THE LORD ADVOCATE
, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the amendment of the Representation of the People in Scotland, said, Mr. Speaker: As a new Member I crave the indulgence of the House when addressing it for the first time on a subject of such importance as the amendment of the Representation of the People of Scotland. The Motion I have to make is for leave to bring in a Bill to amend that representation. I feel that the duty which I have to discharge is considerably lightened by two considerations. The first is, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Session introduced a similar Bill to the one I now ask leave to bring under the notice of the House, and explained its provisions at the time of doing so; and the present Bill is in many respects identical with that measure. The second is, that during last Session there were so many discussions with reference to the franchise that it would be quite out of place for me to make any additional remarks upon that branch of the subject. I shall therefore proceed at once to explain to the House the provisions of the Bill, which I now ask leave to introduce. The English Act was founded to a great extent upon the provisions of the Scotch Bill; and we accordingly propose to carry out all the views of the House as expressed in the discussions upon the English Bill, and to give effect to the franchises established by that Bill. The Scotch borough franchise will therefore be similar to the franchise in England—that is to say, all registered householders who have been rated, and have paid their rates, will be entitled to the borough franchise. There are provisions in the Bill for the purpose of guarding against the omission of any person whose name does not appear upon the rate-book; and I think you will find that the Act is framed in such terms as will secure a vote to every person who is entitled to that qualification. I may mention that the Bill does not contain any provisions with reference to lodgers. This arises, not from any indisposition to recognize the rights of that class of voters; but from the simple reason that in Scotland we have always recognized the right of lodgers to be considered as tenants. If, however, it should occur to any hon. Mem- 812 ber that it will be preferable to have a provision introduced with reference to the enfranchisement of lodgers—which, however, I think is amply secured under the Act of 1832—there will be no reluctance on the part of the Government to remove any doubt upon the matter by framing a clause to that effect. So much with reference to the borough franchise. I have next to address myself to the question of the county franchise. We propose to reduce the ownership qualification, in counties to £5 of clear yearly value—the same as was done in the English Act. The clause will be framed in terms grounded on the Act of last Session. We further propose to fix the occupation franchise at the same rate as it has been fixed in England—namely, at the rated value of £12. I have here to explain to the House that the valuation-roll, from which the register of voters is made up, does not contain any materials for ascertaining the rating of tenants. There is a deduction necessary to be made under the 37th section of our Poor Law Act, 8 & 9 Vict., c. 83, in order to make that out. There are a few parishes in which mistakes have been made in carrying out the provisions of the 37th section. These are, however, mere mistakes, and are not supported by the provisions of the Act. There are also a few parishes which have not yet adopted the legal system of rating for the support of the poor. They are small parishes, and landward parishes, with populations of trifling amount, where the poor are supported by voluntary contributions. Now, in order to secure uniformity in this matter, the Bill will contain a provision by which the valuator or assessor, who is an officer appointed either by the Crown or by the county authorities, shall enter on the valuation-roll the rated value of all premises between £50 and £12. In that way it is hoped to secure uniformity of rating throughout the counties and prevent the possibility of the suspicion—a suspicion which I do not apprehend would be well founded—of any intention on the part of parochial boards to interfere with the view of affecting the rateable value of the subjects upon which the qualification is founded. These provisions, I venture to think, will secure the occupation franchise upon a firm and fair foundation. There is a provision in the English Act that the occupation of premises which have been successively occupied by a person, shall entitle him to 813 be put upon the register. That is to say, it will not be necessary that the person should have been in possession of the same premises for a year continuously. The only alteration upon the existing Scotch franchise will be found in this clause; and it is one which, I think the House will recognize as a right and proper alteration. The provision as to successive occupation will be found in the clause relating to the borough franchise in the Act of 1832. But by an omission there is no provision for taking into account the successive occupancy of premises by tenants in the county; and that is proposed to be corrected in the present Bill. We propose to put the county tenants upon the same footing as the borough tenants, and also on the same footing as those who received the franchise for the first time by the Act of 1867. I think that is all which it is necessary to bring under the notice of the House with reference to the franchise. The question of distribution is the next point to be dealt with, and it is perhaps one that is attended with more special interest. I may at once say that it is not proposed to take away the right of representation from any existing constituency. There are no constituencies, I think, in Scotland, in a position requiring such a course of procedure. In fact there is no superfluity of representation in Scotland. We have only two cities which possess the right of returning two Members—namely, Edinburgh and Glasgow; and it would be in vain to propose to take away any representation from either of these. In this state of matters we have to consider what is to be done in the way of procuring additional Members for Scotland. The House is aware that, under the provisions of the Act of Union, Scotland had right to forty-five Members, thirty being given to the counties, and fifteen to the boroughs. In 1831, when the Reform Act was first introduced, there was a division of the House of Commons upon the question as to whether there should be any diminution of the number of the English Members. That division resulted in a small majority adverse to the proposition, and a dissolution of Parliament took place. The consequence was that the Government of Earl Grey had a very large majority in 1832, when the Scotch Reform Bill came forward again for consideration. The proposition which was made by that Government was that there should be an addition of five Scotch representatives; but when the Bill was in 814 Committee other three Members were added; so that it was ultimately fixed that there should be eight additional Members given to Scotland, all of which were allotted to the boroughs. The claims of Scotland on that occasion were maintained by Gentlemen who represented, or who might be held to represent, Conservative views. Sir George Murray, Member for Perthshire, and Sir George Clerk, whose recent death we have had occasion to deplore, and many others who held similar opinions, were strong vindicators of the rights of Scotland to additional Members. Well, in 1852, a new Reform Bill was brought forward by Lord Aberdeen; and in connection with that Bill a Scotch Bill also was introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, which made no provision for additional representation for Scotland. In 1854 and 1859 English Reform Bills were brought forward, neither of which made provision for additional Members for Scotland. No Scotch Bills were brought forward in those years. In 1860, a Scotch Bill was brought forward by Lord Palmerston's Government, and it was then proposed to add two additional representatives to Scotland. I rather think that these Members were to be supplied from Members that had been taken away from boroughs in consequence of corrupt practices. In 1866, another Reform Bill was brought forward by Earl Russell's Government, and after a very careful consideration of the Scotch claims the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire stated, that whilst he quite acknowledged the rights of Scotland to additional representation, still it required to be borne in mind that we were not engaged in complete re-construction of our whole Parliamentary system; but he was prepared to concede to Scotland, as a moderate recognition of its rights, seven additional Members. Now, speaking as a Scotchman, I would desire to have a larger number added; but at the same time I wish my Scotch friends to recollect that there are great difficulties to be encountered in disturbing existing arrangements, and we ought to make allowances for those difficulties. I have, therefore, to state that the Government concur in the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman expressed in 1866, and that the number of additional Members to be given to Scotland should be seven. That being so, the next question to be decided is, from what source are those 815 seven Members to be supplied? We have no seats vacant at present, and there are none to be taken from the existing constituencies of Scotland. Last Session, before the Scotch Bill was brought into the House, questions were put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking from what source these additional Members were to be obtained; and the answers, I think, indicated in sufficiently intelligible terms that they were to be procured by the creation of additional seats under the Bill. All doubts regarding the matter were, however, set at rest by the question being formally put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon the Motion for leave to bring in a Bill on the 13th of May last. The question was put directly, whether it was intended to add to the numbers of the House with a view to the supplying of these seven seats to Scotland; and the answer in substance was that such was the manner in which the seats were to be supplied. This proceeding took place before the Committee of the House had taken into consideration the question of the distribution of the English seats; but no indication was then, or thereafter, at any stage of the English Bill given that it was not the proper or right way of obtaining additional seats for Scotland; or that there must be set apart for Scotland, out of those seats which were abolished under the provisions of the English Bill, a sufficient number to provide for the claims of Scotland. Ample time and opportunity were given for the adoption of either of these courses; but neither of them was taken. The result was that the House appropriated these vacant seats in England towards supplying the claims of such English cities and towns which either were to get a representation for the first time, or to which additional representatives were to be given. The Government adhere to the opinions which they expressed last year; and as we have no other way of satisfying the claims of Scotland, they will ask the House to add to its own numbers. This must be done if we are to satisfy the just—the clearly just, and I think very moderate—claims of Scotland. It must be kept in view that, while the proposition was made in 1860, and again in 1866, to add to the number of Scotch Members, by diminishing the number of English Members, neither of these Bills reached the stage when the opinion of the House could be taken upon that matter. 816 I think there is nothing in the way of principle which will prevent the House from entertaining this question. It is one of policy and convenience; and I venture to think that the just claims of Scotland ought to be recognized in the manner proposed by the Government. The next question, then, which we have to bring under the consideration of the House is, in what manner are these seven Members to be distributed? As was explained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced the Scotch Bill last year, the Scotch Universities, in 1858, obtained a constitution which put them in the position of having an excellent constituency for the purpose of electing Members of Parliament. He, accordingly, last year proposed, and it is intended to carry out the proposition in the present Bill, to give two Members to the Universities of Scotland. That proposal, I think, met with very general approval, and I expect that a similar reception will attend the same proposal which I again make. Two Members being given to the Universities, five Members remain to be disposed of. What is now proposed, as was done in the Bill of last year, is that three of these should be given to very large and populous counties. The population of Lanarkshire, exclusive of boroughs, is 199,983; the population of Ayrshire, 150,719; and the population of Aberdeenshire, 137,135. I may, perhaps, here mention the relative amount of the county and borough population of the whole of Scotland. By the Census of 1861 the population of the boroughs was 1,244,106; that of the counties, exclusive of Parliamentary boroughs, was 1,818,188; the excess of county population thus being 574,082. The annual value of real property in the counties is £8,700,000; the annual value of real property in the boroughs is only £4,700,000; the excess in the county valuation being thus £4,000,000, Looking to this state of matters, it has occurred to us that it is right to recognize the claims of these large counties, which are very populous and also of very great extent. This leaves only for consideration what is to be done with the two remaining Members. As regards one of those Members, there can be no doubt that it ought to be given to Glasgow, which is very wealthy and populous, is the third city in the Empire, and is quite entitled to have another Member. Paying respect to the decision of the House arrived at 817 last year, we propose to give a third Member to Glasgow on the same footing as the third Member was given to each of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester. There still, however, remains one seat to be disposed of, and I shall explain how we propose to dispose of this. There are certain unrepresented towns or populous places, whose claims require to be considered; but, before proceeding to consider them, I would ask the House to look at what was done in 1832. In that year thirteen new towns were made Parliamentary boroughs, four of which were large towns, including Paisley and Greenock, to each of which a Member was given. There were others, too—namely, Leith and Kilmarnock, of sufficient size to justify their being placed in a new group, or included in some existing group. I crave the House to attend to the population of the other nine boroughs which were then created Parliamentary boroughs, and to compare what was done in 1832 with what we now propose by the present Bill. I may state that there is a difficulty in arriving at an exact computation of the population of places in 1831, because the Census of that year did not always disinguish the landward part of a parish from the village portion. According, however, to the best means at my disposal, the following was the population of the nine boroughs to which I have referred:—In 1831, Airdrie had a population of 6,954; but it is now 12,922. Of Falkirk I was unable to ascertain the population in 1831, but it is now 9,000. Hamilton, I believe, would have a population of some 6,000 in 1831, which has increased to 10,688, exclusive of the landward portion of the parish. Musselburgh and Fisherrow, I presume, had a population of about 6,000 also in 1831; but it is now 7,423. Peterhead had a population of 5,112 in 1831, which has now risen to 7,541. Port Glasgow has during the same period increased from 5,192 to 7,214. Portobello has increased from 2,781 to 4,366. I have not the population of Oban in 1831; but it is now 1,940. Cromarty had a population of 2,215 in 1831, but I rather think it has diminished since then. The House will observe that nine of the seats given under the Reform Bill of 1832, dealt with Parliamentary boroughs which had no right previously to return Members to Parliament. Of these nine, there were undoubtedly four or five which had a population of less than 6,000, two of them in 818 fact being as low as 2,000. It is not proposed to go so far down by the Bill which I now ask leave to bring in; but it is proposed that manufacturing and other trading towns having a population of about 6,000 should become boroughs, which should contribute to send Members to Parliament, Let it not be supposed that this is what is called eliminating all the small villages and towns in Scotland. There are a great number of these in Scotland. From the Census of 1861 I find that there are seventy-eight non-Parliamentary towns above 2,000 inhabitants. We only propose to deal with a few of these. There are what are called in the Returns of 1861, villages and towns of between 2,000 and 300 to the number of 529, and these, of course, are not proposed to be touched. Therefore villages and small towns are affected to a very small extent by the provisions of this Bill. The towns to which I have to refer, as proposed to be made Parliamentary boroughs, are the following:—Ardrossan, having a population of 7,674, and having magistrates appointed under the General Police Act of 1862, and under local Acts; Coatbridge, which, according to the Census of 1861, had a population of 10,501, and I am informed that, when it was proposed to put it under the Police Act of 1862, the sheriff defined the boundaries of the borough, and these were approved of by the then Secretary of State, including a population of about 22,000; Wishaw, which in 1861 had a population of 6,112, but is now increased to about 12,000; Barrhead, with a population of 6,018; Johnstone, with a population of 6,404; Helensburgh, with a population of about 6,000; Kirkintilloch, with a population of 6,090; and Pollockshaws, with a population of 7,600 in 1861, but now about 9,000. These places contained a population of about 56,353, according to the Census of 1861; but there has been a great increase since that time, amounting to about 18,000, and the population is brought up to about 74,000. It is proposed that these boroughs, which are all in Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, and Dumbartonshire—contiguous counties—should constitute a group of boroughs to which one Member should be given ["Oh, oh!"] which is the proposition which I have to submit to the House, and I venture to think that the more it is examined, the more reasonable it will seem, and that after it has received fair discussion, it will meet the approval of the House. There are some 819 other boroughs, of a similar character, which are proposed to be dealt with. First, Hawick, which had a population in 1861 of 8,191, and has now an estimated population of 11,452; Galashiels, which in 1841 had a population of 1,600, but by the last Census had a population of 6,433, and which has since increased to about 8,000. It is the anxious desire of these boroughs that they should be made into a group by themselves; but we have not the means of meeting that wish, and the only thing that can be done is to add them to the Haddington district, which is not an increasing district, and has at present only a population of about 13,000. Then there is Alloa, a shipping port, and under municipal government, which, by the Census of 1861, had a population of 6,425. It is proposed that this borough should be added to the Stirling district. Unless the distinction between the urban and county districts is to be totally ignored, I venture to think that these propositions are founded in reason and good sense; because you must make allowance for the increase of the urban element from time to time; and the way in which that can be done is either by giving additional representation to those places which have increased so much in population, or by adding them to existing groups. There is no doubt that between 1832 and 1868—a period which represents almost a generation, but in point of progress a much larger period—there has been a very large increase of the urban population in these districts. In 1832 the claims of such places to representation as urban constituencies were recognized, as I have shown, to a greater extent than is proposed by the present Bill. When these propositions have been carefully considered I believe they will meet with the approval of the House; and I therefore now move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation of the People in Scotland.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that he had listened with great attention to the clear and lucid statement of the learned Lord, who, however, had said little about the borough franchise, and whose example he (Mr. Baxter) should follow, because whatever diversity of sentiment might formerly have existed as to the point to which the electoral franchise in boroughs in Scotland should be lowered, it was obvious that they must follow the example of England, and heartily welcome household suffrage. Last Session, it would be remembered, a 820 proposition that the qualification in counties should consist partly of a house, was only rejected by the narrowest possible majority, after two divisions, in a very full House. He admitted the force of the argument, that in the great and populous counties of England this probably was a matter of minor consequence; but in the small, sparsely populated counties in Scotland, it was a matter of the utmost importance, because if the qualification was to consist simply of land, it would be in the power of one or two landed proprietors, and in some cases of one, virtually to command the whole representation by the creation of fifty, sixty, or 100 faggot votes; and he hoped the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) would again turn his attention to this matter, and take the sense of the House upon it. He had not risen, however, for the purpose of referring to the principles or details of this Bill; but he must say a word with regard to the scheme for re-distribution, which was far worse than he could have anticipated. He did not expect that Government would be disposed to take no fewer than eight towns out of the counties of Renfrew, Ayr, Lanark, and Dumbarton, for the purpose of creating a new constituency in the West; and he was astonished that in a scheme like this the Lord Advocate had overlooked the claims of the large and important manufacturing towns, like Dundee. Did the learned Lord know there was no such instance of increase in the United Kingdom as in the case of Dundee? There were towns in the county of Forfar, large, wealthy, and rapidly increasing in population, and yet they were not to have any additional Members, but were all to be handed over to the counties, although the representation of counties in Scotland at present was in excess of what it ought to be in comparison with the boroughs. But his object in rising was altogether apart from details like these. He considered it his duty, to take the earliest opportunity of entering his protest against any scheme whatever for adding to the number of Members of that House. No one who had looked into the facts and figures of the case would for an instant dispute the claim of Scotland to a large additional representation; but if they compared England and Scotland—taking, for example, the basis of taxation and population—they would find that Scotland was entitled to twenty-five additional representatives. But he had no 821 hesitation in saying that, rather than accept these seven seats at the heavy expense of adding to the number of the House, he should be content to defer the claims of Scotland to the wisdom and justice of the reformed Parliament, before which this question of re-distribution must come for further discussion. The House was too numerous already. It was more numerous than any existing legislative assembly in the world; and the only reason he had ever heard for retaining so many as 658 was for the transaction of the Committee business. But this Session the Government had introduced a Bill for doing away with Election Committees, and two or three years ago a Court of Referees was established, diminishing greatly the duties of Members; and the Chairman of Ways and Means had given notice for to-morrow of a Resolution which, if passed, would still further diminish the Private Business, and every one looked forward to the time when that business would be in a great measure transacted by a separate tribunal. If they were to take such an important step as to add to the number of Members in the interest of Scotland, why, in common fairness and justice, could they refuse the same in the interest of the County Palatine of Lancaster, or of this vast metropolis, both of which had, he admitted, greater claims than Scotland? Scotchmen did not come to the House in formâ pauperis. All they asked was to be treated as an integral portion of the United Kingdom, precisely in the same manner as their neighbours on this side of the Tweed. Their demand was not for additional Members for Scotland, qua Scotland; but that all those great manufacturing constituencies which were ignored in the Bills of the Government, and which were not provided for in the Bill of last year, should receive their due meed of representation at the hands of the House. He disliked and deprecated more than he could express the perpetuation of the difference between the two countries, which had existed harmoniously together under the same Sovereign for so many centuries, and he thought there ought to be a great deal more assimilation in their legislation than had hitherto been the case. This matter of re-distribution ought never to be treated in separate Bills; but there ought to be one great measure for the United Kingdom. In 1859 he called attention to this matter, and the difficulty, or scrape he might call it, they had now got into showed the 822 wisdom of the opinion he had then expressed. Although he was quite willing to wait for a reformed Parliament rather than accept these seven miserable Members, at the expense of adding to the Members of the House, let it be remembered that they were not bound to adopt either of those alternatives. It was perfectly open to the House to instruct the Committee on the Bill to provide for the necessary and just increase of the representation of Scotland, by equalizing to a greater extent the borough representation throughout the United Kingdom. Only last Session, by a majority of no fewer than 127, at the instance of the Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), the House took away the second Member from English boroughs between 8,000 and 10,000, and if they did the same in boroughs between 10,000 and 12,000 they would gain twelve seats. But there was still another course open to them. They might take away altogether representation from the ten or twelve very small boroughs of under 5,000 inhabitants, which were not at all in the position of boroughs in the West of Scotland, but were small, wretched, decaying villages, which were not at all likely to be spared by a reformed Parliament. He should be glad if, after hearing the opinions of Scotch Members on the subject, the Government would adopt one of these courses; but he entreated the House not for a moment to listen to the proposition to increase its numbers, and he felt satisfied that the people of Scotland, no less than the people of England, would support their representatives in opposing such a scheme.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, he had not intended when he entered the House on that evening to take any part in debate, and he should confine his observations on this occasion to the proposal to increase the number of Members of that House, in order to give seven additional Members to Scotland. For sometime past a small agitation had been going on in Scotland on this subject. Originally a demand was made for twenty-five additional Members, but now it was stated that Scotland would be content with fifteen. The movement—he would not call it an agitation—was not got up in any influential quarter in Scotland. It had been originally brought about by Town Councillors in boroughs, and mainly by the corporation and Town Council of Edinburgh, and that, probably, was the reason why it was not taken up warmly 823 in other quarters. But from whatever source the movement arose, it expressed in the main the opinion of the middle-class constituency in Scotland. The demand in itself was just and reasonable, provided the House was to contain 658 Members, or provided the number was to be increased. It was a just demand, considering the population and wealth of Scotland, the great revenue Scotland contributed to the Exchequer, and the very small demand she made upon the Consolidated Fund for establishments to maintain order and tranquillity in that part of the Kingdom. Scotchmen, though rough in manner and somewhat democratic in their political opinions—especially in the towns—were an educated people, and a loyal people. Nobody in Scotland considered that those who defied the law and murdered the Queen's officers in the execution of their duty were either martyrs or patriots. There was a very simple way of doing Scotland justice in this particular, if it suited the convenience of Ministers to humour men who were so contented and so phlegmatic. That way, of course, was to have reduced largely the number of English and Irish representatives without unduly increasing the Members for Scotland. And there was a great precedent in the Bill of 1831, brought in under the auspices of Earl Grey's Administration, and proposed to the House of Commons by Lord John Russell, for this reduction. That Bill proposed to reduce the number of English Members by no less than forty, and to diminish the number of seats absolutely by thirty; and that was not thought a revolutionary proposal, but received an enormous amount of support in an unreformed House of Commons. The only objection to it, in his opinion, was, that it did not go far enough. No proposal of that sort was made now. Last year they proposed a Bill which continued to England the same number of Members it had previously. When they had seats to give away, they heaped them cumulatively upon large towns, giving them triangular Members to be returned in some fantastic manner. Nobody now proposed to reduce the number of Members for Ireland, which might well be done, for 2,500,000 at least of the resident population had disappeared since 1832—not that the whole had been lost, for in truth at least 1,000,000 of Irishmen were to be found in Great Britain doing hard work, and being well paid for it. There were abundant reasons for re- 824 ducing the representation in Ireland. There were a great many small towns in Ireland with very few inhabitants, and still fewer voters, which might well be disfranchised; towns like Mallow, Athlone, Portarlington, and others, all represented by Liberal Members, Gentlemen who would have been most ready to sacrifice themselves, if called upon, to do so, in a Ministerial measure. But he should like to see the Leaders of either side come forward with a proposition to reduce the number of Members for Ireland. They all knew that when any jobbery was to be proposed, the Leaders of both sides vied with each, other in making delusive offers to Irishmen in order to obtain what they called the Ultramontane vote. In proposing a Reform Bill applicable to the three Kingdoms, instead of the Leader of the House coming forward with twelve distinct proposals which meant nothing, he ought to have brought forward two or three positive Resolutions, the first of which should have been, "What is to be the number of representatives this regenerated House of Commons is to contain?" and next "What proportion of Members shall be sent to the new House of Commons from each of the three parts of the Kingdom?" Nothing of the sort had been done, and they were now approaching a squabble or a faction fight over these miserable seven Scotch Members, the note of preparation for which was sounded about two months ago by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire in his progress through the Palatinate. He stated that he would reopen the whole distribution question. The same note was followed by the senior Member for Edinburgh, who, in a letter addressed to the Lord Provost, hinted that he would follow the same course; and the junior Member for Edinburgh, at a meeting at the Music-hall not very long ago, said that rather than accept the seven Members, he would have none at all. He (Mr. Smollett) should not follow this "dog-in-the manger" course. He should accept the seven Members, on the principle that "half a loaf is better than no bread," and he would advise other Members for Scotland to follow his moderate course. He believed, now that they had taken household suffrage as the basis of representation, that the country at large wanted to see no more "faction fights" over the question. He thought that they ought to allow the Bill to pass with as much celerity as the forms of the House would 825 allow; for he thought that those Members must have curious minds who could look back to the faction fights of 1866 and 1867 with feelings of either pride or satisfaction.
§ SIR JOHN OGILVY
expressed his disappointment, and that of his constituents, that Dundee was not to have two Members, and in Committee he gave notice that he would propose that a second Member should be given to Dundee.
§ MR. LAING
said, he would not have addressed the House on this occasion but for a fear that the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Baxter) might, standing alone, give rise to an erroneous impression that the Scotch Members were prepared to see the Bill pass without a change in the existing number of seats for that country. He believed every Member must feel that the practical question was whether there should be an increase in the number of Members in the House as the means of procuring an increase in the number of Members for Scotland. His hon. Friend referred to him as having brought forward a Motion, which was passed by a large majority last Session, taking away a Member from the very small boroughs, and he pointed to that as showing the easy mode of obtaining Members for Scotland without increasing the numbers of the House. Now, although his (Mr. Laing's) Motion for partial disfranchisement in England was carried by a considerable majority last year, yet the experience which he gained in bringing it forward convinced him of the utter hopelessness of any attempt in the present Session to re-open the subject of the redistribution of seats in England. It was perfectly out of the question to suppose that in the last Session of an expiring Parliament the whole of that large subject, which was settled with such extreme difficulty last Session, could be revived and dealt with on first principles. Practically, therefore, the question was, "Shall Scotland accept the instalment of justice proposed by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, or are we to wait indefinitely until some new scheme of radical reform is proposed and there is a complete revision of the whole system of representation throughout the United Kingdom?" Now, he was not willing to postpone the admittedly just claims of Scotland to any such remote and indefinite period. It was certainly most important not to keep up this international contest between the three 826 kingdoms with regard to their relative political position. He did not mean to say that the Scotch were going to turn Fenians, or anything of that sort; but it was not desirable that persons north of the Tweed should feel that they were politically inferior to persons living to the south of that river. But such a feeling would be inevitable if, after three successive Administrations had allowed the justice of the claims of Scotland for additional representation, they were to settle the question of Reform for a considerable term of years, leaving such an anomaly, for instance, as that the town of Leeds should return three Members, while Glasgow only had two. Such an anomaly could not fail to create in the minds of all Scotchmen a sense of injustice, which it was most desirable, upon broad, statesmanlike principles, to prevent as much as possible. Now, with respect to the slight increase in the number of Members by which this gross injustice to Scotland might be avoided, he had never been able to see any magical force in the number 658; nor could he admit that, by yielding now to an increase in that number, they disarmed themselves for opposing any future claims to additional representation. Surely, the new House of Commons would have common sense enough to see that there was no parallel between a great settlement of the representation, like those of 1832 and 1867, and the future claim of any town founded upon a certain increase in its population. One practical inconvenience of an increase in the number of Members was very much of their own making, because they had chosen to confine themselves within a chamber which could not accommodate the whole body. That, however, formed no insuperable difficulty, and was not to be set against the necessity of doing justice to one important portion of the United Kingdom. If it should be found hereafter that the number of Members was too large, it would always be in the power of a Reformed Parliament to reduce the number. If anything was to be gained from the Reform Act, it was in the greater energy and vigour of the new House of Commons, and in their resolve to deal with the questions which came before them on broad principles, undeterred by small considerations. Upon the next re-distribution of seats, therefore, the new House of Commons might, if it thought fit, reduce the number of Members; but mean- 827 while, at any rate, justice would have been done to Scotland. For these reasons he believed that public opinion in Scotland was favourable to the settlement of the question in the present Session. In some respects the details of the Government Bill were faulty. If Dundee and Aberdeen were situated south of the Tweed they would have had two Members, and he thought, therefore, that they ought to have two Members. This, however, was a point of detail. He was prepared to adopt the principle of the Bill and support the second reading, and in Committee he would endeavour so to enlarge the number of seats as to secure a second Member for each of these places.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he thought his learned Friend had better re-consider the mode in which he proposed to group these new burghs. He did not think it was possible that the House would sanction such a proposition as that he had made that night, and he was more surprised that the proposal should have been made in that form, considering that the Scotch Members last Session indicated pretty plainly to the right hon. Gentleman, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) that the proposal in that Bill—so much less objectionable than the proposal in the present Bill—was one they were not prepared to support, or rather one which they intended to oppose. What was it the Bill proposed to do? It was proposed to take eight burghs and give them one Member amongst them all. In other words, eight burghs were to be taken out of the counties of Ayr, Renfrew, Dumbarton, and Lanark; and Roxburgh and Selkirk would also be affected. Now, he must say, that could not be satisfactory either to the burghs so selected, or to the counties affected. It was hardly giving any additional representation at all, for one Member amongst eight populous towns was really a mockery of representation. So far as individual interests were concerned, of course it was always important that large populous places should be represented by themselves; but nothing could be worse than to weed large and important counties of populous places which were now part of the county constituency. The residents in these burghs were properly a county constituency. Renfrew and Lanark were interested in minerals—that was the interest of the county—and these large populous places make up the staple of the county, and were therefore properly represented 828 by the county Member. He thought his learned Friend had better re-consider the matter, because he was quite certain it would not be approved by that House. In the second place, with regard to the proposed increase, he was glad to find that on neither side of the House was a question raised as to the propriety of the increased representation of Scotland. The claim was a just one, and if considered upon its merits would fairly go beyond the number proposed. He thought the number was considerably within what, if it were at the choice of Scotland, they would desire to have accorded to them. But at the same time he did not wish, any more than his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), to treat this as a national question—which in truth it was not—he meant in the narrower sense of national, as Scottish as contrasted with Imperial or properly national. It was not a Scottish question. They must look upon it from an Imperial point of view, and they could not expect their Friends the Representatives of England to deal with it in the larger sense if they make it exclusively a question of justice to Scotland. It was justice in the re-distribution of seats throughout the country—justice as regarded the Empire generally; and if they could not maintain it upon that ground, it was not to be maintained upon any other. His hon. Friend the Member for the Wick burghs (Mr. Laing) said, the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had reduced the question to this:—Were they to gain these additional Members by adding to the number of Members of the House, or were they to pass a Bill this Session which should not add to the representation of Scotland? He (Mr. Moncreiff), however, did not think they were in any such dilemma. At present it it was not necessary, because they refused or declined to add to the Members of this House, that they should pass a Bill this Session which did not increase the representation of Scotland. On the contrary, the means were patent. They had it at their own disposal; it was the easiest thing in the world if they were anxious to use it. At the end of the last Session of Parliament, if he mistook not, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), whose illness they all so much deplored, said, in almost the last speech made upon the Reform Bill last Session, that if a well-considered measure of disfranchisement were introduced this Session of Parliament for the purpose of extending still further the dis- 829 franchisement of the smaller boroughs, it would receive careful consideration from Her Majesty's Government. Now, he (Mr. Moncreiff) invited them to that careful consideration. Let them give that consideration to the question; and surely it was unreasonable that because they last year stopped short in the work of disfranchisement and re-distribution of English seats, they should be driven to discuss a large and constitutional question like that of adding Members to the House, when it was so easy to obtain them from the only quarter from which they ought to be derived? It was faulty, imperfect husbandry. There were weeds, withered stems or branches—they must lop them off. They were doomed; they could not remain—that was perfectly certain; and were they, because that was not done last time, to neglect the opportunity which this Bill necessarily offered of carrying out the principle and providing for the additional representation which Scotland was entitled to from legitimate sources—namely, by the disfranchisement of the smaller boroughs in England, which, by the common voice, could not by any possibility retain their enfranchisement much longer? Therefore they were not in the dilemma mentioned. To increase the numbers of the House was a serious question. By the Reform Bill of 1832 the Irish and Scotch representation was increased, but not by adding to the Members of the House, which might be made a most dangerous precedent, and be abused for purposes to which it ought never to be applied. As to the borough franchise, they must follow, of course, the example of the English Bill; but he would suggest to his right hon. and learned Friend whether it would not be desirable to omit altogether the rating qualification. It was all very well last Session to maintain personal payment of rates as the groundwork of household suffrage, and to call it a principle, though in his opinion it had nothing of principle about it, and that the personal payment of rates was no more an indication of a man's fitness for the franchise than was any other immaterial fact. But if the right hon. Gentleman were to extend it to Scotland he would throw into confusion the whole system of rating in that country, because the principle upon which rating was based in the two countries was entirely different. Such a qualification, if introduced into Scotland, would be a mere encumbrance, and would produce nothing but inconvenience. There 830 was already such a provision in reference to assessed taxes, but it was found so inconvenient that by common consent it was always put aside. By imposing the necessity of payment, of rates they would have below a certain line a fluctuating and corruptible body of electors, the tenants of a few proprietors, who would not have the means of putting themselves on the roll, and would be liable to all those influences which it should be the object of Parliament to exclude. He did not think there would be any difference of opinion among the Scotch Members on that subject, and, notwithstanding the jargon of "the hard and fast line," it would be much better to take £4, or any other figure, and make that the point at" which the franchise should be conferred. Another important consideration was this: the registration in Scotland was made out by the valuation-roll. Now, it would be impossible to introduce into the valuation-roll the personal payment of rates, because no man could tell whether the rates were paid or not. The same remark would apply to the county occupation franchise. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose about the building clause, and the only further observation he would make was that he hoped his right hon. and learned Friend would take measures to secure that the franchise, when conferred, should be a real, honest, and substantial measure, and not merely a fictitious one. That might be accomplished in many ways by the abolition of joint proprietorship, joint tenancies, life rents, and so on. It was true that no one on either side was entitled to say much about those fictitious votes, as he believed that in former days both parties had made votes in Scotland to a considerable extent. At a subsequent stage of the Bill he should bring before the House the fact that this system which they had considered obsolete had been revived in more than one county within the last two or three years. It was no good reducing the franchise to give an apparently popular aspect to it, and leave it open to the large landed proprietors to import from all parts of Scotland persons who had no connection with the locality, and simply by the payment of £20 or £30, to over-ride the wishes of the resident electors.
said, the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill must be aware that there was not a place of any importance in Scotland in which there 831 had not been held meetings to express opinions with regard to additional representation. It had been proved beyond all controversy that, in proportion to the representation of England and Ireland, Scotland was entitled to even more than twenty-five Members. The people of Scotland would therefore regard the present proposition of the Government to give seven Members by increasing the present 658 Members to 665 as simply mockery. In England there were no less than eleven boroughs with a population of less than 5,000, each of which sent a Member to Parliament—namely, Arundel, Ashburton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Lyme Regis, Marlborough, Northallerton, Thetford, Totnes, and Wells; Arundel having only 184 electors, and Ashburton with a maximum of only 450 electors; while in Ireland there were five boroughs with a population under 5,000—namely, Downpatrick, Dungannon, Kinsale, Mallow, and Portarlington, the last with 106 electors only, and Downpatrick with a maximum of 239 electors; but there was not a single borough in Scotland with a population under 10,000 which was allowed to return a Member. Was that justice to Scotland, or even to the people of England itself, or to those of Ireland? Again, were the counties of Bute, Peebles, Selkirk, and Sutherland, with a population varying from 16,000 to 24,000, to continue to send each a Member, when Dundee, with a population of 115,000, and Aberdeen, with a population of 80,000, had only one Member? Common sense, setting aside justice, absolutely repudiated it. He was decidedly opposed to increasing the number of the Members of the House. According to population we had a larger number of representatives than any other country with a representative Government in the world. In the United States, with 36,000,000 of people, only 241 Members were sent to Parliament, or one Member for 124,000 souls. We sent 658, or one Member for 45,000 souls, and now it was proposed to add seven more to the number. France had only 376 Members, or one for 100,000 souls; and the great German Confederation sent only 280 Members to Parliament. So far from increasing the number of Members of the House of Commons, we ought to reduce it; and, in his opinion, 500 Members were the utmost England, Scotland, and Ireland ought to have. He did not hesitate to say that instead of accepting this instalment of seven 832 Members Scotland ought to repudiate the offer, and wait for that general re-distribution of seats in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which could not be far distant and which was inevitable. Scotland would do an injustice to itself by accepting such a proposal, for Scotland was at least entitled to twenty-five additional Members.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that he had recently stated that if Government should bring in a good Bill, giving fifteen Members to Scotland, he for one had no objection to increase the number of seats, because a re-distribution could not be put off for more than two years, and then they could reduce the numbers; but if the Government should bring in a Bill the same in substance as that of last year, then he would much rather have no Bill at all. He thought the Bill as now explained was a little worse than the Bill of last year, and therefore his reason for opposing it was much stronger. He would state why he thought it was worse. He found that eight towns, containing 56,000 inhabitants, not now burghs, were to be formed into one group, while the Bill of last year provided for their distribution into three groups of burghs. It would be a monstrous piece of injustice to take these towns altogether out of the counties, to destroy their vitality and their strength—that part in which the Liberal element was most thoroughly developed. With regard to these counties he held that the injury that would be done would be far greater than the benefit that would accrue, and, therefore, of this part of the scheme he heartily disapproved. They were asking nothing peculiar for Scotland. He found that there were about ninety towns in England, containing upwards of 6,000 inhabitants. Why did they not take those ninety towns and group them, and give one Member to each group of eight? Such a thing could not be proposed for England. In resisting that proposal they were asking nothing that could be called justice to Scotland. The Government were trying to do that in Scotland which they dared not attempt in England. And then with regard to Glasgow—it was to have an additional Member, but the electors were to have the privilege of voting for only two Members of Parliament—or, in other words, Glasgow would return two Liberals and one Conservative—and in voting in this House, Glasgow would be worse off than she was now. Therefore, no good would be done to 833 Glasgow, but rather an injury. A much better course, where a town had three Members, would be to divide it into three Parliamentary sections or wards, each returning one Member; for all parties would thus be fairly represented and great expense would be avoided. The present plan was an injury and not a benefit. Glasgow had a population of 450,000. It was equal to Berlin, which returned nine Members to Parliament, and yet the Parliament of Prussia was only one-half the size of theirs. The Prussians had the idea that every 50,000 persons should have a Member, and thus Berlin obtained nine. In regard to the other parts of the Bill, there were to be two Members for the Universities of Scotland. In England, out of 500 Members, they had four University Members, and now they were to give one to London University—that was one to every 100. But if they gave Scotland two Members for the Universities, it would be one for every thirty Scotch Members of Parliament. Every argument that was used in favour of treating Scotland differently from England was obsolete. Oxford University was in effect a town where large numbers resided, with very large property, and was entitled to a Member; but that was not the case with the University of Edinburgh. One graduate, the librarian, lived in it; every other professor and graduate resided in the town, and had a vote in the town. If he understood matters with relation to Oxford, there was a City line drawn, and the members outside that line and within the University had no vote for the City Member. One of the two Members proposed to be given to the Scotch Universities should be given to Dundee, Aberdeen, or some other large constituency. It was proposed to add Alloa to the Stirling burghs. Stirling itself contained a thriving population of 13,000, and if it were in England it would have two Members. Dunfermline, with a population of 13,000, was at present joined with Stirling. Although each of them should have two Members, they were grouped with other three burghs, and return only one Member amongst them. Alloa was proposed to be added merely to take it out of the county. Nothing could be more unjust than this proposed mode of grouping. In England you did not take a borough of 30,000 and add to it another of 6,000, even, although the larger borough was represented by two Members; and why should this be done in Scotland where only one Member was given? Then with 834 regard to the Haddington burghs, it was composed of a group of five. A Member for that group would have to travel seventy-one miles if he wished to visit his constituents, that being the distance from one end to the other of that group. To this Haddington group, Hawick, with a population of 11,452, was proposed to be added, and also Galashiels, with 8,000. Could anything be more unjust than to swamp Haddington by adding two other towns containing 19,000 inhabitants between them? He did not wish to impute bad motives to the proposers of this system of grouping; but he was entitled to speak of the results which would flow from its adoption. It would make these county constituencies simply nomination constituencies. One half of Galashiels was in the county of Selkirk. That county contained 10,500 inhabitants. Take 3,200, which was that part of the population which belonged to the county of Selkirk out of it, and you reduced the population of that county to 7,000, including the borough of Selkirk which contained a population of 4,000. It was not a borough newly created for any special purpose; it was created by a charter 600 years old. Then, if you took the borough of Selkirk out of that county population of 7,000, there would remain only 3,000 of a rural population, and yet this small county was to return a Member. And that was called an improvement for the benefit of Scotland. He called it a Scottish grievance, which the Scotch Members ought to resist to the uttermost. He did not wish hon. Members to suppose that the borough of Selkirk, when forming part of the county, did not vote for the county. It did so far as the votes of the requisite value in the borough would admit; but it was well known that the rentals were so low that such persons as dissenting ministers or schoolmasters, who occupied houses under £12 rental, had no vote, though their income might range from £100 to £200 a year, while a man who rented a few acres and a cottage, making up a £12 rental, with an income of £50 a year could vote. He objected to the Bill, not because it proposed to add seven Members to the number of representatives for Scotland, but because the distribution of these seven was so bad, that he could not in his conscience support it. It had been said by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that the claims of Lancashire and London to increased re- 835 presentation were greater than the claims of Scotland. But even if this were so, Scotland had no little boroughs to disfranchise, whereas in England there was a multitude of small boroughs that ought to be disfranchised, and by that means additional seats could be given to Lancashire and London, if their claims were so great. Ireland also had little boroughs that ought to be disfranchised. It was an entire fallacy to compare the case of Scotland with parts of England in the way the hon. Member had compared them. To compare the two cases fairly you must draw a line across England, so as to include a portion as nearly as possible equal to Scotland, and inquire how many Members that section returned, and compare its population with that of Scotland. He had done that. The eight southern counties of England, including the boroughs, contained a population a little under 3,000,000. The population of Scotland was a little more than 3,000,000. Scotland had fifty-three Members, while these eight southern counties of England had 124 Members before the alteration made by the Bill of last year. By the Act of Union there was to be neither England nor Scotland afterwards. They both formed portions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain; and it was not on the mere ground of justice to Scotland that he objected to this measure. He contended that if twenty little boroughs in England were wholly or partially disfranchised, Scotland had equal claims with Lancashire or London to a portion of the seats taken from those little boroughs. It might be said that the late Government proposed to give only seven additional Members to Scotland. The late Government would have proposed a larger addition if they could have carried it. But the present Government were placed in an entirely different position; they had not to contend against that party spirit which caused the failure of the late Government. The learned Lord Advocate said that the Bill of 1832 created nine new boroughs; but he forgot to say that eight new seats were created for burghs alone. Now it was proposed to create eleven new boroughs, but only two Members would be given to burghs new and old. As to the franchise, he thought rating for the counties was altogether out of the question. As an enlargement of the accommodation in the House was contemplated, he did not think that any inconvenience would be 836 occasioned if fifteen additional Members were given to Scotland. On the average only half of the Members were not present at debates. Even during the excitement about the Reform Bill, he found that during one of the debates the attendance of English, Scotch, and Irish Members only exceeded 100, although on five occasions 500 were present. There was not one occasion on which 600 were present. On twelve occasions upwards of 200 were present. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman expressed his regret that for the reasons he had stated he could not support the Bill.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he wished to call the attention of the Government to the subject of the boundaries of boroughs. If the Government intended to deal in the present Session with the boundaries of boroughs in England, he claimed the same privilege for Scotland. In that case there should be no decision about the boundaries of Scotch boroughs until the question had been reported upon by a Commission, and their Report had been confirmed by Parliament. Scotland stood, however, in a different position from England in this matter. The existing Parliament was believed to be approaching its close, and it was not within the bounds of probability that a Commission, would Report during the present Session. If the Government thought that Scotland ought to stand on the same footing as England, it would be necessary to use the most urgent haste to pass the Bill and appoint the Commission, so that the matter might be settled before the end of the Session. With regard to the question of an increase of the number of Members of that House, he admitted not only the inconvenience of an increase of even seven Members, but also the danger of the precedent. But the increase of Members for Scotland was a question regarding the honour of English Members still more than the prudence or discrimination of the Members for Scotland. After what took place last Session it would be grossly unjust on the part of the English Members to deny the just claims of the Scotch constituencies. The precedent of the increase of the absolute number of Members was not likely to be followed, and the Scotch Members confidently appealed for justice in this matter. Referring to the subject of the new burghs he was surprised to hear the Lord Advocate appeal to the precedent of 1832, for the Scotland of 1868 was 837 totally different from the Scotland of 1832, as could be shown by a glance at the county which he had the honour to represent (Lanarkshire). Without saying anything against the claims of the towns which had been selected for separate representation, he objected to the proposed plan of eliminating certain urban populations from the agricultural districts. What they had to consider was the whole state and condition of Scotland, and not the growth of certain populous towns, and he should reserve his opinion with regard to the claims of Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen until the question came before the Committee. He considered this Bill a departure from the statement contained in the Royal Speech, that there should be an alteration of the suffrage without any attempt to affect the distribution of political power. He held that the principle of Reform adopted for England must be applied in the main to Scotland with regard to the suffrage, but need not be servilely followed, particularly in respect to the county franchise. He wished to state, in answer to the appeal made to him, that it was his intention to endeavour to give to Scotland the benefit of the proposition so nearly carried last Session for English counties against the introduction of a proposition that must have a disfranchising effect to a certain extent. In the small counties of Scotland the manufacture of faggot votes had been recklessly resorted to, and it was well deserving the consideration of the House whether they should not adopt in the counties residence as the test of qualification. There were considerations with regard to the borough franchise in Scotland which ought to make them pause before they adopted a rating franchise as a test even to the extent it was proposed to apply it in England; it was an uncertain test here, and it would be almost valueless in Scotland. The proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh was well deserving of consideration, and he asked them whether it was not better to boldly face the difficulty, and draw a low but "hard and fast line" with regard to the boroughs, which they had already adopted with regard to counties? He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to modify the objectionable provisions of the Bill, which, if they were allowed to remain, would go far to defeat the just claims of the Scottish people.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he 838 was not desirous of discussing in detail the merits of the Bill upon its first reading, and he hoped Scotch Members would not commit themselves to a course of action upon it before they had had an opportunity of carefully reading it. It was to be expected that Scotch Members should have an earnest desire for the increased representation of that country, and hon. Members were only doing their duty when they pointed out the claims of their respective constituencies to a larger share of representation. It ought not, however, to be forgotten that the House was now discussing matters which were not even the leading features of the Bill, but which in the measure introduced last year were regarded as small points of detail, and were not, in fact, reached until a late period of the Session. It was not till the summer was far advanced that the House was able last Session to commence the discussion respecting the re-distribution clauses, and it must be most satisfactory to those who desired to see this great question of Parliamentary Reform settled on a sure and permanent basis, and more especially to the Scotch Members on the other side of the House, who had always been desirous for an extension of the franchise, to find that so little remained to be done that the present discussion had been confined to matters of secondary importance. For, in point of fact, hardly a word had been said on the present occasion with regard to the principles of the measure, and in this respect the precedent had been followed which was laid down in reference to the Reform Act of 1867. The great extension of the franchise founded upon the rating principle had been accepted gladly by the hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House, and he might venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that every one who knew what the Scottish working men were, would feel assured that the great privilege about to be extended to them would be exercised with purity and intelligence. There was, he believed, much interest felt in the towns of Scotland concerning the great extension of the suffrage which was about to be made, and, indeed, they were much more alive to the great privilege about to be conferred upon them than the corresponding class in England. It was well known that education was of much older standing in Scotland than in England, and it might, therefore, be naturally expected that there would be found in the 839 large number of persons enfranchised by the Bill an advanced stage of preparation for the enjoyment of the privileges. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose was so opposed to the proposal for an increase of the Members of the House that he would even postpone any degree of satisfaction of the claims of Scotland for increased representation rather than admit the principle which he deemed so objectionable. He could not, however, believe that the hon. Gentleman would be supported in his views by any large section of the Members for Scotland. He was aware that right hon. Gentlemen holding the highest position on the other side of the House had pronounced against this feature of the scheme; but he also remembered that those Gentlemen were equally opposed to the leading features of last year's Reform Bill, which was now the law of the land. On closer inspection this would not, in his opinion, be regarded as a question of first-rate importance, for the number of the Members of the House was due in reality to merely accidental circumstances, and when it had been increased regard had been shown to the constituencies and not to any perfect number. It was evident that in no other way but by increasing the number of Members in the House could provision have been made for the due representation of Scotland. Of course, it was easy to say now that it would have been more easy to have taken away more Members from small English boroughs; but hon. Gentlemen must well remember how greatly the English Bill of last Session was endangered by Members on the other side of the House endeavouring to increase the measure of disfranchisement. It was a matter of compromise, and he hoped that the Scotch Members would not fly in the face of the English Members and create an opposition to the just claims of Scotland to increased representation; for call it provincialism or anything else, there was certainly a feeling amongst the English people and their representatives that England was a distinct division of the country, and they would oppose to the utmost any attempt to diminish its representation. For while he agreed with those who were of opinion that Scotland must be considered as one with England with regard to privileges, as she was in ardent loyalty and prominent in her support of the good government of the country, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that this part of the 840 question was surrounded with difficulty; and he regretted that those who ought to be banded together to obtain as great an increase of representation as possible for their country should, by hasty declamations of the kind made by the hon. Member for Montrose, lessen the chances of getting some instalment of additional representation. As to the new boroughs, he was afraid there had been too much argument in a party spirit, and too little regard to the claims of those who desired to be enfranchised. He hoped that we were on the point of settling the Reform question for a considerable number of years—he hoped for a generation at least. Now was it reasonable that these places, some of which had risen within the last few years from unimportant towns to a most thriving and properous condition, and had become great centres of industry and trade, should remain without distinct representation for half a century longer? It was evident that the towns which his right hon. Friend had named this evening could not long remain mere open villages. He did not think it could be said that in regard to the county which he had the honour to represent an attempt had been made to eliminate the thriving urban population, for out of a population of 198,000, it was only proposed to take one town, a rising seaport of 7,000 inhabitants. He could not think that the bone and sinew of his county was likely to be destroyed by such a process. With regard to the group of towns in the Clyde district, nobody knew better than the hon. Baronet who last spoke, how vastly they had increased in population and wealth since the year 1832. Those who talked of taking out of the counties the towns, which at present bore a share in returning Members to Parliament as open towns or large villages, ought not to forget the claims of the working men of those towns to share in the enjoyment of the borough franchise; and he could assure the House that the Scotch working men really look upon the enjoyment of the franchise as a privilege. It was on behalf of the inhabitants of those towns, and the right of these men to share in the electoral privileges, that these towns had claims to separate representation. He ought to point out that his right hon. Friend was misunderstood in what he said respecting Ardrossan, for it was now proposed, as in the Bill of last year, to include it in the Ayr district of boroughs, so that there would only be in the 841 group boroughs very homogeneous, and within a comparatively easy distance of one another. And if it were urged, as had been urged by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, that the plan was less than that of last year, inasmuch as some of these groups would be interlaced with each other, he would remind the hon. Gentleman that objections were raised last year to any disseverance of the boroughs which had been so happily united since 1832, and some of them from a much earlier date. In consequence of those objections an alteration had been made in the Bill. Now, if this plan and the other were objected to, how were these boroughs to secure representation? [Mr. M'LAREN: By increasing the number of Members.] The hon. Member must be well aware that he had no wish to throw any obstacle in the way of settling the question of Scotch Reform. He hoped, notwithstanding the objections which hon. Members from Scotland had offered to the measure, that it would be received by the House as a fair, just, and liberal measure for the improvement of the representation of that country.
§ MR. GRAHAM
protested very earnestly against one principle which seemed to lie at the bottom of much of that Bill—namely, the principle of the representation of minorities. Of the seven new Members proposed to be given to Scotland, six were intended to represent a minority of opinion in the country. In his own constituency (Glasgow) the greatest repugnance was felt to what the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire described as "the triangles,"—a thing which they did not deserve. Almost the entire community there, he thought, would rather not have an additional Member, than have one given in that way. The proposition made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year for dividing the constituency into two parts, objectionable as it might be, would be preferable to the present one. They were a very happy constituency, and could get on without quarrelling. They would only cause bad feeling by the application of this principle to the constituency he represented. Instead of the question of Reform being settled for a generation, as the hon. Baronet who spoke last had just expressed a hope that it might, it could never be settled for any length of time, unless the re-distribution was based upon juster principles than those embodied in that Bill.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I believe that among the foremost qualities of Scottish Gentlemen we always recognize that of caution. I was surprised, therefore, that one of those Gentlemen who addressed us early in the evening should have declared that he was going to oppose, and that he must oppose, the Bill to be brought forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. For what is that Bill? It is a Bill which proposes the largest, the most extensive increase of the constituency of Scotland which ever was presented to the consideration of this House. At no time and under no circumstances has so munificent an offer with respect to the franchise been submitted to the consideration of Parliament. Indeed, it is so extensive that we have heard from several Gentlemen, who are recognized as Liberal authorities, a fear lest we should have passed a line which, even with their advanced opinions, they were prepared to adopt. The hon. Member for Montrose, who said he was going to oppose this measure, argued the question of the re-distribution of seats. Well, I say that is an important and interesting portion of the Bill, but it is by no means the most important one. Are we to understand that a Gentleman sitting on the other side of the House, and distinguished for the liberality of his opinions on all political topics, merely because of a question on which we all agree that there must be very great controversy and difference of views—namely, the re-distribution of seats, which must necessarily, with our limited materials, be very confined—are we to understand that he will resist a Bill which proposes such a large extension of the franchise to every section of his fellow-countrymen? I cannot believe that when this measure comes to be discussed upon the second reading—the proper time for entering upon its merits—any Member for Scotland, and especially one who sits on the other side of the House, can oppose it at that stage upon grounds which are drawn only from a portion of the measure which is comparatively of secondary importance. The great principle of the Bill which we are asking leave to introduce to-night is the extension of the franchise. As far as the distribution of seats is concerned, the only principle at all involved in that part of the measure is the principle that the representation of Scotland shall be increased. I cannot understand how an hon. Member 843 advocating Liberal opinions can make up his mind to oppose a Bill which gives a greater extension of the franchise in the first place, and which lays down the principle in the second place that the representation of Scotland should be increased. Because, really, as to the mode in which that distribution should be made, that is a matter of detail—a matter for Committee. If hon. Gentlemen opposite can propose measures connected with the distribution of seats within the limits upon which the House, after fair discussion, shall have decided, and which, in their opinion, may be more calculated than ours to give vigour, efficiency, and completeness to the representation of Scotland, we are perfectly ready to listen to their arguments, and if we find them unanswerable, to yield to them. We have no interest whatever in the propositions which we have made for the distribution of seats. I mean no personal or party interest. They are propositions that we have made because, upon the information that has reached us, we believe they are those which, upon the whole, will give most satisfaction to the people of Scotland and their representatives in this House. The hon. Gentleman who last addressed us says he prefers the proposition which I made for the representation of Glasgow last year to that contained in this Bill. Well, the hon. Member when we get into Committee—the proper opportunity for the purpose—can place his view of that question before us. If the House should then be of opinion that the proposition which I made last year is more agreeable to them than the one that is included in the present measure, that is a matter on which the Committee would have a fair right to exercise its judgment. I need not express what my own opinion is on the question of a representation in which there are three Members involved. I opposed that principle when it was first introduced to us; but the voice of Parliament, as expressed by both Chambers in an unmistakable manner, decided in favour of that principle, and that principle having been adopted in the English measure, it would be most inconsistent and scarcely respectful to this House, or to Scotland, to ignore it in this Bill. Propose the other principle, bring forward your arguments and appeal to the sense of the Committee, and if you have a triumphant majority in favour of a representative for Glasgow upon the principle that you advocate, I cannot 844 doubt that the decision of the Committee will govern the conduct of any men who may sit on the Benches which we now occupy. Therefore it is—I will not say perfectly absurd, because the epithet might be mistaken; but it is most dangerous when we are approaching a question that, like the present, is essentially practical—a question on which we are trying, I may say, by hook or by crook, to accomplish one of the most difficult things in the world—namely, to increase the representation of Scotland—a point on which, I apprehend, we are all agreed—it is, I say, most dangerous to meet us with all those magniloquent and abstract objections which have been raised by some Gentlemen to-night. It is very well to lay down the axiom that in political matters there is, or should be, no difference between England, Scotland, and Ireland. Well as far as concerns the application of the great principles of political justice to every part of Her Majesty's dominions, I am in favour of an equal application of them. But, however we may argue, whatever may be the abstractions in which we may find it convenient to take refuge, still in addressing ourselves to the management of a limited and essentially practical question, there is a difference between England and Scotland, and between Scotland and Ireland, and there ever will be a difference. There will ever be a difference between—and probably it is most fortunate that there is a distinctive character in each of the three kingdoms, for it is, perhaps, by the very blending of these different characteristics that we have become a great nation. Well, then, when you come to consider the representation of England you must look a little at the history of that representation. It has gradually grown up and accumulated in the course of centuries, and it has been formed and moulded by a variety of influences which no wise statesman would endeavour to contend against. I do not ask the House, by acceding to the proposition that we make, to agree that the distribution of seats in England is abstractedly a wise, a complete, or a satisfactory distribution. Let every Gentlemen have upon that the opinion which is most agreeable to his reason. But the representation of England, as now fixed at 500 Members, is, I think, not disproportionate with the aggregate of the property or the population of this country. You must remember that. It is the consideration which must ultimately govern 845 these questions. We know from our own experience that there are, at times, considerable alterations taking place in the mode in which the population of this country is distributed and its wealth located; and, no doubt, periodically you will be called upon to re-consider the representation of England. When, therefore, new towns have again risen in this country with large populations from the creation and sudden development of new industries, and when the population of great English counties has again doubled, as we have seen it do in several recent instances, where are we to obtain the representation for the new constituencies which ought to be formed if we do not re-distribute, in a certain degree, the representation which we at present possess? This conviction is well impressed on the minds of all English Members, on whatever side of the House they may sit; and although they may agree with you, the Scotch Members, on some Motion to disfranchise a particular class of boroughs, because its population does not exceed a certain number, or because they are represented in this House by two Members when they might be represented by only one, the moment they disfranchise those boroughs, if they assent to doing it, they will naturally apply the seats thus obtained to the increased representation of those parts of the kingdom to which I have referred. The consequence will be that you will find in the long run the representation of Scotland will not be increased. It is very well for you to find consolation in the belief of the justice of the reformed Parliament; but, in my opinion, if you can carry a temperate measure in the present Session of Parliament to increase substantially the representation of Scotland, you ought not to be running after such Jack-o'-Lanterns as have been indicated to you this evening. There is another reason why the Scotch Members would find great resistance in any attempt at disturbing the re-distribution of seats decided upon by Parliament in 1867. The very feeling which exists among Members of this House, and particularly among Members on the other side, that there is no immediate necessity for altering the arrangement of seats in this country, because there are not places of great importance the claims of which are at this moment urgent, will make those hon. Members careful not to part with the amount of representation which England now has, because they know that the time will 846 come when new places, which will hereafter become important, must be considered with a view to representation, and that there will be no seats to fall back upon if they yield any now. I hope, therefore, that the House generally, but especially the hon. Members who represent Scotland, will be cautious in the line they take in respect of this measure. I do not on this occasion ask any one to pledge himself to a particular course. I only ask the Scotch Members to read and consider the Bill brought in by the Lord Advocate. I believe that when they have done so they will arrive at the conclusion that, as far as possible, we have framed it with a view to the advantage of the country which they represent. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. M'Laren) attacked the Government because we propose so large a representation for the University of Scotland. We have no personal or party interest in that proposition. We believed we were making a proposition which would be acceptable to the House and to the country, and that a constituency of educated and learned men would send to Parliament representatives who, even though they might be opposed to the Government, would do honour to the House. The means we have of increasing the representation are, we admit, limited. We are perfectly ready to consider the opinion of the Committee on the Bill. Any decision of the Committee, as to the mode of distribution—any other mode that may be proposed, either in respect of the city of Glasgow or of the Universities, we shall consider but with one desire—namely,—with the limited means at our disposal, to render the representation of Scotland as satisfactory as possible to the people of that part of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, with the ingenuity of which he was so great a master, endeavoured entirely to shift the issue raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. He denied that his hon. Friend had expressed any intention to oppose the passing of the extended franchise proposed by the Bill on account of his objections to the scheme of re-distribution; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew very well that his remarks were not justified by anything which fell from the hon. Member. What his hon. Friend said was this—that passing over the question of the franchise, as a matter settled by the English Act of last year, 847 he came to that more important question—the increase of the representation of Scotland; and he told the right hon. Gentleman what the great majority of Scotch Members would tell him—that if they were to have an increase of the representation of Scotland—and the right to such an increase was now fully admitted—they demanded that it should be ample and satisfactory, and based upon just principles, as between one part of the United Kingdom and another; and they would rather abandon their claim than obtain its satisfaction by increasing the numbers of the House. That was the principle upon which his hon. Friend was determined to stand. It was all very well for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go down to Scotland and tell the people there that if they wanted anything they must take it in the way the Government thought fit to give it them, and that if they were to have increased representation they must support the views of the right hon. Gentleman. But he was convinced that the offer of increased representation was not intended to be real, because it was offered in a manner to which it was known the House would never consent. The hon. Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) now said there was no other way of increasing the Scotch representation than by adding to the number of the Members of the House. He entirely objected to the Government plan; but if the number of Members of the House was to be increased, Scotland ought not to be confined to an increase of seven in the number of her representatives; she ought to have an increase of twenty-five. With regard to the franchise, he believed that the proposed system would be so complicated that it would be better to abandon the principle of rating and adopt that of rental, according to the precedent of 1852, when Reform Bills were introduced based on a rating franchise for England and on a rental franchise for Scotland. But if the principle of a rating franchise is to be adhered to in the Bill now proposed for Scotland, he would ask what was to be the basis of the county franchise in the 102 Scotch parishes in which there is at present no legal assessment? Then, on what principle was the grouping of burghs to take place? Was Helensburgh a manufacturing town? Was Ardrossan a manufacturing town? It is evident that the Lord Advocate has never honoured those localities with his presence, 848 or he would never have so described them. And why was Ardrossan to be added to the Ayr district of burghs? when no desire has been expressed by its inhabitants to be separated from the county? Under the provisions of the Bill the constituency in the burgh of Ayr alone would be increased from 700 to nearly 2,000, and it surely would be far more reasonable and just to give a separate representative to that burgh than to add another burgh to the already large and extensive group comprised in the Ayr district. This was not the time for going into the details of the Bill, and he should not do so. He might, however, observe that when his hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire twitted the Liberal side of the House with the statement that a right hon. Gentleman amongst them had loudly denounced the principles of the English Reform Bill on its first introduction last year; and yet, after all, had accepted that Bill—his hon. Friend must have forgotten that every one almost of the points of that Bill, to which objections were taken by that right hon. Gentleman, were expunged before the Bill passed into law. If his hon. Friend carried out the comparison, he would find that the statement made by those who declined to accept an increase of representation in Scotland, by means of an increase of the Members of the House, would be carried out, and that they would insist on having that increase by means of re-distribution over the entire United Kingdom, or else they would defer having any increase until the reformed Parliament had assembled. He entirely endorsed the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Montrose, and hoped the Government would carefully re-consider their whole scheme in which were several most objectionable proposals.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire had accused the Irish Members on both sides of the House of jobbery; but he believed that in maters of jobbery and corruption, the Scotch excelled the rest of the Empire. If they took the contracts that had been issued, the appointments made, and the jobs that had been perpetrated for the last sixty years, they would find from Inverness to the Ganges, and from London to China, three-fourths of them were in the hands of the Scotch. As to jobs, they knew more about them, and were more accustomed to them, than the English, Irish, and Welsh put together. The hon. Mem- 849 ber for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Smollett) told them, that seats should be taken from Ireland and given to Scotland because her population was reduced by more than 2,500,000, and the hon. Member went into statistics, to show how far Scotland had increased in wealth and taxable property. He wondered the Scotch came South at all as they were so wealthy; but he (Mr. Rearden) had got statistics too, and if they calculated the millions that had been drained out of Ireland, to absentee landlords, the profits from the monopoly of the manufacturing and trading markets in Ireland, held by English and Scotch traders, and the revenue of Ireland appropriated to Imperial purposes, since the Union, it would be found that England and Scotland had grown rich in taxable wealth by means of the drain from Ireland. They had 300 Members in the Irish House of Commons; 200 were taken from them at the Union, and but 100 had been given to them in this House, fifty-four of whom sat on the Conservative side and represented 8,000,000 Protestants and Ecclesiastical property worth £13,000,000 sterling, which has been plundered from the Roman Catholic Church, while 5,000,000 of Irish Roman Catholics were represented by only fifty-one Members, and found no sympathy in any other section of the House. He had a great objection that Ireland should be Scotch-ridden, and thought that if England was confined to the number of Members to which her population entitles her, the surplus should be included in the additional Members to which Ireland is entitled in proportion to her population with England. The heartless and coldblooded manner in which the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire had in his speech boasted of the decrease of the population in Ireland, although the result of legislation in which the Scotch took part, excited his astonishment. The hon. Member charged Ireland with disloyalty and her Members in this House with jobbery; but the Irish people were never known to sell their Kings or Queens, or to desert the flag of their Sovereign in the field; this was more than could be said of the people of Scotland, who had sold their King, and on asking a Scotchman why they done so? he replied, because they profited by selling him and saved the expense of his keep. The hon. Member said, in the House to-night that Scotchmen did not job; but they never ceased until they suc- 850 ceeded in jobbing the Queen to Scotland to the serious injury of the trade of the metropolis. He should certainly oppose the second reading of the Bill unless the claims of Ireland to additional Members were conceded. The time, he believed, was not far distant when England of her own accord would be glad to give Ireland liberty of self-government, which alone would cordially unite the two kingdoms.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill for the amendment of the Representation of the People in Scotland, ordered to be brought in by The LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Sir JAMES FERGUSSON.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 29.]