§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 9 (Certain Boroughs to return one Member only).
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, as the House had accepted by a large majority one part of his proposal, he rose now to offer to its consideration the second part. He confessed his sorrow that, owing to circumstances over which he had no control, and to which he need not further advert, the cart should have been put before the horse, and that by the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, to whom he should not further allude, the second part of his proposal should have been put as the first. The remainder of the proposal which he begged now to submit was—That every borough which had a less population than 5,000 at the last census shall cease to return any Member to serve in Parliament.The question was one which, though small in itself, was of importance in its position and the effect it would have on the Bill. The effect would be that ten boroughs, part of them already mulcted, returning fifteen Members in the whole, but now, after the diminution made by the House, for the future to return only ten, should be disfranchised. When he mentioned the fact that those ten boroughs contained a population of only 39,704 persons, with 2,874 voters, it would hardly be believed that an anomaly like this—engrossing so great a part of the representation — should have been allowed to exist so long. These boroughs—and the fact brought to his mind great relief—had been condemned so long ago as 1854. They were by Schedule A of Lord John Russell's Bill to be disfranchised utterly, and they might thank their stars that they had been allowed so long to protract their existence. He did not propose to go into the questions on which the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) touched the other night—the re-distribution, the cumulative plan, the one vote. He believed that before their proceedings in Committee were finished they would have had enough of those abstruse matters. The case he 1501 should lay before the House was conclusive. The first borough he should mention was Arundel, which had 2,498 inhabitants, and 174 electors. What could anybody say in favour of such a borough? It was distant but twelve miles from Midhurst, ten from Chichester, and eighteen from Horsham, each returning a Member. Therefore he thought he might say that Sussex had an unfair number of representatives. The next was Ashburton, with 3,062 inhabitants, and 350 voters. That was so near to Dartmouth, which he proposed to dispose of next, and to Totnes, which had been disposed of already, that it required no argument to show that it should follow the fate of its companions. He acknowledged the wisdom of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, having made up his mind that the two boroughs should be disfranchised, proposed to convey the franchise to the new borough of Torquay. Dartmouth, next on the list, contained 4,444 inhabitants, with 282 voters. The same observations would apply to it. The next was Evesham, which had already lost one of its Members, and he proposed to deal equal justice on the remaining one. It was eleven miles from Tewkesbury. It was within fourteen miles of Worcester, Cheltenham, and Gloucester, and within twenty-two of Droitwich, which was so well represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War. It was evident that it could very well be spared by Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Next was Honiton, with 3,301 inhabitants and 267 voters. Monstrous that such a borough as this should so long have sent two Members. Frightful anomaly! Here he had the happiness of thinking that he should satisfy the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), who was not unwilling to be executed, provided the blow did not come from his "own familiar friends." Though he highly respected the hon. Gentleman, there were but few points on which their political opinions were in unison. Honiton was nineteen miles from Bridport, sixteen from Exeter, eight-teen from Taunton, and sixteen from Tiverton. Therefore there was no reason why such a population should continue to return even one Member. He now came to Lyme, which must be condemned for ever. The only surprise was how on earth they could ever have had a Member. It had 3,215 inhabitants, with 249 voters. It was eight miles from Bridport, twenty-nine from Exeter, and twenty-two from Tiverton. 1502 Therefore it should follow the fate of the rest. Marlborough was one of those on which the House had already passed judgment, by depriving it of one Member. He asked it now to do equal justice, and to pass judgment on the other. It had a population of 4,893, and 275 voters. No doubt its interests would not suffer from the proposed disfranchisement. The right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), which was only thirteen miles distant, had but few constituents, and he would not refuse to render it his powerful assistance. He now came to Northallerton, which had 4,755 inhabitants and 442 voters. No doubt the Member for that unhappy place would tell them that it had by this time increased to 5,000. But they must draw a line somewhere. As it had not 5,000 at the Census of 1861, it must go also. It was within ten miles of Richmond, the Member for which place would have so little to do that he could very well assist the others. He asked the House to pass judgment on it. Then there was Thetford, from which the House had already taken one Member, with 4,208 inhabitants and 224 voters. He could not conceive any reason why Thetford should any longer continue to exist. It was within thirteen miles of Bury—that excused him for having buried it—and within twenty-nine of Norwich. The last borough was Wells, from which also they had already taken one Member. He asked the House to take away the other. It had 274 voters, with a population of 4,648. It was within sixteen miles of Frome, eighteen of Bath, seventeen of Bristol, and twenty-one of Bridgwater. He was now happy to say he had finished his disagreeable task. He had the pleasure of conferring on the Chancellor of the Exchequer ten scats, besides the five already taken away by the first part of his proposal to which the House agreed on Friday. He now tendered the right hon. Gentleman ten more. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech of Friday with great pleasure, except as to the anomalies. He rejoiced to find that the right hon. Gentleman swept away the toys which seemed to have taken the fancy of the House. Cumulative voting, giving three Members, representation of minorities, and the like theories, however they might amuse philosophers, could never be brought into practical use. He recalled to himself the time when the right hon. Gentleman stood as Radical candidate for Marylebone, and he 1503 hoped, from the way in which he had carried this Bill through the House, that he was coming back to his former love—that, though he had been in bad company so long, he had not been contaminated in his political views. He regarded the right hon. Gentleman as the apostle of liberty, and hoped that he was about to return to his former Friends. But when the right hon. Gentleman said we must still retain a few anomalies, he could not follow him in his skilful argument. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was followed on Friday last by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone), who demolished his arguments upon the anomalies. He viewed with satisfaction the return of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) to Liberal opinions, and having most unwillingly on certain occasions declined to follow that right hon. Gentleman in his retrograde course, he rejoiced that, after his speech of Friday last, he could once more declare himself his humble follower. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the principle of the Bill was this—to do only what was necessary and what would satisfy. Who did the right hon. Gentleman think were satisfied by his re-distribution of seats? Had he satisfied those hon. Members behind him, who had abused him more than the Liberal Members had? Had the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself? He had given the House a Bill that was far more Liberal than he (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) had ever expected to see, and was he satisfied to mar the whole effect of his Bill by a re-distribution which was weak and futile beyond description? Did the right hon. Gentleman think he had done enough? Had he considered whether he should satisfy Kensington and Chelsea, whom he did not attempt to enfranchise, with their population of 133,000? Did he think he should satisfy Acrington with its population of 39,000, Doncaster with 18,000, Harrowgate, which was included in the Bill of 1859, and which was looking with jealousy on Knaresborough, which was close by and was represented; or Gosport, with its 22,000 inhabitants, which was looking at its neighbour, Portsmouth, represented by two Members? Had he considered that Gosport was the third largest town in the county of Hants, and still unrepresented, while Winchester with 14,000, Christchurch with 9,000. Newport with 8,000, Petersfield with 6,000. Andover with 5,500, or Lymington with 1504 5,100, all in the same county, returned Members? Had he satisfied Salford, which had a population of 102,000 and only one Member? Or Birkenhead with a population of 51,000 and only one Member? Or Paddington with a population of 70,000, and 6,000 voters, but no Member? Had he satisfied Birmingham with a population of 296,000, and which ought to be divided on the same principle as Glasgow? Had he satisfied Bristol with a population of 154,000, Finsbury with a population of 387,000, Lambeth with 294,000, Leeds with 207,000, Liverpool with 443,000, Manchester with 357,000, Marylebone with 436,000—more than Middlesex, which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to divide—Sheffield with 185,000, and Southwark with 193,000—nearly equal to East Surrey, which he proposed to divide? He implored the Chancellor of the Exchequer to recollect that the re-distribution of seats was the most important part of the Bill. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after having given a measure so liberal in other respects, would accede to this proposal. He did not wish to fetter the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman—to whom he should be able hereafter to give some few hints—but he would urge him not to lose this glorious opportunity of accepting his Motion, and thereby of passing a measure which would satisfy the people at large, and would put an entire end to agitation, which, however advantageous to those who lived by it, was the curse and bane of the country.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the last Amendment, to add the words,
And every Borough which had a less population than five thousand at the said Census shall cease to return any Member to serve in Parliament."—(Mr. Serjeant Gaselee.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. J. GOLDSMID
said, he hoped the Committee would pause before they adopted the proposal of his facetious Friend, a large number of whose statements were incorrect, while others were highly exaggerated. [Mr. Serjeant GASELEE: No, no!] The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that his re-distribution scheme was based on the principle of not disfranchising any one centre of representation. This proposal would disfranchise ten. The right hon. Gentleman had also stated that there 1505 would be a difficulty in appropriating the forty-five seals now at their command. This proposal would make the number larger still. He (Mr. Goldsmid) admitted that the small boroughs should have their share in the representation reduced. He announced last Session the willingness of his constituents to make the sacrifice required of them. He himself had then given notice of the very proposal which the hon. and learned Gentleman now claimed as his own—the proposal to take away the second seat from all boroughs with a population of less than 10,000. He could not, however, allow that it was desirable to get rid altogether of these small boroughs. The effect would be to accumulate a large number of Members on a few large towns, and to approximate to electoral districts. The variety of our representation would thus disappear. The hon. and learned Serjeant, with the narrow views in which he indulged, had spoken of him as if he represented only Honiton. They were all Members for the whole country, having duties to discharge towards all their fellow-countrymen. One of the advantages of small boroughs was that their Members had more time to devote to the general interests of the country than the representatives of large places, who had a great deal of correspondence on their hands. If the representation were confined to the great towns the House would become merely an assembly of delegates. Both the late and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had on former occasions shown the utility of small boroughs. They had returned a long line of distinguished men. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) first entered the House through that channel. Were this proposal adopted, it would probably be followed a few years hence by a proposal to disfranchise all places with less than 20,000 inhabitants. And thus, as he had already said, the adoption of that course would bring about the system of electoral districts to be found in America which was held by most men of experience to be highly undesirable for us. A Motion like this ought not to emanate from a private Member, having no responsibility — one, too, who had had but little Parliamentary experience or weight, and who did not appear to have any sufficient notion how these seats should be appropriated. The hon. and learned Serjeant, notwithstanding his disclaimer, had been guilty of great inaccuracies; for instance, he had said that Paddington was not represented, whereas 1506 it formed a portion of Marylebone. Again with regard to Chelsea and Kensington, they would, with the extension of the county franchise, form an important part of the constituency of Middlesex. The Committee would, he hoped, not be influenced by a speech so full of mis-statements, but would reject the Motion.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, he should move that the proposal of the hon. and learned Serjeant should be so amended as to be applicable only to boroughs at present returning one Member, The five towns of less than 5,000 population, which had at present two Members, and which, by the decision of Friday, had made so large, and he believed so cheerful a contribution to the common good, should be spared a further sacrifice. Against the other five boroughs the hon. and learned Serjeant had made out his case. He looked on their fate as inevitable. It was better to redress such an anomaly now than to leave the subject for future Agitation. The boroughs, the cause of which he advocated, were not — with the exception of Honiton—decaying towns. Their population had increased since 1831, and a slight extension of their boundaries would bring them within that valuable class of boroughs with a population of between 5,000 and 10,000, of which there were at present twenty-four, each returning one Member to that House. As a sample of the boroughs of between 5,000 and 10,000 population, he would refer to Calne, Droitwich, Frome, Helston, Horsham, Launceston, Liskeard, Midhurst, Wallingford, Haverford west, and Radnor. These had all been connected with the names of Members of more or less distinction. If the pica for mercy to these small boroughs were heard, more than fifty seats would still be placed at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and there would then be sixty-two boroughs between 5,000 and 10,000 returning one Member. The existence of these, if they continued to elect good men to represent them, might always be defended on grounds of public utility. He had no personal prejudices on behalf of small constituencies. He was indebted for his seat to the favour of one of the largest towns, returning only one Member to that House. He had had to fight his way into Parliament; and in his opinion it would not be a bad thing for the Conservative party when more of them had to do the same. He moved as an Amendment upon the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member to insert after the 1507 word "borough" the words "at present returning one Member and."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to insert, after the word "Borough," the words "at present returning one Member and." — (Mr. Schreiber.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, that as he had the honour to represent the county from which three of these boroughs were taken, he wished to say a few words in their behalf. No doubt there were anomalies in the Constitution of this country, and if Parliament were about to re-cast the representative system, no one would be in favour of constituting a large number of small boroughs. They had, however, existed from time immemorial, and not altogether without service to the State. The borough of Arundel had this to recommend it, that it was the only English borough which returned a Roman Catholic to Parliament. There was no one who would wish to deprive that large and numerous body of a Member who urged their views and interests so ably as was done by the noble Lord (Lord Edward Howard) who now represented Arundel. The borough of Ashburton might claim one great distinction, for it was the borough that first returned to Parliament the late Lord Lyndhurst. If all the Members were taken from the agricultural boroughs there would be a Parliament of men representing their own opinions, commercial views, and constituencies. They would deprive the agricultural portion of the community of those representatives who had a fair claim to watch over their interests in Parliament. With regard to the enfranchisement of Torquay, he had to thank his hon. Friend (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) for the wise and lucid speech he had made, and for the perfect knowledge of the subject he had displayed. His hon. Friend had, however, made one small error. He described Torquay as a place of residence for those afflicted with pulmonary complaints. Though his hon. Friend thought that these ought to be represented, he said the real electors would be the tradesmen of the town. It was an extraordinary fact that perhaps there were more resident owners in Torquay and the neighbouring parishes than in any other place which had so rapidly risen to notoriety and importance. The electors were a thoroughly independent class. He knew no constituency more likely to send a good 1508 Member to Parliament than the borough of Torquay. He had presented a petition in support of the Government plan, signed by 931 persons. A great majority of the inhabitants of the future borough were prepared to receive its enfranchisement with gratitude; but if Torquay were to be clogged with Ashburton and Dartmouth they would not desire to be enfranchised. He could not support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) believing that it would be far from working in a satisfactory manner.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) and to reject the qualification which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Schreiber). He was not surprised that the hon. Baronet had come forward on behalf of the county he so worthily represented, and had objected to the proposal now before the House. But if the hon. Baronet had studied the statistics of the question he would probably be aware that he represented a county which had one Member for every 22,000 of the population. The county with which he (Mr. Cardwell) was connected (Lancashire) had something like one for every 100,000. If the hon. Baronet had read Hallam, he might recollect that that great Constitutional authority described the boroughs in his part of the country as wretched villages, which corruption hardly saves from famine. If the House were going to pass a Reform Bill deserving of the name, they ought not to be deterred by the suggestion of the hon. Baronet from wiping out the reproach of Mr. Hallam. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. J. Goldsmid) had intimated that the abolition of these small boroughs would lead by a necessary consequence to the establishment of electoral districts. That was a matter of opinion. It was most desirable to make a permanent settlement of the question of Reform. If they wanted to have an agitation for electoral districts after the passing of the Bill, the best way to secure it would be to leave on the statute book the boroughs affected by the present Motion. If, on the contrary, they wanted to avoid a demand for electoral districts, and to effect a satisfactory settlement, they could not do better than vote for the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend. The boroughs between 10,000 and 20,000 had been referred to, and they had been 1509 warned lest the rising tide of Reform should level them. It appeared to him that that argument told the other way. They should not be content with a smaller Dumber of seats for the purpose of re-distribution than the Amendment would give them. If they did not obtain them in the mode which his hon. and learned Friend proposed, they would be obliged to cast about in order to obtain them in some other manner; and it behoved the Members for the boroughs just above 10,000 to consider whether, if this Motion were rejected, some future Motion might not be levelled against them. The hon. Gentleman also I said that the Members for large towns were at present overworked, and that they had not sufficient time to attend to public business. He suggested that they should therefore retain the Members for the smaller boroughs. But if that were so it would be more reasonable that they should endeavour to obtain more seats for re-distribution in order that they might give additional representatives to those large constituencies whose Members were at present overworked. The hon. Gentleman who moved that extraordinary Amendment to the Amendment said he thought it was right that some of those boroughs should be entirely disfranchised. But he wished that those small boroughs which at present returned two Members should be allowed to retain one of the number. It should be remembered, however, that they were engaged in a great re-settlement of the question of Parliamentary Reform. Could the hon. Member state any reason why Northallerton, with its population of 4,755, should be wholly disfranchised, while Honiton, with its population of 3,301, should be allowed to continue to return one Member? The hon. Gentleman said that the population of those boroughs, although a small, was not a declining, but an increasing population. [Mr. SCHREIBER: With the exception of Honiton.] He would read a number of figures, which would, he thought, show that that statement of the hon. Gentleman was unfounded. In 1861 Honiton contained a population of 3,301; in 1851 it contained 3,427; in 1831 it contained 3,509. In 1861 the borough of Evesham contained a population of 4,680; in 1851 it contained 4,605; in 1831 a population of 3,991. Wells contained in 1861 a population of 4,648; in 1851 it contained 4,736; in 1831 it contained 4,603. Marlborough contained in 1861 a population of 4,893; in 1851 it contained 5,135; 1510 in 1831 it contained 4,186. Those figures showed that in the main these were declining and not increasing boroughs. He next came to what were the real merits of the question. He hoped they should succeed in their appeal to the Government not to resist the present proposal. He had many reasons for entertaining that hope. In the first place, he remembered that when the Bill of 1859 was brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office (Lord Stanley) admitted that in argument the existence of those boroughs was indefensible; but he said he took a practical view of the question, and he asked what would be the prospect of the success of the measure if it contained a proposal for disfranchising a large number of boroughs? He (Mr. Caldwell) thought that, after the division of Friday night, that practical view of the cafe had no longer any application, and a great weight was thrown into the opposite scale. There was good reason to believe that the House instead of wishing to adopt a hesitating and faltering proposal, was in earnest in desiring to make a satisfactory settlement of the question, and would support the Government in effecting such a settlement. They had on former occasions heard his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer argue in favour of small boroughs; but the argument of his right hon. Friend was in favour of nomination boroughs, which had no longer any existence. He could not forget also that the other evening he had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer allude to Sudbury and St. Albans as notorious impostures in our representative system. The right hon. Gentleman had also told them that there were two kinds of Reformers, and that the right kind were those who would adapt the Act of 1832 to the circumstances of 1867. The House had just taken an important and decisive step in adapting the Act of 1832 to the circumstances of 1867. The Act of 1832 said that no borough whose population was less than 2,000 should return a Member to Parliament; and that no borough whose population was less than 4,000 should return more than one Member. On Friday night they had, by a large and decisive majority, raised that limit of 4,000 to 10,000. They were now asked to follow that analogy, and to raise 1511 the limit of 2,000 to 5,000. The whole population of those ten boroughs—men, women, and children—did not amount to 40,000. The number of householders who would be capable of being placed on the register under this Bill in Liverpool alone would be 65,000. Could they, then, believe that it would be consistent with common sense to refuse to accept the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend? The result at which they had already arrived was mainly due to the earnest desire entertained by Members in every quarter of the House that their settlement of the question should have a prospect of permanence. It was only by adopting some such proposal as that then under their consideration that they could hope to accomplish that object.
§ MR. J. HARDY
said, that the population of his borough (Dartmouth) had increased to 4,600; and if he also reckoned the population over the water with the Britannia training ship, the number would considerably exceed 5,000; so that the place ought not to be included in the Amendment. He thought that enough had already been conceded, and called upon hon. Members to pause and consider where they were going. If they did not, they might find themselves in a position from which they might not be able to retrace their steps. They had already a sufficient number of seats at their disposal, and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government and the House generally would not assent to further disfranchisement. The representatives of large towns often shrank from serving on Committees—an important part of the duties devolving on the Members of that House. The result arrived at the other night in respect to the partial disfranchisement of all boroughs with a population under 10,000 was enough to satisfy every reasonable mind. The Committee could hardly treat seriously the flippant Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The great principle of the Bill was to have been—no disfranchisement. If it was to be altered in accordance with every suggestion coming from everyone who wished to acquire notoriety, what was to become of that principle? He hoped the Government would do justice to the boroughs, and would offer a decided opposition to the Amendment.
MR. NEVILLE - GRENVILLE
said, that the only city in that disfranchising list was the city of Wells, which was the county town of the county which he represented. 1512 He hoped that they would await the Report of the Boundary Commissioners before so gross an act of injustice was perpetrated as the disfranchisement of that city. The borough of Wells contained a population of only 4,648, but there was excluded from it the whole of one of the parishes; and if that were not so it would contain a population of upwards of 7,000. Let them look at what had taken place in the case of Aylesbury. The town of Aylesbury contained only about 4,000 inhabitants; but the boundaries had been so greatly extended, that the borough of Aylesbury contained a population of 27,000 inhabitants. He did not want the boundaries of Wells to be so greatly enlarged. But he did not think they ought to disfranchise it without a Report from the Boundary Commissioners. In his opinion, the borough population of Wells ought to be something like 15,000.
§ CAPTAIN HAYTER
said, that the speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) was characterized by what had been so fatal to the Reform Bill of last year—namely, the want of a practical knowledge of facts. If a plan of re-distribution was to be taken in piecemeal from the proposals of private Members he did not see how the Government were to carry the Bill through. In reply to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) he wished to draw a comparison, not between one borough and another borough, but between the two counties in which the boroughs which they represented were respectively situate. While Oxfordshire was over-represented, Somersetshire was one of the worst represented counties in the South of England, the number of boroughs being taken into consideration. If they were to adopt the principle of representing counties they could not altogether omit that circumstance from their consideration. If Wells were to be disfranchised the Government would have to put some other Somersetshire borough in its place, and the old represented borough would form the natural head of a new group. If the Government were about to make new Parliamentary boroughs they might consider the question whether they should give a representative to any borough with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants; but that was a different thing from disfranchising Parliamentary boroughs on such a principle as the one laid down by the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that the comparison be had made was between the counties of Devon and Lancaster, and not between Somersetshire and Oxfordshire.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, they were getting into a mess about this Reform Bill, and he was not surprised at it. When, at the commencement of the Session, Her Majesty's Ministers introduced a democratic franchise for boroughs it was obvious that in the end they must come to a demand, if not for a large re-distribution of seats, at least for a large curtailment in the number of the towns which sent Members to Parliament. Any one who had not seen that previously to Friday must have been made sensible of it by the decision come to on that occasion. He had voted in the minority on the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), because he dissented from a good many of the arguments which that hon. Gentleman used, and because he entirely disapproved of his re-distribution scheme. To-night he would vote for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth, because he thought it followed logically from the decision arrived at by the House on Friday, and because he hoped that if it were carried the Government would depart from their present scheme and bring forward one re-constituted in a different mould. In his judgment this remodelling of the House of Commons was by far the most important part of Reform. It had never been discussed. It had hardly been alluded to in the beginning of the Session. If a good Bill for re-modelling the House had been agreed upon, they would have heard a great deal less of this democratic measure for bringing the franchise in boroughs down to householders who were just above receiving parochial aid. The upper and middle classes were not enfranchised. This Bill did not enfranchise them. It enfranchised the lower classes. He had always been a Helot living outside the pale of the Constitution. He had never heretofore enjoyed the happy privilege of a vote in any constituency in the British Empire, and this Bill did not enfranchise him. The seats the Amendment would place at the disposal of the House ought to be disposed of in a different manner from that proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth. If we had a Cabinet with an assured majority at their back—if we had a Cabinet not living on sufferance, but with a policy of their own, they would take a broad and 1514 deliberate view of this question. A great many places ought to be disfranchised, and Members ought to be given to large towns not now represented, as was proposed to a certain extent in the present Bill. The Ministry ought then to suppress the remaining seals, and diminish the numbers of that House to a considerable extent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that his great difficulty would be in the re-distribution of seats. If the right hon. Gentleman were to take away a great many seats from small towns, the adoption of the suggestion he had just thrown out would save him from that difficulty. If he remembered the figures rightly, the hon. Member for Wick had proposed to give twenty-six unicorn Members to counties and six to boroughs. That would be a step in the wrong direction. The House ought rather to take away all the unicorn or triangular Members given to counties by the Reform Bill of 1832, and to reduce still further the number of Members in the House. He concurred in the proposal of the hon. and learned Serjeant to take away two Members from the City of London. That constituency had no pretensions from its purity or any other reason to return four Members to the House. One of the chief reasons adduced in favour of reforming the House of Commons was the necessity of improving it as a legislative machine. They were called upon to reform the House because it had, when elected for the most part by £10 householders, come to a standstill in legislation. But what had caused the paralysis of their legislative power? It arose from the immense number of talkers in the House. Since the Reform Bill of 1832 there had been an increase year by year of what might be called "talking potatoes" in the House. There were now 100 or 150 hon. Members who thought they could give information and advice to the Government when any subject, whatever might be its nature, came under discussion. The consequence was that a great impediment had arisen to the conduct of public business. A private Member had no chance of carrying a measure through the House. The remedy for this state of things was to make a large reduction in the number of Members. Such a course was recommended by various reasons. 658 Members were far too numerous a body for deliberative purposes. There was not sufficient room in the House to accommodate so large a number. The consequence was that when a sensational debate came on, or when a 1515 division on an important subject was called for, the scone below the Bar—the crowding, the hustling, and the noise was more like a prize fight or a bear-garden than the House of Commons. Many hon. Members might think this was a new proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) might think it "new-fangled," but it was not. In making this suggestion he was "treading on the lines of the Constitution," if anybody knew what that meant. A proposal to diminish the number of Members in that House was made by Lord Grey. A similar proposal formed part of the Reform Bill introduced by Lord John Russell in 1831. The original proposal was that forty-one Members should be taken from England, that five should be given to Scotland, and five to Ireland, and that the number of the Members in that House should be reduced by thirty-one. Instead of being received with derision, even in an unreformed and borough mongering House, that proposal received the support of 291 Members, and was only negatived by a majority of 8 in a House of 600 Members. Earl Grey persuaded His Majesty King William IV. to dissolve the Parliament, and the dissolution accordingly took place on this very question. A cry was raised for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." A vast majority were returned in favour of the proposition, which, however, was ultimately abandoned by the Ministry. He was astonished at the manner in which the proposal then made with so much favour was now received in the House of Commons.
§ MR. LAING
said, he was most anxious to receive some information from the Government, as it would probably influence him as to the vote he should give. He was disappointed that after the vote of Friday afternoon Her Majesty's Government had not stated to the House the course they intended to pursue. That vote must be taken to establish broadly the fact that the House was determined to carry out a scheme of re-distribution considerably more extensive than that originally proposed by the Government. It might fairly be assumed that the House was disposed to sanction a scheme not less extensive than that proposed in the Government Bill of last year, or the proposal which he had endeavoured to explain to the House. For this purpose something like fifty seats would be required. Of these, twenty-four or twenty-five would be necessary 1516 to increase the representation of large cities and boroughs, and twenty-six to put the large English counties on the same footing. Seven seats were not more than was required to satisfy the just claims of Scotland. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, with regard to Scotland, that had been the proposal made by two successive Governments. Therefore, fifty-six or fifty-seven seats would be required to carry out the enfranchising part of the scheme. The House had forty-five seats at its disposal, under the vote which it came to on Friday. There remained, therefore, a balance of twelve or thirteen which would have to be made up. If the opinion of the House were adverse to any increase in the number of its Members the numbers could only be made up either by grouping or by the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for the total disfranchisement of all boroughs below a certain line. He preferred the principle of grouping. He thought it a more Conservative line of procedure not to disfranchise totally any small borough against which delinquency had not been proved. At the same time, the argument drawn by the right hon. Member for the City of Oxford from the analogy of the Reform Bill of 1832 was irresistible. The right hon. Gentleman had contended that that Bill having raised the line to 10,000 and taken away the second Member in all boroughs below it, the House ought now to act in a corresponding manner in regard to the small boroughs. They must either disfranchise below 5,000, or adopt the principle of grouping to an extent that would give the number of Members required. He would be no party to a course the practical result of which would be to leave either the representation of Scotland or the increased representation of the English counties in the lurch. That would be the inevitable result if the House limited itself to forty-five seats, when fifty-six or fifty-seven were required for the purpose of enfranchisement. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would declare on the part of the Government that they thought the more Conservative principle would be that there should be no absolute disfranchisement, and that they would adopt the principle of grouping to the extent necessary for obtaining the requisite number of seats, he would vote in accordance with his original feeling on the subject. But if the Government would neither give the House any indication as to where the 1517 seats were to come from, nor state to the House whether its numbers were to be increased, nor adopt any measure by which the representation of the counties might be increased to what was due to population and importance, he should be obliged to vote for the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman. If this opportunity were neglected the House would, in all probability, be left in the lurch. He wished to make a few remarks respecting what had fallen on Friday from the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth. He should be extremely sorry if it were supposed that he had been guilty of wilful discourtesy towards the lion, and learned Member by stealing his thunder and taking out of his hands the Amendment of which he had given notice. When the hon. and learned Member wrote a letter to him on the subject he sought him out and endeavoured to explain what he thought must be obvious to every hon. Member—namely, that the hon. and learned Member's proposal being based on the complete disfranchisement of boroughs up to a certain line, was totally different from his own proposal, which was founded upon the principle of grouping. If he did not succeed in conveying that idea to the hon. and learned Member he was very sorry for it. The present discussion showed that the two proposals were essentially distinct.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, that the hon. Member for Wick, although he had made an apology, seemed to be under some misapprehension with regard to the matter referred to. ["Order!"]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Whatever difficulties and differences may arise on this very difficult question of the re-distribution of seats, there is one point upon which both sides of the House may fairly be congratulated, and that is that this question which has always before excited the greatest party opposition, is now considered by the House without any reference to party feeling. I think that is a result we shall be well satisfied with. It is one which, in originally considering the question of Parliamentary Reform, we could only with the greatest difficulty have contemplated. I hope the Government may claim some share in contributing to a condition of affairs and a temper of mind so gratifying. The proposal which Her Majesty's Government brought before the House was a practical and a temperate one. It was brought forward with the view of meeting 1518 all claims of a character which could not be denied, and of making other arrangements, the justice of which no one could question. It was a proposal founded, so far as disfranchisement was concerned, which entailed great sacrifices upon our own political party. The majority of seats, by the proposal contained in the Government Bill, were seats taken from this side of the House, from Members of the party to which we belong. Therefore we came forward with a proposal which will at least free us from those imputations—some unfounded, some made with a certain degree of justice—which, on previous occasions, have been made to every Ministerial proposal, for a re-distribution of seats. That I am sure will be conceded. We were pressed very much to extend that proposal. We could not have done so without departing from the principles we had laid down—which we thought it wise to lay down—when I first addressed the House on this important subject. If we had departed from it—if we had advanced from our own line to the line which the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) successfully advocated on Friday—we should have been asking for sacrifices in the majority of instances from our political opponents. That is patent to the House. We felt where a measure was absolutely necessary, both sides of the House should make sacrifices to secure its being passed. But having proposed a plan maturely prepared and adequate to the public necessity, we felt that if we proceeded further than we proposed to do we should unnecessarily be attacking the interests of our opponents. This — in the present friendly temper of the House which we desired to cherish—was an influence not without its weight with us. I do not desire that this question should be for a moment mixed up with all those painful controversies which accompanied it in 1832. We have so far succeeded that we have come to the point of considering the question of the re-distribution of seats without making it a party question. The interests of both sides are so mixed up, and it has been treated with so much impartiality, that it will be difficult from this question to elicit anything like a party struggle. I believe there is a fair prospect of our coming to a conclusion which may be advantageous to the country. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House I seems to be afraid that I am about to make some proposal which would not do justice to the counties, in the interests of 1519 which he is a champion. He is rather surprised that I did not come down with a proposal which, in consequence of the vote of Friday, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to recommend with respect to the re-distribution of seats. That would have been a premature proceeding on our part. In the first place, the opinion of the Committee has not been exhausted on this important subject; secondly, we should not have been doing our duty if we came down to the House with any proposal which was not matured in its details. It would not do to come down to the Committee on a Bill like this and propose a certain number of Members for this place and a certain number for that, unless we had gone into mature details, and were at least able to put the Committee in a position in which they might deal with the matter. We had first of all to wait for the final decision of the Committee on this and other points. We had then to consider the consequences of the decisions of the Committee, and to mature our plan accordingly. With regard to the fear of the hon. Member for Wick, that on my part there would be great negligence of the interests of the counties, I can assure him there is no foundation for such a fear. I have placed before the House some details upon this matter which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) referred to a night or two ago. He reminded the House very appositely of an important result—namely, of the manner in which the House of Commons has worked for a considerable time with such an unjust division of representation between the boroughs and counties. It is unnecessary to go into details. The population of the counties is 11,500,000; that of the boroughs is 9,500,000. The counties return 162 Members; the boroughs return 334. These figures cannot be too often repeated. But I have pointed out to the House that this state of affairs which at the first blush would seem to render all satisfactory Parliamentary representation utterly impossible, was greatly mitigated and in a great degree remedied by the representation which the county populations obtained from a number of those small boroughs. There were, I said, eighty-four Members of boroughs who might be fairly described as representing the various lauded interests. But by the considerable addition proposed by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) to the plan of Her Majesty's Ministers, 1520 and by the proposal made to-night, if both should be successful you will be diminishing a large proportion of those boroughs which indirectly compensate the counties for their universally admitted inadequate representation as to population and property. Therefore in carrying any satisfactory scheme of re-distribution after the votes which have taken place, or which may take place if the House approve this Motion, the Committee must be prepared for that which the country earnestly wishes—to give a fair and adequate representation to the county populations. We are to be congratulated that now, when the time has arrived when we shall have to perform this office, we shall be called upon to do so under very favourable circumstances on both sides of the House. All those economical controversies, which for a great length of time embittered discussion in this country, have not only ceased, but are almost forgotten. In addition to that, we have this Session, and within a few weeks, almost days, established the county franchise upon a broad and popular basis. Under these circumstances, the Committee will come to the consideration of this question with every advantage. I trust that we shall arrive at an arrangement which will satisfy the hon. Member (Mr. Laing) that we have not forgotten our duty with regard to the county representation. We shall have to consider the distribution of forty-five seats in consequence of the Government proposal added to by the vote of Friday last. We have now to consider the present question. The new proposal is entirely different from that which formed the foundation of the proposal of the hon. Member for Wick. We stated, when we first introduced this Bill, that one of the principles which guided us in the redistribution of seats which we recommended was that there should be no voters disfranchised. I think that was a sound principle. At the time we introduced it, it was a popular one. I very much doubt whether any proposals larger than those we brought forward would have been tolerated by the House. I have no doubt that if the Committee will consider the present question with impartiality—and I do not doubt it will do so—we may agree to a distribution of seats which will be satisfactory to the country. Whether it was a wise course which was embodied in the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick I do not say; but with respect to the present Motion, it ranks in quite another character. 1521 If the Committee objects to boroughs of small population being represented in this House, it is competent to the Committee to consider whether there are not means of increasing the constituencies, or taking a course like that suggested by the hon. Member for Wick and adopting the principle to which I am partly favourable—that of grouping. I am of opinion that agreement to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth would not be satisfactory. It is a Motion opposed to the policy under which we solicited the consideration of the House to a distribution of seats. It is unwise that we should totally destroy any centre of representation. It may be well to advocate the scheme in the House, but it would be unwise to accept it. The division the other day upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick must satisfy everybody by the numbers, that it is the determination of Parliament to support the course of policy he recommended. It will not be in the power of the House of Commons to say to the Government, in reference to the result of that division, "You have made too large a distribution of seats. You have hurried to a conclusion not founded upon the absolute decision of the House." I am not, however, of opinion that the House desires entirely to disfranchise any place. I think the opinion of the House is in accordance with the policy first enunciated in this matter by the Government, and under these circumstances I shall oppose the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
I need only detain the Committee for two or three moments. I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having completely removed from this debate, so far as depends upon him—and much depends upon him—every element of party consideration. We have before us a very plain and simple question. I only wish to define what that question is. The right hon. Gentleman says that he, on the part of the Government, does not think it desirable that there should be a total extinction of any centre of representation. The vote the Committee is called upon to give, should it accede to the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend, would not absolutely rule that question in a sense adverse to the views of the right hon. Gentleman. It would still be open to the right hon. Gentleman on the part of the Government, and it would still remain open to the Committee, after carrying the Motion of my 1522 hon. and learned Friend, to consider whether these boroughs, if deprived of the right of sole representation, should be admitted to share the privileges of borough representation in some other form. I believe I am strictly accurate in saying that the vote which my hon. and learned Friend now asks us to give does not absolutely decide the question of the extinction of any heretofore existing right of borough representation. What we are asked to support is a principle of which I so strongly feel the force that I am ready to accept it, though it may entail the extinction of some of these ancient centres of representation. It is this—that we should have in view the construction of a system bearing the promise of permanence. I am well convinced that we have no chance of securing permanence for the system we are engaged in constructing if we leave the right of distinct individual Parliamentary representation in the hands of communities so small that those whom they send to Parliament would represent no sensible portion of the public opinion of the country. What the present Parliament expects from its Members, and what the coming Parliament will still more expect from them, is and will be, that when they rise in their places to advise the House on questions of public interest they shall be able to describe to the House what view is taken upon those questions by the communities they represent. With regard to these very small towns, to quote their opinion with reference to the public questions of interest here decided would be entirely out of place. It is to this principle we look in order to give solidity to the basis of the representation. We do not think that this principle can be satisfied without some such measure as that of my hon. and learned Friend. I trust, therefore, that upon this and other grounds the Committee will be disposed to give a vote which I think the right hon. Gentleman will feel is no more than the natural, if not the necessary, supplement of the vote at which this House arrived on Friday.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, there were not seats enough vacated in prospect by the decision of the Committee to provide the additional seats for Scotland. If he voted against the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) he should bring himself in conflict with the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), and all the Members for Scotland. There would not, if the Amendment were rejected, 1523 be seats enough vacant to provide the addition to the county representation which the late Government recommended by their Bill, and also the additional seats which the present Government, wisely and properly, intended to give to Scotland. Having voted in support of the Bill introduced by Lord John Russell and Sir James Graham in 1854 he would support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, he would withdraw his Amendment, in deference to what seemed to be the general wish of the House. He should vote against the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 217; Noes 269: Majority 52.
§ CAPTAIN HAYTER
said, he rose to propose the enlargement of the boroughs retaining but one Member, so as to make up their population to not less than 10,000. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to make this an open question, as there was great danger in extending the suffrage if they did not at the same time extend the area of the boroughs. In many small boroughs, such as his own (Wells), where compound-rating was unknown, household suffrage pure and simple would obtain. Though he agreed that it was desirable that the old centres of representation should continue to exist, if the present narrow areas of those centres were retained they would only lay the ground for a future agitation. It would be argued that they afforded no real expression of public opinion. It would be declared monstrous that places like Salford should have only the same representative power as Honiton, Ashburton, or Dartmouth. The answer to that argument would, of course, be that without these small boroughs every variety of interest and opinion could not be represented. But that argument would have far more weight if they were so enlarged by the addition of neighbouring towns or otherwise, as to include a less inconsiderable population. He hoped, therefore, that his proposal would be received with favour by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, engaged, as he was, on a measure 1524 which they hoped would prove a settlement of the question for at least a generation. He wished by means of these boroughs to effect an equipoise between the two great parties who would continue to share the Government of the country. They would afford a channel by which every variety of interest and opinion would obtain representation. It might be said that if we once admitted the principle that representation depended on numbers, we should arrive at electoral districts. No one could be more opposed to that system than he was. His object was to preserve the existing local centres of representation, and so to enlarge them as to lessen the danger of agitation being directed against them. By this means we should get rid of the jealousy which would naturally be felt in neighbouring towns if their inhabitants saw these boroughs in possession of Parliamentary privileges from which they were themselves excluded. Five or six of these places were decreasing in population. In Knaresborough there had been a decrease of 600, in Honiton of 300, and there had also been a decrease in Ashburton, Arundel, and some other boroughs, so that unless the step which he proposed were taken, their declining population would be made an additional argument for their disfranchisement. His plan was to take the existing boroughs as the nucleus and centre of representation, and to enlarge them by the addition of neighbouring towns till the population reached 8,000 or 10,000. His schedule for this purpose would only extend to twelve or thirteen towns, so that his plan would not materially affect the counties. The electors of the counties were becoming the most important part. This was more especially the case since the reduction of the county franchise, which had gone far to assimilate the borough and the county suffrage. There were about 420,000 of the county electors who, by the provisions of the Bill, would be swamped by from 395,000 to 400,000 additional electors, chiefly from tradesmen and shopkeepers in the small towns—the class of which the borough electors were made up. These were not scattered and isolated individuals—they were collected together in the small towns and would doubtless act together, so that they would be more dangerous than the present class of electors. By his plan they would reduce the urban class of the county electors, they would increase the borough representation, and they 1525 would get a representation for the small boroughs. There was one other point to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee. It was proposed to amend the distribution of seats in boroughs, but there was no such proposal of amendment for the counties. Every one knew that, as compared with the North, the South of England was greatly over-represented. But there were great differences between the counties themselves. Take, for instance, the two counties of Hertfordshire and Berkshire. They were about equal in population, 173,000 being the aggregate of either. Berkshire was represented by nine Members:— three for the county; two for Windsor; two for Reading; two for Abingdon and Wallingford, Hertfordshire had but five:—three for the county, and two for the town of Hertford. It was proposed to take one away from Hertford, which would leave this county with only four Members. Yet Hertfordshire was a rapidly increasing county, while Berkshire was decreasing in its population. His proposal was to group Ware along with Hertford. The united towns would contain a population of 11,000, and the population of which would be purely urban, while the county would have its five Members preserved to it. He was far from saying that Berkshire was amongst the most over-represented counties in point of population. The four most over-represented in England were Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, and Sussex. It was nothing more than a solemn mockery that they should return so many Members. Yet this anomaly was to remain. The northern division of Devonshire had a declining population. The southern division had a declining number of electors. Yet Devonshire, with a population of 500,000, was to be represented as before by twenty-two Members. They had disfranchised Totnes, and proposed to take away one Member from Honiton, yet they gave one Member to Torquay and two to the county, so that Devonshire was just where it was before. While Devonshire had twenty-two Members, Middlesex had eighteen. Somerset had a less population than Devon, but it was increasing rapidly, and was not represented in proportion to Devon. Since the Reform Bill of 1832 it had made enormous strides in population and rental, yet it was one of the least represented counties in the South. It had only eleven Members; Dorset had fourteen. They were not legislating for 1526 party, nor for the Parliament only, but for the people. The question which would be asked was—were they really in earnest in their schemes for the re-distribution of seats? The first argument would be against these small boroughs. They must have a principle and stick to it. Good as this Bill was, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should look at the whole question in a statesmanlike manner. He should look not to the immediate future merely, but to the whole period during which he hoped his settlement of the Reform question would last. The Bill would never last without the adoption of this proposal. There was nothing to prevent the right hon. Gentleman's acceptance of it. If the principle were sanctioned, the right hon. Gentleman would place it in the hands of the Commissioners, who would carry it out with the utmost impartiality. If it were not accepted, the question would remain open for future agitation. The right hon. Gentleman had a great career before him. He should consider this question boldly and wisely, temperately and practically. He called upon him to deepen the channel, to widen the stream, and to purify its source, while strengthening its banks.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the clause to add—
And every borough enumerated in Schedule A of this Bill shall be so enlarged, either by the addition of neighbouring boroughs or towns, or by an extension of its present boundaries, as to include a population of not less than 10,000 persons."—(Captain Hayter.)
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the present proposal could not be regarded as a serious piece of legislation. It was nothing more than an abstract Resolution. The discussion of it could only delay unprofitably the progress of the Bill. It stated alternative proposals, but did not propose in any way to carry out one of them. It was not necessary to answer the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because he had answered himself several times over. The only object of his proposal appeared to be to endeavour, as far as possible, to preserve that which was unjust and wrong in theory, without any merit whatever. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, by way of remedying an anomaly in our representation, proposed to perpetuate it in another and equally objectionable form. Having admitted that these insignificant places were in danger of being politically extinguished, he desired to prevent their fate 1527 by making them a shade less insignificant than they were at present. In confessing that his proposal was not the fruit of a partiality for electoral districts, the hon. Member had cut from beneath him the only ground on which he could have rested his case. It was not desirable to touch these small boroughs, except with the hand of destruction. As the last division showed that they would not be allowed to go further in that direction the best thing they could do was to allow the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go on with the Bill. The present proposal to rehabilitate these boroughs by a slight infusion of fresh life was neither just, reasonable, nor practical.
said, that the more they progressed with the Bill the stronger became his conviction of the necessity of discussing the principle of it. He was strongly impressed with the importance of the present Amendment. When the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) condemned it as unpractical and untimely, it was only fair for the House to remember that no other opportunity had been afforded to the hon. and gallant Member of bringing it forward. So far as the re-distribution part of the Bill was concerned, its only principle stated was enfranchisement, not disfranchisement. There was nothing in this Amendment inconsistent, but much that was in real harmony with that principle. To hand these boroughs over in their present condition to the tender mercies of a reformed Parliament was to ensure their fate. Inasmuch as new centres of population and commerce had arisen since 1832, it had become expedient to lop small boroughs of their superfluous representation, in order to give Members to these places. The question was, whether the House was prepared to see the small borough representation extinguished. It was generally conceded that the small boroughs fulfilled an important function to the State. If they were to be swept away, was a substitute to be provided for them? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had alluded to the disproportion between the representation of the counties and the boroughs, and had spoken of that anomaly as being partially mitigated by the fact that many of those boroughs represented the landed interests. Was the House prepared largely to increase the county representation, if the small boroughs were extinguished? Such a course would not tend to secure that variety in the representation which was so 1528 desirable. That variety might be secured by the proposal of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), founded on Mr. Hare's plan of personal representation. But after the discouraging reception given to that proposal the other night—which he exceedingly regretted—there was little chance of the House adopting it. Again, direct representation might be given to the colonies. These were some of the alternative schemes by means of which they might obtain the advantages now derived from the small boroughs. But if the House would not adopt any of them, and if they wished to preserve the small borough system in any form, then the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Hayter) offered almost the only remaining mode of preserving it. By that proposal those boroughs might receive a status in the country in respect of population. Then there would be some guarantee that they might continue to enjoy their political life. It might be said the proposal was a step towards the principle of electoral districts. But the Bill itself was a partial concession to that principle and to the principle of numbers. Having gone so far, why not go a little further, and at any rate secure some degree of stability to those institutions which they were prepared to sanction and retain? He most favoured that part of the hon. Member's proposal which went to enlarge the boundaries of boroughs so as to include neighbouring districts. That was a better plan than the plan of grouping introduced last year. There were, no doubt, some advantages in grouping. It diminished local influence and tended to stop corruption. But the mode of grouping proposed last year was an absurdity. It seemed as if the places to be grouped had been shaken in a hat. He, himself, was one of the "groupees" of last year, and he would have had to travel five hours by railway, and on three different lines, before he could have made sure of his borough. The present proposal was a sort of corollary from the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing). If they were to take away one Member from all towns not having 10,000 inhabitants, they should then proceed to bring up nil the towns having one Member to that standard. Many hon. Gentlemen had given up almost everything that they had hitherto held sacred in order to effect a settlement of the question. But he was afraid that unless the principle of this proposal were 1529 adopted, they would, to a great extent, forfeit the advantages for the sake of which they had that Session made such sacrifices.
§ MR. DIMSDALE
said, the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) that the question of re-distribution should be postponed till another year was an admirable one. After their lengthened discussions on the first part of the Bill, they might be hurried into a decision upon its second part which would not redound to the credit of Parliament. The second portion of the measure was the most important one, because they might profess to give the largest possible franchise, and yet convert it into a safe and even a reactionary measure by a careful manipulation of the distribution of seats. The hon. Member for Birmingham had always shown himself alive to this, and on several occasions had stimulated the activity of his audiences to ceaseless watchfulness on this score. The hon. Member had besought them, whenever a Reform Bill was introduced, "never for a single moment to take off their eves from the question of the re-distribution of seats." On another occasion the hon. Gentleman had declared that, unless the arrangements in that respect were satisfactory, the representatives system would continue to be as disgraceful and partial as it had been hitherto. The hon. Gentleman, in a speech made at Birmingham to his constituents, spoke of our system of representation "as a disgraceful fraud, which ought to be put an end to." The hon. Member for Birmingham could hardly believe that that which he characterized as a "disgraceful" fraud was converted into a fair and honest representation of the people by the very small measure of redistribution included in the scheme of the Government. He regretted that in laying down the principle, according to which the re-distribution of seats should be regulated, the Government had adopted the arbitrary test of population merely. That principle was not adopted in the Reform Bill of 1832, and he should like it much better if the Government had adhered to the principle then laid down. Those towns which contributed most to the public revenue were towns which ought to be represented. The population of Hertford was 6,769, and the population of Tamworth was 10,192; but Hertford contributed a larger amount—2,382, as against 2,042—than Tamworth to the State, under the different schedules of the income tax. There were two 1530 ways of dealing with this matter. The principle of founding representation on population alone might be carried to its fullest extent. In that case either electoral districts would be established—a system not likely to be carried out—or the more gross inequalities of large towns compared with small towns and of counties compared with boroughs must be grappled with. There was a large number of unrepresented towns, not less than 121 in number, having a population exceeding 1,000,000 of persons. The Government Bill would enfranchise twelve of these towns, and leave 109 without representation. The Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells would enable the House to deal with those unrepresented towns by grouping them with existing boroughs. Take the case of Luton with a population of 16,000—that could only be properly dealt with by grouping. The inequalities between towns and counties was the most remarkable part of the present system. Both in respect to population and property the counties were considerably in excess of the boroughs. And how were they dealt with by the Government? Of all the measures of Reform which had been introduced of late years that of the present Government gave the smallest representation to the counties. With regard to the representation of counties compared with the representation of boroughs, he calculated that contrasting the disfranchisement of small boroughs with the additional representation given to the counties, that the result would be a loss of 12 seats to the agricultural interest under the present Bill. Were the House prepared to strike the small borough element entirely out of the electoral system? If the House did so, there would be only two classes of places represented in Parliament—large populous counties on the one side, and large towns on the other. At present it was very difficult for those who lived in the agricultural districts to contend against the influence of the great towns, and that difficulty would, to some extent, be met by a judicious system of grouping. If it was desirable to maintain the borough element, that could be done by adopting the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells. It would meet the case both of the unrepresented towns and the counties. With respect to the system of grouping, the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said he thought it well deserving of the consideration of the House. He preferred the system 1531 of grouping to the extension of boundaries. Another question which was raised by the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells was to add to the constituencies by increasing their area. If they were going to disfranchise a number of towns because the population was too small, it was only just that the matter should be postponed until after the Report of the Boundary Commission. As to the objection made to the system of grouping, on the ground that it was novel, it had no foundation in fact. It was a system which existed in Wales, in the Northern parts of Scotland, and some parts of England. So far from the expense of elections being greater under its operation, it contrasted favourably in that respect with the opposite system. Now that we were about to pass a scheme of Reform, we should endeavour to secure a fair representation of the whole community. It was not right that places like Ramsgate and Margate, which were thoroughly urban, should be allowed to pervert the character of the county representation. Under this Bill Luton would virtually return the Members for Bedfordshire, Leamington, those for the southern division of Warwickshire, Ware, Hitchin, and St. Albans, those for the county of Hertford. The system of grouping while it was calculated to operate advantageously in that point of view, would also have the effect of providing for the representation of minorities. Large minorities ought to be represented, and that object might be attained by augmenting the constituencies at present returning two Members. For those reasons he was prepared to give to the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells his cordial support. His objection to the present scheme was that it would vest in the towns of England, not a mere predominance, but a monopoly of electoral power, and that it would make that power the patrimony of a class, when, by means of wiser legislation, it might be made the inheritance of a people. He should vote for the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, and for every subsequent Amendment hereafter to be introduced which would tend to modify the inequalities, the anomalies, the injustice to classes which deformed and disfigured the Government scheme of re-distribution, more in many respects than any of its predecessors—a scheme which would tend in the towns of England not to the mere predominance, but the monopoly of electoral 1532 power, which would make that power the patrimony of a class, when by wise legislation it might be made the inheritance of a whole people. In a word, the Ministerial proposals will disturb and upset the present relations of political power, without holding out the faintest principle of a permanent and enduring settlement of the much vexed and long agitated question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the exact position in which we now stand. We are on the 9th clause. That clause, which relates to boroughs returning one Member only, has received in principle the entire assent of the Committee. Next comes Clause 10, which has reference to the appropriation of seats. I am anxious to explain the position in which the Government find themselves in connection with that clause and the vote of Friday last. By that vote a considerable number of seats was, with the general assent of the Committee, added to those which we propose to appropriate by the present measure. With the general consent and concurrence of the House it was suggested that the scheme for the redistribution of those seats should be in-trusted for preparation to the Government. It was not until to-night that the Government could be in possession of the definite Resolution of the Committee on the subject. It was one of importance, requiring great consideration. I wish to say, on the part of the Government, that one of the effects of the vote of Friday night, which increases the area from which to collect the seats for distribution, is that the previous scheme which they presented to the House must be subject to re-consideration. We shall have to consider how to distribute forty-five seats instead of thirty, as originally contemplated. That will require great consideration, and cannot be placed before the Committee until the new schedules have been properly prepared, so that it may be brought forward in a finished state befitting its importance. What, therefore, I propose is to pass the 9th clause. Then I should move to report Progress, and not ask the Committee to sit again until they have had an opportunity of considering the proposal of the Government. No further discussion can take place until we meet again after the impending holydays, when we shall come to a consideration of the subject with a full knowledge of the details. With regard to the hon. and gallant Member's Amendments to the 9th clause, they 1533 have been placed before the Committee in that interesting manner and with that vivacity which at all times characterize his addresses, and which cause them to be listened to with pleasure. I should, however, say that I thought his speech adapted more for a great occasion than the details of the clause before the Committee. It was rather a project for a new Reform Bill, and for the re-distribution of seats on a larger scale and on an entirely new principle. The speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, though most interesting to listen to, had little reference to the Amendments he has placed on the table. They refer to two points. First, that the area of small boroughs in Schedule A be extended so as to include a population of not less than 10,000 persons; and secondly, he suggests an alternative scheme, that they shall be so enlarged either by the addition of neighbouring towns or by the extension of their present boundaries. I think that the criticism of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) was just, when he said that we ought not to have in Committee an alternative proposal to adopt. The first proposal is, in fact, a grouping of unrepresented with represented towns. If I, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, had made such a proposal, it would have been met with indignant exclamations, that we were wishing to deprive the counties of the best part of their population, that we were draining the counties of the urban population. That, therefore, is impracticable. The effect of the alternative proposal would be to very much change the character of the county representation. It would be impossible to say without further information what impression it would have on the counties. It would be most unbusinesslike to agree to an indefinite derangement of boundaries of counties, and thereby upset all the calculations which have been prepared, and on which we were proceeding, with regard to population. I cannot say that I think the re-organization of our constituencies, which I do not despair of, will be much strengthened by making these small rural extensions around these small boroughs. A great deal has been said in favour of the existence of these small towns. They may play a very important and useful part in our Constitutional system, but I do not think that their importance or value will be increased by enlarging their boundaries so as to take in one or more parishes. The arrangement 1534 would lead to great disturbance, and not attain the end which the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes. I cannot, therefore, sanction the Amendment, even if it were placed before us in a form that would allow of its being put from the Chair with any definite result. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot say that he has not been supported in the debate, especially by the hon. Members for Tewkesbury and Hertford (Mr. Yorke and Mr. Dimsdale). The subject has been treated in every light, and the cumulative knowledge of several Sessions has been brought with great effect to bear upon it. I think I am not misinterpreting the opinion of the Committee when I state that they cannot sanction the Amendment. I cannot support it. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will not press it, in which case I will ask the Committee to report Progress.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not have taken a more judicious course than to move the adjournment. He wished, however, to know, under the circumstances, whether in the meantime the new system of meeting at two o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays would be persevered in or not. He hoped that the Government, in re-considering their scheme of re-distribution, would not lose sight of the counties. As in the general scramble for the good things of the earth, those who asked for nothing would get nothing, he now put in a special claim for North Staffordshire, a county with which he was both personally and politically connected. After Wednesbury was cut off South Staffordshire, a division to which the Government proposed to give two additional Members, would only have 169,000 inhabitants, to North Staffordshire with 162,000, which was not to receive any addition. His Amendment to Schedule D was to divide North Staffordshire into two divisions, the western one comprising the manufacturing, and the eastern the agricultural portion.
§ SIR FRANCIS CROSSLEY
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at an earlier period of the evening, had said that counties had not their due share of the representation, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that it was from boroughs the seats were being taken. In the re-distribution of those seats they ought to think of those boroughs which had no representation. There were many rising towns which had no representation at all. Keighley, for instance, in the Census of 1535 1861, had a population of 40,000. It now contained 50,000 inhabitants, and returned no Member to Parliament. The Government, in carrying out their scheme, ought not to place the counties before such boroughs as that. He preferred making this suggestion beforehand to finding fault with their scheme after it was brought forward.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment referred to the question of boundaries. Far from undervaluing that question, he (Colonel Dyott) thought it was the most important part of the question they now had to settle. He did not think it could be settled satisfactorily in the way proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The enlargement of the small boroughs so as to take in a wider area of country was the least likely way of bringing the question to a satisfactory settlement. The hon. and gallant Gentleman complained of an undue representation in the county of Devon. That was the very effect he would bring about by continuing the practice of enlarging the area of small boroughs. It was that more than anything else which had led to the undue representation of Devonshire. The case of Tavistock was an instance. Previous to the Reform Act of 1832, Tavistock had an area of only half a square mile. In 1832 it was enlarged to seventeen square miles or more. If that enlargement had not taken place the county of Devon would have had a less representation that it now possessed. The borough of Tamworth, in like manner, previous to 1832 had an area of three-tenths of a square mile in extent. For the sake of increasing the population so as to save the borough from being inserted in the schedule of the Reform Bill, the area was enlarged by the addition of various small villages and hamlets in the neighbourhood, so that the population within the Parliamentary boundary was now just over 10,000. The hon. and gallant Member's Amendment dealt with all the towns contained in Schedule A of the present Bill. The city which he (Colonel Dyott) represented (Lichfield) was contained in that list. Lichfield was to be left with only one Member, while Tamworth was to have two. He would like to know on what principle that was to be done, except on the question of the number of population. The boundaries of the city of Lichfield had never been altered. If they had been dealt with in the same way as the boundaries of Tamworth, so as to take in 1536 all the hamlets and villages in the parish, Lichfield would now have been in the same position as Tamworth, or in a much better position, with regard to population. He did not wish to complain of Lichfield being allowed to have only one Member. He knew there were many other places of much larger population, even in the county of Stafford, which were not represented at all. But there should be some sort of justice in meting out the amount of representation to be given to one borough in comparison with another. He trusted the Boundary Commissioners in their labours would not only carry in their minds the propriety of enlarging small borough boundaries, where these at present were inadequate, but also of contracting others which had been artificially enlarged. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells had done the ancient city of Lichfield the honour of classing it among the twelve boroughs which, under one or other of the lists which he had framed, were to sink into the condition of pocket boroughs. Knowing nothing of the borough of Wells, he would not venture to dispute with the hon. and gallant Gentleman anything he might venture to assert regarding that constituency. But claiming to know something of the city of Lichfield, he maintained that among its constituency, small though it might be, there was independence sufficient to prevent it from ever sinking into the condition of a pocket borough held in the interest of either party.
said, that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells contained a very valuable principle, which he hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not recede from. But the Motion in its present form was hardly a fit subject for legislative discussion. The figure of 10,000, moreover, was hardly suited to their present expanded views of representation. He therefore hoped he would not divide the Committee upon it, but that he would afterwards introduce clauses with the object of carrying out his views in connection with that portion of the Bill containing instructions to the Inclosure Commissioners to which they were immediately related.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having stated that Her Majesty's Government would take the whole I question of the re-distribution of seats into their consideration during the Whitsuntide recess, he thought this a favourable opportunity to urge upon the Government to 1537 give Scotland more than the seven Members at present proposed. The hon. and learned Serjeant (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) scorned to think that the people of Scotland had no right to interfere in any question of this kind, but the learned Gentleman was mistaken. He should look a little more closely at the Articles of Union, and, above all, at the Minutes of the Commissioners who framed the Treaty of Union. He would then see what the conditions of that Union were, and what was in the Act of Parliament which carried them into effect. If he would take the trouble to look at those Minutes he would find such words as these:—"parts of the Kingdom now called England," and "parts now called Scotland." These phrases occurred constantly, indicating that the names of England and Scotland were never more to be heard of as separate parts after the passing of the Act of Parliament. Accordingly, Great Britain, and, at a later period, Great Britain and Ireland ever afterwards appeared, Scotland was an integral part of the United Kingdom. If three or four Members were to be taken from Devonshire and given to counties on this side of the Tweed, by what rule could they refuse to grant extra Members to counties on the oilier side of the Tweed? The people of Scotland had the same right to have some of the spare seats given to them as the counties of; Northumberland, Yorkshire, or any other part of England. Gentlemen forgot that Northumberland and Durham were once part of Scotland. The splendid cathedral of Durham was built by a Scotch king. These counties were afterwards acquired by England by conquest or treaty, and why were they to be put in a better position than the other parts of Scotland, which were not so acquired, but which voluntarily entered into the Union as an independent Kingdom, on terms ratified by Acts of Parliament passed by both countries? It was a principle of our Constitution that taxation and representation should go together. The people of Scotland complained that that principle was violated, and that in their case: taxation and representation did not go together. The people of Scotland paid one-seventh of the taxation as compared with the people of England, and they had nothing like one-seventh part of the representation. It was an act of common justice that the number of Members should be largely increased in Scotland. There were two Returns which showed that, whether 1538 taken by population or by taxation, Scotland was entitled to twenty-five additional Members. It was most unjust, when forty seats were to be set free for distribution in England, only seven seats were to be given to Scotland. But supposing the number of seven to be correct, the distribution of them was most objectionable. It gave the counties in Scotland far more Members than the boroughs; and it proposed to give one-thirtieth part of the entire representation of Scotland to the Universities. Anything more monstrous could not be proposed. Under these circumstances, he hoped that the Government would re-consider this question of the re-distribution of seals respecting Scotland, with a view to that country obtaining her fair and legitimate share of representation.
MR. R. B. HARVEY
said, he thought it well to retain small boroughs. Their representatives came unpledged and open to persuasion. Their constituencies were the link between county and ordinary borough constituencies. They formed the machinery for supplying the cities with the produce of the country, and joined the agricultural and commercial interests.
§ MR. LAING
said, that the hon. and gallant Member for Wells would exercise a sound discretion in reference to the advancement of the principle he had in view if he acted upon the advice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and withdrew his Amendment. He understood the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to be that Her Majesty's Government, recognising the wish of the House as conveyed so unmistakably in the vote of Friday night, were prepared to accept as a basis the figures established by that vote. They consequently wished to re-consider the whole question of re-distribution, and to frame their schedules accordingly. The proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was much more likely to lead to a satisfactory result than any discussion upon Amendments of private Members. There would be quite time enough after the Whitsuntide recess, if the provisions to be proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not deemed satisfactory, for the Committee to deal with them in any way they might deem necessary. The question of grouping was one of such difficulty as to render it scarcely possible for an independent Member to deal with it. By what they knew of the sentiments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer they could hardly suppose 1539 he would leave county Members in the lurch. It was manifest that if a system of due representation was to be obtained, the principle of grouping must be dealt with by the Government. He hoped the Committee would exercise a wise discretion and allow the Chairman to report Progress. It would then be desirable to utilise the morning sitting to-morrow by considering the question of the voting papers. What would, perhaps, be a better arrangement still would be for the Government to postpone those morning sittings until they were prepared to resume the consideration of this re-distribution question after the recess.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
said, that having been somewhat personally alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Colonel Dyott) in connection with the boundary question, he ventured to say a few words. The hon. and gallant Gentleman gave some good advice to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Captain Hayter) when he told him that however well he know Wells, he did not know Lich-field as well as he did. He (Viscount Galway) would tell the hon. find gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dyott) that however well he knew Lichfield, he did not know Retford and the hundred of Bassetlaw as well as he did. The House had not heard much of Retford lately. Everyone knew before the Reform Bill that Retferd was so corrupt that it was said that if its Members had been taken away from it and given to Birmingham or any other populous place, there would probably have been no Reform Bill. Although it was said that if the borough of Retford should be opened it would fall into the hands of the landowners, since it had been thrown open and the hundred of Bassetlaw included in it, a purer constituency did not exist. He might feel proud at representing it, inasmuch as during the twenty years he had had that honour he had never been exposed to a contest for his seat. He thought the enlargement of the borough constituencies generally was the best principle for the Government to proceed upon for purifying the constituencies.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he trusted the Government would not propose any system of grouping such as that suggested by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), who had selected towns arbitrarily. The system of grouping should be applied, if at all, to all boroughs similarly circumstanced.
§ CAPTAIN HAYTER
said, that as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed 1540 himself as not averse to grouping, he would postpone his Amendment until the schedules came on for discussion. He therefore asked leave to withdraw his Amendment. In reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dyott), he would break up the representation of South Devon, by merging some small boroughs in the county, if they were unwilling to be grouped, and thus practically abolish them. He concurred in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Roundell Palmer) that grouping should be carried out on a uniform plan.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he objected to the withdrawal of an Amendment, the discussion of which had occupied the whole evening. The Committee was to hear of it again. At that rate, they would never get through the Bill.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, the hon. and gallant Member must not withdraw his Amendment on the supposition that the Government had acceded to its principle. He did not understand that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was at that moment absent, had at all pledged himself to adopt the course suggested. The Government must be left an entire discretion to deal with the question as they might think proper. The Committee was prepared to come to a decision on the question before it. It was satisfied of the inexpediency of attaching an abstract Resolution to a clause, and leaving it to be carried out in detail afterwards. It would be a course attended with difficulties, if not with impossibilities. He wished that the union between England and Scotland was more complete. But the claims of Scotland, which had been considered by the Government, hardly came into question in the clause under discussion. With respect to morning sittings, there was a very important Bill which had been before the House one or two years—namely, the Bankruptcy Bill. He hoped the House would consider it at a morning sitting to-morrow (Tuesday). It was not proposed to have a morning sitting on Friday.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he would not propose the Amendments he had placed on the Paper, as the Government were about to introduce a new scheme. Comparing population and property in 1541 Scotland, the English counties, and Ireland, the latter country was greatly over-represented.
§ Amendment put, and negatived.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, that not desiring to obstruct the Government, who deserved every support, he would not now propose the Amendment of which he had given notice, but would reserve his right to do so at a future stage of the Bill. His proposal with respect to the single vote had been much misunderstood.
§ Amendments moved.
§ On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
rose to record his protest against the inefficient measure of re-distribution before the Committee. They were passing an extensive measure of enfranchisement and coupling it with a measure which would have scarcely any effect upon the constituencies. He had gone carefully into statistics, and he was satisfied the scheme did not contain the elements of permanence. Any measure of re-distribution which did not place at the disposal of the Government eighty or ninety seats would not be satisfactory to the House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
There is no reason, according to the forms of the House, why the hon. Gentleman should not now favour us with his views upon the question of distribution and re-distribution. Owing to the holy-days, and other causes, some little time must necessarily elapse before the Government can submit their proposals to the Committee. I hope, therefore, that the Bankruptcy Bill not coming on, the hon. Gentleman, as we are desirous of obtaining every information, will not lose this happy opportunity, and that we shall be allowed to profit by the statement of his opinions. The hon. Gentleman should be no mean authority, for he was a Member of the late Government. At the same time, I am somewhat astonished at the large view which he takes of this subject. He says that eighty or ninety seats should be put at the disposal of the Government. Now, without that due sense of responsibility which is so awkward an incumbrance to human nature, it would be just as easy to propose that 180 or 190 seats should be dealt with. Very plausible reasons might, no doubt, be urged in favour of such a proposal—at least, at this period of 1542 the evening. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will favour us with his views. I have no doubt the Committee will listen to them with the greatest consideration, and we shall avail ourselves to the utmost of any happy suggestions he may make.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
could not resist the invitation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose courtesy and kindness in the transaction of the business of the House would at any time encourage him to trespass upon his forbearance. He had been unwilling to trouble the Committee with any remarks further than those which were necessary to place upon record his opinion of the insufficiency of the proposed number of seats to be re-distributed, because, after the recent decisions of the Committee, those remarks could have no immediate practical result. The Committee having decided on Friday to take one Member from boroughs with a population below 10,000, and to-night having refused to disfranchise boroughs with a population below 5,000, the forms of the House prevented him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) from moving as an Amendment that larger measure of disfranchisement which he thought necessary. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer taunted him with having stated that it was necessary to place eighty or ninety-seats at the disposal of the Government for re-distribution, and said that he might as well have given 180 or 190. But he had not made the statement without having fully considered the subject, and he repeated the proposition. What were the two great reasons urged in favour of the necessity of a Reform Bill? First, the exclusion from the franchise of large numbers of persons who ought to possess it; and second, the unequal distribution of electoral power. Now, so far as the first reason was affected by the Bill, the House appeared to be about to agree to a measure so liberal and so extensive as to have been termed, even by advanced Reformers, "a revolution." If, then, with such a measure yon coupled a scheme of re-distribution, which would have little, if any, perceptible effect upon the constituencies, how could you possibly hope that the element of permanence would attach to your measure? It would be like yoking in the same carriage an elephant and a Shetland pony, and expecting them to travel well and evenly. The Government were about 1543 to bring the franchise of county and borough near together; there would be household rating suffrage in the boroughs, and £12 rating in the counties. The agitation which they had to apprehend was an agitation in favour of a uniform suffrage and electoral districts. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) was no friend to agitation. He belonged to the same class as many hon. Gentlemen opposite—the class of country Gentlemen—who had the other night been designated by the hon. Member for Nottingham by an epithet which might be Parliamentary, but was certainly not polite. Well, agitation was not the trade of country Gentlemen. But if they desired to avoid it, they must deal with the question of re-distribution in a liberal and comprehensive spirit. It was absolutely essential that the most glaring anomalies of the present system should be removed. What was the most glaring anomaly of all? That small populations in certain localities had an electoral power equal to, or greater than, much larger populations elsewhere. Now how was this to be remedied? If the question was urged upon population alone there would be no solution short of equal electoral districts. But that would be only an imperfect solution. If you had such districts to-morrow, what would happen? That ever-varying circumstances of trade—the shifting of population—the development of the resources of one district, and perhaps the exhaustion of another; these and other causes would create a constant change, and in a very few years the symmetry of your system would be destroyed, and the advantages you might have gained would prove but temporary. But he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) maintained that not only population but interests had been and must be regarded in this question of re-distribution. Was Manchester represented only by her two Members? Let her interests, or the interests of any other large seat of industry be attacked, and champions would spring up all round. But population must not be ignored, and to have Manchester with the same amount of representation as a small borough was an anomaly which could not last. The claims of these large towns must be considered—but he had always contended that a population of 100,000 or 150,000, whose claims were held valid if gathered together within two or three square miles, were not to be disregarded as if they occupied an area of twenty or thirty square miles. He therefore entirely 1544 agreed that justice must be dealt out to the counties as well as to the boroughs. He had gone deeply into the question, and had prepared a scheme by which the distribution of some eighty seats would, in his opinion, have removed the greatest incongruities of the system—that Lancashire should return Members, each of whom represented some 90,000 of population—Kent, Members who represented each 41,000; Berks, Members in the proportion of 1 to 25,200; and Bucks, 1 to each 15,300 of population. These were anomalies which required correction. He would not have troubled the Committee but for the invitation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must be responsible for his having done so, and he could only hope that before the Bill became law it might have engrafted upon it a more adequate scheme of re-distribution.
I wish to ask the Government whether it would not be convenient for the House to have this Bill re-printed by the time that the House will meet again after Whitsuntide. A good deal that is now in the Bill will have to be left out. Perhaps, also, the new schedules might be printed along with it, so that the House might come with greater ease to comprehend how the matter now stands.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
So far as we have at present proceeded, the Bill has, I believe, already been re-printed. The hon. Gentleman has probably not seen it. I must remind him that it is not in the power of the House to order a Bill in progress to be re-printed. It depends entirely on the kindness of Mr. Speaker. It is only under extraordinary circumstances that the Speaker exercises his prerogative in that respect. With regard to another point—as to the course we intend to pursue—it is necessary that the plans of the Government should be in the hands of the House for some days before they are asked to decide upon them. Therefore, the course which I contemplate pursuing is this. I propose that we adjourn for the holydays on Friday, and that we meet again on the following Thursday. But I do not intend to open the Committee on this Bill except pro formâ on Thursday week. I would put the Committee first on the Paper for that day, in order that I may reserve to the Government the opportunity of making any statement or placing any Amendments on the table, so that the Committee may be in a position to decide upon them on the Monday following. I 1545 propose to take Supply on Thursday week; but, practically, we shall not go into any consideration of the Reform Bill until this day fortnight. Hon. Members having been previously put in possession of the proposals of the Government, will be able, I trust, to go at once into the merits of the question, re-invigorated by our recess. I count with great confidence on both sides of the House assisting me in conducting business on this subject with the necessary spirit. To-morrow I hope the House will agree to a morning sitting on the Bankruptcy Bill, which is a matter of great importance. I understand that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House are anxious to proceed with it. I would not this week trouble the House to have a morning sitting on next Friday. But on Thursday week we shall go into the Army Estimates, and if we adjourn on Friday and meet again on Thursday, I would have my notices placed on the Paper that the House may have an opportunity of facilitating the progress of business on Monday week.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman would place on the table the Government proposals dealing with the seats which would become available in consequence of the adoption of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Wick. It was quite true that the Bill, so far as it had arrived last week, had been re-printed; but bethought it would be desirable to have it re-printed to the point at which the Committee would leave off that evening.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that he would suggest that the whole Bill should be re-printed and delivered to Members, who would thus be relieved from the perplexity occasioned by the constant delivery of series of fragmentary papers. He would suggest, moreover, the employment of a larger type, as was done in the House of Lords, or of red ink, by way of distinguishing the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he thought it desirable that the Government should place upon the table of the House the interpretation clause which had been promised especially with respect to the words "dwelling house."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that in one case the clause had actually 1546 been on the Paper for a day or two, and in the other the clause was ready, and should be placed upon the table immediately.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he would confer with the Speaker as to the reprinting of the Bill. He must, however, correct an erroneous opinion into which the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) appeared to have fallen. What he had said was that the proposal of the Government should be in the hands of hon. Members in ample time before they were called upon to decide upon them. If placed on the table on the Thursday on which they re-assembled, and a decision asked on the following Monday, that would probably be satisfactory.
said, he wanted to know when the Irish Reform Bill would be brought in.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was intended to bring it in as soon after the holydays as convenient.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it would not be on Thursday, and probably not on the Monday following. After that he hoped to be able to appoint it for some day convenient to the hon. Member.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he wished; to know if the House would be furnished with the names of the Boundary Commissioners by Thursday week?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have already informed the hon. Gentleman that the names will be furnished in due time, and that answer I must repeat.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The event to which the hon. Gentleman alludes is one to which I look forward with some degree of satisfaction. But it is my intention to bring the Irish Reform Bill forward even at the risk of deferring that pleasure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought 1547 it was but reasonable for the information of the House that his request as regarded the Boundary Commissioners should be acceded to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I never said that the hon. Gentleman did anything unreasonable in asking this question. I only gave him what I thought a reasonable answer. I must impress upon the Committee that if there be anything important in the business it is the formation of this Commission. It is absolutely necessary that it should command the entire confidence of the House of Commons. We have to choose five gentlemen who, from their high character and from their accomplishments, will command universal respect, and whose position in life will enable them to give the necessary time to the duties they will be called on to perform. There are many other considerations, too, upon which it is not necessary to enter. The task of such a selection as ought to be made is not easy of accomplishment. To choose hastily four or five persons, very respectable people, but whose names might be opened to objections, would be very easy. We wish to propose to the Committee names which will be entirely satisfactory. All I can say is that the names shall be offered to the Committee in due time—that is to say, long before the Commissioners can enter upon their duties, and when the House of Commons shall be able to consider our recommendations and to deal practically with them.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday 13th June.