HC Deb 31 May 1867 vol 187 cc1387-429

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 9 (Certain Boroughs to return One Member only).


moved, in line 27, to leave out all after "Parliament," and insert— No borough which had a less population than 10,000 at the Census of 1861 shall return more than one Member to serve in Parliament. He said, the Amendment was one which included a complete scheme of representation. In order to make it clear it would be necessary to advert to subsequent Amendments, but he should confine his main arguments and reasons to the Amendment before the Committee. As to the importance of the subject of the re-distribution of seats, it would be unnecessary, after what had taken place in the House last year, to trouble the Committee with many observations. The feeling was unanimous that that portion of the Bill was not less difficult or important than the other. With a view to any permanent settlement of the question it was quite as important that the re-distribution of seats should be satisfactory to the common sense of the people as that they should arrive at a satisfactory solution of the question of the franchise. For all practical purposes, with reference to the balance of political power in the House, the re-distribution of seats was even of more importance than the franchise. It was quite conceivable that under the reduction that had been effected in the franchise they might have a system of re-distribution that would either be revolutionary or essentially Conservative. He thought, with a view to what they all desired—a solution of the question of Reform—that the scheme should be Conservative. If so, it would be likely to be permanent. It would be likely to be permanent also, if it were large and liberal enough to satisfy the wants of the age. The scheme as it was proposed in the Bill of the Government did not go far enough to afford a reasonable hope of its being a permanent solution of the question. He did not wish to imply censure on the Government for having proposed this scheme, inasmuch as their course had of necessity throughout these proceedings on Reform been in a great measure tentative. It was impossible for them to propose in the first instance the entire scheme as it might be subsequently moulded into shape by the House. He was sensible of the difficulties they had to encounter in facing an adverse majority, and from their own party. He was not therefore disposed to censure the Government. Whether they took the scheme by itself, or in comparison with others proposed, it was inadequate to meet the exigencies of the case. Taking it by itself, it proposed no further disfranchisement than the taking of a second Member from each borough with a population of less than 7,000. This was a principle addressed to many of the most glaring anomalies that struck the public mind, and which constituted a reason for taking up the question of re-distribution. Among the anomalies that at once struck everybody were those which arose from extreme difference of population. It was impossible not to feel that while our system of representation was not to be based entirely on mere arithmetical computations, it ought, approximately at least, to represent the population, the property, and the intelligence of the country. A system under which a small insignificant borough with a population of 4,000 inhabitants had as large a share of representation as important and populous cities like Manchester and Liverpool was an anomaly which, if they were going to touch the representative system at all, ought to be corrected. There was also a great anomaly in the geographical distribution of the representation. This dated back to a period when the South and West of England were the principal seats of population and industry, and the North was comparatively uncivilized and unpeopled. The consequence was that certain counties in the South of England, like Wiltshire and Dorsetshire, returned a disproportionate share of the representation of the country. If they took Wilts and Dorset as instances, those counties had one representative for every 13,000 inhabitants. In Lancashire the representation was only one for every 100,000. In the great counties of York and Durham—those growing seats of manufacturing and mining industry — there was also a striking disproportion. Another glaring anomaly in our representative system was that which apportioned such, a large proportion of representation to boroughs as compared with the counties. The Return given last year showed that the counties with a population—exclusive of represented towns—of over 11,000,000 as against a borough population of between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000, returned less than one-half the number of Members. This was a great anomaly. In the present state of things, when they looked at the facilities for communication, a county could no longer be fairly represented by torpid and dormant communities in which the action of political life did not take place. While there were many villages growing into towns, and towns growing into cities, remaining in the county representation, and while the House was enlarging the county constituency in a liberal manner, there was no longer a defensible reason why this great disproportion should exist. In any scheme dealing with the re-distribution of seals, they should keep in view the correction of the more glaring anomalies existing in this respect. Here the Government scheme had not gone far enough. The Committee would agree with him when he gave a single instance of the sort of anomaly which was left by that scheme. The borough of Cockermouth was the borough having two Members with the smallest population, untouched by the Bill of the present Session, but included in the Bill of last year. In the Census of 1861 it had a population of 7,075. But according to the estimate of 1866 the population had fallen to 6,950, the total number of inhabited houses being 1,543. By the Bill of last year it was proposed to take away one Member. It was proposed by the present scheme to leave that borough with the share of representation it had hitherto possessed—namely, two Members, nearly a three-hundredth part of the entire voice of the representation of the country—the same share as Liverpool with a population of 440,000 and 65,784 inhabited houses. In 1854, when a Bill was brought forward by Lord John Russell, as a member of Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet, it was proposed to disfranchise all the small boroughs having less than 5,000 inhabitants, and to take away the second Member from all boroughs with less than 10,000 inhabitants. The effect of that proposal would have been to take away sixty-two Members from the small boroughs, and to give them partly to the large cities and towns and partly to the counties. The Bill of last year proposed to take away forty-nine Members from the small boroughs and to divide them among the large cities and the counties. The present Bill proposed that twenty-three boroughs should return one Member instead of two. Seven Members were to be taken from the boroughs disfranchised by the vote of last night. The total number of seats to be re-distributed would consequently be thirty, but that was a much smaller proposal than was made by the Bills of 1854 and 1866. Although the question of re-distribution of seats was warmly dis- cussed last Session, no objection was made to the scheme being too extensive. On the contrary, it was urged by hon. Members on the Conservative side that instead of drawing the line at boroughs with 8,000 inhabitants, from which it was then proposed to take one of two Members, the line should have been fixed at 10,000. Attention was drawn to the fact that the boroughs between 8,000 and 10,000 happened, by a curious coincidence, to send a preponderance of Members to the Liberal Benches. It was said that the scheme was a political job, and that it ought to have been carried up to 10,000, because it was stated that the boroughs with populations between 8,000 and 10,000 sent a great preponderance of Members to that side of the House. At all events, no objection was taken to the 8,000 line on the ground of insufficiency. He would now state the scheme he had embodied in clauses, and which he intended to submit as an alternative proposition. His first proposal was that all boroughs with a population of less than 10,000 at the last census now returning two Members should in future only return one. There were thirty-eight boroughs in this condition. The proposal would consequently give thirty-eight Members. Adding to this the Members of the boroughs disfranchised last night, the number would be forty-five. He further proposed to introduce the principle of grouping some of the small boroughs to a limited extent, and by this means he got seven Members, making, when added to the forty-five, a total of fifty-two seats to be re-distributed. In his application of these seats he assumed with the Government that the demand of Scotland for an addition to its representation was founded injustice, and that it was to be met, not by taking Members from England or Ireland, but by making a small addition to the number of Members of the House. There was no magic in the precise number of 658. The House was far past the point where its number of Members was such that they could all be seated and listen to the debates. This being so, a few Members more or less would make no difference. They had not reached the point where the number of Members was too great for the work that had to be done. The mode in which he proposed to distribute the fifty-two Members gained in the way he had described was as follows:—He proposed to give to large cities having a population of more than 150,000 at the last census three Members. There were six cities in this condition. To large towns with a population of more than 50,000, now returning one Member, he proposed to give a second Member. Of these there were four. With regard to new boroughs he proposed to adopt the twelve proposed by the Government, grouping one of them—Torquay—with a borough adjoining. He also proposed to add two Members to the Tower Hamlets, which would give a total of twenty-four new scats to cities and boroughs—one for the University of London, made twenty-five. In order to apply the same principle to counties he proposed to give three Members to each county or division with a population exceeding 150,000. This would require twenty-six seats. Thus twenty-five seats would be given to the boroughs and the London University, and twenty-six to the counties, making a total of fifty-one. But the number of seats he had provided for was fifty-two, there being a small margin he was obliged to leave. Until the decision of the House last night he could not be certain as to what would be done with the corrupt boroughs. He wished now to explain to the Committee the principles of the plan he proposed. He thought it important that the question of Reform should be based on sound principles. The House had done so in the matter of the franchise. At the cost of considerable sacrifice of feeling on the part of hon. Members—though there was now a general concurrence of opinion that it was the right thing to be done—it had thought fit to go down till it came to something upon which it might stand because capable of being explained and defended. In the re-distribution of seats it was not possible to arrive at any absolute principle like household suffrage, defended by rating. They must draw their lines arbitrarily, but still they ought not to draw them at haphazard. There ought to be something in them that should commend itself to the common sense of the community so far that it could be appealed to as a stand-point for the resistance of further agitation. He had drawn a line at a population of 10,000, below which no borough should be entitled to return more than one Member. He had done so for two reasons. 10,000 in population was to the common understanding about as good a line as could be drawn, indicating where a small town ends and a fair sized town begins. The town popula- tions of this country had increased so rapidly of late years that what used to be thought a considerable town was now-deemed a small one. It might fairly be said that any place with a population below 10,000 was a small town. This limitation was also supported by precedent. It was the line proposed by Earl Russell in 1854, in a measure which, the more he examined, the more he thought it had been maturely considered. From the discussions in the House, the line appeared to have met with general approval. No one objected to 8,000 as being too high, and many hon. Members objected to it as being too low, and said that the line ought to have been drawn at 10,000. He took the line of 150,000 as indicating where the more important cities begin. The towns: at and above that line were centres of national industry and life, and were entitled to a larger share in the representation than towns ranging from 10,000 to 50,000. Those largest towns were Birmingham, Preston, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, Dublin, and Edinburgh. The other line he had taken was 50,000, at which population it might be considered that large and important towns began. When so many towns between: 10,000 and 20,000 returned two Members, large towns containing 50,000 ought not: to be restricted to a single Member. Of places above 50,000 that he proposed should have a second Member there were four—Salford, Merthyr Tydvil, Swansea, and Birkenhead. In Scotland, Dundee and Aberdeen. These were the only towns in the United Kingdom with a population exceeding 50,000 that were restricted to a single Member, and their claims must be considered when they were disfranchising small boroughs and disposing of a large number of scats. Another principle was the maintenance of the balance between towns and counties. It was an anomaly, not to be defended in the present state of the country, that the county population should be so inadequately represented. Absolute equality could not be arrived at. The counties could not be split up into so many divisions and assigned as many Members as the boroughs. But some such rule as was applied to boroughs might be applied to divisions of counties. There was the more reason for applying it, because under the old system small boroughs often returned country gentlemen, who were, in fact, county representatives, and therefore the disfranchisement of small boroughs virtually diminished the county representation. Whatever arguments in favour of retaining small boroughs might have been in place in 1832, they were completely out of place now, when small boroughs were being disfranchised and household suffrage introduced. The Report of the Totnes Commission afforded little hope that for the future local influence would obtain for rising, little known, and unappreciated talent an entrance into this House. It was the more important to lay down a principle of meting out equal justice to counties as compared with boroughs, because in the future the counties must be looked to for the Conservative element, for the ballast to steady the additional canvass hoisted in the new franchise clauses. The Bill of last year proposed to give twenty-six Members to divisions of counties, and in following it he was only acting on sound Conservative principle. To sum up shortly the practical difference between his plan and that of the Government, if his plan were carried out the following boroughs would lose, which in the Government plan retained, a second Member:—Six boroughs between 7,000 and 8,000—namely, Bridgnorth, Bridport, Buckingham, Chippenham, Cockermouth, and Newport, Isle of Wight. Nine boroughs between 8,000 and 10,000, which were neither in the Bill of the present Government nor in that of last year—namely, Chichester, Guildford, Lewes, Malton, Poole, Stamford, Tavistock, Windsor, and Wycombe. These made together fifteen boroughs, with an aggregate population of 123,000, which would lose one Member each. In addition to that, he proposed that eight small boroughs, now returning one Member only, should be grouped. They were Arundel, Ashburton, Calne, Dartmouth, Eye, Lyme Regis, Launceston, and Northallerton. These had an aggregate population of 35,000, or an average of over 4,000 each. He proposed to give the extra Members thus acquired to Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds. Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Salford, Merthyr Tydvil, Swansea, and Birkenhead. These boroughs comprised an aggregate population of 1,831,147. He should also give additional Members to counties or divisions of counties which were not provided for in the Bill of the Government, as follows:—Counties and divisions of counties with a population of 150,000 (exclusive of places represented and to be represented) to return three Members; Chester, Northern Division; Chester, Southern Division; Cornwall, Western Division; Derby, Northern Division; Devon, Northern Division; Devon, Southern Division; Durham, Northern Division; Essex, Northern Division; Essex, Southern Division; Kent, Eastern Division; Kent, Western Division; Lancaster, Northern Division; Lancaster, South-Western Division; Lancaster, South-Eastern Division; Lincoln, Parts of Lindsey; Middlesex; Norfolk, Western Division; Somerset, Eastern Division; Somerset, Western Division; Stafford, Northern Division; Stafford, Southern Division; Surrey, Eastern Division; York, North Riding; York, West Riding Northern Division; York, West Riding, Southern Division. Comparing this scheme with that of the Government, the aggregate population of the counties omitted in the Government scheme and included in his was 3,850,000. The summary of his proposal was that it transferred twenty more seats than was proposed by the Government Bill from small boroughs with an average population of under 7,000 inhabitants and an aggregate population of 158,000. It gave Members to eight large towns with an aggregate population of 1,830,000 and an average of 240,000 inhabitants, and to eighteen counties or divisions with an aggregate population of 3,800,000 and an average of 210,000. One material difference in his Bill, compared with the Bill of last year, was that he took one Member each from nine boroughs containing between 8,000 and 9,000 inhabitants which were not in the Bill of 1866. Again, the scheme of last year was based mainly upon the principle of grouping. It proposed to create sixteen groups, including forty-one boroughs. Of the forty-nine seats obtained for the purpose of re-distribution, forty-one were gained by grouping. In his plan, however, grouping was a subordinate feature. He proposed to establish only seven groups, including fifteen boroughs, and gaining in this way only seven seats. His object was to submit something practical, as private Members were bound to do, which should have a chance of being adopted by the House. It was exceedingly difficult to apply the principle of grouping to a large extent without incurring well-founded objections of partial and unjust treatment. Impressed by this conviction he did not wish to make the system of grouping a prominent feature; but, speaking from his experience in Scotland, he believed the principle to be a sound one. In the grouped boroughs, both in Scotland and in Wales, there were fewer contests, there was less corruption, there was less turbulence and intimidation, and the elections were less expensive than in the grouped boroughs. He had once stood a severe contest, extending over several months, for a group of six burghs, and the total cost to him was something less than £600. Contests for small boroughs often sprang from local jealousies. In a small town, which had two rival newspapers, two rival attorneys, and two rival hotels, local jealousies were almost inevitable. But where you had an extensive group of boroughs, if a local clique attempted to dictate, the rest of the group grew jealous of it, and were disposed to set it aside. There was thus less chance of getting up an opposition against the sitting Member, except, of course, on public grounds. Again, he preferred grouping as being a milder process, and more Conservative, than that of absolute disfranchisement, which he thought would be found to be the only alternative in the case of the very small boroughs. Lastly, he had no other way of obtaining a sufficient number of seats for re-distribution, and though well aware that the principle had not met with much favour from the House, he had had recourse to it, though only to the moderate extent he had mentioned. In forming his groups he had kept three principles in view — the smallness of the boroughs, their contiguity, and the over-representation of the district in which they were situated. A very small portion of his scheme depended upon grouping. It would be open to the Committee to discard the principle altogether if they thought proper, or to alter its details and carry it still further. With regard to the application of seats to be obtained by disfranchisement, that was entirely an open question. He would state shortly why it was that he proposed to give three Members to large constituencies either in cities or boroughs. In making that proposal, he had been guided by the plan proposed by Lord Russell in 1854, that where constituencies had the privilege of returning three Members a mode of voting should be adopted which would secure a fair representation to an influential minority. All the arguments which could be urged in 1854 would tell with redoubled force now that the constituencies would be so much enlarged, and that something like house- hold suffrage would be established. But if it should be the pleasure of the House not to adopt that system there was yet another which might be adopted, one that had been proposed on the high authority of the late Mr. Cobden. Mr. Cobden's plan was that the large cities — and he presumed the case would be similar with respect to large counties—should be divided into several wards, each to return a single Member. Manchester and Liverpool, for instance, might be divided into three wards each returning a Member, and in that way a more equitable representation of the constituencies might be obtained. If the House failed to adopt either of those alternatives there might yet be with three Members a better chance of an influential minority being more fairly represented than it was at present. There was a feeling of fair play among Englishmen. Different interests would stand a better chance of being represented under a system of divisions than under that of cumulative voting. Important constituencies did not like to be neutralized by each political party returning one Member. If there were three Members it would often happen that where the Liberal party were strongest there would be no objection to the return of one Conservative and two Liberals, and in like manner where the Conservatives were strongest two Conservatives and one Liberal would be returned. That was really the case in five out of the eight places which returned three Members at present. The mode of dealing with the additional Members of the county was a question to which the county Members would direct their attention. What he now proposed was a scheme under which they would secure forty-five Members for towns, which might be carried up to fifty-two if the system of grouping were adopted. If they carried this Amendment they would have caught their hare, and it would remain for them to cook it, which they might do either by giving large constituencies three Members or dividing the towns into wards and the counties into divisions. He looked upon the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the distribution of seats among counties as unjust in principle, because he would give an undue advantage to some counties over others. The right hon. Gentleman either gave to counties two additional Members or none at all. For instance, it was proposed to divide South Staffordshire into two divisions, one of which—South West —would have only 77,000 inhabitants, and the other—South East—leaving out Wednesbury, which was to be created into a new borough, 90,000, while North Staffordshire, which would have no additional Member, had 1,620,000 inhabitants. Again, South West Durham, with 76,000 inhabitants, would get two Members, while West Cornwall, with 169,000, would get no additional Member. East Middlesex and East Surrey would each get, with a population of 70,000, exclusive of Croydon, two additional Members, while South Essex, with 207,290 would have no addition. He mentioned these facts to show how the Government proposal would work. He could not but think that the scheme he had proposed would be more satisfactory. However, it would be for the Committee, guided by the advice of the county Members, to judge which course was the better one and adopt it accordingly. He would now turn to the Motion immediately before them. If the House thought fit to adopt the principle of grouping, and to disfranchise the very small boroughs, it would be open to them to do so, and subsequently to carry out that principle to a larger extent. An observation was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the second reading of the Scotch Bill, which struck him as directed more against the distribution of the seats in England than anything else—namely, that he wanted to keep a certain reserve to meet future changes in the growing population of the country. The scheme he (Mr. Laing) proposed would accomplish that wise object of keeping such a reserve. If they restricted the representation of all boroughs with a population of between 10,000 and 12,000 to one Member, there were no less than eleven boroughs from which a second seat might be obtained. They were boroughs not exactly in the odour of sanctity. If they once fixed the principle that Members should represent boroughs according to the extent of population, they might hereafter extend that principle with great advantage. There would be a probable reserve of from twenty to twenty - five Members which might be available for distribution in a future generation. The question practically to be decided by the vote of the Committee was whether, having acted with so much liberality in the extension of the franchise, and having gone in that respect so far beyond the Bill of last year, they would impair the symmetry of a great measure, with which he hoped the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be associated, by adopting a scheme of re-distribution inferior to what had been proposed in last year's Bill, and so obviously below the expectations and requirements of the country. When Gentlemen on both sides, and especially hon. Gentlemen opposite, had made such painful sacrifices upon the altar of their country, in order to secure permanence of result, would they allow those sacrifices to be impaired by leaving this question of re-distribution on a footing which made it absolutely certain that agitation would be revived? The great hope of resisting the slope along that incline which would lead us to democratic institutions almost parallel with those of America consisted in our making a settlement of the question in all its bearings on such a footing that moderate men in future Parliaments might be able to rally round it. If they dealt with it in a manner which did not recommend itself to the common sense of the country, they might depend upon it that agitation would ensue, and the first great political question which would have to be settled under the auspices of a Parliament elected by household suffrage would be this question of the re-distribution of seats. He did not pretend that his scheme was a complete settlement of every detail, but he thought that it would form the basis of a fair settlement. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a great deal of difficulty to resist the pressure which was naturally put upon him by the representatives of the small boroughs which would be affected by the measure, but he trusted that he would evince the same courage on this occasion as he had evinced on the previous evening in resisting the pressure put upon him to retain the boroughs of Great Yarmouth and Lancaster. He had no objection, if the Government adopted the principle of his scheme, to leave the details in their hands. They were all engaged in doing their best to arrive at a sound settlement of the question, and he trusted that his contribution towards it would be satisfactory. He submitted it with all humility, but he was convinced that, were it adopted, it would be attended with more satisfactory results than the plan proposed by the Government.

Amendment proposed, In line 27, after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "no Borough which had a less population than ten thousand at the Census of one thousand eight hundred and sixty one shall return more than one Member to serve in Parliament."—(Mr. Laing.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, he felt that he led a forlorn hope in offering any defence of the small boroughs. His position was the more discouraging since Honiton was unfortunately always included in Schedule A of a Reform Bill. Threatened men were said to live long, but he feared that their doom was at length inevitable. Difficult as they found it to parry the attack of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) last year, their situation was more painful now. "Had it been our enemies who had done this, then we could have borne it, but it was our companions, our own familiar friends." Fidelity to party would lead them to vote for their own extinction. They were called on to perform the Japanese ceremony of hari-kari, or happy despatch. Though glad of the opportunity of offering a few words in deprecation of their fate, he felt himself much like a prisoner at the bar when asked why sentence should not be passed upon him, for, say what he might, it would not avert judgment. Before, however, it was too late, he wished to make a last appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The House was about to confer a large measure of enfranchisement on the country, and they did well, but why should they couple with it the disfranchisement of a large population? On going through the list of the twenty-three boroughs which were each to lose a Member, he found, on referring to Dod, that there was in every one of them, a predominant local influence. The consequence, therefore, of leaving them with a single representative would be to throw them entirely into the hands of that local influence. The aggregate population being 140,000, 70,000 persons would be completely disfranchised since they would have no vote for the county. He could not see why additional seats should not be given to England as well as to Scotland, instead of proceeding by way of pains and penalties against those condemned boroughs. Where was such disfranchisement to stop? He fully agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Laing) that there was no reason why it should stop at 7,000 more than at 10,000, or 12,000, or 16,000. Where was the limit to be? The proportion of the num- ber of Members to the population could never be exactly correct. Take the case of Lanarkshire. The population of that county (independent of the city of Glasgow), was 200,000. There was only one Member for the whole county. It was now proposed to add another, so that each would represent 100,000 persons. If they once adopted the principle of apportioning Members to population, they would sooner or later arrive at equal electoral districts. Both the late and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had on former occasions pointed out the utility of small boroughs in introducing into Parliament in early life men whose presence was an advantage to the House. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better to add to the complement of English boroughs than to punish these twenty-three boroughs merely because they were small, and to class them with the four who were to be disfranchised for corruption.


said, he rose not to support the proposal of the hon. Member for Wick, but his own, which the hon. Member had taken out of his bands. On the night the Bill was introduced, he gave notice of an Amendment that boroughs with less than 5,000 population should be disfranchised, and that boroughs having less than 10,000 inhabitants and now returning two Members should lose one. The hon. Gentleman had seized upon the latter proposal, and had no doubt handled it with greater ability than he himself could have done. At the same time, he thought that in courtesy the Member who first gave notice of a proposal should be allowed to bring it forward— Hos ego versiculos feci, tulit alter honores. He had addressed a letter to the hon. Gentleman on the subject, informing him that he was poaching on his manor. He regretted to say that he had received no answer beyond an oral assurance that the hon. Gentleman would not interfere with him. The hon. Gentleman, by somehow placing a notice on the paper taking precedence of his, and by doing it in more technical terms, had jockeyed him out of his claim to priority. He was, however, quite willing to give him the credit of having ably advocated his proposal. If the hon. Member felt no compunction, and did not think he had done him any injustice, he himself was quite willing to take the same view of it. He had not given notice of his scheme of distribution of seats for fear the hon. Member for Wick should filch that too. He had, however, got a scheme which, before they decided upon the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should offer to the notice of the Committee, but which he was, for the reason he had stated, cautiously keeping secret for the present. The hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Laing's) plan was open to the gravest objection. He should make allowance for his Scotch prejudices. The hon. Gentleman told the House that—lucky man as he was—he had only paid £600 for his seat. He wished England to be as pure as Scotland. If his system of purity was to take a man's proposal out of his hands and pass it off as his own, he preferred the dishonesty of England to the honesty of Scotland. The English people were very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for interfering in their affairs. He proposed to give another Member to certain boroughs of more than 150,000 population. He was thankful the hon. Gentleman had not given him another Member. He did not believe the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) would thank the hon. Gentleman for giving him another Member. He believed that two Members were sufficient for any borough. He should be inclined to propose that the two additional Members for the district of the Tower Hamlets should be taken from the City of London. The hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the counties, gave them twenty-six Members out of the forty-eight which he proposed to take from the boroughs. If, however, he took from the boroughs, he should also give back to the boroughs. Unfortunately, however, as the House must have seen, the hon. Member for Wick did not know the difference between meum and tuum. He had now disposed of the only part of the plan which was the hon. Gentleman's own. The hon. Member had studied Scotland more than he had England. What did he propose to do for the metropolitan boroughs. There were 6,000 intelligent and wealthy householders in Paddington. Why did he not separate that district from Marylebone and St. Pancras and give Paddington a Member? What an opinion the hon. Gentleman must have of himself to set himself up against both the Government as it is and the Government as it was. The hon. Gentleman said—and he could not help boiling with indignation when he heard the hon. Gentleman appropriate his proposition — "Mine is the plan: make way, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer; hide your diminished head, right hon. Member for South Lancashire; this is my plan — the plan of the hon. Member for Wick, with the assistance of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth." The hon. Gentleman proposed fourteen new boroughs which he had cribbed from the Government. So that of his proposal part belonged to the Government, part to him (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee), and the chances were that the rest belonged to some one else whom they might some day find out. The hon. Gentleman said the system of grouping worked well in Scotland. No doubt he thought so when they returned him for £600. He should like to send the hon. Gentleman to Portsmouth, and try whether they would return him for £600. He would then be able to speak with the authority of a person who represented 108,000 persons instead of the handful he now represented, and his plan might then come to some importance in the House. He differed entirely from the hon. Gentleman, and objected to the system of grouping. In his own scheme—which he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not filch from him—he did not interfere with the Government grouping, though he disapproved the system of grouping, because it would be presumption on his part to do so. He took that opportunity of tendering his thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the manly and able manner in which he had carried this Bill. Through good report and through evil report the right hon. Gentleman had met hon. Members with a temper which he wished they could all imitate, and a courtesy which they would never forget. The objection to grouping was that when old and new boroughs were grouped together the old boroughs corrupted the new. His plan was to take away the Members from all boroughs with a population of less than 5,000, and to take away one Member from every borough containing less than 10,000 population which now returned two Members. He also proposed that the new boroughs to be created should be entirely new, and should not be formed by grouping old ones. The boroughs created before 1832 were more corrupt than those created since 1832. As the first revising barrister for Yarmouth, he asserted unhesitatingly that he found the people not only accustomed to bribery, but that they rather gloried in it than otherwise. A new borough, on the contrary, did not understand bribery, or what was meant by it, though, he was sorry to say, some Members very soon taught them.


said, the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth amounted to this—that the hon. Member for Wick had acted wickedly. Although his (Mr. Goldney's) borough (Chippenham) was affected to a certain extent by the Government proposal, he would show the Committee that they ought to adhere to the Government plan, and not rush too hastily into that proposed by the hon. Member for Wick. They ought to remember the course which was taken by the Ministry in passing the Reform Act of 1832, and the figures and data upon which they relied in bringing forward that measure. In 1832 all boroughs with a population of less than 2,000 each were placed in Schedule A. Their right to representation was entirely taken away. Boroughs having a population of less than 4,000 were left with only one Member in cases where they possessed two. The seats thus obtained were distributed on the plan of giving one Member to every town of 10,000 inhabitants, and two to every town of 20,000. The scheme which was at present before the Committee had gone much higher than the scheme of 1832. A population of 7,000 instead of 4,000 was left as the basis at which representation by two Members should commence. Looking at the increase in the population of the country, if the principle of 1832 was right, the present principle was right also. In the Reform Act of 1832 the franchise was given to those who had an occupation of the annual value of £10. The present franchise was much larger than had ever been contemplated before, and, according to the largeness of their intention, so ought to be the care of the House, in endeavouring to assimilate the new constituencies with those of the Constitution as settled in 1832. Under the provisions of Part I of the Bill already agreed to, there would not be a borough left with two Members with a constituency of less than 1,200. A number which might fairly be regarded as independent of those attorney and newspaper influences to which the hon Member for Wick had referred. Moreover, as matters stood at present, there were only eighty out of the 186 boroughs in England which had a larger number of electors than 1,200. The experiment contemplated by the Government measure was sufficiently large and important without extending it in the manner proposed by further disfranchisement. The Government by their scheme obtained thirty-six seats, which they had distributed to the satisfaction of all parties. If hereafter new towns should rise into importance, it might be possible to provide for their claims at the expense of other places guilty of practices such as had led to the vote of last night.


said, that the proposal of the hon. Member for Wick was one that could only be justified by strong political necessity, or by the delinquency of the particular boroughs affected. Care should be taken to make the disturbance in the existing order of things—that the alteration of the law would create—as small as possible. The proposal of the hon. Member for Wick would create a much greater disturbance than that of the Government. He had sought in vain to gather from the argument of the hon. Member any proof that grounds of this nature existed for the rash course he contemplated. It was alleged last year by the adoption of the 8,000 limit, injustice would have been committed, because Bridport happened to fall just within, and Tavistock just beyond, the boundary line. If the hon. Member would compare the four largest boroughs he now proposed to disfranchise with the four just beyond his line of 10,000, he would find that there was not on the average a difference of 300 voters between them. He did not think that so fine a line should be drawn, and made to act disadvantageously as regarded boroughs which had not been guilty of corrupt practices. Tiverton had returned Lord Palmerston; Tamworth had returned the late Sir Robert Peel; Tavistock had returned Earl Grey, and subsequently Lord Russell. If the House went on in that way they must come, before long, to electoral districts.


said, that the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) had complained that his hobby had been stolen by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), and that its head had then been turned round the other way from that which he had intended, if the hon. Member for Wick had not mounted with his face towards the tail, The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the idea of increasing the county representation in the spirit of a Shylock. It should be remembered how very small was the proportion of direct representation in that House which the majority of the English people resident in the counties possessed, as compared with that allotted to the minority in the boroughs, considering the population and the property within each respectively. The 11,500,000 people in England and Wales residing in the counties were directly represented by only 162 Members, while there were in that House no less than 334 representatives of the 9,500,000 people, residing in the English and Welsh boroughs. He believed that it was very desirable that this inequality should be redressed as far as possible. He had listened attentively to the able statement of the hon. Member for Wick, and no one who had heard it could doubt that the plan proposed by the hon. Gentleman proceeded from one of the most intelligent and business-like minds in the House. These qualities, indeed, as possessed by the hon. Member, were universally recognised. He felt grateful to the hon. Member for having proposed the increase of twenty-six representatives for the counties, while the Government by their measure would limit the increase under that head to fifteen, although the county Members had for years constituted the principal clement of their strength in that House. The hon. Member for Wick had adopted the increase of the county representation which had been proposed by the late Government. The inequality that the House was called upon to redress was so great that he (Mr. Newdegate) thought the proposal a very short measure of justice, for he remembered that by the Bill which was proposed by the Government of Lord Aberdeen in 1854—a measure framed by Earl Russell and Sir James Graham with the sanction of Lord Palmerston—forty-six Members were intended for the counties, in addition to their present representation. The Committee had hitherto been discussing at great length the question of the borough franchise, all the details relating to the compound - householders, with all the minuteness of a parish vestry; they had also given some little attention to the county franchise, but they seemed to forget that the essence of Parliamentary Reform really consisted in the allocation of the representation. The redistribution of seats had been truly described by the hon. Member for Birmingham, in a remarkable speech made in 1859 at Bradford, as the soul of Reform. It was the most important point to be dealt with in reference to the subject of Reform, and deserved their most serious considera- tion. No one who remembered the magnitude of the change, which had been effected in this matter by the Reform Act of 1832, and the advantages, of which that change had been productive, could, he hoped, feel alarmed at the moderate proposal now made by the hon. Member for Wick. He would lay a few figures relating to that matter before the Committee. By the Reform Act of 1832 no alteration was made in the number of Members in that House, but the following changes were made in the re-arrangement of Members to the constituencies:—Fiftysix boroughs with populations from twelve to 3,961, were disfranchised; thirty boroughs, with populations from 2,325 to 8,915, and sending two Members each, were reduced to one Member each; one borough (Weymouth and Melcombe Regis), with a population of 7,700, sending four Members, was reduced to two Members; the Parliamentary area of eleven shire towns or boroughs in Wales was extended by adding adjoining places, and the limits of other boroughs were altered; twenty-two new boroughs, with populations from 23,129 to 359,864, were created, with two Members each; twenty new boroughs, with populations from 10,339 to 40,786, were created with one Member each; one English county (Yorkshire), sending two Members, was increased to six Members; twenty-six English counties, sending two Members each, were increased to four Members each; seven English counties, sending two Members each, were increased to three Members each; three Welsh counties, sending one Member each, were increased to two Members each; and one new county district (Isle of Wight) was created, by being severed from the county of Southampton, with one Member. There existed at the present moment a new and most important reason why it was prudent that the Legislature should add to the county representation. The House had just adopted the principle of household suffrage for the boroughs, and had thus secured a vast increase of strength to the action of democracy in this country. What were the characteristics of democratic action? The natural result of the establishment of democratic ascendency would be to create in the larger towns constituencies that would be—he would not say revolutionary—but that would be fluctuating and impulsive in their opinions and desires, uncertain, yet arbitrary in their action; and, although free from corrupt influences generally, yet liable to be led away by self-constituted leaders. Such would be the effect of enfranchising large masses of the wages-earning class in borough constituencies. The effect of constituencies of this class, when divided into small knots, such as the constituencies of the small boroughs, would be very different; for in constituencies of this kind corrupting influences would become extremely powerful. This had been proved by experience in the case of the old scot-and-lot voters and freemen. The best check to the double danger of capriciousness on the one hand, and liability to corruption on the other, would be to extend the county representation, in which each of those influences was comparatively powerless. That was a truth which had been perceived and acknowledged by Lord Chatham, by Mr. Pitt, by Mr. Grey, Sir Francis Burdett, and many other distinguished statesmen. The advantage of representation based upon properly and population conjoined, as in the counties, was described by Lord Chatham in language so beautiful that were he not unwilling to detain the House he should have quoted it. He (Mr. Newdegate) would, with the permission of the House, read the Resolutions proposed by Mr. Pitt in 1783. The first Resolution was— That the most effective and practicable measures ought to be taken for the better preventing both of bribery and expense in the election of Members to serve in Parliament. The second— That whenever it shall be proved before a Select Committee of the House of Commons, duly appointed to try and determine the merits of any election, or return for any place in the kingdom, that the majority of the electors had been guilty of corrupt practices in such election, it will be proper in all such cases, that such place shall henceforth be disabled from sending representatives to Parliament, and that such electors as shall not (by due course of law), be convicted of any such corrupt practices, shall be enabled to vote at the election of the knights of the shire, in which such place shall be situated. These were the two Resolutions, in the spirit of which the House had yesterday acted in the case of the boroughs proved to be habitually corrupt. He (Mr. Newdegate) hoped that the House would that evening act in the spirit of the third Resolution, which was— That, in order to give further security for the independence of Parliament, and to strengthen the community of interests between the people and their representatives, which is essential to the preservation of our excellent Constitution on its true principles, it is proper that an addition should be made to that part of the representa- tion, which consists of Members chosen by the counties and the metropolis. He (Mr. Newdegate) trusted that the House would act in the spirit of this Resolution with respect to the redistribution of seats; the House could scarcely act upon higher authority. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in 1859, while introducing the Reform Bill of that Session, declared that in re-distributing the representation of the country, he should discard all consideration for the population and property, existing in the several localities and districts, and even of the claims of population and property conjoined; thus differing distinctly from both Lord Chatham and Mr. Pitt, as well as the other high authorities whom he (Mr. Newdegate) had mentioned. Last Session the right hon. Gentleman used those expressions with respect to the county representation— The House knows well the statistical fact, that 11,500,000 of the population of this country are represented here by 162 county Members. They know that 9,500,000 people, living in boroughs, are represented in this House by 334 Members—borough Members. Well, now, upon the first blush one would naturally say, how is it possible that such a system could have existed so long, and worked so well, founded upon such monstrous anomaly, on such injustice, as that 11,500,000, of a free people should be only represented by 162 men, while 9,500,000 people, because they live in boroughs, are represented by 334 Members. This was spoken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 4th of June last. Afterwards the right hon. Gentleman, in the same speech, made the following statement:— I will now state to the House—I may be mistaken in what I say; but, at all events, I have gone through the necessary research and trouble—the number of supplementary votes, which the landed interest—that is to say, these 11,500,000 people, who are not represented, except by 162 county Members—receive. It is eighty-four. Now, if you deduct eighty-four from 334, the number of borough Members, you will find 250 as the result. If you add these eighty-four to the 162 county Members, you will find the result to be 246, as against 250; and there you see the counteracting machinery by which our system has been permitted to work so advantageously. It is not a complete and perfect adjustment of the claims of the landed interest; but you cannot in the arrangement of a large and ancient constitution, expect too great nicety, but only a fair approximation to what may be called electoral justice. The Committee would observe that the right hon. Gentleman, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, had here spoken of the county populations, of all the interests beyond the limits of the cities and boroughs, as though they were properly comprised under the term the landed interest, which had otherwise been described as the agricultural interest. Such was not, however, at all the fact with respect to the county populations, which were nominally represented by 162 county Members; but really by not more than 100 or 106 of these Members, in the sense in which the boroughs are represented directly and exclusively by the 334 borough Members. For the freeholders and leaseholders, whose qualifications are within the boroughs, but who, in virtue of these qualifications, vote for the counties, within which the boroughs are situate, are so numerous, that if the proportion which these borough voters at county elections bear to the whole number of the county electors is deducted from the aggregate of the county electors, it will be found to amount to a third or thereabouts of the whole number of the county electors; and if this influence which the borough voters for the counties possess on the county representation is measured by a proportionate deduction from the aggregate of comity Members, it will be found that not 106 county Members remain to represent the majority of the English and Welsh population and property, who reside, and which lies be yond the limits of the boroughs, in the direct and exclusive sense, in which the 334 borough Members represent the minority of the population, who reside within the boroughs. But he (Mr. Newdegate) could not at all admit the deduction from the great excess of representation of the minority of the people resident in the boroughs, that the Chancellor had attempted last Session by alleging that eighty-four of the borough Members represented the landed interest, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer termed the majority of the population, resident in the counties — a description which he (Mr. Newdegate) thought very inaccurate. He had searched for the eighty-four borough seats, which were alleged to represent the county interest, the majority of the English and Welsh people. He (Mr. Newdegate) had searched for evidence of the position taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that these eighty-four borough Members represented the landed interest. He (Mr. Newdegate) admitted that some of the small market towns in agricultural districts, which were boroughs, continued to be connected chiefly with the commerce of agri- culture. But he (Mr. Newdegate) could find no evidence that anything like eighty-four seats for borough constituencies were of this character; on the contrary, it was notorious that the course of trade, of finance, and of credit connection had resulted in rendering many of the minor boroughs dependent on the great commercial and manufacturing centres. It was notorious that many of the shopkeepers in these boroughs had lost their independence by becoming the mere commission agents of the large establishments in the great centres of manufacture and commerce. While in proportion as many of the smaller boroughs increased in size, their local interests had become more absolute, and less connected with the land around them. He himself was connected with two counties—Middlesex and North Warwickshire—in both of which the landed or agricultural interest was in a small minority. The same remark applied to several of the midland counties. But he would take one instance to show how inaccurate was the inference that the landed interest comprehends the whole interests of the counties, of the majority of the English people. The yearly value of minerals, including coal brought up from the mines, was £27,000,000. There were 333,000 persons employed in raising these minerals, which, multiplied by three, to embrace their families, gave about 1,000,000 of people dependent immediately upon mining. The annual value derived from the smelting of iron and copper, &c., amounted to £13,000,000, which, added to the £27,000,000, made a total of £40,000,000 annually derived from sources in the counties, with which agriculture, the landed interest proper, had no connection whatever. In addition to this it was to be borne in mind that there were large commercial and manufacturing interests in the counties, which were also disconnected from the landed influence. The House would commit a grievous mistake if, from some jealousy of the great landed proprietors, they failed in doing justice to that large population, which comprised one-third of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, who resided beyond the limits of the boroughs. It could not be said that the county Members were such an incumbrance that any increase in their numbers ought to be most jealously avoided. Some gentlemen seemed to think that they were an intellectual obstruction, but what were the real facts of the case? Why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, whose acquirements, intellect, and capacity nobody could impugn, the Leader of the Opposition, was a county Member, as was also the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What was further to be noted was, that while the majority of the English people, living in counties, were most inadequately represented, the same could not be said with equal force of the property and the county populations in Scotland, nor with equal truth of those in the counties of Ireland. On this ground alone there was surely reason for demanding a remedy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham professed to meet the case of the counties by saying that the agricultural interest was amply represented by the House of Peers, and that there was therefore no necessity for increasing the number of the county Members. This was a most fallacious supposition. The House of Peers was by the constitution of this country precluded from dealing with any matter of finance or taxation. How, then could they represent the large and important county interests, to which he had referred? It was not true that the Peers were wholly connected with the agricultural or landed interest. The Marquess of Westminster, the Marquess of Salisbury, the Earl of Derby, and many other Peers had the greater part of their property within the boroughs; and if any one went systematically through the roll of the Upper House, it would be found that, as a rule, the wealthiest Peers were scarcely more connected with agriculture than with other interests. Then, again, with respect to the question of intelligence. A prejudice existed to the effect that the majority of the people living in counties were intellectually inferior to the inhabitants of boroughs. There could not be a greater mistake. The men who realized fortunes in manufacturing and commercial pursuits left the boroughs, where they gained their money, and went to reside in the counties, and immediately that they did so, they lost more than half their political influence, owing to the smallness of the direct representation of the counties, compared with that of the boroughs. The acquisition of wealth had always been held a proof of intellect, and the possession of wealth enabled these persons to give their sons a superior education. The property, the intellect, and the education of these persons and their families were disfranchised by half when they left the boroughs and settled in the counties. On whatever ground, therefore, the Committee might consider this question, a sufficient case, he thought, had been made out for increased representation for the counties. Nor was he alone in holding such an opinion. He (Mr. Newdegate) was, on this subject, a pupil of the late Sir James Graham, and Sir James Graham had himself told him (Mr. Newdegate) that he considered the counties ought to have forty-six additional seats, which would now be forty-three, since three of the four seats, from Sudbury and St. Albans, had been allotted to the counties.


We have heard a good deal during this discussion of the advantages likely to be derived from the course pursued by the Government in respect of the borough franchise. It is said that we have at any rate obtained a resting-place in dealing with this branch of the question, which has been the subject of such controversy in this House and throughout the country, and that in fixing upon household suffrage qualified only by rating, and free from those checks which the Government at first thought necessary, we shall put a stop to further agitation, because no man who has any weight or influence in the country, or any regard for our mixed constitution, or who has the true interests of the country at heart, will advocate any further extension of the suffrage. Not undervaluing that advantage, we are much diminishing, if not wholly depriving ourselves of, the benefits to be derived from it, if we do not deal with the other branch of the subject so as to check and not to invite agitation. That agitation would be more formidable than anything we have yet seen, because it would be backed by that popular element which you are infusing into the borough constituencies. In re-distributing seats we should attempt such a settlement as will give us a reasonable prospect that it will not be disturbed by the first Parliament to be elected by the new constituencies. I do not think that the Government plan affords any such prospect. The probability is, that in the very next Parliament the question would again be agitated. I am not complaining of the Government for their proposal, because I know well the difficulties in which any Government must be placed in making a proposal for a large disfranchisement. We all know that the wider the plan of disfranchisement the greater the amount of individual opposition. At every step you take in this direction you enlist against you Members whose supposed interests or those of their constituents are directly affected by the proposals of the Government. Looking, however, at the important alterations which have been made in the Bill, and which will be apparent on a comparison of the original Bill with the Bill as re-printed, I cannot help hoping that the Government will not feel themselves bound to adhere to their original proposal, but, with a view to the permanent settlement of the whole of this question, will be prepared to go much further in the re-distribution of seats. My hon. Friend (Mr. Laing) has explained the scheme he proposes to substitute for that of the Government. The Motion now be fore the Committee, is that boroughs with a population of less than 10,000 shall return only one Member. That is the proposal we are now asked to decide. I can not hesitate to support it on the ground that it lays the foundation for a more satisfactory settlement than the plan of the Government. Last year we proposed that boroughs with a population of less than 8,000 should lose one Member. It may be said that there is some inconsistency in making that proposal and in now advocating one which goes further than that did. But I do not think that proposal, limited to boroughs with 8,000 inhabitants, was one which we should have been able to maintain. My doubt now is whether we ought to stop at towns with a population of 10,000. Another reason for adopting this proposal is that it will answer the question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has more than once declined to answer, with regard to the source from which additional Members for Scotland are to be supplied. The right hon. Gentleman said that the wisdom of Parliament would answer that question. I hope the wisdom of Parliament will now answer it by affording to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the means of doing justice to Scotland without increasing the number of this House. It has been said that there is no magic in the number 658. I agree in that; and it is possible that there may be at some future time good ground for altering the number by increasing or diminishing it. But I cannot help feeling that the greatest inconvenience will follow any departure from that number which rests on long prescription without the most paramount necessity. If you in- crease that number now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be exposed to claims from places which, looking at them merely in themselves, may have a fair claim to representation. We cannot then tell them that we have disposed of all the vacant seats. They will pay, "Having increased the number of Members to 662 or 665, you might as well have two or three more." If you once depart from the present number you will have Lancaster and Great Yarmouth re-opening the question, and saying "Look at our large population; you have dealt with us very harshly; put us again in the position of returning Members to Parliament." I hope therefore that this proposal will be adopted, and that we may do justice to Scotland without incurring so serious an inconvenience. I agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) that it is desirable that the county representation should be increased to a larger extent than that proposed in the Bill. In every sense this proposal would enable us to deal more satisfactorily with the re-distribution of seats, and therefore I shall support it. Although the whole plan is not before the House, I must say a word upon the mode in which my hon. Friend proposes to deal with the smallest class of these boroughs. Last year we proposed an extensive system of grouping. We felt that there was no alternative between disfranchisement and grouping, and that these boroughs, some of them containing a population of less than 3,000—a population, too, which is continually decreasing—could have no chance of remaining as a permanent part of the representation. We therefore thought it necessary to deal with them, and adopted the system of grouping. I am aware of the difficulties which are raised to any such proposal, and I do not express any opinion upon that part of the scheme of my hon. Friend. But the proposal of the Government to leave some of the smallest class of boroughs standing alone is only to invite future attack. It may be said that you are now, by the extended franchise, largely increasing their constituencies. But you cannot very largely increase the constituencies of these boroughs. I doubt whether the increase you will make in many of them, where you will add to the constituency a large body of agricultural labourers, will add to the importance and the weight of these places in the representation of the country. With such a population there is no reasonable hope that these boroughs can be permanently maintained in our representative system. On every ground therefore I think it is desirable to adopt the Motion, without pledging ourselves to the details of the whole scheme proposed. Indeed, I understood from my hon. Friend that if this Motion were carried he would leave it to the Government to reconsider the distribution of seats.


The hon. Member for Wick, when he introduced this Motion, recommended it to our adoption for one reason—namely, that it would diminish the anomalies of the present system. I think the hon. Member was not as prudent and sagacious as he usually is in his observations when he founded his recommendation on such a ground. I shall not argue the case pro or con upon the question of anomalies. In an ancient representative system like ours there must be anomalies. It is very likely that by sudden and extensive changes we may produce anomalies perhaps more inconvenient than those which now exist. To contend that a town of 8,000 inhabitants returning two Members to Parliament, while a city with 500,000 only returns the same number, is an anomaly which is intolerable, is inconsistent with recommending to the House that a town with 10,000 inhabitants should be placed in exactly the same position. The anomaly is much the same with the population at 10,000. At any rate it is a question of degree, and if you pursue that train of calculation you will soon find yourselves with results under which your whole representative system will fall to the ground. When you adopt the principle of avoiding anomaly as your guide in the re-construction of your representative system you are startled when you find a town like Northampton returning two Members, while other towns in the North of England with 500,000 are represented only by the same number. But we never adopted the principle that the Gentlemen sent to represent places in this House should represent the numerical amount of the inhabitants. Accident has had a great deal to do with the matter. But at no period has it been a matter of importance to us that we should come to some contrivance by which large cities should be numerically represented. If the plan were partially carried out, and partially carried out it could only be, it would have a most injurious effect upon the House of Commons, and it would not tend to increase or maintain that influence which it is desirable the House of Commons should exercise over the general mind of the country. When you have a question of this kind before you it would be well that you should be guided by some principle, though perhaps not one of universal application. The principle which has guided us is this, that we should supply representation to those communities that have sprung up or have greatly increased since the Act of 1832, and which at present are not represented. To give representation to those that are not represented is a safe and practical policy which we recommend the House ought to adopt. With that view our attention has been directed to towns—new communities are necessarily towns—and we have placed the names of those towns before the Committee. The considerations which ought to influence us in coming to a conclusion in this matter are the population of those towns, their industrial or commercial importance, and their probable future increase; also their position in different parts of the country, for you ought not to have a number of towns so represented in the same part of the kingdom. But if you give a considerable increase of representation to the towns you aggravate the inequality, which no one has more fully impressed upon the House than myself, between the representation of the counties and the towns. It is therefore necessary when you consider by what means you should give representation to those new communities which do not possess it, but which are entitled to receive it, that you should take some means simultaneously, by which you should at least sustain the relative position of the county representation. You must consider the means of which you can avail yourselves for giving representation to the new towns, and at the same time increasing proportionately the existing representation of the counties. These were the two objects to which we confined ourselves. These were the principles by which—with the exception of giving one representative to a place of learning, and favouring the idea of bringing representatives of Universities into this House—Her Majesty's Government have been guided. They are practical and prudent principles. They meet the exigencies of the moment, and the Committee should pause before they pass that line. It is very easy to disfranchise; it is very easy to say that it is anomalous that those small places should have any representation, or a representation out of all proportion to their importance when compared with other places. The difficulty when you have disfranchised is to enfranchise. You can draw up a scheme for giving away sixty or seventy seats; but when you come to apply wisdom and prudence to the distribution of the seats at your disposal you will find yourselves in circumstances of great difficulty. You are safe as long as you give representation to places which ought to be represented in this House and are not. Her Majesty's Government have pursued that policy as far as possible. I do not know any places which have a claim to be represented for which we have not provided. You are safe in making changes of that kind. You are also safe in giving a proportionate increase to your county representation. Here you find, as it were, a natural limit, for you follow the general principles which have hitherto regulated your legislation. In the scheme we have laid before the House, by dividing those counties and sections of counties in which the population has reached an amount which justifies an increase of representation we give that increase. But the number of counties that can be so treated is exhausted. What has been the result? We have been told today and were told before, and a serious result it is, you must accumulate representation in particular towns, cities, and counties. You are entering upon a new course, and I recommend you to pause before you adopt it. There are different schools of representation rising up in this country whose views are now beginning to be more familiar to the world than they were before. Last night a distinguished Member of this House brought before us, in a manner which I think was most interesting, a particular scheme of representation, the object of which is to give what is called representation to minorities. That is a very important principle, but it would be well for the Committee to hesitate before adopting it. I will not now dwell upon it, because I wish to advert to other schemes which depend upon the allocation of a third Member to certain constituencies. One of these plans is cumulative voting—that any constituent may give his three votes in favour of one person. Another, of which I see a Notice upon the Paper, and which is to be brought under our consideration, is that, in those electoral communities which are to be represented by three Members, the constituent should have the curtailed privilege of voting only for two, so that the minority may have a representative secured to them. Well, Sir, these may be wise schemes, or they may be crude—that is a question for discussion. I can understand proposals for increasing the representation of places by adding a third Member if you are ultimately to adopt these schemes; but if you are not, it appears to me that it is a perilous course we are asked to pursue. There is no place which needs to be represented by more than two Members. In this age of rapid communication, both personally and by post, if we were to choose between three Members and one, I should certainly be in favour of one Member. The general tendency of our legislation has been in the direction of one Member. Bear in mind the great increase of our population and property, an increase which I hope will continue. Assuming that this great country will multiply as it has done in wealth and population, and knowing that we must have additions to our representation, it is a safe and wise principle to hold that one Member is competent to represent a community. You have already many constituencies with only one Member, and if you give increase to that system, places with one Member must at last command a majority of this House. If you adopt any of those schemes with respect to three Members, it is impossible that this can come to pass. I think before the House sanctions any of those schemes for securing the representation of the opinions of minorities we should consider whether it is not the business of the House to represent majorities. It is a fallacy to suppose the minority is not represented. Under normal circumstances the minority must be with the Opposition. That does not apply to the present state of circumstances, but that is only an accident. Although the House may in the aggregate represent the opinions of the majority of the country, there are a great many places that form part of that aggregate where the minority in the House are the majority in the country. Those opinions, therefore, whether generally popular or unpopular, are expressed and vindicated in this House, and if they are just and right will in the long run prevail. That, in my opinion, is the best mode by which the opinion of the minority can be ascertained. Schemes by which the opinion of the minority is to be locally secured—secured not in the aggregate assembly of the nation, but where they are, in every constituency, whatever may be the opinions of the majority—would necessarily result in a weak and feeble Government You would not have in this House that strength which arises from the victorious conflict, in a general election, in a free nation, of opinions which, being prevalent, ought to be represented. It appears to me that all these schemes of representing minorities are schemes which naturally tend to the formation of a feeble Executive. Unless, then, these are the results which are sought by establishing constituencies each with three Members, I see no reason for adopting the policy which the hon. Member for Wick has recommended. He does not pretend to say that if the Government measure were adopted there would be any community in the country unrepresented. No one says that. But he says there will be great dissatisfaction and great agitation if we do not approve his scheme. But why should there be agitation? Why is there agitation upon the subject of the representation of the people so far as the distribution of seats is concerned, except because communities of industry, wealth, and numbers, are not at present represented? If every place having a fair claim to representation is provided for, I cannot believe there is any likelihood of the agitation which the hon. Member apprehends. Where, I repeat, is the agitation to come from? The only complaint that can justly be made is that the counties are not adequately represented. There is not the slightest doubt about it—it has been proved very often—that the counties are not adequately represented. I should be glad to see them adequately represented; but I do not believe there is any chance of attaining that result by any violent method. Some of my Friends seemed favourably disposed to the scheme of the hon. Member for Wick on account of its increasing the representation of the counties. I am not at all sure that the Motion before the House would secure that increase. It would greatly augment the number of seats at your disposal; but when you have them you may probably have proposals made very different from those which have been contended for by my hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate.) With his views upon this subject I have always agreed, having, indeed, always advocated them. I think he has quoted somewhat incorrectly a passage from something I once said. He seemed to suppose that I had mistaken the population of the counties generally for what he calls the agricultural interest. The "agricultural interest" is a phrase I avoid. I have used the term "landed interest." But I look upon the phrases "agricultural interest" and "landed interest" as by no means identical. The landed interest includes all those interests that spring from the land, such as the mineral treasures developed from the land, which commonly belong to great landowners. I will not, however, detain the Committee on this point. I only wished to vindicate myself from the charge of my hon. Friend. Now, Sir, I want the Committee fairly to consider the position in which we are placed. I do not want to refer to previous measures on this subject; I am perfectly content to confine myself to the point before us. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) has taken another view. He seems to have given in his adhesion to the general sentiment of the Committee with respect to the borough franchise, and he argues from the fact of the borough franchise having been adopted, the necessity of a large re-distribution of seats. I was unable, however, to collect from the right hon. Gentleman what was the principle upon which he based the necessity of such a scheme. Is he prepared to say that there are certain interests and communities in this country which by the proposal of the Government will not be adequately represented? Are the Committee prepared to lay down the rule that they are not to limit their remedial course in this respect to giving representation to places which deserve representation and do not at present possess it. Are they to go about in search of a complete ideal of representative government in this country? If so, there is no reason why we should stop at the limit which the hon. Member for Wick proposes, and which the right hon. Gentleman supports. If once you pass the line of providing for that which is necessary—if once you enter into the large area which the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman have entered into, I cannot see why we should stop at the conclusions at which they have arrived. There is no reason, if this question of the representation of the county population is to be considered upon its merits and not with reference to the circumstances before us, why we should not carve out the country, and endeavour to give a mathematical and precise representation to the 11,500,000 who undoubtedly are very inadequately represented. I do not think the Committee are prepared for this. The Committee are animated by an essentially practical view. They will guide themselves by certain practical and prudent considerations. They will give representation where it is wanted, and as far as the counties are concerned will do that on which we all agree—namely, take care that their relative position with regard to the represented towns should not be injured. These, Sir, are the objects which Her Majesty's Government have in view in the scheme they have placed before the Committee. It may not be a large or extensive scheme. But it is a scheme founded upon a principle—that of meeting public wants—and it is conceived in a spirit of public prudence. I hope, therefore, the Committee will not embark on the sea of troubles on which I fear they will find themselves if they sanction the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. The country will accept this as a prudent and satisfactory settlement of the question at this time. The question of the re-distribution of seats is not like the franchise. The franchise is now founded upon principles which as far as human calculation is concerned may be taken as the basis on which our electoral system will rest. But periodically—it may be half a century, or it may be a longer or shorter interval—you will have great towns arising. Periodically you will have industry developed in particular counties in a manner which no sagacity could foresee. You will have communities and populations which require representation in this House. When those occasions arise, when those claims are made, they will be met by the wisdom of Parliament. But the moment we attempt to frame an ideal system of representation, or at all to approach such a change in our representative system, we undertake a difficult task. In confining ourselves to giving representation to those who we acknowledge require it, and in redressing as we practically can the deficiency in the representation of the counties, we follow a prudent course. We shall never make a mistake if we follow that course. That is the course Her Majesty's Government recommend, and which I hope, in order to avoid embarrassment, the Committee will sanction.


It has been with some regret and disappointment that I have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I think the Motion of my hon. Friend gives expression at this stage of his plan to a sentiment widely-spread in this House, the prevalence of which is by no means confined to one side of the House, and one which is still more widely extended out of doors. This not being a matter in which Her Majesty's Government can feel that they are bound by any theory or previous expression of opinion, I hoped that the right hon. Gentleman was about to say that be would be prepared to recognise that sentiment. I was glad to perceive that, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer reasoned ingeniously and ably — as he always does—in support of the view he takes, he did not make any of those significant announcements which might convey to the minds of Members apprehensions with regard to the general disturbance of his plan in the event of the adoption of my hon. Friend's Motion. I therefore hope and I assume that this is a question which we may discuss without fear or favour or prejudice of any kind, and in that spirit I shall endeavour to argue it. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) that we bring no charge against the Government, nor find fault with them because in the exercise of their discretion they have thought fit to submit a limited plan to the House. We bring our ideas into the common stock with a view to the adoption of that plan which may be most advantageous to the country. The right hon. Gentleman made an ingenious and able argument with respect to the representation of minorities. I do not think it necessary to enter into that subject. The relevancy of it to the Motion now before us was founded upon an assumption which does not appear to me to be sustained—namely, that if we are to have a large scheme of re-distribution, and a considerable number of seats at our disposal, there is no method of disposing of those seats except by establishing upon an extensive scale what is termed the unicorn system of representation. Why? The right hon. Gentleman has given us an example of the sub-division or re-division of counties. Why may we not follow that example, and act on a more extensive scale upon the principle he has himself adopted? He said that that process had in the Bill reached its utmost limits. But he adduced no proof, either political or geographical—and I do not believe any proof can be adduced — to show that it would not be perfectly practicable and convenient, if the Committee should think the system of representation by three Members is less convenient than the system of representation by two, to enter upon the system of further sub-division or re-division. This system is not wholly inapplicable to the case of great towns. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has opened the door to the augmentation of great towns without adopting the representation by three Members. He has opened it doubly by proposing the sub-division of the Tower Hamlets. He has made provision to divide that into two boroughs, and to give two Members to each. He has also proposed to sub-divide Glasgow city into two parts, and to represent one part by two Members and the other by one. I have this morning had the opportunity of seeing a deputation from a town of great importance and intelligence, and I put this case to them. I asked them whether, if Parliament gave them additional Members, in which of two ways they would like to enjoy the benefit—whether by three Members representing the whole town, or to make an unequal division. The answer unanimously given was, "We would rather have two Members for the larger portion, and one for the smaller." The town in question is not separated by the geographical division of a river like Glasgow. It is the town of Birmingham. It is a false assumption to suppose that if you enlarge the area for re-distribution of seats you are thereby driven to the adoption of the system of the representation by three Members of one constituency. That is a perfectly open question, and, so far as I am able to form an opinion, the judgment of the House and of the country is adverse to the wholesale adoption of such a course. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is nothing easier than the process of disfranchisement. That is not my experience. "It is the first step that costs," in a course of this sort. It is now, when there is a barrier before us, partly in the judgments, partly in the pardonable associations of Members, and their special localities — now is the time when we confront difficulties. After removing the obstacles which have been before us this Session, I think the country will expect us in dealing with the great remaining chapter of this subject to manifest a spirit not less courageous than that which has cut the knot of the borough franchise. The right hon. Gentleman says there is no use in speaking of the reduction of anomalies, because in all ages there have always been anomalies, and it does not matter whether the anomaly is a little greater or a little less. But the ideas of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject are really a re-production and echo of that which was the constant strain of the opponents of the old Reform Act. They said you cannot altogether remove anomalies. Therefore, there is no use in attempting to mitigate their extent. The right hon. Gentleman says we ought to look at the question in a practical spirit. Let us, then, look in a practical spirit at the subject of anomalies. In theory it may be very well to say that as long as any anomalies remain you will have the materials and incentives to agitation, but practically it is not the case in human affairs. It is by the mitigation of anomalies that you get rid of agitation. It is by attempting to maintain them in salient and sharp outlines that we give force to agitation. The right hon. Gentleman says that the plan of the Government rests upon an intelligible principle, and that if we go beyond it there will be no intelligible principle to guide us. His principle is that the plan of the Government meets existing wants and necessities. Is that altogether true? Is it true in any aspect of the case? I cannot admit with regard to the new boroughs that in all cases it is desirable so to economize the distribution of seats as to aggregate together a considerable number of new towns, or that you should bring together the population of various spots and make them into groups, and thus deal with the claims of large populations by giving them a few Members, I think we shall have to deal more liberally with these groups, and dissolve some of them that are now too large. Then, with regard to the doctrine that representation by one Member is the best. If it be the best, why not subdivide the counties? Why not put them off with one Member? I do not know what answer can be given to that question. I am not going to grudge the gift the right hon. Gentleman offers to the counties, and one of my reasons for agreeing to the proposal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Laing) is that it will enable the Government to give a larger representation to counties. I object to the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman that when we are establishing new constituencies and new limitations for Parliamentary boroughs and districts, we shall do well to confine ourselves to giving one Member. I am not aware that experience has shown that representation by one Member—although it is better than representation by none at all—is desirable. It is, at all events, not so superior that we are justified in supposing from past experience that the communities which are to have Members of Parliament will henceforward prefer representation by one Member to representation by two. Therefore, I am not prepared to admit that the claims of great communities now represented by one Member only are so satisfied by the plan of the right hon. Gentleman that we are able to take the ground he invites us to take, and to say that we are by so doing making reasonable provision for all existing wants, and that beyond this we are not prepared to go. The right hon. Gentleman talks of the new towns and the vast populations that are rapidly growing, and which are supposed to claim increased weight in the representation. I do not think that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman contains such satisfactory provisions that we can take our stand upon the limited plan he offers us. But there is another and serious question which I hope will attract the attention of the Members for Scotland. I am not prepared to subscribe to the declaration of my hon. Friend (Mr. Laing). He says I give you this considerable number of Members for England, but I leave the wants of Scotland to be supplied by an additional number of Members of this House. I see considerable danger in connection with the benevolent proposal of the Government towards Scotland. We are now invited to reject the proposition of my hon. Friend (Mr. Laing). Suppose we do? We shall then have to deal with only a limited number of seats at our disposal, and none at all will go to Scotland. I should oppose the giving of any of this limited number of seats to Scotland. We have thus disposed of the case of England. It is quite clear that Ireland can afford no Members to meet the wants of Scotland. We then come to Scotland. She will have to meet the whole face of that adverse judgment which a very large proportion of this House have formed against the increase of Members of this House. I would earnestly invite the Scotch Members to bear in mind the assailable nature of the position in which they would stand if they have no other available fund out of which to answer the credit which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to us in favour of Scotland, except the speculation of an increase of the number of Members of this House. This brings me to a practical point. The right hon. Gentleman has no title to say that he has adequately met the absolute necessities of this case until he has done one of two things. He should either propose an adequate representation, which would include a plan of re-distribution of seats, and give room enough for a fair supply of the wants of Scotland, or else manfully come down to this House and ask the House to agree to a Resolution that we ought to give Scotland more Members in consequence of her increased population and property. I will give no opinion on the subject. All I will say is that the promise of the Government in regard to Scotland is worth little in the market until it be supported by some scheme more solid than that she is to meet unaided the indisposition to increase the number of Members of this House. The great principle on which I venture to support the plan of my hon. Friend is that which was expressed by my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey). That plan—I speak of the first portion of it, assuming that its subsequent development will be a development in the same free spirit, I by no means bind myself to the development as it has been described—the plan of my hon. Friend is, in the best sense of the term, a Conservative plan. It promises us a fair hope and chance of a settlement of this question. There is nothing in it adverse to the principles which should regulate the government of the party opposite, or which should regulate the conduct of this House. At this great crisis it is incomparably superior to your plan of re-distribution, which is in glaring contrast with your whole plan of the franchise. You have adopted that plan of the franchise. It has become irrevocable. It is idle, even if there were any lingering regrets in the mind, to think of recalling it. The best mode, therefore, of securing the well working of the system you have established, of laying the foundations of future tranquillity, and sparing yourselves the recurrence of this difficult and vexatious subject—necessarily impeding the prosecution of the general business of legislation—is to adopt that plan and that scale for the re-distribution of seats which though it will not extinguish will mitigate monopoly, give satisfaction to the public mind, and induce the nation to accept the plan as a portion of a solid structure intended to last for many years, and increase the capacity of Parliament to perform the business of the nation.


said, he would urge the Government to render their scheme, as a whole, worthy of the beginning. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer, merely on account of the difficulty of the question, would not look back having once put his hand to the plough. He trusted that he would proceed to the settlement of the entire question, a result which would not be achieved by the present scheme of the Government.


said, he would ask the House to do an act of justice by excluding from the operation of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Wick the borough (Poole) which he represented. Though at present within the limit of 10,000, it was a large and rapidly-increasing town. No anomaly could be greater than to leave to old and decaying boroughs their full complement of Members, while constituencies that were rapidly rising in importance were deprived of theirs. He proposed to substitute for "the Census of 1861," in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wick, the following words:—" On the 1st of January, 1867, according to a Return to be furnished by the Poor Law Board."

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, By leaving out the words "at the Census of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one," in order to insert the words "on the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, according to a Return to be furnished by the Poor Law Board,"—(Mr. Henry Seymour,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."


said, that as the representative of a doomed borough, he wished to ask a question upon which his own vote and that of many hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House would depend. If they supported the hon. Member for Wick in his first proposal, would he undertake not to press his grouping system, to which they objected in toto?


said, he had endeavoured to make it as clear as possible that he looked upon grouping as a mere accessory to his plan. The main point upon which the Committee would divide was, the proposal to raise the line from 7,000 to 10,000. He had stated clearly that he was willing, if the Motion were carried, to leave in the hands of the Government the disposal of the extra seats, and not press the question of grouping if he found them adverse to that proposal. As regarded the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Henry Seymour), he should be most happy if he could consistently make an exception in his favour. But the entire Committee would feel that in dealing with figures of this sort they could only take the figures which had always been taken, the official figures of the census.


said, that he had not moved the Amendment on behalf of his own borough merely. He would withdraw it.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 306; Noes 179: Majority 127.


said, an allusion had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for the Wick Burghs (Mr. Laing) as to the possibility of the Government reconsidering the question of the disposal of the seats thus acquired. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman as to the probable time when that question would arise. He thought it would be desirable to resume the discussion on the Bill as soon as the state of the business of the House would permit, and to take into consideration the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee), or any Other Motion which might be brought forward. When the Committee knew how many seats there were to be disposed of, they might perhaps ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would undertake to prepare a scheme of distribution.


said, he would fix the Committee for Monday, and would so arrange matters that the time of the Committee would not be wasted.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

Name, Regiment, and Rank of Officer. Name of present Staff or Military Appointment. Date of present Appointment. Date of former Appointment or Appointments, if any. Special Circumstances for re-appointment over five years, or for appointment to a new Appointment.

—(Sir Patrick O'Brien,)

—instead thereof.

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