in any other town in respect 1199 to which they might be placed on the register. If they adopted this principle as regarded London, they ought to extend it to every other town in the kingdom.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
said, that whereas hitherto municipal offices had been confined to freemen, an Act had been passed this Session making eligible all persons on the Parliamentary register. He supported the clause on the ground that the citizens of London were exceptionally situated, not being able to get out into the country without exceeding the limit of seven miles. This was not the case with the boroughs which surrounded the City.
§ MR. KENNARD
said, that, living beyond the seven miles limit, he was always, until he became a Member of the House, deprived of his City vote, although he paid the poor rates, served the office of sheriff, and fulfilled all the duties of a citizen.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause read the second time.
§ MR. JAMES
, who had given notice of the following Amendments: — Line 1, leave out "that." Same line, leave out "and thirty-second sections," and after "twenty-seventh" insert "section." Line 2, leave out from "forty-five" to end of clause, and insert—As requires that no person shall be registered as an elector in any year in respect of his occupation of premises within any city or borough, or place sharing in the election for a city or borough, unless he shall have resided for six calendar months next previous to the last day of July in such year in the city or borough, or place sharing in the election for a city or borough, in respect of which he shall be entitled to a vote, or within seven miles thereof, or of any part thereof, is hereby repealed.He said that the adoption of that proposal would have an excellent effect, for it would place on the registers of towns and boroughs men having a bonâ fide interest in the borough and residing therein. If his first Amendment were adopted, he would move subsequent words, which would prevent any person voting who had not for twelve months previous to his application for the franchise carried on a bonâ fide business in the borough. It was not desirable to admit freemen living at a distance, who might have no interest in the place.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he agreed to the Amendment limiting the clause to occupiers, and not including freemen. He could not, how- 1200 ever accede to another Amendment of which the hon. and learned Gentleman had given notice, extending the clause to all boroughs, for he thought the case of London was quite exceptional, and that the principle should not be carried further.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he hoped the liverymen would be admitted to the benefit of the clause, they being selected from the freemen, and being one of the most ancient classes of the constituency. Out of 17,300 persons on the register 5,500 were freemen. He would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that they were a Conservative body, no Liberal candidate within his recollection having obtained the votes of half their number. He could not see why they should be put on a different footing from the householders and occupiers.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. PIM
said, he supported the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Manchester (Mr. James). If a man, carrying on business in London, lived at Windsor, he would, according to the hon. Gentleman's proposal, have a vote for London. Why should not a man who slept in London and carried on his business at Windsor have a vote for the latter place? He objected to the limitation of twenty-five miles. If three partners lived at St. John's Wood, Windsor, and Brighton, the third would be excluded from the franchise.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ On Motion of Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, the words "sixth and seventh of Victoria" were amended in order to substitute "reign of Her present Majesty."
§ On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill,"
said, he wished that some Member of the Government would state the principle on which the words "twenty-five miles" were inserted in the clause. No doubt the local situation of the City of London was exceptional, inas- 1201 much as it was surrounded by other boroughs. It would be reasonable to make the seven miles begin from the outside of those boroughs. The old radius of seven miles had, however, been extended to twenty-five miles for electors of the City, and he had heard nothing to justify that distance. It seemed a mere arbitrary line.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, that seven miles allowed in the Bill of 1832 for the distance from the voter's residence to the City, used to represent an hour's journey. That time in railway travelling now represented twenty-five miles. It was found, moreover, that a radius of twenty-five miles included almost all the places frequented by persons having business in the City of London, except Brighton. It included, for example, Gravesend, Sevenoaks, Redhill, Reigate, Dorking, places on the South Western line and in Essex. If a less distance were taken, many of these persons would be excluded.
said, that the general reason given by the hon. Member was applicable to other boroughs, because an hour would take a man just as far from Manchester or Liverpool. If the rule were to be a mere matter of convenience, it would be an arbitrary one; but if it rested on the fact that the City was surrounded by boroughs, the proper course would be to draw the line at seven miles beyond the limits of any of these boroughs.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think it is understood by the Committee that, looking to the peculiar position of the London electors, they should have the privilege of being allowed to reside without the place from which they derive their vote; but we must draw a line somewhere, in order to secure the enjoyment of scenery and fine air. I do not know the real origin of the twenty-five miles limit. Perhaps, as the hon. Member for the City told us, it is to describe an hour's travel which, it may be thought, ought to be encouraged; but there is a certain excitement about gentlemen of a speculative character going every day at the rate of fifty miles an hour, which might lead in some instances to congestion of the brain. Then, as a period or space is necessary, the twenty-five miles is supposed, perhaps, to secure the fair enjoyment of the privilege the Committee will give in consideration of the peculiar position. I do not know upon what absolute rule twenty-five miles is better than 1202 thirty; but that is the general ground, and it has been proposed in this instance.
§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
said, that by the adoption of the proposed radius the same persons would have the county franchise as well as the franchise for the City.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
moved the following clause:—So much of the eighteenth section of the Act of the tenth George the Fourth, chapter forty-four, as provides that no justice, receiver, or person belonging to the metropolitan police force shall be capable of giving his vote for the election of a Member to serve in Parliament for the counties of Surrey, Hertford, Essex, or Kent, or for any city or borough within the metropolitan police district; and so much of the ninth section of the Act of the second and third Victoria, chapter ninety-three, as provides that no chief constable or other constable appointed by virtue of that Act shall be capable of giving his vote for the election of a Member to serve in Parliament for the county in which he shall be appointed, shall be and the same are hereby repealed: Provided, That no police officer or constable shall be allowed to vote in uniform.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he opposed the clause, which he thought would interfere with the efficiency of the police. He regarded the clause as otherwise objectionable, and hoped it would not be pressed.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at least to allow the claim of a class of men who were selected for their high character and general trustworthiness for employment in the Police, Inland Revenue, and Customs Departments to be investigated before some fairly constituted Committee.
said, the adoption of the clause might interfere with the discharge of their duty by the police. At an election a tumult might arise and the police would be wanted to restore order.
§ Clause negatived.1203
§ MR. VANCE
moved the following clause:—Any person who by law is now, or shall be under the provisions of this Act, entitled to vote for any city, borough, or place, provided he resides within such city, borough, or place, or within seven miles from some particular part thereof, shall be entitled to vote provided he resides within seven miles from any part thereof.He said that, in many instances, "the particular part" of the borough happened to be one corner of it, and that it would be more just if the measurement were reckoned from its extremities. Those voters who lived within seven miles of the confines of any borough ought, in his opinion, to be entitled to record their votes.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, that a similar proposal brought forward by himself at an earlier stage of the Bill had been rejected. The Committee in agreeing to the present clause would be reversing their former decision.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman had been rejected because its operation would be to change the character of the franchise which was about to be established; while the clause under the notice of the Committee simply defined rights belonging to the franchise which now existed.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, that the words "or shall be under the provisions of this Act" would have the effect of extending the application of the clause to all the new voters. Indeed, he could not see why the Committee should refuse to them a latitude which it was invited to go out of its way to give the old class of voters.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that as he understood the clause its operation would be simply to confer on the freemen of a borough a privilege now possessed by occupying householders. He hoped the Committee would not assent to having such an alteration made in the law by a side wind.
said, he should oppose the clause, as tending to unsettle existing arrangements without any corresponding benefit. He opposed the clause of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), and he should on the same ground oppose the present clause. At the present moment the seven miles radius was perfectly well known.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the next clause on the Paper—that of the hon. Member for Glasgow (tenant's name and address to be given to collector of rates)—was no longer necessary after the decisions at which the Committee had already arrived. The next—that of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Thomas Hughes), relating to cumulative voting—he supposed the hon. Member would not proceed with after the division on the question which had already been taken. Then came the clauses which stood in the name of the Recorder of London (Mr. Russell Gurney), with respect to the disqualification of persons found guilty of bribery, to which there was no opposition on the part of the Government, and which might very well be brought up on the Report. The clause which stood next in order in the name of the hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. Harvey Lewis) was withdrawn. There was, too, the clause of which the noble Lord the Member for Essex (Lord Eustace Cecil) had given notice, providing that convictions for felony and certain other offences should disqualify persons for the exercise of the franchise, with which he hoped the noble Lord would not find it necessary to proceed, inasmuch as persons convicted of felony were now disqualified. Looking further down the Paper he did not see any other clause which appeared to him to demand the attention of the Committee. Under those circumstances he hoped they would not object to proceed to the consideration of the Schedules.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, that after what had taken place in reference to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) he did not intend to bring forward the clause which stood in his name.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was a very important clause, and if the Committee should not approve it the Government would have to submit one drawn by themselves to their notice. In either case it would be necessary to make a corresponding alteration 1205 in the third clause, and it would therefore, he thought, be more convenient to let the matter stand over until the bringing up of the Report.
said, he rose to Order. It appeared to him that the Committee was proceeding in a manner wholly irregular, inasmuch as there was no question before them.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
moved his clauses relating to the disfranchised boroughs—Whereas the Commissioners appointed as aforesaid for the purpose of making inquiry into the existence of corrupt practices in the Borough of Totnes, reported to Her Majesty that the persons named in Schedule () had been guilty of giving or receiving bribes: Be it Enacted, That none of the said persons so named in the said Schedule shall have the right of voting for the Southern Division of the County of Devon in respect of a qualification situated within the said Borough of Totnes.And similar clauses with respect to Great Yarmouth, Lancaster, and Reigate. He said he understood that there was no objection to these clauses. The only object of the certificates given to these parties was to prevent their being criminally prosecuted in reference to the matters upon which they gave evidence, but the certificates did not state that these parties should be allowed to exercise the franchise.
§ Clauses agreed to, and ordered to be added to the Bill.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
moved the following clause:—That any person who has at any time been convicted of felony, larceny, perjury, or subornation of perjury shall be held incapable of voting for the election of Members of Parliament.As the law now stood no convict could be excluded from the franchise except during the time he was under sentence. Persons once convicted of the disgraceful offences mentioned in his clause should for ever be precluded from voting for Members of Parliament. As the franchise had been largely extended, it was incumbent on the Committee to endeavour to purify the constituencies from the ruffianly residuum alluded to by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). It might be said that any such disfranchisement as he now proposed would have only a very partial effect; but the information he had obtained might have induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pause, if the right hon. Gentleman had been aware of it, before reducing the lodger franchise to so low a figure. In a former debate the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Beresford 1206 Hope) very unjustly taunted the Chancellor of the Exchequer with not bringing forward a ticket-of-leave franchise. The Bill really did admit a considerable number of ticket-of-leave men and thieves to the franchise. He had a return drawn up from very good information, by which it appeared that, under the Bill, there would be qualified to vote as householders and lodgers in the metropolitan districts, 639 thieves and ticket-of-leave men, and 1,068 bad characters. Perhaps the metropolitan Members would be glad to know something of their future constituents, and how they were distributed over the metropolitan boroughs. The hon. Members for Westminster would represent 61 convicted thieves and 113 bad characters. The hon. Members for Marylebone would represent 59 convicted thieves and 51 bad characters. The hon. Members for Finsbury, 65 convicted thieves and 213 bad characters. The hon. Members for Southwark, 43 convicted thieves and 49 bad characters. The hon. Members for Lambeth, 8 convicted thieves and 14 bad characters. The hon. Members for the Tower Hamlets, 78 convicted thieves and 60 bad characters. The hon. Members for Greenwich, 49 convicted thieves and 244 bad characters. The Member for the new borough of Kensington and Chelsea, 89 convicted thieves and 37 bad characters. The Member for Hackney, 94 convicted thieves and 64 bad characters. The rest, he presumed, would be represented by the Members for Middlesex. He did not know what action the Committee would take on the Motion; but it appeared to him that in any future scheme for the representation of minorities these men would form a considerable constituency, and be entitled to two Members. No doubt, in these days of railway mismanagement and commercial dishonesty, they would be able to find men who would adequately represent their interests. As the franchise was a trust it ought only to be exercised by those who could be trusted with their neighbours' goods. No Member would be anxious to reckon amongst his supporters these men. If thieves who occupied houses and lodgings of the annual value of £10 were to be admitted to the suffrage, it would be difficult to exclude honest men at all.
§ Clause read a second time.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, he moved the omission of the word "larceny." It was included in the term "felony."
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that, as the Committee had adopted the principle of the clause, it would be necessary to introduce some modifications into it before it was added to the Bill. A man who had committed some petty larceny ought not to be disfranchised for life. A person convicted of manslaughter without any criminal intention, but from an act of negligence, would also be disqualified under the word "felony." Some care would be necessary in defining what particular offences should disqualify a man.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he would suggest that the clause should be extended to those to be elected.
§ On the Question, "That the word 'larceny' be omitted,"
said, he considered they would be committing a very serious error in introducing a new principle of Criminal Law into the Reform Bill. This was a very grave proposal, and he had relied on the clause being opposed by the Government or he should have ventured to do it himself at an earlier period. The principle hitherto adopted had been that after a man had expiated his offence to endeavour to restore him to his former position, but the effect of this clause would be to cast a stigma on a man for the remainder of his life. Such a course of legislation had never been attempted in our colonies, where there had been a considerable number of expirees, many of whom had returned to an honourable and innocent mode of life. It was a question which required much fuller consideration than could be given to it in Committee on the Reform Bill, and, therefore, he trusted the clause would not be assented to by them.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he thought it would be wise to hold over this clause for future and separate consideration. A person might be convicted of larceny at a very early age, and years and years afterwards, having in the meantime lived respectably and honestly, he was to be disqualified to give a vote. If adopted at all the clause would require to be very considerably limited.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he thought it enough that a convict, on the expiration of his sentence, should be restored to the protection of the law. But he did not see why he should have the privilege of the suffrage conferred upon him. In Shoreham a class of voters had been disqualified for their lives, and their names 1208 were read over at every election. He thought "larceny" as bad as "felony," and should disqualify.
§ MR. COLERIDGE
said, he quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General that this clause required a great deal of consideration and amendment. As it now stood, it would include persons who had been pardoned after proof of innocence, for pardon did not reverse conviction.
said, he thought the clause altogether wrong. A boy might be convicted of larceny for picking up a few apples under a tree. Was an act done twenty years before, he having led a respectable life in the meanwhile, to disqualify him from voting for a Member of Parliament? Besides, he did not see how such a clause could be carried out.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he opposed the clause. When the time of his sentence had been served out an offender should be restored to society and, it was to be hoped, the honest performance of his duties. This clause would set a perpetual stigma and mark upon him. It would be the means of destroying all the good that had been done of late years towards reforming those who had transgressed the laws.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he would move the rejection of the words "felony" and "larceny." In its present form this might happen—a boy might pick up a turnip, be taken before a magistrate, convicted, and receive a smart whipping. That boy would be branded for life with a deprivation of the franchise.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. BIDDULPH
said, he had given notice of a proposal that priests, deacons, and ministers of the Church of Scotland should be eligible for election as Members of Parliament if they had not been clerically employed for twelve months. He was willing to defer moving it if he were allowed an opportunity of doing so at a future stage.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the subject was one of a grave character, and would probably lead to protracted discussion. The hon. Member would have the opportunity of raising the question at a future time.
§ MR. H. BEAUMONT
said, he moved,That from and after the present Parliament the borough of Huddersfield shall return two Members instead of one to serve in future Parliaments.A second Member was originally proposed by the Reform Bill of 1831. Only one Member, however, was given to it in the Reform Act. At that time the population was 19,035. Since that period it had increased to 34,897. There was an outlying population amounting to 26,066, which, added to the population of the existing borough, gave a total of 60,940. The inhabitants of Huddersfield had petitioned Her Majesty to grant a Charter of Incorporation for the whole of this population; and it was thought by many of the inhabitants, himself included, that it was desirable that the municipal and Parliamentary boundaries should be conterminous. Huddersfield was a beautiful town, with numerous handsome buildings. It had doubled its postage and its money orders since 1831, and 300 trains pass the station in a day. Much smaller towns, such as Newark and Bridgwater, had two Members. Places like Huddersfield were clearly entitled to as large a share in the representation. Though there was no prospect of finality in dealing with the redistribution of seats, it was desirable to settle the question for some years. The only way of doing this was by taking a higher scale of disfranchisement. He should be glad if the Government would consent to reduce the representation of boroughs with less than 12,000 inhabitants, for, with two exceptions, all the claims which appeared on the Paper might then be disposed of.
§ MR. AKROYD
said, that the hon. Member for Huddersfield was absent in consequence of ill-health. He was indebted to that borough for his entrance into the House, and its population and importance entitled it to two representatives. In the original Reform Bill two Members were assigned to it, and had the Boundary Commissioners treated it in the same way as neighbouring boroughs, acting by rule instead of caprice, it would have obtained two Members in the Act of 1832. This Bill was designed to remedy the defects of that Act. The present Parliamentary borough, which was only one corner of the town, was almost entirely owned by one person. That landed proprietor had, much to his credit, abstained from interfering with the elections, but 1210 still it was galling to the electors to be under the power of one proprietor. If the Committee were disposed to give an additional Member to boroughs having now but one representative, he knew of no borough having a better claim than Huddersfield.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he wished to ask, whether appeals were to be made to give two Members to every place having a population of 34,000? If so the number of Members must be increased to 900. But then it appeared that by adding the adjacent townships the population of the Parliamentary borough of Huddersfield might be raised to 60,000. That was the population of the borough he represented but although he had been asked to put a Notice on the Paper demanding a second Member, he had refused to do so. If claims of this sort were made, the number of Members would be increased to an extent that none of them would desire. He trusted that the Committee would discourage applications of this kind, which only took up their time needlessly.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was very glad to hear such a flourishing account, doubtless true, of the condition of Huddersfield; but he could not admit that the hon. Gentleman had made out a case which ought to interfere with the progress of the Bill. There were other towns with superior claims to those of Huddersfield, which had only possessed its single representative for little more than thirty years, and which ought not to be impatient. It was not right to argue this question upon isolated cases. It was not proposed by this Bill to remove all anomalies; but the Government were trying to improve the representation of the people, which in dealing with ancient institutions was all they could hope to do. It is all very well to advocate the claims of particular localities; but in attempting to carry a measure like this there are a thousand circumstances to be taken into account, and, after all, the great consideration is to carry a measure not mean and not inconsiderable. If he were to take the line which the hon. Gentleman had adopted, and were to argue it in his way, there would be no end to such discussions. The population of Huddersfield was, it appeared, 34,000, and supposing that it were doubled by the absorption of adjacent territory, which, by the way, had not yet given in its adhesion, what were we to say 1211 to the Welsh counties, which in several cases returned only one Member, although the population was larger than 60,000? In one Welsh county the population was more than 80,000. Hon. Gentlemen who brought forward these isolated cases thought of no case but their own. The ground upon which, this claim was based was, therefore, not tenable; but his objection was of a different character. They had now reached the month of July, and the question to be asked was whether this Bill was to pass or not? The Government could not deviate from the principle of the measure and the general scope of its design. All they could do was to ask the Committee now to complete the work upon the basis generally agreed to by both sides of the House. He trusted that proposals of this kind would not be encouraged by the Committee, but that they would all put their shoulders to the wheel, and carry this measure.
§ Clause withdrawn.
MR. J. B. SMITH
moved a clause prohibiting the opening any public-house for the sale of intoxicating liquors on the polling-day in any city or borough, or in any polling-town of a county, excepting to persons who shall have been resident in such inn or public-house for twenty-four hours previously. His object was to secure that the electors should exercise their important privilege in a sober manner. It was not necessary for him to detain the Committee, but this regulation was adopted in the United States, and was the reason why the elections were conducted in so quiet a manner.
§ SIR ANDREW AGNEW
said, it was perfectly monstrous that people should be deprived of their ordinary refreshments because it happened to be polling-day.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that as they were very often told that the whole question of Parliamentary Reform would be re-opened in the next Session of Parliament, he wished he could induce the hon. Gentleman to postpone his Motion until then. He believed that considerable alarm would be felt at such a proposal.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. H. E. SURTEES
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer having introduced a new clause, which has been accepted by the Committee, adoptting the proposal contained in the clause of which I had given notice, namely— 1212That no person shall be entitled to be registered in any year as a Voter in the Election of a Member or Members to serve in any future Parliament for any County, who shall within twelve calendar months next previous to the last day of July in such year have received parochial relief.It is therefore only necessary for me to withdraw the clause.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. DILLWYN
moved a clause that the borough of Swansea should return two Members to serve in future Parliaments; providing also that each elector should vote for one Member only. There was only one borough now represented by one Member (Salford) which had a larger number of electors than Swansea, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give an additional Member to Salford. The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) had included Swansea among the places to which he proposed to give a second Member. Swansea had more than doubled its population since the Reform Act. The number of inhabitants was 27,134 in 1831. The estimated population last year was 64,800. The rateable value had more than doubled during the last ten years.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was sorry to oppose the proposal of his hon. Friend who, as a Member of the Opposition, had treated the Bill in such a fair and candid manner, and whose statement of the case of Swansea was so moderate as to be entitled to every attention; but he would remind the Committee of what he thought they were too apt to forget, that when they had only a restricted number of seats to dispose of, they must look to their fair distribution over every part of the country. The borough of Merthyr Tydvil, which was larger than Swansea, was to receive a second Member, and he thought that ought to be sufficient to satisfy the claims of Glamorganshire: so of other places; they were to look at population and wealth, no doubt, but they must not forget if the representation of the locality had been already increased, and remember that the new Members ought to be fairly distributed over the country. He regretted he could not agree to the Motion.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. KEKEWICH
said, he had given notice of a clause for enabling non-resident electors in counties to vote by voting papers. Not wishing to interfere with 1213 the progress of the Bill, he would defer his proposal to the bringing up of the Report.
§ MR. MONK
said, he had given notice of a clause for separating the parish of Clifton from Bristol, in order to constitute it into a distinct borough returning a Member to Parliament. West Gloucestershire was treated with exceptional hardship, and had fewer representatives, compared with its wealth, population, and distinctive interests, than any other county or division of a county in England. In 1861 its population was 297,500. It must now be 310,000, yet it had only two Members for the county and one borough Member, while the county of Buckingham, with a population of 168,000, though it lost one of its Members under this Bill, would still have eight Members. He would not press his Motion, but he hoped the hon. and learned Attorney General, who had admitted the claims of the county, would endeavour to obtain some redress from the Government.
§ Clause withdrawn.
In making the Motion which stands next on the Paper in my name, I will not repeat the phrase used by every Member of his unwillingness to delay the progress of this Bill, but I will prove my intentions by my deeds, and will not trespass on the time and attention of the Committee beyond the limits which necessity appears absolutely to demand. The case of South Lancashire is one which, in respect to county representation, stands altogether alone. The proposition I wish to make out is that South Lancashire is treated with gross injustice, so far as the county representation is concerned, and I will show how strong my case is before I close. Gentlemen on this side of the House are placed in a difficulty in reference to the whole subject of re-distribution. There are two opinions which appear to divide the mind of the majority of the Committee in connection with this question, and I shall endeavour to show deference to those opinions. The first, which is entertained I believe to some extent on this side, but most widely by hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that the scheme of re-distribution propounded by Her Majesty's Government is on the whole sufficient in extent. The second of those opinions, which prevails very generally on this side of the House, is that that scheme of re-distribution is 1214 palpably insufficient in extent. But under the circumstances in which we stand, we hold that there is no hope of our enlarging it so as to bring it up to the point of sufficiency, consequently we make, as it were, our protest, and then—I must say on my own part, not without great regret — adjourn the further consideration of the question to a future year. I say with great regret, because the two great and chief branches of the subject of Parliamentary Reform are—first, that which relates to the franchise, and next, that which relates to the distribution of Seats. There are no other subjects which can be compared in magnitude with these, and it is much to be desired that any measure which bears the name of a Parliamentary Reform Bill should in the main be satisfactory and adequate so far as those two branches of the question are concerned. The proceedings of this evening have, I think, tended to supply an additional illustration of the fact that we cannot hope to have a sufficient scheme of re-distribution embodied in the present Bill. I have, however, to the last clung to the hope that we might have such a scheme of re-distribution as might be generally acceptable and satisfactory; and seeing the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bedfordshire (Colonel Gilpin) now in his place, I may say I hope that the Amendment of which he has given notice may yet receive a favourable consideration. But, however that may be, I hold it to be my absolute duty to place my present proposal and its grounds before the Committee. It is but fair, before arriving at the conclusion that this subject must be dealt with again hereafter, and at an early date, at least to give the Government and the Committee the opportunity of removing what I think are the most glaring defects in this scheme. And here I beg to observe that I raise no question which puts me in conflict with any of the large towns—no question connected with the metropolis, or connected with any portion of the town representation. I proceed at present on the principle laid down by Her Majesty's Government, that we are to consider the population of counties, and are to award an increase of Members to counties having some reference to that population; and then I say that you may consider a Motion such as mine upon either of two grounds. If you ask me how I should desire to obtain seats to satisfy in some partial degree the claims of South Lancashire, I should reply at 1215 once, "By taking them from the small boroughs." I would not deprive any one of the counties of any of the Members whom the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give them; but if he rigidly declines to take seats from the small boroughs, then I am compelled to show him that on his own principles, in endeavouring to redress the unequal state of the representation as between boroughs and counties of which he has repeatedly spoken, while he gives twenty-five additional seats to the counties, he treats South Lancashire with the greatest inequality and injustice in awarding it only one of those twenty-five Members. The principle which the right hon. Gentleman has often laid down is that the distinction he draws is not drawn between one class of counties and another, but between counties and towns. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly justified in saying that in dealing with our whole institutions under complicated circumstances, we must not look for the production of a model of political symmetry; but, admitting these considerations fully to apply very fairly to what is old, let us have some regard to equality in dealing with that which is new, and which we ourselves are about to introduce. How far, then, does this scheme of the Government proceed upon the principles of equality? If twenty-five seats are to be given to counties, I contend that, upon every principle of justice, South Lancashire is entitled to a larger number of representatives than under this scheme she is to receive. What is the state of the representation of South Lancashire now? I state the case under great disadvantages when I go back for a period of six years. But in 1861, independently of the represented towns, the population of South Lancashire was 627,000, and the number of Members returned three, giving an average of 209,000 persons for each Member. To that state of things the right hon. Gentleman proposes to apply a remedy. He proposes to give South Lancashire—taking out Staleybridge—with its 607,000 inhabitants, four Members, or one Member for every 152,000. Now, let us see whether the Government, in doing this, act upon anything like the rule which they mean to apply to other portions of that homogeneous population which exists in the counties outside the boroughs. 152,000, according to the standard of 1861, is the number to be allowed in South Lancashire for a single Member. I may be told that in dealing with this, I should not confine 1216 myself to population only; but I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by entering into questions of rating and the income under Schedules A and D, which would strengthen my case. I take my stand upon population alone for the sake of brevity, and that I may indicate by my acts that I am averse from any unnecessary expenditure of time. The progressive element is one which, however, ought not to be left out of consideration when comparing counties like Lancashire with others which are stationary or declining, which is the case with some of those which I am about to mention. Judging by the past five or six years years, the population of South Lancashire will in 1871 amount to 758,000 persons. It will have four Members—that is to say an average of 189,000 persons for each Member, or very nearly as large a population as that, the anomalies of which the right hon. Gentleman now proposes in some degree to modify. Taking six counties with which he intends to deal, let us see how the matter stands. In Devonshire it is proposed to give one Member to 61,000 persons; in Lincolnshire one to 56,000; in Norfolk one to 51,000; in Somersetshire one to 55,000; in Staffordshire one to 55,000; in East Surrey one to 52,000. I admit there are other counties unjustly dealt with as well as South Lancashire, but I want to know why is it that this new inequality to which I am adverting is to be created? We are repeatedly told that there are in the counties 11,000,000 people, and justice is claimed for them. But why should not justice be done to the parts of which those counties are made up? Do not call in South Lancashire to swell the total for the counties as against the boroughs, and then forget it when you are making a distribution of seats among the counties themselves, putting it off with such a modicum of representation as one Member for every 152,000 of a population which is growing, and in whose case the anomaly will be twice as great at the end of ten years as it is at the present moment. What I propose is that the mode of division suggested by the Government should be followed — that is to say that the county should be divided into two divisions. That I apprehend, is a mode of proceeding, which, whatever the number of representatives which may be created, ought, I think, to be adopted. To each of those divisions I ask that three Members should be given. The effect would be that a popu- 1217 lation of 607,000 would have six Members to represent it, so that there would be on an average 101,000 persons for each Member. I grant that this proposal is very fairly open to the remark that it is insufficient, and that it by no means removes the anomalies of which I complain, but only reduces or mitigates the evil. For not only in the case of the six counties to which I have alluded, but in that of the great majority of counties, the right hon. Gentleman asks us to allocate seats at the rate of one Member for 50,000 one for 55,000, one for 60,000—allocating in hardly any case a greater number than 60,000 to each Member. But I think it better to make a moderate claim which, if conceded now, may possibly settle the question rather than have the question re-opened in the course of a few years. At the same time, I make no complaint of the right hon. Gentleman for giving one Member to every 51,000 persons in Norfolk. I look upon that as a very fair arrangement. What I complain of is that he gives so much less to South Lancashire than to any other county with which he proposes to deal. I do not wish him to take a Member from Norfolk. What I want is that he should draw upon some of those boroughs which, though they may succeed in averting the blow at the present moment, are destined to a certain and an early doom. It is upon the grounds which I have stated that I have thought it my duty to lay before the Committee a salient and glaring case of inequality, not in our old system, but in the new scheme which the right hon. Gentleman proposes for our adoption. It is better, in my opinion, to take such a course than to pass these matters over in silence, reserving in our minds the intention of raising such questions anew, and at a very early period. I have not deemed it right to occupy much of the time of the Committee in making a proposal which I urge upon their attention, not as one for compassionate consideration, but as one which is in fact much within what strict justice warrants. Having done that I leave the matter in the hands of the Committee, because it is as far as possible from my inten-tention to seek to enter into a protracted contest for objects which I must admit to be limited and partial. For if we cannot obtain justice in the re-distribution of seats, the next best thing, in my opinion, is to adjourn the matter to a future and in all probability an early day, and expedite 1218 as far as we can the passing of a measure which, undoubtedly, contains provisions of vast importance to the country.
Moved to insert the following clause:—
That the southern division of the county of Lancaster be divided into two divisions, and that each division be represented by three Members."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
said, he thanked his right hon. Colleague for the able manner in which he had brought forward the case of the county. He could not say, so far as Lancashire was concerned, that the people were satisfied with the way in which they had been treated. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to have played with them. First, Salford was to have an additional Member; then he was taken away—then he was given back again. Then it was said that Manchester was to have a third Member. If there was any town that was entitled to have three Members Manchester was so entitled, but for himself he would have been better pleased if the new Member had been given to some new constituency. He had great difficulty how to make up his mind in voting on this subject. If his right hon. Colleague went to a division he should feel bound to support him.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had entered a general protest against the insufficiency of the Bill with respect to the re-distribution of seats; but it was impossible not to see that the Bill, as far as it went, dealt practically with the means which the Government had in their hands. The borough which he represented was the same in population and quite as good in intelligence as South Lancashire; and it would be easy to show that, when divided, each division ought to have three Members. Looking at the whole scheme of re-distribution, it must be admitted to be comparatively insignificant; but all that could be done now was to take advantage of opportunities like the present, and endeavour gradually to bring the representation nearer and nearer to a right standard. As the House seemed determined at present to disfranchise only a comparatively small number of places, he, for one, was quite content to see the Bill passed in its existing shape, reserving the question of further re-distribution, to be dealt with in another measure, which would probably satisfy reasonable expectations by an arrangement more 1219 in accordance with the population and intelligence of the various parts of the kingdom. With the means at his disposal the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not meet all the just claims that would be made on him. There was no doubt that the present scheme was an inadequate one. Half the borough population of England had at present thirty-two Members. The other half had 270 or 280, and the half which had the lesser number was the one most rapidly increasing in influence and wealth. The only answer to the demand of the large boroughs for a fair representation was that their inhabitants had at present a great indirect influence over the smaller boroughs. It was said, and truly said, that men from the great cities went to the small towns, bought them, took possession of them, and did with them as they pleased. An electioneering agent from one of these small boroughs, where there was not amongst the inhabitants any person of intelligence or wealth sufficient to qualify him for the candidature, came up to London to look for a candidate. If he could not find one there—if his terms were too high, he went to Manchester. If he could not find one at Manchester he was sure to find one at Liverpool. The man who, if he represented some constituency where he felt he would be watched by those who had known him all his life, and whose good opinion he valued, would make a valuable Member, was a most mischievous representative when returned for a constituency to whose interests he was indifferent. The fact was that the present system of distribution was the result of years of Court intrigue, and would take years to settle on a proper foundation. An excellent attempt to attain this desirable end was made by Parliament after its great triumph over kingly usurpation. But that Act of Settlement had been repealed by the wretched Parliament which assembled under Richard Cromwell. He was glad his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire had placed on record a protest against this state of things being accepted as finally settled, and was also glad to hear that his right hon. Friend would not only allow the Bill to pass without obstruction, but would do all he could to facilitate its progress.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that as his right hon. Friend had called attention to the representation of South Lancashire, he wished to direct notice to the northern division of the 1220 county, which contained a population of about 500,000, 374,000 of whom were persons living outside the represented boroughs of the county. He admitted that the modicum of representation allotted to the northern was not so insignificant as that extended to the southern division. Nevertheless, the electors in the northern division were only given one Member to every 90,000 persons. This was not only one of the largest and most important, but one of the most progressive constituencies in the country. What was the new scheme of representation proposed for it? Two Members were taken away from one borough in it, Lancaster, and two additional Members were given to the county and another to Manchester. The constituency would gain one Member. He thought that as far as the county of Lancaster was concerned there was great reason to complain of the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were in this district no less than five towns, maufacturing groups, which had petitioned Parliament for representation. Their claims had been placed before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had promised to give the case his best attention, which he supposed he had done. Collectively they had a claim to a greater measure of consideration than they appeared to have yet received in this Bill. He should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman before they went to a division on this Motion that he was prepared to reconsider the case, and, even at this advanced stage, to give a more extended measure of justice to the county. It would give him still greater satisfaction if the Government were to withdraw this portion of their Reform scheme altogether, and postpone it till next Session. He had seen a calculation made that if England and Wales were equally divided in area, taking either population or property, and not including the metropolis, the northern division would be found under represented by sixty Members. Twenty have been taken from the south and given to the north, but still the south had forty in excess of the north. A scheme which allowed so great a discrepancy to remain was not likely to be either a final or a satisfactory settlement. He had no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they considered the democratic franchise given by this Bill, took some comfort from the extremely Conservative character of the re-distribution. But he did not think experience would give them reason to 1221 congratulate themselves long on that point. Many of them now believed that if they had consented to a moderate Reform some years ago they would not have been called on to pass such a measure as this, and so if they would now agree to a more fair re-distribution, and postpone the matter till next Session, a sweeping and more extensive change, such as was probably anticipated by hon. Members below the gangway, would be prevented for a number of years. He hoped that the case of Lancashire and Yorkshire would even in this Bill be more favourably considered by Her Majesty's Government.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the right hon. Gentleman has brought the claims of his constituents before us in a very fair spirit. I see no reason to complain of the case he has placed before the Committee. If the question had to be settled on arithmetical calculations, and on considerations of political symmetry, his proposal would deserve grave consideration, if not acceptance. But we are not here constructing a new system of representation for this ancient and powerful kingdom. Having resolved to improve the representation of the people as regards the franchise and re-distribution of seats, we are taking steps which we think will effect that object — measures which we believe we can carry, and which will secure, as far as they go, the purpose we have in view. Something has been said as to the insignificant nature of our proposals with respect to re-distribution. I do not think they are insignificant. I think that if you consider this question in the proper light and spirit as to the conception and execution of this scheme, for which the House is responsible as well as the Government, and for the merits of which I claim no more share than we are fairly entitled to from having sedulously endeavoured to perform and fulfil all that was prudent and practicable, that we may regard this scheme with fair self-congratulation. With regard to the county representation in which there are irregularities which have been acknowledged for years, you are about to effect a vast improvement, and yet, while you effect a great change, it is carried without any of the acerbity of political passion—it is not the result of a conflict in which a triumph of party has obtained some great end; but it is a conclusion arrived at by the honest conviction of the House of Commons. It is no mean change. Additional representation affecting twenty-six of our 1222 counties is not a mean change. It is one which will give a new feature to our Parliamentary representation, and will, I think, give general satisfaction to the country. There is a powerful party, I believe a majority in this House, who think that the great towns should have an increased representation. I have expressed my views and those of my Colleagues on that subject. We would rather have distributed the means at our disposal than have aggregated and accumulated them in particular cases, but there has been a strong opinion expressed on the other side, and we have, to a certain extent, deferred to that opinion. With regard to the representation of new communities, it cannot be denied that no slight proportion of new communities are now called into direct Parliamentary existence. These appear to me considerable results. It is very well for us to disparage our own labours. It is a habit with the House of Commons. It is very easy to appeal to an impending future which will be wiser than ourselves, and the hon. Member for Brighton is always ready to cheer that sentiment. But what we have done I believe to have been practical, prudent and not deficient in sagacity; and that it will obtain the confidence of the country. But now, applying ourselves to the case before us, the right hon. Gentleman complains that I have rigidly declined the further disfranchisement of small boroughs. I do not think I have shown any blamable rigidity on that subject. The original plan of the Government was moderate; but, I believe, it was then the utmost we could safely propose to the House of Commons, looking to its practical character, and the chance of its passing this House. The House took the subject up and laid down its own principle. It was carried by a large majority. What did the Government do? We honestly and sincerely adopted the decision of the House: and we acted upon it. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is scarcely just in imputing to me that I rigidly declined to avail myself of the resources that might have come from that quarter. But he says South Lancashire has been treated with inequality and injustice: the House had to deal with forty-five seats, and Lancashire has received eight of these. Is that treating Lancashire with inequality and injustice? It is very true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that we are only giving one additional Member to the county representation of South Lancashire, 1223 and that the population and wealth of that county are greater, with one exception, than those of any other county in the kingdom. But the right hon. Gentleman must recollect that there are other things to be considered besides the mere population and wealth of a particular district. He should recollect too, that the representation of South Lancashire has been increased within the last few years, and that we are now about to give it an additional Member. But, in addition to that increase in the county representation, the right hon. Gentleman must recollect that, in settling this question of the re-distribution of seats, however much may be the discontent felt that the county of Lancaster has not a greater proportion of Members, still there must be taken into account, in order to consider the question fairly, that the boroughs of the division are to receive increased representation. Liverpool is to receive a new Member. Manchester is to receive a new Member. The same is to be the case with Salford. Burnley, and Staleybridge are to be separately enfranchised. The northern division of the county is also to have its representation increased. These five additional Members added to the two additional Members given to the northern division and the one to the southern division of the county make eight additional Members that have been added to the representation of Lancashire. This addition to the representation of that county may not be equal to the claims it puts forward; but it is, at all events, sufficient to render it absurd to say that it has been treated with neglect. The other night, an hon. Member complained in like manner that the county of York had been neglected, when, in truth, it had received five additional Members. We cannot divide the whole forty-five seats at our disposal between these two counties. It is all very well for hon. Members to come with fanciful programmes of this kind before the House, and to argue that, omitting the claims of the metropolis, the population and the wealth of the North of England are greater than those of the South. I think it very unwise to go into this sort of calculation at all, for if we are to omit the claims of the metropolis, on the same principle we must omit the claims for increased representation of the great boroughs containing so great a share of the population and wealth of the North. Therefore, the view of the noble Lord who has just spoken appears to me 1224 to be scarcely invested with that character of solidity which is necessary in Parliamentary discussion. So much, then, for the neglected claims of the county of Lancaster. But the right hon. Gentleman went further, and proceeded to contrast the numbers represented by the Member for South Lancashire with those represented by the Members of some four or five other considerable counties which he mentioned. I should never have thought of making such a contrast. It is not to be expected that in an ancient Constitution the representation can be arithmetically divided between the various populations. On such a subject our arrangements must necessarily be of a rough character, and our calculations and estimates hardly less so, although they may approximate to the principles of political justice. But let us apply this test—a test which is entitled to some weight in arriving at a decision upon the matter. Let us see what is the proportion of the population of Lancashire to its Members as compared with that of other counties. I find the number of Members who will represent the county and the boroughs of Lancashire under this Bill is thirty-two, each of whom will represent a population of 66,700. I think that it is fair, in argument, to take the representation of the county and the boroughs in that county together in estimating the proportion of the population to each Member. It is realizing the position taken by the right hon. Gentleman, although, perhaps, not in exactly the same way that he arrived at it. Having arrived at the proportion between the population and the representation of Lancashire, let us see what is the case in Middlesex. I repeat I have no desire to go into these calculations; but when the noble Lord who has just sat down talks of the neglected claims of Lancashire, I am compelled to test how far that charge is justifiable. Under this Bill the county of Middlesex will be represented by eighteen Members, each of whom will represent a population of 122,500. I hope I have shown the Committee some reasons which may induce them to pause before they disturb the scheme which Her Majesty's Government have brought forward, in the preparation of which they have been asisted by the House of Commons, and which the Committee of the House of Commons has virtually sanctioned. The noble Lord who last addressed us has talked of memorials which have been 1225 addressed to me by places in the division of the county which he represents claiming to be entitled to representation. I said I would consider those memorials, and I did consider them. What is the real state of the case as regards those communities? We have only forty-five seats at our disposal, and of those a considerable, but not an inadequate, number has been given, in accordance with the opinion of the great majority on both sides of the House, to the counties. We have also, in accordance with the opinion of the House, and in the spirit of conciliation and compromise, appropriated certain seats to increase the representation of the great towns, and with the remainder we have now for the first time given representation to those considerable communities which have arisen since the passing of the Reform Act of 1832. And now in courteous phrase the noble Lord would give the House to imagine that I had neglected the claims of the places to which he refers—namely, Accrington and Over Darwen, the first of which has a population of 13,817, and the the second, 14,327. With the limited means at our disposal and the great occasion there was to meet the claims of the counties, the great boroughs, and the new and thriving communities, we are now reproached with having neglected the claims of such places as Accrington and Over Darwen, which have a population of between 13,000 and 15,000, and we are threatened with a new agitation—probably a revolution when the new Parliament meets—because the claims of those places have been passed over. I do not really think that the North of England has any ground for complaint. I must remind the Committee that we cannot allow the whole of the new representation to be aggregated in one portion of the country. We must trim the ship according to circumstances. I have shown that the county of Lancaster will receive eight additional Members, the West Riding five, and Yorkshire six. Let it be recollected, also, that there are three places in the county of Durham which are not represented in the present Parliament which will now be represented for the first time, and that all this has been done with the limited means at our disposal, and I do not think it can be justly said that we have neglected the interests of the North of England in the scheme of re-distribution which we have laid before the Committee, or that we have treated it in a manner which deserves the 1226 reproaches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. I must, however, leave the matter in the hands of the Committee; but I call upon them to support Her Majesty's Government in the plan of distribution which has now been before them for some time, which they themselves have in a large degree fashioned, which they have virtually sanctioned, and which I hope in the month of July they will not disturb.
said, he would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, although he had only forty-five seats to deal with, he might have had any number he liked. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly treated the subject very "roughly" when, according to his own showing, a Member for Lancashire represented a population of 66,000, and a Member for Middlesex a population of more than 100,000, and yet there were eleven boroughs with a population under 5,000 returning each one Member to Parliament. There were also fifty-nine boroughs sending Members to the House with a population under 10,000. Here was an ample field for procuring additional Members. Did any Englishman suppose that such monstrous disproportions in the electoral system would be allowed to remain? An agitation must necessarily take place next year from the outraged feelings of Englishmen on this subject, although, for himself, he could have wished the Bill had given a prospect of peace for at least one generation.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he intended to vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire if he went to a division. Though he should not himself have selected Lancashire as the county that stood most in need of additional representatives, yet, as it appeared to him that the real question was as to the proportion of Members to be allotted to the counties as compared with the boroughs, he should vote for increasing the number of county Members. At the same time he did not think this could be a settlement of the question. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer took credit for the justice done to the counties, he reminded him that it was the act of the House to add the extra Members to the counties, by carrying the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) against the Government. He felt more grateful to the House than to the Government, but he did not think they had done enough. They had 1227 gone so far to extend household suffrage that there ought to be more county Members; but the question was one too large to raise in the present state of the Committee.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
moved the following clause:—That any person possessing a freehold, copyhold, or leasehold qualification within the Parliamentary boundary of any Borough, and residing within seven miles thereof, shall be entitled to be registered as a Voter for such Borough, if he shall so prefer, and to vote at the Election of a Member or Members to serve in Parliament for such Borough, in respect of such qualification, instead of for the County in which such Borough is situated.He said that a somewhat similar proposal had been brought forward a few days ago, but it was objected to that clause that it was a disfranchising measure. The present clause, however, was free from that objection. Indeed it was altogether an enfranchising proposal, as it gave the voters the option of being upon the borough or the county list.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
said, that the clause was so much like one he had proposed, that he could not do otherwise than support it. The only divergence from his own was in the introduction of the words "if he shall so prefer." He appealed to Scotch and Irish Members to aid in extending to England a privilege enjoyed in Scotland and Ireland.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he hoped the Government would not assent to so mischievous a proposal, which would enable a few persons to manipulate a constituency in a manner that might amount almost to corruption. It was an extravagant idea to think of leaving the constitution of a constituency to be determined by a few electors.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that the clause was in its main provisions one that the Committee had already disposed of, and the Government could not fairly attempt to rescind the decision the Committee had come to. The Government had attempted to make a distinction with respect to freeholders, but the proposal was rejected by the Committee.
§ Clause negatived.
moved the insertion of the following clause:—At every contested election of a Knight or Knights to serve in any future Parliament for any County, or for any Riding, parts or division of a 1228 County, the polling shall commence at eight o'clock in the forenoon of some day, not later than the fourth day, from the day fixed for the election, and be kept open until Five o'clock in the afternoon of such day at the principal place of election, and also at the several places appointed for taking polls, any statute to the contrary notwithstanding; and the sheriff shall before Four o'clock on the day so fixed for the election give notice at the principal place of election of the day when the said polling shall commence.The object of the clause was to lessen the expenses of county elections. At present it frequently happened that a number of arrangements were made and large expenses incurred at county elections in consequence of the doubt as to whether the election would be contested or not, and then, if there were no contest, those expenses were perfectly useless, and were merely so much money thrown away. If this clause were passed it would enable the sheriff to ascertain whether there would be a contest or not, and, if not, a large proportion of the election expenses might be spared.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I appeal to every Knight in the House whether the effect of the clause would not be to increase the expenses of county elections.
§ Clause negatived.
moved the following clause:—That the four Parliamentary Boroughs next above ten thousand inhabitants, according to the Census of 1861, now returning two Members each, shall only return one Member; and that Luton, Keighley, Barnsley, and St. Helens, shall each return one Member to serve in Parliament.He said, that nothing could be further from his intention than to impede the progress of the Bill. He proposed the clause in a spirit of conciliation, and hoped it would be accepted in the same spirit. It must be obvious to everybody that, in any scheme for the re-distribution of seats, or for amending the representation of the people, the claims of great and important rising localities deserved the fullest consideration as against other localities which had become of less importance, or which had totally changed from what they were when they were originally enfranchised. That principle had been acted upon by Her Majesty's Government, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed in the present Bill to enfranchise, among other towns, those of Luton, Keighley, Barnsley, and St. Helens. But, having afterwards to provide four other new seats, in accordance with the Motion of the hon. 1229 Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), the right hon. Gentleman subsequently — to the astonishment and, he believed, to the dissatisfaction of the House—announced his intention of not carrying out his original proposal so far as Luton and the other three towns named in the present Motion were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman assigned no reason for that course; and the feeling of the House was that those four towns were most unfairly treated, especially in the absence of the amended population Return necessary to enable the Committee to form a correet judgment in the matter. It could not be expected that large towns would be satisfied without representation, while small and insignificant places returned two Members each; and he hoped the Committee would find a mode of providing the four seats required by the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, other than that of taking them from the source indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. One mode by which this might be accomplished was the disfranchisement of four smaller boroughs; but there was an understanding that no disfranchisement was to be effected by the present Bill. A second proposal was that made by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), to obtain seats by the grouping of small boroughs; but it was one thing to group small towns for enfranchisement, and quite another thing to group towns which had long possessed independent representation. While the first course might be attended with utility and convenience, the second could lead only to jealousy and dissatisfaction. The third proposal was that which he now made—namely, that the four constituencies, next above 10,000 in 1861, returning two Members, should return only one Member. He did not think any one could say this was an unreasonable proposal, and its adoption would give considerable satisfaction to the country, and do something towards making the present re-distribution a permanent arrangement. He begged to move the clause of which he had given Notice, and which he submitted to the Committee in a spirit of compromise, and with a view to facilitate the progress of the Bill.
(That the four Parliamentary Boroughs next above ten thousand inhabitants, according to the Census of 1861, now returning two Members each, shall only return one Member; and that Luton, Keighley, Barnsley, and St. Helens, shall
each return one Member to serve in Parliament,)—(Colonel Gilpin,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, that, as representing one of the four towns (Tiverton) which, would be partially disfranchised if this clause were carried, he felt it his duty to resist the clause to the utmost of his power, in the interest of his constituents. It was a good and sound principle that there should be no disfranchisement, either total or partial, of any borough, unless it were clearly made out to be necessary for the good of the whole country, and to be done for a purpose which was, in itself, so useful, wholesome, and essential as to counteract the evil of even partially depriving any place of the privileges it now possessed. With regard to the borough of Tiverton, one of the four boroughs which came within the scope of the Motion, he thought the fact of its having for thirty years returned Lord Palmerston to Parliament was sufficient of itself to entitle it to some respect. He might say the same of the borough of Tamworth, in connection with the name of another great Leader of this House, which would be in the same predicament as Tiverton if this clause were carried. The question of re-distribution had been carried to great lengths since last Session, and seemed generally to be based upon mere numerical considerations, such as the number of voters which a certain place did or might produce. He had always protested against that view; and he contended that, unless a very strong affirmative case indeed were made out for the enfranchisement of some other place, it would be wrong to disfranchise any borough already represented in Parliament, and that such disfranchisement would be reckless, premature, and useless. The four boroughs which would be partially disfranchised if this clause were adopted were Tiverton, Tamworth, Warwick, and Barnstaple. What were the four places for which that partial disfranchisement was to take effect? The first was Luton; and, in order to make that into a Parliamentary borough, it was proposed to take two small towns—Luton and Dunstable—which were four or five miles apart, and neither of them, he believed, having an urban population nearly so large as Tiverton, and to club them together, with the agricultural district around, in order to make one borough. It was contended that separate and independent interests, not yet represented in Parliament, should be so repre- 1231 sented; and what was the separate and independent interest of Luton and Dunstable? Simply the plaiting of straw for the manufacture of straw bonnets, which was carried on in agricultural cottages by large numbers of women and children. One argument which he would urge in favour of the borough of Tiverton was an argument which affected the pocket. In many boroughs a contested election cost thousands of pounds. But in Tiverton—and this certainly was a consideration worth notice—election expenses were exceedingly small. When he contested that borough with his hon. Colleague who sat opposite at the last General Election, that hon. Gentleman's expenses only amounted to £310, he having to carry on the fight single-handed, while his (Mr. Denman's) expenses were only £182. As regarded Tiverton, Tamworth, and Warwick, they had acquired a character for independence and honesty which did not belong to a great many larger boroughs in the kingdom. It appeared to him that, upon this question of disfranchisement, they should not look alone to population, but rather to respectability of character, and to the distinctive character which they might possess in the county in which they were situated. When a borough had acquired a character for honesty and integrity, the proposal to deprive it of its franchise was unjustifiable. The new borough of Luton and Dunstable might come in time to bear an equally high character, though it was dangerously near to St. Albans, whose character did not stand by any means high. In considering such a proposal they were bound to look, not only at population and character, but at the qualifications of the place itself. Tiverton was the only manufacturing town west of Bristol, while some of the new boroughs had none of the qualities or elements which fitted them for returning a Member. Such places as Keighley and St. Helens had no distinctive character of their own, and were mere agglomerations of brick and mortar and steam-engines, while Barnsley was a mere repetition of Sheffield on a small scale, and at no great distance. The case of Croydon, with its 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants, which was originally proposed for enfranchisement, was an infinitely stronger case than the two little towns of Luton and Dunstable. The Bill would double the constituency of Tiverton, and the new portion to be added to it was as fit to exercise the franchise as the in- 1232 habitants of any place in the kingdom. He hoped the House would not consent to the Motion brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member for the benefit of his awn county. Tamworth, Warwick, and Barnstaple were also interested in this question, and had equal claims to their consideration. He should not refer further to them because he knew that those Members who now represented them would be desirous of advocating their claims. He hoped the Committee would not entertain the Motion.
§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
said, he objected to the clause on the ground that as the Committee had deliberately decided that boroughs of less than 10,000 inhabitants should return only one Member, it was inexpedient arbitrarily to take four other boroughs having a greater population than 10,000 and to treat them as if they had less. If the Committee wished to fix on some other number of inhabitants, such as 12,000, let it be done. But whatever course was adopted he hoped it would be in accordance with some definite principle. The success of the Motion would practically upset the whole of the scheme.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, that if the right hon. Member (Mr. Baillie) would propose to give one Member only to boroughs of less than 12,000 population he would vote for him; and he would vote for the hon. and gallant Member's clause because he believed he wished to obtain his object with as little disturbance as possible, and because much was said in favour of his proposal on its merits. There were strong reasons why those four boroughs, Tiverton, Tamworth, Barnstaple, and Warwick, should be included in the list of places which were entitled only to return one Member. Tiverton, Tamworth, and Warwick only contained populations of over 10,000 each by excessive area, the area of Tiverton being twenty-seven square miles, Tamworth seventeen square miles, and Warwick seven square miles. None of them were rapidly-increasing places; the increase of population in Tiverton since the Reform Act having been only 7 per cent, that of Warwick and Barnstaple 16 per cent. Another argument was that those boroughs were situate in counties already over represented, there being in Devonshire six Members, being one Member to every 28,000 of the population, and in Warwickshire, one Member to every 25,000 of the population. If those counties were com- 1233 pared with those from which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to take away Members it would be found that in South Lancashire, for example, there was one Member to a population of 89,000, and in the West Riding of Yorkshire one Member to every 68,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated the other evening, in answer to a complaint which he (Lord Frederick Cavendish) had preferred on behalf of his constituency, that he proposed to give to that constituency five Members, but those who cheered the statement should remember that whilst the right hon. Gentleman gave five Members with the one hand he took away four with the other. The borough representation of Yorkshire was, in fact, to be diminished, in order that the Government might obtain from the West Riding of Yorkshire, in defiance of all geographical considerations, an agricultural constituency. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that questions of re-distribution should be considered with respect to the whole district concerned. The claims of Keighley to representation were great. Worsted manufactories, which were scarcely known in 1832, had their chief place in Keighley, and formed the third great trade in the kingdom. The export of worsted manufactures came second only to the export of cotton and iron, and ran closely on the heels of those, yet no trade was so inadequately represented as the worsted. He knew of only one good reason for rejecting the clause; that was that, as the Government scheme was so very inadequate to the circumstances of the case, it would be better to leave it with all its blemishes to excite the amending propensities of a new Parliament.
§ MR. WALROND
said, he was afraid he had listened hitherto with too much complacency and too little commiseration to the appeals of hon. Members whose constituencies were in danger of losing a representative. But he had not then thought that any hon. Members would be offered in sacrifice to Moloch, much less that the officiating priest on the occasion would rise from a seat beside him. This proposal, coming as it did from his own side, would meet with greater rather than less opposition from him on that account, because it was always the more to be regretted when one's foes were found among the members of one's own household. The proposal made by his hon. and gallant Friend was founded upon no prin 1234 -ciple at all, or if there were any principle in it it was at best but a meretricious and distorted one, because it disturbed the settlement of the question at which the Committee had determined on a former occasion. His hon. and gallant Friend agreed to the limit of 10,000 in all cases, excepting four. Those four he took from the boroughs bordering most closely on the limit. The result of that invidious proposal would be particularly disastrous to the boroughs remaining on the frontier. They would inevitably be regarded as victims to be sacrificed to any constituency whose claims to additional representation could find a sufficiently pertinacious and clamorous advocate. He had been in hopes that they had escaped from the barbarism of former days, which delighted in projects of disfranchisement. The Government had given up the dual vote—had given a lodger franchise—then do not let Gentlemen on either side of the House ask for more. He had always been in favour of acting in a spirit of compromise, and the whole of the conduct of the Government, from the first day of the Session until that moment, had been dictated by that spirit. By the concession so made, the Opposition had been considerable gainers, he thought, therefore, he might fairly appeal to their generosity. If they had been extortionate hitherto, he trusted that they would not also be unfair and dishonest, and unsettle an arrangement when it had been effected. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee would not agree to the Amendment proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he regretted that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not contented himself with moving the first portion only of the Amendment, leaving the settlement of the means to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or, as the right hon. Gentleman would probably have expressed it, to the wisdom of Parliament and the liberality of the Sovereign. The claims of three Northern boroughs had been well supported, and he, therefore, only proposed to refer to the Southern boroughs. The appeal to which they had listened that evening from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) might be taken as a fair sample for the appeals made by the Members for the moribund boroughs. His hon. and learned Friend's comparisons, however, were scarcely correct; for the fact was that the population of Tiverton was 1235 rather less than half of that contained in the town of Luton alone. In point of magnitude and importance, too, the lace trade at Tiverton would bear no comparison with the straw trade at Luton. The straw-plait trade had no representative in that House. Why should that trade be denied a representative more than the worsted, or cotton, or any other trade? It was said that the straw-plait trade was mostly carried on by women. But if that were an objection, what would become of the argument of the hon. Member for Westminster? There was no town, the enfranchisement of which had been proposed, the population of which between 1851 and 1861 had increased so rapidly as that of Luton. That it afforded employment to a great many women who were enabled to earn livelihoods without working in vitiated atmospheres or neglecting their domestic duties was an argument rather in favour than against conferring representation upon a place where such a trade existed. He thought that the proposal to give a Member to a borough of this kind, and thus secure for an important trade a voice in the Legislature was a sound one, and as such he should support it.
MR. J. PEEL
said, he wished to say in favour of Tamworth that it was a rising borough with varied interests. It had a considerable cotton manufacture, a large earthenware manufacture, and an important seed-crushing establishment; while the farmers in its neighbourhood were the most intelligent in the kingdom. His constituents would be unwilling to stand in the way of any large scheme for the re-distribution of seats, but would feel justly aggrieved at being deprived of one of their Members in order to facilitate fancy additions being made to the Government scheme. The town from its historical associations, also, was entitled to some consideration at the hands of the Commitee. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not allow the arrangement he had made to be disturbed.
§ MR. REPTON
said, he hoped the Committee would not entertain the proposal. The northern division of Warwickshire was represented by six Members, and an additional one had been given to Birmingham, making seven. The southern division possessed only four Members, two for the division and two for the borough of Warwick, and yet those four Members were to be reduced to three. He objected to a large agricultural district like the 1236 borough of Warwick being deprived of one of its Members in order that Luton might return a Member to Parliament.
§ MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
said, that the case of St. Helens had been placed in his hands. St. Helens contained an area of nine square miles, with a population of 41,000. Its rateable value was £140,000. Half the glass that was made in England was manufactured at St. Helens. The manufacture of glass and the coal raised in the district was of the annual value of £3,000,000. That showed that the demand made for St. Helens was not an absurd one.
§ MR. A. PEEL
said, that it had never been proposed in any Reform Bill up to the present time to reduce the representation of Warwick, neither was such reduction proposed in the original scheme of Her Majesty's Government. He had reason to complain that it was now sought to deprive it of one Member for the purpose of carrying into effect a piecemeal and fragmentary plan of re-distribution. What was the principle upon which it was sought to take away one of the Members from Warwick? The hon. and gallant Member, to gratify a statistical crotchet, proposed to deprive the borough of one of its Members simply because its population happened to be between 10,000 and 12,000, totally regardless of its claims in other respects. He complained that the hon. and gallant Member for Bedfordshire endeavoured to obtain representation for the four towns named at the expense of a principle. The Committee had decided to disfranchise below 10,000 to the extent of one Member. If the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member were adopted, the House of Commons would shortly have to consider whether they were not bound to restore the Member it was now proposed to take away. The borough was not a decaying town. It was a nourishing and increasing one, and in its immediate neighbourhood was the large town of Leamington. Should the Boundary Commissioners take it into their heads to include that town in the borough of Warwick, the very act it was now sought to do would have to be undone. Warwick might have 22,000 persons added to it. He hoped, therefore, that, pending the action of the Boundary Commissioners, a Member would not be taken away from it. As a resident in Bedfordshire he shared in the wish to see the straw plait capital represented; but he would appeal to the Committee whether it would not be fairer to 1237 go down to the bottom of the list and disfranchise the four boroughs with the smallest population, than to reduce the representation of places with between 10,000 and 12,000 inhabitants, after having adopted 10,000 as the standard of disfranchisement? He wished to take the sense of the Committee upon an Amendment that Arundel, Ashburton, Honiton, and Lyme Regis, having a less population at the Census of 1861 than 4,000, should cease to return Members, and that the seats should be given to St. Helens, Barnsley, Keighley, and Luton.
§ MR. H. BEAUMONT
said, he thought Barnsley had been unfairly treated. It was not the smallest of the boroughs proposed for disfranchisement, Darlington, for instance, having 16,000 inhabitants, whereas Barnsley and its contiguous parishes had 30,000, its gross estimated rental being £133,000, and its rateable value £109,000. Its population had increased 10 per cent in ten years. It was the principal seat of the linen manufacture in the North of England; and without prejudice to Rotherham and Doncaster, whose claims he intended to urge, he thought that, having been promised a Member, it was entitled to prior consideration. Barnsley, having been placed in the Schedule by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had a right to be considered before all other places. It was the duty of hon. Members to look after their own districts; and he expressed a hope that the Committee would not sanction the course pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not wonder at Torquay being disappointed, for its constituency would have consisted of old maids and consumptive patients, and would have changed every year. But Barnsley was entitled to better treatment than to be promised a Member, and then to have him taken away. It was like putting up a junior Cabinet Minister, and then knocking him down.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he believed that many Members who voted against his Amendment, disfranchising places with less than 5,000 inhabitants, had since repented, for these trumpery boroughs would not then have been left as a blot on the Statute book. As for Honiton, he thought one of the first acts of a reformed Parliament would be to ex- 1238 ecute justice upon that borough. He regarded Luton as entitled to enfranchisement, though not so much so as Gosport, and he should therefore vote for the clause. He knew nothing about Warwick and Tamworth, but Barnstaple and Tiverton were in Devonshire, which had too many Members, and each returned both a Liberal and a Conservative, so that they were really not represented at all. If one Member was taken away the opinion of the boroughs would be expressed in the House. What effect, however, could the opinion of Tiverton have on the Government of this country? He should support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Bedfordshire, because, as the House would not disfranchise, the natural principle was that requiring seats they should go for them to boroughs represented by two Members. He hoped they would go much higher than was now proposed, and take away one Member from many places which might be with advantage so dealt with.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he deprecated the partial disfranchisement of Warwick, the county, with its population of between 450,000 and 500,000, not being over-represented. When Lord Palmerston represented Tiverton, he represented the majority of the country, and when Sir Robert Peel represented Tamworth he represented the majority in that House. He could not understand on what principle this Motion was made, unless it was anxiety on the part of the hon. and gallant Member to obtain a borough for the agricultural county of Bedford. More than one Reform Bill had proposed to give a Member to Leamington, and the Boundary Commissioners would doubtless recommend that Leamington should be included in the Parliamentary borough of Warwick. If any borough ought to be spared, it should be one with so large and increasing a population in its neighbourhood. The House had come to a decision which had induced the Government to abandon the four boroughs that they once proposed to enfranchise, and this was only an attempt to resuscitate the claim. Unless the Committee were prepared to go further in the extension of household suffrage than it had already done, it ought to reject this proposal. He should certainly vote against the clause.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Perhaps the Committee will indulge me with permission to say a few words, as I have had the honour for the last seventeen years to re- 1239 present one of the boroughs which are affected by the Resolution before the Committee. I very much agree with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). For no reason or principle that I can understand is the town of Luton to be one of those which are to be elevated to the rank and dignity of returning a Member to the House in the place of the borough which I represent, I have received numerous communications, like the hon. Member, urging me to support the claims of Luton, but I never read a memorandum or memorial which contained less of force, of which would less induce me, even if my borough were not affected, to give representation to a place like Luton. I venture to say there are not twenty people in this House who ever heard of the town of Luton. I understand it is in the county of Bedford. I have seen straw bonnets which have been made there, but to tell me that Luton is worthy to return a Member to this House is what no one can understand but the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Gilpin). The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke below the gangway (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) found fault with the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) because he said that as long as his own borough was spared he felt no commiseration for any other place that might be sacrificed. That, Sir, is not my feeling. I commiserate every borough that is affected, and they have a right to make their voice heard. The learned Serjeant asks what voice Tiverton has in the councils of this country? I am surprised, considering the illustrious connection of that borough with this House for fifty years, that any hon. Gentleman should have made such an observation as that. I have not troubled the House during the discussions on this Bill, because I have been most anxious to see it passed, if possible, during the present Session. This Bill gives the franchise to about 2,500 persons in the borough of Tamworth—that is to say, it gives votes to what would have been a very considerable constituency under the old régime. But I think that something is due and will be paid by this House to a constituency which for 100 years has been illustrious in the annals of Parliament. I recollect that during the long discussions on the Reform Bill of last year, one Gentleman whose borough was to be affected said, with an amount of assurance and limited self-sacrifice which I do not pretend to imitate, 1240 that he was prepared to consider the interest of his country at the sacrifice of his Colleague. Now, my hon. Friend and Colleague, who sits near me, represents independently, I am bound to say, the interests of the borough of Tamworth. On many occasions during the present Session my Colleague and I have voted in different lobbies. I speak for myself and my Colleague when I say that there are no two Members in this House who, during the last three or four years in which he has had the honour of a seat here, have endeavoured more conscientiously and honourably to perform their duties, and represent the interests of the country in all the matters that come before us. But that is only doing what every Gentleman in this House may have equally done, I therefore take no credit to ourselves on that account, nor do I allege it as a reason why we should be spared if any curtailment of the representation of Tamworth should be discussed. But what I do find fault with is the underhand and ungenerous manner in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman endeavours to disfranchise such boroughs as Tamworth and Warwick, and that he should seek to take a Member from each of those places in order to give them to Luton and other towns. I do not say one word against the character of Keighley, Barnsley, or St. Helens—I do not even know where Keighley is — but we are enfranchising so many places that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to put up a map in the lobby indicating localities that are to be affected by the Bill. These three places—of course I leave out Luton altogether—ought, perhaps, to be represented in this House. But I hope the Committee will pause before they accept the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and will at least consider the claims of boroughs which I and others represent to a continued representation in the House of Commons.
§ COLONEL STUART
said, he denied that there had been anything underhand in the clause proposed. Nearly all the additional borough Members were to be conferred upon places in the North. The only two exceptions were in the case of Gravesend and Luton. The latter place was now to be sarcastically remarked upon and to be sacrificed, after a Member had been promised to it, because it happened to be a manufacturing town not situated in the North of England, but in an agricultural county, with which, however, it was in 1241 no way connected by similarity of interests or pursuits. Luton was not only a rising place, but it had risen of late years to a very considerable degree. It had trebled itself in twenty-five years, and its rateable value had increased within the last seven or eight years from £45,000 to £55,000, If Members must be taken from boroughs, he maintained that they ought rather to be taken from places that were decaying than from those that were increasing. Now Tiverton was declining. [Mr. DENMAN: No!] Then the Parliamentary Return was not correct. At any rate the remark applied to Warwick. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] Barnstaple was in the same position, and it was only Tamworth that had slightly increased in population. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised that Luton and Barnsley should be represented; and he trusted that the expectations to which the promise had given rise would not be disappointed.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I wish to correct one statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, He alluded to a decrease of the population of the towns affected by this clause, and said that their population has not increased in the same ratio as that of Luton. Now that is not accurate as regards Tamworth. Its population has increased about 2,000; and if Tiverton or Warwick have decreased slightly within the last few years the Committee must recollect that the inhabitants of Luton are principally composed of women—I do not wish for a moment to cast any slur on the morality of Luton; I am sure the hon. and gallant Colonel knows Luton well—but when we have a population in Luton in which the women exceed the men in numbers, there cannot be any doubt, without inquiring further—and I should move for Returns as regards legitimacy and illegitimacy if this clause passed—there cannot, I say, be any doubt that if that town has increased in the manner which the hon. and gallant Gentleman states, it must have been attributable to causes over which he probably has no control.
§ COLONEL STUART
said, that the number of houses which had been built in Luton for the last twenty-one years showed that the town had not increased its population in the way which the right hon. Baronet supposed. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: They are all built of straw!] It was by the straw trade that the inhabitants gained an honest 1242 livelihood. The relative proportion of the sexes was now about equal.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I am sorry that some Member of Her Majesty's Government has not yet risen to state his views on this question. The Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Bedfordshire, or some Motion of a similar character, appears to me to be the necessary and inevitable consequence of the adoption by the Government the other night of the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) with respect to the large boroughs. The Government assented to that proposal, and that fact imposed on them the obligation of re-considering, to a certain extent, their plan for the re-distribution of seats. They at first said they must deprive Salford of the additional Member which had been promised to it. Some abjection having been made to that course, the Government agreed to Salford obtaining a second seat, and it having been decided that Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds should also each receive a third Member, the Government suggested that the names of four large new towns which they had proposed to enfranchise—namely, St. Helens, Keighley, Barnsley, and Luton, should be allowed to drop quietly out of the Schedules. What the Committee have now to determine is, whether they will follow that course, and thus disappoint the expectation of the four towns which the Government deemed to be fairly entitled to receive representation, or whether the means of fulfilling those expectations should not be found by carrying the principle of the disfranchisement of the small boroughs further than we have. For my own part, I must say I should much prefer that we should take four of the smallest class of boroughs, and absolutely disfranchise them, which I think would be a fairer mode of proceeding than that proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, who proposes to deprive four boroughs of their second seats. How can the Committee justify the retention of Members for places with only 2,000 or 3,000 residents? It would be better to provide the seats for the four rising towns—whose fair claims to representation the Government themselves have admitted—by entirely disfranchising an equal number of the smallest boroughs, whose continued existence, after this Bill has passed, must offer a vulnerable point of attack to those who may refuse to regard this measure as affecting a permanent settlement of this 1243 question. But one of the two plans should be adopted. St. Helens, containing a population of 40,000, Barnsley, and the other two towns contained in the original Schedules, are all places of importance, as seats of industry and as possessing large populations; and if you disappoint the hopes held out to them, not by the Motion of any private Member, but by the proposal of the Government itself, made, as we must suppose, after due consideration of all competing claims, you will be adopting a course which I believe will insure the renewal of agitation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to bring back the Committee to the practical consideration of the circumstances before us. We have had in the course of the evening to consider a question very analogous to the present, and I then ventured to say that we could not settle such questions with any close approximation to arithmetical precision or political symmetry. We have been discussing the question of Parliamentary Reform for many years. In the first Bill brought in there was an anxiety displayed to adapt the representation of the people generally to some arithmetical propriety; to adapt it to what was called by philosophers in the preceding century "the fitness of things." But places unknown then have since risen into importance. What, for instance, was the position of the town of Middlesborough when first this agitation was begun? But it is now a place more rapidly increasing in population and more distinguished by enter-prize than almost any community in the United Kingdom. If no margin had been left for rising places we now should feel, with respect to Middlesborough and similar places, great embarrassment. We therefore, at the present day, have practically endeavoured to make as good an arrangement as we could, and did not attempt to set up an idea which it might be almost impossible to accomplish, and which, if accomplished, would fail to realize what we wished to achieve. The Committee have arrived in the course of the discussions on this Bill at three decisions. First of all, not satisfied with the programme which we brought forward, they decided in a full House by a large majority that no borough with a population not exceeding 10,000 should be represented by more than one Member. They then came to the decision that no borough with a population not exceeding 5,000 1244 should be disfranchised. These were, I may say, the spontaneous Resolutions of the Committee, which served as two great starting points to guide us in the conduct of this measure. Again, contrary to the opinion of the Government, the Committee came virtually to a decision that there should be an increased representation of some great towns. That proposal was, it is true, rejected by a small majority; but many hon. Members supported the Government in that instance only because they thought the Motion would, if carried, lead to a great change. Still they entertained the opinion that some concession should be made to the claims of those great towns, and were prepared, to prevent further agitation, to support some moderate measure, as they ultimately did, to effect it. Those, then, were the three Resolutions to which the House of Commons virtually came, and which were to operate as a guide to the Government in the prosecution of their difficult task. An understanding was thus arrived at. And these understandings, instead of being ashamed of, I think we ought to regard as one of the most honourable characteristics of our public life, for without such understandings the public business could never be satisfactorily carried on. These three decisions accordingly were regarded by us as guides to aid us in passing this measure. Now, you ask us to deviate from a course upon which you yourselves voluntarily entered for the purpose of completing this measure. It is not for me to say that those four boroughs originally introduced into our Schedules have not claims to be represented in this House. There is, in fact, no end of such claims. But then you must consider the immense inconvenience which is likely to result and the disturbance which will ensue from abandoning the ground you yourselves have taken up. We are told that we shall have a great agitation if those towns are not represented in this House, the claims of which the Government not only sanctioned, but to which they themselves proposed that the privilege of being represented should be granted. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who has been a Secretary of State, and who is one of the most experienced Statesmen in the House, tells us that the rejection of the claims of Luton will lead to that result, and we ought, perhaps, to bow to his authority. I do not know whether he was a party to the 1245 first Reform Bill, but his political existence had at least its rise in that atmosphere of turbulence. If Luton not being represented will bring about a revolution, we must prepare ourselves for the emergency. But is it, I would ask, a thing novel that it should be proposed in this House, even by a Minister of State, that a place should be enfranchised whose claims to representation were not afterwards sanctioned by Parliament? What about Burnley, which is soon, I hope, to be represented in this House? Burnley was, if I am not mistaken, mentioned in the Bill of 1832, and in every Reform Bill which has since been introduced it has invariably been scheduled. But, although we have since 1832 had some disturbances in this country, and considerable discontent, I never heard that delay of justice to Burnley was the cause of such disaffection. The Chartist movement has never, so far as I am aware, been historically traced to the fact that Burnley, which was promised representation in 1832, and which had a similar promise given to it in five subsequent measures of Reform, is still unrepresented in the House of Commons. I trust, therefore, that the philosophic temperament of the people of Luton will lead them to forbear from meditating any such assault on the Constitution or the tranquillity of the Empire as that with which we are threatened. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that we are disappointing expectations that have been encouraged in a most authoritative way. I can only state that what we have done was done by our predecessors under similar circumstances. Having a certain number of seats, we have offered to the House that scheme which, on the whole, we believe to be the most advisable to adopt. Generally speaking, our views have not been disregarded; but in one or two instances they have not been adopted, consequently we have modified our Schedules, as our predecessors did. I do not under rate the claims to representation of those four boroughs, which I should have been glad to see enfranchised, as we originally proposed, instead of the course being adopted which the Committee have thought fit to pursue. But it seems to me a grave question whether, having by successive votes laid down certain arrangements as those which ought to be made, the Committee ought now, at the very end of the Session, to turn round and say, "We will disturb 1246 everything, instead of adhering to the principles which we have already decided." The adoption of such a course may lead, I would remind the Committee, to endless controversy, and have a very serious bearing on the fate of the measure. We may imagine that things are to be easily settled by making proposals in this House; but we must remember that no Bill of this kind can be passed without being subjected to the operation of many influences. The House of Commons alone cannot decide this Bill. You have laid down principles in accordance with which you say a satisfactory re-distribution of seats can be devised, and, when everybody is reconciled to the arrangement which you have made, are you capriciously at the last moment to turn round and to re-open the whole matter, thus taking a course which may lead to consequences which nobody can foretel? I do not think it worth while that for the purpose of giving representation to Luton and the other three towns, the Committee should deviate from the positions previously occupied, depart from the principles and unsettle the arrangements previously adopted.
I think that the Committee must have some difficulty in reconciling the modest proposal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Gilpin) with the inflamed description of it given by the right hon. Gentleman. It has been described as calculated to disturb principles already sanctioned, to lead to consequences not candidly expressed, and to imperil the fate of this great Bill; and all this to be done at the last moment. This description would be of great force and effect if it were fairly applicable to the case before us. But is not much of this really idle and empty sound? Let us look how the case stands, and, bringing the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman into definite shape, let us consider what he has really urged. In the first place, I think the argument about arithmetical propriety and political symmetry has been ridden rather hardly to-night. Whatever has been proposed—whatever claim has been urged—however it has been shown that upon the principles laid down and acted upon by the Government—this claim or that claim ought to have been admitted, we have been answered by the argument that we cannot attain to arithmetical propriety or political symmetry. That may or may not be true, but it is not a good answer to a case which rests upon substantial grounds. The right 1247 hon. Gentleman wishes it to be understood that in point of fact he is acting upon principles which the House of Commons has defined for him; that he has had no choice; that he has been merely giving effect to the will of the House, and that in his endeavour to do so he is thus interrupted and impeded. Is that a fail statement of the case? The right hon. Gentleman says we have a certain number of seats to be disposed of, and that we should only consider the best manner of disposing of them. The right hon. Gentleman, in his own exposition of his plan, laid down a principle diametrically opposed to that he has now announced. He distinctly told us that we should first find out what was the amount of the fair and just claims to enfranchisement, and then set about deciding the question of the manner in which the seats ought to be divided. Therefore, so far from endeavouring to force on the right hon. Gentleman a set of proposals, and then to induce him to deviate from them, we only ask him to proceed on the principle he has himself enounced—namely, that the just claims for enfranchisement should be ascertained first, and next the manner of providing the seats. The right hon. Gentleman says that the House of Commons arrived at three great decisions. First, that no town up to a population of 10,000 should return more than one Member; secondly, that no town under a population of 5,000 should be disfranchised; and, thirdly, that four great towns should receive an additional Member each. I demur to the whole of those propositions. In the first place, is it true that the House of Commons, in declaring that they would deprive all towns up to a population of 10,000, bound themselves under all the circumstances never to go beyond that point? In the next place, can it be sustained that when a majority voted that towns under a population of 5,000 should not be disfranchised, that that was a spontaneous action on the part of the House? Was not the whole influence of the Government used to bring about that decision? But, accepting the decision that all towns under a population of 5,000 should not be disfranchised, on what grounds does the right hon. Gentleman assert that none of them are to be disfranchised? Supposing we had arrived at the point indicated by the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate)—supposing that we had read this clause a second time—and then we were 1248 considering his proposal, that in lieu of taking four towns above 10,000 we should take four of the lowest of the towns below 5,000, would that be in contradiction of the Vote which the House has come to? ["Yes, Yes!"] Then, if it is a contradiction, why did you in contradiction to that Vote as to the six great towns recognize four of them? The right hon. Gentleman having obtained a Vote of the House to the effect that these six great towns should not have an additional Member, spontaneously gave four of them an additional Member. Now when a Motion is made which would require only four towns to lose a Member he says we are abandoning our previous decision, and it is impossible to entertain such a proposal. Now, I venture to submit with great confidence this proposition that, when the House accepted the proposal of giving an additional Member to the four great towns, it was not the meaning of the House that the four seats so obtained should be taken from the towns which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to Burnley, and asks how is it that it has never been enfranchised, although it was included in so many Bills? It was never enfranchised for the simple reason that no Bill which contained it has received the sanction of the Legislature. That town is not the case of a place in which the Government recognized the claim to representation and then withdrew it, not under pressure from the House of Commons, but in open contradiction to the principle it itself had announced. Let us then put away the rhetoric of the right hon. Gentleman. We do not say that Luton or the other towns mentioned in the Motion before the House will endanger the permanence of the plan of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to re-distribution. I think the right hon. Gentleman is under obligations to those who, like the hon. and gallant Member for Bedfordshire, endeavoured to introduce into the scheme of re-distribution those moderate extensions which some of us think will give it permanence and stability. We ask him, in conformity with what we believe to be the wish of the House of Commons, to fulfil, not our promise, but his, to act not upon our principle, but his own, and we are of opinion that in such a course he will find the greatest likelihood of giving permanence to the measure he has brought in.
said, that as some personal allusions had been made to him, 1249 he hoped the House would allow him to say a few words before it proceeded to a division. An hon. Member near him had stated that he was astonished at his bringing forward this Motion because he thought that he (Colonel Gilpin) belonged to his household. He could only say that he had been returned to Parliament as an independent Member, and that as such he had endeavoured to do his duty, and without wishing to give offence to anybody. The hon. Member for Warwick had said that it was bad taste on his part to have placed Luton at the head of the list. He (Colonel Gilpin) thought that was a very silly observation. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel) had thought proper to comment somewhat severely on his conduct, and stated that nobody ever heard of Luton but himself. He would remind the right hon. Baronet that he had not brought Luton prominently forward in that House. It was the proposal of the Government to enfranchise Luton, together with other large and important places. He felt he had only done his duty in bringing forward the proposal he had submitted to the House. In reply to the observation that nobody had ever heard of Luton, he would observe that the rateable property of that place had increased 50 per cent within the last five years. The trade of straw plaiting gave employment to upwards of 60,000 persons, and that nearly £2,000,000 were turned over in that business every year. An observation had been made which he regretted should have been uttered in that House. He did not understand the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) when he charged him with acting in an under hand manner They were not known to each other; but he was satisfied that those who did know him believed that he would not do an under hand action. He had given Notice of his clause; he did not know what more he could do. He could, therefore, only say that the right hon. Gentleman judged of him by himself. He would not make any comment on what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, further than to say that after his vacillating and inconsistent conduct on this Bill he was not at all surprised that he should now ridicule a proposal of his own a few nights ago.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."1250
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 224: Majority 29.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress: to sit again To-morrow at Two of the clock.