HC Deb 13 June 1867 vol 187 cc1776-85

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Sir, I was in hope that I might be able to place on the table of the House this evening the Schedules which refer to the new re-distribution of seats; there is, however, no doubt that they will be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen to-morrow. I think it, however, only respectful to hon. Members that they should not remain in doubt for any unnecessary time as to the course Her Majesty's Government intend to recommend for their adoption, and should not be deprived of such information as we can give them in consequence of a mechanical difficulty in preparing the Schedules. Therefore I take advantage of our going into Committee on the Bill to make a statement of our intentions; but on the part of the Government I have no wish to invite discussion to-night, and I do not expect it. I will conclude by moving that the Chairman report Progress, which will not prevent any hon. Gentleman from making comments if he likes, but as indicating the wish on our part that after I have made the necessary communication the House should proceed with other public business. The Committee is aware that the result of the division which took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), was to make a considerable addition to the number of seats which the Government originally contemplated having at their disposal for re-distribution; for the Committee agreed to a Resolution that every existing Parliamentary borough which does not exceed 10,000 in population should be represented by only one Member—a principle which Her Majesty's Government entirely approve, although they do not think it possible to extend its application so far without the assistance of the Committee. The result of this decision is to add fifteen seats to the thirty which we originally contemplated having for appropriation; therefore we have to deal with forty-five seals. In considering the wisest and most satisfactory mode of appropriating them, we have felt, after due consideration, that it was not expedient merely to consider the distribution of the fifteen additional seats which, by the sanction of the Committee, were placed at our disposal; but, looking to the changes in the arrangements which we had previously recommended, to the change of relative circumstances involved in the larger number we had to deal with, we concluded that it would be wiser to consider the whole question again de novo. Requesting the Committee to forget for the moment the arrangements we proposed when we were dealing with the lesser number of seats, I will explain the plan on which Her Majesty's Government think it most expedient that these forty-five seats should be distributed. Taking the boroughs first. Her Majesty's Government think that the representation of the metropolis should be increased by four Members. We propose to divide the Tower Hamlets, as has been before suggested, and we propose that a new borough should be created which shall return two Members. It should be called, I think, for convenience, as it might be with propriety, the borough of Hackney. Hackney is not an unclassical name, for one of our great English poets has said— Friendly at Hackney; Faithless at Whitehall. I hope, however, that the Members for Hackney will be faithful to Her Majesty's Government. That will add two Members to the metropolitan representation. On the other side of the metropolis we propose that a new borough shall be created of Chelsea and adjacent parts. That will give four additional Members to the metropolis. I will now name boroughs several of which have already been submitted to the Committee and have had their claims favourably received. The claims of all have been considered again with very great diligence, and, I hope, with perfect impartiality. We recommend the Committee to confer one Member each upon the boroughs of Hartlepool, Darlington, Middlesborough, Burnley, St. Helen's, Barnsley, Dewsbury, Staleybridge, Wednesbury, and Gravesend. These are names which have been mentioned before. We add to these the borough of Stockton, Keighley and parts adjacent, and Luton and parts adjacent, recommending that they shall have one Member each. We propose also that an additional Member shall be given to Salford and an additional Member to Merthyr Tydvil. This appropriation gives nineteen borough seats. We are still of opinion that the University of London should be represented in Parliament; and we recommend the Committee to consider whether it may not be expedient to connect with it in that representation the University of Durham. That will take twenty of the forty-five seats. There remain twenty-five seats yet to be appropriated. The facts of the case, the state of public opinion—I might almost say practically the previous decision of the House—will prepare the Committee for the recommendation on the part of Her Majesty's Government that these twenty-five seats should be allotted to the more efficient representation of the English counties. It is unnecessary for me to dilate at all upon the details of this question. This is not the occasion. On a future occasion opportunities will be offered to us to go into any details which are necessary. The Committee are perfectly familiar with the general merits of the case, and I will confine myself, with scarcely an exception, to expressing to them now the mode in which we think these twenty-five seats should be allotted. What we propose is that, as originally suggested, the counties of West Kent, North Lancashire, East Surrey, and South Lancashire should be divided. That would dispose of seven Members, South Lancashire having one and the other divisions two additional Members. That appears, so far as we can collect, to be a proposition eminently popular, and one calculated to meet all the requirements of the case, and we do not in any way wish to interfere with that previous arrangement. We then take nine of the most considerable counties in England—Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Somersetshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cheshire, Norfolk, Staffordshire, and Essex; and we propose that these great counties should be divided each into three parts, and that each part should be represented by two Members. The Committee will see that I have in that manner disposed of the forty-five seats, the re-distribution of which we had to consider this evening. I believe that these counties, deducting the population which is represented within the Parliamentary boroughs, contains something like 4,000,000 people. They represent on the largest scale the great industries of the country—agricultural, manufacturing, and mineral; and to an enormous extent a vast variety of trades of great importance, though of secondary importance to these three great departments of industry. In fact, I believe there are as many trades carried on in the counties of England and among their various populations as in the boroughs. I have now placed before the Committee the plan which we recommend to their adoption. The schedules, in which this plan is in greater detail explained, will be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen, I hope, to-morrow. They have been prepared by gentlemen who, from their position in life, and from the tone and tenour of their minds, are, I believe, as superior to petty party interests as any body of public servants can be. But the schedules have been prepared under the direction and personal superintendence of the Government, who on this occasion, as on all previous occasions connected with this considerable measure, have most strenuously endeavoured not to lend themselves to any arrangements of a party character. Nevertheless, I am not sanguine enough to suppose that when these schedules are considered and studied by the House they will escape criticism, or perhaps even some imputations made in the freedom of Parliamentary conversation. But that will not annoy us so much as if the Committee should be induced to waste what at this period of the Session is very valuable time in making or in refuting charges which after discussion will probably be found of a rather minute character, or to have no foundation. What we therefore recommend to the Committee is, that they should give well-defined but really large powers to the Boundary Commissioners; and that after the Boundary Commissioners have dealt with all these schedules, which are necessarily and avowedly of a temporary character, we should reserve our criticism for the labours of the Boundary Commissioners when they come before us in a matured shape in a Boundary Bill, taking care that no arrangement is entered into, either by negligence on the part of the Commissioners or from any other causes, which a fair treatment of the question cannot justify. On Monday next, therefore, when we go into Committee, we shall be going into Committee on the second part of the Bill, and there is no reason why, after this announcement, we should not proceed with that part of it. But I hope on Monday next to lay upon the table Amendments to the third portion of the Bill, which will define the duties and powers of the Boundary Commissioners, and I will also lay before the Committee well - prepared clauses for registration, which, in consequence of the changes made with regard to the franchise in the course of our labours, are now necessary. I should have been very glad to-night if I could have announced to the Committee the names of the Boundary Commissioners, and such was my hope and intention. But an hon. Gentleman, whose name, position, and talents would have commanded the confidence of the House and the country, has, unfortunately, from his only fault—a want of sufficient confidence in his own position and talents—obliged me to relinquish that intention. He sits upon the Benches opposite, but his name would have commanded universal confidence. I trust before going into Committee again to have completed the number of five Members, which, I think, is the most convenient number of Commissioners, and I shall then have pleasure in announcing their names. I trust that the Committee will not hesitate to give them the well-defined but ample powers to which I have referred; and I think if the Committee in the progress of the Bill will follow the course I intimate as most convenient and most conducive to the advantageous fulfilment of our duties, we shall be able to proceed with this measure in a manner satisfactory to the country. I now, Sir, end with a Motion that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.


agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be more convenient not to discuss the merits of the proposal till Monday evening; but it was desirable that hon. Members should know what particular subject would be discussed upon that occasion. With one exception the Government scheme of redistribution did not differ materially from that he had himself ventured to make to the House on a previous occasion. That exception referred to an essential part of his scheme—the grant of additional representation to six or seven of the largest towns in the kingdom, coupled with an adoption of the principle of grouping to such an extent as was sufficient to obtain these six or seven scats. As regarded the new boroughs, he had never objected to that portion of the Government scheme, and would give it his support. As regarded the twenty-five Members to be assigned to counties, that was almost precisely the number he thought the counties might fairly claim; and as to the mode of distribution among the counties, that was a question for the county Members themselves. One point of importance had reference to the seven Members for Scotland. As the right hon. Gentleman had exhausted all the forty-five seats at his disposal by distributing them in England, he gathered that the just claims of Scotland would be rather met by increasing the total number of Members of the House than by taking Members away from English boroughs. That was obviously a most important feature in the scheme of the Government; because if the House came to an opposite decision it would cut away seven of the seats with which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to deal. On Monday he should move his Amendment on the 10th clause, for the purpose of giving an additional Member to the six large towns. The hon. and learned Member for Lambeth (Mr. Thomas Hughes) would thereupon raise the question of cumulative voting, and the Committee would therefore have the opportunity of deciding on Monday upon these two important points.


said, he was glad to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been influenced by the views of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), and had shown a better appreciation of his duty than by the adoption of a scheme which, he believed, nearly every one had rejected. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would adopt the course followed last Session of re-printing the Bill with all the Amendments; for, after the extensive changes which were proposed it would be convenient to have them in print, so that hon. Members might be able more easily to comprehend them. The Reform Bill of last Session was re-printed, so that they could see exactly what had been done, and he hoped the same course would be followed now. It would then be much easier to understand what they were doing, and they would be able to proceed much better with the Bill in Committee.


was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the contemplated redistribution of seats, had not overlooked the claims of the University of Durham. He could say, with entire confidence, that the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman's intention would be fully appreciated by that University, which had a just claim to share in the distribution of Parliamentary privileges which it was now proposed to make. Taking into account that it was intended to give representatives to the Scotch Universities, had Durham been overlooked it would have been the only University in Great Britain which would have been left without representation. The students of Ushaw College graduated at the London University, and therefore would be enfranchised. Under such circumstances it would not be fair that the students of the University of Durham should be left unenfranchised.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman, in the statement he had made, had disposed of the whole forty-five seats without reference to Scotland. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his acuteness and sense of justice, must be quite aware that Scotland was under-represented; she was not represented within twenty-five of the number of Members to which she was entitled, both by wealth and population. If the forty-five seats mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman were appropriated according to his scheme, Scotland must look to some other source for an increase of her representation. As for increasing the Members of the House, he did not think, from the feeling very generally prevailing on the subject, that such a proposal would be sanctioned, and in that case Scotland would be thrown over altogether. They had heard in times past a good deal about justice to Ireland, and he would warn the right hon. Gentleman that the cry of justice to Scotland would soon be raised. The right hon. Gentleman had had proof of that already; he would have still further proof of it before Monday next, and would do well to be prepared for it.


said, that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that they should postpone discussion upon the subject until they had the whole plan before them was extremely reasonable. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, they were to have in their hands to-morrow schedules with full details of the places to which it was proposed to give Members, and also the schedules of a temporary character; and on Monday information with regard to the Boundary Commissioners, their duties, and the powers they would have to alter the limits of boroughs, would be placed before them. That being so, it appeared to him perfectly clear that they were not in a position to give "an opinion on the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, and it would be wise to delay giving such an opinion until they had the plan before them in detail. There was one point, however, as to which they might ask for more precise information. The seven Members which it was proposed to give to Scotland had not been included in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not wish to raise that point for discussion now; he might be permitted to say, however, that he was one of those who regretted that the number of new Members was limited to forty-five, and he hoped it would be open to the House on Monday to consider that point among others. It might not be unreasonable now to ask the right hon. Gentleman to inform the Committee from what fund the additional Members for Scotland would be provided—whether by increasing the numbers of that House, or by an enlarged disfranchisement, grouping, or some other process.


urged upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the propriety of re-printing the Bill. It would be impossible for the Committee to consider the whole scheme of re-distribution in connection with the extension of the suffrage—questions which the House had decided last year should be taken together—unless that were done. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would use his influence with the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker to have the Bill re-printed.


observed, with regard to the proposition for associating the University of Durham with that of London, and the remarks which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland (Sir Matthew Ridley), that until a very late period the University of Durham had not been considered an example of the brilliant success which had been obtained by the University of London. He doubted that the proposed union would work satisfactorily, because the lower either of the Universities reduced its standard of examination for degrees the larger would be its share in the total of representation.


hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able, by Monday next, to let the Committee have the promised definition of a "dwelling-house."


With regard to the inquiry made by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets and my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, I am not clear as to what can be done about re-printing the Bill. I have had some conversation on the subject with the highest authority, and all I can say at present is, that I shall do all that can be done in the matter. With regard to the definition of a "dwelling-house," I have seen several definitions, and I am not at all prepared to recommend the Committee to adopt any of them. It is a subject with which, I believe, the common law of the country would best deal, and I have no doubt that the information and intelligence of the Committee will be able to elicit satisfactory conclusion on the point. With respect to the representation of Scotland, I thought I had already expressed the intentions of Her Majesty's Government so clearly that the question of the right hon. Member for Oxford might have been deemed superfluous. I am of opinion that England is not over-represented; its representation may be distributed to more effect, and we are taking very considerable steps in that direction; but I am not at all prepared, if Scotland be not adequately represented, as I believe she is not, that that adequate representation should be secured by impairing the adequate representation of England. It should be recollected that the representation of Scotland was increased in 1832 at the cost of England. That is an expedient which may once be resorted to, but I think it very doubtful whether it ought to be repeated. We have not had any intimation from the hon. Gentlemen who represent the sister island, but I am not inclined to think they are ready to make any sacrifice on behalf of Scotland; and therefore I think, under the circumstances, if the House of Commons is really of opinion that Scotland is not adequately represented, they ought to meet the difficulty and increase that representation. But that we should lay down the principle that the adequate representation of Scotland is to be obtained at the expense of the adequate representation of England or Ireland is a proposition that I cannot at all support.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that before the Union Scotland had sixty-seven Members, and now she had but fifty three.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

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