§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker—I rise to ask for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation of the People in Scotland. In dealing with this subject I have to address myself to two main divisions of the subject—one regarding the franchise, the other the distribution of seats. In the general construction of the Scotch Bill we have followed as closely as possible the model of the Bill before the House with respect to England, which for so long a period has occupied its attention. As regards the borough franchise, with some exceptions which the difference between the law of the two countries rendered necessary, and which, I think, may fairly be described as technical, the franchise we propose for the Scotch boroughs is the same as we propose for those of England. We find in 400 the case of Scotland, as in that of England, that it is impossible to establish any franchise for boroughs of a satisfactory nature—of a nature which would give any promise of being permanent—upon the principle of value. We have therefore adopted in Scotland the same principle we have proposed for England—namely, that the performance of public duties should be the foundation for acquiring and enjoying public privileges. We are of opinion that we cannot in the case of Scotland, any more than in the case of England, have a more complete test—one more general and universal in its application, than the payment of rates. The payment of rates necessarily involves the fulfilment of duties. It induces a man to take an interest in the prudent and economical management of the funds of the community of which he is a member. He has also to perform a function which necessarily demands some thought and entails some sense of responsibility on every man who may exercise it—the function of election. He has to elect public officers. He has to elect vestrymen and guardians of the poor. He may, indeed, himself become a vestryman or a guardian of the poor. He necessarily attends and transacts business in public meetings. He thus under goes a discipline in the performance of public functions, and is, to a certain extent, prepared for the position of exercising that still more important function, the power of selecting a representative for himself in the House of Commons. I do not, of course, mean to say that every man who pays rates is a reputable person, for in all classes of life painful exceptions to what I hope is the general character of humanity will occur. But I think I have a right to say with confidence that, on the whole, the payment of rates is a very fair test of propriety of conduct on the part of the person who exercises that function, more especially if, though adopted as a first element of the qualification for the franchise, it be accompanied by a condition of an adequate period of residence. These are the two qualifications upon which we attempted to found the borough franchise in England, and there is no reason whatever, as far as we can form an opinion, why they should not be the foundation of the borough franchise in Scotland. It is very true that in Scotland there are no compound-householders, and the fact of our proposing that the franchise in Scotland should be the same as in England, although there are 401 no compound-householders in the former country, is, I think, a tolerably satisfactory answer to the unfounded insinuation that in fixing the franchise as we have done in England our only object was to restrict its enjoyment and exercise. Our only object in taking the step we did with regard to England was to restrict the enjoyment of the franchise to those whom we deemed qualified to exercise it; and had there been no compound-householders in England the same franchise, I have no doubt, would have been proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, the clauses we have proposed in the Bill to facilitate the enjoyment of the franchise by any who desire it and are worthy to possess it—although they may by the accident of legislation not be immediately and directly empowered to obtain it—will, I think, convince every one that that is our sincere intention. The borough franchise which we propose for Scotland—identical in spirit, if not absolutely in form, with the borough franchise in England—is a franchise founded on a principle which has been accepted by the country. That principle is that the franchise should be intrusted to those who perform public duties and thereby prove themselves competent to exercise the franchise at Parliamentary elections. The condition of residence is also approved by the country. The arrangements we have prepared with regard to those householders who may be anxious to obtain the franchise, but who, on account of the conditions accepted by the country, may be debarred from immediately enjoying it, are of such a nature that they will, if not entirely, yet to a considerable degree remove every obstacle in the way of obtaining it. The English Bill, upon which the Scotch Bill is founded, will when passed have the effect, if not immediately, yet ultimately and gradually—and better because gradually—of elevating the character of the people of this country by increasing the interest they take in the management of their own affairs. And to teach them to manage their own affairs is the best mode of rendering them fit for the possession of the franchise, by which they may influence the affairs of the Empire. Her Majesty's Government accept the division on Thursday last as a sanction and guarantee of the general policy of the Government with respect to the borough franchise. They believe that after that vote there will be no difficulty whatever in proceeding with the English 402 Reform Bill with expedition, and in a manner satisfactory to the House. They have experienced already much assistance from the House in the conduct of that Bill. There are many questions, no doubt, on which they are ready to assert the view which they think the right one, but with respect to which the opinion of the House will greatly influence them. I hope, therefore, that under these circumstances we may proceed with that Bill, which is the model of the Scotch Bill, after the Scotch Bill has been introduced, and that we may make considerable progress even to-night. Having said that, I will also state—I hope in a manner which will offend no one—that I most anxiously hope—after the vote of Thursday last, that there will be no attempt indirectly—for I will not use the word "surreptitiously"—to rescind or perplex that vote. From the conclusion at which the House then arrived it is impossible for the Government to deviate. I say this more particularly, because I have heard of violent speeches made since the last sitting of the House, which, considering the anxious task we and the House generally have undertaken, are not of a very encouraging character. When it is borne in mind that, whatever differences of opinion may be entertained by particular individuals and sections, the House has been engaged for a considerable time in settling how a large increase of electoral power should be distributed among the people of this country; considering also that, probably this very evening, after the introduction of this Bill, both sides of the House, in the total absence of party feeling, will proceed to deal with the subject of the lodger franchise, with, I believe, an earnest desire on the part of the great majority of the House to bring to a safe and satisfactory solution a question of particular interest to the people of this metropolis—considering all this, I most deeply regret that the recent addresses were ever delivered. I feel that they do not assist the Government or the House, and this is a matter which interests the House as much as it interests the Government. Those addresses do not assist us in bringing this affair to a happy termination. I regret much that the old stages and antique machinery of agitation should have been re-adjusted, re-burnished, and sent up by Parliamentary train to London. We are, moreover, threatened with an agitation of a most indefinite and incoherent character; for at this moment 403 I am at a loss to know whether the proposed agitation is to be in favour of manhood suffrage or a £5 rating. All this is not satisfactory, and it is a great impediment to me in introducing the Scotch Bill to the consideration of the House this evening. I should have been very glad if, after the vote of the House on Thursday, it had been considered that a definite decision had been arrived at on the subject of the borough franchise. I regret very much that these spouters of stale sedition should have come forward to take the course they have. It may be their function to appear at noisy meetings. But I regret very much they should have come forward as obsolete incendiaries to pay their homage to one who, wherever he may sit, must always remain the pride and ornament of this House.Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?Who would not weep if Atticus were he?Notwithstanding these menaces, we shall be able, I trust, to continue our labours with calmness, and with a common endeavour to produce as good a Bill as the contending principles of different parties in this free country will allow. Nothing has surprised me more in the ebullitions which have recently occurred than their extremely intolerant character. Everybody who does not agree with somebody else is looked upon as a fool, or as being influenced by a total want of principle in the conduct of public affairs. Sir, I cannot bring myself to believe that that is the temper of the House of Commons or the temper of the country. I do not believe that they will sanction such proceedings. I believe they utterly disapprove them, and I appeal with confidence to the House to assist Her Majesty's Government in any efforts they make to improve these Bills for the Representation of the People. I have said that the franchise in the boroughs in Scotland will be similar to and almost identical with that of the boroughs in England. The occupation franchise for the counties will be reduced on the same scale, and in the same manner, as it has been proposed to reduce it in England. The property franchise, untouched in England, will be untouched in Scotland. It is now my business to call the attention of the House to the, for the moment, more novel and interesting subject of the re-distribution of seats. There were forty-five Members for Scotland at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. That had been the number of Scotch Members from the Union 404 of the two kingdoms. After more than a century's experience, they were by the Bill of 1832 increased by eight. Although only thirty-five years have passed; after giving the most complete consideration to the whole question of the representation of Scotland, and wishing to give it, under all the circumstances, a fair and adequate representation, we propose to increase the number of Scotch representatives to sixty. That is, to add seven to the number it now possesses. In speaking of the apportionment of the new Members, I would first address myself to the claims of the Universities. These are very learned, ancient, and distinguished institutions, and they have in their time produced very able men. But it was not until the year 1858 that they had a popular constitution conferred upon them. They were indebted for that popular constitution to the Government of which I was a Member, and it was the then Lord Advocate, the present Lord Chief Justice Clerk of Scotland, Mr. Inglis, who introduced the measure. Until a measure of that kind was carried it was quite impossible that the question of the representation of the Universities could be considered, because, owing to the want of a popular constitution, they had no means of establishing a constituency. That measure has been perfectly efficient and singularly successful. It has accomplished its end. It has given the four Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and St. Andrew's a constituency of about 5,000, rather more than that of the University of Oxford, rather less than that of Cambridge, and considerably exceeding the constituency of what is called the University of Dublin—in fact, only Trinity College, which is 1,700. I do not grudge Trinity College its two Members, though they are not always on the same side as myself. I do not grudge it them for this reason—I think that the title and function which the college possesses may ultimately lead to the establishment of a real University in Ireland. There may be other colleges affiliated to Trinity College, and that constituency will naturally increase. The Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin have each two Members. Under this Bill the constituencies of the Scotch Universities will amount to 6,500; for there are 1,500 medical graduates whom it was intended to have enfranchised in 1858, and who were omitted only through a technical oversight. Under these circumstances, we propose to apportion two Members 405 to the Scotch Universities, but that they shall be divided. We propose to couple the University of Edinburgh, which contributes one moiety of the constituency, with that of St. Andrew's, which is the smallest, and to give the two one Member. We also propose that the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen shall together return one Member. Now I come to what we propose to do with regard to the burghs and the counties. It will be convenient that I should put before the House their exact position as regards the population, electors, and value. Taking the Census of 1861 as our guide, the population of the burghs will be 1,244,106, and that of the counties 1,818,188. So that the excess of population in the counties is 574,082. The first inference from these figures might be that there should be a considerable increase of county Members. But, looking further, we find that there are 55,515 electors in the burghs, and 49,979 in the counties. So that the excess of electors in the burghs is 5,536. The annual value of the burghs is £4,700,000, and that of the counties £8,700,000. At present the counties have thirty Members and the burghs twenty-three. We propose to take the three principal counties of Scotland—Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Aberdeenshire—and we propose to give them an additional Member each. But, as no county has more than one Member, we propose that these three counties shall each be divided, and that each division shall have a Member. We propose to increase the representation of the borough of Glasgow, so eminent for its population, industry, and intelligence, and scarcely second to any place except the metropolis. We do not propose to give a third Member to the existing constituency, a plan which we think erroneous in principle and prejudicial in action. We would rather put it in a position similar to that of Liverpool and Manchester, with regard respectively to Birkenhead and Salford. We propose to divide Glasgow as it is divided naturally by its river, to give two Members to North Glasgow and the third to the south part of the town, including some of its suburbs, We propose to dissolve two groups of burghs, the Falkirk and the Kilmarnock burghs. Among these in their immediate vicinity, and identified with them by interests and pursuits, a variety of towns have risen since 1832. We propose that as to these and throughout Scotland every town with not less than 6,000 inhabitants 406 shall be a burgh. The new burghs will be Coatbridge, Wishaw, Kirkintilloch, Helensburgh, Johnstone, Barrhead, Pollockshaws, Ardrossan, Hawick, Galashiels, and Alloa. The population of Coatbridge, the highest, is 10,500, there are several between 7,000 and 8,000, and the lowest population is that of Barrhead, which is 6,018. We propose to dissolve the two groups of the Falkirk and Kilmarnock burghs, and out of the burghs composing them and the new burghs whose names I have read we shall make three groups of burghs. One will be a new group. To that group we shall apportion a Member, and that will be an addition to representation. The Falkirk group will then consist of Falkirk, Linlithgow, Dumbarton—three burghs already in that district—and Kirkintilloch and Helensburgh—two new burghs. This group will have a united population of 33,223. The burghs composing this group are situate on the same line of railway, with an extreme distance from Falkirk, the proposed returning burgh, of about forty miles. Dumbarton was formerly in the Kilmarnock group. The new group to be represented for the first time will be called the Hamilton district. It will consist of Hamilton, Airdrie, Lanark, and Rutherglen, with Coatbridge (population 10,501) and Wishaw (population 6,112), both mining towns. These burghs have an aggregate population of 53,332. All are situate within the county of Lanark, and the character of their populations is very similar. Hamilton, Airdrie, and Lanark were formerly in the Falkirk, and Rutherglen in the Kilmarnock district. The third group will be called the Kilmarnock burghs, and will consist of Kilmarnock, Port Glasgow, and Renfrew, and the new burghs of Johnstone, Barrhead, and Pollockshaws. Their aggregate population is 53,133. These burghs are all, with the exception of Kilmarnock, in the county of Renfrew. Kilmarnock is in the county of Ayr. But it is impossible to put it in the Ayrshire group on account of its large and increasing population. The extreme distance between Kilmarnock and the other burghs, all of which are connected by railway, is under thirty miles. By that arrangement we add another Member to the Scotch burghs. There are some slight changes which we propose in existing groups. The Ayr burghs we propose to increase and strengthen by adding Ardrossan with a population of 7,674. This is the only alteration in the Ayr burghs. 407 The Haddington burghs are weak in point of population, and the constituency requires to be considerably strengthened. It comprises two places, North Berwick and Dunbar, which have a population of little more than 1,100; and the whole population is not much more than 13,000. We add to them the town of Hawick, with a population of 8,191, and Galashiels with a population of 8,500. These are rising commercial towns, and ought certainly to enjoy a share in the representation. That will very much strengthen the Haddington burghs. They at present belong to the counties of Selkirk and Roxburgh. Hawick is distant from the returning burgh about as far as Jedburgh and Galashiels is nearer. In the Stirling district we have added the port of Alloa, with a population of 6,425, and within seven or eight miles of the returning burgh. The result is: We propose to give seven new Members to Scotland. Two to the Universities. One to Glasgow, which will be divided into North and South Glasgow. One to a new group of burghs. We propose to strengthen other groups of burghs by the addition of towns which have unquestionable claims to such a position, and to add three Members for the three chief counties of Scotland. I can hardly hope that every arrangement which we propose will pass unquestioned by the House, because for arrangements of this kind no such reception can be expected. All I can say is that if they can be improved by discussion, so much the better. Her Majesty's Government have no other object than to fulfil their promise of giving a full and fair representation to Scotland. They have given their best consideration to the subject. I hope, therefore, I am asking for leave to introduce a Bill which will meet with the favourable consideration of the House.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, it would be premature to enter into any lengthened discussion of the topics brought before the House until they saw the Bill which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now asked leave to introduce. But he would say a word on the subject of the borough and county franchise, and the re-distribution of seats. No wonder the right hon. Gentleman was rather embarrassed in explaining the provisions of the Bill. The other night he promised, and in the letter he had fulfilled his promise, that the new borough franchise for Scotland should be identical with that for England. But before you could produce identity by applying 408 the same rule you must have the same subject to which to apply it. As the state of matters in Scotland was entirely different from that in England, the House would find what they would not have discovered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that the effect in Scotland differed materially, and in some respects was entirely the reverse of that in England. Last year there was in some quarters a singular rage for statistics. No progress, it was declared, could be made without statistics, and the Government of that day were expected to inform the House minutely of the different classes of persons whom they expected to enfranchise. But the House had not a word of information as to the numbers who would be enfranchised under this Bill. They had been told that payment of rates was the discharge of a public duly, and that a man who paid rates was fitted for the franchise. He said nothing against that principle at present. But in the Reform Bill of 1832 there was a provision about the payment of rates in Scotland—namely, that no man should be enfranchised who had not paid his assessed taxes. There was no general rate at the time. Indeed, there was none now which might be made the standard. The assessed taxes were therefore chosen as the standard. This provision, however, gradually fell into utter disuse. In 1856, with the common consent of the Scotch Members and constituencies, it was abolished, and the qualifications was made rest upon the rental as it appeared upon the valuation roll. The payment of rates, the public function, which was henceforth to be the foundation of the franchise, stood in Scotland substantially in this way. The poor rate was considered the most to just. It was not universally adopted as the test, but it was generally. If they were to have the ratepaying element at all it was reasonable that the poor rate should be the standard. The poor rate was levied one-half from the landlord and one-half from the tenant. It was in the power of each parochial Board—a body corresponding to the Board of Guardians in England—to exempt any one they pleased on the score of poverty. In the Valuation Act there was a general provision that in the case of houses under £4, if they were not entered separately on the valuation roll by the valuation assessor, the landlord would be liable to pay the whole rate, he recovering from the tenant. Substantially, however—at all events, in the large towns in 409 Scotland—it was not the practice to collect rates from the tenants of houses valued below £4. The landlord paid his own share, which was one-half, and as to the other half there was no collection at all. He had calculated the effect which the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would produce in Edinburgh, which might probably be fairly taken as a guide to the general working of the Bill. In Edinburgh there were upwards of 21,000 householders under £10. Of those, 15,739 were male occupiers. Deducting from this number householders under £4, and therefore not rated, of whom there were 4,452, deducting also paupers, defaulters, and those who were excused payment, 2,422, the total deductions being 6,874, you had an addition to the constituency under this Bill of 8,865. The £7 franchise in the Bill of last year would have admitted in Edinburgh 2,770. So that the right hon. Gentleman was proposing to enfranchise three times the number which the Bill of last year would have let in. Far be it from him to express regret at this. But certainly this was a remarkable termination to the fifteen years' controversy which had gone on upon this subject. In 1852 Lord John Russell proposed a £5 rental franchise in Scotland. From that time to the present hon. Gentlemen opposite had been eloquent upon the dangers which would ensue from extending the franchise. The result now was that, whatever the Bill might do for England, they had come to the deliberate conclusion that in Scotland every man who paid his rates was entitled to the franchise, the result being to increase the number of voters three times beyond that by which they were so terrified last year. It was not important to taunt hon. Gentlemen with their previous opinions—first, because it was so easy that it was worth nobody's while to do it; and secondly, because he was not disposed to taunt them for coming to a sound and practical conclusion. For years the Liberal party had been entreating the present Government and their followers to put faith in the people. They were now showing their opinion that the people might be trusted. He did not taunt them with this. But when some of them boasted that the Government Bill would not enfranchise in England the numbers that would have been enfranchised by the Bill of last year, it was well to contrast the different treatment of householders in 410 England and in Scotland, and to remind hon. Gentlemen, also, of their opposition to former proposals for increasing the franchise. He remembered a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1865 which struck him very much, and which made a great noise in the country. The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman then were very different from those which they had just heard. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the Bill of 1859, said—All that has occurred—all that I have observed—and all the results of my reflections, lead me to this more and more, that the principle upon which the constituencies of this country should be increased is one not of Radical, but I would say of lateral reform—the extension of the suffrage, not its degradation."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 1702.]Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that though the Government of Lord Derby had agreed to a lowering of the £10 franchise, his present opinion was opposed to any course of that kind. Yet, with respect to Scotland, they had come to this in substance—namely, not a £7, but a £4 rental, because every man above £4 was personally rated, and therefore would be admitted to the franchise. Though he was unfashionable enough to prefer a Bill like that of last year to a measure for household suffrage or a £4 rental, he was not afraid of "government by numbers," or any of those platitudes which hon. Gentlemen opposite had indulged in so much last year, but which had now been buried so as never to be likely to be raised again. He had always thought that the amount of the franchise was a matter of detail. He had no fear of intrusting to the people such an amount of political power as would enable them to decide who should represent them in Parliament. Although the proposals of the Government went far beyond anything ever proposed in that House in the way of enfranchisement, he did not see why it should not work for the benefit of the country. As far as the abstract proposition was concerned, he had no reason to oppose it. But he could not quit this subject without one word, and it was this:—The circumstances under which an extension of the suffrage might be dangerous were that those who had hitherto strenuously opposed it were now found to be its strongest supporters. It was dangerous, first, for this reason, that it encouraged those who had by agitation obtained this concession. It encouraged the most light, the most volatile, and those who were least to be relied upon, to believe 411 that they had only to repeat the same means in other instances to secure the same result. It was dangerous, also, because it lowered the influence which the great Conservative party ought to have. [Laughter.] He repeated that the probable effect of this measure coming from the other side—though he did not deny there were some practical advantages in its so coming—was to limit the proper and legitimate influence of the Conservative party. It cast loose many of the political sympathies by which political combinations were bound together, and would probably raise questions which would otherwise have slumbered. He would, however, make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. He would strongly urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no fitting basis for the Scotch franchise could be found in the personal payment of rates. It was really equivalent to household suffrage with a £4 limit. If this was the object of the Government, it ought to be accomplished in a straightforward manner, and in such a manner that the present simple system of registration might be preserved. Let the parochial Board send in an annual return of those who were not rated, or who had not paid their rates, to the assessors, who would then be able upon their information to make out the electoral roll, and there would be no necessity for the machinery now proposed. He had only a word to add. When the right hon. Gentleman asked that the vote of the other night should be final, when he complained that there were those who were not altogether inclined to follow that course, he begged to say that he would take every opportunity afforded him by those who understood the question better than himself to try that the same justice should be meted out to England as to Scotland. When they saw the Bill of the Government with respect to Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman would be obliged to explain why every man who honestly paid his rates there should have a vote, while those who paid them in England, but paid them in a different way, should not. Before proceeding further, he wished to express his gratification at the representation which, it was proposed, should be given to the Universities. It was only right, if credit was to be claimed at all, to say that it was to a Liberal Government that the Universities were indebted for the removal of the tests, as without their removal not a single step could be taken in the direction 412 of Reform. With respect to the county franchise, he trusted that some provisions in regard to residence would be enforced, in order to prevent that manufacture of faggot votes which had so long disgraced Scotland. With the same object, he thought that as a test of genuine occupancy the erection of some building on the land ought to be made a necessary condition. The proposals respecting the re-distribution of seats he would not then touch upon. The idea had crossed his mind that Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, and Roxburghshire would be considerably affected. He thought, on the whole, that Lanarkshire had been well selected. The consideration of those points would, however, come more properly on a future occasion. He was sure that the objects of the Bill would receive the fair and candid consideration of the House.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that it was not to be expected that in a matter of such importance no objection should be taken by Gentlemen on the other side to a measure introduced on that side of the House. It was only to be expected that different opinions might be held on some of the fundamental principles on which the measure was based. The Government, however, had no reason to be displeased with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, which dealt more with omissions than with anything that had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the first place, he would answer one of the criticisms of his right hon. Friend opposite by saying that the principle of the Bill did not involve matters of statistics as to the number of voters to be enfranchised. The scale of enfranchisement had not been either restricted or enlarged by regard to numbers. The Bill was based upon a wholly different principle—namely, that those who fulfilled public duties should be admitted to the franchise. The reason why so much discussion took place as to the numbers to be enfranchised by the Bill of the late Government was that that Bill had been avowedly introduced upon the principle of numbers. Both in 1860 and in 1865 a claim was made upon the favour of the House on account of the smallness of the numbers to be added. When the late Government introduced their Bill upon that principle it was not surprising that the House of Commons should have entered into a critical examination of the figures; and, when found illusory or incomplete, that 413 they should have asked for some explanation. The hon. Gentleman had said that the payment of rates could afford no foundation for the Scotch franchise. But it was not only a possible but a very excellent basis. In the majority of parishes in Scotland the tenants paid the whole rate and deducted half of it from the landlord's rent. Thus the personal payment of rates was a principle already in force in Scotland. His hon. and learned Friend had given an estimate of the number of those whom he believed would be enfranchised by this measure in Edinburgh. But he understood that in the city and parish of Edinburgh no one renting a house below £5 was rated to the relief of the poor. So that no fair estimate of the number to be enfranchised could be gathered from the number of houses rented at and above £4. Houses rented at £4 were, it was true, rated to the relief of the poor in the other, the West Church parish. But there was a wide difference between a £4 rating and a £4 rental. In any case, the numbers would not be so extensive as his hon. and learned Friend appeared to anticipate, though, to do him justice, his hon. and learned Friend appeared to entertain but little apprehension about the admission of fresh voters to the franchise. The numbers would not be overpowering. The increase to the borough constituencies would scarcely exceed 100 per cent. His hon. and learned Friend had in some manner congratulated Her Majesty's Government upon the trust of the people which they had exhibited in their proposals for the extension of the franchise. But to a charge of not trusting the people, neither Her Majesty's Government nor the Conservative party had ever, in his opinion, exposed themselves. In 1859 a Conservative Government proposed a large addition to the constituency of the country. That fact in itself ought to free the Conservative party from any such imputation. He could not, at all events, see anything inconsistent in a measure so liberal as the one now before the House being introduced by the Conservative party. Because one party had inscribed "Reform" on its banner he could not understand why that party should monopolize the attempts to admit at the proper time a number of our fellow citizens, well qualified to exercise the trust, to the franchise—an object in which all well-wishers to their country should be willing to co-operate. Because they had objected to attempts to deal with this 414 question when those attempts held forth no prospect of arriving at a settlement, that was not, as far as he could see, any reason why they should be debarred from introducing a measure based, as they believed, upon more satisfactory and lasting principles. On the contrary, now that there was a probability of this question being carried to a happy solution, he thought that it was greatly to the advantage of the country that its management had been intrusted to those who could call to their assistance moderate men of all parties. He would add but one word. By the system of grouping and distribution adopted in this Bill—a system upon which his hon. and learned Friend had not largely entered, but to which he referred with some amount of deprecation—he thought that many of the irregularities and inconsistencies of the Reform Bill of 1832 had been remedied. On the whole question, believing as he did that the majority of his countrymen were by their education and intelligence fully qualified to possess the franchise, and that the residences in Scotland, as a rule, were inhabited by men in a better social position than were those of a similar rental in England, he trusted that the measure was one which would recommend itself to those who desired to effect an improvement in the representation of their country.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that as a humble supporter of the measure of last Session, he rejoiced in being able to support the measure which had been introduced, and which gave a far greater extension of the franchise than that proposed by the former Bill, as far as Scotland was concerned. He wished to know was there to be any alteration as to the practice with regard to assessment in cases of owners above £4; and whether facilities were to be given to occupiers below that line to come upon the electoral roll. He had been all his life a strong advocate for a wide extension of the franchise to the people of this country; but he felt it would be bad policy on the part of the Government to extend the franchise in Scotland below the £4 line. Without any fear of being taunted for treating the matter from a Conservative point of view, he approved of what the Government had offered. He thought if their friends in England had an opportunity of seeing how well the franchise worked in Scotland they would not rest satisfied with the proposal of the Government, but never stop until they had obtained for England that measure 415 of justice which the Government were willing to give to Scotland. It was said there was no bribery in Scotland and he was glad to hear it, but they had a system of creating faggot votes in the counties which was extremely discreditable, and which the Government had now a fair opportunity of remedying. With regard to the re-distribution of seats, he must say he had never advocated that Scotland ought to have so many Members as some said she ought to have. He knew the difficulties with which any Government would have to contend with from both sides of the House in regard to any scheme of re-distribution. He therefore did not feel disposed to object when the Government only gave them seven additional Members, because that was the proposal of last year. Under all the circumstances, it was not to be expected that the Government would give them more. But he was satisfied that the boroughs, which were increasing in such a remarkable manner, would be excessively dissatisfied when they found that they were to get only two more additional Members. The wealth of Scotland had of late increased far more in the boroughs than the counties. He questioned very much whether there were any towns in the world that had increased so much in wealth and general prosperity as some of the large towns in Scotland during the last fifty years. Take the town of Dundee. The increase of wealth and population in that borough was greater than in any in the United Kingdom, he believed. It had 100,000 inhabitants, and yet it had only one Member. He was therefore satisfied that the people of Dundee would complain, and with very great reason when a measure like this was introduced, that their claims were entirely overlooked. Although attached to the system of representation by counties and boroughs, and not desiring to see it materially altered, he did not wish to draw too hard and fast a line between towns and counties. Some of the counties in Scotland were very small, and he could see no reason why the electors of Selkirkshire should not be joined to the electors of Peeblesshire. On the question of the borough franchise, if they were to understand that it was to be a £4 rental, he believed it would give general satisfaction in Scotland.
MR. GRANT DUFF
, reserving to himself full liberty to take any necessary objections on future stages of the Bill, thanked 416 the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what he had done for Scotch Universities; his offer was the most liberal that had ever been made in this respect. He also thanked him for the proposal made with regard to the burgh franchise in Scotland, which would give something like finality for the rest of the century—those thirty-three years which had been described as "a political eternity." But he asked whether the strange position of the House had not been made more strange by the Scotch Bill? Whether the leaders of his side of the House were or were not right in their views as to the immediate results of the English Bill, no reasonable man could doubt that in a very few years, if not in very few months, we should have virtually the same franchise from Land's End to John O'Groat's, and that franchise would be a lower one than any politician dreamt of a year ago. Who, when Lord Russell came in, and set about spending his fine majority like a gentleman, dreamt that we were coming to what we had? Neither he who wished nor he who feared to advance in a democratic direction had dreamt it. The truth was events had been too strong for men. The House had not mastered them. They had mastered the House. It was more easy to describe what had happened than to explain it. They had been carried along by the stream of tendency. The spirit of the times was using them as his instrument and working through them; but, when all was said and done, what a spectacle was presented, what a shipwreck of reputations, what a comedy of errors! He spoke from the point of view of one who neither wished for household suffrage nor deprecated it—from the point of view of one who believed and always had believed, that far too much was made of the question of the franchise, both by those who had urged and by those who had resisted its extension. He was firmly persuaded that although an extended franchise was a political necessity, and would do good partly by introducing into the House a certain number of persons who spoke more directly the opinion of the working classes than was done by any at present in the House, and partly because the troubling of the waters now going on could not fail to give an impulse to Liberal views; he was firmly persuaded that, after the great cataclysm that had been predicted, things would look very much as they did now, and that feeling was, he suspected, shared by many in the Liberal 417 camp. But what could be the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite and of some on his side? Either the denunciations of democracy, so often heard of late, were wild rhapsodies, or those who uttered them must now be in a position which reminded him of a certain grim old German picture, in which a crowd of princes and prelates, knights and ladies, were gaily approaching a portal which appeared to lead to Abraham's bosom, but which an inscription at the bottom informed the spectator led really to quite another place. "The irony of the situation" had been recently spoken of, but surely the situation was ironical in another and not in a party sense. How many people were there in the House of Commons who really, ex animo, desired to go beyond the £6 rental burgh franchise of the hon. Member for Leeds and of Lord Palmerston's Bill? He was sure at this moment the majority of the House were conjugating to themselves, "I don't want, thou dost not want, he does not want, we do not want, you do not want, they do not want, to do so." And yet who did not see that the old £6 limit was "gone, frozen, dead for ever?" The Fates and the Destinies, at whom he scoffed, had beaten the right hon. Member for Calne. The irony was Sophoclean; the Bishop of St. David's should add a new illustrative page to his memorable essay. But what was the moral of the whole affair? If events had become too strong for them, and they were being hurried beyond what most of them desired, it behoved them to come to some agreement upon the question with all speed, for no one could watch what was passing in the country, or read the newspapers, without coming to the conclusion that, if the question of Reform were kept open much longer, the hon. Member for Birmingham would be in the position of a Girondin. Any one who had ears to heal, must heal from time to time now, in the press, a sharp querulous note, quite different from, and far more ominous of evil and danger, than what he might call the brave, hearty, English bellow of the hon. Member for Birmingham, with whom many Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House agreed in ninety-nine cases out of 100, and who really ought not, when he went down to his burgh, to abuse his best friends so loudly, if once in a way they chose to call their souls their own.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he congratulated the Government upon the production of a Bill which appeared to 418 give satisfaction to both sides of the House. Whatever might have been his idea with regard to the reduction of the franchise in England, Scotland, in his opinion, had always occupied a different position, owing to the extent to which education was carried among the lower classes in that country. Statistics, he believed, would also establish satisfactorily that in Scotch elections hardly any of those immoral and corrupt practices were brought to bear which prevailed extensively in England. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Moncreiff) had attacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what he conceived to be an inconsistency in his Bills. But in Scotland personal liability to the payment of rates existed, so that the principle in England and in Scotland would be identical. He hoped the House would not object to the proposed addition of seven Members to the Scotch representation. In fact, if the fail proportions were observed, he believed they would have a right to twenty-two. At the present moment each of the fifty-three Scotch Members represented an average population of 59,000, whereas the 500 English Members only represented a population of 35,000 each. If they took wealth, population, or education, as the test, Scotland was entitled to an addition of twenty-two Members. Still he supposed they must rest satisfied with the proposal of the Government, which at all events would do one great act of justice, in giving real county representation. Where the large centres of manufacturing industry had grown up in the South of Scotland since the Reform Bill, they voted for the burghs, and there was therefore very little county representation at all. He thanked the Government for having introduced a Bill which would give universal satisfaction.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in error in stating that there were no compound-householders in Scotland. All houses under £4 rental were by law compound-rouses. Every occupier was liable to be rated, and those who imposed the assessment could not resolve that all occupants under a certain rental should be relieved of the payment—it could only be done individually, There were a number of houses under £4, the occupiers of which did not at present find their way on to the electoral roll. Under this Bill they would be capable of being placed upon it, and, belonging necessarily to the class most 419 liable to undue influence, he feared that the result would be to introduce into Scotch constituencies those elements of corruption from which hitherto they had happily been free. He looked accordingly with unqualified distrust upon that part of the Bill, of which, in other respects, he approved.
§ SIR JOHN OGILVY
said, that having been absent from accidental circumstances when the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was made, he had gathered but imperfectly the details of the Government proposal. He felt bound, however, to take the earliest opportunity of entering his dissent from those proposals, as far as he understood them, believing that they would be received with great dissatisfaction and disappointment, if not with indignation. His constituents had especial reason to complain that the claims arising to increased representation on the score of their increased and rapidly increasing population had been overlooked by Her Majesty's Government. The town of Dundee was a rapidly thriving place, and had 120,000 inhabitants. He therefore considered that it was entitled to more consideration than it had received.
§ MR. LAING
said, that as regarded the question of the borough franchise, he was disposed frankly to accept the proposal of the Government. When the English borough franchise was brought under consideration he was more favourable on the whole to the £5 plan than to that of household suffrage with personal rating. He voted to that effect in the division that took place before Easter, but with considerable hesitation, because he felt that household suffrage coupled with personal rating was infinitely preferable in theory. He thought the former plan more likely to work well in England, because he was somewhat afraid of that which had been called the residuum in some of the large towns where education had not reached that standard which would make it safe to give the franchise to all householders without exception. The House having expressed, by a clear and decisive majority, its approval of household suffrage coupled with personal rating, he thought it his duty to acquiesce in the decision and endeavour to make the best of it, rather than to attempt, by successive divisions, to reverse it. But whatever difficulty he might have felt in that respect as regarded England, he felt none as regarded Scotland. The standard 420 of education there was such that largely as this Bill would increase the constituencies, it would not increase them to a degree that would be dangerous. The residuum of which there had been so much fear in England did not exist at all in many of the Scotch boroughs, and in many of the large towns it did not reach any great magnitude. As regarded the county franchise, some consideration was due to the question whether it ought not to be somewhat lower in Scotland than in England, especially if the property franchise were to be retained at the same figure as at present. In that case in Scotland they could not obtain the 40s. franchise which existed in England, and which had given to the English counties a large body of independent freeholders. But he could not see why the rule applicable to England should not apply to Scotland, and he trusted that point would be considered before the measure were allowed to pass. He thought, further, that it was desirable to introduce some provision to guard against the manufacture of paper votes. This had notoriously taken place in many of the smaller counties in Scotland, to an extent which had gone far to overbear and swamp the independent and legitimate representation of the counties. As to the re-distribution of seats, he was sure that all the Scotch Members would feel grateful to the Government for their proposal to give two new Members to the Universities. Considering the claims of other portions of the Empire, Scotland could hardly expect to have meted out to her what she would be entitled to with regard to the statistical computation of rental and population. But he did not think it good policy to keep up distinctions between Scotland and England in matters of this kind. Scotland and England were one country in all but their historical associations. It would be unfair to the former not to admit her claim to the enfranchisement of Dundee and Aberdeen, which if situated in England would unquestionably be deemed entitled to two Members each in any new scheme of representation. These were the only two towns in Scotland not included in the scheme of the Government which possessed paramount claims to increased representation. As the addition proposed by the Government to the representation of Scotland was to be made by an addition to the total number of Members in that House, the doing justice to Aberdeen and Dundee 421 would be only a small matter if it was effected in that way. It would be better to give those towns an additional Member each, even if the Government had to abandon the grouping of those isolated boroughs of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken. Certain towns might be grouped. In the case of such counties as Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire, which had respectively unenfranchised populations, one of 10,000 and the other of 11,000, it would be a most glaring anomaly to take out their principal towns and add them to a group somewhere else. It would be far better to give additional county Members by grouping these two small counties.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that he recommended hon. Members to suspend their judgment upon the measure until they had seen and more narrowly scrutinized the proposals which the Government submitted to them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had developed in his proposals the scheme laid before the House last year, when he threw out as a suggestion the mode of manipulating the counties in England, by picking the large towns out of the county representation, and placing that representation and the borough representation in antagonism, so that they might be separately represented. That was much condemned at the time, and every one thought they had heard the last of it. The scheme, if carried out, would make the representation too much in the nature of a class representation. The right hon. Gentleman was ungracious enough to take away the only considerable town in the county of Selkirk, but that could not be done without raising the question whether it would not become necessary to double up several of the small counties. Another point worth consideration was, that the Liberal party in Scotch counties had to fight their battles without the aid which arose in England from the freehold votes in the counties. If they cut away the towns from the counties they would sever from the counties those freeholders who constituted in Scotland, as in England, the strength of the county representation. Another proposal was to divide some of the large and most populous counties into two, and that was unquestionably a very large and important proposition. If Her Majesty's Government proceeded in that direction he should follow them, for he considered that the large overgrown counties might well be divided. But if that 422 principle were to be carried out why was it limited to three particular counties in Scotland? With regard to the question of compound-householders, he would remind the House of the nature of the law with regard to Poor Law rating in Scotland. The local Boards in that country possessed a general power of exempting not merely individuals, but whole classes, and under the operation of that power Poor Law Boards had exempted, in some cases, all below £4; in other cases all below £5; in other cases all below £10, and in one case below £30. Unless there was to be some change in that law, he deprecated giving to the local Boards elected for the purpose of administering the Poor Law, a power which might be used for political purposes. The power they exercised at present was far more dangerous than that which was placed in the hands of the vestries in England.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he did not wish to protract the discussion, neither did he desire that it should be supposed, from his silence, that he was an assenting party to the proposal before the House. The House would do well to examine more closely into the operation of that proposal. He could not help thinking that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who knew a great deal about a great many things—more, perhaps, than most others in the House—did not know a great deal about Scotland. Indeed, he did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would pretend to know much about that country, and his judgment had no doubt been influenced by some person who was better acquainted with the subject than himself, who had, perhaps, influenced his judgment in a way which, if he had had more acquaintance with the subject, he would not have permitted. The right hon. Gentleman's principle—if principle it might be called—of dealing with the re-distribution of seats was simply to extract from the counties all the urban population, so that every town in Scotland above 6,000 inhabitants would be manufactured into a borough and turned into a group, and the counties would then be purely rural. The whole of the urban electors in the different counties were to be turned into the boroughs to relieve the landed interest of the urban votes. He thought the House would not be prepared to support such a proposition. The group which he had the honour to represent was one of those which would be affected by it. Kilmarnock, a thriving 423 manufacturing town of about 25,000 inhabitants, was now united to a number of boroughs with which it had no connection except a political one. The marriage however, was not, in these days of railways, inconvenient. Nevertheless, it was proposed to dissolve the existing tie between them, and to unite Kilmarnock to other boroughs with which it had no interests, not even political interests, in common. He was unable to understand what public object was to be gained by such an arrangement. But it was a less important matter than the question of the county votes. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to bring down the county occupation franchise to £15; but if the proposal were to be accompanied by a total absence of restrictions with regard to residence and building on that occupation—as was the case in the Bill of last year, very much to the distaste of many hon. Gentlemen—no improvement would be effected in the county representation of Scotland. He trusted both sides of the House would insist that the proprietary franchise in Scotland should be lowered to something about the figure at which it now rested in England. A £10 annual value was required in Scotland, while in England only 40s. a year was required. Why should there be any distinction in this respect between the two countries? He hoped it would not be taken for granted that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would necessarily, and as a matter of course, be accepted by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had not stated where the proposed additional seats were to come from; and he wished, therefore, to ask him whether English seats would be taken from boroughs which it had not yet been proposed to deal with, or whether it was intended that there should be an additional number of seats in the House?
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he thought the proposed borough franchise would work exceedingly well in Scotland, and he accepted it with all his heart. He agreed with what had been stated by the hon. Baronet (Sir James Fergusson) that the effect of a £4 rental franchise in Scotland would hardly be to double the constituencies; but even if they were doubled, he was quite satisfied that it would be a good, sound, and honest franchise. With regard to the line below £4, and the proposed alteration in the Poor Law assessment, he suspected that there had been some misunderstanding. In some parishes there were very few ratepayers, 424 and they did things by rule of thumb in some instances; but the rule in Scotland, under the Lands Valuation Acts, was that the public valuator only was bound to return the houses assessed at £4 and upwards; and although the authorities might order a special survey to be made, and a special list to be prepared of those under that limit, still the expense of making the special survey and the trouble connected therewith were so great that it did not pay; and in point of fact the authorities had nearly given up trying to make it answer. The result was that in the large boroughs they did not levy upon houses under £4; but in smaller boroughs, where rents were very low, they did levy under £4. And he would remind the House that those living in houses under £4 in small boroughs were not necessarily less reputable persons than those living in houses above £4 in large towns. And even in large towns there were differences. A house which would let for £3 a year in Paisley would let in Greenock, which was in the same county, and which was only a few miles off, for £5 or £6. Every one knew, however, that there was a class of improvident people in large towns who lived in miserable hovels, to whom it was not very desirable to give the franchise. As regarded the English Bill, the hon. Member (Mr. Watkin) had given notice of an Amendment that no occupancy in England should be held to be a "house" within the meaning of the Act unless it contained at least two apartments. He (Mr. M'Laren) had given notice in regard to houses below £4 rent in Scotland that they should not be considered "houses" unless they also had two apartments with a window and fireplace in each. He thought that principle, if adopted, would work well. It would admit a large number of the working classes in burghs where rents were low, and in which such houses could be got for £3 and even less, in all respects equal to houses at from £4 to £6 in large towns. As to the county franchise, if that was to be £14, he thought it would be most objectionable; for it could not be considered except with reference to what was proposed to be done respecting the small towns in the counties. There were probably 100 towns in England with populations above 6,000 inhabitants, but no one had proposed to take and unite them with boroughs in the neighbourhood or out of their own county. Why, then, was one law to be applied to England and another to Scotland? Why were the 425 towns of 6,000 population in Scotland to be carefully weeded out of the counties? The consequence would be that the counties would become purely agricultural preserves, and that the occupants of houses in the transferred towns, which now have some influence on the county representation, would then have none whatever, If the Government took all the occupants of houses of £14, who would make admirable voters for counties, out of these counties, and made them portions of boroughs ten, fifteen, or twenty miles distant, what would they get by their new county franchise of £14? They would only get a wretched class of small cotter fanners—men who in the Highlands are called crofters—a class of men analogous to the 40s. freeholders of Ireland, who were abolished by Parliament many years ago. In this way they would deteriorate the franchise, and such a Reform Bill would be a reactionary measure. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked about the Scotch Reform Bill, a few nights ago, he answered that it would be the same as the English Reform Bill. He (Mr. M'Laren) wished to know why this had not been done, and why Scotland should not have a county franchise the same as England. In the Reform Bills that had before been proposed for Scotland there had been a reduction proposed of the property qualification. One of them proposed to reduce it to £5, and another to £6. But these limits did not satisfy the people of Scotland. An agitation was commenced to obtain the 40s. freehold franchise the same as in England, because such a measure would be just in itself, and because it would introduce a class of voters who were both the owners and occupiers of the houses, and who were the very cream of the working classes. A technical difficulty about freeholds was thrown in their way, though a bonâ fide freeholder was just as well understood in Scotland as in England. In Scotland a freeholder technically meant one who enjoyed a charter direct from the Crown; but there were abundance of properties in Scotland held otherwise than by Royal Charters, which would give freehold votes in England. He need not explain to hon. Members what a freeholder meant in England. For these reasons he thought the county franchise was exceedingly objectionable, as were all the arrangements respecting counties. He would give an example. The county of Dumbarton had been referred to. The thriving watering 426 place of Helensburgh was within the county, and so was the considerable manufacturing town of Kirkintilloch, containing a population above 6,000. If any one would look at the poll books for the last election, he would find that the Liberal candidate had a large majority in the districts which included these towns. Any one who could reason logically would see that to take these towns out of the county of Dumbarton would change the state of politics in that county. With respect to the county of Renfrew, it would be found that if the towns of Pollockshaws, Johnstone, Lockwinnoch, and Barrhead were taken out of the county, the same results would be produced. He did not ascribe motives—he called attention to the facts. He contended this was not a fair or impartial arrangement, and that it was calculated to have a reactionary influence. He objected to the Bill for another reason. Scotch burghs were already clustered together in groups of five, six, or seven, to an unreasonable extent. Instead of breaking up those clusters, and giving separate Members to the larger burghs, they took the large towns out of the counties and added them to the clusters without adding to the number of Members. The right hon. Gentleman said that he took Hawick and Galashiels by way of strengthening the Haddington burghs, thus increasing the population to about 24,000. The Haddington group already consisted of five burghs, the inhabitants of which amounted to 13,000. Why should they strengthen Haddington, which had only one Member, while many boroughs in England, with a population of 10,000, had two Members? Why should not Haddington be left alone? The reason was that by taking Hawick and Galashiels out of the counties they would strengthen the power of the landlords. It would be observed that they did not by this proceeding add to the power of the town Members in the House, because Haddington returned one Member now, and it would only return one Member then. So much for the manipulation of the counties. He could not catch the names of all the places that had been mentioned. The House had reason to complain that no Paper had been laid upon the table showing the population of the various towns which were to be taken out of the counties, or of the groups of boroughs as they stood at present, and as they would stand under the proposed arrangement. The counties were to have 427 three additional Members, though they had not grown in population nearly so much as the boroughs, which were only to have one additional Member, for he did not include the University representation. If they went back to former times they would find that at the period of the Union, when Scotland had a Parliament of its own, and the people might be supposed to be qualified to manage their own affairs, the counties had thirty-eight Members and the boroughs forty-three. When the Union took place, forty-five Members were allotted to Scotland—more than the population or wealth of the country at that time could claim, and it was left to the Scotch Parliament to determine how these were to be distributed. The grandees who then sold their country [A laugh.]—why the price they received was on record—having the power to do as they liked, gave thirty Members to the counties and only fifteen to the boroughs. That was the way in which the burghs were robbed. By the Reform Bill of 1832 that injustice was in part redressed, and eight Members were added to the boroughs without one being added to the counties. By the present Bill three Members were to be added to the counties, and only one to Glasgow, and one to a new group of burghs, though everyone knew that the increase in the counties of Scotland was much smaller than in the towns. The counties had increased only 65,000 in the last ten years, while the boroughs had increased 107,000 in the same time. In the large county of Perth the population had diminished by 7,000, because the people were driven away to make room for deer forests. The same thing was taking place in other districts; and the increase in the counties was in the small towns which had sprung up during the last ten years—not in the agricultural population—and to take them out of the county constituencies was, practically, to increase the representation of the counties and the power of the landowners. The Bill, in respect of distribution of seats, was therefore unjust and ought to be resisted. Then, if the boroughs were to be put into groups why should not the counties be so also? The two principal towns of Selkirk and Peebles were royal burghs, and had been left in the counties to make up their several populations of 11,000 and 10,000. These two small counties ought to be united. Why should not these counties, which had between them a population of only 21,000, be united? If they went further North they would 428 find the county of Sutherland with only 181 voters, and three-fourths of the property in the hands of one landowner. Why should not that county be united with another? The Bill, apart from its borough franchise, was bad in its leading principles, and from not dealing justly with Scotland, and was a reactionary measure which ought to be resisted.
As yet we have not obtained a word of information from any authoritative source upon a question which is of great interest to the three Kingdoms—namely, in what manner the additional seats proposed to be bestowed upon Scotland are to be obtained. The Government have presented a Bill which disposes of the whole of the seats in England. Not one English seat is left disposable for the wants of Scotland. The increase of the numbers of this House is a question of great general importance. It is a practical question not to say a Constitutional question, and it is hardly possible to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could contemplate an augmentation of the numbers of the House without having stated it to the House as a political proposition of great breadth and weight. I remember a speech of the right hon. Gentleman—I have not referred back to it today, but it was made in 1852—when there were four vacant seats. The Government were then about to dissolve Parliament, and there was an understanding that no questions would be introduced except such as were of a necessary or urgent character. The right hon. Gentleman then defended the introduction of a Bill for the disposal of those four seats upon the plea not that this House consisted of too few Members, but that it was necessary to raise the House to the Constitutional number of 658. If the right hon. Gentleman attaches so much value to that principle, it confirms my belief that if he had intended to increase the numbers he would have stated his intention to the House with the significance the proposal would deserve. We seem, therefore, to be driven to this only other alternative, that he must mean to take away from Ireland the seven new Members for Scotland. That is the only part of the representation yet undealt with by the proposals of the Government. If he really intends to do anything so cruel, I trust he will not succeed. But, then, I should like to know whether an addition is to be made to the numbers of this House. 429 That is a question upon which I give no opinion whatever except that it is a matter so important that we are entitled to expect that it shall be submitted to the notice of the House in a manner enabling us to pronounce a fair and impartial judgment upon it, so that, having a fixed number of seats to give, we may be able to give them according to the relative claims of each part of the United Kingdom. As far as the provisions of this Bill extend, I have no doubt that they will undergo a thorough investigation. I shall not now refer to the question of the county franchise or the re-distribution of seats further than to say that I think there is great force in what has been said by my hon. Friends and by other hon. Members relating to these subjects. With respect to the borough franchise it is necessary I should say a few words. These few words need not be the same as it has been my duty to use, and may be again, with respect to the extraordinary proposals which have been made for England, and which I must frankly admit the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to consider after what passed in the House the other night as in the main adopted by the House. I speak, therefore, in the character of one of the minority, and I will say a word as to the expectation which the right hon. Gentleman has now held out, and the concessions he is disposed to make. As to the Government proposal for the Scotch borough franchise, I must distinguish between the principal part and a portion of the proposal, which I cannot help hoping will be found only subsidiary and admitting of a remedy. The principal part of the proposal—I mean the plan of the Government with regard to householders below £10—gives within the boroughs of Scotland a large and liberal enfranchisement, without any odious and offensive distinction between man and man. That is a proposal which testifies to me the great progress that has been made upon the question of Reform in the mind, I do not say of the Government or of a particular party—it is quite unnecessary to go back into such matters—but in the mind of Parliament and the country. I cannot help fearing, however, that when we descend to the lower part of the scale in Scotland as in England—though the lower part of the scale there has a different relative importance—we get upon difficult and dangerous ground. I do not understand what answer is to be made to the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Dunlop). 430 At present our information is imperfect as to the state of the law and as to the practice in Scotland. But here is a point which may deserve some attention. Whether from policy or from what he feels to be due to the consistency of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman is determined to avoid introducing into the Scotch borough franchise what he calls "the hard line." I have never been able to understand the intensity of the right hon. Gentleman's hostility to "the hard line;" because, although he has undoubtedly constructed a plan for the franchise in England and now one for Scotland, in which no such line is drawn, yet, after all, if the principle of a line be so indefensible in the case of the occupying householder, how are we to defend the principle of a line in the case of an occupying lodger, and how are we to defend the principle of a line in the case of the county voter? I do not deny that there is an advantage in getting rid of a line; but will the right hon. Gentleman be able to get rid of it even in Scotland? I join with him in the hope that this question of the borough franchise will be discussed without any infusion of party spirit. The concessions made by the right hon. Gentleman to popular principles in the changes he proposes are so ample that it would be most unjust to except to them on the ground of quantity and extent. Still, it is necessary to see what their working will be, and here is one particular point. Under the Valuation Act in all cases where any lands or hereditaments are under £4 a year, and the names thereof are not inserted in the valuation roll, the proprietor of these lands and hereditaments is to be charged with and pay the assessment upon them. When charged with and paying such assessment, he is to have relief against the tenants and the occupiers. This is not a compulsory exactment; but it is an enactment which is in general operation. With regard to these lands and hereditaments under £4 the proprietor is the sole person chargeable. He is not chargeable upon a reduced rate. He is chargeable upon precisely the same amount as the tenant would be if he were charged. Inasmuch, therefore, as the proprietor can do it without the cost of one shilling to himself, will he not have every inducement to pay the assessment, not in his own name, but in the name of his tenant, and in that way to make voters of the whole of these tenants under £4, and, of course, to 431 use his influence over them? That appears to me to be a serious matter, and I do not think it is a desirable relation to create between landlord and tenant. Then, again, the 42nd clause of the Scotch Poor Law Act makes it lawful for the parochial Board of any parish or combination to exempt from payment of the assessment or any part thereof, to such an extent as may seem proper and reasonable, any person or class of persons on the ground of their inability to pay. The right hon. Gentleman, in his anxiety to avoid the hard line, places himself in this difficulty—that it depends upon the parochial Board to determine to what point the franchise shall descend. I do not think that is a satisfactory state of things. There is much in the suggestion of my hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter). I do not say that the opinion he has given is one which ought to be adopted; but I think we ought to consider whether it would not be desirable to make the line of £4 absolute so far as the borough franchise is concerned. If that is a conclusion adapted to the circumstances of Scotland, it would not be fair to Scotland to deprive her of a beneficial arrangement from the fear of some conclusions that may be drawn therefrom unfavourable to certain arrangements proposed for England. I hope that these matters will be considered, and that they will be considered as plain questions of business, it being fully admitted, I think, on this side of the House by all those who have spoken upon the subject that the spirit of the proposals of the Government respecting the burgh franchise in Scotland is such as we cannot but commend. But the right hon. Gentleman, along with a flattering allusion to myself which was far more than I expected or deserve, was pleased to allude to the difficulties which beset him and his Colleagues in treating of Reform. Alluding to speeches make out of this House, he said there had appeared in London since last the House discussed this question a regiment or a body of persons whom he described as incendiaries. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Obsolete incendiaries!] I should be rather inclined to take critical exception to the phrase "obsolete" incendiaries. I presume it means worn-out or superannuated incendiaries, though that does not make the phrase more complimentary. The right hon. Gentleman spoke also of "spouters of sedition." [An hon. MEMBER: Stale sedition.] Yes, "stale sedition." Now, I do not know that I 432 have made myself amenable to a charge of this kind. If so, I hope my conduct will be fairly challenged in this House. But as I have heard some of the speeches to which I suppose the right hon. Gentleman refers, I wish to make a few remarks on that subject. In the first place, I question the prudence of denunciations of this vague and general kind by officers of the Crown and by leaders of the House of Commons, couched in terms which it is easy for anybody to use against the most temperate expressions, upon the most reasonable subjects—terms which cannot be brought to any distinct test, and which the right hon. Gentleman does not at the time illustrate by informing us what are the particular statements and who are the persons that he thinks fit thus to characterize. I must say that the language of the right hon. Gentleman brought to my mind in a manner more than usually vivid the reflection that when authority comes into the field for the purpose either of forbidding or denouncing, unless it can carry its denunciations or prohibitions to some positive issue, it inevitably loses credit or power. If there have been "spouters of sedition" in London or elsewhere dwelling among us, who have received countenance from Members of this House, it is highly desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should call those persons to account before the proper tribunals, in order that if guilty they may be visited with adequate punishment; and if not guilty, that the levity of attacks of this kind may be apprehended by the public. As respects the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman has had to encounter, they have arisen from the nature of the subject. There have been at issue, with regard to the constitution of the borough franchise in England, principles of great breadth and depth. The argument urged on behalf of the franchise proposed by the Government has been of very high pretensions. It has aimed at founding itself upon the fulfilment of public duties and the revival of old Constitutional principles. The objections taken to it, on the other hand, are not of a character to be settled by an adverse vote in this House. They rest on this—that, in the belief of those opposed to this franchise, the distinctions between those who are personally rated and those who are not is unjust, offensive, impolitic, and adverse to the fixed and general convictions of the country. The right hon. Gentleman will easily draw a distinction between convictions of a less 433 binding character, and the sense of an obligation, which cannot be escaped from, to save the House, to save the Legislature, to save the country, as far as may be, the inconvenience and even the peril of a protracted agitation, which in our sincere and deep convictions we believe must grow out of the attempt to found the basis of Parliamentary representation on such principles as these. To what I have said of the Scotch borough franchise as proposed to-night, I must add that the right hon. Gentleman is among his own most formidable difficulties as regards the English Bill. If he is discouraged with respect to his English Bill, I do not think he has any reason for discouragement with regard to the Scotch Bill, which confers the franchise without offensive distinction between man and man. If he is discouraged either as to the possibility of passing the English Bill through the House, or, as is more probable, as to the general acquiescence in it after it has passed, I must tell him that no one has struck a heavier blow at his English plan than he has himself aimed at it by his Scotch plan. Let him produce a plan which in its broad, main, commanding features shall give a wide and liberal popular enfranchisement, without offensive distinctions between man and man—let him do that, and he will find his difficulties vanish from his sight, and he will be able to come down and congratulate the House and claim just credit, not only for having conciliated opponents and disarmed opposition, but for having prepared for the acceptance of the people of England a plan worthy of their approval upon a question with respect to which almost all their minds are at this present time both excited and exercised.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he had listened very attentively to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that right hon. Gentleman had not even attempted to make out a case for adding to the Members of that House. At any rate, he had failed to show any case for adding to the Scotch Members. In ten counties in Scotland there were not 1,000 voters. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by bringing in a Reform Bill for Scotland which left untouched Sutherlandshire with its 180 voters? In the matter of giving the counties of Scotland a fair representation nothing was done. Instead of putting large towns together, why not group the counties? It might be said that 434 Irish Members were not interested in this question. He maintained that they were; and upon the way this Bill was received much would depend of the course the Irish Members would take. The entire province of Connaught, containing 5,000,000 acres, sent to Parliament only thirteen Members. Could Irish Gentlemen be content with that when seven additional Members were to be given to Scotland—especially as the Members from that country were always to be found in the ranks of their opponents? ["No, no!"] He took his stand upon the merits of the case, and contended that Scotland had no claim to an increased representation. Ireland had a far greater claim.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I freely admit that discussion on an occasion like the present is necessarily desultory, and that no Gentleman will be pledged by first impressions, whether adverse or the contrary. I have but one or two remarks to make as to the principle of the Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) says is different from that on which the English Bill is founded. I regret if there is any difference. The intention of the Government was, that the principle of both Bills should be identical, and I have heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman which conveyed to me any distinct reason why he should have adopted the conclusion he presented to the House. What we want as a recipient of the suffrage is a person qualified by the test we decided on, which, in our opinion, is the best, if not the only one that can be depended upon—namely, the bonâ fide payment of rates. That is the principle of the English borough franchise and of the Scotch borough franchise. It is true there is a difference between the two countries. In Scotland there may be a certain number of householders who would not be assessed to the poor, and who therefore are not privileged to come upon the register. But even with regard to these we have inserted a clause in the Bill which will give the same relief as in England is given to those who wish to fulfil those duties of citizenship which qualify for the franchise. The position of the two countries in that respect is identical. I am therefore at a loss to understand on what foundation the right hon. Gentleman grounds his anticipation of evil consequences—why he expects such popularity and success for the borough franchise in Scotland, and such dissatisfaction and disaster for the borough franchise in England. 435 Far from being discouraged by the reception which the Bill for the English franchise has met with, nothing that has occurred in this House in regard to that Bill is in my opinion of a discouraging character. It has been brought forward under circumstances of extreme difficulty. It was brought before a House not in general political sympathy with the Government. Yet by the influence of argument, reflection, and due consideration—because the proposal has been before the House, not for weeks only, but for months—and by that co-operation with the general feeling of the country which acts upon the feeling of this House, we have after due deliberation, in one of the fullest Houses which have met here for many years, recorded our opinion that the principle the Government have adopted is the right principle for the borough franchise. I see nothing discouraging in that. My views of a discouraging situation are therefore different from those of the right hon. Gentleman. I can truly say that not only are Her Majesty's Government not discouraged, but they are resolved to adhere to their policy, sanctioned as it is by the decided opinion of this House. Our policy on that point is one from which we will not deviate, and we cannot undertake the further conduct of this measure if called upon to deviate from that policy. Upon every other point—and there are points of great importance and interest—we will consult the opinions of the House. We have been willing, and are still willing, to consider these subjects. We shall assert and maintain our opinions; but if the opinion of the House is adverse to our own, no doubt information and reasons will be given adequate to the occasion, and we are prepared to consider them in a spirit of sincere respect and conciliation. I have one or two words more to add on this question. There appears to be some misunderstanding, which naturally arises on occasions of this kind, when leave is asked to introduce a Bill. First, as to the amount of the constituency. I never much care to offer an estimate of the amount of the constituency proposed to be enfranchised. But I am, perhaps, furnished with as good information on this subject as any other Member of this House. My belief is that the effect of the proposals we make in regard to the borough constituency of Scotland will be to double the amount of the existing constituency, and as the whole amount of the constituency does not much exceed 50,000 436 or 55,000, I cannot conceive that these are numbers that ought to alarm any one. But the House will do me the justice to remember that I have never urged the question of numbers in these matters. We have rather urged the general interest of the country. We have endeavoured to found the franchise on a sound principle, and we believe that if that principle be sound the application of it will be safe. I think that the reduction of the value in the occupation franchise in counties as it is reduced by this Bill, is a prudent and proper course to pursue, but I see no reason to change that somewhat equivocal franchise called the property franchise. It is a copyhold franchise, which is equivalent in English counties to £10. It is a property franchise in counties. I may be told that it is only reasonable to establish a 40s. freehold franchise in the Scotch counties. If we were re-constructing the English constituency, do you think we should establish the 40s. franchise? I respect it, because it is an old franchise. It is as old as the Tudors, if not more ancient. It is not one, however, which fairly represents the moderate possession of landed property, which ought to be intrusted with the suffrage. I would not disturb it, but it is susceptible of considerable abuse. From what I know of Scotland, I believe it is always represented on paper, but in England the 40s. freeholders are a bonâ fide body. It is an ancient franchise, which has been extensively exercised and ought to be respected. But it is not a normal franchise which any judicious man would propose if you wanted the freehold interest of a country to be represented de novo. We are not therefore prepared to propose any change in the property qualification. The result of our proposal will be a very considerable extension of the borough franchise—I say double. In regard to the counties, there will be a considerable addition, but by no means so considerable as in the boroughs. I want to say one word on observations which have been made as to the elimination of boroughs of a minimum population of 6,000 from counties. I was prepared for what has been said by hon. Members opposite on that subject, but when they have well considered the matter they will find that their first impressions are erroneous. The intentions of the Government are very different from those which have been imputed to them. The conclusions of hon. Members are very natural, according 437 to the old Parliamentary traditions, but they have little foundation. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock has imputed to me a knowledge of Scotland not equal to his own. I do not pretend to such knowledge. But I do not remember where I have seen counties so much studded with towns as in Scotland. We propose to take—how many towns out of counties do hon. Gentlemen think—to strengthen our interest? We propose to take eleven towns out of the counties, and the whole population of those towns is about 75,000. How any one can suppose that by taking eleven small towns out of the population of counties—towns that are rising ports, that are centres of mining and manufacturing industry, and which ought to be represented—how any one can suppose that that can affect the representation to any great extent—the population of these towns being only 75,000—is to me perfectly surprising. I have placed before you the relative amounts of population of boroughs and counties. I do not want to take population, however, as a mere test. I have shown you that there is an excess both of population and property in counties. An excess of population of nealy 600,000, and that in point of annual value that of the counties is double. What will happen if those eleven boroughs are taken out of the counties constituencies? The population of the counties will still exceed by 500,000 the population of the boroughs, and the value of the counties will exceed by £4,000,000 the value of the boroughs, which is only £4,600,000. Another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lanarkshire, seems to suspect that the Government had formed a dire plot for dividing the county that he represents. The reason why we divided that county into three is that it is seventy miles long. By the Bill we are about to introduce, we shall propose the same regulations as to boundaries as in the English Bill. It is totally out of the power of any Ministry or political party to arrange or "doctor" the boundaries of any county and borough. What we propose in England we shall also propose in Scotland. We propose that certain gentlemen of great eminence, of political experience, and high character shall be appointed as Boundary Commissioners. I am not authorized to mention the names of those who will take the leading part, but there is one whose name, if he accepts the office, will be received with universal respect and confidence. Therefore that puts 438 an end to all the observations of possible jobbery or political contrivance in the division of these counties. The same hon. Member said that there is a number of parishes in Scotland in which there is no rating at all, and he thought that this was a great reflection upon our plan. We have ascertained that there are forty parishes in Scotland in which there is no rating; but with one insignificant exception, that of Wester Anstruther, those parishes are in counties and not in boroughs. The conclusions, therefore, drawn by the hon. Gentleman as to the inadequacy of our materials for the settlement of the borough franchise, on the ground of there being a great number of parishes in which there is no rating, fall to the ground. I believe I have now answered every material question which has been addressed to me, with the exception of one important question, which has several times been brought forward in the course of the discussion. Where are these additional Members to come from? In the first place, I may say that they will come from the constituencies. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) says it is a "practical question" how these Members are to be obtained—which it undoubtedly is, "not to Say a Constitutional question"—for he was very guarded in his language. In 1852, there occurred one of the many contests which I have had with the right hon. Gentleman. It was on the occasion of my proposing to apportion the forfeited seats of St. Albans and another corrupt and insignificant borough, the name of which I have forgotten. [An hon. MEMBER: Sudbury.] I proposed, I believe, to give them to Birkenhead, South Lancashire, and the West Riding. The right hon. Gentleman opposed the measure, and in that as in several other instances was successful in his opposition, the result being to deprive those constituencies for a considerable period of those representatives which, after seven years of experiment and failure, the Government of which he was a Member was obliged to assign them. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a "practical, not to say a Constitutional, question;" but who said it was a Constitutional question in 1852? I was the person who maintained that it was a Constitutional question, and for a reason which I should be prepared to urge again under similar circumstances. We were on the eve of a General Election, and one of the arguments I used was this. If you are going to dissolve Parliament, let the people elect as large a number of 439 Members as the law permits—let them elect a full House. That—not the number of 658—was the Constitutional question. But what has that to do with the question we are now considering? The right hon. Gentleman wants to make out that there is a great Constitutional principle at stake with regard to the proposal of the Government involving an increase in the number of Scotch Members. But what did he say in 1852? He totally dissented from me, and said he saw no magic or cabalistic charm in the number 658. He thought it perfectly absurd for me to lay any stress on the importance of going to the country with the full Constitutional number of 658, for he saw no magic, no cabalistic charm in that number which ought to induce the House to take so rash and precipitate a step. Well, Sir, I, too, see no cabalistic charm in the number 658. I believe it is much more important that there should be a fair and adequate representation of the people of Scotland than that we should adhere to a conclusion which no man can pretend to regard as anything but a practical and not as a Constitutional question. I am not prepared on the part of the Government to diminish the representation of England in order to increase that of Scotland. That representation might, no doubt, be much better distributed. We have brought forward a measure which will, I believe, distribute it to much greater advantage—a measure which will confer representation on flourishing towns having separate interests, whose population find industry give them a fair claim to be represented in this House. It is to the advantage of the country that they should be represented, and no one can suppose that in making that proposition we are trying to strengthen the rural interest by eliminating those communities. Everybody who has studied the question admits that those places have been properly selected, and I have not heard a single person demur to that selection. It is, of course, possible to conceive a much more extensive redistribution of representative influence. But I very much doubt whether anybody could make a proposal to that effect with any expectation of seeing it carried. Circumstances and experience will gradually effect those changes which may become necessary, and as new interests arise it is well that there should be in this country a fund of representative power in order to meet those requirements. It was by a 440 sacrifice of the representative power of England that Scotland obtained an increased number of Members in 1832; but I think it would be most unwise to put any further strain upon that power, or upon the fund which we possess. We have once liberally and handsomely assisted Scotland, and I am not prepared to recommend any further step of that kind should be taken. This remark is not at all preliminary to a proposal to reduce the number of Irish Members. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel French) need not suppose—though his countenance indicates that he does—that I am going to make any proposal of that kind. But he will allow me to say, with all respect to himself and his countrymen, that I think they have at present a very fair share of Parliamentary representation. The Irish representation may, like the English, be very much improved. But, as far as numbers are concerned, I do not think they have any cause to complain. At the same time, it is not my wish that those numbers should be diminished. What, then, is the conclusion? If the number of Members in England ought not to be diminished, if the number of Members for Ireland ought not to be diminished, and if it is clearly made out that there is not a fair and adequate representation for Scotland, is Scotland to remain in its present position because the question of increasing the Members of this House is "a practical, not to say a Constitutional, question?" Sir, if it were both a practical and a Constitutional question, I should be prepared to meet it. On the part of the Government, I shall make, with regard to an increase of the Members for Scotland, the proposal which I have not the slightest doubt Parliament will, in its wisdom, adopt. I doubt not that Her Majesty will, in due time, in the exercise of Her prerogative, seal the verdict of both Houses of Parliament on that subject, and will, by enacting this measure, give a fair and adequate representation to the people of Scotland.
§ MR. CRUM-EWING
said, that the Bill offered more to Scotland than those who had been advocating Reform for many years could have expected. But while giving a liberal franchise it tended to make the representation more Conservative by withdrawing large towns from the counties. A number of the counties, including those of Dumbarton and Renfrew, would be left wholly under landlord influence. He should certainly oppose that part of 441 the measure. Scotland was a Liberal country, but the present plan would destroy it and make it more Conservative. He admired the first part of the Bill, but objected to the re-distribution scheme.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown his sincerity in his proposal for increasing the Scotch representation. Any proposal for affecting that increase at the expense of England would have been defeated by English Members. He did not believe any Scotch Member attached any importance or cabalistic charm to the number 658. The right hon. Gentleman having invited suggestions, he wished to commend to his consideration the propriety of fixing the suffrage at £4, in order to obviate the difficulties which might arise from the power of parochial authorities to alter the rating. He would also suggest the propriety of defining a dwelling-house by providing that it should at least be a tenement containing two rooms. He believed that with a few amendments the Bill would be very acceptable to Scotland.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, that the Bill took away more than it gave to Scotland. The system of personal payment of rates would destroy the simplicity of the present self-acting system of registration, which worked admirably. The Bill was, in fact, a registration agent's Bill. As to the grouping clauses, he did not see why the towns should be taken out of the counties. The groups were large enough at present. He also objected to the division of the county of Lanark, and one Member for each division. The people of that county desired that the two Members should sit for the whole county. The Bill would destroy the simplicity of the existing arrangements, by which voters found their names on the register without having given themselves any trouble.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
said, that the admirable self-acting registering system which at present existed in Scotland would not be interfered with as far as the voters above £4 were concerned, while facilities would be afforded to those below that figure by which they would be enabled to get upon the register.
Motion agreed to.
Bill for the amendment of the Representation of the People in Scotland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. GATHORNE HARDY, and Sir JAMES FERGUSSON.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 146.]